David Swartz "RELIGION WITH AN EDGE"
biblicalfictions.com
Poetry for the Curious across the Religious Spectrum
Faces

 

 

 

 

Faces from Firenze

 

and other facts

  

 

 

 

  

These poms I offer,

Unlike my usual detonation,

As a whisper,

 

 

A heartfelt apology

 

For raising my voice.

 

 

 

                               Maywood, July 18, 2011

 

                                                                                                  Containing

 

By the Duomo   35

In the Duomo Museum   36

In the Pitti Palace   37

By the Palazzo Vecchio   38

In Santa Croce   39

In the Bargello   40

Palazzo Vecchio   41

The Uffizi   42

Medusa   43

The Tomb of the Medici   44

The Other David   45

At Restaurant Il David   46

Goliath   47

In the Snackbar Vittoria   48

And Back in Maywood,   49

Spam   50

 

From AOL,   51

Gun Control   52

While at Felician,   53

 

In Quest of Nest   54

 

Bertha   55

A Conversation   56

All I Could Eat   57

Strange Prayer   58

Johanna   59

 

Mystic Pragmatist   60

Half Empty, Half Full   60

Butch   61

A Final Major Leaguer 62

The Antiquity   63

 

Song of the Vine   64

The Tree's Chorus   64

 

Last Poem / Odd Prayer   65

 

 

 

 

 

BY THE DUOMO

 

 

 

27, a child, he reminds me

Of Kenny's older brother,

Whom I met

 In a gay bar in '67.

 

He had been gorgeous,

Lean,

Athletic,

A lithe tan wonder.

 

We talked for 2 hours,

Innocently,

Cheerfully,

And then

Went our separate ways,

 

I to my marriage.

 

 

Thereby hangs a tale.

 

 

 

 

  

 

IN THE DUOMO MUSEUM

 

 

 

At a distance of 4 ½ feet,

I am locked, eye to eye,

With Donatello's Maggie,

Absorbing

Within my capacity

Unspeakable grief and pain.

 

Am reminded of Betty Jean in '76,

Her agonized rant

Of Scripture and obscenity,

 

Depicted in a poem

Years later,

Which ends,

 

 

"If I could freeze your instant,

Launch it toward

The head of Cain,

I'd startle galaxies to wonder

That God includes

Such sad refrain."

 

And Betty, triumphant, "Dub Dub,

Let me kiss

Your mouth.

 

I'm headed north

                                                           While you

                                                     Are headed south!"

 

                                                                 

 

 

 

  

IN THE PITTI PALACE

 

 

 

Staring at Merisi's Sleeping Cupid

For Nearly an hour,

I realize

Suddenly

It subverts

All the other-worldly treasures

Of that collection,

 

Even

 

A fugitive

Stendhal syndrome,

 

The squat

Ungainly American

Lurching past greatness,

Buffeted

By Botticelli,

Abject fear

In his features,

 

Clutching his hairy

Fish-white belly,

 

Middle-finger

Imbedded

In a darker navel.

 

 

 

 

 

BY THE PALAZZO VECCHIO

 

 

 

This Persian (Iranian) carbon-copy

Of my

Fastidious son-in-law

With immaculate

Loafer,

Generic as himself,

 

Nudges

 

A chromium bolt

In the paving stones,

Lusting,

It would seem,

For imperfection,

 

While his Western woman, 50,

Gone to seed,

Stares absently

At even a (darker)

Nothing,

 

And a small local cherub,

Joyous in mien

And motion,

Bursts gaily

At the knowing pigeons.

 

 

 

 

 

IN SANTA CROCE

 

 

 

Leaning heavily into my black

Steel cane,

I melt in wonder

At Dante,

Imperious,

Unreachable,

Watching downward

 

From his cenotaph

Beside the magnificent

Entombment

Of his likeness,

Michelanglo B.

 

I do not wonder if they quarrel.

 

An officious-looking

Guide

Detaches

From her agrarian subjects

And warns me

To not display

Disrespect

By leaning on a column.

 

Somehow I raise my cane?

Lean it in her direction

And utter in distinct Italian, "PIG?"

Then toward myself

And whisper, "POET?"

 

NO!

Rather straighten

And walk away.

 

  

 

 

 

IN THE BARGELLO

 

 

 

This pert little fellow,

                   Faint breasts

                                                        And lilting belly—

 

SLEW GOLIATH?

