Poetry from Steve Bloom

Archives: Last ten poems from the home page 


Walking down a long-neglected block
in a long-neglected neighborhood
of the South Bronx I spy—sprouting
through the sidewalk's cracks in front
of a seemingly abandoned warehouse—
weeds, so long-neglected that they
have reached a height of one or two feet.

That's kind of tall for weeds sprouting
through the sidewalk's cracks,” I think
to myself, decide that I should stop
for a moment, contemplate their struggle.
Bending down to listen I expect
to hear complaints about how life
has treated them so unfairly, perhaps
an expression of jealousy for
their cousins who grow so easily,
not far away, in that tree-pit
strewn with random debris.
Yet the only sound which reaches
my ear is the gentlest chorus
of voices murmuring, repeatedly:

Thank you for this space to grow.
Thank you for this space to grow.
Thank you
        for this space to grow.

It may not be much,
but it belongs to us.

It may not be much.
        But it belongs
        to us."



Where you Find Yourself
If we see flowers planted in a line
or shrubs, constrained and trimmed
with perpendicular sides,
you know right away that you are in a place
of human habitation.
If we see a river
constrained by concrete banks
to make sure it does not intrude
on the spaces selected for humans
to inhabit, you are surely in a city,
or at least a large town.
No river begins its existence
with perpendicular banks
of hand-poured stone.
Nor did the trees, the grasses,
the frogs and turtles,
egrets, dragonflies, sandbanks
or tumble-down rocks that once
lived along these shores ever
think to object if the waters
changed shape from time to time,
visited their lives more intimately. Indeed
this was something they needed
to remain alive and in proper harmony.
Which is why, when I seek
to remain alive and in harmony
I go where the river offers me
its unfettered intimacy,
play the game I call "imagine"—
that there is no place on earth
where flowers are grown
in straight lines, our lives
channeled by hand-poured stone.


There are more than a few
such moments in my life.
Not so many, however, that
I actually care to remember.
Too often events I
am unable to forget
evoke regret whenever they
return unbidden, as they
    most often will
    in the middle
    of a dark night.
Yet right now I am thinking
about the time my very first lover
(a few days before she became
my lover) ran across a room
full of people and leapt into
my arms when we saw each other
again after an absence of months,
    as if there was
    no one except
    the two of us present,
because I am reminded of this
while I am remembering you,
singing your song in a more recent
room full of people, yet looking
into my eyes as if there was no one
except the two of us present.
And then later, when I told you—
    the way your eyes
    sparkled at me
    once again.
I do realize, of course,
that this memory of your song
and of your eyes
cannot possibly last so long
as the one of my first lover,
if only because she
    has all those decades
    that you may never
    catch up to.
And yet I will cherish it still,
and in much the same way, as
one of those rare unforgettables
which I may take refuge in
whenever the regrettables
    arise unbidden
    as they most often will
    in the middle
    of a dark night.

Love Child


Think of this mountain range

as a love child, born

from the passion unleashed

by two tectonic plates as one

dives, uncontrollably,

            into the other.


Think of the earthquake

as a female orgasm,

rising up from deep within:

a momentary release

after so many years of stress,

of longing, striving,

on each such occasion,

to achieve a peak

higher than any that has

            been reached before.


Think of the volcano

as a male orgasm,

exploding, spewing its flow

across the waiting flesh

            of the earth.


No one planned

for these mountains to be born here.

It was a random happenstance

of a planet’s uncontrolled lust—

the drive, simply, to do what

a rocky planet

            with a  molten core

                        needs to do,


And then think again of love:

of God’s love

            if you believe in any god;

of my love whether

            you believe in god

            or do not.





Many are proclaimed


over the airwaves,

in the press,

on the net,


to be great thinkers,




Many are proclaimed.


But Eduardo Galeano really was.


Eduardo Galeano

            really was.


     *   *   *   *   *


(For Eduardo Galeano 1940-2015)


Go to https://mesanger.wordpress.com/2015/04/13/for-eduardo-galeano-on-the-day-of-his-departure/
for a moving tribute by my good friend Mary Ellen Sanger



The Debt


Once a year we hear

the words of Martin’s dream,

and he receives a boulevard

for every city in this land.

            It doesn’t pay

            the debt we owe.

In a state where you

stood by while he was killed

an airport now is known

for Medgar Evers.

            It doesn’t pay

            the debt we owe.


And sometimes you repeat, by rote,

a song that Ella also sang. But no,

not even this, nor placing

one Black face inside

the whitest of your houses

            pays the debt we owe.


