Karen Greenbaum-Maya

Exchange student’s ghazal

A Jewish girl, in love with old things German.
Opera, poetry, quartets for strings in German.

Streets of concrete cubes, all closed and locked.
What Kafka meant:  nothing mingles in German.

With tea or coffee, elaborate torte must be served.
For birthdays, flowers you must bring in German.

In the first warmth, all go outside bare-armed.
Shed boots and heavy coats. Spring in German.

We walked at dawn in North’s mild light.
Our little private summer fling in German.

We couldn’t understand what each one wanted.
We gave each other hurts and stings in German.

Oktoberfest.  Rivers of beer, brewery tents, ponds of piss.
Barmaids heft liter-steins and everybody sings in German.

Change your job? Only for misfits.
No one has new wings in German.

I love you, care in vain. Go where you are headed anyhow.
You need to live where you were born, to cling to German.


Ghazal of Wasted Time

Dry heat. Hail. Balmy. Cold snap chews at leaves.
Where to turn when weather confuses the leaves?

For years a couple pretends they have a future.
Pursuing diverging lives, each refuses to leave.

Making small talk, she chats up his tie, gets sneers.
Who’d stay to be disdained? She chooses to leave.

Cabin under the pines, refuge for a week’s writing.
She reads long pompous novels, misuses her leave.

For showy rise, each puff paste turn must be perfect.
Evenly rolled, no rips. A dull knife fuses the leaves.

The apartment is cramped, the bathroom door sticks.
No good here, though windows give views of leaves

which she collects:  magenta, apricot, mottled as marble.
Keeping what is sure to fade, yet Karen muses on leaves.


Ghazal for the King

Never thought I’d be someone who’d relate to Elvis.
Astounded what I found when I went to excavate Elvis.

Blues, gospel, rockabilly, ballads, hot borrowed soul.
When blue suede sang, you’d never find irate Elvis.
White jumpsuit strains, defeated by expandable Elvis.
Not eight thousand impersonators could deflate Elvis.

Sweat-stained scarf, proud in yellowed cellophane.
Another of your loving fans left feeling great, Elvis.

O cheesy Bubba Ho-Tep:  decrepit King in a nursing home.
To clear guitar hero’s nasty boil, a nurse masturbates Elvis.

Elvis ate them pb-bacon-fried banana sandwiches.
Methadone and Demerol and loneliness ate Elvis.

In the heartland, folks still catch sight of a living King.
Sacred Graceland, cairn, tomb, shrine to the late Elvis.


Less Passionate Ghazal

One touch at the sagging gate and it swings open.
Clenched fists can’t garden. Let your fingers open.

Never expected beginners’, or any other luck.
Drew cards so good, I let a pair of kings open.

Homeless man under grimy white plastic endures cold wind.
And you wear a chic new jacket? Let your purse-strings open.  

The cat has caught a fledgling, limp with fright,
so I praise her. She meows, and its wings open.

Voice lesson:  don’t work so hard, get out of the way.
Throat, breath easy.  Fearless, your voice rings open.

The lid resists your hand.  Set your strength just so.
Then feel the jar, smooth as wax, unscrewing open.

Isn’t always a boon to care and ask too much.
Rejoice without wanting:  heart sings, Open.


Karen Greenbaum-Maya is a retired clinical psychologist, former German major, two-time Pushcart nominee and occasional photographer. Her photos and poems appear in anthologies and journals including Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, Off the Coast, Blue Lyra, Measure, and Heron Tree. She co-hosts Fourth Sundays, a poetry series in Claremont, California. Kattywompus Press publishes her two chapbooks, Burrowing Song, a collection of prose poems, and Eggs Satori. Aldrich Press publishes her full-length collection, The Book of Knots and their Untying. For links to work on-line, go to: www.cloudslikemountains.blogspot.com/.