Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mrs. Friedman's Golem

Because I was “the heathen boy” and smart
enough to pass for Jewish, free I ran
on the Friedmans’ neighboring house and grounds.
One early-summer day, with Marilyn,
a year my elder, we played in the pines
that fringed their leaf-filled, empty swimming pool.
An endless ball of packing twine unwound
around the spindly trees, not spider webs,
but corridors and doorways, here a room,
a closet there – in an almost clearing
a wide space for a sunbeam-lit ballroom.
The hotel dubbed “The Sunny-Day-Only”—
the sleeping rooms and beds would be up above
in tree-house heights to be scaled by ladders.
As our fancy turned up to ziggurat
heights and bird-nest bedding, we didn’t see
the bearded, smiling Mennonite preacher
until he was right upon us. “Children!”
he hailed us, then asked if we believed
in Jesus, who was up above the trees,
and died, so we could go to heaven too.
Up then went Marilyn’s defiant chin.
“We’re Jewish.” He looked at me, dubious.
“And you?” he asked. I shrugged. “So what
are you?” —
“I’ve never been in a church,” I told him.
A pine cone fell at his feet and shattered.
Don’t you believe in anything?” he growled,
now in a tone that said grownup-to-child.
“Superman, maybe,” I mocked him, and turned
to resume my arbor-building. He left
dumbfounded, his Anabaptist faith scorned
by children’s string maze in a Druid grove.

Our string hotel survived two nights, then vanished.
“My mother told me the robins took it —”
so Marilyn explained it, “ — for their nests.
Besides, the guests are coming. It’s June now,
and the swimming season starts tomorrow.”
season, as we all came to know it,
was at the Friedmans’ immense swimming pool;
by June’s end swell, a half a hundred guests,
from wading toddlers to aquatic teens,
babies in prams to motionless elders,
umbrella-tabled at the green-blue pool.

That afternoon, indoors, we played at cards —
an outsize canasta with twenty decks,
which drew a great shriek from Mrs. Friedman
as she came home with the month’s vast larder
of picnic food and frozen lemonade.
Our task: re-separate and sort the decks
and stack them up in a neat pyramid.
Summers these rumpled cards had seen before,
beneath the hawk-eyed ladies’ gaze, enthroned
and clucking at their poolside card tables;
the cards would doubtless outlive some of them.
Scores would be there by shimmering August,
the men apart from the women, a cloud
of cigarettes where they leaned together
and worried over business and politics.
Children in bathing suits ran to and from
the house, wet trails and footprints to and from
the bathrooms, the sinks, the freezer. Sometimes
I was asked to take ice or a pitcher
to one of the tables, there where I learned
one should never swim just after eating
and tales of drowning and worries about
the unfortunates who got polio,
and Mrs. Friedman’s oft-repeated fretting
about one bad boy who peed in the pool,
never enough chlorine when that occurs.
The men talked
of other things I knew nothing of
in a language I did not understand.

The season really starts next week, you see. Next week.”
As Marilyn explained to me. “Mother has asked
everyone to come over tomorrow to help.
The pool needs cleaned, the cobwebbed furniture wiped down,
Dead leaves, dog poop and pine cones everywhere. We’ll see
if anyone shows up.” — “Won’t they?” I asked. — “Not one.”
Card sorting done, we went back to our comic books:
she read my Superman, I her Wonder Woman,
a title no boy would ever be caught reading.

Saturday came. The day waned and one car only
came up the lane and parked. All day we made the ice
for grape juice and lemonade brimful in freezer
and buckets. Sandwiches were made, and snacks put out.
Squirrels came to the windows expectantly, bird-chirp
anticipated the crowd, the crumbs, the leavings.
I lingered for dinner as Mrs. Friedman seethed on,
serving cold plate with embarrassment and anger.
The guest was new, a stranger, a bearded, calm man
in a business suit they called Rabbi. His voice
was deep, and with a foreign sound I could not place.
“Rabbi Doctor Baruch,” they said I should call him.
Already he knew my name, and turning, he said:
And you are the little boy who is not Jewish
who made string Stars of David all over the porch
December last. “I blushed, recalling Mrs. Friedman’s
horror at finding her decorated house-front.
“He felt sorry for us,” Mr. Friedman offered up,
“because we had no Christmas ornaments outside.”
They all laughed heartily. Still no one would tell me
why my six-pointed ornaments had been torn down
with such speed and alarm. “Anyone driving by,”
was all that Marilyn’s mother said, “they could see.”