Our debt sprouts roots

which dig that deeply:

down into a soil on which

these huddled masses toiled

without relief—though

they, too, had a yearning

            to breath free.


Your prestigious universities,

cathedrals, mansions, palaces

of culture or of sport

and so much more—even

“amber waves of grain”

of which you sing

with so much pride

(from sea to shining sea)—

have grown upon

this ground, fertilized

long ago by unpaid blood

            and tears.


“God’s grace was shed on thee”—

‘tis said, and yet they rarely note

that this was at the cost

of someone’s unpaid blood

            and tears.


“Times have changed”

I hear you cry and it is true:

strange fruit does not so often hang

from southern trees these days.

It rots away instead in prison cells

or finds itself cut down too soon

            upon a ghetto’s street.

The stolen labor, land and lives

just continued by another name,

you see, even after someone realized

that it might serve you just as well

to mark the end of chattel slavery.


The debt,

            I note, is still

                        compounding  as we speak.


Stories such as this will often

find their end upon a moral,

so here’s how this one goes:

            The time is now

            to pay the debt we owe.


The time has come

            to pay the debt we owe.




A Walk on the Beach


No one else there with them yet.

Too early in the year.

Still, today’s unfiltered sunshine

presents the promise

of its future season.


And so they stroll together

in search of reasons.


Taking off their shoes

they ask the tiny specks

that glisten between their toes.


Then they query the gust of wind

that causes him to chase after his hat.


They interrogate the flies that alight on the sand,

only to take off again before anyone has the time

            to consider why.


They search for meaning in each other’s words,

carefully chosen, perhaps still more

in the silence between these words.


They look deeply into each other’s eyes.


Still, today, their questions can be answered

only by the cries of the gulls.

Or is it by their laughter?


After, during their parting, his goodbye hug

lingers just a moment or two longer

than is merely polite and he wonders

whether she will comprehend

the question that this has posed.


His goodbye hug

lingers a moment or two longer,

which makes him wonder

            whether he himself can truly comprehend

                        the question that this poses?




Historical Note

        “Those who cannot remember the past
        are condemned to repeat it”—George Santayana

1940s: Nazis wall off the Warsaw Ghetto 
deny it's residents access 
to jobs, to food, to the world beyond; 
begin a systematic genocide;
are surprised when, later, they're 
confronted by armed resistance. 

21st Century: Israelis wall off Gaza 
deny its residents access 
to jobs, to food, to the world beyond; 
begin a systematic genocide;
aren't at all surprised (we know, 
because they are so well prepared) 
when, later, they're confronted 
by armed resistance. 

And thus we discover
that it is possible 
for some people
to both remember the past
and repeat it too.





Another Question for You to Ponder

Suppose I told you 
that future generations
will judge your civilization
not by the wealth you accumulated,
nor by the wars you won, 
not even by the technological marvels
that you created. They will not 
take account of your art 
of your music, or of the great buildings
you have constructed. 
Suppose I told you
that future generations
will judge your civilization, instead, 
by the human beings 
you threw away.
Walk the streets of this city.
It's one place to count them—
well, some of them, anyway— 
with their signs that say 
“Hungry. Homeless,”
 just their vacant stares.
What if I told you
that future generations
will judge your civilization 
by the human beings 
you threw away?
What would you do then?





Notice of Baggage Inspection

To protect you and your fellow passengers,”
a card pops out of my single piece
of checked luggage after the flight,
“your bag was among those selected. . . .
We appreciate your understanding
and cooperation.”

Whose hands, I wonder, have been grubbing
around among my undergarments in search 
of a terrorist device? 

I do “understand,” of course,
the same way any victim
of a mugging understands.
"Cooperation," however, suggests
I had a choice.

I make choices when I can

which is why the only terrorist device
in this bag was a few books of poetry.
True: all of my poems, so many
other acts of resistance you 
and I have performed over the years seem
to impact their well-fortified reality only
as much as the protest of ocean waves 
against the seawall on a mild spring afternoon. 
Remember, however that the very same laws 
of force and motion are at work
on that day when a tsunami arrives
to sweep the seawall away.

And after our tsunami, which 
will sweep away all of the security 
check-points, border guards, and other
fortifications designed to maintain 
the supremacy of the biggest terrorist 
enterprise the world has ever known 
I will embark upon another journey, 
this time to the address which today
(according to the notice in my hand) 
houses the Transportation 
Security Administration. There I 
will present a small printed card 
to each former employee as desks
are being cleaned out:

"We appreciate your understanding
and cooperation."