Friday, April 21, 2017

earth note 469

a grey morning
has more than one meaning
what looks like gathering mist
could be sweat
from the hills
of a forest

--- e b bortz

Thursday, April 20, 2017

earth note 468

the maple i've been watching for years
sprung the brightest green leaves today

that's the only news that counts

--- e b bortz

Monday, April 17, 2017

recovering notes from the deep, part 9

i should say their surnames
before i forget them
more than fifty years have passed
     but i'll say them to myself
since i'd like to stay away
from phone calls in the middle of the night
and lawsuits

before there were murals in the neighborhood
there were empty walls and vacant lots
and we'd chalk a rectangle on the wall
for a strike zone
for a hard pitched
tennis ball
and a batter
for a pickup game
and the mystique
of a ted kluszewski at bat
in the bottom of the ninth
the pirates with bases loaded
and mostly no hope
of winning

columbia place was an alley
     row houses
and soot on the window sills
and your voice carried
even when there was
no harmony

about the time
someone became sixteen
and got their hands
on the family car
the drive-ins just weren't
of an escape
from the smoke stacks
war dead 
& nightly news

there was always ripple wine
or thunderbird
to get you sick
i'm a lucky one with a low tolerance
learning my lessons
in the shadows
of the west view park roller coaster
(long gone)

for an under-achiever
high school was more like
putting in time
occasionally finding a book
that moved you
     & a couple of english teachers
who refused to force feed you
     the script

when i started taking the streetcar
from the northside to the leafy east end
more than one
would ask me
why are you deserting
     aren't we good enough

--- e b bortz

Sunday, April 16, 2017

it would seem

that a rising jesus
was the catcher in the sky
of a medium range ballistic missile
off the coast of the
democratic people's republic of korea
this easter morning

--- e b bortz

Saturday, April 15, 2017

earth note 467

the dirt road
into the national forest
out of durango
hangs in the air
suspended by sheer
updrafts from the valley

mountains can't shake
the haze or purple veneer
from the west
balancing along the ridge
but not unheard

--- e b bortz

Sunday, April 09, 2017

earth note 466

a squirrel and a robin
decided to perch themselves
on the same bare mulberry tree
     no this is not a riddle
strong spring sun
brings their bodies
into focus
branches silhouette
the finest of detail
small buds shaking gently
as each traverse
and then move on

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, April 04, 2017

earth note 465

where the rivers meet

patch blue sky
air currents
finally warm enough
to keep a couple hawks
aloft & soaring above parking lots

traffic growl rising
like static notes
trying to bring you down

--- e b bortz

Sunday, April 02, 2017

earth note 464

chimney rock, colorado

when the jewelry maker
told her story
her voice quivered slightly
the air was dry and acoustic
her notes crossed the landscape
in brown shadows
opening up
a squash blossom

--- e b bortz

Thursday, March 30, 2017

i know i've used color orange like a drumbeat

as in sunsets
ocean horizons
summer mountains
autumn leaves

it writes itself
like a muse

spilling out pain
as necessary

it jumps in
without making excuses

speaks and listens
at the same time

it's a couple of tints more yellow
than blood red

though i'm certainly
no painter

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 29, 2017


is scorched memory
uniquely calculated
for longevity
like no other

as one scrapes
thru burning gun sights
the confusion of the shovels
with the tapping of survivors
is impossible to distinguish

speak their names

the sky fills once again
blind smoke
a crematoria
to hide every flag

--- e b bortz

Sunday, March 26, 2017

earth note 463

temperature inversion
pollution alert coming
if they're being honest
more carbon-petro-chemical
in the offing
the river valley
being the conduit
your sacrificial lungs
turning gray
then malignant
then a death spiral rising
called an uptick
in the markets

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

earth note 462

si surat stupa, surat thani province, thailand

on a bicycle in 1988
the hill was always a challenge
a magical view across the valley
rolling out into the gulf of thailand
refocusing your perspective
every turn of the crank

sunday was a day
to open every pore
lovers finding
cool shadows from the stone
where a whisper echoes
like a singing bowl

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

the words will know where to go

let them go
out the backdoor
down the ravine
toward the highway

touch a grassy berm
still wet from last night

there's no propriety in any of this
if you think your words
are sacred
look for obscure translations

planting seeds you may be surprised
sometimes they stay hidden

the rain will cleanse
the text
you've spilled it all out
no apologies

go easy on the critics
     grow the garden

--- e b bortz

Sunday, March 19, 2017

earth note 461

an overcast is easy
on your mind and eyes
without expectation
snow melts when mountains
and hollowed out bodies
every runoff is a tear
on swollen rivers
trees rub shoulder to shoulder
with rust
     an i beam has no ego

