Monday, October 20, 2008

Tennis Balls (poem for Honey)
by Hank Kalet

tennis ball's ripped skin
like a tear in the soul

wishing her panting smile
given so freely

could be here right now
that I could toss

the tennis ball
and watch her leap

like Tommie Agee
and snare it from

its downward arc
and wait as she

trots back, tongue
flapping like her tail

the breeze rustling
autumn leaves....

Monday, September 29, 2008

Poem on the eve of Rosh Hashana by Hank Kalet

I wrote this poem four years ago after the attack on a school that killed 300 in Chechnya. I'm posting it today, the first night of Rosh Hashana, because of the title and because I think its basic theme remains relevant.

Poem on the Eve of Rosh Hashana
By Hank Kalet

The count is more than 300 and the calculation
is not so simple, dead children
and building boulders scattered like
so many leaves on an autumn lawn.

What is terror but desperation, a political calculus
born of a sense that there is no future
but in violence. But violence is just violence,
the dead lacking the symbolic grace

of the High Mass or the Shofar's trilling call.
I can't watch the news anymore, filled with
so much pain and personal anguish.
I wash the coffee pot and measure out the beans,

pour them into the grinder and start the maker,
the harsh whir exploding the morning's silence.
The television drones in the background:
a hurricane batters Florida as the candidates

swing through the Midwest stumping for votes
and college teams get ready for their season.
The president's in Pittsburgh talking about jobs
and Kerry's in Ohio talking about taxes

as 13 Americans die in Iraq defending a lie.
I want to ask the president how often you need
tell a lie before it becomes a fact,
how many times you must repeat a wish

before the wish becomes reality.
But then I think of convoys destroyed
by rocket propelled grenades and American bodies
lying dead roadside and Iraqi bodies strewn

across burning cities, and language fails me,
words seeming woefully inadequate to the task.
Our toast has popped and the eggs are burning on the stove.
There is ethnic cleansing in Sudan, the refugees fanning out

across the plains, the rebel forces ragtag and hungry,
running roughshod over small villages as the government
terrorizes its own citizens, the nation breaking apart
under the weight of memory and too many guns.

Hamas takes credit for a bus bomb that kills 16
as if it were awaiting an award nomination
or signing its name to a painting like Picasso or Matisse.
The Israeli government responds with airstrikes that

kill another 14, retaliation begetting retaliation,
the circle of violence replacing the circle of life.
Who is to blame when the oppressed become the aggressor?
And how can we apportion blame when none of us is blameless?

How can we be so smug when we help create the conditions
that drive the young boy in Jenin or Ramallah to strap
a bomb to his chest and blow himself up on a
crowded bus or boulevard in Tel Aviv or Beersheba?

We have too much to atone for this year, too many lives
lost in the haze of never-ending violence,
a war of attrition taking aim, breaking our spirits,
its vast weight suffocating our souls.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sitting in a Ford Taurus by Hank Kalet

Sitting in a Ford Taurus
by Hank Kalet

I knew he slept in his car
from the clothes balled up
in the back seat, from
the blear in his eye,
and the way his black hair
snarled in an awkward
cowlick. Eating breakfast
with a plastic spoon
from a can of meat stew,
sitting in the front seat
of a banged-up Ford with
no front bumper and a
phone book beside him
on the seat, watching people
through dirty windshield
rush in and out of the bagel shop,
isolated and alone,
his eye catching mine
as the bells jangle
on the glass door behind me
as I leave with bagel in
brown bag and black coffee
in hand, and I wonder
what's running through his mind
watching the unbroken flow
of workers passing through
this door like electricity
through a circuit as he sits
eating cold stew in a car
in a strip-mall parking lot
on a day when rain is forecast
and political speeches
lead the paper rolled beneath my arm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Pen and Ink by Hank Kalet

Pen and Ink
Hank Kalet

If I were to draw you
in black pen,
I'd use all curving lines
and trace them with my tongue....

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Vacant Windows by Hank Kalet

This is brand new.

Vacant Windows
Hank Kalet

"The city itself
is ruined"

and the photos
in pixilated color

on the front pages
of the papers

at the Wawa
bear out the words

of the refugee
in Tskinvali

that I read in
The Chronicle

on a Wednesday
when Michael Phelps

won his fifth
gold medal

and the feds issued
retail stats

that put in numbers
what we all know

all too well,
that our pockets

are as empty
as Mother Hubbard's

bare cupboard,
though the bills

keep arriving
with the frequency

of nightfall
or the trashmen

on Wednesdays.
Broken buildings,

the rubble
in the street,

it’s like I’ve seen
these pictures before,

the smoke billowing
upward from blackened

apartments, upper stories
bombed out and burned,

blacker than the Black Sea,
vacant windows like

the eyes of the dead
before the pennies

are placed to pay
Charon, before

the ferry comes, before
the coffin lid’s secured.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Morning Fragment by Hank Kalet