But Rabbi,” Mr. Friedman continued, “I know you wanted
to meet our friends.” The rabbi shrugged. — “You call those friends?”
his wife retorted. “All summer long they come here,
they use the pool, we feed them, and pretend to laugh
at their worn-out humor. And all this work, for what?
I could be listening to the opera on the radio.
Not one of them will come and help us clean the pool!”

“So, next week I can come back,” the Rabbi offered.
“All of us need to help Jews get out of Russia.
First Stalin was killing us all over again,
and now his heir, that smiling thug Khrushchev.”
Mrs. Friedman had other worries:
“So who’s going to clean the pool? Not you, Rabbi!
Shame on us if it came to that.” Mr. Friedman
fussed with his sandwich and fork in embarrassment.
Silence and shadow-blink of a passing cloud held us.
The Rabbi’s long-fingered hands passed twirling circles
twice in his dark beard, as though he had to ask it,
then, with one hand extended palm up he asked her,
“Mrs. Friedman, you want I should make a Golem?”

Mouths opened wide, eyes wider.
Even I knew what a Golem was.
It was in
Famous Monsters.
A Golem,” Mrs. Friedman gulped.
“Would it — could it — ”
“Anything you want done, it can do.
It’s not an easy thing, and I need not say
that no one should know afterwards.
I come from Poland, where such things are done.”

The Rabbi turned an intense gaze on me.
“Boy, you are not Jewish?” —
“No, Rabbi, I’m not.” —
“You are not Christian?” —
“No, I’m not.” —
Not even a tiny bit?” —
I went two weeks to Bible School. They asked me
not to come back.” —
“So, you are not a Christian. Swear it.” —
I cleared my throat. Whatever this was,
I had to be in on it.
I swear I am not a Christian.” —
“Never baptized?”
I knew what that was from movies.
“No, never baptized.” —
So, you do not know the secret name of God?”
I could have said “Yahweh” or “Adonai,” two words
I already knew from poetry. Instead I said, “No.” —

Very well. You will be my assistant.
At ten o’clock, you come to the swimming pool. Tell no one.”
I beamed from ear to ear. “I’ll be there. I promise.”

This was better than Christmas morning. A Golem. A Golem.
They sent me home. I crept to my bedroom.
A flashlight and comics would keep me awake.
At ten, I ran alongside the Friedman house. Two cars’
headlights full beamed on the swimming pool.
The Rabbi and Mr. Friedman were up the slope
that led to the scant woods above the property.
They stooped and touched bare ground.
Strange clay, not like back home, but it will do,”
our sorcerer intoned, as with a walking stick
he outlined the lumpy shape of a man
on the bare and eroded clay hillside,
a place I knew, where owls and wild turkeys
lurked in the shrubs and saplings.
He passed his cane this way and that,
and uttering a prayer we could not-quite hear —
it seemed to hover an inch from his beard
like a will o’the wisp — a prayer not meant
for human ears but for spirits

And the shape he had outlined stood,
and separated itself from the yellow clay bank.
It stood. It shook itself free
of dust and tiny stones and tree-root.
It stood,
and moved no further, inert
as a sculptor’s first molding.
It was a lump with but a hint of legs,
arm-like extrusions bent at the elbow
and a great square head, two holes
where eyes should have been
and a mouth-gap the size of a mailbox.

Mr. Friedman pulled back in terror.
“I thought you were joking. I never thought.
My god, I never thought —”
Before I could react, the Rabbi had lifted me,
and placing a folded ribbon of paper
into my tiny hand, he put me up
on the Golem’s forearm.

Put the paper in the Golem’s mouth.
Only then will he move
and obey our orders.”
I started to raise my left hand
to the horizontal gape
that was the Golem’s mouth.
His beard brushed my ear
as he whispered, “Do not,
under any circumstances,
look into the Golem’s eyes.” —

And what would happen, Rabbi?” —

“You would see things no one
was meant to see and live.
Just do as I ask and no more,
and you will be safe, and blessed.”

My head averted, I found the mouth
by touch and slid the paper in.
There came a groan,
as low as a tuba in a passing parade,
no, low as the bass drum that rattles
your stomach in passing,

and then I was standing,
the Rabbi’s hand atop my head
for the longest time
until he let me go.

