Saturday, March 4, 2017

smoke in your eyes

when I gave up smoking cigarettes
seemed like the whole world staggered
to an end -- kalpas shaking

when I took the key right out my mouth
the howl -- like somebody forgot
to feed the cats -- it was like that

took the receiver off the hook
dial tone back in the 20th century
now white noise -- it was like that

fragments shattered on volcano shore
then the waves washed them away
blank mirror in your face

never did quite understand the meaning
of nicotine -- smoked a long clay pipe
for a time, packed with Balkan Sobranie

let us now meditate on the significance
of the filter, or exotic associations
Gitanes in the French Caribbean

unfiltered Camels in downtown New York
life measured out by tobacco
the habitual pose, gazing at autumn leaves

something to do with the fingers and lips
rolling ciggies, kissing tobacco
it did not seem particularly erotic

seasons going by, nerves numb
gazing out at the sea, waves washing away
and brushing off the ashes, all the ashes

when I gaving up smoking cigarettes
it was like turning the radio off
that pulsing moment stopped time abruptly

a study of the limits of desire
when a lovely flame dies
haunted scent of ancient autumn leaves

--Ross Bender

Friday, February 17, 2017

caterwaul

the neighbors were making
lots of ruckus 

last night 

but perhaps 
they were trying 

to sing 

bongos, ukeleles, clarinets, 
cowbells, castanets

and this awful wailing 

but maybe 
they were just trying 

to sing 

thought it might have been cats 

but it was the vox humana 

about twenty-seven of them 

and all prima donnas 

making a racket 
attempting to swing 

but heck 
to be charitable

maybe they were just trying to sing 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

return to the little rooms

returning to the little room --
studio, efficiency, cubicle --
solitary cell in the brain

blundering home at odd hours
you miss the address, or the building's 
down, burnt out, demolished

or the elevator refuses to pause at your floor
you wander out in the night mesh,
Manhattan street matrix

(it was the decade of the solitaries
long-distance hollow-eyed striders
up and down the wounded bleeding avenues)

at last, guided by some god's hand
you stumble home to the little room,
safe place, asylum, it endures in time

narrow bed, desk and lamp, and in the drawer
the deck of suicide cards, your old poems
cryptographic tomes line the shelf

reclining, you recite aloud
the old bards gather
chanting greybeards join in

moonlight plays over the foot of the bed
autumn returns and in its clarity
angels take wing over Harlem

full moon slides and your mind to the west
over the cliffs to paradise
down to the river, onto the rocks of time

--Ross Bender


Wednesday, February 1, 2017

little rooms

in the little rooms 
the trance arrives then departs
your Muse approaches

furious priests march in
beating their tambours
the drums, the incense

imposing women,
formidable as storms, rush over you
delirium in their wake

the keys to the little rooms
to find them you consult 
the subway maps

these little rooms are always
similarly furnished --
a narrow bed, a lamp, a desk

reserved for you
in a decaying building
down in the slums of time

--Ross Bender


Wednesday, January 25, 2017

BLACK POWER 50

living in the USA past five decades
been like participating in a slo-mo
slo-mo slow motion peoples' movement 
or a lazy funky guerilla war

Malcolm said: America is a Prison.
hard to quarrel with that truth
world's first modern democracy
world's greatest prison nation 

different gulags for different folks
graded by skin-color, IQ,
different walks, defiant thoughts
a cell awaits you tailored to your
     very own personality

--Ross Bender

Monday, January 9, 2017

stupa

narcolepsy
this drowsiness
laid on thick by winter's
monochromatic brush

take the night train
the catatonic express
nod off
with a head full of snow

there are stupas 
at my doorstep
shard upon shard
stone upon stone

--Ross Bender

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

bardo

your face frozen in the window
I bring food offerings
hieratic cats, their old souls
behind ancient eyes

your body entranced in the sacral bed
anointed and unguentine
once we were entwined
under the pyramids, under the sphinx

soul's boat rocking
dark gelatinous waters
florid multiplex demons
stand at attention

this is not dying; yet it is
this is not a journey; yet it is
your face frozen in the waters
under the pyramids, under the sphinx

--Ross Bender