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Joe Oppenheimer Some Poems _Table of Contents at the end


									                                          Joe Oppenheimer
                                            Some Poems
                                    (Table of Contents at the end)
                                              Prose Poems


    As usual, his hand shook slightly, but stopped with the pressure of the fat chalk on the board.
The equation in all its rigor didn’t emerge. With nary a hesitation, he tacked windward, and was
pleased that the faces of the small troupe of graduate students around the table didn’t reflect any
sense of his incapacity. The deceleration of his mind was unsettling enough without the sauce of
(A letter to some of my colleagues and students:) 12/10/09
Today is Faraz Haqqi’s, a recent honors student, last class. He doesn’t know what he is going to do.
Today is his professor’s last class. He doesn’t know what he is going to do either. Here it is, last
class day of the semester: Fall, 2009 in College Park, Maryland. Students planning their winter
break, their visits to family, distant friends, strange places; students applying to law schools, to
graduate schools, for jobs; students graduating. Faculty putting books on shelves, rethinking
research projects, reflecting on their semester, their good classes, their bad ones.
And Faraz’s professor? He is quietly considering the trip he has taken since 1970, actualizing the
dream of a college teaching career: thousands of students that came for a class or two, and moved
on. Many nurtured this dream. High school teachers of physics and history, and college professors
at Cornell. Professors Lowi and Lewis gave him extraordinary encouragement and helped him do it
and Oran Young and Marion Levy, Jr. at Princeton. Students became the fabric of his work, the
everyday joy and chore of the years that went by. Gaining their understandings of how to think,
how to grapple with life and their own intellects were both the occupation of his hours, and his
years. But beyond those thousands were the score of students who stay - in the mind - and
episodically occupy some lasting thought, triggering some real affection.
And they come to my mind today, before I go to this, very likely, my last class. I got up early to
think back on the steps to today. Today is my graduation day, my day to leave to the rest of my life.
No ceremony - I have next semester ‘off’ and probably will only announce my retirement to the
University sometime during the Spring. But today belongs to me, and as I dust off my belongings,
first in my memories are you - the few very special students who decorate my years and my
memories. Like the hundred or so kids in the New York Fresh Air Fund camp who first showed me
the joy of teaching, and the kids in DC projects who took extra time to try to master math and let
me understand the miracle of helping someone learn, like them you gave me the great joy of these
years. Teaching has been partly about the many students but also about the few. You were those
few, who, for what ever the reason, gave me the moments of high sharing and personal growth in
this career and I thank you.
Some of you aren’t here any more: Janet Boetner for example. Many of us have stayed in touch but
for various odd reasons, some of us haven’t: no matter. Still, in my heart, I thank each of you: it was
with you that I had my very best moments in this career and for that I will remain very grateful.
May you have as wonderful a career as I have had. And, happy holidays!
Time to be moving on. Thanks again.
                                          2 Types of People
    I had always claimed there were two types of people: those that pick their noses and those that
don’t. We all laughed that Thanksgiving in 1964, when my son returned from his first months in
college quite educated in the ways of world and ready to correct me when I repeated that old adage.
“Not two, Dad. Lots more. There are those who pick their noses in public, and those that don’t.
And even more, we could identify those that eat their booggers and those that don’t.” He’d learned
a bit about how to think, he did.
    Clyde didn’t finish getting educated in school. We didn’t have the money to keep him there, and
the draft picked up in early ‘65. He was an early pick, but in those days, if you agreed to an
immediate two years active, you could get your pick of alternatives. His Ma and I rooted for the
navy, and somehow, we won.

                                            Other Poems
             Friday, June 29, 2012
                                                     Second draft: Sunday, June 24, 2012
Birthdays pass.
I don’t count their number.                          Frowning.
And lately, with them,                               Hand in hand.
funerals                                             Walking.
that mark ends.                                      Even though
                                                     they're not
And in the box                                       talking –
we see friends                                       and don't
and brothers                                         like life or
and eyes that look up                                each other.
while ours gaze down

Until quietly it turns
around. And their brown
orbs are up and
just beyond
I would see a cloud.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                              Page 2
                                           Blown Away
                     started: Wednesday, June 20; edited Sunday, June 24, 2012
My mind is full of doubts                             I still wonder why
Like the head                                         after I
of a dandelion ripe                                   built a house
to be blown away                                      calculating all
always. Though                                        putting in
I know                                                cement,
I can calculate                                       2x4's
and two                                               a roof
and two                                               a floor
is always                                             it doesn’t
four.                                                 fall.