We saw the Golem in silhouette first
as the great shape lumbered
to the lit-up pool.
And so, with broom and mop
and chemicals, the hulking thing
descended the shallow-end stairs
into the vacant pool, as Mrs. Friedman,
at ease as though a local workman
were there before her, paced round
the pool and gave out orders.
Sweep there, no, higher up,
you missed a spot.

How long this took, I cannot recall.
Marilyn saw some of it
from her bedroom window,
just lights and a shape in silhouette
and her mother going this way, that way
waving her arms in command.
(Her little sister, sent to bed early,
saw nothing.)

The pool was filled, the last leaves swept
into heaps to be bagged and carted.
Then Mr. and Mrs. Friedman argued.
She wanted more done. The men were nervous.
Cars might come along Kingview Road.
So far, not one had passed.

There was that house, at hilltop,
whose windows frowned down
on all their summers, a house
that just a dozen years back
had hosted a rally of sheeted rioters,

that day the thirty thousand Klansmen
poured into town to terrify the Catholics.
Catholics then, but now the Jews and Negroes.
You worried about groups of men
riding on the back of a pickup truck
up to no good on a Saturday night.

The moonless night blazed with stars.
Shapes human and not,
moved in and out of the headlamps
as the Golem swept, and scrubbed,
and swept again. At the end of it all,
the Golem returned to the edge of the wood.

All looked with relief
at the still-black windows
of the big white house on the hill.
No light had come on up there.
No one had seen us.

Then I was raised once more
to retrieve the undecipherable scroll
that I knew, but did not tell them,
read “emet,” the word for truth.
The clay mouth was wider, deeper
than when the Golem was made,
wide enough for a small boy
to fall in and be devoured.
“Go on!”
the Rabbi chided me. “He cannot bite.
He has no teeth. Just find the paper.”
I reached, back till my elbow was wet
with clay. He smelled now of chlorine
and year-old leaves. I found it.
My fingers closed around it.
My head went back. My eyes
gazed straight into the emerald
furnaces of the Golem’s still-living orbs.

And I saw everything —
A high-domed palace of giants,
packed to the walls with them,
legion of lumbering Golem shapes
impatient to be born
from a place of good deeds unbidden,
of help that could have, but never came —
the nullity of unworked magic
and failed alchemy.

I saw new kinds of geometry —
triangles unnamable
through which the news of past
and future calamities flies
like telegraphs, most sent
to wrong recipient, and read too late --
how triangles, upward and downward
formed openings how spun they formed
vast polyhedrous entities
whose facets were the insides
of never-opened geodes,
arched around gateways
of onyx and adamantine —

Vectors of force and how
to form and shape them
from nothing but will,
nudged by the eye
in forehead’s center
into a brooding shape
of inward angles
then up and out bat-winged
hurled down as a smiting force
upon the smiters —

Power I saw, but not compassion,
a dark, cold cavern
despite the light of whirling wish-forms
and the firefly storm of eyes
the color of emeralds.

I think I fainted.
The Rabbi, the Friedmans
stood in a circle around me.
A cold cloth was on my forehead.
Thank God,” said Mrs. Friedman,
we don’t have to call an ambulance.”
The Rabbi leaned down
and hissed in my ear:
Did you see? Did you see?”

I dared not smile, despite
the exultant knowledge
that flooded over me.
I saw,” I answered simply.
He paused, eyes shining.
I saw … everything.”

He raised his hands in horror,
then waved two counter-circles
above my head
as if to cut a cord above me.

I went back home. I added
the Hebrew-lettered paper
to my Famous Monsters scrapbook,
Golem marked off between
Frankenstein” and “Mummies.”
I had an ovoid sandstone
warm in the palm, I dubbed
The Philosopher’s Stone,”
thought it would help make
little Golems I’d shape one day.

The following week
the Rabbi ignored me
as I carried ice and card decks
to the women’s tables
the darting eyes of Mrs. Friedman
said Don’t you dare tell.

I stood off in the pines to watch.
The women sunbathed and played at cards.
The shirt-sleeved men kept apart
as one by one they came to the Rabbi’s table
and passed him envelopes, a stack
before him by the end of the afternoon.
They had done their part against Krushchev.

