Alex J. Feingold

Many years ago, when I was in 10th grade (1966-67) and attending a confirmation class at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, one of the most interesting classes I took was a poetry class taught by Mr. Cherubin. He was a gruff looking old man who smoked (in those days I think smoking was allowed even in classrooms!), but he openned up our minds to poetry and how it might be written. Many of the poems below were written for that class or inspired by it, but some were written much later. I did not keep track of the dates when each one was written, but if I have any comments about a poem, I will write them before it.

The first poem was written around 1977, the year I got married, and is dedicated to my wife, Nancy Tittler, who wrote all of my poetry into a book with special calligraphy. There is a drawing which goes with this poem, and it is placed just below the verses.

Where perfect circles run,
And our hearts are won,

We chase the lines around,

And come back where we've begun.

The lines we traced entwine,
So, too, our lives combine,
Decision made and done,
At last our hearts are one.

Image Here

The next poem was written about my closest friend, Marvin B. Cooper, who upset me greatly when we were teenagers by messing up our plans for a cross country car trip. I didn't speak to him for several years after that, but eventually got over it and resumed our friendship. It was my greatest loss when he was murdered in Baltimore by a man who robbed him of some money and then shot him.

Silence rings not golden in my ears,
Leaden only, dampened too with tears
Unshown, as before some person,
Once called friend, promises
Bled empty, finally end.

The next poems came from the poetry class I took in 1966-67. Some of them have titles.

Whose Worshiper

Don't pray to God to do it,
He's not your water boy.
Nor tell him how you love him,
He's not your lover boy.
And if you'd die to have one,
Don't pray to heaven's God.
The one you want's below you,
Far down beneath the sod.

Dumb Waiter

His path is straight and narrow,
No deviations from the course.
His purpose is to serve us,
Who dine upon his guts.

The Face

I see a face before me,
I swear I know it not.
Yet somewhere I have  seen it,
Yes, seen it quite a lot.

Whose eyes are those
Black depthless pearls,
Beneath whose craggy brow?
A memory stirs within me,
But that is all for now.

What kind of person is it
Whose gaze upon me looks?
Down corridors of time, dust-filled,
The knowledge in me lurks.

Now do I know, the search is done,
The knowledge I've laid bare.
I knew him once, so promising,
To end in such despair.

That lad did truth aspire to,
Did good and knowledge love,
Has come today, his self deceived,
To nothing he had craved.

If truth be known,
That lad has grown
To heavy-hearted manhood,
And now at himself is looking.


Massively floating, light as featherly down,
Upon the fabric of my being,
The streaming essence flies from me
To the ends of this universe.

And yet only a little distance away
Is the reason for my self-immolation.
I crawls, it multiplies, and I am
The need of every cell, every virus.

I am the incubator in this vast nursery,
Helping to grow to maturity a  God.

Undaunted drove I through the storm,
Unbowed when failure struck.
My will unbent by man or fate,
None stronger than my own.
Thus did I live my life out,
A meteor, unstopped;
Thus, too, over death
I have triumphed.

I gather in the wood each year,
And pile it by my door.
So that during winter storms
Inside I shall be warm.

For many years so have I done,
And many more will do,
But something changes every year,
Trees grow not like they grew.

I have not many years to live,
Perhaps that is the best.
I will not see the day
That winter finds out the nest.

I Live

Forced through all my life to breathe,
To crawl in swamps up the hill.
Now I pause,
Not looking back at
The progress of my toil,
Knowing only the long way ahead.

Down almost endless corridors,
We walk as the ages creep,
Stopping momentarily
To enter, briefly, Sleep.

A fitful doze, we toss and turn,
To dream of ghosts who live.
Ghosts who dream of
Life and death and love.

While we sleep, they wake and walk,
They live their lives as men
Until we dreamers wake,
When them, into death, we lay.


I am nothing and no one.
In that utter void
Which is my heart
My mind rattles about
Like a discarded marble.
Where are you?

"That poor child.
So solemn and glum,
Never has laughed.
It couldn't be the parents' fault.
Why, they gave her the best of everything."
"Quite right, my dear,
Pass the olives."

"The little brat,
Wouldn't say two civil words to me.
Just nods and walks away.
Boy, these kids today.
I was certainly never like ... "

"Oh, come now, Sweetie,
I know you'd like another piece of cake.
It's your favorite kind.
And Momma bought it special for you,
And this party.
Why don't you go find something to do,
And have some fun?"

"Just leave her alone, Honey.
Come over here and listen
To this hilarious ... "

I am nothing.
I am no one.
And in that void
Rattles my mind,
A marble someone dropped.
Where are you?

The Miser

When first Death rapped upon my door,
I ran with lock and bolt
To hold Him 'til the end of time,
The end of time, I swore.

And when He heard my oath,
He laughed and left this curse:
"One day the bolt will be loosed,
And by the fingers of your hand."

Then left a guard to watch,
And I dared not touch the bolt
For fear of the Death's curse
Upon my bones.

