Tuesday, October 27, 2009

eighteen years old just out of high school

december 1966 pittsburgh

finished up my last shift
at horne's warehouse
caught a notice about sharing a ride
to california
called m in l.a.
asked her how she might feel

about having company

said it was o.k.
would see her in a few days
where was echo park?
i'd find it

a new sedan needed drive-a-way
to the coast
the guy taking it
wanted another driver
i was it

it wasn't about scenery
just go
non-stop 80 mph
'cept for gas & stop lights
3 a.m. thru east saint louis rain
railroad tracks & bridges
by morning there were smokestacks
petering out on the horizon
then out to the endless prairies

oklahoma then texas
finally a whole day's rest
in warm amarillo
felt like a cow-poke town
of neon and broken down hotels

blew across new mexico
white sands blasting the windshield
arizona high desert heat
'cept for flagstaff
pines clearing the highway dust

finally california and the long descent

no phone call just showed up
at m's doorstep in echo park
lucky to catch someone home
co-op type cottage
warm kisses
a few sunny rooms
a couple of deep breaths

beneath the covers
between judy collins thirsty boots
and a trip to delano
picket lines at safeway
no california wine
for the union makes us strong

went to cal state
antiwar rally
m on the stage
a cry for help
in our voices
for those not speaking

griffith park was like
a grand prix
m's little mg
top down
inside on the curves
watts tower
venice beach
was all about a dream

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

rotting from within

deliberately ignoring all contradictions
never seems to figure out why
everyone is blamed
no one is blamed
the inability to hear the drum beat
there are no mirrors
this ship of state is all smoke
better to demonize
when necessary
make new enemies
build new walls
whatever's fashionable
without expropriating privilege
massacred the original peoples
chained the africans
by god
we earned our positions of privilege

america there are no saving graces
there are no exceptions
the meek shall inherit the earth
we belong to the earth
not the earth to us...chief seattle
not a hoard
not a border

--- e b bortz

Monday, October 12, 2009

one pure voice could fill the syria mosque

pittsburgh 1967
when it was buffy sainte-marie
awakening our hands
in heat
a natural caress
bringing sweat
across my eyelids
down the spine
to those wide-open dreams
we insisted on living
right now

--- e b bortz

Friday, October 09, 2009

obama 1, peace 0

this should be the moment
that spock steps on to the bridge
in his most calm voice and says:
"this illusion defies all logic
it's impossible to unravel
at least until the next military strike"

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

earth note 129

a hawk struggles
yet soars
diving deep into the canopy
reprieve or preying
brown wings dress in yellows & reds
an intense face twists around
a wind storm
snaps the weak & dying ones

sparrows go silent
a gray squirrel runs
.....jaws empty

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

toledo blues

my mother
and stepfather johnny stemple
used to take me & my older brother
over to aunt sabina's place
a storefront downstairs & her apartment up
to visit
as everyone called it then
where they would sit and talk
maybe over a few copies of the daily worker
spread out on the table
and the shiny black hair of sabina
her dark roma eyes dancing across the table
right to me
and my mother's equally dark hair & eyes
answering dramatically in tempo with everyone

and then johnny stemple would tell
the story of the great united auto workers
sit-down strike at willys overland jeep plant
and how the u.a.w. was born
and how all the radical unionists were fired by 1952

and now how johnny
already in his forties
was unloading crates of tomatoes
at the hunt ketchup plant
for 90 cents an hour
and how the blacklist kept him on the run

though there was still time
to teach me
to throw a baseball
out in front of the peeling frame house
on moore street

at sabina's one saturday
we all piled into johnny's '46 de soto
and went to a black church
packed with wailing women and men
preachers sweating
righteous indignation
rising above a lone photo
of a black fourteen-year-old boy
that the world would come to know
as emmett till

--- e b bortz

toledo, 1955

in the commotion
of a front yard football game
the catholic boy jeffrey
slugged me in the chest
calling me a dirty jew

i went for his head
and discovered the head-lock
hitting the ground
his light brown butch-cut
parted the grass
opened the dark moist dirt

his mother screamed from the front porch
beat that jew boy jeffrey

it was over in a minute
jeffrey cried
i let him go

--- e b bortz

Friday, October 02, 2009

schenley plaza empty


words blow in
with a northeaster drizzle

after the armored personnel carriers
went back to barracks

young limbs left blue
a few more creases in the fold

OC gas won't leave
until the trees spit

searching green edges
for every clue

with winds like these
each has a separate story

what grows today
becomes tomorrow

morning sometimes
is just a journey

--- e b bortz