He watched them. He watched them watching
as one another’s wives dived in
to the deep end of the swimming pool.
His back was to the women.
After one walk uphill to the clay bank,
just to be sure it had resumed its previous state,
I’m sure, he went to his car. I waved.
I think he saw me. I think a slight nod
was his only thank-you. I was the clay
he could not put back from where it came.

Not to worry. I am still
not a Christian.

Rabbi, The Golem said to tell you:

A hammer is as nothing
without a hand to wield it.
A hand is as nothing
without a mind to guide it.
A mind is as nothing
without the will to drive it
The will is as nothing
without the gift of knowing
Knowing is as nothing
without the love that burns
at the core of the never-dying stars:
love of what was, love of what is,
love of what can be.

vi-a (The Golem’s message in Yiddish) (tentative)

A hammar iz gornisht
felndik a hant
tsu vild es.

A hant iz gornisht
felndik a gayst
tsu firn es.

A meynung iz gornisht
felndik di vilpauer
tsu for es.

Vilpauer iz gornischt
felndik di talant
fun visn.

Veyst iz gornischt
felndik di libe
vos brent
in di harts
fun imortal shtern:

libe aoyb vos iz geven,
libe aoyb voz iz,
libe aoyb vos kenen zeyn.

Monday, May 29, 2017

The Cannibal Hymn

The Cannibal Hymn is at least 4,300 years old. It is found in Egyptian Pyramids, and also occurs as a "coffin text." It was so alarming and primitive that the Egyptians eventually stopped making copies of it. It is one of the masterpieces of ancient literature. Here is an abridged, modern adaptation the era of King Donald.

Warming, the weather turns terrible.

The stars are frowning.

The fracked bones of the earth tremble.

The coal mines are empty and dark

at seeing the Donald rising,

a god of inherited fortune

who feeds on the flesh of his mothers.

Though Donald is Lord of Wisdom, bigly,

his mother does not know his name.

Donald’s glory is in the clouds, bigly,

his large hands span the horizon,

like his realtor father before him,

though his son, Jared,

is mightier than he.

Donald’s tweets are behind him.

His party, his Dark-of-Water are at his feet.

Jesus and Mammon are over him,

his eyebrow-serpents are on his brow,

the Donald’s guiding over-comb

protects his forehead,

each hair alert for enemies

to add to the death-list.

His neck is there,

not to be moved from his mighty Trunk,

nor shall he arise from his golf cart

except to smite bad people, bad.

Donald is the Bull of the Sky;

flag-waving, he alernate-facts

his enemies into submission.

He lives on the past:

without reading its books he

devours its innards.

Everything he does, he does firstly.

He swallows even scientists

without acquiring an ounce of knowledge;

their magic counts as nothing.

Donald himself suffices.

He assembles his cabinet, then fires them.

Assembles more, and eats them.

Beware the field of spit-out ministers!

Donald appears as the Great One,

shoving aside the foreigners,

yea even Montenegro’s leader.

He calls on tribute lands for tithes,

withholding his hands and mighty arms

on account of less than two percent.

He sits with his back to the Potomac.

He needs no Congress for his advisor

since Him-Who-Is-Not-Be-Named,

the faraway Tsar advises him

on this day of drone-and-missile-sending.

Donald is the Lord of Offerings.

His coffers swell, his tax returns

known only to the gods below.

His meat and his ketchup suffice him;

no foreign chef does he require.

At night he eats his enemies

and sends out tweeted warnings

that the pundits and journals tremble.

His thoughts are like falcons, bigly.

It is “Bring-Back-the-Slave-To-Service” who is Sessions

who lassoes them for Donald.

It is “Snake-Even-Worse-Than-Donald”, the Pence, who guards and keeps the Congress fattened for him.

It is “She-As-Dumb-As-Willows”, named DeVos,

whose job is to keep them meek and stupid.

It is Bannon, slayer of Big Government,

demolisher of Bureaus,

who cuts the throats of the victims, singing,

Bannon the one who will extract the innards.

Conway will cut them up for Donald,

and Spicer the messenger whom Donald sends forth
to say the Yea-That-Is-Nay daily.

His consort Melania, and Ivanka,

beloved daughter, who cut them up

and pour spice into the Donald’s dinner-pot.

Bigly, the meals, with ketchup.

The ones who serve in Congress,

yea, even the Senate and the House,

from their heights they serve Donald.