--- e b bortz

Thursday, March 16, 2017

the wind storm has passed for now

in pittsburgh
waking up to the dutch election results
rolling in on their classic wind mills
or more recent wind turbines
keeping all the internet chatter
from going dark
or maybe it'll go dark

groenlinks (the greenleft) seems to be growing
like a new forest
emerging in a strong voice
democracy without corporate logos
solidarity with immigrants
the social safety-net
to stop austerity
or however it's described over there
     putting your body on the line
the xenophobes will go the way
of the false prophets

listen to the young

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

earth note 460

northside pittsburgh

a string of row houses
on mccullough way
& along california avenue
have gone to dirt lots
broken red brick
grass poking its head
out of the leftovers
blue bell diner long gone
blue moon coming back
only by special request  

and then there's the exact
location of the house
a teenager walks away from
at 1713 buena vista street
     now it's on record
where radical leaflets might still
be milling around in the rafters
waiting for the barricades
to go up
never one
to bowing down

--- e b bortz

Monday, March 13, 2017

earth note 459

northside pittsburgh

it took the whole winter
to finally get a forecast of
six inches of snow
on the marshall trail
if i want to ski again i've got to be ready

the ground
still has some give to it
the deer never seem surprised
their bodies in motion
in full contrast

forty-eight years ago
it rained
as i walked down
to the draft board
to say

every story has a moral
even this one
but don't ask 
the weatherman
to find the right map
it's time to go by instinct

forty-eight years ago
i refused army induction
passed out anti-war flyers & buttons
as the sergeant started his pep talk
and a couple of ready soldiers
grabbed me by the elbows
and moved me out

i tried eye contact
with the whole room
blurting out
a few words
you don't hafta cross that line

and that became my mantra
a muster of moral persuasion
in simple terms
but mainly
as if killing & dying
can be reduced
to a common denominator

--- e b bortz

Saturday, March 11, 2017

earth note 458

late afternoon crows return
their primal screams
speak freely
without hesitation
through bare branches
they teach us to breathe deep
into a full moon

--- e b bortz

earth note 457

shattered blue sky
makes up
for the snow covered
leave your excuses
for celebrating st patrick's day
a week ahead of time
and maybe just dwell
on the ides of march

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

earth note 456

kin khao
let's eat rice
share what we have
find the quiet
of the palm fronds
the secret contours
of the shore
shaped through the body
of every woman

--- e b bortz

Saturday, March 04, 2017

a name-dropper by any other name

putin is no yevtushenko
chernobyl is no bratsk hydroelectric station
but trump
is the insatiable roy cohn
even out on the studio 54 dance floor
grabbing everything unclaimed
in a sloppy rendition
of infamous manhattan fame
giving mort sahl
a reason to take the fifth
in his own monologue

like the strangest of bedfellows

--- e b bortz

Friday, March 03, 2017

earth note 455

march 3rd
& waking to a dusting of snow
getting back in one piece
was enough
where there's a highway & fog
up against west virginia hills
and every coal seam
seems worked out
like a short legged steer
on mountain shrub grass

eighteen wheelers bear down
to beat the tornado
dodging shredded tires
and swollen creeks

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 26, 2017

earth note 454


land fingers
rise from phuket
rooted deeply
in dark quiet coral
pointing outward
past the bays & sunsets
into the span
of the andaman sea

long shafts of fishing boats
groan until dusk

--- e b bortz

Saturday, February 18, 2017

before the fever breaks

delirium and a good sweat will find a place
the osprey finds courage
in its wingspan
sailing past old glory
where there are no empty nests
to sulk in

when my father joined
the international brigades
in spain in 1937
his truck carried
communications gear
to help the republic
coordinate their defenses
against the relentless bombing raids
of the nazi luftwaffe

the frontlines grew into thousands of dead and maimed
the brunete counterattack
the jarama valley
my father's truck dodging the bombs
in the dark
with no headlights

there was justice
but no glory
in any of this
below his breastbone
was the memory of the gentleness
of his mother's hand
a courageous woman
dying at a young age
after giving birth
to ten children

when my father reached the age
of ninety-two
he had already surpassed
the fascist franco-hitler-mussolini-senator joseph mccarthy

my father would often say
a jew is obligated
to stand with the oppressed
but don't ask me for a biblical reference
or a politician's self-serving approval