When Death rapped upon my window pane,
There, too, I did run
And bar with silver chain His entry;
And there he laughed again
And cursed the Sun so neither could It
Pass the silver chain.

And the Sun cursed me, saying,
"Live in death but blight not my earth,
Never again be seen or see My light."

So when I struck a light,
It died, a smiling devil,
Burning my cursed fingers
To the cursed bone.

And so, no light had shown
Upon my face for an age,
Until the fiery Death's head
Raised Itself, and said,

"How's Hell?"

A Blind Man Sees

Hateful window,
Jealous of what you portray to me,
Fog not yourself
Attempting to steal what is mine.

Lament, what madness is it
That bids me cry out against
My window on the world
Only because I am blinded
By tears of ecstasy.

This poem was inspired by some mathematical thoughts about how our perceptions are limited by the dimension of the space we occupy. Perhaps it shows that my interest in sculpture goes back further than I might have realized.

Ballet dancers seen from the front.
Where are the backs?
Sculptured granit before my eyes.
Why must I walk around to see it all?
Yet, in one glance, all of Flatland
And an infinity of Linelands can I survey.
Why so, Mr. Hilbert?
"Don't bother me with mere Nth dimensional metaphysics, kid."
"He doesn't know anyhow," said Mr. Cantor.
So who does?

When time has run down
And entropy is victorious,
Will there still be a mote
With a hint of what had been?

Death is mine to roam in,
Death is mine to explore.
For I have succeeded
Where all you guys
Have never succeeded before.

It might be helpful to know something about the game of chess to understand this one.

The 32 crouch upon the board.
The omnipotent hand hangs above.
And as the Being contemplates,
One pawn says to another,
"I hope he doesn't use a gambit."

This poem and the one after the next were inspired by thoughts about the Holocaust.

The pale leaves fall and tumble,
Wind blown where no one knows.
They pile upon the Temple door
In multitudes unknown.

The wind flies screaming through the trees,
Unheard by human ears.
The raindrops patter noiselessly
Upon the steps, like tears.

Search among the mountains.
Look upon the plains.
Dive into the depths of the sea.
There is on one.

Travel through the cities; crumbling.
Walk across the bridges; deserted.
Try to follow the spoor of man.
There is none.

But the birds still fly through the air,
And the grass and flowers still grow
Upon the earth.
Only Man has gone.

And in whatever greener pastures he lies,
Those too he must one day leave
Far behind,
And forget.

A cold wind blew across a barren plain.

The first snowflake fell to the earth.
A low-flying cloud scuttled through a gray sky.
And a pebble tumbled from its perch on a lonely sand dune.

It was a wintry night and no stars were out.
The gnarled trees stood all around an empty-looking cabin.
A single candle shed its light through the window.
Inside an old bearded man crouched protectively over
his precious scrolls, reading. As the ancient chant came
crying through his lips, a fist began pounding on the frail door.

"Offnen sie die Tür."
Silently the old man blew out the candle.

The gnarled trees are standing yet,
But there is no cabin below.
Only ashes.

When I lie in bed at night,
My thoughts tend to wander
Past the bounds
Of Earth and Sea,
Beyond the Still Blue Waters.

I see my cradle far below,
A speck of gold in nothing.
There is no sign of human works.
Just green and blue and wonder.

The sun, a fire, giving life.
Her children crowded 'round.
They huddle close to gather warmth,
Their backs to cold infinity.

Beyond my farthest visions,
The stars are glittering bright.
They are the ultimate mystery,
Beyond the farthest night.

Spread before me are the Spheres
That sang when I first made them.
Now they lie so cold and still.
Whatever could have happened?

There is a window in my room,
A view on all the world.
The birds that nestle in the trees.
The cloud-peeping sun showing through.

The rhythm of the swaying leaves,
Their ever-present tune.
Like the playing of a harp
By gently loving hands.

One blackest day, no sun did light,
Horizon to horizon.
I woke to see the Devil's might,
A horde of unchained bison.

They thundered closer, eyes ablaze
With souls of pure black hate,
Determined to destroy God's work.
Trees trembled at their fate.

I ran for shelter 'neath the ground,
Ignoring cries for help.
I left them to the gruesome horde,
Without a breath of hope.

The Devil had his day above,
Destroying helpless life.
Trees snapped like matchsticks under hoof,
Leaves scattered in the night.

And when some dreadful quota
Was filled up to the brim,
He left, with snarles of hatred,
The land devoid of life.

I came up from my hole, at last,
And looked around to see
The smashed form of a robin
Beneath her tree's debris.

Ah, the useless trembling fist,
To shake, frustrated, skyward.
Soon the sun will come again,
But now my window is broken.

I think that I shall never be
That which I so wish.
For is the thirst not lost
When finally it is quenched?

Lovely to look at,
Delightful to hold.
If you should drop it,
He marks it sold.

When I first wrote this poem for Mr. Cherubin's class, the last line was "Upon my shoulders." but he suggested that I would make my point more clearly this way, emphasizing the difference between the point of view of the ego (mind) and the body (brain). I was trying to express my perception that there is some difference between the sense of immediate self and the rest of the mind's internal environment, in which the self moves. Too deep for a sixteen-year-old? There's a lot to think about in these four lines.

