Jimmy Adair's Phoenix Home Page

Pages I author, edit, or maintain
I'm the one with the hat

Selected Poetry

The Tiger, Alas

Tiger, tiger, fading fast
From the forests where you pass
Silently in search of prey,
Deadly hunter, night or day.

Flaming stripes and teeth of steel,
None your prey that seek your weal,
Yet other hunters oft admire
Your strength and quintessential fire.

Your backbone's spring, your mitts of stone,
Your jaws that sunder flesh from bone,
Invincible mid Nature's beasts,
They gaze, astonished, at your feats.

But now of late your numbers dim,
E'en as masses chant your hymn.
Ruthless man, your mortal foe,
Steers your fate toward final woe.

Tiger, tiger, fading fast
From the forests where you pass
Silently in search of prey,
Will you live another day?

San Antonio, 2010

Written in response to the news that tigers may be extinct in the wild within 12 years.

God's Haiku on Iraq

Some think I condone
the bombing of my children.
They must not know me.

Stone Mountain, 2003


walking upstairs is easy—
downstairs, not so much.

San Antonio, 2013

Fortune Cookie Fails Haiku

Fortune cookie says:
“If you dream, it will happen.”
In what universe?

San Antonio, 2014

War Economy

You're laid off, and right now you're hurtin',
But keep your chin up, 'cause it's certain
   The war in Iraq
   Means prosperity's back!
Especially if you're Halliburton.

Stone Mountain, 2003


A voice cries out in the night, a siren wails—
the city sleeps, but uneasily.
Beneath the façade of calm there is unrest.

The sun rises, it shines bright and clear in the blue sky.
It illumines the skyscrapers, the homes, the beaches,
the squalor of townships and squatter camps.
The majestic mountains and the quiet sea cry "Peace!"
but there is no peace—only violence.

It is not the noise of bombs or the marching of feet—
it is the hatred in the heart of the white man for the black,
and the black man for the white.
It is the violence of famine and disease in a land of plenty.

Where is the human dignity when you sleep on the bare earth
in a house of corrugated iron?
Are your dreams those of your oppressor:
wealth, ease, recognition?
Or do you dream of shelter from the cold,
shoes for your feet, food for your next meal?
Do you long for the day of wrath that is coming?

Violence begets violence—it spreads like a plague.
It cannot be halted, only slowed.
It will not be extinguished with more violence, only heightened.
Is peace simply the lack of bloodshed, or is it much more?

The sun moves across the sky and sets in the sea.
Darkness replaces light, and somehow, it seems appropriate.

Cape Town, 1989

This poem was written while I was living in South Africa, during the waning days of apartheid.

I've seen the Grand Canyon

I've seen the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains,
     the voices of three oceans breaking on rocks or surf have spoken in my ears.
On hot summer days I've played in the waters of the Frio River (aptly named),
     then on those warm nights I've lain on my back and stretched out my hand toward the black sky,
          reaching for stars just beyond my grasp.

I've watched the leaves change colors then float gently, softly, to the ground,
     and I've seen little yellow flowers push their way through the same damp leaves to breathe the fresh air of Spring.
I've heard the quiet burbling, babbling, chortling of a mountain stream,
     and I've stood transfixed as the fierce, powerful thunderstorm rolled in over the hills,
          flashing its lightning in the distant clouds.

I've drunk water from a spring that seemed to emerge from solid rock,
     the scent of cedar and pine, magnolia and honeysuckle have overpowered me.
I've caught lightning bugs in a jar at dusk, then let them go as the night grew dark,
     and my daughters (who are expert firefly catchers) hug and kiss me and tell me they love me.
Of course I believe in God!

Stone Mountain, 1997

A Neanderthal grossly misinterprets the meaning of Mars' proximity to Earth over 50,000 years ago

Red Wanderer, brightest of the stars since the last moon,
     what is the meaning of your sudden brilliance?
While others shine white,
     your glow is the color of auroch's blood
     that covers our hunters after the kill.

Your appearance is a portent,
     a warning to the others who have invaded our great valley,
     speaking with strange tongues and wielding new weapons.
We are large and powerful;
     they are weak and fragile.
We kill the lion and the cave bear;
     they run from the gazelle!

Crimson is your cast,
     the blood of the others that we will shed
     unless they leave our hunting grounds.
For we are great and all-powerful,
     taller and stronger than our enemies.