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 16, 2017

earth note 453

big torch key

the road makes
another right angle
north this time
and then a right angle left
west this time
a strange rodent with long legs
runs in parallel

there's nothing confusing
about any of this
as long as your compass
is the sun

a couple more houses
have moved in
grabbing onto the grid
the guy who's off the grid
in his trailer
still looks out the window
as you pass
he prides himself
on being the last human
at the end of the key

the jersey barriers
meet the end of the asphalt
you can hoof it from here

the mangroves put their feet
deep into the salt
and freshwater
the muck is dense and dark
wherever there's a shoreline

(we still remember sinking to our shins
off no-name key
before the tourists got up
& took over every put-in)

do you really care about any of this
on the rise toward high tide again
a watery burial is just a low-lying landfill
there is no covering your ass
in bureaucratic dossiers
a file of unintelligible gibberish
leaving the next generation with no life raft
     might just be a counterfeit treasury bond
and all that that represents
the core wet & rotting
an endless full moon

this isn't the sound of hyperbole
maybe just
beached pilot whales
who've gone silent

--- e b bortz

Monday, February 13, 2017

until these walls come down

just remember these border doors
swing both ways
insults have value
find your happy vitriol
and then stand by it
until you fall on your face
preach to the choir
and don't forget to say grace

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 12, 2017

earth note 452

suddenly the wind rose
like it had somewhere to go
the canal shimmered
gnats dispersed
a noisy boat trailer
rattled toward the launch
scared the songbird
with a splotch of red
on its head
from the top of the utility pole

walkins still welcome
no appointment necessary
no talking during the show

--- e b bortz

Friday, February 10, 2017

earth note 451

tune it out
when nothing else works
for highway one stress
and a big honking
white pickup truck
coming attcha
flared fenders
chrome up the yazoo
ripping outta big pine
winn-dixie shopping center
leading the charge to key west
where the barroom floors
haven't been mopped up yet
& the kids working the season
in the tee-shirt stores
are still in bed

so slow down
& watch out
for bicycles
roosters & pelicans

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 09, 2017

how would a pacifist survive in syria today

probably wouldn't
nonviolent civil resistance
brings you to saydnaya prison
where you'll be tortured
then hung by the neck
until dead
with the many thousands
who once held protest signs
and now share a mass grave

if you somehow avoid being picked up
by the executioners
you might try escaping
but to where and how

overland to the sea
and then a raft

getting to the closest embassy
to only find locked doors
executive orders
and the closing down of visas

there is no civilization left
for the peaceful
for the defeated
for the solitary voice of sympathy
for the soft hands that refuse the fist
that refuse the rationales of power
that refuse participating other than by dying
on the sword of injustice
on the plain of lost souls

--- e b bortz

Monday, February 06, 2017

holocaust remembrance

my people came out
of the shtetls and ghettos of eastern europe
where we made boots and sheet metal patterns
and socialists and anarchists

and numbering in the millions
we made music and poems
and curiosity
before all of europe
and the united states
turned on us
and then turned us in

in order to cover their own
intellectual malevolence
they stole our zeitgeist
(maybe even the word)
take it from the yids they would say
before we cleanse them from the university
before we turn them to ash

so don't tell me how you forgot
to use the word jew
it's a simple yet complex word
it's been buried inside of you
since at least the 1492 inquisition

bring yourself and your ancestors
to your impeachment hearing
the truth might set you free

--- e b bortz

Sunday, February 05, 2017


even a deep blue sky
seems lost & forgotten
on superbowl sunday

it's impossible to speak
above the noise
of a five million dollar commercial

every cloud has left the scene
leaving only pizza vendors
hurling anchovies

at the masses

--- e b bortz

earth note 450

osprey speaks
from the nest
language need not
be written
every sunrise
finds a voice

--- e b bortz

Saturday, February 04, 2017

earth note 449

first light
reaches the cove
before pelicans
start fishing
i never tire
talking about mangroves
they keep you rooted in the real
green reflection
on the water
with a silence
no less a statement
in itself
not happenstance

--- e b bortz

Thursday, February 02, 2017

earth note 448

key west

along the atlantic
crusty kayaks sit still
on car & live-in econoline roofs
waiting for high tide
we're all transients

ohio wisconsin pennsylvania michigan
no this isn't a kayak electoral college
beaten like a dead metaphor
of the republic

the scantily clad
and the overdressed french speakers
grab for the bottle
of sun block 50

it's finally getting hot
the streets are filling
with aggressive car rentals
and no-defense bicycles

there's always a tipping point
but often people sleep thru it
the arc of the sun
leaves a trail unnoticed

--- e b bortz