And full of surprise                                 So with wonder fear surprise
like a child’s eyes                                  as we go over the rise
that Momma’s                                         back home from a day
still there                                          away
after each                                           we find
peek-a-boo;                                          the house
                                                     stayed whole
And when building so tall                            again
with blocks                                          today.
just to see
so easy
it all

Super Heroes
(draft 3) December 5, 2012

Cartoonists draw Super Carrots to                    Determine Dads to
   pick up donkeys’ pace;                               work with no stop,
                                                        so not to lose the race;
Motivate Moms to
   change more diapers,                              But keep Kids from studying.
   and iron mens’ messy shirts;                         They know a comic
                                                        when they see one.
Steel Soldiers to
    deal death swiftly,
    and then die in foreign dirts;

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                       Page 3
                                  Comic Man (Saturday, April 20, 2002)
Old man, dead pan.                                    Superman it
Past your prime,                                      advertises -
pumping iron all the time:                            in small -
everyday a bit lighter                                lived here
than                                                  one
yesterday.                                            perhaps
                                                      heroic moment.
Finish in the shower
cleaning your skin loose                               Did you leap
on that tower                                          tall buildings
that maybe was                                         to save
unremarkable in every way                              a friend
save the old marine                                    or dream of stopping crime?
of now                                                 Perhaps you thought
missing hair,                                          you saved Switzerland
                                                       from Nazi time
gray as the far faded red field                        or told old Churchill
in the small                                           of a coming attack.
dusty blue
and yellow                                             With such little reality
now ochre                                              to hold
logo                                                   Why not
tattooed                                               be bold
to your upper bicep.                                   and proclaim
                                                       comic man.

Last Day at the Office                                 As with his old
December 4, 2012, draft 3                              reprints, paper.

The last day                                           His laptop
he didn’t stay                                         was all he’d packed.
till quitting time -
                                                       He turned his back.
handed in his key.
                                                       Pulling stuff on a dolly,
To the library                                         he wondered what was ahead
Went his cartonned books.                              in the little time between
                                                       the terminus and life led.
Awards and photos?
Going home.                                            He only felt the loss
                                                       leaving the parking lot.
Research logs, notes?
Being thrown

out by paid help.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                        Page 4
Memories Ingrained                                  Dream Traveler

Ingrained memories of kids                          Working part days
drawing, writing, doodling -                        dreams unravel.
pushing dull pencils, sticks -
on the old pine topped                              Working Sundays,
kitchen table.                                      pushing his broom
                                                    picks up papers,
Left marks - as                                     he saves Travel,
from too hot                                        throwing all else
pots, and cuts                                      in the barrel.
from too dull
choppers.                                           Move through
                                                    next doors
Bringing yesterday                                  next room,
into today.                                         next gates, next rows;
                                                    mop floors,
Until after 30 years                                leave the airport -
refinishing leaves them                             a week of dreams
in sawdust                                          of new travel
vacuumed –                                          in his pocket.

Amounting to nothing                                When his working
but newly                                           is not Sunday
glossy surfaces.                                    Then he’s stuck
                                                    in the rut
                                 December 6, 2012   of his one room flat.
                                                    And other days, cleans
                                                    now with no Travel.
                                                    It seems forever
                                                    then, stuck at home:
                                                    no dreams, in place.
                                                    As today:
                                                    no escape.
                                                                     Thursday, September 13, 2012

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                            Page 5
(May 5, 2006)
One can travel so far
be so distant
one is gone
alone in no where
even with a phone
and email.

Left alone with one’s mind.
Friends’ wrinkles, their eyes
can not quite be recalled
and distances make news a shadow
that satisfies little.
Half way around the world is as far as we can go I thought.