We will surely triumph over them,
     and they will be no more,
so that when you return to visit this sacred land,
     only the pure eyes of our people will greet you.

Stone Mountain, 2003

When this poem was written, Mars was closer to Earth, and brighter, than it had been for 50,000 years. 50,000 years ago, Neanderthals in Europe were first encountering a new species, Homo sapiens. The auroch was a bovine, possibly the wild ancestor of the cow. Like the cave bear and the Neanderthal, it is now extinct.

The Back Side of Stone Mountain (#1)

Fractured granite, boulders, jagged rocks,
gnarled pines here and there, dry grass.
Man came, he saw, he coveted, he ravaged,
cutting away tons of rock, leaving a barren gash.
But things aren't quite as barren as they look,
for through the rocks seeps water,
dissolving the stone, nourishing the plants,
quenching the thirst of the ravished land.
Before too long, as time on earth is measured,
the signs of man's presence will be destroyed,
and the mountain will once again be clean.

Stone Mountain, 2004

The Back Side of Stone Mountain (#2)

Four million people live in this city.
Hundreds are at the park today—
walking, running, climbing, playing, riding, loving—
yet here I sit, on a large boulder,
looking out over an area more than a hectare in size,
and I don't see another living soul.
And I like it that way.
Don't get me wrong; I like to be around people,
but there are times when only solitude will do.
The blue sky, the gentle breeze, the bright sun,
verdent trees, waving grass, chirping grasshoppers.
At times I feel like the whole universe was created for my benefit.
This is one of those times.

Stone Mountain, 2004

I Desecrate This Mountain in the Name of Jesus

I'm a Christian, and I want everyone to know it.
How can I get my message out?
I know!
I'll get a can of spray paint and mar the natural beauty of Stone Mountain with a Bible verse!
It will be a testimony through the ages.
It will last for a hundred years.
Long after I'm gone, people will read my message and praise God for my faithfulness.
Sure, the mountain's nice, but I think God needs a little help getting his message out.
As long as it's the word of God, it can't be vandalism.

Stone Mountain, 2004

Butterfly Epiphany

Hue of butter, wings a-flutter,
Stillness shatter, silent chatter,
Random flitting, grace unwitting,
Floating flowers, amber showers,
Nectar gleaning, sunbeams sheening,
Thing of beauty, sacred duty,
Joyous mission, wondrous vision!

San Antonio, 2005


The sun beat like fire on the south Texas briar
And the prickly pear cluttered their way.
But Sheriff Adair and those in his care
Were hot on the trail of their prey.

Seems a drifter named Scott, in a cold-blooded plot,
Had murdered, and stolen a horse.
So a posse was formed and rode out like a storm;
Adair's icy resolve stayed the course.

But the tracks were too old, and the trail it grew cold,
As Old Sol neared the end of his race.
So Adair hollered, "Men, let's meet back here again
At sunup and restart our chase."

As he rode home the breeze, blowing cool in the trees,
Carried sounds of the locusts in song.
"This ain't bad," Adair said, wiping sweat from his head,
"I'll be home with my wife before long."

From the bushes Scott came, for his horse had gone lame,
He was now on the run for his life.
When Adair turned around, Scott jumped up from the ground,
And coolly slashed him with his knife.

While the thief rode his bay, Adair staggered away;
The gore on his hands was so warm!
But he held in his guts, spilling out from the cuts,
And he walked half a mile to a farm.

He stepped through the door dripping blood on the floor,
And bore witness to all those inside:
"Scott killed me tonight, and y'all must make it right."
Then he felt a sharp chill, and he died.

Well they captured Scott soon, one July afternoon,
And they hanged him the day he was found.
The sun blazed with its heat while he dangled his feet.
Now he sleeps in the cold, cold ground.

San Antonio, 2006

My great-grandfather was a deputy sheriff in northeast Texas in the late 19th century and was killed in the line of duty, more or less as described in this poem. I've transferred the action to South Texas, and the poem explores the various meanings, nuances, synonyms, and antonyms of the word "heat." To get the real feel of this poem, it ought to be read with a strong Texas drawl.

