Category Archives: Dimensions

Handkerchief

Handkerchief, as words go, is an outlier.
Why not call it a damn rag instead?
Or any other name that is short
and less presumptuous,
conveying no more than what it is.

I think of a drunk, boastful German man
making up such a name:
we call it handkerchief in the motherland.

I see the word only in text:
no one ever utters it.
Each time I read it, it feels foreign,
imposing, doesn’t belong.
It lowers its head
and elbows its way through.

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Story’s Spell

My brain wanders as I read a novel.
I follow the fireworks triggered by the ideas
spread through its pages. Sparks
as abundant as the icing
on a delicious cake.

My eyes bulldoze the words across neatly stacked lines.
I build the mental puzzle of a world inhabited
by characters on the move.
Where what happens next matters desperately.

Chasing the storyline is like running up
seven steep flights of stairs
not stopping to catch my breath.
Although eager to arrive at the ending,
I dislike the forced rush.

I put down the story, take a bath, and close my eyes,
searching for quietude. Some details of the plot
are escaping, like the rubber ducks engulfed in the steam.

Then conflicting needs arise.
Not wanting to take a prolonged break,
not willing to start over,
picking up another story to begin a new ride.

It is like driving a long stretch
on a fast lane of a German highway.
Afterwards, I am happy to leave the car behind.

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Moroccan Couscous

couscous

A Dish for the Ages

Having couscous for lunch
is a quest for comfort, down memory lane.
A few imposed traps stand in between
my remembering
partly due to a distant past,
and self censorship.

My earliest memory of this dish
may have been when I was seven.

Couscous, chickpeas, and raisins.
Cinnamon, chicken.
Its steam greets the mouth.
Warmth at first. Then heat.
Aura-rich, mix of flavors.

The cabbage on the plate stands high
as a mountain protecting its citizens.
The round ball is cut into four pieces.
Served with a hint of triumph.

Zucchini, a green stretched tongue
of many love affairs, is hot.
The heat is held inside it with passion.
Like a prison guard in charge of a ruthless criminal.
Even with caution, the heat threatens your lips, makes your throat cringe.

Carrot begs to differ. An orange opposition.
It accentuates— adds color.

Turmeric. Salt. Pepper, and double that in ginger.

The mystic ingredient is not my father’s magic hands.
Nor is it his lucky strikes at delivering savor.
It is simply olive oil.
It makes an ordinary dish into a giant of a character.

35 years later, I stand at the kitchen
recalling an act I watched almost weekly every winter.
I now play a father tormented with a heavy legacy.
Eager to please his son. The guests.
When I cook couscous I disturb the neighborhood
with a frightening smell that makes even the most civil stomach roar.

My son will still feast on couscous for awhile.
Dismiss it for many years. Then come back to it
with pressing urgency.
Maybe an intellect to support his quest.

On a good day of health, fresh mood,
a lot of rain, or to celebrate
I will satisfy his request for a fine couscous.

I wish he would remember
that his mom liked hers with
tomatoes, potatoes, squash, pumpkin,
and she swore that her favorite was
served with fish instead.

He knows the act by heart.
He would happily play my part.

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In the Company of Wise Animals

The white horses play flute as they fly.
An elephant enters the room, alone.
The land widens around wild animals.

Birds look for serpents who have long abandoned
trees and headed for streams and rivers.

Monkeys are forbidden to do business here.
Trading is outlawed during daylight.
Last time a goat was looking to sell its milk,
the neighbor was offended. It sneezed and snapped.

The visiting dragons were awakened
before their naptime was over.
Furious, they set everything on fire.
The winds, caught by surprise,
had to carry on, delivering disaster.
The rain was on a permanent sabbatical.
That is how Zeus
can mess up a perfect evening.

Eight wise cheetahs were summoned
to look into the matter. After much deliberation,
they announced a new war on the neighboring forest.
They also warned of drinking water
early in the morning
while your partner is still asleep.
It disturbs the inner peace.

But the working chickens carried on, undeterred.
Delivering wheat and organic eggs
to all the forest’s citizens.

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A Picasso

Skin washes skin, membranes are juxtaposed —
legs, breasts, arms, and lips
mingle as in a Picasso.
In which people hug the beasts,
and contrasted colors abound:
tanned and pale, olive and brown.
Blue on white: the de-facto background color.
Red is enhanced, in focus, thanks
to an exciting rush. Flesh in full blush.
Knights of many desires ride
in a race to taste it all, conquer feelings,
free prisoners from lifetime sentences,
and plant trees. Birds are singing.
Flowers bloom as in springtime.
Wind whistles gently as the skies light up
and stars get chatty. An evening on the rise.
An end leads to a beginning. All form
one body. Power is shared,
pleasure amplified; a dialogue
as intense and productive
as the taut clouds before the pouring rain.

