The Pendulum and Other Poems

The Pendulum and Other Poems

J. Philip Goldberg

Format: 13.5 x 21.5 cm
Number of Pages: 54
ISBN: 978-1-64268-123-9
Release Date: 15.04.2020
In “The Pendulum and Other Poems,” J. Philip Goldberg presents his thoughts about life, nature, philosophy, and the workings of the human mind using the conventions of a variety of poetic styles. A poignant assessment of life from one who has lived long and well.
The Pendulum

As we observe what people do,
We see how fast old gives way to new
And see that there’s a constant swing,
A rhythmic change in everything.

In 1930, we watched with pride
As modern invention was deified.
The washer and dryer were eagerly embraced
And packaged foods in ice encased.
Now Mom could leave her kitchen chores
And betaking herself outdoors, 
Go out with friends to play Mah Jongg
And, if she wished, stay all day long.

In 1990, Mom said, “Whoa,
Look at me, I’m gaining weight;
And my husband too – look at him!

We’d best rush out to the nearest gym,
Get on that treadmill, and lift those weights,
And do so not once, but on numerous dates!!”

In 1950, cars were kings.
Were there things in their way? – Away with
those things!
And thus our streetcars were scrapped for junk
And funding into road-building sunk.

In 2000, we cried, “What have we done?
Our traffic-clogged streets – they’re no fun.
Our cars belch fumes that foul the air,
And we’re gasping for breath everywhere.

And gasoline prices are out of sight
And rising daily – it’s a fright!
We want mass transit! Get these cars off the roads,
Give us vehicles that transport enormous loads,
And that run on electricity, not gas –
Oh, bring back the streetcars, we miss them alas!”

In 1960, we took great pride,
As our shopping centers moved inside,
Where store-lined streets became wide halls 
In climate-controlled shopping malls.

In 2010, we took great pride,
As our shopping malls moved back outside,
Where those wide halls of our aging malls,
Became once more store-lined streets without walls.

Thus swings the pendulum back and forth,
First to south, then back to north.
Toward what we have, our attitude ever sours;
We’re never content with what is ours.

Let’s Be As Happy As We Can

We are born into a world of pain,
The length of time, so short that we are here;
This way we’ll never pass again,
So let us try to be of good cheer,
Though this world be a dark place and drear.

Let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man.

Into this sad world we all were thrust,
Not asked if it was our wish or no;
And we must live here till again we’re dust,
No matter it be a life of woe.

So let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man.

The flickering flame that is our life
Can at any moment be puffed out;
And while it lasts, brings only strife;
Of this there can be little doubt,
As we watch human events play out.

So let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man.

Hatred, Fear, and Violence stalk the land;
People kill each other everywhere.
Forbearance is in great demand,
As the world faces incessant warfare,
And if more war comes, we haven’t prayer.

So let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man.

Towns are flooded; forests lost to raging fire.
In such random events people, plants, and wildlife die.
Truly, the result of such events is dire.
Why do they happen? Who knows why?
And though we cry the loss, we say, “Thank God it was not I.”

So let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man.

Observing this world in which we live,
We find real contentment very rare.
There is much to lament, to forget, and forgive;
Our lives are full of worry and care.
Truth be told, we live our lives in utter despair.

So let’s be as happy as we can,
As though happiness were meant for Man –

As though happiness were meant for Man.

The Praying Mantis

All day long it hangs head down
Upon my window screen,
Hands in attitude of prayer,
Yet with face unseen.

Why, in prayer, does it look down,
Aren’t prayers sent above?
Was ever God found underground?
Did upward ever come his love?

No, the mantis tells us that it’s useless
To look above for help,
That this universe is ruthless,
Deaf to our human yelp;

That no one’s there who even cares
That we struggle on in pain,
No one there to hear the prayers
That we send above – in vain.

The Little Black Squirrel

He scampers merrily into the road
Then suddenly stops short in his tracks,
Startled by some unseen threat –
Acting in response to Nature’s goad.

Suddenly his head pops up; his ears, perked.
With head bobbing all around, he sniffs the air;
He knows for sure he’s not secure –
Of some mortal danger he’s aware.

In the blink of an eye he turns
And scurries back to whence he came,
Back to the place he last felt safe –
Self-preservation now his only aim.

So small is he, so dangerous his world,
His instinct, his sole defense against harm –
The only thing protecting him,
Is his Nature-given safety alarm.

The Environmentalist 1

From my window, I saw the other day
A neighbor putting down insect spray,
To eradicate things that creep on earth.
I observed this scene devoid of mirth,
In fact, by his actions I was astounded –
And what about this scene left me dumbfounded?

This neighbor is an environmentalist,
Of Mother Nature a protectionist;
And through my mind there ran this thought:
“Is this good neighbor doing what he ought?”

He loves the trees, which he will maintain,
And waters them faithfully if there is no rain.
Of the shrubbery, he is also enamored
And for its protection has always clamored.

Yes, he is a great lover of flowers and trees,
But what about creatures like wasps and bees?
Are they not part of the environment?
Were not such creatures also Heaven-sent?

How can he love the one, and kill the other?
Are they not all children of the same mother?
Does Mother Nature favor flowers and trees,
But turn her back on the plight of fleas?
And rats and cockroaches, don’t they deserve to live?
If he exterminates them, will Mother Nature forgive?

Or has it somewhere, by someone, been decreed
That Man is Master over all – and indeed,
That what is desirable in the eyes of Man
Shall live; and what is not, shall have a short lifespan?

The Environmentalist 2

The last poem asked if someone had decreed
The endurance of the human seed,
And given Man dominion over all
The things that move on earth – walk, slither, or crawl.

Yes, indeed: In Genesis we read
That it was so decreed by the living God,
Who told Man to be fruitful and multiply
And to go forth and replenish the earth.

And thus God the Father rules supreme o’er
Nature’s Mother. But now God is in an awful situation:
He is said to love alike all his creatures –
High or low, no matter their station.
But in telling Man to rule over the low,
He signed the death-warrant for all below.

It could even be that our God condones a kill,
And that my neighbor is following God’s will
When I see him, gripping his broom in hand,
Earnestly sweeping insect corpses from off his land.

The Land Speaks to Man

O You lot of ephemeral fools,
I’ve watched your doings in every age,
In every stupid war you wage,
Descending upon each other like ghouls.

And I’ve seen what all the strife’s about,
And know why you’ve left me drenched in blood,
Letting it flow like a scarlet flood,
A lamentable way to relieve drought.

You fought endless wars to possess me, the land,
And your possession of me was dearly bought.
O Mankind! Don’t you see you died for naught,
That all was futile, don’t you understand?

You who contended for me through the ages,
Where are you now? interred in the only piece of me that’s yours.
You Idiots, you have all vanished, but I remain;
You were more than foolish – you were insane!

Upon Leaving Night School With
a Young Student on a Winter’s Evening

(Many years ago, I was teaching English to foreign students in the Adult Basic Education program of the Prince Georges County, Maryland Public Schools. The conversation depicted in this poem was conducted in Spanish one evening when we were leaving school.)

“What is this, Teacher?” she said to me,
With her hand dusting snow from off my car.
“That’s snow; have you never seen snow before?”
“Oh, yes, Teacher, but from afar,
Distant – far up on the mountain top.
But I never touched it in my life before.
In Colombia, where I come from
We see snow only on the highest peaks.
Few touch it, though condors do with their beaks.
We city dwellers, from our homes below,
The true nature of snow can never know.
I never knew it would feel so cold and wet,
And I don’t quite believe it yet.”

Then moving her hand up to her lip,
And as the condors do, taking a sip,
With an ear-to-ear smile and face all aglow,
For the first time she really understood snow.

I too understood something I won’t soon forget –
Experience is the best teacher yet.

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