In Memoriam

for Joseph Tufariello, 1909-1980

In Queens and Brooklyn churchyards
Your monuments still stand.
Maybe you were the mason
Who formed the lifted hand

Of this arresting angel
Telling of things to come,
That smooth-faced Union soldier
Beating his tilted drum,

This Mary cradling Jesus.
That shepherd with a staff—
Were you the one who carved him
Above an epitaph

Whose serifs rain has softened?
Your name was never here
To blur in wind and weather,
Wear down and disappear;

But the memorial sculptures
You hammered into grace,
Unautographed, outlive you.
A fold of cloth, a face

Second Act Problems

Solutions to the problem of the middle act are the test of character.
……………………………. —David Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife

The princess wanders spellbound in a wood;
The prophet’s in the belly of a whale.
The Empire overwhelms the force of good.
Deep in the muddled middle of the tale,

The noble cause to which the hero kneeled
Devolves to meetings, columns and reports.
A mentor’s impure motives are revealed.
Through the intestines of appellate courts,

The case for justice crawls. Dorothy waits,
Watching the red sand run. The rebels mourn.
Snow White is elbow deep in greasy plates;
George Bailey wishes he was never born.

Clear Water

In the mirror universe where time runs backward,
The one that physicists tell us may exist,
You are becoming younger every minute,
Watch spinning counterclockwise on your wrist.

You throw the covers back like Lazarus.
Rogue cells re-differentiate and shrink;
The lurid crimson drug that burned your veins
Flows back into the bag; your cheeks grow pink.

Now you’re Penelope, pulling yarn from needles,
Now a young mother with a game-day smile,
Freeing four squirming girls from matching outfits,
Scattering toys, dirtying bathroom tile;