Even a cat knows when the screen is on Zoom, you sit and wait. Or stick your head in the picture so all can acknowledge your presence. Either works, and you know patience is not a virtue, but at times a necessity. You are a cat, after all. Patience is for dogs, poor beasts, having to be walked regularly. There is no freedom being a dog, and when they call you bad, that day is shot for you and you slink off. But cats must sometimes be patient when they are on Zoom, but it gives you time to plot your revenge, which the humans will never expect, but always soon enough forgive.
It is growing more common for men
of a certain age, one I have attained,
to grow beards, and that was before
the pandemic made them ubiquitous
among those of the male gender.
I noted this aloud and a young child
smiled at me and said, “of course,
you have to have a beard because
the hair inside your head has to go
somewhere other than your bald head.”
At least some Chinese manufacturers
have seemingly grown tired of our
endless mockery of their instructions.
No longer do they tell me “please to be
inserting the extended aspect
of part A into part B in the slotted area.”
Now they give me wordless instructions,
a series of pictures with lettered parts
which seems easier until, after
unpacking the many pieces, laying them
out on th workspace I discover
that either I am short one or more screws
or worse still, but more likely, when I begin
I will discover that several of the part
labels are lying in the bottom of the empty box.
You want something. Tell me what it is. Don’t hedge, be open and honest. I may not give it to you. I may not have it to give. I may have it and give it freely. I may have and not want to part with it. I may not have, can get it and give it. Or not. You will not know until you ask for it. I may seek a reason you want it. I may not care. I may seek a reason while not caring. That is my prerogative. I don’t expect you to like that. I may or may not care whether you like it or not. But first you must tell me what it is. I will not guess but I will wait. I am very patient. Or perhaps I am not and you have already missed your opportunity. Life is difficult. You didn’t ask for it to be.
There are things children know
that parents will never understand.
Odder still, things a person knows
as a child are forgotten in adulthood.
A child measures the success of a day
by the duration of the parent
demanded bath at its end.
A child know that boundaries, especially
those parentally set, are flexible
and you don’t know where
the limit is until you cross it.
Presents are not special, they are
expected periodically, and only
a parent imagines that Santa
would ignore a child no matter
how “bad” the child had been.
But happily, when a parent
crosses the boundary into the land
of grandparenting, somehow
the knowledge of the child
is refound, very often accompanied
by one or more conspiratorial winks.
I was born the same day, in
a much later year as Thornton Wilder,
a fact that had no impact at all
on my life, since I discovered our
common birthday long after
my life’s path was half tread.
I read him in my youth, and must
admit I can recall nothing of what
I read, which I attribute to all
that I have read since, and not
as any criticism of Wilder’s writing,
for his talent is beyond question.
But what was disconcerting
was to learn that Nick Hornby
was born five years to the day after me
and has penned works that I love
but cannot hope to equal
despite my having lived longer
if not more fully than he has.
He was well on his way
to achieving his dream
of being a musical idol.
He had long since mastered
the air guitar, could shred
with the best, Hendrix,
Clapton, and he had conquered
the piano fingerings of most
of the Billy Joel Songbook,
his paper keyboard worn flat.
Clarence Clemons was proving
a serious challenge, the air sax
was by reputation the most
difficult of all the instruments.
He could taste success, and all
he now needed to do was
convince his parents to buy
an instrument and pay for lessons.
He should have known
that the day was doomed
from the moment he woke
to see his alarm clock in pieces
on the floor by his bed, the cat
grinning at him from the place
where the clock had always sat.
Finally arriving at the office,
he was no sooner at his desk
when the fire alarm bell rang.
Within moments of reentering
after the all clear, it rang again,
and his own, very private
Chinese fire drill was under way.
The day calmed until, after lunch,
the Regional Manager arrived,
gathered everyone at the great
round conference table, and
demanded to know who
had made a simple error,
and watched as the inevitable
circular firing squad began.
He stares at the collection
of pens crammed tightly into
a coffee mug whose handle
had long since broken away.
He knows some are dead,
awaiting a proper burial,
following a brief memorial
service paying homage
to their illustrious past.
He is certain that one
or more is secretly harboring
the poem or story that he
has been meaning to write,
the one that the journal
on the desk has been waiting
its entire lifetime to receive.
There is an art
to creating a mix tape,
more so to day, when
tape is usually only
found in museums
and antique stores.
Then you chose carefully
aware of the sonics,
aware of the limits on time,
weaving a musical tapestry.
You can do a mix CD
but everyone knows
that with tape you listened
all the way through,
for fast forward was only
for getting to the end
of the cassette to play
the B-side, and CD’s
have no B sides to play.