Saturday, August 29, 2020

Sandi Leibowitz Returns


This summer Sandi Leibowitz has joined my poetry group for its workshops even though she lives in NYC.  Isn't Zoom wonderful!  The second poem in this entry is from one of the workshops, by the way.


Memorial Day

May 25, 2020


People throng the beaches,

worse than those islands where walruses

flop to shore to mate and bask,

so many bodies toe to toe

rather than tusk to tusk.

So much bare skin,

all those jeans unzipped,

T-shirts ripped off revealing

sun-starved flesh,

and nakedest of all,

unmasked faces.


It makes me shudder,

the thought of all those bodies,

all those mouths breathing

in and out contagion.

If the beach-goers are exhibitionists

of pinniped dimensions,

I am a tortoise,

sheltering in place

within the shell of my apartment.

Even indoors, my white skin’s

duly layered.


At three p.m., from my window wafts

the sound of someone honoring

other bodies:

a bugler playing Taps.

The Boat

For Bay Thi Huynn, who fled from Vietnam in a boat with her husband Joseph in 1980. They died in Worcester, MA of the coronavirus on the same day.


Sixty years ago, the boat of marriage

carried me to you.

It was not a ship of our own making,

but it was our labor

that kept it from foundering.

It had no engines, no sails.

Always, we rowed together,

sometimes through desperate currents.


I counted on you,

as you did me,

to work the oars

despite the ache of muscles

pushed too far,

exertion almost beyond endurance.

If you pulled too hard,

we went off course.

If I stopped rowing,

the boat went in useless circles.


When our land grew too dangerous,

you built in secret a real boat.

We used one of my old dresses for a sail

and gave ourselves and our children

to the sea,

risking everything.


We were lucky ones;

we survived and built

new lives in a new country.


Now in the same hospital

we lie for the first time

in separate beds,

the rhythm we hear not

the splash of waves

or each others’ heartbeats

but the labored intake

and outtake of our breathing,

the machines’ chirps.


Take my hand, Joseph,

let us pull away


as we did in life,

in sixty years of love,

traversing this new ocean.

What is one more journey?






The Word


There are no nuances

in my students’ vocabularies.

They don’t even know

simple words like “faucet.”

So I assumed they have no belief

in the potency of words.


But from the massive continent

of the school library’s

Unabridged Dictionary

someone has carved out

and set adrift the island

of a single word—



In someone’s pocket, the noun

bulges like purloined diamonds;

it rolls unspoken on someone’s tongue

like ice cream before dinner.


-- A version of the above poem was previously published in Bigger Stones.

After the Dentist, I Long for Sweetness but Can’t Console

Myself with Cake and So Stop at the St. Mark’s Bookshop

Before Going Home in the Stinging Winter Rain


A book of old Chinese poems.

That should do it.

I want to imagine a lake.

It’s summer

and there are cranes.

They cross carefully

like courtesans

lifting silk skirts


the emperor’s






Sandi has just published a new book, Ghost Light, a quarantine journal in verse.  The first two poems are from this book.  I encourage you to purchase it; here is the link:


Let's post some music from Smalls Jazz Club, a venue that has broadcast performances daily despite the quarantine, despite the curfew. 

The first video is of a jam session with Roy Hargrove, Stacy Dillard, Sebastian Rios, and others:


Here the Jonathan Kreisberg Quartet plays "The Song is You": 


The Eric Wyatt Quartet plays "One for Hakim":  


I'll finish with the Ari Hoenig Trio and "Take the Coltrane":

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