Twilight in My Back Yard

The sun sets in the west, turning the sky first gold, then red deepening to crimson.
The dark green of the cedars and the lighter green of the live oaks fade to black.
The tawny grass darkens, but remains on alert to glow when the first beams of the moon strike.
White rocks and black dirt complete the picture of South Texas at twilight.

San Antonio, 2005


Matisse created a world of Jazz—
Black, white, and red figures
Dancing on a blue background,
Filled with the joie de vivre.

The sun rises on the Texas spring—
A black swallowtail,
A white-winged dove, and a red cardinal
Dancing on a blue background,
Filled with the joie de vivre.

San Antonio, 2013


The call of the bobwhite
The blazing sun beating down
Mitigated by an intermittent breeze
Cicadas buzzing
Ignored by scurrying ants
Limestone shelves and boulders
Dissolving over ages into vast underground caverns
Prickly sotol leaves swaying
Unperturbed by the red wasp's investigation
And in the distance, the trilling of a mourning dove.

San Antonio, 2012

Eine kleine Nachtmusik

The buzzing of the cicadas stands in for the strings.
Crickets' chirping sets the tempo.
Ratatatat goes the woodpecker, mimicking the snare.
Bobwhites provide the slide-whistle,
Mourning doves, the trilling of flutes.
The role of the tuba is played by bullfrogs.
Coyotes wail trumpet riffs.
Hoot owls are clarinets; screech owls, piccolos.
Mockingbirds fill in all the other parts, the show-offs!
At the front of the stage the sotol directs
As the wind blows its prickly leaves.
The cottontail hops into the clover, oblivious to the concert—
He's heard this piece before!

San Antonio, 2012

I Held a Hummingbird in My Hand

I held a hummingbird in my hand,
Its feet caught in the springs of an open garage door.
I pinched its legs between my thumb and forefinger,
Admiring its crimson throat,
Observing its rapidly beating heart,
As it waited patiently for freedom.
I walked out into the driveway
And tossed it skyward.
The hummingbird hesitated for an instant,
Then, engaging its motorized wings,
Sped along a shallow parabolic path
To the familiar surroundings of live oaks.

San Antonio, 2012

There Was a Time

There was a time when my love for you
plumbed depths deeper than ocean trenches,
scaled heights above mountain peaks,
soaring with the eagles at the zenith of their flight,
when the sight of you caused palpitations,
and your scent bored into my soul,
arousing, exciting, titillating both heart and loins,
when a day apart was longing,
and two was anguish,
but reunion was almost unbearably sweet—
there was a time—but it is no more.

San Antonio, 2013


I opened a fortune cookie and read my fortune:
“If you dream it, it will happen.”
In what universe?
I’ve dreamed of success, fulfillment, security,
happiness, tranquility—yes, and fortune.
I’ve received these things in dribs and drabs,
but mostly I’m still waiting.
Why, O wise one, do you give me false hope?
Why not be honest:
“Things aren’t going to work out the way you want”;
“You’re going to suffer setbacks in your relationships”;
“Stick to your day job!”
Hope is always contingent,
always iffy,
always a long shot,
but it’s better than having no hope at all.
So let me rewrite my fortune:
“If you don’t dream it, there’s no way it will happen.”
That’s a sentiment that gives me hope.

San Antonio, 2014


It starts as a whisper in the dark:
Did you know ...?
Have you heard ...?
Early on it could easily be snuffed out,
Like a flickering candle, but ...
Oh really?
It doesn't surprise me!
Some fan the flame,
While others stand idly by
And watch a spark become
A conflagration
Where heat extinguishes light
And smoke obscures truth,
Which really wasn't the goal at all.

San Antonio, 2012

Mayan Princess

To Viviana, and countless others.

     "Don't stare at me because I'm dark,
         for the sun has cast its gaze on me." (Cant 1:6)

You stand at the back of the crowd,
   head bowed, self-conscious smile covering capricious teeth,
aware of your tousled hair,
   your soiled dress, your sun-baked skin.

But your dancing eyes take in the scene,
   honey-obsidian flashing luminaries,
drawing the gazes of all around,
   for your stately grace transcends your imperfections.

Rather, they transform you from ordinary
   to mesmerizing, transfixing,
the prow of your pate, your prominent nose,
   your elegant curves and defiant spirit.

You think of yourself as invisible, a cipher,
   paling in worth before the foreign visitors to your village,
but in truth you are an imposing vision, a Mayan princess,
   daughter of jaguar gods and plumed serpents, apotheosis of beauty.

