Excerpts from Death Mask

In a Moment of Courage

"The wound of my name,
chiseled in stone,
left in marble,
so desperately alone.
Asleep in bed,
in my forever home.
But I haven't left.
I still breathe.
Heart pounding in chest."

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Through These Eyes

Things that don't exist
live in the corners of my eyes.
Shadows and light take form,
evil thoughts are hard to resist.
This is my norm, as I was born.

Optical illusion precedes delusion.
These ghosts are real,
and lead to this fusion.
It's the story I tell myself
that generates confusion.

The Prisoner of Dream

"At night, I crawl
through roses,
feeling for worms,
and parasites,
in the dark cool soil.

I join with numbness,
the frost, thorn, and petal,
rock and pebble."

Hello Leonard

(Leonard Cohen, 1934 –2016)

Hello Leonard,
the stranger, the dark one,
visited both of us this year.

You went with him,
I stayed behind.
I'm not ready to walk that bardo.

Leonard, you are my religion,
My understanding,
A light on a sacred path.

You are the birth to this poem.
The father of the collection.
The mother of inspiration.

I wanted to walk with you
into that uncertainty,
reciting a song that you wrote.

You left while I was sleeping.
You ran into mercy.
She took away all your notes.

About Death Mask (From the Back Cover)

Over the course of more than fifty years, Dan has authored over 200 poems and remains actively engaged in his craft, producing a dozen poems annually. In 2020, he unveiled a poetry collection titled “Double Mirage,” followed by the release of “Death Mask” in 2023. Furthermore, later in the same year, he is set to publish another book, “Petroglyphs.”

Death Mask is a collection of his darker poems that deal with the death of loved ones, suicide, and political strife.

These poems vividly describe the emotions surrounding the death of his father, who spent 30 years in a sanitarium, and his mother, who experienced a sort of rebirth after he was institutionalized. The poem about his father “You Don’t Say Anything,” is in three parts, the first two penned in the early 1970’s, and a third part added in 2023. The poem about his mother, “Lay the Distant Mountains,” was written around 2016 before her passing in 2017.

Then there was his brother who passed away at 73 from a bacterial flesh-eating disease, preceded by decades of battling advanced crippling rheumatoid arthritis. His poem is “Gulliver in Chain’s” where his brother, John, is portrayed as Gulliver in “Gulliver’s Travels,” but instead of little people and rope, he is tied to a surgical bed with tubes and other restraints, and the little people are the shadowy figures of doctor’s and nurses.

Another poem, “Mourning an Angel,” concerns his second son, Angel, who died in utero at 7 months into the pregnancy.

In addition to the theme of family, Dan writes about the passing of Leonard Cohen and the suicide of Sylvia Plath in a poem commemorating her 40th birthday titled “Lady Lazarus at 40.”

Other poems in this collection revolve around Dan’s coming of age during a socially and politically turbulent time. They include poems about his decision to evade the draft in 1969, including one where Dan was placed in solitary confinement after feigning suicide. In total, Dan spent 2 months in jail before ultimately fulfilling his military obligation.

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