OCCLUSION

After the stroke
he couldn’t remember
much, was the woman

in white who bathed him
his wife or someone
he slept with once

before he had gotten
married. Monogamy
was a word that he

remembered, though not
its meaning, or why he
had sworn to abide it.

When the aide brought
in the flowers, they smelled
familiar, like the odor

of capon slowly boiling
on the Sabbath stove.
He heard the concerto

small radio tinny, but it
sounded strange, gut
of cat sawed across strings

crying out against
the injustice of it all
and the chair against

the window, was it one
he sat on at the edge
of the stage, bowing

to the audience as
Mozart’s crescendo
still echoed in his ears.


First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Review

HUH?

The problem with youth
isn’t that you misspend it,
or even don’t appreciate it
as it is happening, or even expect
it to go on forever, for those
would be the simplest hurdles
to leap even at your now advanced age.
The true problem with youth
isn’t even those around you,
grandchildren, high schoolers
that overrun the Starbucks near campus
are caught in the midst of it
while all you can do is jealously watch.
The ultimate problem with youth
is that you recall it so well,
the sights, sounds, the textures
but what you did last Thursday
you can’t recall for the life of you.

PENSEE

I do some
of my best thinking
he whispered,
when I think
of nothing at all.
Did you know
that if not
for the Babylonians
entire worlds
would be cubes.
In fact they were
for centuries.
It’s like sex
he continued,
it’s best when
you are celibate.
But then again
Bally shoes
are no longer
hand sewn,
and taro is best
served
room temperature.


First appeared in the May 2019 Issue of The Broadkill Review

LIKE DUST

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older, the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once cast off, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we who
Will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of a forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.

MINE, NEVER MINE

I imagine to myself that this is my house
abutting on my small portion of this street
sitting on my small patch of land I pay
the mortgage and the taxes, so I am entitled
to rent this delusion just a bit longer, and
it all works, until I stop and think
But before I got here, long before the man
we bought this house from, and the women
he bought it from before that, long before
this house stood here, or the nursery it replaced,
long before all of that, others lived here, and they
believed their longhouse was communally theirs,
that the land was theirs to hunt and gather
under a precious loan from the Sky Woman
so long as they treated with reverence.
I give up that thought as well when
the birds remind me their feeders are empty.

PATER INCOGNITA

He often comes to me in dreams.
In most he is faceless, but intently present,
speaking in a voice I instantly know,
nothing like mine and totally mine.
On occasion his face appears, blurred,
as if seen through a scrim, back-lit,
vague, an actor in some film I have seen,
but yet not that person, that character.
For a while I saw my own face, but I knew
that was just my wishful mind filling in a gap
which has yet to be filled, knowing
that it likely never will.

VIOLIN

We sat at the table,
sucking the last of the djej
from the bones piled
along the edge of the platter.
“I played for seven years”
he said, “under Tilson-Thomas
and later Rudel, bad years those,
I sat two rows back
second from the stage edge.”

He was unremarkable,
forgettable until he nestled
the violin under his chin.
Balding even then
the fringe of hair clownish,
lacking only a red nose.
At the old metal desk
he struggled over applications
for insurance policies,
forever asking if he had
the premiums calculated right,
stumbling over the pitch,
dreading the word death,
preferring to talk of his bow
dancing across the strings.
He sold just enough policies
to make his monthly draw
and generate an override commission
to help pay our mortgage
but he would, my father said,
never make much
of a career in insurance.
When I sat in the office
on the old leather sofa
he asked me to marvel
that an old man, bitter
and stone deaf, could hear
so clearly, alone in a small room.
I listened politely, waiting
until he might be distracted
and I could return to neatly
arranging the pink sheet
between the whites
feeding it carefully through
the rollers, and slowly peeling
it back to reveal
the dark sepia copy.

He sits on the metal bed
fingers bent into talons
and cringes at the screech
of the walker
dragging along the hall.
He wrestles with the radio knob
and hears the strains of the concerto
as a tear runs down his cheek
and he waits for the nurse
to change his incontinence pad.


First Appeared in Licking River Review, Issue 28, Winter-Spring 1996-1997.