Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Superfast Old & Natural Technology:
A New Year's Eve Sonner for my Parents

If I would send a letter to my parents
to greet them once again at this new year
might it be carried on the lilting currents
that wisp around the universe?  I hear
the heart & mind are everywhere! no matter
what region of existence one abides in
what lingo one employs for idle patter
what deity one pictures & confides in
the wish or prayer or letter one dispatches
employing one's own heart-mind for the task
flies swift as thought & without error latches
into the loved one's mailbox      we ask
a natural thing when sending our hello
compared with this the internet is slow

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sam & Betty at Summer Camp [sonnet]

When both your parents pass away
within three years of one another
and then another year passes and
it's holiday time & nearly the
new year thoughts might turn
to the afterlife what's it like?

the idea that comes to mind is
it's as if they're off at a new
summer camp even if what's going
on underneath is processing the
experience of the life just past
this happens as it does for us

in dreams through the semblance
of being somewhere doing something
and so they're actually very busy!
a lot of activities (veiled forms
of the one activity) review process
eke out a mite of wisdom from the

long narrative of days of being an
embodied being with a name on earth

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twain Couplets After Rumi

Befilled with delight    thus God has created you
all free with no fright    thus God has created you

ascend to the utter height    of your deepest dream!
let chains and restraints be gone    like a wisp of steam


The Akashic Record [boomerang poem]

Whatever you write on water   remains on record
unless it dissolves in a wave   without a trace!

does the world appear to be   somebody's outsize placard?
yet what it proclaims   is a secret trove of grace

the Akasha unfolds   an infinite sheet of space!
a vehicle that   (unlike an old Ford or Packard)

can reflect every nuance of   Meher Baba's face
his name once penned   remains in eternal record


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Lessons Learned in Charm School [gnomic verses]

The charming are naturally likeable
the natural are likeably charming
the voice when it's low remains micable
while beautiful arms are disarming

who value authentic demeanor
will find their nostalgia grows keener
when faux authenticity nabs them
or genuine falsity jabs them

Saturday, November 9, 2013

November 9th Skype

Yo! Skype has just signaled a message
my father's birthday is today

it's in fact barely more than a year
since he quit our circadian realm

& no more is he likely to answer
any email or video- or phone-call

now alone the arcana of prayer
(so lo-tech!) might connect to his ear

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Alphabet Board [gnomic verse]

(or, a short history of tersity)

From telegram to tweet
    in seven easy stages
from leafy tree to sheet
    of erudition's pages
from avenue to street
    from jungli to cages
if nothing is complete?
    'tis said love is contagious

Sunday, November 3, 2013

"The problem with predictions" [gnomic verse]

The problem with predictions is    they do or don't come true
the problem with convictions is    they are or aren't sound
we live by predilections    on whose basis we pursue
a thousand routes of thinking    till some avenue is found


Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Ghazal for Bhauji

Having lived very long    yet finally    you flew away!
having given your song divinely    you flew away!

the servant you are   of the Lord of all existence!
at a moment ordained & timely   you flew away

you declared yourself a potato   why potato?
now may naught but my mind remind me   you flew away

having broadcast the bloody joy   of constant bhakti
how you curtained the pain till blimey!   you flew away

I essayed the shape of bhairavi    at Meh'rana
but before I could play sublimely    you flew away

you retracted your yad rakh yarn!   what a conundrum!
yet before that Word could unwind me   you flew away

Raphael hasn't puzzled out how    to bend love's bow
with love's target bullseyed    benignly you flew away

[revised & finalized December 10, 2013]

Monday, October 21, 2013

Moon & Venus [a quasi-astrological ditty]

The Moon hath many promises
          as Monday will attest

hath Venus doubting Thomases?
       Friday puts them to rest

Saturday, September 21, 2013

2am thoughts on a Saturday morning [sonnet]

To dwindle yet remain
is our destiny perchance
up till the seventh plane
it is all a fine romance

we brew tea & we try
to accomplish this or that
understated yet wry
maybe sums up where we're at

as days & weeks unfold
there's a tinge of autumn now
while neither young nor old
there's a wrinkle on the brow

perhaps we're more or less
interfused with happiness

Thursday, September 19, 2013

How Silent is God Speaks?


