She Space


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With her, I don’t have to talk.

She doesn’t mind if I

curl up on her couch

with my notebook and pen

She doesn’t ask what I’ve written

She reads a book about a poet

I’ve never heard of.

She makes her Earl Grey tea in

a green polka dot cup

and rooibos tea for me

in a cup that says

I quilt so I don’t kill someone

Her cat dives into my backpack

We laugh at the same time

I email her the website

of our former lover’s

dance video.

Wow, amazing, she says.

For years

we’ve lifted each other up

through divorces

hot flashes, secret longings

We’ve shared clothes and craziness,

She’s honored my true self,

as I have hers.

Kavvanot: Meditations


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Tradition should have a vote, not a veto,

say the Reconstructionist Jews.

My vote goes for the third eye

Let the enigmas be unveiled


In the 1830s, tradition did have a veto

that sent the mystical teachings

into hiding.

Exoteric, rational thought is all very well,

but teach me the mystery, hidden magic


Kabbalah kept its secrets for decades,

even from Jews themselves.

Oh, my young loss,

the longing for light, peace, infinity


The deep way, what is received,

handed down orally,

rebbe to student.

I would kneel at your feet, blessed teacher,

where are you?


It found a haven from the Inquisition

in Safed, then Palestine.

Above dusty streets, the hills echoed

with holy words


Kabbalah’s view is a cosmology,

of four worlds,

spirit, mind, heart, body.

Spirit flame burns, mind chatters,

Heart stretches, body dissolves


Through prayer,

with inward intention,

one rises from world to world,

to reach the goal:

nearness to God.


Nothing is outside of God.


Had these teachings

been made known to me

fifty years ago

who knows

what sort of Jewish mystic

I might have become?

from The Jew in the Lotus, by Roger Kamenetz



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I am the ocean

You are the fish

Your forms

of sequined gauze,

flash and fade in

pearl blue sea


I am the silence

You are the jet,

the cricket, the siren

sounds observed

become as waves 


I am the prana*

You are the exhale

lifelong and golden

morning stars flicker out

at daybreak

*prana=life force

Passing Through


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Passing through, passing through

Sometimes happy, sometimes blue

Glad that I ran into you

Tell the people that I’m only passing through.   —Woody Guthrie


He clasped her left arm

with his right hand

fed her nourishing broth

Greek yogurt, lasagna he made

in her kitchen


The Opponent drained her appetite

gripped her right arm

with steady strength

and a beady eye

pulled her into

dusty desert dream

on dry scaly feet


He tightened his fingers

though her arm bruised violet patches

brought her news and music

cucumber and Coke

whatever she fancied

her arm slid away

as if slathered in Vaseline


The Opponent sneered,

I always win

pointed to the faint line in the dust

she’s almost on my side now

Years pull with me, and weariness,

and sour dependence.


He tried everything they said

—protein bars, half-pound weights, smoothies–

He couldn’t hold her

not when when she

was letting go

Room 200


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Light comes through hospital curtains

rise from a deep dream, certain

the sister came with two kids

open lids admitting reality

helpless as a hatched chick

open mouth for yogurt, or refuse

open mouth for pills, or not

sleep is better than awareness

limbs that don’t work

scummy teeth, ragged nails

mind drifts into dream-memories

Greece, the port at Skyros

London, Nottinghill market

Sweden, Susanna’s sunflowers

Light fades into an untouchable dark

of uncountable days

waiting for a conclusion

Zero – Sum


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They buried the swimming pool

filled it with dirt, spread grass seed

next summer, a lawn

only a bit of fence and a pole

where once sparkled the water

of the biggest pool in Missouri


They buried the swimming pool

the whites dug their own

at social clubs, in backyards

she heard their kids splashing

playing Marco Polo


she had one day in the big water

one day of droplets beaded on her braids

one day with Marietta and Louise

in their new swimsuits,

laughing when Louise turned from white to pink


she heard the shouts

as her brother pulled her out

go home quick,

pushed her and Marietta over the fence

no black skin in blue water

They buried the swimming pool

Another Day


Photo by Harun Tan on


If speaking is belonging,

he belongs to silence

silence makes nests here,

on top of the china cabinet,

in serving bowls,

under the blanket chest

his chest rumbles without words

sentences begun drift into silence

words melt away like candle wax

consonants light his eyes

but silence owns him now



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Once I asked a falconer, “How come the red tail hawks hang out in the trees beside the Thruway?”

He didn’t know for sure.  “Maybe the passing cars scare up prey,” he guessed.  “Or maybe it’s warmer there.”