The uninsured are butchered, the unborn

one and all are guaranteed to his platter.

Donald eats everything:

athletes for breakfast,

businessmen for his business-man’s lunch,

children for dinner with alt-spice and pepper.

Veterans and seniors are burned as incense.

A cauldron of women for a late-night pussy-grab.

Donald has filled the sky, and is the sky.

He crowns himself with the Pope’s mitre,

the crown of many Kings. He dreams

of Jared, Ivanka as Tsar and Tsarina

of Russo-Europe, the coming empire.

He has swallowed the Red States.

Though he does not like their savor,

He will devour the Blue.

With the help of his Dark-of-Water,

he will march against the Urals

and snap the necks of the Asian warlords.

He has swallowed all knowledge

and never once passed gas or turdling,

so he has forgotten nothing.

His reign will be limitless; he is the sum

of all the enemies he has devoured.

Whomever he likes is good,

whomever he dislikes is loser, Kenyan.

Soon no one will be left unbowed.

The rest will be eaten.

Do-gooders and liberals are helpless before him.

His tower of gold and marble the highest,

himself on top, immortal, beloved

of gods and the blazing stars.

He is forever, and forever, the Donald.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alien Covenant -- A Review

Most of my friends seem to have hated the new film Alien Covenant. It is director Ridley Scott's follow-on to the baffling Alien "prequel," Prometheus, and it fills in many gaps in the narrative.
Friends commented on the stupid actions by the characters being pursued and devoured by the aliens, but they are an underpaid crew ferrying colonists in space, not scientists on exploration, and "first contact" was the last thing they expected.
The film contains serious debates about artificial intelligence/robots and the ethics thereof; the question, from Frankenstein, of whether the creation should have contempt for its physically frail creator; it quotes from Wagner's Ring Cycle both musically and in ideas; it evokes and quotes Milton, and Shelley's "Ozymandias."
Alien Covenant includes a necropolis city it will be impossible to forget, one aspect of which is lifted directly from Arnold Bocklin's painting, "The Isle of the Dead." It plays on twins/doppelgangers. And it advances the Alien story-line continuum with a new agency, many twists of the created turning against the creators. It suggests that species are not kind to one another, and that mutual annihilation might be out there in the stars as well as on earth.
The weak part of the script is that the only intellectual characters are robots, and the humans bumble around, trying to substitute bravery for brains. But that too, is part of the message throughout these films: a safe world is safe for the not-so-bright, too. We don't get close to any of the characters to bond with them the way we did with Sigourney Weaver in Alien/Aliens/Alien3, and that is too bad. It is too easy to forget that the Earth culture of the Alien series, toward which this episode is building, is a dystopia in which free-thinking individuals seem to have been pushed aside in favor of desperate workers who want to obey orders and get their next paycheck. And going into space does not appear to be a plum job.

If you have seen the previous films and thought about them, you need to see this one too, and then go home and think about it. And then don't go near anything even remotely shaped like an egg.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Against Copyright

The "public domain" is the world's intellectual treasure-house of all the art, writing and music that has ever been done by humans. It is our common inheritance and is the sum of what it is to be human -- to have a direct connection to all who came before. This means that all these works may be copied, edited, sequeled, adapted into other media, etc. It is your right to do so. Copyright laws are do not protect a right -- they take a right away for the benefit of publishers and authors, originally for a limited time. Copyright used to be 28 years, renewable once if the author or publisher bothered to re-register. Thanks to the machinations of lawyers protecting Mickey Mouse, U.S. copyrght is now something like 95 years past the death of the 'creator'. They are pushing to make these copyrights, in effect, go on forever.
Copyrights extended this way hamper the creativity of those seeking to create derivative works, or even just to quote from or adapt the originals, all for the benefit of people referred to in my circle as "shiftless heirs." People who do no work, collecting royalties into infinity, and prohibiting posterity from creating new work with paying them ransom.
In the case of poetry, I have seen "shiftless heirs" of a dead poet, harboring a fantasy of future wealth, and prohibiting any of the poet's friends from assembling and publishing books of their work. I have seen poets' life work hurled into dumpsters by contemptuous family members. Copyright serves no one when the work has no monetary value -- ironically, poetry, one of the ultimate treasures of any era, is almost always regarded as trash by the contemporary culture around it.
So, for poetry, I stand against copyrights altogether, and encourage poets to place statements on their copyright page, specifying the year in which they wish their work to be in the Public Domain. To hell with the lawyers.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Four Generations of Rutherfords in the "Book Business"

