Poetry from Steve Bloom


Steve's Poems: Permanent Collection
(A dozen of Steve's all-time favorites)


 The Clock . . .


  . . . without hands

  still may understand the time,

  but cannot speak to me.


  I walk down the street

  gaze at faces of other clocks

  as we pass each other by,


  wish I could supply

  each one of them

  with the hands it lacks,


  wish, in fact,

  that I could remember

  where I left my own.





  Self Portrait


  Every day of my life


  a lover selects a flower to pluck

            from her meadow;

  a prisoner dreams of what lies

            beyond the dungeon;

  a child takes first steps;

  raindrops re-sculpt a mountain peak;

  music is performed that none

            has ever heard before;

  somebody, once again, admires

            a Van Gogh self-portrait.


  Our calendar says it's September thirteenth,

  two thousand seven, and my days therefore

  number twenty two thousand two hundred

  eighty. If the mental math is a bit much,

  I can reveal that this number divided

  by three hundred sixty five gives the result

            of sixty one,

  with a remainder of fifteen (a tally for every

            fourth February).


  Today is the twenty two thousand two hundred

  eightieth day on which I will not paint

            my self-portrait.

  Yet, stumbling like a child's first steps,

  I compose another poem, think of the times

  when music, or flowers, reminded me that life

  is more than what we can see from the inside

            of our prison cells.


  Yes, I know that every mountain

  wears down in the wind and rain.

  You have no need to remind me.

  I respond that even hills that are older,

  more rounded than I still

  stand awe-filled, silhouetted

           against the sunrise,

  offer us the wisdom of everything

           they have understood.


  I cannot mourn.  


  And when that time arrives,

  I ask that you remember,

           in my honor

  (perhaps on some future thirteenth of September):

  The only human beings who never die

  are those who were never born.





  Dreams of Immortality


  Perhaps, one day

  I will be famous—

  so famous that they'll name

  a bridge, or a school,

  or a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike

  after me and everyone

  as they pass by,

              or over,

                          or through,

  will read the sign and ask themselves: "Who,

  I wonder, was Steve Bloom?"





  Exploration Leads to Discovery


  Two hundred years ago?


  What are two hundred years, when the people they visited

  had lived beside the Missouri for a thousand summers or more,

  and did not care about the lines Easterners drew on maps?


  President Thomas Jefferson cared enough to send Meriwether Lewis

  along with William Clark on their famous expedition, with a vision

  of turning these heathen people into farmers, and traders.

  There was, however, already a city (sixteen hundred miles

  from the mouth of the river) where 4000 lived-more

  than in Washington, or St. Louis. And their farms provided the corn

  so these explorers would survive

  the cold of 1804 to 1805.


  Amy Mossat lives today in New Town, North Dakota,

  along with her fellow Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara.

  Here she plants this same corn in her garden, unmodified

  by hybridization, or genetic engineering.


  Lewis, in his journals, referred to the native people as "children."

  The Indians, in return, named one of their own who 

  acted as a guide "Furnishes the white men with brains."


  Amy Mossat can no longer live in Old Town,  because it

  was hybridized, or perhaps genetically engineered,

  some decades ago, inundated by the Garrison Dam

  along with 155,000 acres of farm land-that many acres

  of memories, and of sacred places.


  Lewis and Clark passed through 50 nations. Each with its sacred places.

  You and I know a few names, like the one we borrowed for a capital city

  after the Omaha village of  Tonwontaga was wiped out by the pox,

  or Chinook, because we gave it to a fish.


  We take the time to worry about the future of fish. But who

  can tell me what has happened to the Chinook people?

  The Otoe and the Missouri were expelled to Oklahoma,

  where descendants still long for their northern plains.

  The Lemhi Shoshone were herded to the desert of southern Idaho.

  Some of the elders of the Nez Percé, in 1877, who were children

  when that tribe twice saved our explorers from starvation,

  remembered-as they were rounded up and removed.


  You, too, can remember. Just follow

  the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail through towns

  where suicide is the number one cause of death.


  *Based on reporting by Timothy Egan (New York Times, June 15, 2003)





  Where You Find Yourself


  If we see flowers planted in a line

  or shrubs, 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.





