R.I.P.

We are planning the funeral
for Roe today, eulogies
fully ready, for we are certain
the death was slow and painful
and now all we can do is mourn.

Some we know will not attend,
Brown out of fear, knowing
the eventual consequences
of this loss, Miranda because
he is already marked, hounded
by those in power, an easy mark.

Sullivan may be there, happy
that he can go after them again
if they even speak his name
innocently or by mistake.

It will be a sad moment, one
we have dreaded of late, one
we thought would never come
and we will mourn our dear friend
Stare Decisis*, stabbed in the back
by those who vowed to defend him.

N.B. As you may know or have guessed, I am a happily retired attorney, who was taught that stare decisis should be sacrosanct. Brown is the landmark school segregation case, Miranda the much eroded protection for those under police custody, and Sullivan the case on defamation establishing a higher standard that plaintiffs must meet if they are public figures. It remains a hallmark of First Amendment law regarding freedom of the press.

Stare decisis is the doctrine that courts will adhere to precedent in making their decisions. Stare decisis means “to stand by things decided” in Latin.  

SAY CHEESE

The meeting drags on. Time is frozen. The space between a smile and a grimace is the edge of a fine blade and the width of a canyon. And you maintain the smile hoping it is not seen as the rictus you feel. Politeness requires a smile, your heart requires a fast escape. So you stay and tweak all of the little facial muscles to maintain the semblance of a smile. You don’t watch the clock on the wall, for it is only a source of frustration. When you leave for home, your face feels almost sore around the lips.

COMING BACK

He appears, rising from the horizon
the sun at his back, as if a mirage
taking physical shape and form.

He approaches slowly, your eyes
straining to separate him
from the sun’s growing glow.

You wonder if his is a holy man
robed and with a staff, walking
to announce his long awaited return.

As he grows closer, you realize
he is a she , older, in a flowing
dress with a walking stick, not

the returner for who you wish,
but your faith requires that you
continue waiting in hope.

THE LOBBY BAR AT MIDNIGHT

Ann Arbor a certain diffidence
Butte born of three rum Collins
Carmel the Gucci show windows
Duluth darkened, foreboding
Erie escalator rattle
Fairbanks a sound coffin
Grapevine grand piano
Hilo the restaurant empty
Ithaca seeking diners
Jacksonville by the exit signs
Kalamazoo conventioneers drool
Lincoln and slobber
Memphis over the ankh necklace
Natchez girl cross legged
Oakland engulfed in smoke
Providence the ficus droops
Rehoboth in the shade of the bar
Salem laughter turning
Toledo into controlled sobs
Urbana highball glass slips
Vidalia off the table edge
Wausau and falls
Xenia dropping slowly
Yuma through the night
Zanesville into sleep.

IMMIGRATION

When you got off the boat
you must have been scared,
but getting away from that life
made the fear bearable.

I have no idea how you ended
up in West Virginia, it wasn’t
at all like Lithuania, and Jews
might have had two heads I imagine.

But you all made do, made
a community, invited others
and were tolerated if odd,
and I am certain you wonder

what happened, why now those
or their children’s children’s
children are so willing to shun
others whose only sin, like yours,

was wanting to get away
from horror, from persecution,
from fear, and make a life
in the hills of West Virginia.

LINKAGE

Linking things is a human need,
tenuous forces barely holding
across synapses easily broken
or lost, never to be replaced.

Ithaca is forever joined with
Galway City, and I still have not
figured out how to get the two
people together as together is
obviously what they should be.

She sits at a small table
in the Commons, staring, waiting
perhaps for a writer or lover
who may be both, to come down
from Cornell and join her,
while Oscar waits patiently
on a marble bench, hat by his side,
telling Eduard of the woman
he expects to arrive, trying
to determine how to tell her
that her friendship means
everything, but it can be
nothing more than platonic.

In my world they meet, she
listens, fights back tears
and promises always to be there,
friends frozen in time and bronze.

MY ANNA

Along the banks of the barge canal
in the village park, a man
older, his hair white, almost
a mane, sits on the breakwall
feeding Wonder bread
to the small flotilla of ducks.
Tearing shreds of crust
from a slice, he casts it
onto the water and smiles
as they bob for the crumbs.
He tells them the story
of his life as though
they were his oldest friends.
My Anna, he says,
was a special woman,
I met her one night
in the cramped vestibule
of an Indian take away
in London during a blackout.
We heard the sirens and then
a blast, not far off.
She grabbed my arm in fear.
She was from Marlow-on-Thames,
she lived in a small flat
in the Bottom, she worked
days in a millinery,
and at night tended bar
at the Local, until the war.
She’s been gone two years now
and I miss her terribly
especially late at night.
A goose slowly swims over
awaiting her meal, she
looks deeply into his eyes.
How are you, dearest Anna,
it is not the same without you
late at night when the silence
is broken again by the sirens.

First Published in Friends & Friendship Vol. 1, The Poet, 2021

IMAGINE

I think it might have been
a passionate love letter
I wrote to you last week
but never delivered

although there is the remote
possibility it was just
our grocery list, both
have line breaks after all,

but it does show why
I must remember to check
the pockets of my jeans
before I put them in the washer.

So let’s agree that it was
that passionate love letter,
and you can swoon thinking
of the things you imagine I said.

ALL BAD REASONS

She says I should watch the game,
the team I have followed since
well since before I can remember
when.

I am puzzled by which of my
excuses I should use to explain
why I will not watch this game or
any.

I could tell her that I am a jinx and
my watching will cause them to lose
although I do frequently check the
score.

I could tell her that I will not spend
three hours for an hour of action, but
she will say that this game is not
baseball.

Fortunately she grows tired of waiting
for an excuse we both know is
hollow, and we both have other things
to do.