NAMENCLATURE

I have gone
by many names,
some chosen,
some inherited,
some thrown at me
in anger,
in scorn,
in friendship.

Names add
nothing to who
I am, who
I choose to be,
who I am seen
to be by the those
who throw around
names as if
they were magical
incantations, elixirs
with great power
that fall
at my feet
like shattered
icicles of my
not caring.

ANCESTRY

Children have an innate sense
of their ancestry.
I was a child of the city
it’s streets my paths, always
under the watchful eye
of my warden – mother.

Dirt was to be avoided
at all possible cost,
so I never dug my hands
into the fertile soil of my
village in the heart of Lithuania,
or tasted the readying harvest
that dirt would remember.

I never stole a nip of poitin
only the Manischewitz which,
in our home, masqueraded
as wine fit for drinking. It is only
now in my second childhood
that the ancestry very deep
in my DNA has finally found
purchase in my mind and soul.

YEARBOOK REFLECTION

Knowing that my
biological parents’
pictures were somewhere
in the yearbooks
I had before me
I thought that I
would search without
looking at the names.

No one looked
at all like the me
I see in the mirror
nor the me I am
shocked to see
in my own yearbook.

Yet finding them
by name I quickly
realized that I
was their amalgam
a face neither
would have recognized
no matter how
small the crowd.

TREASURES

I keep in my pocket
all the treasures of my family,
all of the keepsakes from my mother,
and those from my father
given to me when they died.

I would share them with you,
but they are highly personal
and would not mean much to one
who never knew my parents
or my step brother, the one

with whom I have not spoken
since the text announcing
our father’s death, so I cherish
what I have in my pocket for
nothing was all I hoped for.

IMMIGRATION

When you got off the boat
you must have been scared,
but getting away from that life
made the fear bearable.

I have no idea how you ended
up in West Virginia, it wasn’t
at all like Lithuania, and Jews
might have had two heads I imagine.

But you all made do, made
a community, invited others
and were tolerated if odd,
and I am certain you wonder

what happened, why now those
or their children’s children’s
children are so willing to shun
others whose only sin, like yours,

was wanting to get away
from horror, from persecution,
from fear, and make a life
in the hills of West Virginia.

ORIGIN

I am told that I should write
about my origins, that is the stuff
that long poems are made of, or
rather the soil from which they bloom.

I have written about my birth mother
and visited her grave in West Virginia
seen those of my grandparents, met
a cousin, I’ve written all of that.

So its time to write about
my birth father, about the places
he was as a child, a young man,
where he is buried, dead long before

I discovered his existence, our link,
but I know nothing of Burlington,
or Camden and my passing knowledge
of New Jersey is limited
to Newark and its airport.

That is hardly the stuff of great poetry
or even mediocre memoir, so he
will be nothing more than a picture
of a gravestone in a national cemetery.

CALLING

In the dark heart of night
time is suddenly frozen,
the clock’s hands stalactites
and stalagmites, unyielding
denying the approach of morning,
leaving the sun imprisoned
under the watchful gaze
of its celestial wardens.

It is then you appear,
call out to me, beg me
be silent, not asking
the lifetime of questions
I have accreted, providing
my own hopes and
imagination for answers,
but you have faces, not
those of that weekend
but of other days, she
younger, in college, he
in a college yearbook
at a school he never attended
save as part of the ROTC
contingent of the Air Force.

I bid you farewell, finally,
and time again takes motion
and morning welcomes the sun.

KP

My younger step-siblings had it easy
once our father made seriouis money,
for then my mother decided we needed
a live in housekeeper, one who
could cook, clean and take care
of all those things domestic.

So my siblings had only to put
their dishes near the sink,
their laundry down the chute,
and keep their rooms marginally tidy.

I had missed most of that when
I was their age and father kept
us afloat with nothing to spare,
so I knew how to wash dishes,
how to run a load of laundry,
skills that served me well when
Uncle Sam gave me KP duty,
and waist deep in dishes and pots
I imagined how my siblings
might fare in that situation
for I needed a good laugh then.

WANDERING NO MORE

In my dreams I wandered
the alleys of Lisbon searching
for a familiar face, and many
came close, but no man stopped me
and asked if I was, by chance
his son, for he dreamed I
was what a son of his
would look like.

Now I have no need to wander
for I know he is in
a military cemetery
in Burlington, New Jersey,
and I doubt he had any
idea in life he had
another son, or a daughter
in Italy, for weekends
were quickly passed
when you had to be
back at the base
by midnight on Sunday.

TROVE

He says he has found
a treasure trove of home movies
8mm film in small metal cans,
the sprocket holes intact
for the most part, my childhood
I thought captured on 35mm slides
that I am too cheap to pay
to have digitized, my adoptive
parents ill at ease with a camera
assuming always back lighting
was preferable, and I admit
it was nice to be an angel
or at least so my perpetual
halo allows me to claim.

But we have no projector
and given his photographic
skills, his cinematographic ones
suggest a black and white
zombie film of embarrassment,
but I tell him thanks
and imagine several uses
for the circular metal cans.