Not quite so distant as my friend Bill.
His death left only regrets. Although it
seems as though miles can cause fabrics to tear
It is death that really leaves one in the rags of solitude.

War on Terror
Joe A. Oppenheimer
(Friday, September 28, 2012)

Grey haired lady                                              With a prod
by the dairy –                                                I move
phones in ears:                                               her basket.
can’t hear                                                    She yells,
my “ ’Scuse me!”                                              “Go away!”
                                                              I do:
I touch her
shoulder                                                      A terrorist
lightly,                                                      escapes
eliciting                                                     in the local
“Oh, please, God!”                                            Safeway.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                Page 6
                                (for John Lennon)
                                Joe Oppenheimer

Poets should live                           In their singular
till death comes their way.                 lack of production
Do not gun them down                        they appear to serve
on that day                                 no function
as a demented soul                          But give a poor man
who twists his whole                        a moment of beauty
sense of symmetry and form                  a penny to spend,
for a catastrophic norm                     or a torn heart
of death.                                   and he, with a whistle,
                                            a radio, or a word
Poets give color to life                    will turn to art.
with their inked verse
and use of terse                            Give a poet a pen
verbiage                                    Give an artist a brush.
doing so little                             They above all
of material                                 give to the rest of us.
value.                                      Do not gun them down.
                                            Put their works around town.
Poets tell us
nothing                                     Is not that killer
we do not                                   also one of us?
already know.                               Does he not help
But telling it                              define our species?
again,                                      Why not accept him
anew                                        as the mark
can make it so.                             of our humanity?

Shed a tear                                 12/9/80
for the man
who gunned down
John Lennon,
whose music
was a small token
marking humanity.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                              Page 7

Having turned 65, and come home from New Zealand’s winter,
banished back to Washington’s muddle,
I had a dream so true as to know it before it happened
although my dreams aren’t like that.

In it I was coming home, just then, and going to a party.
I was indeed: Evan was to be married in Philly.

But the dream was in the country, just now, in June, and his younger sibling
was to introduce his beautiful partner to friends and family.

We celebrated, and Herb Friedman came from my college days.
As did Howie. They wore ties and jackets, though we never did.
The ties were woolen, tartan and thick, like my mother used to give me.

Bill wasn’t in the dream, I wonder how this happened.
Did he use his heart attack to die? He was a doctor,
and knew the symptoms. But told his wife Katherine it was no matter
just a stomach upset. Did he want to die?

But no matter, for as I told you, he didn’t come. Herb did.
All to celebrate Robbie. I was so afraid I might mix them up:
the names of such good friends. How could I? And would I remember
Sarah’s name when she arrived in her maroon sweater?
Herb spoke; he brought a book
“Tools for Happy Wanderings.”
It was all about taking care of the elderly.

Funny, isn’t it, that he would bring such a book, and talk about it
at such an event. We know of happy wandering,
We aren’t even taking care of anyone anymore.
Francie died - years ago above 94.
and yet, I wondered, “Did we lock the car?”
I left to see; we had, but I turned on the radio
and sat a while. What for? I don’t know. It was winter then. Snow lightly falling.

Bonnie came with Herb and Howie to see to where I had wandered
and to bring me home.
I wasn’t sad until I awoke, home again from New Zealand.

The next night I didn’t sleep. How could I?
July 2, 2006

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                        Page 8
                                                      Paradoxical Knowledge
                         Songs                           Joe Oppenheimer
                  Tuesday, July 10, 1990                   May 15, 1982

I asked my mother                          A run in a nylon: not just torn cloth -
to sing her song
                                           unstoppable, disastrous, just like
by the campfire
in the moonlight                           a bleeding juggler vein or poisonous broth:
when I was young.
                                           far too dramatic to be in my life.
No. No, no, no, no.                        Is the great unrepaired disaster but
She cried.
                                           a wet toilet seat, or a cold coffee
Not to you, my son,
Not tonight, by the fire                   with which I greet the dawn when I rise up?
in the moonlight.
                                           Or is there unraveling others can't see
Before sleeping,                           Some, clairvoyantly perceive their own souls -
I watched the tops of trees
                                           see their needs within without the combat
tickling stars so high
wondering why                              for truth I experience. But my life's roles
I heard no song tonight.
                                           leave me to fear truth like a rabid rat.
When many years later,                     One night it receded so far from me,
she was fraile and old
                                           I felt there could be none: it could not be.
not at a fire but in a bed,
ill and cold.
I asked Why was there never
a time, to sing your own song?