                                                                                                      

 

Oh certainly erotic,

And not alone for your usual

Functional psychotic,

 

But the reasonably

Heterosexual onlooker,

Charmed fury

At one slight hooker

 

And not that other version,

That macho perversion,

That Oddly other

 

Manly fashion

By the couturier, Mike.B.

Come SEE

How this perturbs,

 

Eye looks

On their virile faces,

Never in their sullen lives

 

Enduring such embraces.

What EROS

 

Our nymphet traces!

 

 

                               

 

 

PALAZZO VECCHIO

 

 

 

Flatly joyous

But freshly scrubbed,

A youth group

From Minnesota,

 

Church choir proclaimed on T-shirts,

White on red,

 

Display their treasures:

Resin replicas

Of

An awkward Duomo,

 

Pewter Pietas,

 

Faux Gucci handbags

With matching

Wallets.

                                                                 

                                                                   While

                                                                A kneeling

Japanese

 

Captures his young lover,

 

Slender

Hand sculpted, cupped

 In perspective

 

Just beneath

The genitals

 

Of an unsuspecting statue.

 

 

 

 

 

THE UFFIZI

 

 

 

A gay couple,

Smartly dressed,

Man and  boy,

Wave affectedly at the miraculous panorama

Of a city far too old for fears,

 

While the clock,

 

Lodged

In its angular, adjacent

Structure,

Proclaims, inaccurately, 12:15.

 

Johanna and I, shaded,

                                                    Order Cappuccino freddo,

 

Sated with annunciations,

 

 

 

Careful, so careful

Of a fragile,

 

Irretrievable

 

Moment.

 

 

 

 

  

MEDUSA

 

 

 

After shade on a blazing terrace,

This lower, temporary

Passage,

Boarded, dark,

 

Leads to Merisi's Medusa,

Eyes akimbo,

Snake-infested coif,

Poised

 

At an inward bellow

 

From a sword strike, other?

 

The model's male?

 

                                                         The artist's lover?

 

                                                          All but the lower,

                                                                   

                                                                    Odd

Small

Teeth

 

In a startled mouth.

 

What lurks in this convex surface?

 

This bleeder turns you stone?

 

Ingest such beauty

Rapid,

Rabid,

 

(Then) atone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE TOMB OF THE MEDICI

 

 

 

Fireflies gather in the Medici

Chapel.

A guard cries,

 

"NO FLASH!"

 

I am to the left of "Dawn,"

Fascinated,

Fixed,

On her thigh's ripple

 

And the curious delicacy

Of her toes.

 

17

Short

Years

Ago,

 

My daughter, 28,

Here,

Right here,

Wondered,

 

"Why people get so worked up?

At this kind of thing?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE OTHER DAVID

 

 

 

In truth, I have no problem

With "the Giant,"

Even, if viewed from the back,

 

The disproportional circumference

Of the left

Lower leg,

 

Masked by an exaggeration

Of the calf above it,

 

No fault of the artist,

Rather the medium,

Which would shatter from the massive

 

Weight,

 

Were items in proportion—

Is this my imagination?

 

He did this thing at 29,

When I was just out of diapers.

 

No wonder, the tourists,

With their guides and guidebooks,

Their multiple cameras,

 

Gravitate

To this peerless Creation.

 

Of course, something must mediate—

Too much greatness

Oppresses.

 

I watch them clustered at the bottom,

Where the mess is.

 

 

 

 

 

AT RESTAURANT IL DAVID

 

 

 

We have completed 6 evenings here,

The waiters kind,

Attentive.

 

I recycle the same quip

About having left my pizza cutter

At home.

 

After Linguini pesto

And a hazelnut

Gelato,

I order my double Espresso:

 

"I do want to sleep tonight."

 

The handsome, impeccable waiter:

 

"Ah yes, I drink often 8 cups a day."

 

And I, at 71:

 

"I like it even better than women."

 

With a broad warm smile,

The gentleman raises

His arm,

 

Wriggles fingers,

An inescapable gesture.

 

Perhaps sensing our distraction,

An enterprising

Sparrow

 

Snatches a crumb from the table.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOLIATH

 

 

 

In the narrow street, nearly an alley,

By the courtyard

That leads to our lodging,

 

A tourist's Saint Bernard confronts

A local dachshund.

 

From an adjacent church,

Despite my impaired hearing,

Acoustic Bach

Counter-points

 

This beatific encounter.

Dachshund retreats just a pace,

Yaps, once, twice,

 

And the giant looks on,

Puzzled.

 

Whence comes their odd amusement

(The passers-by),

 

The Biblical reenactment

Or the hilarity

Of the senior, pony-tailed poet,

Wife with a buzz?