How silent is God Speaks?
how vocal is God's silence?
who stroll by babbling creeks
deem not their clamor violence
but cricket-like or birdsome
pure prayer albiet unwordsome


Thinking outside the boom box
pulling way down the volume
zeroing out all the babble
silence resumes its own tale


"Thinking outside the boom box"
-- a line borrowed from Kendra Crossen

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Question [blank-verse hemi-sonnet]

I've read so many books    about how to write books 
& I've heard radio shows    on the making of radio shows
seen a bunch of bright movies    about people making movies 

& on TV I've watched programs    devoted to TV programming

O but when Lord    here within the realm of thought
will I generate such a thought    as is able to reach
right down to the very source    & root of all thinking?
that can thereby show me clearly    how everything all

your layered worlds    & their quaint representations
are arising every instant    in your tenebrous mind?


for Ward Parks

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Cliché soup sans vermicelli

Not quite ready for rhyme time
two samosas shy of a picnic
lacking a certain I-don't-know-but...
absence makes the heart brew fondue

Sunday, August 25, 2013

"In view of what crime?" (a poem after "Noor")

Life itself comprises    the greatest castigation
in view of what crime    no belated information!
I've been divvied & diced    into so many portions
which part is for myself    I find no indication!

Whereas truth qua truth    allows no variation
a lie is so docile    knowing no such limitation!

No matter if you frame it    in silver or in gold
a mirror's a mirror    holding no confabulation!

Life itself comprises    the greatest castigation
in view of what crime    no belated information!


Zindagi say badi saza hi nahin,
Aur kya jurm hai pata hi nahin!

Itnay hison mein bat gaya hoon main,
Meray hisay mein kuch bacha hi nahin!

Sach ghatay ya badey to sach na rahey,
Jhooth ki koi intehaa hi nahin!

Jad do chaandi mein chahey sonay mein,
Aaiana jhooth bolta hi nahin!

Zindagi say badi saza hi nahin,
Aur kya jurm hai pata hi nahin!

- Krishan Bihari `Noor'


With thanks to Max Babi for his rendering ("transcreation"), which allowed my own riff on same.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Smart Fon Not Quite Smart Enough? [sorta sonnet]

My fon displays the moon-phase
  & instructs me where to drive
how manifold this boon! praise
  it earns each day I'm alive

My fon brings me my friends' news
   & the global news as well
it can sound out Johnson's blues
   & GPS Dante's hell

My fon spans seven planes &
   fathoms Brahma-Vishna-Shiv
it submits to Allah's plan
   in its heart (I so believe)

Yet it dumbly refuses to spiel
Baba's silence-breaking! what's the deal?

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Certain Late Questions For Margaret Miller
(a sonnet)

Is it only because we use words   to get at meaning
that our words may become   the medium of our tale?
what if grief is a kind of inverted awe?   is keening
laughter inside-out? whereas when we allow   words fail

do we mean   our feelings exceed   our frame of reference?
or do we but vaguely confess   verbal inability?
words of saints & masters   stealthily win our deference
do they hold   a secret of subtlety   & fragility?

or a thing more weighty than gold   more shining than flame?
and what of the Silent Master?   who will explain how
even he packs words?   there's gunpowder in that name!
if an A-bomb blasts   does one-fourth really remain   while

in a trice   three-fourths of a never-was world   are gone?
could a novel horizon   limn  unambiguous dawn?

Monday, July 29, 2013

Quatrain after Max Babi

While my grief is tongueless & unjawed
yet is your aloofness a facade?
must be time   to turn the eyes inward!
life itself pantomimes Marat-Sade

मेरा ग़म बेज़ुबान है
तेरी बेखुदी बद-गुमान है
घूमा तो ले दीदा अन्दर
ज़ीस्त तक लहू-लुहान है.

(c) Max Babi
Transliteration :
Mera gham bezubaan hai
teri bekhudi budd-gumaan hai
ghoomaa to le deeda andar
zeest tak lahu-luhaan hai.
And Max's "transcreation" (rendering):
My grief is tongueless
Your detachment is illusory
Turn your eyeballs inward
Even life itself seems gored.


Here was an earlier version I tried -- before noticing how Max's poem follows the rubai rhyme-scheme (hence I retooled this into the top-most & finalized version seen above, mirroring the rhyme stucture of the original Urdu/Hindi quatrain).