She returned,
It had been long
but there was no wrong
in only singing others' songs.

Though I could not see
the reason before she died,
I still try.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                         Page 9
                                        "How're ya doin', sir?"
                  Outside the Waldorf   in gin talk
                        1/7/81          as you walk
                   Joe Oppenheimer      by
                                        tonight's self-selected victim
Did you ever see a rag shirt            waiting to ask,
man                                     "Can ya help me?"
asleep on the grate
of a ventalation shaft                  Pass by
at minus eight                          quickly!
in the city?                            But ears hear
                                        though your eyes
Snow, drifting down                     can be willed
covering the town                       not to focus
and the top of him,                     on the locus
then melting below                      of his pain.
causing icicles
to flow                                 On through the crowd
from grey whiskers.                     toward revolving doors
                                        promising warmth
Cousins sleep in cardboard              for the air
boxes                                   in the shaft
to block the wind                       again tonight.
as flesh freezes                        Why does the encounter
in the city.                            stick
                                        in your mind?

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                            Page 10
                       Lichen                                         Ima Hogg
                  Joe Oppenheimer
             January 26 - March 13, 1982             Big Ima Hogg's
                                                     got two mean shepherd dogs.

In our time                                          Daily, each gets only a bone:
days pass                                            keeps 'em vicious when she walks alone
to form years.                                       away from home
We have little                                       to the corner store.
or nothing
save rocks                                           On the walk,
on which to root                                     she asserts
- like lichen:                                       her place,
pushing forever                                      yet uses no words.
for warmth                                           Her grey face
from the too scanty rays                             (like a bomb)
of our sun.                                          is set to detonate
                                                     -- by fear.
                                                     But rapists and muggers
Would that we had                                    won't come near.
the patience of                                      Ima brandishes a well
primitive plants                                     sharpened stick:
and could measure our success                        she's got deterrence.
in terms of the rock splits we
engender for future generations                      Ima's terror -
of oak and poplar.                                   born
                                                     within her.
Our egocentricity leaves us narrower views:
We only see rocks                                                     July, 1981
our individual failures.

This is so
even though
we grow
like lichen
to the heat absorbing
stone's solidity -
even while
it denies
us the nutrients
we need to bloom.

                                           Joe Oppenheimer

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                             Page 11
                                                 A Song segment
                                                  for John Prine

                 by Joe Oppenheimer
                 Saturday, May 19, 1990

                 Suzie's mirror don't reflect the light.
                 It turned her day into night
                 in its shiny golden frame.

                 We get our mirrors from where we can;
                 some are straight and some are bent.

                 She got her mirror when she was four.
                 They were takin' her mother out the door;
                 Our dad took it off the floor
                 and said, "She won't need it anymore.

                 Your mom's always saying: 'It ain't right...
                 makes my lips seem awful tight -
                 puts a wave in my straight hair.'"

                 They come scratched and they come true;
                 my mirror's mostly blue.

                 One day Suzie's mirror fell and broke,
                 Hours passed - she hadn't spoke
                 She bought a mirror; put it on the shelf
                 in it she saw a stranger: not herself.

                 Suzie's world never looked the same
                 She put her dress in some gas to soak
                 and stuck a match to light the flame.
                 All we found was the old gold frame
                 and mirrored glass which had broke.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                      Page 12
Flying August 11, 2006

Flying to Germany on its pages
with the real and the art so confused by its phrases
that all the disappearance displacement dissolving
of my family, inheritances, and the Reich
were replaced modern glass domes
river walks with official reminders of the past.
An over read paper back thick as
Family lines broken seven to many tens times
on many krystal nachts
broken like seven hundred novel pages
falling out from its broken back.
Pages disappeared
with fantastized justice
imagined and extolled on its jackets
from chapters
far less strangely planned than Berlin.
It sold millions. Beauty does.
Germany had no tourists when it was ashambles
Now it does.