Today on the bus to New York City, I counted eleven red tails, another large raptor that might have been an owl, and one eagle.  On the return trip, I spotted three more red tails.  Two were a mating pair dancing circles in the sky.

It’s mating time now in early March.  Soon the leaves will obscure the hawks perched in the trees.  They’ll be hunting in earnest to feed fledglings.  Later, in mid-summer, we’ll be hearing the shrieks of the young just learning to fly, still demanding to be fed by their harried parents.

I love the hawks.  They lift my heart in awe that these birds continue their life cycles against the backdrop of shrinking habitat and pollution.

As I count hawks, the others on the bus do other things.  Every few miles, the guy behind startles me with a horrible honking cough.  A woman works on her laptop, while her nine-year-old daughter watches The Lady and the Tramp on her iPad.

The couple in front gets a lot of my speculation.  He is shaved bald, portly, with a scraggly beard and glasses.  The woman is Asian, appears younger.  He asks if she wants to listen to a podcast together.  She touches his cheek with fingernails painted gold.

Behind the girl and her mother, an African-American woman with amazing fingernails and enhanced eyelashes taps on her iPhone.  She’s wearing a baseball cap and sweatpants.  She looks kind.  When her outlet loses electricity, I invite her to sit beside me, but she declines.  I’m a little disappointed.

I imagine leaning across the aisle to invite the girl to count hawks with me.  “You can watch that Disney movie anytime,” I’d say to her, “but now’s the best time to count hawks.”

Turkey, 2023


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How did I come to be me

and not that Turkish mother

seeking her child

under the rubble of cement and rebar

that was once their apartment?

Her building among the many

given amnesty by President Erdogan

in a sweeping gesture that bypassed

new building codes

and saved his government millions

See her there, scraping the chunks

with bleeding hands,

calling Azra!  Azra!

She doesn’t know the builder

or the contractor who

skimped on steel and stone

those two men just now

boarding a plane

out of the country

She doesn’t know where to look

where to live, who to blame

She wipes tears with torn fingers

Azra! Azra!

She doesn’t know me or how

I came to be

resting in a pillowed chair

awaiting my daughter’s visit


Rites of Spring


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A springtime school story from 2008, from when I taught ENL K-1.


Outside my window this early April morning, I see two gray squirrels playing chase.  The first one goes up a tree and across a branch, then makes a daring dive to the next tree with the other in hot pursuit.

No matter how many times I witness these rituals of spring, I still watch with delight and amusement.  All around males are wooing females.  Squirrels play tag in the treetops.  Birds mark their airy territories with song: “This branch is mine, mine, mine!”

Solitary red tail hawks pair up as the snow melts.  I see them making figure eights against the wide pale sky.  I spy two hawks sitting next to each other on a bare branch, a rare sight.  Each bird looks away, staring in opposite directions.  A mating pair, I have no doubt, and I smile at their appearance of unease, like a couple on a blind date.  When the raising of the brood is over, they will return to their more accustomed solitude.

The pileated woodpeckers are back with their manic laughter echoing through the backyard woods.  Looking like red-headed pterosaurs, they cling high on tree trunks, pounding away.  The hammering rings out all day.   Near our stream, I see a fallen tree, a victim of the recent strong winds, with fresh wood chips scattered all around.  A day or two later I am surprised to see the pileated there, working at ground level, pecking away at the log.

Spring rites appear everywhere, even in the school where I work.  Each day at 1:30, I collect two girls from their recess time.  A few days ago, I called for Chelsea and she came to me red-faced and panting.

“What game are you playing?” I asked.

“The boys are chasing us,” she answered.

“Ah, yes,” I thought.  “I remember.”  When I taught second grade, I knew spring had really arrived when the boys began chasing the girls on the playground.  Sometimes the chasing was couched in a current popular context: Ninja turtles, monsters, the Lion King, but it was always boys chasing girls.

And now I discover that the springtime chasing ritual belongs to the youngest students of all, the kindergarteners.

What deep human instinct surfaces in these rituals of spring?  Somewhere in our large brains there’s a switch that gets turned on by longer daylight hours, the sun’s new position, the sap flowing, the birds’ return.

Even little boys and girls, years away from puberty and the tyranny of sexual hormones, feel the urge.  They run and shriek back and forth across the black top.  Sometimes it’s a whole pack of boys, gathering a harem on the doorstep.  They even elect one boy to act as guard while the others chase down swifter females.

To me, the ritual is both astonishingly ancient, and also reassuring.  The boys are chasing the girls again.  It must be spring.