February 2009

David M. Katz


David M. Katz's poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, The New Republic, Shenandoah, Southwest Review, Notre Dame Review, and Podium, the online publication of the 92nd Street Y. His first book of poems, The Warrior in the Forest, was published by House of Keys in 1982. He lives in New York City and is Deputy Editor of CFO, which is part of The Economist magazine group.

Borges at the Bat    

The blind author advances to the plate.
He can hear, if he shuts out the crowd,
The pitcher breathing sixty feet away:
The sound of breath is how he measures men.
They plot the pace and rhythm out together.
The hurler nods in empathy. Ball one.

The late September day contracts to one
Astonishment: the blind man, near the plate,
Taking a practice cut, piecing together
The fragmentary silences of the crowd,
Spitting, toeing the dirt, sensing other men.
He hears the air splitting as he swings away.

The two refuse to give their intentions away,
Surrender ground with a count of one and one.
They might well be a father and son, these men
Who strive for space across a gleaming plate,
The rookie and the writer transfixing the crowd.
Bright eyes, blank eyes, ten thousand eyes together.

The kid gathers his brightest days together
Like an all-star team. Old Borges stays away
From the pitch, misreading signals from the crowd.
They inhale, too late, on a high, hard one
Sliced down the living center of the plate.
The count's now one and two, and these two men

Bear scant resemblance to the other men.
The game's a place where strangers come together.
The umpire contemplates a perfect plate
Out of Plato, bends to whisk the dirt away
With a tiny brush. The hitter wears the number one
On his pinstriped shirt to educate the crowd.

Suddenly, it's night. Borges disdains the crowd,
Hears hardly a hush from the mouths of men.
The silence sets him free to hit like one
Beyond sense. The ball and bat work together
With certain knowledge. The horsehide soars away
Toward the moon: a home beyond the plate.

Home run.  The crowd advances to the stairway.
But some, together near the star-struck plate,
Wonder where the two unlikely men have gone.



Glasses and Bridges    

"Bridges are big, dumb pieces  
   of steel and concrete, and mostly out of mind,
      until one collapses."
      The Times writer likens
   the brief span carrying Route 56 over
the Raquette River to a
                                    cardiac patient

"studded with instruments." The
   design is to diagnose the animal,
      make the man-made inmate
      solve secrets in its stents
   to "explain how to keep others from falling"
as one fell that rush hour in

Hovering above matter
   Like a quail quivering over a river,
      Bridges are not glasses.
      Both are mechanical,
   vulnerable; but there the similarity        
already stretches its length
                                        past credulity.

Bridges are devastated
   By the swaying of their ancient engineers.
      Beasts with thickening waists,
      They ache to come to ground.
   In Brooklyn, men lunched on one while it was built.
Their stable stanchions stress

Spinoza's wire-strung lenses
   were, however, neither tense nor tenuous.
      Light as larks, loathe to make
      spectacles of themselves,
   they loom, more heretical than Icarus
Because they survive the sun
                                            both had burned to see.

Clear as they are, glasses' flaws
   are obvious to their brothers, the mirrors
      who call them prodigals
      long unaccountable        
   to self-reflection or self-knowledge, free birds
Responsible to no face
                                   beyond their wearer's.

Borges refers to fame as
   that reflection of dreams in the dream of an
      other's mirror." Glasses
      avoid love's labyrinths,
   deny the dense motives ensnaring our hearts.
They reflect only briefly,
                                     gleam with perfidy,

Lose themselves when we most want
   to find them, having other things on their minds
      than vision's frailty.
      Bright metaphysicians
   enabling vanity, they break readily.
But bridges fall heavily,
                                   are hard to replace.



The Concept of Zero    

All we do aspires to what's not there.
  We bang against a door, anticipate a face.
The door swings open to oblige. We stare

Through rows of digits in despair.
  No finger holds the place.
All we do aspires to what's not there.

The Mayans saw zeros fall from the air,
  The bright rings shimmering in space.
A door swung open to oblige their stare.

An egg, an ought, a shell to share
  With ancients who have set the pace.
All we do aspires to what's not there.

Oblong ghosts descend a rising stair,
  Scan the ground for a warm embrace.
Nobody will oblige their stare.

We labor to discount the fear
  That nothing's, really, there to trace—
That all we do aspires to what's not there.
  We bang against a door.  We stare.



David M. Katz: Poetry
Copyright ©2009 The Cortland Review Issue 42The Cortland Review