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

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

earth note 447

some days i imagine
warm waves cresting together
from the florida straits
to the gulf of thailand

bound by water
the opposite sides of the planet
are connected
tuned into their respective

heartbeats and rhythms

--- e b bortz

Friday, January 27, 2017

earth note 446

waves collapse
in a ritual
bowing to broken clouds

some say
there's a secret current & path
toward the bay & ocean

but only if you agree
to give up all
previous assumptions

follow the birds
lest you be lost
in the mangroves

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

before we five there was we three

and us dead-end-kids version
of the folk revival
circa 1963 pittsburgh
five hundred miles
heard by way of peter paul & mary
my fifteen dollar guitar
from an east ohio street pawn shop
dropping off my greasy
adolescent hood trench coat
for a beatup navy peacoat
and some finger picks

we practiced in the basement
of the second-fifth presbyterian church
on brighton road and made a debut
in the chapel under the
watchful eyes of deacon moe
(of moe's little place barroom)
and the young preacher rev bob
walking the neighborhood
in coveralls & broken down houses
dark steel streetcar tracks
& dusty alleyways
looking for souls and songs
for we three to mix it up with

we eventually got to if i had a hammer
and what a hammer it was
never realizing until
the weight of the world
came crashing up columbia place
black and white was
all blues to us
the girls were into winking
making our voices quiver
in the heat
of the stark concrete city steps
or just another way
of reaching for the sky

--- e b bortz

Monday, January 16, 2017

hemingway piloted his boat up the canal

until he reached
an end wall
and then tried
turning around
as if to undo
the complications
of a no-exit strategy

the wind picked his hat
right off his head
leaving his gray beard
brushing against his lips
like a hairy lover
lost on the mist
the clouds rolling in
canceling high noon
and then leaving him
to his own memories

--- e b bortz

Thursday, January 12, 2017

so what does that so-called poem mean

that it can hide
for years
without raising any eyebrows
like some kind of unintended gesture
waiting for
phony affirmation

the patches on the elbows
come from a long line
of academy

yet the streets are full
of broken wordsmiths
outliving every bottle
of ripple wine

--- e b bortz

Saturday, January 07, 2017

these words

have made contact
with the earth
every step
a space occupied
by a foot
and an imprint

there's no running away
from the result

once you've decided
to move
your effort is complete

value judgments here
are not commodities

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 31, 2016

earth note 445

so i ask myself
have i gone off the deep end
or is this just reverie

you know the deep end
might just be the shallows
off snipe point

where the short-finned pilot whales beached
a couple years ago
and couldn't return to the sea

their bodies limp
the sunset reflecting
across their glassy eyes

every new year
the question comes to the surface
only to be ignored after the news hour

i hear the champagne plastic
clinking in starched bow ties
cruise ships disembarking

the waves refuse to crash
call it a requiem

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 30, 2016

no-name lagoon

nothing more than a big puddle
about a mile in
from the main road
on no-name key

the deer path has been
traveled hard
more beat-up
than a woody guthrie song
or kerouac ground level
lookout post

the gnats roost
on the water's edge
like the hens
on white street
in key west

the water's brown
with a faint smell
of sulfur
which i can't
for the life of me
really smell

but there's hard ocean rock
and coral
poking thru the soul
turkey vultures swarming
like hot air currents
above a songbird or two
deserted in their nests
a viewfinder
looks beyond

--- e b bortz

Monday, December 26, 2016

earth note 444

cortez, colorado

the ducks in the city park
had a small pond to swim in
near the library
always competing
for space
their voices never silenced
'cept by shouts
from children
with their summer games

at noon
the entire town management
comes walking down main street
maybe a half-dozen of them
the mayor is obvious in his bolo tie
at the head
of the entourage

the real worker though
might have been
the woman with the briefcase
and working lunch expression
on her face

the diner across the street
opened their doors
to the weathered look
of cowpokes
and dusty augusts

--- e b bortz

Thursday, December 22, 2016

earth note 443

from a distance
koh samui rose
from the ocean
the hills standing
against the sun
laying bare the idea
that you need
a certain status
from birth
to be rewarded
with wonder

long before the year
of the tsunami
and a hundred miles
thru the rainforest
i replaced my flip-flops
falling apart
in the marketplace
in phuket
next to the stall
with shiny red stones

my thai was so broken
but understood
as the woman vendor
explained that the stones
were smuggled from burma
in spite of the prisons
     the red color coming
     from the sunsets
and that it was necessary
to keep this secret
from the authorities

i still look into the horizon
for rubies

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

winter solstice minus one

the rain blasted for half an hour
giving up to late afternoon no-see-ums
bicycle tires getting washed off
though the road was left with deposits
of grit & small stones
a few handfuls of fronds
scattered like the crosswinds
of a little torch key winter

i don't think my eyes
deceived me
when a couple
of pet peacocks
crossed the road
slipping under their
do not trespass

the bay was calm after the rain
a lone boat moored
     water like glass
     mangroves dripping

--- e b bortz

the yucca will make you bleed

the dark blood
of land abusers
sent in to build
livestock pens
on buffalo plains
sucking rivers dry
hundred-ton trucks
of rock and coal
reshape every cloudless horizon
in dust storms
and asphalt scar tissue
carbon byproducts
trading in less-life
while carbon barons
make modern-day
robin hoods
for each generation

this land is not your land
it has no owners

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 17, 2016

earth note 442

hot easterlies out of the caribbean
an osprey acknowledges
with feathers blown full
my left shoulder
warms to the idea
of qi gong
in the morning
while the ibis peck
after the tide recedes
every action
causes a response
it isn't just
simply physics
there is flesh
and thumping blood vessels
in the distance

--- e b bortz

Saturday, December 10, 2016

recovering notes from the deep, part 8

key west

a drifter's lament
might just be
what keeps you
going to the end
with the road
its own global positioning
without ones & zeros
the sun rises on the same
the census missed
if you're looking for
safety from the elements
keep your eyes wide
to scarcity
a plastic garbage bag
is a windbreaker

the new normal
doesn't bother
with excuses
your bootstraps
were never meant
for sharing
they say

and anyways
we need to be listening
to the tourists
who aren't motivated
by anything taking
more than a new york
or montreal minute
how fast can you say
instant hedonism

the hotels are busy
eating the beaches
is all that's left
this sand
can grow up & become
a barricade

there's no such thing
as culture shock
maybe only conscience shock
we all come out
of the same soup
there is no justice
or burial monument
deep or true enough
to comfort hundreds
of african bodies
in key west in 1860

every sunset celebration
needs a moral compass
let the cruise ships
drop anchor
on the potomac river
in time for the coronation

i plead guilty
to stretching these words out
no one ever asked me
for credentials
so i look to the road and gestures
     and try to listen closely
     to your language

--- e b bortz

Friday, December 09, 2016

earth note 441

fronds taking deep bows
to the winds

most of them
stood their ground
facing the nor'easter head-on

surge from the canal
no seawall will stop
sandbags petition congress

--- e b bortz