Morning Fragment
Hank Kalet

large bees hover
in humid August air

no breeze, drops left
from last night's rain

on hasta lily's
waxy green leaves

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Near the Leipsic River by Hank Kalet

Near the Leipsic River
Hank Kalet

fragility's face --
four white wooden crosses

in the grass beside a
Delaware freeway

names obscured
by the seventy mph speed

as we head home
to New Jersey

Monday, May 05, 2008

(After Lorca) by Hank Kalet

(after Lorca)
Hank Kalet

for Annie

Rose quivering
in October’s gusting
last petals
like dust to wind

to you
I am open as
a vein to air
to the breeze
to the season’s changing strength
as a mind at the moment
of revelation

We two
are caught in the elements,
the mud-green algae,
the murky depths,
wading from the depths
to the river’s
farthest bed,

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

You Are by Hank Kalet

You Are
by Hank Kalet

steady for me
though you sometimes feel wobbly yourself
my mind feeling frayed
like a weakened seam that
holds together an over-washed shirt
centers on you
like a star in the night
like the distant coastline glimpsed
from across the vast ocean
you are my beach
as I break upon your shores
my quiet blanket on the sand
the quiet moment
when the sun slowly fades
below the horizon

Friday, April 25, 2008

Runner's Poem by Hank Kalet

Runner's Poem
By Hank Kalet

dried apple core
a turquoise toothbrush

humanity's wasted mingled
among pine cones

and grass clippings
along cracked macadam


tissue box crushed
colors faded

robins' voices
chirping counterpoint

to rhythms of runner's feet
pounding worn pavement

(Written and memorized while running five miles this morning. I jotted it down on a scrap of paper when I finished.)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bird on a Bay Window by Hank Kalet

Bird on a Bay Window
By Hank Kalet

black-feathered birds
do battle
sweep in with the scraps
of our weekend raking
in small beaks
the thatched undergrowth
scraped to the surface
placed atop the bay window
relentless they return
no matter how often
I clear the ledge
mud stains dead grass
five times maybe six this morning
this orange-breasted bird
swoops in and away
oblivious to my repeated

Monday, April 21, 2008

Found Poem of America by Hank Kalet

Found Poem of America
(a draft)


half-scraped decal
of American flag,
egg-shaped, scratch-edged,

flaking away
to nothing
on side window

of greasy
service station,
near propane tank,

the size of
a small car,
near Coke machine

and back fence
that obscures
the sprouting weeds,

the fast-food wrappers
and newsprint
telling stories

of rising taxes
and broken bridges,
of corruption probes

and jail time
for crooked pols,
the window’s glass

grime-streaked, caulking
cracked, paint peeling
from trim, glass

midday sun,
window facing

stand of trees
that shrinks as
work trucks carve

out space from
thick woods for new
medical offices

and strip mall,
trucks idle today,
summer afternoon

with no breeze,
waiting to buy

to grill burgers,
Mets game
whispering from

my car speakers
as traffic whizzes
past on Route 27.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sonnet of the Everyday by Hank Kalet

Sonnet of the Everyday
By Hank Kalet

Just in case
she didn't see his car was gone
or that he'd emptied the closet
of clothes or
pulled his books from the shelves
or disconnected
the stereo but left
the Technics turntable
she got him
last Christmas
he left her a note
no explanation
just a note to say
so long.

Published in Chronogram, March 2006

Friday, April 18, 2008

Scraps by Hank Kalet

By Hank Kalet

The doves in grainy
black and white, blasted
from their cages in
the New Baghdad Market,
torn up, crumpled
like the newspaper pages
we used to pack away
the Christmas ornaments
just weeks before.
“Death has become
so normal for us”
said one teen as he
as he collected
“scraps of flesh,”
the remains
of the victims scattered
like the snapped branches
and loose trash stuck
in the brambles
and bushes littering my yard.
“It doesn’t scare me
anymore,” he tells the paper,
“because I’ve seen
a lot up to now.”

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Te Deum by Charles Reznikoff

I'm reinvigorating this side blog with a poem a day -- some by me, some by others with credit and links. Today, linked from the Academy of American Poets:

Te Deum
by Charles Reznikoff

Not because of victories
I sing,
having none,
but for the common sunshine,
the breeze,
the largess of the spring.

Not for victory
but for the day's work done
as well as I was able;
not for a seat upon the dais
but at the common table.

From The Complete Poems of Charles Reznikoff. Copyright © 1976 by Charles Reznikoff. Used by permission of Black Sparrow Press, an imprint of David R. Godine, Publisher, Inc.