LISA, ONCE

A phone call, a lawyer’s clerk:
Can you tell me about Lisa Landesman?
I pause for that is a name I have
not heard in forty years, save
in a poem I once wrote,
now long forgotten.

She was my sister for two
or three weeks, adopted like I was,
and then Mike, my then father
dropped dead of a massive
heart attack and she was soon gone.

We were Federal adoptions, our
birthplace under Federal law, not
getting its own for two decades,
and her adoption wasn’t final so she
was re-placed and never replaced.

She won’t inherit as I will from
my cousin who died having no
siblings, spouse, children,
nieces or nephews, who left
no will, who left only kind memories.

WE WANT, AGAIN

We want to cry out,
but we have no words.

We want to scream
but all we give is silence.

We want to curse the invader
but cannot be heard
over the tanks, bombs
and rockets.

We want to mourn
but there are so many
innocents, where
do we begin?

We want to act,
but we are incapable
and can offer
only silent prayer.

THE SAINT OF UNCOUNTED NAMES

A desert again,
always a desert
and she the saint
of uncounted names,
her crying eases, no
smile appears for this
Madonna of the coyotes,
her orange-orbed eyes
shuttered against the
slowly retreating sun.
Once her tears watered
the desert sands, mixed
with the blood of a Christ
now long forgotten, trans-
substantiated into a spirit
we formed in our image,
no longer we in his.
The Blessed Mother
watches, holding hope,
holding space, holding
a serenity we cannot
fathom in our search
for divine justification.
She remembers, she mourns,
for what ought to be, and waits
for the windwalkers
to pull the blanket
of stars over her.

First published in Liquid Imagination, Issue 52, October 2022
http://liquidimagination.silverpen.org/

SOPHIE

She maintained an aura of what she
imagined was elegance, a carefully
constructed persona carried out
in the most careful details.

Her furniture had slipcovers, lest
someone spill and mar the fabric,
a tea cart always at the ready
although I never saw her serve tea.

She spoke with carefully chosen
words, certainly not the vernacular
of the city, perhaps of London
where she had been born.

Those she met would never guess
that this was the same woman, who
on the death of her husband, wielded
a baseball bat in the liquor store
she operated in the heart of downtown,
one she had used on one occasion
once enough that the word got out.

STORY

You are still there. You have a patience that I will not know in this lifetime. I know I can always find you, even though you never reach out to me except in my dreams. There I tell you my life story and you listen intently. You have no need to ask questions, knowing I will tell the whole story in due time, And time is one thing you have that I, increasingly, lack. So I’ll be back for another visit soon and you will be waiting for me, mother.

UNKNOWING

Twenty years ago today
and there was no band playing,
at least not for me, for I knew
nothing of you yet, and you
knew nothing of me either.

I have met you since
in a moment of silence,
looking at a yearbook picture
knowing what was not, what
never was or could be.

I recite the Kaddish
even though my Judaism
has been laid to rest,
knowing what is, and
imagining what might have been.

ONE MORE

How many nails does
a simple coffin need?

They hammered another one
today, the largest yet.

We had invited them
to do so it seems.

We were upset by this
but there was nothing we
could really do except
call them out and threaten
to do what exactly
has never been clear.

So we are left to mourn
again the death, knowing
that there can be no
resurrection for Ukraine
and freedom itself
is a step closer to death.

REAR VIEW MIND

I spent too much time looking
backward, looking into the past,
looking into the mirror
to frame a dream history
of my desires and fears.
He called one morning, left
a message, “Mother died,
more details will follow.”
A mother his by birth,
mine by legal act.
I should have felt stunned
anger, I said quietly to myself
he’s cocky, has issues, and went
about momentary mourning.
That is the psyche of the adoptee who
was never family, always an adjunct.
Later my antediluvian dreams
gave way under a torrent
of deoxyribonucleic acid rain.
She who I imagined in the mirror
took name, took shape from
and old yearbook, offered
a history, a family, a heritage.
When I knelt at her grave
she told me her story
in hushed tones, or was it
the breeze in the pines on the hill
overlooking the Kanawha?
I bid her farewell that day,
placed a pebble on her headstone,
stroked the cold marble
and mourned an untouched mother.

SIX FEET UNDER

I remember the afternoon
was cold and damp, with a persistent
drizzle that escaped
the clustered umbrellas,
the sky a blanket slowly shedding
the water that soaked it
as it sat out on the clothesline.

I suspect you would have
liked it this way, everyone in attendance,
everyone shuffling their feet,
wanting to look skyward,
knowing they would see only
a dome of black umbrella domes.

I recited the necessary prayers,
kept a reasonable pacing
despite the looks of many urging
me to abridge the service, but
the rain didn’t care about their wishes
and I knew you wouldn’t
so I carried on to the conclusion.

As they lowered your coffin
into the puddled grave, I imagined
you laughing, knowing in the end
you had this day gotten the last one.

First Published in The Poet Magazine – Featured Poetry
https://www.thepoetmagazine.org/august-2022

HAVOC

They took up shovels,
pickaxes, bare fingers
to pry up the seedlings,
the saplings just taking
root and the seeds
just planted still watered
by the sweat and tears
of those who lovingly
tilled the brittle soil.

They offered nothing
in return, barren ground
where only anger grew,
fertilized by fear, by
by greed, by blindness.

Will we sit by and watch
as promises wither under
an ever stronger, more
glaring sun, as hopes are
blown away by arid winds,
or will we again return
to the soil, start over,
our faith now perennial.