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Read an Excerpt
ALL SIMPLE THINGS BUT TIME
By HOWARD BERNSTEIN
Trafford PublishingCopyright © 2014 Howard Bernstein
All rights reserved.
Good fortune, when I am dead,
may my poems be one time read
by a winsome summer's lass;
though she murmur, "Oh how crass!"
let her bestow her magic ring,
the glistening circle the iced glass brings
to the open page.
All Simple Things but Time
Time's perception is a puzzle.
Childhood's day seemed so very long,
awake at dawn, the early morn,
the summer's day
with swim and shower bath,
meals rushed through for endless play,
then dusk and the long sweet
end of day.
Time accelerates with age.
Morning toast and sweetened tea,
luncheon with the zenith sun,
and in half a wink,
"Can it be already five o'clock?"
and time for drink.
What makes our clock run slow then fast?
Is youth formed at the center of the Potter's wheel
and age spun outward towards the rim?
We know hub and rim
inseparably spin, yet each moves at
greatly different speeds.
Late summer flowers cut to the vase,
petal to the oaken floor,
the taste of snow will be upon the air.
All simple things but time
for childhood's sums of day plus day
were somehow multiplied away.
Between the Twitter and the Tweet
Our fingers can't stay still
between the twitter and the tweet.
The tinier the device,
the grander the paradox,
the broader the bandwidth,
the narrower is our life.
Our fingers can't "stand" still.
We're "Morphing Baby"!
Between the twitter and the tweet,
Our idols race by
swiftly, upon clay feet.
Treadmill, Life on the Run
Treadmill, life on the run
or, if you prefer, on the climb.
It is not the Classic shady stroll
where woodland nymphs and
nightingales hide in metered rhyme.
Now well lit,
the climb is upon a moving stair,
with the pinch of hurry.
It's a healthy bill of fare;
or try the treadmill's tread
programmed for hill and vale,
sing to Nature
in designer tights and sweats.
Life on the run, on the climb.
Is there a need
for Poets' shady brooks
when shapely Youth,
we take a look?
Tarry with the Check
Ah, the roast.
What cannot this genius chef do
even to the lowly toast?
Not to say, to Gâteau St. Honoré, or Profiterole.
Wait till you taste his crowning glory
Coup de cholesterol.
Forget not Lord Bacchus,
waves of reds and whites
burnish the pebbles on our way.
Lovers, friends, sisters, brothers. All
speak out in make-believe French, to gentle garçon,
comely waitress, guides to this day,
"l'addition, see vu play."
We shall bake the Piper in a cake.
We're brothers all,
what the heck.
Were not the cards of credit made
to tarry with the check?
One for Bacchus
Bacchus, dear Bacchus,
pardon, Dionysus, Olympic Greek,
for with the touch of age, one becomes more Roman
than classic Greek,
more like the wrinkled raisin than the perfect grape.
However, either God will do
when we seek escape.
Lecture, if you must, against the Juice!
Yes we know, of costly abuse.
Still for us Earthlings, liberating flights are sought,
though often our "High" hopes
will come to naught.
Then Feed Them Seeds of Age
Arthritic verbs and knuckle nouns
can't close around a simple verse.
Summer heat is air cooled
until we almost forget
what it is like to sweat.
My bird feeder is conquered by squirrels.
Damn their playful, fuzzy, frisky tails.
I'm preached to:
"They must also eat."
Then feed them seeds of age.
Winter chilblains follow, and
from my one good eye,
I spy the Goddess Athena and her nymphs.
My wool knit, out at the elbows,
once my Pride's possession, now is
just an old sweater.
Of such things,
the less said the better.
The Alumni Magazine
Column, dated numerals,
the newly minted class appears
and, with each succeeding issue, moves back
in the Mag, receding doors,
until it disappears.
There is always the dedicated Class Correspondent,
not lacking his or hers respondents:
Congrats, twin girls for the Whites ...
Exec Jim Black fast tracks ...
Joe Brown, as expected, "MD bound."
Nancy Legion wins the prize!
