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.

NOT YET

The man walked into the old diner
looking not at all happy,
dressed in what looked like
a white robe he found in some alley.

He ordered coffee and glanced
around, as if seeking one
familiar face, finding many
that looked like that

of his father, like him,
for that matter, and he knew
from this quick glance that
they were not yet ready,

not even close really, but he
had tried to tell Him that,
not that He listened, so the man
left some change on the table

walked out into the night,
and prepared to return home,
certain this visit, like the others
would never be deemed

a second coming.

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.

HAUNTING

The ghosts of my birth parents
blow into my dreams as
so many white sheets torn
from the clothesline
by gale winds, fly over me,
at once angels and vultures
carrying off memories
created from the clay
of surmise and wishful thinking.

I invite their visits, frail
branches to which to cling
in the storms of growing age,
beginnings tenuous anchors
to hold against time, knowing
the battle cannot be won,
but take joy in skirmishes
not to be diminished
by an ultimate failure I
have long come to accept.

ILL SUITED

My father wanted to take
me to buy my first suit, said
he knew a tailor who could
fashion one perfect for
my pending Bar Mitzvah,
a nice wool blend, he said.

Mother about threw a fit.
“Take him to the department
store or even Goodwill,
for God’s sake, he’s only
going to wear it once.”

My father had learned
that some battles are best
left unfought, so he
compromised and we went
to the men’s shop and I wore
that sport coat three times
before outgrowing it, and
donating it to Goodwill.

OF DREAMS

I am now of an age
where I can no longer remember
what terrors gripped my sons
in their dreams, causing them
to appear beneath our blankets,
I relegated to the bed’s edge.

Perhaps there were none
and I was destined to be
an edge sleeper, the boys
taking advantage as a joke
played out night after night.

I know what dreams now
can rip me from sleep, a
chill beyond that of the A/C
running down my spine like
nightmare sciatica, until I banish
the dream and wait to see
what its replacement offers.

CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes