CUISINE

When I was younger (much), I
could wander Manhattan and be
what any neighborhood required,
so long as I stayed south
of 110th Street or north of 155th.

I was Greek ordering gyros,
Russian at the Tea Room,
Italian along Mulberry and Canal,
although in Chinatown I was just
someone who wandered a bit far
from the heart of Little Italy.

I could order deli at the Stage
like a local, and complain
about the pastrami no matter
how lean it actually was,
and lift a couple of pints
at Tommy Makem’s Pavilion
listening to trad music late in the night.

Now I walk around man made
lakes in Florida, and cook
the ethnic foods so lacking here,
a bit of heaven, but really,
Cheesecake Factory is not now
and never will be fine dining.

WRITING MY STORY

With the stroke of a pen,
they enabled me to write the story,
gave a framework on which
I could hang all manner
of dreams and assumptions,
inviting a search I never
quite got around to making.

I wandered the beaches
of Estoril in my dreams,
stalked the avenues of Lisbon,
looking for a familiar face,
but found only ghosts.

With the stroke of a swab
inside my cheek, a vial
of saliva mailed, the story
came apart, and a new story
slowly unfolded, gone forever
was Iberia, replaced by Scotland
and Ireland, Wales, Norway
and Germany, and my dreams
were filled with the music
of the bodhran and Highland pipes.

ERSE WHILE

Growing up, I never imagined
that I was Lithuanian, I mean I
might have as easily been from Mars.

And it was only in my dreams
that Gaelic was an ancestral tongue,
not one my ancestors spoke,
at least those who hadn’t yet
made the unthinkable move
to Norfolk and the frigid sea.

Now I am all of those, and I know
that blood is a bond that is strong
even if it lies dormant half
a lifetime, for when you find it
it ties you to a world which
you imagined only in your dreams.

ASK OF THE SEA

When you ask me of the sea,
living, as I do, fifteen miles
from the nearest ocean, it
is not the sandy beaches
of Hutchinson Island I recall,
nor the crowded sandbox
that is Fort Lauderdale’s beach.

If you ask me of the sea,
it is perched on the horizon,
far in the distance, looking
out of the kitchen window,
or perhaps that of the library,
over the yard, with its
deflated soccer ball,
the fence, and finally
to the Irish Sea, cloud
shrouded at the horizon.

This is what Lloyd George
saw each day, so it is
little wonder eschewed
burial in London or even England
for this hidden estate in his
beloved Ty Newydd in Wales.

First published in Dreich, Issue 10, Autumn 2020 (Scotland)

ROUND ABOUT

The great minds in Transportation have decided
that the answer to all traffic problems
is simple, you replace troublesome intersections
with traffic circles, but you call them roundabouts.
They know that the young and wish they were
in their muscle cars will avoid them like the plague,
for even they cannot defeat centrifugal force,
and inertia is one thing they never lack.
And for the old, the plodding, either they won’t
enter the circle, or will revolve around its center
like a small planet bound tightly to its star
marking the center, and then only after they
have paused for an indeterminite period, trying
to figure out how to get in, where to get out
and wishing they had called Uber to begin with.
And I, behind them know, I can take this time
to get in a day’s meditation counting my breath.

A NIGHT AT THE ROSE

Three beers over two hours
and, giddy, I want to sing
along with the Irish house band
in my horribly off key voice,
just two choruses
of Irish Rover or Four Green Fields.
It’s beginning to snow outside
and it’s a four-block walk
to the Government Center station.
I suppose it would sober me up
but a couple of more songs
couldn’t hurt, I’ve got two hours
before the last train and we can
walk across the campus
through the tunnels
once we’re back in Cambridge.
I probably should have gone
with Coors or Bud Lite
but Guinness is, all said,
a meal in a glass.
I would stand now,
but my knees seem
comatose, so let’s sing
to Auld Robbie, a verse or two
of Scots Wa Hae, it’s damn
near Irish anyway
and from this seat
in the Black Rose
Cambridge is a world away.


First Published in Celt at Aberffraw (Wales, UK) 2000

YEATS IF ONLY

Cheever was having a bad day,
that much was immediately obvious.
Perhaps it was the two martini’s in town
before lunch, but he says it only made him giddy.
We all know better and by late afternoon
his mood has soured completely, his emotions
have slipped back into turmoil.
He says a few cocktails will cure him,
or at least make him bearable.
He will soon consider AA again,
drinking dry the liquor cabinet in the consideration.
Elsewhere and in another time, Borges reminds us,
an Irish poet, held prisoner in the last days
of the Irish civil war, knows he will be executed
in the morning, and so slips out of the house
that serves as his prison, and into the water
icy, frigid, now hating the Barrow river.
He swims as best he can, promising
that if the river god allows him to live
he will present her with two swans.
He does live, he does place two swans
onto the river the following spring,
and he dreams one day of visiting Coole.

In any half respectable pub in Galway,
and in Ireland the county of place
hardly matters, when enough pints
have been passed, and night

grows thick, even such as I, claiming
to be part Irish, claiming two left feet,
can feel the ceili deep within, and step out
on the floor to do what I think is a jig.

And when I am quite done, a fresh pint
of Guinness in hand, I can expect a clap
on the back from one and all, smiles
and the suggestion that I am probably Scottish.

None of this will matter the next morning,
as the fog lifts over the Claddagh, and
my brain, and I will write the evening off
as but one more joyous memory of home.

DISCOVERING ME

They were always almost mythological,
heroes of a people I could only
imagine as my own, knowing I came
from a far different place, one
of shtetls and pogroms, of seaside
villages, the beaches of Cascais.
It was half a lie, but I couldn’t
know it then, couldn’t guess
my dream was reality, my reality
a dream torn away by DNA.
In a moment my unknown Portuguese
father was unborn, replaced
by a faceless man of Celtic
soil who marched to the piper
highland or uillean, the bodhran,
who stood alongside Pearse
and Connolly, Bonnie Charlie,
and a century on, I’ll lift
a pint of Guinness in their honor,
take a wee dram of Talisker
and whisper Slainte to
the unknown generations
that brought me here.

A NIGHT AT THE ROSE

Three beers over two hours
and, giddy, I want to sing
along with the Irish house band
in my horribly off-key voice,
just two choruses
of Irish Rover or Four Green Fields.
It’s beginning to snow outside
and it’s a four-block walk
to the Government Center station.
I suppose it would sober me up
but a couple of more songs
couldn’t hurt, I’ve got two hours
before the last train and we can
walk across the campus
through the tunnels
once we’re back in Cambridge.
I probably should have gone
with Coors or Bud Lite
but Guinness is, all said,
a meal in a glass.
I would stand now,
but my knees seem
comatose, so let’s sing
to Auld Robbie, a verse or two
of Scots Wa Hae, it’s damn
near Irish anyway
and from this seat
in the Black Rose
Cambridge is a world away.