FOR A MOMENT

The cat takes her time,
carefully considers on which side
she will flop down so that I
can rub her stomach.

She says she allows me
to do this so I feel that I
have some role to play
in her life, validation she says.

She will kick me with
her hind legs when we
are done, “call you again
in an hour” she says in parting.

I cannot complain for I
do live in her house and it is
an honor to be admitted fully
into her world, if only for moments.

FAMILY

You ask me to define what family is
and I tell you that I may be
the last person you want
answering that question, I
an adoptee who felt like
an orphan supplanted
by siblings who knew her womb.

But I do have an answer,
family is that insane person
who will drive six hours
to spend an hour with you,
family is the joy and aching
of your heart as they leave,
a bit of themselves remaining
deeply within your soul.

WHEREVER I LAY MY HEAD

You say that you are uncertain
if this place yet feels like home,
and look at me silently
questioning how I feel.

I answer as silently that
you are here, I am here
so it does feel like home
just as everywhere would
when we are together there.

Without speaking you remind
me that even I would admit
a hotel room is not home despite
our presence, and I agree that
places with suitcases are excepted.

NOT COUNTING

I have had two,
although the first is long
forgotten, so perhaps it
no longer counts, it
certainly didn’t to her,
announcing its end
like the conductor
of a train running late
on the mainline to sadness.

Perhaps I have not forgotten
but all I see is myself
standing alone, intoning
words to which the crowd
intently listens, much like
the audience at a reading
by a lesser known poet,
feigned polite awareness.

I’ll just say I’ve had one
for it is easier that way
on all three parties.

TRIPTYCH

A triptych hangs in the gallery of memory. Admission is by invitation only.

The first panel is a time fogged mirror into which I stare. The adopted image hides behind the tarnished silver. My adopted mother’s voice is heard from a hidden speaker: “You were named after my father.” I want to tape his picture to the glass, a face to share the empty space. She has no pictures, she says, he never liked being photographed, said it would steal his soul. She can barely remember him: “He died when I was five.” I ask questions. I need to know more about the giver of names. She falls silent, drawing in, secreting memory.

In the second panel a woman sits, fidgeting. She is a striking blond. I cannot see her as being sixty-one, though she is. I deny that I am fifty. As the Rabbis climb the few steps to the Bimah, she leans over. “You know,” Lois says, “just like you, I was named for your grandfather. She talks freely of herbalism, life in New York, places she wants someday to see. “It’s funny,” she whispers, “I’ve never seen a picture of him; like he had some kind of phobia of being photographed.” Outside the Temple she stands with my mother and sister, arms interlocked, embracing both. I snap the picture. I am not captured on the film. Lois and I drive back to my mother’s apartment, stopping at one of the unending lights on Wisconsin Avenue. She touches my hand: “You know there was one more person named after him, your other sister.” The light changes.

There is only a picture hook in the wall — not even the faint outline that marks the space from which a picture is removed, the wall beneath unbleached by the sun. Lisa, my my sister, like me adopted and as quickly withdrawn, left no outward marks. She is a footnote in my father’s obituary. She is cast off by family, an unmentionable. She is my mother’s deeply hidden scar.

I am repeatedly drawn into this room. It’s walls never change, the pictures periodically replaced. I need to visit, to assure myself of — what? Someday, too soon, this exhibit will close.

First appeared in Pitkin in Progress, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2002)

GIMME A HUG

It seems odd, as I am not
a hugger by nature,
I love trees and hug
familially but aside
from family, hugging
just is not something
I ever did.

Now, when hugging
is a potential death
sentence if finished
I see many around me
all at a safe distance
and feel a strong desire
to embrace some,
knowing they would
welcome my arms.

When this is over,
when distance is
something we keep
by choice, and hugging
is no longer risky
I will, I am sure,
be a non-hugger again.

THE CHARM

The first one felt right,
there was nothing deeper considered,
just that feeling that now,
I know, anyone might have provided
but then, it was something
in a world of nothing.

The second, really, was
certainly right, for life this time,
the wisdom of a single failure
enough to ensure success,
and when it came apart
thirty years later, it was
apparent it was never right,
just more than nothing.

This one is right, for it
does not require feeling so,
merely being in her presence,
a completeness I never knew,
which explains why this time
nothing can get in the way
of the ultimate everything.

A SUMMER EVE

I can’t remember what year it was,
or why I was in his apartment, half
sprawled across the sofa, 
my girlfriend sitting with his,
or one of his, he had many,
on the floor, listening to 
Inside Bert Somers, and thinking
that was the last place on earth
I intended to go  that evening.

I recall the wine was good, but
then anything a step up from
Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good,
and the rugs were threadbare.

I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t
know until today that he died
and was buried in Valhalla,
thirty years ago, not long after
my youth did as well, although 
I am here to mourn that at least.

DEAR PAVLOV

We both know that having
a pet at our age is wise
for they provide a companionship
that can be difficult to find.
I’ve had both dogs and cats,
but the decision this time
was reasonably simple,
for dogs have an insatiable
need to walk their people,
weather is no impediment
and my arthritis is no longer
all that forgiving of damp and cold.

So we settled on a cat, and we
have been pleased with our
decision – she is joyous, playful
and reads our emotional needs,
but most importantly, other
than not needing to walk us,
she has been remarkably adept
at training us to live in her new home.

NEEDLE

She tells me I should rest,
that I need convalescent time,
but I want to tell her, “why,
it isn’t like they stuck a needle
in my eye, so why rest?” but
it actually is just that, but the rest
of my body is none the worse
for the wear on my face,
and it hurts less when I
am doing something other
than thinking about it.

The eye will feel better
in a day or two, they say, and
I have great faith in them,
why else would I let them
stick a needle into my eye,
and anyway, I have a spare
and that is the one that still
works like new, well, almost new
normal wear and tear excepted.