as lambs among wolves,
IF YOU BE MEEK
then be neither old nor young
and always nudge toward the middle.
Don't lower or raise your head too much.
Beware the slightest trace of nonconformity.
When the wolves finally lunge,
and your companions make their liquid turns
around rocks and grass tufts,
as sharply as the others
but not too sharply.
Keep the pace,
for there must be only one cadence of feet.
When a herd brother or sister gets a fang in the throat,
stop only when the others stop.
Stop, but never mourn.
Your kind has been diminished by one,
but that is your good fortune.
Graze and regain your strength,
for after the buzzards have picked clean the leftovers
the stalking hour will come again.
But don't worry.
Just keep moving.
And above all,
always lose yourself within the herd.
Singular mite, red, and very, very small
goes up my window; quickly for a mite,
and for a mite my window is a Sahara, vast and as empty.
So exposed, so determined, why?
Perhaps a haj to mite Mecca,
but where are the other faithful?
A pin propelled by a whim could arrest its ascent,
and drag this pilgrim down to the bottom and spear it.
But today I have no such whim.
Perspective tricks my eyes, for an instant,
its red body eclipses a leaf on a distant tree.
I should get up, the alarm has rung.
Should get up, the alarm has rung.
Should get up, the alarm will ring again,
and again, every ten minutes.
Should get up, the distant el squeaks, must be on one.
The mite has made it up the first pane;
the windswept leaves applaud.
But the fool is crossing the wood, to the second pane.
No veering, a plumb line could trace its perpendicular trail
as it journeys upwards on its transparent world.
Should get up, jacket, tie, briefcase loiter by the dresser.
Should get up, but the mite has more panes to cross,
Must be going somewhere. Where?
I should be getting up; I must go somewhere.
Even a mite has a journey's end.
Second alarm, should get up, third alarm, should get up.
KEEPING UP VALUES
Without really looking, halfheartedly, just wanting something to read,
grabbing the first book off the library shelf,
he found upon perusal that the plot seemed familiar;
it was his own biography.
Naturally he tried skipping ahead,
but the previous borrower, if there had been one,
spilled something sticky so the unread pages
wouldn't yield a word, at least not without being torn to shreds,
and he had no desire to abridge this book.
With pencil in hand, he reread chapter one,
just to change some lines,
but the words were firmly fixed in print.
He was stuck in the middle,
reading the same page so often
that he had memorized that he had memorized
that he was stuck in the middle, so he memorized . . .
He looked for the author's name
and found that the book was autobiographical.
He tried to remember the shelf he had taken it from:
perhaps literature, perhaps art, perhaps famous people.
But when he found the shelf, it was labeled miscellaneous.
Disgusted, he returned the book to the desk clerk,
who promptly threw it in a bin
marked for the library secondhand sale.
He waited for the day of the sale,
and came early to buy it quickly,
before they lowered the price.
IN LIVING MEMORYThe chapel was empty.
The coffin was on its bier and sunlight made it glow.
But only I was witness to this heavenly radiance,
until the chapel director entered and asked if I was the son.
I answered that I was an acquaintance from work, but that was several years ago.
I never even knew he had a son.
A voice on my answering machine had given me the time and place to show up,
if I was interested.
Then the rabbi entered the chapel and also asked.
Once again, no I had been a work acquaintance, and I also never saw the son.
It was the rabbi's voice that summoned me here,
for my name had been found in an address book.
We waited an hour.
In Judaism they bury the dead quickly, so perhaps many were mourning far away.
But the rabbi said the son also lived here in Brooklyn.
We waited ten minutes more. A final call was made. No answer.
The rabbi then recited the prescribed prayers.
The sun had passed from behind the stained glass window and the coffin darkened.
No, I couldn't make it to the cemetery,
for it was too far and this day was filled with commitments
I had made long before.
I had paid my respects. The ledger was balanced. I signed the guest register.
The rabbi was bound to repeat the prayers once more,
before the grave diggers and perhaps to God.
But I said my last goodbye and left the chapel.
Probably his face has vanished from his son's recollection, like some badly
But his face is still vivid before my eyes,
and in my mind I have become his pallbearer
and will be until my own face fades from all living memory.
HOT FOOT FOR COLD BLOODis somewhat like a lizard doing a noon dance in the desert,
each step pronto to avoid searing.
Skirting across the scorching tips of dunes,
always just ahead of a sandy avalanche,
lifting its legs and letting them rest
in micro-spots of shade,
avoiding the moment's hesitation
that would bring its skin to burning
and its blood to a quick boiling,
the lizard endures an endless on-the-go existence.
Never having a final destination,
each minute's survival is a lifetime goal
as it wanders among shifting dunes,
its life an overlong hot-footed dance.
Using four legs like a maniacal hoofer
under the flood of the desert daylight,
it's hop, skip, do a jig,
from under the sands a viper's fangs puncture,
or its legs tire for that fatal instant,
or in the twilight a hawk's talons embrace,
and cut short the wanderer's tiresome act
like an old time vaudeville hook.
Miss Joy is always a great first date.
She wears newness like expensive perfume.
She took me to every grand opening,
where I got to cut dozens of red ribbons,
and finally that biggest, reddest one of all
the one across her bed.
But the number of grand openings is finite,
and Joy's a virgin for an infinite number of first dates.
Then came the moments when I'd walk under the night sky alone
just to count the stars.
But she'd sneak up behind me and cover my eyes,
each time giggling guess who.
Finally I pushed her away.
Miss Melancholy has a musical name.
She looks mysterious in her black dress.
But there was only monotony and not mystery
when we would just vegetate in my room
and listen to old-fashion blues
and every version of Barber's Adagio.
Piles of Chinese food containers cluttered my table
and disposable chopsticks carpeted my floor,
for we were always too lethargic to cook
or even leave the place just to eat out.
She was real clingy. I started pacing the floor.
Our goodbye was tearful. She said I'd call her again.
I did call her again, soon after.
But Joy also visits when between her other love affairs.
With both I'm able to walk the street at a normal pace,
when before I'd either run with Joy, or hide with Melancholy.
And when we walk some passersby eye me and are envious,
others see my consorts then duck down dark alleys all alone,
but most simply nod when we pass by
having also double dated my arm and arm companions.
Richard Fein has been published in many print and web journals. He has two personal web sites with some of his poetry and photography. Look in Photo album and Poems
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