Pythagoras in Crisis

by Lee Slonimsky

It’s just a mood, perhaps, but he stands stunned,
the densest woods so asymmetrical:
gnarled trunks and twisting branches, splashing sun
that here collects in pools, and there slants straight.

He likes the orderly but in a lull
the random overwhelms him.  One tree white,
the others mossy brown; a stream misshaped
by boulders, broken logs. 

                                                Woods demonstrate
confusion’s reign, if one’s astute: the loops
a swallow swoops seem odd, math-free.  He’s fooled
himself these many years with phantom rules:

to prize his abacus, to calculate,
have been his life, but now he sees it all:

stormstrewn chaos.  A maple’s sudden fall. 

Pythagoras’s Broken Abacus

by Lee Slonimsky

To disentangle chaos is his task
this morning in deep woods.  Secluded glade,
where birdsong is intense.

                                                 But overlapping calls
can’t be identified,
nor numbered, nor remembered,
and he can’t
find logic in unhinged asymmetry–

a swirl of chirps, high flutes,
doves’ coos, caws’ taunts–

the congregation’s maniacal.  Sounds
that can’t be measured: no place for his math.

He shrugs, continues on his wandering path.

Review of Lee Slonimsky’s Red-Tailed Hawk on Wall Street

by David Beckman

Red-Tailed Hawk on Wall Street
Lee Slonimsky, New York
Spuyten Duyvil,
2015. 89 pp.

How many poets plant their flag where Wall Street and poetry intersect? Wallace Stevens stood at a similarly unusual corner, that of the insurance business and poetry. But Stevens never attempted to capture his corporate geography in his poems.

Now comes Lee Slonimsky’s 6th book of poems, Red-Tailed Hawk on Wall Street, where his dual identity of poet and stock trader meets and generates creative fire, often captured in his alter ego, Paul, a stock trader who inhabits some of these poems:

Paul loves this glade, where time almost stands still
away from stress and brawl of trading floor.
Still numbers, yes: he loves to count the leaves
that brim so green mid-May.

These poems, rooted in the fact of a red-tailed hawk living on a ledge above Manhattan’s canyons, achieve a unique vision that transcends city and country, Wall Street and woods. Indeed, the hawk’s true habitation — the natural world — is home for deep contemplation and tranquility that stock trading can never deliver, yet which Slonimsky chooses fiercely to embrace:

                                             Time’s ancient road
looks brand new to us, like a cresting wave,
effects of wind, a storm, pale lightning’s sear.

But every patch of grass has history,
invisible yet summoned easily
if one would only let thoughts, feelings move
as slowly as the ground dries – yes – right here.

Slonimsky’s hawk, native to country and woods, yet now inhabiting the city, gives wing to these finely etched poems where the poet’s keen eye and relentless imagination capture nuance, feeling and insight:

                                                      No fear:
how grand his lofty view of river, park!
And then he feels himself inside this bird,
as if his arms were winged, his face a beak,
as if transformed by some primordial Word
(if this be sleep, then let him never wake).

Here is the superb achievement of these poems: observer becomes hawk; poet becomes metaphor.

The way a hawk rests on this concrete cliff,
then circles high above the jostling throngs
and glides, her wings agleam, through early mists,
you’d think that Wall Street is where she belongs.

The book’s other sections show Slonimsky’s astonishing range, where poems evoke love in Italy and France (he’s every bit as evocative of affairs of heart as those of hawk); metaphysics of place; and meditations on weather where sunlight, rain, clouds and wind become charged elements in diurnal dramas:

Huge shadows dance on this steep wooded hill
whenever sunlight seeps between some clouds
that quiver in the wind. It’s quite the thrill
to watch clouds waltz and pirouette, the floods
of all last week receded. We’re awash
in breaking skies and warming gusts, the glow
of sudden sun on tangled greenery.

