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  Poetry

Four Questions
by Shuli Lamden from Another Desert: Jewish Poetry of New Mexico

Now that I am grown, now

that my brother presides over Seder in his own home,

now that my seven-year-old nephew has outgrown the asking

and coaches his little sister in the questions, word by word—
 

Why is tonight different from all other nights?
How is this meal different from all other meals?

 

—only now do I know

not simply answers, but the ways

that our questions are answered,

with still more questions:
 

How is tonight the same as all other nights like this?
How is this meal the same as all other meals like this?

 

Dad explains to his grandson

how over and over we sit down to this meal,

how his own grandfather once asked the questions,

then heard them asked.
 

We begin with memory, tell stories, and sing

of our ancestors and of God who redeems us.

We are always enslaved,

and we are always being liberated.

While the sun burns its way from night to night,

the Red Sea touches shore, then recedes.


 

Atonement Songs
by Judith Rafaela from Another Desert: Jewish Poetry of New Mexico
 
The wild sound of the shofar
pierces my skin and opens my heart.
And I’m wild for tunes in a minor key
that vibrate my tailbone and belly
and echo out across a synagogue packed
with doubters and believers
who come together in whiteness
one day of the year to hear
archaic bizzare legal formulas and prayers.
Sexist, racist, but still...
Dressed up in sounds they open our path.
Just for that moment in our fasting, light-headedness,
open us to rich tones—
Simple melodies that convey truths or fictions
about our fate.
We have free choice, but yet
our fate is sealed this Wednesday night at sundown.


I’m wild about the sun going down and I’m starving and
the gates of heaven are closing
and there’s just few minutes.
Wait, don’t close.
Wait for my prayer. I’ll be better.
Forgive me. Next year. Wait.
Reduced to childlike quaking, we sing incantations
from an earlier time:
three times Baruch Shem
seven times Adonai Hu Elohim and then,
and then the piercing longed for
wail of pain blown up to the heavens
it’s getting dark, and
seven Amens.

Prayer for Swift Rivers
by Maggie McKirgan from The Practice of Peace


Lord please don’t lead me beside still waters
When I am so broken and choked with blood
That silent mists rising from gray lakes
Or the mirrored reflections of white oaks and sycamores
Only seem to mock my pain


Lead me instead to swift rivers
Racing and tumbling with leaves and twigs
Agates and diamonds
On their wild rush to join the sea


Let me run past great waves crashing
On rocky shores
Uprooting trees
Tearing at sandy cliffs
Destroying
Rebuilding
Ebbing and flowing in my veins
Until their rhythm slows me
Soothes me
Brings me peace

Father Buddha
by H. Palmer Hall from The Practice of Peace

for the Children of Pleiku

I walked two klicks down Le Loi Street
to a schoolyard, a Buddha broken in the dust
shattered by a rocket meant for us,
and saw you sitting in his hand
tossing carved pieces of the statue’s feet,
not even caring where they’d land.


What mattered was that I did not want to be
where and what I was and saw
that you had also had no choice. Some law,
legal in my case, chance in yours,
with no way out that you or I could see,
gave me a twelve month, you a lifetime, tour.


We shared a cigarette and watched the smoke
rise into the red dust Pleiku air.
You laughed, blew smoke rings with the flair
that comes only when you’re very young.
You told me I was on the Buddha’s throat
and should beware the Buddha’s tongue.


I remember that once, when the war was calm,
we laughed and played with shattered stones,
and know there can be no way to atone
for all the death, the wounds, the pain.
If you still live, rest quietly in father Buddha’s palm;
if not, sleep peacefully with all the slain.

Suddenly I'm in a Hurry
by Judith Rafaela from Poems along the Path

Softly sitting in the sunshine,

a bit of straw in my fingers,

I'd wonder at the ants

measured, goal oriented,

carrying loads for the queen.

I'd play Nintendo games, do crossword puzzles

Throwing seconds, days, weeks into

small events and experiences.
 
 

Suddenly I'm in a hurry.

Images of Virginia: Her video dreams imposed on

wild thrashing gasps of anger against the night.

The path's length never bogged me down before.

Red dirt road climbed and fell with light breezes.

Sightseeing at will, old rock carving caves,

museums of glass and steel,

treasured books with musty smells, intuitive leaps.

But now

that need to understand all in a gestalt

lets me down

boom

I'm on my ass on the road.

Travelers pass crying "patience" and "one step at a time."

I sit in stubborn silence.

I'm in a hurry

I want all languages now

especially Spanish for my blood.

