Old Age

William Pitt, My Blind Grandfather

He was blind, his eyes suffocated
Into silence,
In his grief, imagining,
His body’s stark opposition to
The innocent flow
Of children in bow ties
And full pink skirts,
Or an aging oak’s
Craggy shreds of skin
Once seen by the
Boy he used to be,
Eyes wide open,
Squinting against
An orgy of sun
His pupils knew
Could not absorb.

But now, in old age,
His eyes cannot remember
What they saw yesterday,
Austere, naked emptiness,
Burglarized by time,
Bargaining with his body
To hear more than
He could endure


Six of One

Actor you’ve always been,
Wheel-chairing your way
Into your impoverished look,
Pants, with empty pockets,
Thin, liver-spotted hands,
Dry feet, hair, coarse
As a horse rope,
Eyes duller than
A kitchen knife.

You will recall
The stone bridge
Over the village creek
Where I chose
To feel the fever
You said started
As soon as you
Walked out the door
Of your summer cottage
To meet me.

Every August.

“It was never enough,
Like a bowl full of fruit,
When all the kids were home,”
You said.

But I never told you
It was sufficient,
Like today, when
I made another choice
To see you briefly
And leave you
To over-smiling nurses
And the sad odor of urine.



He’s done this before on his methodical days,
Pills aligned on the cupboard,
Morning talk shows, the chattering bells
Of actors hawking one more film
Over  toast and curled eggs.

What had he forgotten, again,
In the hollow cave of his dreams?
The rent, the electric, cable?
No, something else, a sliver event
Impaled in his memory.

Tom’s wake?
No, that was in January,
The fifteenth, to be exact,
When he ran out of toilet paper
And Miracle Whip.

Maybe Margret, inevitable Margret,
Who lived downstairs and showered
Every day at five-thirty in the morning,
Returning for a guest visit at eight,
To wander through her forgotten crevices
And turtle-shell toe nails.

Margret. Damn. Margret.
What was it? A movie? Lunch?
He paused. Now he remembered.
Vomiting Margret, sun-bald,
Pencil-thin, frail as his mother’s voice,
Ten-o’clock-appointment Margret
In her cabaret wig and slim high heels.

He tied his shoes.


My Fear, My Lover

Stretched bodies
On hospital gurneys,
Fear in the air,
With outspread wings,
Curved talons,
Gliding through
The willing sky,
Its startled prey
Once more
A skin-soft lover,
Aching, in real time,
To be fondled,
Into sweet surrender.


My Enemy, My Friend

How should I react to those, I believe, don’t like me? Especially, the corporate, four-testicle, country-club guys who love to be master of their fates and everybody else’s?

I read, today, Pema Chödrön’s phrase, “the sweet spot,” giving me some clue about the need to live on the mountain of kindness, no matter how craggy. Maybe even to accept my enemy’s perception of me as too cocky, too self-assured, too sarcastic, too intellectual.

Where can I retrieve that soft spot from when I feel judged? Too often, I pull back. I start to invent an image of my enemy as a cold, detached, cruelly confident man, who beats his wife; says “fuck off” to his kids at least once a day; argues with a Mercedes Benz salesman to include, in the base price of his new car, a flat screen on the backs of the driver and passenger seats. As an added resentment, I will probably hold him responsible for the 2008 Great Recession. Continue reading


Pleasure or More Pain?

In my dotage, I have been taking to television more than I should these days. I have also found myself staring into space for no particular reason and for longer periods of time.

My brother once used an expression, “I was just wondering….” when he was about to broach a family issue that he knew I would not respond well to. He never liked conflict.

I often rationalize my tv watching by convincing myself that my mind goes into mush after dinner. Or I’ve been thinking all day and I “just need to escape.” Or, my favorite: “I want to see what American culture is all about.”

I also defend my three hours of nightly conscious sedation in front of the tv as my entrance into the “wondering” stage of my ongoing intellectual development (My brother would be proud to know that I take “wondering” seriously)

So, my friends I have been wondering lately: Continue reading


The Controlling Caretaker

“No problem. How much do you need to borrow?”

This is not an atypical response of a caretaker. Someone asks the caretaker for money. The caretaker responds simply and to the point. And the response is positive. Caretakers are like that.

Suspend your disbelief for a few seconds, however, and listen to how another type of caretaker, the self-aware, over-the-top caretaker, might describe themselves: Continue reading


Marriage and the Family, Nurture or Torture?


The Constitutional Precedents For Marriage Equality

The recent Supreme Court decision, Obergefell, et al v Hodges, gave same-sex couples the Constitutional right to marry in the United States.

In his majority opinion, Justice Anthony Kennedy cites the many Supreme Court decisions that expanded the inclusiveness of marriage to a wider variety of same-sex couples and individuals—prisoners, interracial couples, and men behind in their child support payments—all of whom sought the right to marry, not because of their unique status, but, as Judge Kennedy makes eminently clear, because of the “right to marry in its comprehensive sense.”

Kennedy also cited decisions protecting the rights of homosexuals.

These two legal approaches were the guiding forces in leading the majority opinion to end the last legal barrier to “equal protection” and “due process” for same-sex “intimacy”—- all state laws prohibiting same-sex marriages. In addition, states will be Constitutionally compelled to honor all marriage licenses given out-of-state.

Aside from the legal and Constitutional issues framing the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy included in his statements a wide array of assumptions about marriage. Continue reading



These words are mine,
No other’s.

On mornings
When I hear your arms
Tumbling through
The shower spray,
I wonder if it’s worth
My while,
To keep still,
Holding my breath,
Reluctant as I am
To hear strangers
On subways
Spewing curses and odd
Remnants of
Schizophrenic tales:

Mothers left on ships,
Sons in thick forests
Of their ambitions,
Daughters bartered
Through every truce.

Secrets catch us
By our shirttails,
But they are ours,
My love,
They are ours.
























Nothing May Really Be Something

The Ancient Chinese Concept of Wu

I continue to be mesmerized by the ancient Chinese notion of Wu, which, in the Dao De Ching (Tao Te Ching), is referred to as “nothingness, emptiness, non-existence.”

In Verse 11, Lao Tsu gives us examples of how “emptiness” has an importance:

  • The hole at the center of a wheel hub “allows the wheel to spin”
  • The space within a clay cup “allows the cup to hold water”
  • A doorway enables us to walk through to another room

So, my friends, the Dao is telling us that a doorway and the hollowed-out space of a cup may appear, at first glance, to have no value. But we all know that a cup is made to “contain” liquid, that a doorway makes it possible for someone to pass through it. Continue reading