SMALL REFLECTION

It is that moment when the moon
is a glaring crescent,
slowly engulfed by
the impending night —
when the few clouds give out
their fading glow
In the jaundiced light
of the sodium arc street lamp.-
It nestles the curb — at first a small bird —
when touched, a twisted piece of root

I want to walk into the weed-strewn
aging cemetery, stand in the shadow
of the expressway, peel
the uncut grass from around her head-
stone. I remember
her arthritic hands clutching mine,
in her dark, morgueish apartment, smelling
of vinyl camphor borsht
I saw her last in a hospital bed
where they catalog and store
those awaiting death, stared
at the well-tubed skeleton
barely indenting starched white sheets.
She smiled wanly and whispershouted
my name — I held my ground
unable to cross the river of years
unwilling to touch
her outstretched hand. She had
no face then, no face now, only
an even fainter smell of age
of camphor of lilac of must

Next to the polished headstone
lies a small, twisted root.
I wish it were a bird,
I could place gently
on the lowest branch of the old maple
that oversees her slow departure.


First appeared in Legal Studies Forum, Vol. 30, No. 1-2, 2006 and in The Right to Depart, Plainview Press, 2008.

ASKED AND ANSWERED

This morning I made the mistake
of asking where the coffee beans were.
My spouse didn’t hear me, but Siri
offered her opinion, leaning toward Guatemala.
That didn’t set well with Alexa
who said they were either in the cabinet
over the stove, of in Papua New Guinea,
since she prefers lower acidic coffee.
Probably unsurprising, but Siri did
not take well to being corrected,
and got into it with Alexa, and I
was left trying to interject, being ignored.
I asked the Google Voice Assistant to intercede,
but it only wanted to know which voice
I wanted it to speak with, and
then froze completely awaiting my answer.

ALTERNATE HISTORY

My mother wanted to tell me
of my great-grandmother,
a woman she barely knew,
but who she imagined more fully
that life itself
would ever have allowed.
History, in her hands
was malleable, you could
shape it in ways never happened.
She wanted to tell me
but she knew that
her grandmother wouldn’t approve
of adopting when your womb
was perfectly serviceable,
certainly not for a man
more than a decade older
who could not uphold
his most sacred obligation.
She wanted to tell me,
but I am adopted
and this woman can be
no more than a story
of passing relevance to me.

BUT FEAR ITSELF

He only wants to know , he says
what she fears most,what is her phobia,
everyone has at least one, he claims.
She thinks about this for a while
then smiles and says her one true fear
is called phobophobia, and that
she says positively terrorizes her.
He looks confused and she sees it.
I fear, she adds, people who are in fear
even though I know they aren’t contagious.
He smiled, took her hand, and said
You have nothing to fear from me
for I am generally known to be fearless.
At that she cringed, knowing that
Her second greatest fear was mythophobia
and he was a walking, talking example.

ALOFT

As a child I often
flew kites, which is to say
that I ran haphazardly
pulling a string and
dragging a wood frames
paper rhombus across the park.
My father laughed until
seeing me on the edge
of tears he took up the string
and dragged the kite
across the park.
One day a strong wind
blew across the park
and the kite lifted into the sky
trailing its string
to taunt me.

A SHORT LONG LINE

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.