Sheldon Kranz

Sheldon Kranz


I think the pigeons are friendly,
Although they strut by without a glance;
And I think the man in the tight blue suit is friendly,
Although he does not smile
And hides behind his paper.
Pigeons and men in tight blue suits
Can walk with us on shady streets,
Sit easily at dinner with us,
Smoke our cigarettes and wish us well,
If we only call to them,
Remembering that pigeons and men in tight blue suits
Are not to be confused, even for a moment,
With nightingales in summer gardens,
Or with men who now wear fashionable pinstriped suits
In apartments high above the city.

   from an etching by Chaim Koppelman

What shall we say of the clear light
Curving swiftly across the gray skeleton of our mind,
Illuminating dusty corners,
Stirring old hopes?
And when heavy iron doors are swung open
To reveal a summer landscape where couples
Deep in conversation
Move quietly along red brick paths,
How shall we see this?
What shall we do?

He sits stiffly in the yellow room,
His arms bent at a careful angle,
His eyes fixed on an invisible spot
That moves as he moves.
Statue-like, he smiles,
And his teeth are white and strong.
The sun is hot on the angles of his knees,
And he moves his head slowly,
Avoiding mirrors,
Knowing he is cold,
Feeling the dark spot move as he moves,
Wondering if he is still alive.

She runs along the rows of benches,
Embracing each new image that arrives,
Plump and serene in the evening light.
She cannot speak,
But hugs each image to her,
Smiles tearfully,
Remembers a long-forgotten childhood name,
And moves on quickly,
Adoring each new image
That settles itself on a crowded bench
And falls pleasantly asleep.

With fingers intertwined,
They sit facing the high wall,
Leaning lightly against each other for support.
With his free hand, he plays with an open book;
With her free hand, she strokes a furry kitten;
And both tell each other the story of the wall,
And praise its great height,
And smile and kiss,
And praise each other, and kiss again,
Unaware that neither of them makes a shadow on the wall.


Silver-footed I come through the night,
Carrying the wings of the morning in my cupped hand,
Holding them lightly, warming them
Against the silver of my breast.
For what is morning but the trembling against my heart,
That in a moment will leap into the world,
Scattering its light to reveal
The splendor of the day
For people everywhere to see.


It was a hot June day,
And a breeze made the tall trees
Wave in friendly welcome.
Sunlight moved across white headstones,
Around mausoleums,
Along grass, alive and growing.
On the coffin were flowers,
White and pink,
And the breeze came and moved them a little
With a small, scraping sound,
And the sun was hot on the pink and white flowers.

The people stood motionless,
Bent in grief,
And a dead voice clothed in black prayed,
And the flowers did not move.
The people stared into space,
Cold and still,
And the sun shone on the grass,
And the tall trees waved,
And the breeze came again,
And the flowers moved.


My mother could not take in enough air,
The doctor explained,
And so she died.
I walk to my office through crowded streets,
And pass people,
Busy with thoughts of the coming day,
Who are not aware of how wonderful it is
Just to breathe in and out.

I do not think my mother cared enough for air.
It was not like fine fabric or rich carpets
That you could admire and bring into your home.
Only when breathing could no longer be taken for granted,
When walking across a room
Became a high act of determination,
Did she see wonder in breathing;
And caring more for air,
She came to care more for the things air has to do with.
People and objects changed for her,
Came closer,
Became more dear;
And she grew closer to herself
As she reached out to things.

I walk to my office through sunny streets,
Thinking of my mother.
She did not care enough for truth,
Or for the beauty of mind--
Things that many moving, breathing people scoff at,
Or are uncomfortable about.
But in the two years before my mother died,
I saw that these are not matters to be clever about,
Or to be met with a dull stare of indifference.
When breathing is involved,
The true characters in the drama of self
Stir and emerge to assert themselves.
My mother never distinguished clearly
Among the characters who were herself,
But she was reconsidering and revising who she was.
And when she could no longer take in enough air,
She was more quietly real to herself
Than she had been in all the years
When the taking in of air
Was a simple, hardly-to-be-thought-of fact.
I cannot say I know who my mother was,
Or what she is,
But I think she is friendlier now to air,
And is revising still her notions
Of what it means to have to do with things.

Continue, More Poems--                    Return to Home Page