While my despair remains tongueless
is your aloofness a facade?
it's time to turn the eyes inward
when life resembles Marat-Sade

Saturday, July 27, 2013

God is the great existentialist! [rubai]

God is the great     existentialist!
he who is both     a potentialist
& realizes     his own existence
if one is but        an eventualist!

"God, the Great Existentialist!"
line borrowed from Max Reif [Facebook status update], with thanks

Friday, July 26, 2013


"Who are you?"    one might wonder?
such a question proves    quite insoluble!
for how might    someone sunder
an opacity    so inviolable
darkly curtaining    the veiled center
wherein nothing    could ever enter?
is there something    indeed installed there?
or is pure emptiness    what is walled there?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Premises & corollaries [gnomic verses]

1.  Four Propositions

If a swan can be known to swoon
a man can attain the moon

If a toad can sport a tail
a road can display a rail

If a fish is endowed with fins
a wish can be crowned with wins

If a dog can master a fiddle
even a log might play a little

 2.  Four Questions

If a pomegranate may prove very pretty
can one be diplomatic in a merry ditty?

If a metropolis is a manner of maze
should a podiatrist garner one's praise?

If an author is a sort of anthropologist
is a mother a votive methodologist?

If a philosopher may seem a maestro of figments 

might a cartographer dream a bistro of pigments?

3.  Four Considerations

If everything has emerged out of naught
is nothing on the verge of being caught?

If our existence might comprise a mere dream
from our persistence could one surmise a clear scheme?

If questions are most essentially emblematic
are Christians consequentially peripatetic?

If unity radically contradicts every duality
does lunacy inadequately predict any reality?

Monday, July 22, 2013

After Rumi (on the certainty of fire)

If your knowledge of fire derives from words   you should seek to be cooked by fire!
There's no certainty until you feel the flame   come and sit in the nook of fire


[The above comprises my recasting (into couplet form) of the thought found in this literal translation from the Farsi of Jelaluddin Rumi]:
"If your knowledge of fire has been turned to certainty by words (alone), seek to be cooked (by the fire itself)
and do not abide in the certainty (of knowledge derived from others).
There is no intuitive (actual) certainty until you burn;
if you desire this certainty, sit down in the fire."

— Jalal-ud-Din Rumi; translated by Afzal Iqbal

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Pulling the page from the platen" [sonnet]

Nostalgia for long-lost days of manual typewriters
I belong to a gen    that still amid memory knows this!
sans internet or PC    we raised upon typewriters
were such innocents (though we didn't perchance suppose this)

you could clank out & mail a letter   affixing a stamp to it
OMG!  to receive such a missive   out of the distance!
and the feel of the keys   the resistance   bring a lamp to it!
for it wouldn't (screen-like)   self-illuminate its existence

and the ribbon   and the return!   with a knell so lyrical

hear it ring   from out the depth of your cogitation?
if it's true as they say   perfection itself is spherical
might we circle about   in an act of imagination

to that instant when pulling the page from the platen  look!
every line etched with sober demeanor    just like a book

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Four Seasons & Eight Questions

If summer's the perfection of spring
if autumn is summer's completion
does winter show fall a new thing?
is spring merely winter's deletion?

If summer annihilates spring
if autumn belies summer's glory
is winter autumn's votive king?
does spring hide in winter's chill story?

If winter holds off spring's delight
if spring keeps in check summer's fire
does autumn fend off winter's night?
does summer suppress autumn's ire?

If fall had a crush on the vernal
& autumn were envied by spring
might winter in fact be nocturnal?
does summer at noon blithely sing?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

an adage for the day (1)

Cool your heels   & soften your gaze       /
Idle your wheels  & brighten your days   //

Friday, June 7, 2013

In Rancho Mirage

In Rancho Mirage
the Prez meets the Prez
don't get out of Dodge
the Oracle says

In Rancho Mirage
the mirrors run deep
all those who make Haj
go miles before sleep

In Rancho Mirage
Obama meets Xi
is Maya a hodge-podge?
go 'n' ask the leafed tea

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Bouquet For My Dentist

I dispatched a thank-you note       in floral guise
tender tulips       for a tooth whose days were numbered
delicate Afsoon!         most beautiful!    most wise!
through your skill       my dental life blooms unencumbered
gentle doc!            you who embody pearly youth
gratitude!       you deftly plucked my rotten tooth

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Quatrain occasioned by a "We Miss You!" Notice

To what do the dead subscribe?
what periodicity draws them?
what news do they seek? what tribe
of angelic beings awes them?