Makes our year proud;
I remember her as well endowed.
So it goes, John White, "early retire"
on a whim;
he will, he says, "teach
grandkids how to swim."
'37, '36, Class of Thirty-Five.
Are there really doorways to the disappear?
Can they still be alive?
John White, Jim Black, long gone.
Don't despair, or better yet, despair.
Joe Brown is going strong
and kept his hair.
where's our Class Correspondent and
his or her faithful respondents?
Maybe a nursing home, he or she,
still cannot let "passed" time be, but
with long-term memory, quite clear,
redreams the disappearing doors
of our Class Year.
Que Es La Vida?
What is life like?
Is it but the coarse joke:
"It's a baby's shirt, very short but not fragrant"?
Is it our constant travel confused with the journey?
The whiff of perfume, the sideway
glance, graceful motion?
Is it new thoughts or old?
The Harmony of sight and sound,
Ever changing but never changed?
Is it, is it
As tiny Snowdrops flower?
To Diane on Her Birthday
Daydreams of whimsy, yet profound
In sunshine's shadow, a golden crown, while the
Amaranth, flowers in your lovely eyes, as
New desire flickers but cannot die, for
Evening is but the herald of our new day.
On Leave with Norgood or Changing
Planes at Cleveland
"Norgood," I said, "we borrow wonder as we fly."
Smoking, he half hummed, half spoke,
exhaling ancient poets with thinned-down smoke:
Over men's heads, walking aloft,
With tender feet, treading so soft.
In truth, above our heads there was but sky,
beneath our feet, puff clouds hid geometric fields
sown to winter wheat.
We landed at Cleveland to meet our dates.
They took us to church for All Souls' sake.
We tossed our spare change in the candle slot;
the girls knelt to pray.
O sweet impiety, the skimp of skirt, the lovely knee!
I glanced at Norgood,
but his thoughts were hidden in a hum.
God, I wonder where Norgood's got to?
I, for one, am back farming.
A pumpkin crop is in the fields;
dusk sets the pumpkin heads aglow.
A somber sight, like when they ranked and filed the troops
to test the man-made sun.
Silence shook the earth beneath our feet;
darkness mushroomed before the heat.
What was it that Norgood said?
"The bastard Hannibals never tell
the troops the Alps are cold.
Leaders gone mad, reducing humanness to dross,
denying the thread that must reweave the web
upon the common cross."
I must admit, I miss him some
since we changed planes at Cleveland.
N. G. Flake, Around the World
"Reginald Phipps the Third, sir."
"N. G. Flake," I called my name.
drinks for Mr. Phipps the Third and me."
"Mr. Flake, my father, Phipps Two,
has given me London. How will it be?"
"Reginald, the lovely English girls
will treat you well."
So it went. Bar service ceased.
I passed my flask.
"N. G.," he slurred, "I'm glad I asked."
And back I smiled at young Phipps Three.
I bathed the travel weariness away and dressed,
went towards the Strand, turned west, cut through
the Embankment to walk to Charing Cross.
Bells tolled three.
I thought of Our Lord turning water into wine.
"O tidal Thames, I thirst."
The gibbous moon washed the sycamores
while poor men wrapped in newspaper sheets
slept beneath the lilacs in the park.
All great cities that I knew
had great rivers sweeping through.
Thoughts began to jumble in my head.
How long was it since Tinkle,
my travel clock,
woke me from my bed?
3. Munich, the Old Art Museum
Stone stairways rose, one east, one west.
I climbed east towards Eden.
There a painted garden grew, mysterious and deep.
There Eve, our pristine mother, stood.
My hand swept a serpent's trace in air
wanting to touch her beauty there,
knowing for a deed like this
the hero Oedipus paid with his eyes.
"Herr N. G. Flake." I turned.
"Herr Professor," I said,
"what a pleasant surprise!"
She came through the airport gate.
I held a rose.
She wore Robin Hood's cap
silk stockings, tinted toes.
I touched her to see
if she were really there.
"Norgood, behave, you promised to be good!