San Antonio, 2014, with roots in Honduras, early 2000s


En memoria de Lupe.

Go play with the other boys, mijo.
No, mamá, ellos no me acceptan. I'd rather be with the girls.
¡Oye, pinche maricón—vete! You don't belong here!
Why don't they like me, mamá? Why doesn't anyone like me?
I love you, mijo. They just don't understand you. Yo tampoco.
I just want to fit in! Quiero ser solo yo.
Why do you wear camisas de color rosa? And short shorts? ¡Chiflado!
It's who I am—just let me be who I am—¡por favor!

Mijo, it's time to leave the village. Go to the city, to Teguz.
Pero mamá, I don't know anyone there. ¡No quiero irme!
You must go, mijo. There's nothing for you here.
And there, mamá?
Esperanza, mijo. Hope.

Escúchame, Virgincita, since mi mamá no está aquí conmigo.
I have to tell you, because I think you'll understand why I do what I do.
A menos, espero que sí.
You too had a son who suffered, quien fue castigado, rejected by everyone, hated.
Ya me voy a ver a tu hijo, Virgincita, entonces please go to mi mamá and comfort her,
as only the mother of one misfit can comfort another.

San Antonio, 2014, with roots in Honduras, early 2000s

Along the Riverwalk

Angelic visage
silky smooth skin
your fingers intertwined with mine

eyes of burnished bronze
elegant curves
strolling alongside the river, andante

mahogany hair
hips gracefully swaying
until my lips touch yours—

supple, strong, inviting, amazing—

San Antonio, 2014

I Don’t Think about You

Just so you know,
I don’t think about you
EVERY minute of the day.

I do think about you as soon as I wake up,
and you’re often the last thought on my mind
as I drift off to sleep.

I think about you when I get to work in the morning,
and when it’s time for lunch
(whether or not we eat together that day)
and when it’s quitting time,
and at other random times throughout the day.

Obviously I think about you
when we’re together:
eating, talking, drinking,
shopping, kissing, staring into one another’s eyes.

And when we’re apart,
I often think about you
and wonder what you’re doing,
if you’re having fun,
whether you’re thinking about me
(and I know you often are!).

But no, I don’t think about you EVERY minute of the day,
just pretty much every waking moment,
so that leaves a few hours of sleep every night when
I don’t think about you—
unless I’m lucky enough
to meet you in my dreams.

San Antonio, 2014

Food Always Tastes Better when You’re Hungry

To a starving man,
a cup of soup has the aroma
of filet mignon.

A glass of water
to one parched from the summer heat
satisfies more than the finest wine.

Does that explain the intensity
of my love for you?
Was I ravenous for affection,
longing for something to quench
the aridity of my daily existence
(a term more accurate than life)?

Perhaps I thought so at first,
when my heart revived after its long slumber,
a consequence of your passionate kisses,
your gentle caresses,
your soft words.

But now I see that the feeling hasn’t abated.
On the contrary, it has deepened, broadened,
grown immeasurably, organically,
surpassing my wildest expectations.

Yes, my first taste of your love was undeniably sweet,
ecstatically satisfying and exciting—
and I was starving and parched,
I can see that now—
but your love for me goes beyond
mere soup or water,
even beyond filet mignon and fine wine,
for you offer me ambrosia and nectar,
the food and drink of the gods!

San Antonio, 2014

San Miguel Sketches

You pack your portmanteau and I'll pack mine
   To visit an exotic land, we two—
   Of Ozymandias and Quis ut Deus?
Mezcal, tequila tasting, and fine wine.

While wandering in the rain buscando alas,
   Estrellas del mercado beckon sure,
   The lesser light to rule the night azure,
The jewelry shops and bars and quaint art galleries.

Papisas, murals, bulls and toreadors,
   See dumpling men play chess and Rosewood views,
   Soirée en luna, lazy afternoons,
View puertas, arches, domes inspired by Moors.

Take oyster shots and lie around in bed,
Or watch the moon climb slowly overhead.