Note scrawled on a form letter
that arrived today, addressed to my late father (sent by the subscription department of The Progressive, a left-wing magazine) ; the letter begins:
Dear Sam Israel:
We miss you, and I thought you might be missing us, too. . . .
My scrawled note reads:
Dear Progressive:

My father, Sam Israel, passed away in October of last year.  He loved your publication, and for that I thank you.  But you need send no further subscription reminders.  Sam Israel is now permanently unsubscribed.

David Israel

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Music Theory

If music is only obsolete in moksha
       it demonstrates what utility in life?

perhaps it's employed to overcome inertia
   & regulate all the threads of joy & strife

Friday, April 12, 2013

Quatrain responsive to a question posed by Lewis Carroll

Loving or being loved. Which is best?           77
[from the index to Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno (1889)]

If each is incomplete without the other
yet both are in a partial manner blessed
why argue which is preferable? I'd rather
suggest the state of both-at-once is best

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Who Am I? [riddle riff]

If you utter my name   I vanish
if you mention me not   I'm there
I'm Silencio   if you're Spanish
(or Italianized)                in air
I dangle with mystery's mist
of all that is said I'm the gist!

Friday, March 22, 2013

"Many things" [gnomic verse]

Many things show some fragility
many things suffer disorder
many things flummox gentility
many things live near the border


Verse in wake of the sudden & accidental dropping
of a ceramic cup, whereby its handle was broken

Friday, March 15, 2013

Perfectly at Ease [gatha]

Being the center    he's not on edge
being the heart    he is at his ease
joyous in absolute    bliss-knowledge
being the being    who loves & frees


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Fernando's Voyage

That Pessoa has 1,001 "fans" at GoodReads
seems a matter meriting mention in a poem
though numeric signs be principally evocative

(if the Thousand Nights & One Night of Arabia  
vaguely signify infinitude what good deeds 
get accomplished in the yammering of a yarn?)
might the writing life induce pure meditation?

or is thought forever wayward & untrained?
certain puzzles only time might deign to parse
(on the train of thought a vagabond could stow a
slender volume wherein heart is strangely brained)
you who fashion biblio-covers if you'd go a
certain ways into the utterance of Pessoa 
would you greet the cosmic bingo as did Noah? 

fashion a ship  sans need of welkin-hoisted sail
twain by twain they enter  rabbit tortoise snail


for Netra Shyam

Friday, March 8, 2013

Canvassing the Silence [gnomic verses]

When the pollster meets with silence
and the poll at length collapses
can you hear the distant violins?
can you jump the short synapses?

When the pollster meets with stillness
and the poll is finally canceled
can you feel the silence fill this
open space with no mark penciled?

When the pollster hears no answer
and the poll's at last unraveled
do you glimpse the cosmic dancer
and discern how far he's travelled?

Cardinals Play the Mystic Card [gnomic verse]

[hypothetical riff on a New York Times headline]

Cardinals seek a Pope who has charisma and toughness
maybe it's time to nab James Dean or Henry Fonda
but if they're no longer available? we'll have to rough this
better draft a Pope who's drowning in Satchitananda!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Sound-Check in the Museum of Silence

Destroying the silent exhibition
the sound-check proceeded in the space
the music resounded with precision
the silence retreated   in its place
there blossomed a tsumami orchestrated
on a laptop   origami calibrated
might be folded in such manner as this sound
that unfolding in such silence might astound


For Carl Stone, who wrote (in a Facebook status update):
Soundcheck for tomorrow's concert will take place today. Why so early? Because the museum has a show in the daytime, title : "SILENCE"

Monday, March 4, 2013

via media [gnomic verse]

Pen to paper   thumb to glass   your lips to God's ears
Poetry   like leaves of grass   through the cracks appears

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A Symposium

A symposium on cybernetics & soul
       at the Tokyo Palace in Paris?
an announcement seen on my laptop screen
       in a pre-dawn hour in Los Angeles
for what world is the soul preparing us
       while somewhere a bird is chirping?
been watching a Robbie Basho clip
       as seen on TV last century

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sonnet responsive to a proscription attributed to Linji

"When you meet a master swordsman, show him your sword.
When you meet a man who is not a poet, do not show him your poem."