What is past passed and morphed
as little bronze plaques “Israel Schwartz zu Auchwitz Jan 19, 1942”
und so weiter . . . and ersatz concrete coffins
- perfect play fields for Berlin’s children
hide and seek.
Berlin stays stranger than fiction.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                         Page 13
                                Meeting Place (published, Chronogram 12/2012)
                                           by Joe A. Oppenheimer

                                                  On the mug
                                              my mother held –
                                            where birds she loved
                                               under the storm
                                                painted in grey,
                                         over blue spruce, green pine,
                                              and brown earth –
                                                     for years
                                                    she and I
                                                almost touched
                                                   on its rim.
                                                   Our hands
                                                 almost joined
                                                   on its grip.
                                                Then careless,
                                                    I let it slip
                                                  and shatter.
                                              With no where else
                                                to rendezvous,
                                                  we’d never
                                                   be together

                                                                          Friday, September 28, 2012

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                               Page 14
                                       Golden Calf by Joe Oppenheimer
                                 March 13 & 14, 1982 for Bonnie and my children

                   What do I do - standing
               in front of your kitch voodoo,                                Is that why
              five legged mask with its metal                                 she prays
                    eye bulges out front?                                  with her back
              Lipschitz, are you just another                           to the voodoo man?
                       Ethiopian Jew?                                  No, I pray to no void,
                                                                to no God who first played with Job
                    Supplications to a void                      and then told him, "Question not!"
                     don't suit my mind:                                 Our creator orders
                    It has always been so                                   this universe
                         even before                                       with peversity.
                            the first                                        But I rebel.
                         golden calf.
                                                                        Like Epstein's bronze
                   I pray to a cast primitive                                  I anguish
                         and my wails                                  over my powerless state
                         and torments                                    and watch my loves'
                   turn to you for witchery.                                   interiors
                        Epstein,                                                  away.
            have your bronze lady pray for me.                         We come with our own
                                                                     visitations to your primitive
          You - who omnipotently created her,                       temples. "Listen ye bronzes!
                     froze her pain -                                      We created you.
                  tell her to take mine.                                          You
                You - who bloodlessly                                             must
                         beheaded                                                 heed
                        six heroes                                              my cry."
                        to recreate
                     their exteriors -
                         tell me:
                   can we know more
                    of those we love?
                  Are her eyes pierced
                          for pain
                     because she saw
                 beyond your six skins?


O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                                        Page 15
                    Depression                       by Joe Oppenheimer
                Joe Oppenheimer                    Wednesday, April 18, 1990
          Tuesday, June 14, 1988: 12:19am
                      ----------                    You get what you sow,
                                                       only in Hollywood
                       When Clarity                         and there
                         let her see:              perhaps only before Eden:
                     the view was pain.
                          But now,                  without death and weeds.
                        murky dusk
                       obscures and         Just watch a gardener with his many seeds
                       window grates                and all the petro chemical
                       aren't needed.                  prophylactics against
                                                  his hostile parasitical enemies.
                           Mind bars
                          keep her in,                   On earth day
                           others out.                they say to preserve
                                                      the crop the farmer
                    Joshua's men can't                 despoils the earth.
                        shout down
                       ethereal veils:                     Maybe so.
                     they don't shatter.
                                                     Gardening since Eden
                           10x10                      is an uneven match
                          solitary,                         only won
                    too small to dance,                 in the short run.
                      too dark to see,
                     too low to stand.