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Inquisitive Mind

As I listened to her, I fell in love with her energy.
She wears the aura of an inquisitive child,
in awe of everything around her.
Questions race through her head
like raindrops running down windows.
She has the intensity of drumsticks
striking a quick rhythm.

She pursues life with an open-mind,
upbeat, treating every minute as an eternity.

A small dose of her observations keeps the mind rooted,
reminds those around her of how much they don’t know,
how much they take for granted.
Her sharp curiosity is humbling.

She addresses every subject as if walking into a room
the size of a football field, and flips every light switch.
You can’t find a trace of a shadow.

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The Ride Home

The wristwatch leaps from a wall
as a strange artifice.
It lives outside its time.

The two young men
barely peeking into adulthood
rock their heads
in silence. Their jeans are of a style
that suits a lucky few.
Their menacing calm amplifies
their presence. The lyrics
of their songs are a quest
to restore losses.

The talkative girl in front of me
is fired up, on a mission
to force ideas on us all
through uncompromising energy,
self assurance — a longing
or faith in the weight of her topics.
She talks about crashing her mom’s interview
while on speaker, never stopping
to catch her breath, to allow her mother a word.
The mom only picked up the office phone
after ignoring five consecutive calls to her cell.

Now I know why the old man left in a hurry
looking for a peaceful seat
to house him and his book.
I took his seat and continued writing
the poem I started on the last train.

The clock was on my office wall.
The guys were on the green line.
The girl and the old man on the red line.
In between I read an interview with
a contemporary poet and looked up
poems by one of the greats
who had been long gone.

My wife and son will pick me up
at the end of the line.

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Last Poem

This is not my last poem.
For verification, ask my wife.

I wrote these lines last,
although I conceived them first.
Then I went ahead, wrote another poem,
and came back to finish this.

I am still alive. Typing — can’t you hear?
Technically, this can still be my last line in my last poem.
The debate will be sealed when all the facts are known.
I may not be there for that discussion.
I won’t be there for every discussion that follows.

If forensics show this to be the last poem I wrote, please know:

1. I did not believe that at the time.
2. I had no urgent message to communicate.
3. Like you, I have regrets, unfinished projects,
unfulfilled desires. I am not satisfied.
4. I fell short: expected to be better, stronger,
higher, more joyful, richer and … You get the point.

To end the poem, I understand
all of this is temporary.
But again I may be wrong.

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The Moon

The moon is considering a change of orbit:
to hide, go on a strike; pack its many suitcases,
turn off the lights, cut the wirings,
turn its back, and take a dive.

It has been offended since we learned to talk about it.
It is an affront to its well-being
that we have been invoking
its name, color, mood,
taste, and even its feelings.

It is appalling that the moon can be shiny white,
bloody orange, a sad messenger, a fierce lion
made of silver, and a lover
decrying loneliness and abandonment.

We also speak of the moon as joyful, majestic.
Or a loaf of Afghani bread, a ball of Swiss cheese,
and when we combine the two we refer to it as a pizza.
Some say delicious, others say amore.
We offer it up for slicing —
in halves perhaps, as we talk about half and full moon.
It can be skinny or fat.

It can be invisible, present or absent.
Its appearance is tracked down
to align a calendar insisting on dragging its feet
up and down the lines of time.

Citizens of nations see the images
of their jailed heroines or exiled kings
on its surface. Last time I checked,
I saw both many things and nothing.
I could make out mountains, clouds, waves,
light, rivers, trees, races, space flights, prose,
math equations, and also saw nothing
but a round shape begging me to get engaged.

When the moon is full and looking its best,
we are told our evil side is on display
and without a leash.
The wolves howl the most.
But we are able to cross the desert at night,
under its light.

The moon is a cold-blooded planet,
suspended midair, staring at us
like a mute witness
or an innocent voyeur – an old man who doesn’t age,
of foreign origins, yet has recognizable
facial features. He reminds us of someone we have known
since we learned to look up, a grandpa perhaps.

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Morning Coffee

She complains about her routine
as she clings to it,
doing tasks on autopilot —
early mornings, as if walking on eggshells,
she slips into the shower, then the kitchen
where the coffee pot she rinsed the night before
awaits her.

Her shiny blue mug
reminds her of a night,
far back at a campsite,
its dark blue sky illuminated
by a prominent moon
and abundant, cheering stars.

The light, beamed and shared, reigned
like monochromatic fireworks.
Back to the coffee cup: she takes a sip,
zooms in; feels left out.

Her friends have side notes,
hushed discussions, secondary acquaintances,
secret addictions. Quintessentially,
they shop around, gossip, do yoga, seek pleasure.
They cheat time to forget a helpless present.
They extend and stretch arms, push up chests, inhale desires,
and soak in the forbidden — the messy.

She feels like a shipwreck,
exhausted from long voyages,
salty baths,
and the weight of the wrinkly luggage of young sailors.

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