for Ogden, a gnu

September 7

At the zoo,

I said to you,

β€œI believe that gnu is new.”

You said to me,

β€œAt one time free,

now sadly

in captivity,

his empty days

he wastes away

with no will to run and play.”

Then you and I,

with long,

slow sighs,

turned back to

our

own

empty

lives.

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In Egypt, the Israelites
Worked for Pharaoh, the king.
He made them his slaves
And they built his buildings.

Pharaoh treated them badly!
He killed some of their kids!
He whipped and he beat them!
Oh, the mean things that he did!

Then the Hebrews prayed to God,
“Oh, please, please, set us free!”
The Lord sent them Moses,
And then parted the sea.

He led them in groups
Of ones, twoses and threeses.
He led them to the desert
With no grasses or treeses.

He led them by night
With a great pillar of fire.
He led them by day
With a cloud pointing skyward.

The Israelites started
Their grum-grumbly grum-grumbling.
They complained that their tummies
Were rum-rumbly-rumbling.

“All we have is this Manna,
And though it is sweet,
We really, quite honestly,
Want something else we can eat.”

Three months in the desert
They camped at Rephidim.
They camped and they waited
For Moses to lead them.

Then Moses said, “Pack up!
Tell your sons, daughters and wives
To pack everything quick!
We’re going to Sinai!”

So they packed up and moved
To the foot of that rock.
And they didn’t wait long
Til they got a big shock.

Mt. Sinai was covered
In clouds and in smoke,
And the mountains and valleys
Shook whenever God spoke.

The Lord said to Moses,
“Brush your teeth. Comb your hair.
Put on a clean tunic,
Cuz I’m coming down there.”

Moses climbed up
To the mountain’s toppest tip top.
He climbed and he climbed
Til God told him to stop.

God said, “I’ve heard their complaining,
Their grumbling and whining.
They don’t like the desert.
They don’t like the dining.

“They keep saying that Egypt
Was such a great place.
But they all worked for Pharaoh,
He kept them as slaves.

“If you want milk and honey
And your own Promised Land,
Just trust me and follow,
And obey my commands.

“These 10 little rules
Are all that I ask.
Just 10 tiny things.
It”s not a hard task.

“Number One – I am the Lord God.
It was I set you free.
You can’t ever, no never
Have another god before Me.

“Don’t make yourself idols
Of wood, silver or gold.
Those are only toy statues
And not gods to behold.

“My name is Jehovah,
God or The Lord.
But speak my name kindly,
It’s not a vain word.

“The Sabbath I love.
I took that day off.
So on the Sabbath you rest,
Now that shouldn’t be tough.

“Your mother and father
You must love and obey.
It’s their job to teach you
And raise you the right way.

“Don’t murder, not ever.
There’s no reason why
To cold-blooded-blood-bloodily
Make anyone die.

“Your promises must be good
For the rest of your life,
Like a man when he promises
To love and cherish his wife.

“If it’s not yours, don’t touch it.
Don’t take it. Don’t steal.
It hurts other people,
And you could go to jail.

“Just tell the truth.
You don’t need to try
To obfuscate, inveigle,
To deceive or to lie.

“Thou shalt not covet.
I know it sounds funny …
Just be happy if your friend
Has more toys or more money.

“These 10 rules I gave you,
Take them back to camp now!
The Israelites have already
Started building gold cows.

“Go now! Go fast!
Run lickety-split!
And read to my children
These 10 Commandments!”

wanting her
     to be
     what she already is
          to me
wanting her
to want me
     to be
     what i want her
to want me
to be

over the sunflowered hills
are windmills
     as tall as their verses
casting lazy shadows
where
i dream
     she sleeps

they danced
          dripping silver like
          stars
on a new moon
smiling
          fresh faced pink
          skin
lost in
          themselves
          the drunken primacy of
love
and i
remembering
          the staid beauty
          of subtle ages
withered
in secondhand joy

there, and again

April 27

     she stretched
herself
before me black skin
     under dancing crayon
     lights
     wrapping
herself around
     me around
stone and
water and
woods around children
skipping in parks
carved in dirty cities
across the rivers from
     sunrise to
     sunrise to
     sunrise
around me
     whispering taste taste taste
surely you will not
and i did
and i did not
and i slipped along her
slipped under
     her
     youth dreams experience
and heat
and i did
and i did not
     looking ahead
and looking back
like salt
     i lost myself
     in her
paradise
making today
out of
     tomorrows

were we ever
     really
that young
     brave
          in the face
          of a million
new days
          laughing off broken bones
          and bruises
won daring life
daring love
or
were we
          just
dreaming
                              (creating
                              our own immortalities
                              eternities
                              temporary and beautiful

                              )
and
now
          pulling ourselves
grey
in evening light
          from
          the lover’s grip of sleep
we are born

i miss
  the pile of pink
  pearl fuzz
  and hastily erased
  smudges
  that meant
you

my hands on her hips
the smell of her excitement
i lost myself in her laugh

empty promises
the bedrock of our delight
just like we had agreed upon

slump shouldered
he stands
          a cardboard
          castle
          wilting
in cold rain
whispering those words
he wished
he had said
     when she was
     there

the smell of
     fresh sweat and
laughter
pulling me
          dragging me
                    holding me
under
cold spring morning
pools
     in whispered velvet
     chains