San Miguel de Allende, 2015

Where Do Ideas Come From?

ideas ovulating in hidden brain-folds
anxiously awaiting emergence
in speech or song or written word

but now, simmering on a back burner
in the penumbra of awareness
just below the bounds of birth

electrically charged neural nets
self-sustaining, sui generis
anions and cations swimming and swarming

and now, suddenly organized
into groups and rings and sets
they leap fully formed from the head of Zeus

San Antonio, 2013

First and Foremost

Cassiopeia boasted of her beauty,
Andromeda, her daughter, nearly paid with her life,
shackled to a stone, awash in the ocean,
awaiting death, hoping for deliverance
that came in the guise of Perseus.
Elated, she married him, her savior,
clinging to him, her partner for life,
one heart, one soul, united forever.
Nereids jealous, nymph daughters of Poseidon,
mesmerizing beauty, yet falling short,
incapable of attaining the mortal’s perfection.
Grace and elegance are yours in abundance,
only growing greater with the passage of time—
alabaster skin, silken hair,
mahogany eyes, stately lines.
Opals and sapphires, emeralds and diamonds,
rubies, garnets, pearls, and amethysts
dangle barely noticed from your throat and wrists,
earrings of gold attract little attention,
muted in comparison with your visage.
Indescribable joy, overwhelming happiness
vie with wonder and gratitude
in my heart whenever I consider you,
dulcet vision, surpassing even
Andromeda in form and bearing.

San Antonio, 2015

My First Week in Cape Town

A robot is a traffic light,
A pudding is a cake,
A napkin’s for your baby’s butt,
Don’t make a dumb mistake!

Potjiekos a type of stew,
The driver’s on the right,
Koeksisters, sweet twisted dough,
No Northern Star at night.

Mealie-pap is served with braai,
Afrikaans for barbecue,
Biltong, fil-m, boerewors—
Get on the plane, I’m through!

San Antonio, 2015

Poems from Rumi

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you,
not knowing how blind that was.

Lovers don't finally meet somewhere.
They're in each other all along.


In the early morning hour,
just before dawn, lover and beloved wake
and take a drink of water.

She asks, "Do you love me or yourself more?
Really, tell the absolute truth."

He says, "There's nothing left of me.
I'm like a ruby held up to the sunrise.
Is it still a stone, or a world
made of redness? It has no resistance
to sunlight."


When you are with everyone but me,
            you're with no one.
When you are with no one but me,
            you're with everyone.

I Can't: A Sonnet

I can’t write prose like Hemingway,
I can’t write poetry like Tennyson.
I can’t write plays like Chekhov,
I can’t write essays like Emerson.
I can’t paint like Van Gogh,
I can’t sculpt like Michelangelo.
I can’t design buildings like Andrew Lloyd Wright,
I can’t compose operas like Andrew Lloyd Webber.
But I can write from my own experience,
I can tell the stories of my life,
And of other lives I’ve imagined.
And I can love you with my whole being,
I can spend my days making you happy,
And I can forge ahead in the world with you at my side.

San Antonio, 2015

The Mole
(with apologies to Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

He digs through dirt with star-shaped nose,
Tunneling tubes in earthen rows,
Hid from light his kingdom grows.

He spies an earthworm that he likes,
Maneuvers close 'midst stones and spikes,
And like a slow-mo reel he strikes!

San Antonio, 2016

You Tell Me

You tell me not to write another poem about you
But stop I can't: you're my muse, my love, my life
You're part of every breath I breathe, every thought I think
You inhabit every corner of my being
The hawk soaring high in the sky reminds me of your grace
The mountain rising above the trees, your strength
The moon giving light to the night, your gentleness
The ocean stretching far as the eye can see, your compassion
Your laughter engages everyone around you
Your eyes enchant all who glimpse your face
Your kiss engulfs my heart with joy
Your smile enlightens the darkest corner of my soul
You tell me to stop writing about you, and someday I will
I'll stop on the day I lay down my pen for the last time

San Antonio, 2016

Ode to a Bat

When twilight falls across the ground
You twitter forth without a sound
Silhouetted 'gainst the sky
A crooked path you choose to fly
You beat the air with outstretched hands
O'er forests green or desert sands
Also known as Fledermaus
Inspiring work by Johann Strauss
Founder, flounder, flitter, flutter
Echolocating without a stutter
When of bugs you've had your fill
Leaving some for the whip-poor-will
As dawn draws near you cease to roam
And twitter back to your cavern home

San Antonio, 2016

Cut Flowers

Why buy cut flowers in a vase?
A living plant is more practical.
It lasts longer, reminding you
of feelings that continue
for weeks, months, years.
Cut flowers flourish, bloom,
wilt, wither, and die,
thrown out with the trash—
only a fading memory remains.
But oh! For that moment:
an explosion of color,
sweet, powerful fragrance,
capturing for a fleeting instant
the intensity of my passion
for you, my beautiful flower!