  A Poem Is


  A poem is god's way

  of compensating us for the fact

  that she doesn't exist.





  Flower Plots


  Watch out for the caucus of crocuses

  there, on the hill.

  I hear they are hatching a plot

  to overthrow the daffodils. 


  Beware the wisteria conspiracy

  up on the ledge,

  perfecting a plan I suspect,

  to overgrow the privet hedge.


  I wouldn't interfere, if I were you,

  should bleeding hearts and columbine combine

  to show defiance

  against that great lilac alliance.  


  And it's OK to stand where you might see

  but don't get in the way

  as the cherry blossom posse gallops by,

  leaving pink hoofprints against the sky.  


  There's so much more I'll bet you never knew

  about what flowers do,

  and-when no one's looking-where they go.

  (Just don't let on who told you so.) 







  "You are my Springtime flood

  after years of drought,

  the cool evening breeze

  after a summer day, affirmation

  that the sky is up,

      the earth down

  after so many moments of doubt,"

  says the poet.


  "I love you, too," she replies.


  "I stroke your bare flesh,

  hold your body close to mine,

  explore your eyes, your mouth,

  the secret place which lies

  where a female belly curves away

  to disappear between two thighs—

  and forget, for just a moment,

  that there is anyone else,

  besides the two of us,

  in the universe," he tells her.


  "You are so wonderful," she glows.


  "Your smile is all the food and drink

  my soul requires, your caress

  my shelter from the world."


  She gently squeezes his hand, whispers:

  "Thank you so much for loving me."


  And he stares into her face, unable

  to speak again, awed

  by the eloquence of her words.





  In Memoriam


  Most martyrs rest in graves undraped with flowers.

  Nobody will remember when or where or how

  they sacrificed-all that was within their power—

  and so I cannot tell you now. . . .

  Most martyrs rest in graves undraped with flowers.

  Beneath more storied tombs, I sense it's always true,

  lie countless other heroines and heroes who

  gave equally as they were called and so,

  although well-praised the celebrated dead must be,

  this round let's toast a deeper victory.

  For deeds which otherwise remain unsung, unfurl

  the banner left too long unhung for all

  who could in life achieve no more than try their best,

  and now, at last, in graves we've draped with flowers, rest.







  Annual meeting

  National Association of Procrastinators

  (acronym: "NAP").  


  Scheduled start time: 10:00 am

  Actual opening: 3:25 pm  

  Motion: To postpone this session until Tomorrow—

  carried unanimously.





  Missing in Reaction


  I look through the compact discs

  for some music by Alma Schindler,

  but there is none,

  nor any under the name

  of Alma Mahler—though

  there are symphonies

  and songs by Gustav.


  Before they married, you see,

  he made her promise that after

  she would never try to fulfill

  her promise as a young composer.

  His wife must have no career

  save to make her husband comfortable.

  He will create the music

  in the family, thank you very much.  


  So she wrote

  not one note more

  during the next sixty years—

  including five decades

  that she survived

  after Gustav's death.  


  I have no way of knowing, however,

  as I browse today,

  that Alma's music is what I crave

  to restore the rhyme my life is missing.

  And so I'll keep on searching.





  April 10, 2006

  (New York City)


  Sometimes politics proves to be

  as strange as poetry.  


  Never thought that I would feel

  at home in a demonstration

  where one American flag

  follows another,

         after another,

                after another.

  But today it's not the usual "my

  country can beat up your country" crowd.

  No, this time it's the invisible people,

  speaking out loud for a change.  


  "I am Haitian;

         I am Korean;

                I am Pakistani,"

   they tell me.  


  "I am Dominican;

         I am Mexicana;

                I am Filipino;

  I am Ethiopian;

         I am Jamaican;

                I am Guatemalan and

  I live here too.

  I will not be less of a human being than you.  


  "I fly the flag of my country.

  And I fly the flag of my other country;

  for whether I am there or here

         your nation would collapse

                without the work I do."  


  So I stand watching, ask myself

  whether we have, perhaps, just taken

  one small step toward the day

  when every human being

  will, at last, fly every flag

         of every nation

                and still feel at home.