G. Louis Heath
I am a native Californian, a Berkeley Ph.D., forcibly transplanted to the Midwest (which I have grown to love over 47 years) in order to secure employment during the Vietnam War when the options for me were job, Canada or jail. Please excuse the clinging initial G. (for Gary) Louis Heath but I thought it was cool in 1969 when I first published! My books include Mutiny Does Not Happen Lightly, Long Dark River Casino and Vandals In The Bomb Factory. I have recently published poems in Writing Raw and Poppy Road Review.
My self-defense class goes through the moves
our IDF instructor has drilled into us.
She’s an Israeli Defense Forces sergeant.
She’s here a year to teach krav maga,
an IDF martial art that first avoids confrontation
but, if we can’t, then we’ll know what to do.
Krav maga is Hebrew for “contact combat.”
That’s a lot for two short words. Must be an efficient
language or else the translator is a poet,
alliterative as the words are.
If push comes to shove, I think I’ll shout Krav Maga,
(which is kind of poetic, too)
as forcefully as I can. It beats fighting.
I went out with the sergeant on a coffee date.
She told me about her service on the West Bank.
She had to krav maga a kid who hurled a stone.
She said it was better than a bullet.
And she really regretted being shot at later
because she had to return fire.
“Peace is a hard thing to keep” she said.
I agreed and that night went to the PizzaIDF website,
ordered a kosher pizza delivered to young IDF
soldiers on patrol. They e-mailed back,
“Our soldiers appreciate your kosher kindness.”
Must have been the same translator.
Scientists say black holes are invisible,
that we know they’re there because
they swallow stars and galaxies.
It was the same with my family
with my Mom’s cancer.
We bought a hospital bed,
set it up in the living room,
organized our lives around it
five years as she slowly expired,
as we slowly disappeared,
at least the selves we once were.
Formidable, demanding, suffering terribly,
no one navigated her living room
without being drawn into The Black Hole,
not The Black Hole of Calcutta
though one can make that case
but The Black Hole of Astronomy
where that scintillating star, my North Star,
my dear Mom, vanished into the Cosmos.
The family gathered round the pitching machine,
standing cheek-by-jowl to the Cat combine,
one stark, one glinting against the pale-blue Illinois sky.
Rusty, crusty machine dealt fastballs, as its dull steel
arm threw fugitive shadows, balls Dad cursed,
his sagging beefcake whipped round.
But then a shot into loosestrife and milkweed
that their 10-year-old, hungry for game,
stalked as if game slunk low in the weeds,
as Dad high-fived the blaze-yellow combine in salvaged glory.
The son found his trophy, his triumph amid bergamot.
His sister, only six, threw her thin arms round him
as he pressed the green-stained ball into her hand.
Sweat glistened as the family filed back toward the house,
sister fingering the ball to see what made it special.
A breeze stirred and birdsong of coming dusk filled the air.
Shadow began to veil the two machines, mute witnesses to
American ag family in mortal combat in flyover land.
The Prince of the Mosh Pit
I stand in the mosh pit
not in thrall.
Celebrity Machiavellian prince
in soda-orange hair
struts on stage.
I can see his sagging beefcake
flanked by his trophy wife,
Slovenian model legal import,
smiling when he adds ten feet
to his Mexican border wall.
“I love you all,” he says.
“You are such great people.”
But you said we are no longer great!
The votes are coming in,
CNN, MSNBC glory in the returns,
and the gossip they can indulge,
the ad revenue they can make .
By 11 pm he’s won seven states.
He loves them all.
He loves us all.
He loves us this.
He loves us that.
©2016 G. Louis Heath