Alan Horvath's Poems from
A Book of Poems by Horvath and David Pishnery

Published by Kirpan Press, 1998


little white crosses

they are stunning
in their simplicity:
two sticks nailed
a loving memory
adorned with someone's name,
maybe a picture,
and plastic flowers.

you catch them
out of the
corner of your eye
when you're driving
in the middle of nowhere
or making
a right-hand turn
down a street you've driven
a thousand times;
an anomaly,
something on the roadside
that shouldn't be
buried in the brush
among the weeds
and litter.

you drive past the scene
knowing for the moment
that this is not your intersection.

your mind arranges
alternate plans so that
you'll be prepared for future failures:

  •     a thin layer of fresh black ice
  •     the factory defect which is
        waiting for this exact moment

  •     some white collar who has to
        prove it to himself that he can
        take it over to the other side of
        the edge

  •     an inattentive moment
        that alters a life forever. . .

the road is silent,
but offers a few clues:

       hideous black lines
        as if dancing a bizarre
        ritual in parallel
        leading to
                the point
                        of no return.


the curve of your back
as you lean over;
naked, an uncovered truth.

in your sister's bedroom
the afternoon light
filters through
the sheer drapes.
every exposed line:
the definition
of female.
my male pulses
to unite our differences
into a whole.

on the bed
we explore
the boundaries
of our lives:

       a moment,
       the soft sun,
       your back.

on awakening

early autumn mist
carries a divine whiteness
through the open windows.
fan blades
cut & circulate the smells
of yesterday's wine
& leftover cigarettes.

your still-sleeping form
drifts on top of my chest.
the quilt, covered with cat hairs,
is pulled tight around our bodies.

you are too caught in
the tow of a dream to notice
this dawn which surrounds us.

I kiss you gently
as if the breath would
buckle you beneath my arms
& return everything to ash.

there is plenty of time.
I let you sleep.

daly city

summer in fogland
wets your face
& slices your body
with a cold knife.
it's outside your window
like a neighbor's house.
every day.

when you mention
that you rent in daly city,
you have to define your
degree of visibility
by indicating how far
you live from the pacific ocean.

everyone (you know)
tries to move away from here.
they buy new homes
across the bay:
go where it's sunny & hot,
get air conditioning,

in my second summer,
my mind relates well to the fog
& accepts the chill like
a prolonged visit from
a former friend
with annoying habits.

reaching a point in our marriage,
my wife & I decide to
take the BIG plunge into debt.
we purchase half of a 5 year old
duplex in the clear, warm east bay
(mainly because it is the
only housing we can afford).

it will be the time
to think about mortgage payments
& which washer/dryer to buy.

       a black guy at work
       warned me that these towns
       force you to wear jogging outfits
       & go out for pizza
       every friday night.

       while these are not among
       the things that I fear the most,
       I can't say that I'm
       extremely thrilled to be
       in the middle of these
       suburban californians.

now is the time
to think about window coverings,
try to figure out how
to use the garage door opener.

from the house we share
with the savings & loan,
I can see a collection of dirt-brown
foothills forming a canyon.
summers are arid days
when you have to splash
water from a hose to wet your face;
to stop it from turning brown with everything else
& becoming part of the neighborhood.

my mind
will need to
move out of the fog
the new barbecue awaits. . .

dirty dishes

my wife has become
very good at cutting
her hands.
not only small paper cuts,
but large gashes with
sharp knives
or vicious-looking
garden shears.

a few years ago,
she stuck her hand
in a glass that had
broken beneath the
soap suds in the sink
& proceeded to remove
a considerable peninsula
from her right forefinger.

last month
I left her alone in the kitchen
with a dirty food-processor blade.
seconds later, I knew what
had caused the scream.

the drive to the hospital
for stitches has developed into
a fine-tuned precision drill.
the hospital security even
offered to issue me a
permanent parking sticker.

       of course,
       this does not take into account
       the bangs & bruises she sustains
       from walking into filing cabinets
       or opening desk drawers
       into her legs.

in our new house
we have a dishwasher
to handle all this ugly stuff.

however, now
I am gravely concerned
about the garbage disposal.

the secret

it was my birthday
& it was one of those days.

after breakfast,
the new pills
the doctor gave me
made my heart
beat like an air hammer
crushing concrete.

in the afternoon,
my wife called to
tell me that she
thought she might be
pregnant (although we take
almost every conceivable precaution
known to man).

that evening,
I voted for president
for the first time
since I helped to elect
jimmy carter in 1976
(I admit).

trying to leave the polling place,
the car wouldn't start.
I spent an hour
with the flashlight under
the hood to discover
multiple problems
and no solutions.

walking home
cold, hungry & tired,
I turned on the tv
& saw my candidate
giving his concession speech.
the next day
was not my birthday.

I did not take
one of those pills,
my wife was definitely
not pregnant
& I didn't bother
to look at the election results
in the newspaper.

stuck at the train station
after work without a car,
I was waiting for a bus
to arrive when the rain began.

a short man wearing
a baseball cap
looked at me and
said: "if that god damn bus
doesn't come, I'm gonna
sit right here and eat my sandwich."

"once I ate on the
bus and the driver pointed
to the 'no eating' sign.
I pulled out my knife
& cut down the god damn sign."

this had me a bit concerned
because of my current luck
& the fact that he had
decided to divulge to me
(and me alone) his secret
about the knife.

I reached my breaking point
& cracked.

"I have a knife, too," I said.
"do you want to rumble?"

a frozen look of fear
paralyzed his face.
I could see his IQ of
60 slipping below 20.

he offered me a second
sandwich he had been
saving for his cousin.
I think he was about to
give me protection money
when the bus arrived
& cut us both
into different parts
of a vastly
improving night.

the waiting

after our last argument
I took off my wedding band
& placed it on her side of the dresser.

this has happened
during other difficult moments,
but letting time pass
allowed things to return
to their proper places.

seven weeks after
this argument, all has been
forgiven & then replaced by
other arguments in
varying degrees of importance.
still the wedding band
sits on the dresser waiting.

I study my ring finger.
it has almost returned to
its normal shape from where
the gold had restricted the flesh;
the thin untanned line
screaming volumes.
only now can I see the part

of me where the sun
was not permitted to touch.

and I can't think of anything
that will make me
want to slip
into that darkness

old fool

having spent

       a lifetime

trying to build

       a gray slate

wall around myself

       you keep

reminding me

       to add windows

and show me

       the meaning of



we never kiss anymore.
our lips seem to find ways
to avoid making direct contact.
this has gone
the way of hand holding
which has also been erased
from our lives.

all these signs of affection
have been replaced
by a greater dependency,
the need of partnership
to navigate life's vast ocean,
where the alternative
is like before: alone and lost.

beyond the initial flash,
there is this understanding
that bonds us.
we have grown
to appreciate each other
for the moment
as well as eternity.
laying awake
in the middle of the night
listening to the first
drops of a Vancouver rain;
watching the wrinkles
& the grays
replace the smooth
& the dark.

our lives are two magnets
held together
without the possibility
of another choice.

the slippage

my heart is shallow
& needs further refinement

it has been permitted
to lose the volume
required for life
to exist

the cause for the failure:
every lover's touch,
thoughtless words spoken,
the moment I open
my eyes

day after year
(the erosion)
parts of everything
slowly breaking down. . .

the edges, which
once formed a heart,
are not a broad shoreline

& the waves that broke white
       are gray
                     and motionless


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