-- Línjì Yìxuán (臨濟義玄) [circa 9th century AD]

When you meet a man who isn't dead
don't share with him your mordant thoughts
when you meet a man don't give him bread
if he's not given to baking lots

When you meet a man who's not a mouse
you might allow you're not a cat
when you meet a man forget your house
if he wears no architectural hat

When you meet a man who doesn't swim
why show him you can plumb the deeps?
when you meet a man disclose no whim
if he doesn't dig whimsical peeps

When you meet a man who's not a poet
if you've got a poem decline to show it

Saturday, February 23, 2013

"Lost & found" [gnomic verse]

Lost & found in the woods of the words!
          tossed & drowned in the sea!
most astounding the songs of the birds
                 love abounding in me


Verse occasioned & inspired by a Facebook status update by poet Koyamparambath Satchidanandan, who wrote:
  • O, I have lost my way in a forest of words. I see many passages in front of me, some narrow, some wide, some wild, some clear, some dark, some bright..Cannot recall which is the one leading to poetry.I can hear the waterfall, can smell the flowers, hear the trumpeting winds and the roaring rains... Is this a nightmare or language? Woods or words? Beasts or beats? Lanes or lines?Are there rhymes of prey? And metrical forests? Streams of similes? Mountains of metaphors? Winged adjectives and four-legged adverbs? Tailed nouns and horned verbs? Dictionaries are full of pug marks. Prepositions laugh like the hyena. Conjunctions bark like the barking deer...Lost, lost , lost.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

"When you listen" [gnomic verse]

You keep the eyes open   to see
you keep the mouth shut   when you listen
if speaking connotes liberty
yet silence makes everything glisten

Saturday, February 16, 2013

World & Eye

The world looms large   the eye looks small
               but this is mere illusion
the facets of the world are all
               in all of their profusion

projections of   the self who sees
within the heart   he's at his ease


[these lines seek to paraphrase Meher Baba]

Friday, February 8, 2013

"Like a double dare" [gnomic verse]

Retaining credibility   while losing all one's hair?
                my whiskers wax whiter than snow
if aging has utility   it's like a double-dare
        as drops dare to merge with the flow


Verse inspired by (and riffing on) a reading of George Packer's blog post, "Loose Thoughts on Youth and Age" [at NewYorker.com]

Friday, February 1, 2013

Famous final tweets [gnomic verses]

What of famous final tweets?
when buried we text no more
yet the cosmos soon repeats
each word on a yonder shore

thus does the publishing proceed
in echo-chamber broadcast
happy the soul who now might heed
the chance that has not yet passed

might status updates yet still be filed
from various spheres of being?
the chronicle of our states compiled
for various eyeballs' seeing?

O what is our final home? (you ask)
discovering that's the tweeter's task

Saturday, January 26, 2013

After Hafez

There is no pen that has the tongue to tell   love's tenebrous secret
beyond the ken of words e'en sung right well       ineffable longing


earlier version (but I now favor the above one):

There is no pen that has the tongue        to tell love's deep religion
beyond the ken of words e'en sung right well lies longing's region

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

"The penumbra of sweet" [gatha]

Blue seems most lovely    when framing gold light
snow proves most charming    adjacent room's heat
day attains meaning    recalled amid night
bitter expounds    the penumbra of sweet


occasioned by (or riffing on) an unusual snow-scene photo (posted to Facebook) by David Hykes

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Purloining Versifier's Lament [ghazal]

O when might Hafez find himself   in English perfectly?
couplets he's scrawled & signed himself   in English perfectly?

'twill never happen!  say   the savvy never-happen-sayers
(though he'd ne'er be unkind himself   in English perfectly)

he's said to be the Farsi poet   perfectly unwilling
to drunkenly unwind himself   in English perfectly

what is this reticence Poet abstemious!   mere shyness?
you've never wined nor dined yourself   in English perfectly?

if senseless Raphael he'd lend   Suleiman's storied goblet
Hafez might heart-&-mind himself   in English perfectly


Suleiman's goblet:  the chalice of King Solomon, which (in Islamic literary lore) is ascribed wonderful properties.

[Admittedly, this poem is merely a sort of intellectual amusement -- written in response to discussions about the various attempts by English-language poets to give translations and "versions" from the celebrated 14th century Persian poet Hafez.]