I want to roll the R's like a phallic kiss

I want to spray out my passion like raw whisky

in the rhymes and rhythms of the Spanish declination.

And Hebrew next,

Holy tongue that hides the mysteries of all

within small roots to a tree of life.
 
 

I'm in a hurry to communicate,

while fires burn in cities

crying we're too late to understand.

We must awaken from our slumber.

I sit with beer can, passive:

the news images intermixed

with messages from our material god.

Sound bites of lullaby.
 
 

I want it all and now each grain of knowledge

drops like sand in an imagined hourglass.

Dorothy in a poppy field

sleeping through the quest

and no wise good witch to bring snow.

Only a cold lump of unrisen bread sitting in my chest.
 
 

The Night Sky
by Penny Harter from Lizard Light

When something taps your window
in the dark—a large moth
beating its pale wings,
or a pungent branch of lilac
scraping in the wind—
you wake to the night sky
pouring in upon you.


You have been waiting
all your life for this,
open as a harp.


And when a bird cries out
from the depths of the lilac
where it has slept every night
undisturbed, you understand
that it too has opened
to a shining that sings.

Coin of the Realm
by Judyth Hill from Presence of Angels
 
 

How valuable to tremble,

in your presence,

a shudder of vowels,

praising the white shoulders of sleep.

Light swallows sleep and roosters.

I listen for your mysterious breath,

tunneling lonely toward morning,

dreaming of columbines,

guitarrons, and citronella.

In night's tender moss,

the smell of roses is an arrow on fire.

We take aim and find first light like cool milk.

Drink to a day of stringed instruments.

We take the open road. Count off twenty centuries.

I am afraid of nothing, but with my body of skin and music

awake.
 
 

The Sorry of Flowers
by Judyth Hill from Men Need Space

A dark horse ambles slowly through my apology.

A field of alfalfa and wild columbine,

I'm that sorry.

I'm sorry in the way of going too soon to seed.

I'm sorry in the way of haste and meadows,

a season of sorry, a harvest of regret.
 
 

But there's that animal in me that is not sorry.

That has moved with mysterious resolve

towards insult and mayhem.

That is maybe a bit gleeful,

accelerating to a brisk trot,

Then full tilt gallop,

a whirr of black behavior.

Unforgivable!
 
 

PLUM TEA IN THE DESERT
by Mary McGinnis from Listening for Cactus
 
 

1

After afternoon sleep,

the water has just started to boil.
 
 

2

Flavors swirl on my tongue--

fruit tart, sugar white,

the wild familiar patina of sweetness,

shielding me from despair.
 
 

3

I drink to the smooth, green skins of the fruit

shining in the leaves, the dusty Sunday yards

where we have picked;

several notes in C-sharp major in the vibrato

of the flute: we were lonely,

picking plums in a boom town, longing to escape the desert.
 
 

4

I drink so the jays will call to each other,

the junipers have new growth

after the June beetle is finished.

I drink to dreams, blue mussel shells,

the plums rolling toward each other while still clinging

to the tree, the wind shaking the tree; by next month,

the plums will ripen, darkening , darkening.

Here in the desert, we can do what we want in spite of the dust.
 
 

5

Your hair has gotten thinner,

but it still flies, falls into your eyes;

I think of hugging you, the bones in your back,

begging to be counted; let's go upstairs, I say,

let me count them there. A tart song spins

from to you. I hear the stillness inside the wind.
 
 

6

The jays call to each other,

the plums tremble and hold on.

I bring you desire:

a flute full of colors.
 
 

7

The girl that I was

still lives in my slender fingers.

poetry price lists 
About Oranges
by Marian Olson from 
Written with a Spoon, 
a Poet's Cookbook
 

Take an orange, for instance.

It doesn't snap or bite

like a petulant lover

denied audience

once an affair is over.

I mean, all the stink

and mess of breaking apart,

so unlike an orange.

When you are done with it,

the sweetness lingers.

  Chicken Breasts a l'orange

Up to 6 whole chicken breasts

Orange Butter:

1 - tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrate

zest of 1 orange

1 stick of butter

Grate orange rind.

In a bowl mix softened butter, orange juice concentrate and orange zest with a wire whisk.

Brush chicken with mixture and grill. 

Brush again after cooking. 

This sweet sauce can also be used on fish.

POEM LIST
Four questions 
Atonement Songs 
Suddenly I'm 
in a Hurry
 The Night Sky
 Coin of the Realm
 The Sorry of Flowers
Plum Tea 
in the Desert
About Oranges

Prayer for Swift Rivers 

Father Buddha