IV. Neighbors


I think most folks are as they seem,

But not completely so,

For each heart bears its secret pain

No other heart can know.

And likewise all our differences

Which set us all apart,

Would disappear if but we knew

To search each other's heart.

                                                         Eric Chevlen





We are but at the surface of a sphere.

And each sphere has a center. If we can

but reach ours, and I pray that every man

and woman shall, we suddenly appear

more centered, more full, less superficial.

Some might say “full of our self.” When a po-

et or the Dalai Lama does it, though,

who hears? The reason’s mathematical:


his center’s far from his circumference, so

he’s at least twice as far from ours, right? Oh,

my surface friend. Whatever surface we

tread, with its growths and physicality,

ephemera of values and things made,

pecuniary portions drawn and cashed,

like cankers that infect, possess and fade,

or paradises tended, shared and trashed,


the spheres we are, the sphere in which we live—

they’re not the earth, merely, the physical,

but metaphysical. Like heart, or soul,

which we don’t have until we’ve learned to give

away. Not those of plane geometry,

but metaphorical spheres. If you are

a superficial creature, though, like me,

there’s understanding from the metaphor:


let’s say concentric spheres, then, where the cen-

ter of one’s the same as the one of All,

our sizes, different—say, our dimen-

sions—as cities, as lives. But when the Dal-

ai lama speaks, it’s from the heart of—you.


And now and then a poet does this, too.

                                                                                James B. Nicola






I hear a kettle gurgle. My neighbor

enjoys the productivity of this

dark, silent time. He's up at half past four

with tea, to deal with daily finances,

unflummoxed by the stirrings of his wife.

He knows I start with coffee right at five

to entertain a thought or two on life

before the hour's too busy, too alive.


There would have been, in town-homes years ago,

front porches. Now, the common cellar hall,

the parking lot, the daily brief hello

and occasional unexpected chat are all

we share in rhythmic passings to and fro—

plus kitchen kettles, whispering through the wall.

                                                                                                            James B. Nicola



Lost Sock


There is a dark side

to the dress socks

in the top drawer. They sort

according to some dark principle

of chaos and the estrangement

of identical twins--the precipitous

divorces of the happily married

are no less confounding

than these fine upstanding dress socks

you could once trust with your ankles

and your pedigree,

your onward and upward mobility,

suddenly turning against you

and each other

and themselves.

The motley characters you sometimes see

gathered around park benches,

passing the joint or the bottle,

are this kind of lost--

the transient attachments,

the fleeting allegiances

dissolving as soon as the spirits stop flowing,

each going his own way.

                                                                  Paul Hostovsky


Walking After Rain, Bending Down


Side by side they lay like mother and child

cleft and wet on a bed of gravel

but they were clearly one

they fit together like puzzle pieces

I could not tell if a gentle hand

put them there, or were they thrown

or did they fall, were they sundered

by some errant foot, some furtive beast.

I did not dare say it was God’s hand

that lay them down for me to find

but no two pieces so resembled shards

of some large vessel that could not contain

their fire, that came apart, scattered

landed everywhere, just these here

that came to me, these pieces I could mend.

                                                                                    Florence Weinberger





I smell Gan Eden

on this earth

when I touch a good deed,

and feel its colorful texture.


Thus, Indians could hear

even distant events.

For us, it is the confidence

to listen to someone else.

                                                      Hayim Abramson





This java’s just what I was looking for,

you know?  The boring slow ride up the parkway?

Ah yes, rush-hour can be such a nuisance,

systole and diastole hooked to each push of the brake;

then, ho-hum, unwrapping burgers at the cholesterol rest stop

judiciously spreading barbecue sauce

across TV’s subaudible hum of the off-somewhere war

where it seems there are shrouds and obsessions

acted out with plastique fashioned somewhere.


I believe I forget places, my own face, I’m not sure.

In my pockets I carry the traces to tell me:

keys for the Ford to go

plus the laundry list of cash, cards,

tissues, spiral notebook, Pilot Pen,

the Book of Life

the names of all men

and the bottomless wail.

                                                                   Harvey Steinberg



He points to the wind: spitting.

He blames the leaves, that they’re

turned against the green-veined

sun. He screams against the howls,

the paper-dry crunch, the tears.

Yet, at every scream, the wind

whips away his voice. The leaves

crumble at the slightest touch. The

sun still shines, exhaling fire.

                                                Alana Schwartz





You must change your life.

  Rainer Maria Rilke


The deer stood at the edge of the forest

and was miserable. He felt there was no point

in anything, like he might as well give up.

I walk around here, day i and day out,

the deer thought, and there’s no one who sees me.

Am I invisible, or what? He didn’t think so.


I walk around here and could change people’s

lives if they could see me, but no one

sees me. Here I am, a hart, and no one cares.

The whole point is that I am supposed to be difficult

to see, I know that, I am supposed to roam

around in a forest and not be seen. But it’s


the very premise of my life that is now making me

miserable. I want to be seen. So here I am

at the edge of the forest. I am open to being seen,

to being shot. If someone doesn’t see me soon,

I’m going to do something drastic, I mean it.

Right now it feels like I’m trapped in deerness.


Oh, I would love to change everything,

be someone else, something completely different.

                                                                                               --Constance Rowell Mastores






Already they are here, small

strangers now in strange soil

gripping their bags of clothes

and trinkets snatched from

what the gunfire brought

or the bombs falling from

sunlight like wingless birds.


Already we begin the rites of words

across a dozen dialects from places

never seen but heard.

Not a one over ten. Not a one

with eyes that see clearly into

us as though the past has faded

into present and that sufficient.


Already we begin to see ourselves

as strangers offering home to

these children who have outgrown

us by the length of their lives.

We ask for smiles seeing mostly

frowns on these faces carved

from distances dwarfing the

miles they have traveled.


Already they are buried in

their years, ashes and blood

the walls they may may not

ascend in frailty of whatever



Already we will begin the

testings of love, how far

it will teach, how much

of it we can call out

from our own pale

texts, uncertain

still unwritten.

                              Doug Bolling




Random Choices


A set of random numbers is defined

As only those we never had in mind

To choose to be a member of the set.

Remember: these are numbers we forget.

But if it’s true, as truly it was said,

That God counts every hair on every head,

And keeps in mind our merits and our sins,

And knows how many angels dance on pins,

Then He alone cannot by chance select,

And equally cannot by chance reject.

He must have reason sure for every choice

Of who will grieve and when, and who rejoice.

And if His choice confounds our hope and thought,

Perhaps we once knew why—but since forgot.

                                                                                           Eric Chevlen