San Antonio, 2016

Make America Great—Again?

By again, do you mean turning back the clock
to the early 18th century,
when people of European descent
stole the land, the culture, the dignity, and the lives
of those whose land it was from time immemorial?

Do you want to return to the days
when one group of humans “owned”
another group of humans,
wringing free labor from the sweat of their brows,
disrespecting, beating, raping, killing them,
bringing upon our nation a great tragedy:
Civil War, bloody battles, fratricide?

Or how about the time of the robber barons,
the top one percent making money,
making rules for others to follow,
enriching themselves at the expense of the poor,
disenfranchised women,
exiles from the seat of power?

Maybe you want to revisit Jim Crow,
separate but (un)equal,
sitting in the back of the bus,
miscegenation laws,
license to discriminate based on the color of your skin,
or the person you love.

No, forget about making America great again,
because America is great right now—
or at least it’s on its way.
The arc of history is bending toward justice
because of people like Martin,
César, Abraham, Malcolm, Susan,
Rosa, Harvey, the Lovings,
James and John, Howard, Sojourner,
and so many more:
people who love their neighbors,
and also their enemies,
who see past color, and class, and perspective,
who work with others to make their communities strong,
their neighbors healthy,
their children safe.

Yes, America, don’t look back,
look forward to a great future:
it’s within your grasp.
All you have to do is cry out vociferously,
love magnanimously,
stand steadfastly,
and hope audaciously.

San Antonio, 2017

Hustle and Bustle

Up before the sun
Go to work!
Go to school!
Day in, day out
Crazy in the classroom
Busy in the office
Head home
Fight traffic
Cook, eat
Work some more
Always more!
Until finally
We crawl in bed together
And spend a few minutes
At the close of the day
In each other's arms
And the rest of the day
Fades away.

San Antonio, 2017

We Are San Antonio

Our ancestors came to this land
more years ago than one can count.
Hunting, gathering, fishing, living, loving, luxuriating
along the banks of the Yanaguana,
as our people, the Coahuiltecans, named it.
Many other people, with different speech and customs, have come as well,
but we are still here, the foundation of the city.
We are San Antonio!

Nuestra gente sent priests to scout the land,
building missions and towns to bring the gospel
to a people indifferent to its message,
but we fell in love with the land and its inhabitants,
teaching them and learning from them,
blending bloodlines, art, song—yes, and religion too—
to create something new and wonderful.
¡Somos San Antonio!

Americans, Texicans, Mexicans—what were we
when we entered Texas seeking land and refuge,
settling on the land granted to Austin, DeWitt, and Milam?
Some of us brought slaves—anathema to our Mexican rulers—
while others brought little more than the clothes on our backs.
Some came to fight and die alongside Travis, Bowie, and Crockett,
but we who lived, and we who came later,
transformed the city once again, making English a dominant language
for the first time in its history.
We are San Antonio!

And what of those of us who were brought to Texas enslaved,
“property” of other settlers, yet proud and fierce in spirit?
We contributed greatly to an economy we couldn’t participate in,
making others wealthy from our labor,
yet we endured, biding our time, rejoicing in Emancipation
announced two and a half years, and thousands of lives, too late,
and not fully realized for another century or more,
but we too have made our mark indelibly on the city.
We are San Antonio!

Unser Volk fled Europe during the Year of Revolution,
eager to escape the horrors of war
and the systems of oppression,
eager to try democracy and true freedom to worship,
or not, on the plains and hills and forests of Texas.
We bartered with the Comanches, built breweries
and printing presses and flour mills,
and strolled along the river reading unsere Zeitungen.
Wir sind San Antonio!