                   Jailor? Not needed
                  Till the sentence ends.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                  Page 16
                                      Eulogy for the Premature Deaths of Our Children
                                                       Joe Oppenheimer
                                                     for Joshua and Sarah

              Dull noise: a thud.                                II.
              Too quiet to threaten others far away.
              A fall, little blood.                             Violence of one to another:
              Three hours later noone will see life died here   the deaths died as we grow older.
              today.                                            From where do they come? Why?
                                                                Who is there to help?
              Someone's toys: a gasoline flood                  Only the passerby.
              from a Honda'a tank trickling                     Yet we wave him on:
              blood red gas                                     don't even try.
              as from his gash
              from chin to forehead.
              A twitch.                                         Raise children to fight,
              Blue shutters close slowly                        rather than cry
              over his eyes.                                    for help.
              "Noone to help?"                                  Raise children not
              the lone witness cries.                           to stop and kneel
              Dust sprayed by the speeding cars                 or discover what the
                                                                dying feel. . .
              closes his wounds                                 only then do we know securely
              coats                                             they would die prematurely
              the blued, unblinking stare.
              Noone to help but
              to cover him
              and tow the wreck
              and clean the spill
              and wave the drivers by.
              Let the cyclist die.


O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                               Page 17
                                                           A Hit
                                             Lost in the anachronistic gutters
                                              those spirals filled with flutters:
                                          black traps for catching the soul’s food
                                                coming through the needle
                                                   mainlined to the brain.
                                                       Once a mass:
                                                    now so much junk.
                                                       Bach is dead.
              Joe Oppenheimer, Saturday, October 28, 2000.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                        Page 18
              Not Even Almost Chronological
              Joe Oppenheimer

              The place of time
              in rhythm or rhyme
              does not escape the mind.

              But time’s orderings
              History’s skeleton
              our hanger of kings
              and pharaohs -
              knocked a kilter
              to communicate our sensate litter?

              How out of sorts
              it would be
              were it that we
              were dead
              before born.

              Hard to conceive a cosmology
              out side of chronology.
              Where the end may come first
              and the path of time
              goes no where -
              in particular;
              nor helps us
              connect the dots.

              But not even almost chronological
              is the world we hear or read.
              Out one mouth
              In one ear, then.
              But from when
              did it come?

              Learned so out of line
              we make our patterns in
              free form time.
              To place sense
              on experience.

              That is the way the world is told to you
              not within a time
              but without.

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                            Page 19
                                                         Joe Oppenheimer

              Fresh leaves and buds
              on the trees;
              new greens and cherry blossoms
              in December. I have passed too many years
              to consider it bold:

              Merely waste, life spent
              before its time,
              lost in the coming of winter,
              are the hopes of a still too foreign spring.

              Yet my children see
              in this last harvest warmth
              -indeed, in the very same tree-
              just another surprise
              gift of joy in life.

              Who has the better vision
              does not seem to be the question.
              Is it the old man's obsession for protection
              against the winters which are foreknown,
              or the child's
              eye which sees
              the beauties
              which are seasonless?

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                              Page 20
                                                 Alley Death
                                               Joe Oppenheimer
                                                 June 23, 1980

                         Dying on the street
                         Blood on his brain
                         Toppling from his feet
                         There in the cold rain.

                         Calling others as friends
                         they stopped, stared,
                         took pictures through a lens,
                         -refused to meet or rally
                         the pained soul in the alley.

                         Begging God
                         he came as barker
                         to ask goodness from humanity.

                         But they laughed
                         rolled a joint
                         and passed on.

                         Both died then
                         without further

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                    Page 21
                         Table of contents

                         Prose Poems 1
                             Forced (1)
                             A letter to some of my colleagues and students (1)
                             2 Types of People (2)

                         Other Poems 2
                             Endings (2)
                             Sharing (2)
                             Blown Away (3)
                             Super Heroes (3)
                             Comic Man (4)
                             Last Day at the Office (4)
                             Memories Ingrained (5)
                             Dream Traveler (5)
                             Rags (6)
                             War on Terror (6)
                             Poets (7)
                             Stages (8)
                             Songs (9)
                             Paradoxical Knowledge (9)
                             Outside the Waldorf (10)
                             Lichen (11)
                             Ima Hogg (11)
                             A Song segment (12)
                             Flying (13)
                             Meeting Place (14)
                             Golden Calf (15)
                             Depression (16)

                                    Gardening (16)
                                Eulogy for the Premature Deaths of Our Children (17)
                                Hit (18)
                                Not Even Almost Chronological (19)
                                Buds (20)
                                Alley Death (21)

O p p e n h e im e r Po e m s                                                          Page 22

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