There is a statue of William Penn
atop the city hall in Philadelphia
seeming to stare down over the city
with bronze eyes incapable of seeing.
Hagar wandered the wilderness
after she was evicted by Abraham
at Sarah’s urging, the price
of jealousy, with bread and water
and the promise of a great nation.
It is pure speculation whether
Hagar was enslaved and freed
or, as we would claim it today,
employed by the family. In the end
the distinction matters little.
Penn remains blind atop the building
Hagar and Ishmael are long dead,
and Jefferson likely had children
with one of his slaves, or so
the DNA evidence indicates.
I am of Norwegian and Scottish
patrilineal heritage it appears
though my great nation is
a six year old girl and
almost three year old boy.
Mrs. Weiskopf lived in a small cottage
Mrs. Weiskopf taught piano in her living room.
Mrs. Weiskopf had no first name, even
checks were to be made payable to Mrs. Weiskopf.
Mrs. Weiskopf grew suddenly old, some said,
to full fit into her name, no one could
remember her ever being young.
Mrs. Weiskopf said I must always find Middle C,
that everything starts there.
Mrs. Wieskopf was not pleased when I said
that Middle C was key number 40 on my piano
and there was no middle key, only
a gap between E4 and F4.
Mrs. Weiskopf looked at me sternly
and ended my lesson early that day.
Mrs. Weiskopf was a great teacher.
I think of her each time I sit down
and place the doumbek on my lap.
A Palestinian woman tells her son she loves him as he leaves their home
in much the same words as does the Israeli woman to her son. The Palestinian
woman would never consider these words as having anything to do with a young
Israeli. The Israeli mother would be horrified to think of speaking the words
to a Palestinian. They use these words only for their own sons, and only
to hide and calm their own fears. The Palestinian woman fears her son
could be harmed, killed perhaps, by a young Israeli. The Israeli mother fears
her son could be another victim in the Intefada. The young Israeli kisses
his mother and picks up his helmet and Uzi. The young Palestinian heads off
to the bakery where he works, always looking nervously at the border fence.
This Israeli and this Palestinian will never meet. Their mothers will never meet.
Only the words of parents will ever unite them.
This Sunday, I know, we will take
another journey through mythology,
today a sail down the Lethe, no doubt,
or perhaps a careful avoidance of the Styx.
He will speak of Thanatos and Mors,
and will tell me not to be sad,
and with his sad smile, I will not be,
and though he is seven, he knows
he has touched me yet again, for that
is his magic, and in those moments he
is Damon to my Pythias, and I will find
that my tears are of joy and memory,
and his smile is the same one my father wore
which is my most abiding memory.
He is fond of the name Alejandro Carlos
Ernesto Rodrigo Guttierez. The fact is
he loves the name. He knows it has
a certain nobility to it. It embodies and
conveys strength and character. It is a source
of pride and great satisfaction. The name
makes him taller, bolder. There is so much
in a name, that name in particular. “Vinny,”
his mother shouts, “Vincenzo Balducci, come
down here and take the trash out, your
chores come first around here young man.
He is not at all fond of the name Vincenzo.
It was lying there,
on the ground, waiting to be noticed,
unsure of why everyone walked by,
some glancing, most lost in thought.
It hadn’t been there long, but
certainly long enough to be seen,
of that it was certain, yet
there it lay staring crimson
at the sun overhead, and even
the one passing cloud
seemed to ignore it
as it meandered by.
It wanted to shout out,
to demand attention, but
it knew that wouldn’t change anything.
And so it lay there, waiting,
frustrated, until a sudden breeze
lifted it up and a small child
shouted to his mother, “Mommy,
look at the pretty red leaf.”
The little girl-women
pile onto the train
pillows and stuffed animals,
all they will soon leave
in the rooms of childhood.
In the train’s café, Gerald
welcomes us back
his “established customers,”
he says to all, as we sit
beneath the wide awning
that is his smile,
sipping the much