TO ALLEN

Tell me more about death, I said
put it into words, that’s
your specialty so open your mouth
from amid your black jungle of a beard
now white, I want a noise, a howl.
Why the hell do I hear only silence,
I know it’s the sound
of one hand clapping,
but I demand more than a mere koan
Corso would at least bathe me in gasoline
but you, who wrote to be immortal
so why, now, only old words?
So I can complete the circle?
But they hit the floor like
so may peanut shells
washed by the spilt beer.
Come on, say something
even a simple kaddish
for your silence is killing me.

DREAM WALKING

Tonight I will again
walk through my dream
scrapbook re-creating you.
For a bit longer, at least, I
have full creative expression
knowing now that you died
six years ago, never married.
I will search from
the carefully or inadvertently
dropped clue, your obituary,
bits and facts that could
never have come from the
adoption file, beacons
however faint that will
lead me into the harbor
of my true identity.
But for now I can imagine you
sitting in a corner at
the singles dance, looking
as your sisters pleaded
for a nice young man, long
past being fussy.
It didn’t take much
for him to sweep you
away, at least for
that one evening, away
from the teletype keyboard,
away from the cramped apartment.
I do wonder if your brother
finished college, was at
the same one you left
when the war made money tight.
I can fashion all of these things
into an ever shifting mural
of my own life, but soon enough
I will search, and with some luck
will find our shared name.
I may never see your face
save in the mirror or
the eyes of my granddaughter,
but in her smile, in the smile
of your grandson, I know
you better than you
could ever have imagined.

HOLOCAUST

Years later on, having walked
calmly away from my former faith,
I am left still pondering
where you find the words
to describe, to teach the unspeakable,
and how you use them to reach
children who have no right to know
the unspeakable, but who must,
lest they later speak it.
It was a generation ago for me, two
for them, three now for my own
grandchildren but the losses
they know are staggering: Las Vegas,
9/11, Manchester, Sandy Hook,
and on and on and on and on
and how do you help them grasp
the number six million, 10 million, when
they have but ten fingers,
shielding their eyes from the horror.

AGING

She would have been, what …
does it matter anymore,
frozen in time at that last age
before time ceased to matter
and images became locked
and only the viewer grew older
but glad at least for that.
The only thing worse
than getting older is not
she once said, then as was
her fashion, proved herself right.
I wrote a eulogy and
countless elegies and in the end
I’m not getting younger
which is something to be treasured.

AT THE MARGINS

Horizons are the thing
we have they greatest trouble with.
They are omnipresent, immutable
and yet move at our approach.
They are at once inviting
and fear inducing, though now
we are largely convinced they
do not mark the edge of a precipice
over which we would catapult
into some endless abyss
crossing their margin.
As we age we are allowed nearer
and they see less foreboding
though we struggle to keep eyes open
knowing that too soon enough
we will close them finally
and step across into the abyss.

ANOTHER GHETTO

She sits
in the bookstore cafe
her head covered
by a linen kerchief
bobby pinned to the
mass of walnut curls.
She cradles the cup
of cooling coffee
and stares down
at the slim book
of Amichai, yielding
to the Hebrew letters
that seem to dance
across the page.
I sit at the adjoining table
with my used
copy of Bialik, translated.
I glance at her
“I’ll miss him”
with a nod to Amichai
then “where are you from?”
She shifts
in her seat, legs
crossing, pulling back
staring over
my shoulder at
the slowly spinning fan,
then at the book.
I look for her eyes
but they dance away,
my hands clasp
and                  unclasp,
fingers drum on the table.
She mutters,
“Atlanta.”
“What part?”
“Warsaw, inside
the walls and wire,
that place
from which so few of us ever
manage to escape.”