BREVITY – Trying to Say the Most with the Fewest Words

g d 30



I touch the stairs outside to see if there is ice.

You fear the driving and doubt the radio’s report

of freezing surfaces only in the north.


So I’m outside in the dark,

in the rain, in pajamas,

touching the stairs and finding them wet.




Once someone wrote to me:

“I am tying up my letters from you


with a ribbon, so my grandchildren

will find them that way.”


This is not an exact quotation,

since I didn’t keep her letter.




My love stirs in the breeze

like paper hearts

strung along the ceiling of the stationery store.


My love’s a lacy heart

packed with neat rows

of extravagant treats.


Accept my heart – and bite

the crisp exterior

to reach the marshmallow beating inside.




My parents bought a house

built by a carpenter for himself

and his family. They were all barely five feet tall.


I didn’t realize at first

why my head kept bumping the doorways

and I had to stoop to use the mirror when I shaved.


It’s not the only time I’ve lived

somewhere I didn’t fit.




When you drive a tunnel approach,

you never face the water;

the engineers aim you toward land.


If you saw the glistening waves,

the seagulls, the barges,

a hole that leads under water—would you dare?


Which of our journeys would we begin

If the route were clearly marked?




Sunlight streams 93 million miles

to make us feel good.

Isn’t that amazing?


Through windows as we work

or from corners where we hide,

we glimpse the brilliance

growing, fading, growing.


We squander these days as though

the supply were endless.




Thank you for your letter.

You might have phoned instead,


but I couldn’t keep

a phonecall in my pocket


and take it out to read

now and then.





I spent a long time being rational and sane.

Those were my lost years.

I saw terrible things on the TV and in my nightmares.


I’m glad to say that’s all in the past now.

I never have nightmares and of course

I have no TV.


The politicians parade down Fifth Avenue,

passing the stores

where only those who own the politicians

can buy the useless merchandise.


Go elect yourselves!




Silent people

pass in the night.

In the autumn they crunch.




Anyone who ever wrote three consecutive paragraphs

and admitted it

has been told by uncles, drunks, and coworkers

that the stories they’ve lived


would put all best-sellers to shame

if only someone

would set them down on paper.


Billions of stories

die every year

untold, unread, unheard.




I realized that material possessions

and worldly success

were meaningless


when I was a failure

and had nothing


but I questioned the meaning

of failure

and decided I was okay.




As if in a dream I saw her,

but I was awake, watching the storm

through the panes I cleared with my breath,

through the swarming snow, her eyes

brighter than moonlight,

and the smile of her blue lips.




Something that bloomed so filled the air,

inhaling dizzied me. The stars

were as close as the treetops.

I didn’t feel young, I felt as though

I wasn’t any age.


To be alone that night

would have been too cruel

for any fate to demand.

What luck that you were there!




There is only one way to enter her.

I nuzzle her behind the ears,

hold her around her sleek waist.

She tickles my chin and nipples

with her tail.




We reach the sea once more—endless

motion of the waves, distances

that seem unbounded. Gentle waves

splash quietly, splash endlessly;

they thin and sink into the sand

and thin and sink again.


Our journeys end at the edge

of the sea, where everything

thins, sinks, disappears.




The night you put your anger off

and put the new nightgown on,

the color of ripped open apricots,


and I turned from fantasies

to touch something real,

we both began to touch again


and from the world accepted

something ripe in the night

to bite on.




Leaves clatter in the wind.

Blades of grass push through the soil

and the ground hums from the strain.

Strollers on the bright paths

smile tolerantly at my songs.


The sun, the day are ending behind

the dark trees. The Earth sighs

as the wind tousles her forests.

When all the world sings,

why shouldn’t I?




From the bus, the plane, the car

that dragged me to some captivity,

to home, to school or work,

I would watch the lit-up windows.


Scattered over farmland or tucked

in the curves of overpasses,

those kitchens, those living rooms

would be warm, I would drink tea,


and in those rooms I would learn

a very important secret.




Watch the sky closely: those clouds

aren’t moving, though they seem to;

it’s we who are moving,

our island is drifting . . .

Manhattan . . . America . . . Earth . . .


all of us and all we’ve built,

everything we’ve packed to bring with us . . .

slowly drifting . . .

where currents and wind, chance and time

are taking us.


(Photo by Grant Delin)



One comment

  1. Yes you’re a poet whether or not you know it. I envy you that facility that I can’t seem to acquire. Are we on for Friday or when?

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