 

No matter.

 

The dachshund rules the day;

Goliath creeps past,

 

Shamefully,

 

Tail between his legs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

IN THE SNACKBAR VITTORIA

 

 

 

A stone's throw from their magnificent

Bell tower,

The old man (younger perhaps

Than I)

Bustles about,

 

Anticipating our every whim,

This last night in Florence.

 

"You go to l'AMERICA?"

 

(Hushed, as if describing the Holy Grail)

 

The cynic in me

Answers,

"It is not a place you would even

Like to visit."

 

But NO,

I nod and warmly smile.

 

I leave him a tip so large it embarrasses both

Of us.

 

He follows into the street.

 

"New Jersey?"

 

(Again, the Grail,

Like Johanna's long dead father, but even more human,

Trans-worldly)

 

"Yes, and I shall never forget you."

 

 

                                                                                                   

  

 

AND BACK IN MAYWOOD,

 

 

 

A neighbor, edging toward age

But otherwise nondescript,

All but her hair,

 

Flamboyant,

 

Follows

 

A small brown dog, leash-less,

Joyous in the blur

Of his legs

At sun on an empty sidewalk,

 

But, as custom would dictate,

 

Utterly mindful

Of her progress.

 

From the window of our car, edging beyond age,

I holler,

"There's my favorite dog!"

 

And she, proud, yet somehow resigned,

"There's my Sparky."

 

"How old was he?"

 

"7."

 

I state, with all the (vehemence) I can muster,

"I hope he lives a thousand years."

 

And she,

 

"I can't bear thinking on it."

 

 

 

 

 

 

SPAM

 

 

 

The smoggy, sultry afternoon

We returned

From Florence,

 

There were 125 messages

In my email,

The vast majority of which

I dutifully erased.

 

I checked my spam.

 

What nonsense!

 

I could order medications,

Purchase Kindles

For 20 dollars,

 

Sign up for a trip to Alaska.

 

The last, quickly scanning

Downward,

Was geared for maximum

 

Impact

And consolation:

 

 

"Protect your family with burial insurance!"

 

How could they (know)

My beloved wife

Was

Recently

 

72?

 

 

                     

 

 

FROM AOL,

 

 

 

A mug shot

Of the bewildered suspect.

Who,

 

"Underwear at his ankles,

 

Sexually assaulted

A middle-aged woman

In broad

Daylight

 

On a busy sidewalk

In Houston."

 

His excuse?

 

"I thought she was dead!"

 

 

 

 

 

  GUN CONTROL

 

 

 

Or the Arizona senator

In full color,

 

Getting on,

Yet still mildly attractive,

 

Who aimed a fully loaded

Raspberry revolver

 

At a local reporter

To demonstrate

 

Its laser device—

"It's so cute," she said.

 

Her stance?

 

"I don't like chocolate ice cream;

Should I tell you

 

  You can't have any?"

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHILE AT FELICIAN,

 

 

 

The sweet young thing,

Front row

Freshman,

 

Asked

Her geriatric professor:

 

 

 

"Mr. Swartz, do you work out?"

 

 

Why did he simply laugh?

 

  

 

 

 

 

IN QUEST OF NEST

 

 

 

And there, that terrible tangle

Of wiry paraphernalia,

 

Suspicious bulges,

Cable

To

Transformer,

 

Makes me wonder

Why sparrows

Would

Insist

 

On such an ungodly mess?

 

Yet they do.

 

I just saw (2)

Hop into hiding

With

Needful grubs

 

 

For their most mysterious youngsters,

 

Adeptly,

In 2011,

Adapting

 

To someone's archaic nightmare

 

Of an urgent technology.

 

 

 

 

 

BERTHA

 

 

 

My recently discovered wife

Offers,

Almost as sacrifice,

 

A salami and cheese sandwich she's grilled

On whole-grain bread,

 

                                                             Transcending

Some 7 unendurable weeks

 

Of ornate testing,

 

For diabetes,

Intractable UTI,

A

Wayward

                                                                  Kidney

Function.

 

"They get better each time,"

I manage.

 

"This one is perfect.

Even Bertha

                                         

                                          [Our long-standing imaginary servant]

 

Couldn't do this well."

 

The answer moves me:

 

 

 

"I hope she never gets a chance."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A CONVERSATION

 

 

 

"I see you wrote to Linda."

"Yes, a very long letter."

 

"She's less afraid of you than me."

"With me, it's easier to feel superior."