Runs in the family, even though I was separated from the Rutherfords at age 13.
My great-grandfather John Rutherford came from England to Scottdale, PA, and ran a book and stationery store (other Rutherford siblings had shoe factories, coal mines, banks, and a steam engine factory).
My grandfather took over the "bookstore" and became a newspaper distributor for several counties. Untold numbers of paperboys worked for him, and he sponsored 12 boy scout troops.
Some of the Bo
y Scout troops had marching bands and they probably bought their instruments at a local store called "Rutherford Studios." It was rumored of the Rutherfords that any of them could pick up any musical instrument and be able to play it within a few months.
One auntie secretly wrote poetry.
The news store was inherited by my Uncle Bill, a grumpy man with an eye-patch who lived above the store. Rutherford News closed forever sometime in the late 1970s.
As a child in Scottdale, I would cut up magazines and rebind them in various ways and sell them to neighbors; I also printed a mimeographed science newsletter and tried to draw comics. By the fifth grade I was writing monster plays and staging them in a local garage, and charging admission to the all the neighborhood kids. People in town said I was just like my grandfather.
And here I am, a curmdugeon, publishing books and picking away at writing and music. Did I have any choice in the matter?
This corner building was the site of Rutherford News. Since it was built around 1880, it was probably always in the family.

Fame at Last!

Whoop-de-goddamm-doo! Fox Business Network just sent me an email telling me that the Poet's Press can have a two-minute spot on the FOX Business Network for only $4,000. Now I can reach all those toothless troglodytes who have just been waiting for BIG POETRY ENLIGHTENMENT and I can sell my books by the boxcar-load. Hell, I'll need my own railroad siding since Fox Business Network will reach a MASSIVE AUDIENCE of AFFLUENT CUSTOMERS. Why didn't I think of this before? My god, I can be famous at last! The Poets Press authors can ride around in limousines! The Kardashians will quote my poems. My lines will turn up in tattoos, on T-shirts, and the lids of the flat-brimmed baseball caps.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

The Nosebleed

On a day when the government decides to bolster the prejudicial treatment of anyone who offends anyone's "religion," and a day when the House of Representatives votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, I am reminded of the time when, as a poor college student, I needed emergency care at St. Vincent Hospital in Erie, PA.


Dizzy and bloodless I am wheeled
into the emergency room. Nosebleed
for hour on hour has left me senseless.

This is a very Catholic hospital.
A nurse with clipboard demands my name.
She looks with scorn at my hair and beads.
“Bet you don’t have no job?” she sneers.

“I’m a student. At Edinboro.”
“Drugs!” she says. “They’re in here
alla time.”

“Nosebleed,” I say.

“I don’t use drugs.”

Nosebleed, she writes,
as I choke on clotted upheave.

“What’s your religion?”


“I gotta put something here.”

“Say atheist.”

“Well, that’s a first.
I don’t know how to spell that.”


“You could be dyin’ here
an’ you wanna say atheist?”

“You want me to lie on my deathbed?”

She snorts. “I’ll put down Protestant.”

They wheel me in. I’m in and out
of consciousness. Later I wake
in a deserted wardroom. I want to know
how long I’ve been here, how much I lost.

I find the cord and buzzer
that says it will summon a nurse.
I hear a distant bell ringing,
hear voices at the nurses’ station.

Words fly to me like startled birds
then “The hippie in 15-B”

A male voice laughs. “We’ll make up
something special for that one.”

I ring the bell again. No one responds.

I wake again at mid-day.

They wheel in food on a cart.
A plate is put before me—
amorphous meat, a glistening heap
of mashed potatoes, some soggy greens.

I take a spoon of potatoes
wondering real or instant,
bite down on razor shards of glass,
put hand to mouth and see blood streaming.

Rip tube from face spitting rush
for the bathroom
rinse rinse spit rinse
swabbing the blood with a towel
tongue bleeding gums bleeding

dressed myself hastily
left there no one stopped me
walking walking hitch-hiking southward

glad I never swallowed
my special hippie atheist breakfast.

Death and the Maiden

after the German of Matthias Claudius The Maiden: Pass me by, oh, pass me by! Go, ...