Requiem Restituo

When nothing can be fixed
For less than its price
Are we not on borrowed time?
Burning through materials
Maxing out landfills
With cheap, toxic, planned obsolescence.

Glue sales falling.
Soldering iron mysterious implement.
Cobbler, seamstress, small motor mechanic —
All relegated to living-history parks.

College student stares helpless
At a broken chair.
Could he not program it back together?
Shop class discontinued
From budget shortfall
But not football
Which just got a new scoreboard
Never football.

Actually canceled from insidious misconception
That labor, no matter how skilled
Is opposite knowledge

With atrophied T-rex arms
He texts a snarky hissy fit to the world.

A kindly passing janitor
He whose body was shaped by work
Not sculpted by synchronized diving,
He, human sacrifice
In the cult of credentialism
Fixes it.

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Erwartungen (Expectations)

What did they expect?
Were they expecting blue eyes?
Perhaps one taller.

A chestnut-maned Jew?
A sword-wielding cloudrider?
An actual lamb?

Maybe a shepherd,
What with all the “one flock” talk.
A politician?

Was it ageism?
Too old for a messiah?
Or the wrong accent?

What did they expect?
Deliverance from labor?
Instant gold-paved streets?

Was it not enough
Staying above engraved words:
Der Herr ist nahe*?

All know the saying
Rome wasn’t built in a day
So why the Kingdom?

*The Lord is near.

Apex Predator

Our natural enemy
Is not that beast that tears at limbs
Overwhelming with claw and fang.
But the daintiest of assassins, barely felt
Atomistic flying syringe
Weightless and exquisitely designed
Spreading its vector of sorrow village to village
Juneau to Soweto to Pyongyang
Bed, clinic, grave
Reducing us, mighty and beloved of God
To feverish wraiths from time before Eden.

Why, just God, did You ammend
A perfectly good creation
With this?
Must not every creature serve some good?
Vultures, no beauties, nobly dispose of disease.
Even lowly mold became a cure.
But why, if You loved your very own children, this?

You replied:
“My calamity is my providence;
Outwardly it is fire and vengeance,
But inwardly it is light and mercy.”

And then dawns the realization:
All of this, each brick and circuit of civilization
Owes its existence to this vile pest, our mortal enemy,
The apex predator of the world.
For what else could have caused the primal ancestor
To sweet-talk Prometheus?
To glean that twirling an ash bough on a cedar hearth
Would start a fire
The heat and smoke of which
Would drive them away?

What better than them
To have made us
Forsake the field–
Go inside?

“So Distinguished”

Twenty-six.
The very June of my physical powers
Such as they ever were
When the first appeared.
A single one, white and wiry
Standing alone at the hairline
As if waving a flag of surrender
From a follicle foxhole.

I lean toward the mirror for a closer look.
Surely a Liquid Paper accident.

By the wedding day
That cowardly bastard had recruited more traitors
Setting up permanent bases in each sideburn
And soon, the cleansing of the temples.

Well-meaning exclamations
By clearly shocked relatives
Of “so distinguished”
Little salved the sting
Of being forced to contemplate mortality prematurely
Or the buzzkill of abbreviated youth
The unseasonably early blizzard
Or other unfairnesses:
A brother whose stubborn chestnut locks
Mock thick and dark, belying his seniority still.

For a decade they marched on remorselessly
Multiplying like white rabbits in a plowed field
Creeping insidious gray wolf of age
Just for Men ads needling consciousness
Well-meaning questions from strangers
In public about my “grandchildren.”

Oh, there were victories
For the salted brethren on this journey:
Sean Connery’s title, however protested
Todd Martin’s matchpoint
Taylor Hicks an “idol”
Anderson Cooper’s snowy ascendance
But only moral victories,
Exceptions that proved the rule.

And do the changes of the head
Only distract one from the rest?
Mercifully drawing the eye
From worse news yet?

I stare at my feet.
They are someone else’s.
My heels are not crisscrossed with blue veins
Like an interstate highway map
Printed on crinkled wax paper.

My biobodysuit is not riddled
With unwanted badges of honor:
Scars, calluses, fissures, corner-rounding pounds
Hair where’er I stare, but nary a hair where I ne’er cared to be bare.

My skin is not a canvas
Upon which a cruel invisible graffiti artist
Tags a random addition each night
As if I were a passed-out frat boy
Markered up by drunken brothers?

And then there is the world.
Celebrities of my childhood now bent with age
The Fonz shilling for a mortgage company!
My cultural references too old even for thirtysomethings.
“Thirtysomething” reference too old for thirtysomethings.
Lawrence Welk Show more understandable.
Beloved bands that once played stadia
Now touring circuit of ever shrinking clubs
Young, unfamiliar faces,
Filling out their rhythm sections.

Online, I see cute girls
I knew in high school
No wait– those are their daughters!
Oh, sweet Lord, is this the cruelest cut?
To rob us not just of now but then?
That frosted matron in the background
Was that dance team hottie
That head cheerleader so out of my league
That prom queen, mortal after all.
Just as surely as they stare
Back through that portal
Searching in vain for me
Only to find a portly balding stranger
Surely the photo mistagged.

What can I say.
Play a rock-n-roll requiem for the Irish setter
Devoured by the great gray wolf
Who comes for all who pass enough of these seasons.

And one last thing, my heirs:
Do not pull the white hairs;
Not even the first,
That one you cursed
Be the rest jet black.
You’ll want that one back.

The Gospel and the Gate

From Nazareth He came to heal the lame.
Shiraz would give her Son to show the way.
A carpenter by trade He lit a flame
A textile merchant would renew the day

They came from far and wide to feel His love
Letters of the Living sought Him out
Anointed in water beneath a dove
The seed from which a holy tree would sprout

The pharisees colluded with empire
The mullahs with the shah would persecute
They’d nail Him to a cross that He’d expire
They’d hang Him by a spike before they’d shoot.

But faith was never killed that way
For darkest night just hastens day.