Our people’s stories are less well known, but we too are part of the city.
Look at the Japanese Tea Gardens—renamed the Chinese Tea Gardens during the war—
but who could miss the gated entrance, a torii reminiscent of our Shinto temples?
We Jews have lived here for over a century,
studying the Torah and bringing tikkun olam to our city.
We Arabs are also part of the fabric of the city, alongside
Indians and Iranians, Karens and Kenyans, Nepalese and Nigerians.
Together with those who came before, we say with a voice loud and clear:
We are San Antonio!

San Antonio, 2017

San Antonio, a Multicultural City

San Antonio, a multicultural city:
language & accent, food & drink, art & architecture, story & song
blended together—Asian tacos, jalapeño beer, modern families—
altogether lovely, beautiful, unique, home.

San Antonio, 2017

St. Joske's

When German immigrants founded St. Joseph Catholic Church,
they laid a cornerstone that said,
“Siehe die Wohne Gottes bei den Menschen,”
“Behold, the dwelling place of God is with men.”

Over the years they welcomed parishioners
who spoke English and Spanish,
mixing hymns and coritos with Lieder,
pound cake and buñuelos with Apfelstrudel.

They welcomed all who came—
until Joske’s offered to buy their land and relocate them.
The congregation refused,
So Joske’s built around them on three sides.

And still they continued to sing and pray and praise
in German, English, and Spanish,
declining to sell their birthright
for a mess of pottage.

Now seventy years later, the department store has been replaced by a mall,
but the church, jokingly called St. Joske’s, is still standing,
honored for refusing to let St. Joseph become
the patron saint of commerce.

San Antonio, 2017

May 16

We were young—too young to know
   who we were
   where we were going
   what we wanted

Except we wanted to be together
   laughing and talking
   kissing and hugging
   dreaming about a future

That we both knew, somehow,
   wasn't to be—
   and now
   on your birthday

I've seen a granddaughter born:
   a different wife
   a different life
   one filled with joy and regret

And I'm happy now
   I know you are too
   and I wonder if your happiness, or mine,
   traces back in any way

To those happy days long past
   when we were together
   for a brief time
   before starting our lives.

San Antonio, 2017

cummings attractions

youre killing me e e cummings
punctuation or lack thereof (at least
   not to mention CAPITALIZATION!

you had your reasons no doubt
clever, genius even
   (is that too much? stick with clever then)
but theres the rub—

your readers followers imitators
take it as gospel truth(?)
   that they can should do the same

but without your (ok, ill say it) genius
your creativity your understanding of the
   SHOCK value at the time

write words on a page
following no (perceptible) rules
   driving crazy me (and my poetry editor)

San Antonio, 2019


The dead never have to wear masks.—Carmen Tafolla ,”COVID and La Calaca”

You didn’t know what was happening,
because the doctors and nurses were wearing masks,
and since you could neither hear nor read their lips—
you couldn’t hear us on the phone, either—
your last days on earth were spent alone and confused.

It was a far cry from the days of my childhood,
when you were the strongest man I knew,
hitting a softball farther than anyone I’d ever seen,
tossing teenaged boys easily with either arm
as they (we) tried to dunk you in the pool.

Huge hands with fingers like telephone poles,
a contrast to my piano-player hands,
but they were gentle too, like you,
fit to build a cabinet or cradle a baby.

I remember you teaching me to play catch,
to swim,
to drive a car,
to hammer a nail (never my strong suit),
to play checkers and chess, cards and dominoes
(especially forty-two).

But as you lay there on that hospital bed,
Your lungs could no longer extract oxygen from the air,
so we watched as you gasped for one more breath…
and passed into the next world.

Since I’m writing on Dia de los Muertos,
it seems fitting to remember and honor you,
with an altar, a photo,
as I think about the past, with you in it,
and I ponder the day when I, too, will be a photo on someone’s altar,
and I will no longer have to wear a mask to talk to you.

San Antonio, 2020

The Cat

The cat doesn’t care if the gate is open or closed:
she can fit through the bars.
When mockingbirds attack,
trying to drive her away from their territory
she ignores them.

She’s more interested in seeing what 
the esperanzas hold,
hidden in the leaves above her head.
She knows, as do her avian assailants,
that between her needle-prick claws
and razor-sharp teeth, little gray birds
don’t stand a chance against her.

So she goes about her business,
seemingly oblivious to their assault.
But out of the corner of her eye
she measures the distance,
calculates the time required
to reduce her harassers
to a tasty snack,
and a pile of gray and white feathers.

San Antonio, 2021