 

"Doesn't that bother you?"

"Not often."

 

"She isn't even fit to clean up after you."

[She smiles.  I secure my cane from the trunk.]

 

"There.  The old gentleman?  He's afraid to cross the street."

"Most likely."

 

"See the wife?  What a horror.  It must be love."

"A very long one, dearest."

 

[We enter the Mall, begin our customary stroll.]

 

"You know, the last thing you said?"

"Yes?"

 

"It's a thing that impresses me.  You are (always) so generous."

"I just find it difficult to be hard on people."

 

[My cane clips her ankle.]

 

"Sorry.  That's what I mean.  You're so generous."

 

 

 

[We turn at the very end and head back.]

  

 

 

 

 

ALL I COULD EAT

 

 

 

At an upscale Thai restaurant,

We wait at the Buffet.

 

Later, our customary waiter

Hovers, solicitous.

 

He pours our water, remarks:

"You're

 

So different from those who come here."

And she: "Perhaps it's my husband;

 

He's Poet."

"I knew from the very start

 

He looked artistic.  The hair.  The (eyes).

My (wife) was such; studied at Julliard; it's a sad story.

 

She gave it up;

The disease took her, the saddest

 

18 months of my life."

[On the way to the car, light splits the overcast for a moment.]

 

"They (all) talk to you, every damned one of them."

"Even Ellie?"

 

"Ellie?"

"Our cat."

 

"Yes.  Complete sentences.  Endless inflections.  When she's hungry."

 

 

"Everyone's hungry."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

STRANGE PRAYER

 

 

 

God loves you, God,

For the manner in which you spared

My beloved wife.

 

He holds you in his light.

No (huge) amount of grandeur

Retreats

 

From a touch of pity;

He has even found you in Satan's city.

You lurk in a blade

 

Of grass.

A worldly crass and rampant worship

Of (all)

 

More common charm

Cannot spare

The retreating strength

 

Of a heedless arm.

 

 

Your kiss is warm.

 

 

 

 

 

  

JOHANNA

 

 

 

Gripped by no further need to be ugly,

I sought to love

 

 

Even a gentle creature lacerated to such length

The blood astonished.

 

 

Sweet God, she had been my greatest error!

 

 

 

[To entertain the notion there was someone other!]

 

 

 

How heal some 50 years?

 

 

 

 

[Even the wounded wonder!]

 

 

 

 

 

 

                    

MYSTIC PRAGMATIST

 

 

 

He asked God to save his teeth

 

And related God's

 

Answer:

 

 

"Brush 3 times a day!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

HALF EMPTY, HALF FULL

 

 

 

"There are no more wrens out there."

 

 

"Perhaps the little ones

 

Have all grown up."

 

 

 

"I hope nothing happened to them."

 

 

 

"No, they have all grown up!"

 

 

 

 

 

 

BUTCH

 

 

 

"Did you catch this photo of the soccer wonder?"

 

 

I examine the Times.

 

 

The titular breasts

 

Are scarcely evident in the low-cut frock.

 

 

 

 

"God, what a fox!"

 

  

 

 

 

A FINAL MAJOR LEAGUER

 

 

 

When Streisand died, I called an old friend

 

 

And confessed I had only liked

 

One of her songs,

 

And that briefly,

 

 

"Having truly heard it

 

Likely for the first and last time

 

Over a furtive space

 

Of carnal

 

Derangement."

 

 

 

                                                          The friend's reply:

 

 

 

"That IS sad,

 

But you know God never said,

 

 

 

 

'Thou shalt have TASTE!'"

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE ANTIQUITY

 

 

 

"Every time you come down

 

From the computer,

 

You're always laughing—

 

What was it this time?"

 

 

"On AOL?  The headline ran:

 

 

'Traffic Stop Nets a Stolen Treasure!'"

 

 

"Well, where's the humor? 

 

It must have been something very important."

 

 

"Some OU jackass . . . ?

 

 

 

 

They found his football ring."

 

  

 

 

SONG OF THE VINE

 

 

 

I love Thee

 

For enablingme

 

 

 

 

 

To climb my favorite tree.

 

 

  

 

 

THE TREE'S CHORUS

 

 

 

And I love Thee

 

Even

 

 

 

 

 

Before Us.

 

 

                                                                       Dante Alighieri Vid

 

  

LAST POEM / ODD PRAYER

 

by Dante Alighieri Vid

11 02 2011

 

 

Grant this thescalpel

 

 

That I had to wield

To trim

 

The tumor from your soul.