Delight for the reader resides in the arc of this collection, but also in the poet’s skill as a craftsman. Here, the sonnet may be Slonimsky’s chosen habitat, but other forms enrich his palate, allowing line, rhyme and meter to frame and feed the living pulse of these extraordinary poems.

Review of Lee Slonimsky’s Bermuda Gold

by Harry Steven Lazerus

Bermuda Gold
Lee Slonimsky, Abbeville, SC
Moonshine Cove Publishing,
2015. 266 pp.

An engaging new private eye has sprung from the keyboard of Lee Slonimsky, a poet and hedge fund manager. J. E. Rexroth, a financially struggling shamus subsisting on the lower rungs of PI work, comes alive on the pages of Bermuda Gold, Slonimsky’s new mystery-suspense novel.

Rexroth—from whose point-of-view the story is told—is a totally believable everyman with a poet’s eye and a penchant for trying to do the right thing. The novel opens when the beautiful wife of a hedge fund manager asks him to investigate a series of threatening phone calls she may or may not have received. The intricately plotted novel moves with the speed of polished steel as it weaves together financial skullduggery, marital infidelity, murder, and the threat of nuclear terrorism. This isn’t simply a novel of detection, however. Rexroth’s digging to find the truth endangers not only himself but the love of his life. There are plenty of scenes to cause your heart to pound and pulse to race, and occasionally you may have to fight the temptation to skip some lines to find out what is going to happen as the author ratchets up the almost unbearable suspense.

But you won’t want to skip lines anywhere because you will miss much of the subtlety and beauty of the writing. The novel has a definite sense of place, and Rexroth, as he drives around the Inwood section of Manhattan and the hills of upstate New York—areas that the author seems to know well—describes what he sees with poetic elegance. There is the ever present picture of the natural world, even in this book with an urban setting, as for example the relationship between wind and clouds: “The wind went on making its albino sculpture of clouds high overhead…” Or this, as he drives to an airport: “… a red sun rose fiercely into a white dawn, while arrows of fire assaulted the waters of Jamaica Bay, targeting ripples that turned into quivering bloodstains, while black-crowned herons and herring gulls … caressed the frigid air with their graceful wings…”

The reader also gets easily digestible lessons on hedge funds as Rexroth, no financial maven himself, sets out to learn about these obscure, but influential, organizations. And throughout the novel, there are interesting tidbits about the history of places that appear in this story.

There is much to recommend Bermuda Gold: a page-turning plot, elegant writing, interesting information not usually found in the pages of a novel, and a sympathetic protagonist who is hard not to care about. Let’s hope that this is not J. E. Rexroth’s first and last appearance in a detective novel, but the start of a long series.

Pythagoras’s Meaning

by Lee Slonimsky

When raindrops strike the pond they ripple round,
Pi-scriptured circles perfect as his math;
he lingers long on this fernlush high path,
observing, calculating.The one sound,
the silken one of water.How astute,
this forest where Pi matters just as in
his lessons, certain theorems.Red leaves’ spin.
The math of tree rings, rain, a young lark’s flute
as fluent as his own.Should he persist
when all he does is mirror nature’s laws?

He pauses, counting one crow’s loud black caws
addressing him through sudden, fleeting mist.

And that’s the core of it; he’s not here to
make history, discover the unknown,
but rather to connect until he’s gone.

Mere notice makes the ancient live, brand new.

Stock Trader Steps Outside

by Lee Slonimsky

A whistler: one
and a thrummer: two

the latter like
someone’s dropped a cello in the woods
and a yellow bird plucks absently
at a string

Together they make quite a pair,
even as the morning sun
radiant on this thawing stream
seems to shimmer in rhythm with
their punctuated harmony

Even as fir tips sway
their version of
getting up and dancing

Even as a scoop of breeze
splashes light against the trees,
makes them luminescent.

Nothing’s ever seemed less urgent
than a schedule
in this morning pause

You lean against a fir tree,
commune with its gray bones,
feel your common origin

in how thin bark embraces,
in how your blood tingles.