I want a postal card
that shows a rich Swiss bank,
the hottest mustard and a frank,
the best, best Bordeaux wine,
I learned to drink
from you, you know."
She touched the rose.
"For God's sake, Norgood, speak!"
For the first time that day, I spoke,
"At your command."
5. Hong Kong
"Shen Lee," I said, "beware of every word,
hang every creed by its painted toe,
inspect for knobby knees.
What care I if trees first grew on Chinese silk,
most times both East and West go wrong."
"Flake, nothing can be done with you."
"Agreed," I said.
She and her husband smiled.
We parted well as good friends part.
The ferryboats, like tiered castles,
sailed from violet skies.
Vanquished, their drawbridges fell.
The crowds surged, homeward bound.
I stood aside to watch the sea.
Night and singsong music touched.
The electric signs hummed,
lose not a minute in a year."
I thought of my clock Tinkle
and the days we spilled.
Come, neon night!
No bells tolled.
The elevator answered to my call,
floor by floor it rose.
She answered to the bell.
"Norgood, travel makes the man,
you're looking well."
I untied the seven dolls I bought,
set them round on seven chairs
and spoke "Bonjour" in seven tongues
to amuse our child.
Across a little bit of space,
I passed a velvet jewelry case that held
a beaten chain.
"Norgood, how very, very nice,
do you wish to try again?"
Norgood in His Dotage
Someone said, "He's gone old." It was
but the off day, for
juiced he gives his shirt away
and still seems filled
with springlike dreams,
though less driven.
Has love been spent?
His answer was hidden in his hum.
I think there may be some not lent
still waiting to be given.
Excerpted from ALL SIMPLE THINGS BUT TIME by HOWARD BERNSTEIN. Copyright © 2014 Howard Bernstein. Excerpted by permission of Trafford Publishing.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsGood Fortune, 1,
All Simple Things but Time, 2,
Between the Twitter and the Tweet, 3,
Treadmill, Life on the Run, 4,
Tarry with the Check, 5,
One for Bacchus, 6,
Then Feed Them Seeds of Age, 7,
The Alumni Magazine, 8,
Que Es La Vida?, 9,
To Diane on Her Birthday, 10,
On Leave with Norgood or Changing Planes at Cleveland, 11,
N. G. Flake, Around the World, 13,
1. Airborne, 13,
2. London, 14,
3. Munich, the Old Art Museum, 15,
4. Zurich, 16,
5. Hong Kong, 17,
6. Home, 18,
Norgood in His Dotage, 19,
Seventeenth of March, 20,
String Quartet in an Unheated Hall, 21,
A Poet Between Poems, 22,
"Somehow It Will Come Right", 24,
The Edge of Farmlands, 25,
The Devil at the Chessboard, 27,
For the Man Who Gave up Sleeping, 28,
John Milton and the Ghost of Crazy Cohen, 30,
A Soldier's Leave, 31,
Winter Trip to the Keys, 32,
Little League Father, Class II, 33,
Civil War Monument, 34,
The 320 Bomb Group in Convention Convened, 35,
Last Train from Newark, 36,
Swann's Way, 37,
Desani Said, 38,
"Bread," Said the President, 41,
Pale Silks at Dusk, 42,
The Twelfth House, 43,
Mingled and Beguiled, 44,
One for Joyce, Announced with Child, 46,
For Sigmund Semmel (1956-1980), 47,
The Wake, 48,
On Leaving Rented Rooms, 49,
Winter Dream Before Sleep, 50,
Poetry Reading at a Women's College, 51,
Postcard from London, 52,
Stolen Stones, 53,
Earth and Air, 54,
Bus Tour from Salzburg to Burchtesgarden, 55,
They Fall Easy That Have the Spare Couch for Bed, 59,
Will She Gaze and Wonder Why?, 63,
Saint Patrick's Cathedral, 65,
Poets at Winter's Party, 66,
On Seeing My Picture Taken Unaware, 68,
In Memory of Bernie, 69,
One for the Moon, 70,
Sweet Memory, 71,
Perhaps It Is a Leaf, 72,