For what crime I do not know,
I serve my lifetime here,
In this endless lonely vault
Upon his shoulders.

The traveler journeys endlessly,
Alone throughout the night.
Surrounded yet untouched by life,
His home is out of sight.

His stops are few,
Diversions slight.
His goal lies far
Beyond this night.

A tired blows,
Control is lost.
This thread, at last,
The Fates have cut.

Somewhere a home is hung in black,
The traveler home for good.
His funeral pyre had lit the night.
Now are ashes where it stood.

Somewhere is deepest infinitude
Resides a soul like mine.
Who sits in contemplation
Of endless space and time.

Somewhere beyond the farthest rim,
Beyond imagination,
A lonelier one than I exists,
The sculptor of all nature.

Could this be a little bit of influence by E. E. Cummings? I wouldn't take it too seriously.

Calculating the amount of unbeing
Known to the arithmetic mean of
People as living,
I find it to be

To Nostradamus (A Seer Through a Dirty Glass)

Before me swam a vision
Of an icicle at night.
It caught the starlight, gleaming,
A tooth about to bite.

About to bite a hunk of sky,
And hurl it down below,
To climb up through the ocean depths,
And see the clouds through eyes of stone.

Disaster, O, Disaster,
The beast is doomed to hell.
What's this! He rides the brimstone
Like a captain at his helm.

The arrow flies so straight and true,
To climb into the night.
Beyond my farthest visions,
Beyond my deepest sight.

This poem was done as an assignment from Mr. Cherubin to make a poem using a word made up by E. E. Cummings, "lugbringing".

We work like ants, lugbringing,
To pile our grains of sand.
To build the truths eternal.
This from mere man.

Yet one we have discovered
That is true without a doubt.
It is that truth is just a lie
That hasn't been found out.

Were all the spider webs
Woven into one,
With a careful hand to guide them,
No task would it be
To move the stars
Or lift us from the cradle.

How about a poem to the atmosphere? Considering the problems with the ozone layer, I think I was ahead of my time with this one.

Steel blue, cold gray.
Protector through the night and day.
Yet none do see and
None do praise you,
Obscurer of the stars.

Witty are those who follow the cult,
Who worship the crowd on high.
Cooly they bow and prostrate themselves,
But no one really knows why.

In the last moments of death
Her beauty as last is revealed.
We shed just a drop to replace
The empty and echoing well.

Momentarily, the happy clown,
A buffoon, gambols across my vision.
Eternally grinning, ever jolly,
But where does he go
After the act is over?

Acids of the Soul

Harmless coal in darkness lies,
Till the spark eats away the night.
Now it smoulders, flickering,
And casts a ghastly light.

No sign, at first, a snake of smoke,
A quickening of the pulse.
The air sinisterly nourishes
The monster's appetite.

A fierce wind blows to blazing life
The spark to supernova.
Consuming self, destroying all,
To die, used up, an ash upon the wind.

The icy chill, heart piercing,
Or the red hot burn of hate,
Both eat away the whiteness,
These acids of the soul.

The  Decision

The transparent hand lies in wait of us,
To snatch at the peak
Our goldenest treasure.

We know not why nor when,
But plucked we will be;
With luck, when dried and withered,
Without, when plump and juicy.

There is no staying of that immortal hand,
Nor of our feet that carry us to it.
Yet one escape may still exist.

If our beauty we bottle up,
And enshroud in infinite non-matter,
The most precious part will yet live on
After we are caught.

Live in muddy darkness, yes,
But better it is than not to be.

Even though we lock out the clutching hand,
Yet, too, ourselves do we lock in.

This poem was inspired by and dedicated to my grandmother, Molly Feingold.


Beside her odorous bed,
I kept my lonely vigil.
To hold her clammy hand
And suffer every gasping cough.

She passed the night, sunrise to see,
Her last view of this lovely trap.
Then freed herself to run away
Laughing, or so I hope.

For I am left, still caught,
You see, her chains still in my hand.
I'll bury them and sadly mourn
Her freedom from this cage.

Yet, it is she, not I, should mourn,
For I'm still in captivity.

Everyone should try to write limmericks sometime! This one is dedicated to a cousin of mine, who visited me when I was a graduate student at Yale. His parents hoped I would be a helpful influence on his math studies, but he spent most of his time playing basketball at the gym.

There was a young fellow named Cohen,
Who for his brains wasn't well known.
His studies of Math
Drew his cousin's Wrath,
Who said, "Your head must be pure Bone!"

Said Sigmund to those he held dear,
"I've noticed you treating me queer.
Could it be because
Though I've broken no laws,
If your taboos I have shown no fear?"

There once was a town named Shelaylie,
With just over twelve men named Bailey.
At just after five,
They all would arrive,
At the bar which they overran daily.

Links back to:
Alex Feingold's Webpage,
Department of Mathematical Sciences,
Binghamton University.

Page last modified on 1-8-2005.