Barbara Lefcowitz


They're dancing on the deck
to the wind's music
stems leaves blossoms
in a fluted urn
swaying and shuffling
to the cakewalk rhythms
of light breezes, as if
they will never stop, shift pace
So when the winds become stronger
the dancers go on, this time
to a livelier beat, closer to
a ragtime waltz, ca. 1912

Not far away the branches of an oak
that stood on the roadside
before there was a road
also frolic, it's late April
and nor'easters are for winter

But soon a gust shears off
the oak's entire trunk near
where its roots began
it falls across wires
without the least hesitation
rolls to a halt
so cars have to swerve
crash into each other

Witnesses wonder why
that tree and not the others
and why those BMWs and Jaguars,
a shame, things like that
don't happen around here.

When the urn is blown
off the deck blossoms
and leaves tearing loose
tumbling onto the road
smashed bits of the urn's
fluted cement turning up
miles away no one believed
weather forecasts
any more than before
having sworn off both chance
and augury what the hell
could they have done anyway


Brazen as fake jewels,
     alluring as the quince and apple,
     beads and coins on display,
since ancient times
toxic berries have tricked
those who wandered past

     enticed them to pluck and taste
     the splendid globes of flesh,
     swallow them even if bitter
despite suspicion such berries
can cause deafness, pain, even death;
     the yewberries, the pokeberries that shift
     between rose, red, and purple, clusters
     of bright orange fire weeds for the greedy.

Some say they embody nature's evil.
     More likely they satisfy the need for decor
     to please the eye rather than appease
     the hunger for food,
except for a few birds,
who can feast and behold at the same time

     unlike people who lust
     for every color in the field
     cart them home to show off

despite suspicion the colors
soon will sneak back

     to refurbish the stalks
     from which they'd been wrested.


My plastic bottle of water
with its blue Dasani label
and scrolled outer sash
has a blue inner life

though surely the bottle's not Green.
Like its ordinary kin, its toxins
will not dissolve for eons
while it continues to contribute
its carbon foot
to the air's contamination
But is not such artistry
worth the risk?

The whirlpools of blue rings
that ripple when I hold it upright, 
cascades of small sapphires,
scrolled diamond shapes that
expand with each silvery tilt,
surprise of a large five-petalled
white flower floating to the top
when I turn its neck to the light
and look straight down;
the flower turning black
with a slight shift of angle,
folding up in the dark
to bloom again with the sun
no matter how hot its blaze

Rumors of a bottle roundup
arise daily with strict orders
to recycle, a sort of mouth
to mouth resuscitation
until someone figures how to
purge them without enhancing
their power to release yet more poison

Still I'll keep it hidden
so it's the sole survivor
of doomed art, what else to do
with this treasure
meant for a museum not a landfill
nor a succession of hands
that likely will never
contemplate the beauty
of that blue inner life.


The woman seated in front of me
has no idea

what's going on behind her back
where a gun-toting gangster
is about to shoot a cop, ca. 1930.

I tap my screen and puppets
perform a hula dance  tap  tap
a  map of Labrador
which we've been flying above
for at least an hour

tap a  clash of samurai swords
tap tap a man's driving a Mercedes
who slightly resembles my late great-uncle Herman

tap can that be Marilyn Monroe risen from the dead
to rejoin Tony Curtis?  Damn, the woman in front
pushes her seat  all the way back
Some Like it Hot landing on my food tray.

What does the person behind me see
an x-ray of my spine?  my deepest secrets?
He roars with laughter. An orgy from a
porno flick must be taking place
behind me.  For the hell of it

I make my seat recline
so his monitor knocks over his beer
just at the critical moment, the world
behind my back a blank screen again.

Barbara F. Lefcowitz has published nine poetry collections. Her latest collection, The Blue Train to America," appeared in January 2007.  Her fiction, poetry, and essays have been published in over 500 journals, and she has won writing fellowships and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National  Endowment for the Humanities, the Rockefeller Foundation, and several individual journals.  A native New Yorker, Lefcowitz has lived most of her life in Bethesda, Maryland.



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