ON ARRIVAL

This morning arrived
with a painful slowness, the sloth
of irregular dreams refusing to concede
to the light struggling to creep around
the blinds that hide the oversize windows.

It had been that sort of night,
sleep arriving and departing with
a frustrating lack of constancy, my body
uncertain of its proper placement ,
the mattress offering no easy solutions.

Conceding the failure of the night
to provide shelter to an overactive mind,
I roll to my side, note the response
of sinew and muscles forced
into unaccustomed forms, and reach

out an arm which snakes across
your waist, as I press in more tightly,
squeezing out the last vestiges
of remorse, and I pull you close as you
reach back and stroke my thigh,

and we give ourselves over to a new day.

FORMAL PROOF

First Proposition: You were put up
for adoption because your birth
parents couldn’t or didn’t want to raise you.

Second Proposition: We or I adopted you
because I wanted you and not another
and to give you the good life you deserved.

Argument: Given all of the possible
alternatives, you ought to be thankful
that we saved you from that other life.

First Fallacy: My birth mother feared
rejection for getting pregnant but would
have been a loving, educated parent.

Second Fallacy: My adoptive mother
had two children with her second husband
after they married, her children at last.

Opinion: You will he told that you are
one of the family, a coequal part inseparable
from and of the others, and the same.

Fact: You were made an orphan and
always will be one, and the best you can
hope for is to be just like family, a simile

that you know will always be a transparent
wall that you can never hope to climb
and which keeps you always separate.

ANSWER SWIFTLY

The question you will be called upon
to answer requires careful thought,
but you will be forced to respond.

Would you rather live the rest
of your life in Lilliput or Brobdingnab?

It may seem rather silly, for neither
is likely to occur, but that is not the point
and you cannot avoid responding.

Of course you will have to read
Swift, but you ought to do that anyway
and there, if you pay attention, you

see your own world and your
relationship with it, and you will see
others who look vaguely familiar.

So there you have your midterm exam
denizen of Lilliput or Brobdingnab,
and no, you cannot answer with

“because I’d be a giant among midgets,”
or “because I’d stand out as a midget
in a world where all around me are giants”

because no matter how you choose
you’ll be black in a white world, gay
in a straight one, or a woman in our world.

POOR JACK

He does not want to hear it,
but someone needs to tell Jack
just how foolish this makes him look.

It shouldn’t require a degree
in hydrogeology or philosophical logic
to realize that water, like all matter

obeys the basic laws of physics,
the concept of gravity being a principal
that says you don’t climb to find water.

Some, quite unfairly it should be noted,
place the blame on Jill, as though Jack
was a starstruck boy taken by her beauty.

One went so far as to suggest that
the story would have had a different
ending, and no medical bills, if only Jack

had fallen for Gayle, or better still, Sally
for everyone knows how easy it is to fetch
water from a well in a dale or a valley.

SOMETHING NEW

When I was a child, my mother
repeatedly told me that I must
learn something new each day.

I knew better than to point out
that it was absurd to call
for novel behavior by repetition.

So I took the path of least resistance
and each day grabbed a random
volume of the World Book Encyclopedia,

opened to any page and read
the first entry on that page, committing
it, or its salient facts, to memory.

There is so much in life with which
I still struggle, seemingly basic tasks
I never took the time to master,

too busy with my head in books,
but I do know that the acts of Punisa
Racic that June, 1928 day killing two

led King Alexander, six months later,
to ban all political parties, assume power
and rename the country Yugoslavia.

PURSE AND WALLET

A woman’s purse is inviolable territory
she tells me, and no man dare look within
unless invited and that is as unlikey to happen
as a man is to fully understand a woman.

What she doesn’t say, but what time has
demonstrated to me repeatedly, is that
within that small space is the solution
to most of life’s pressing problems, a balm

for small emergencies, and a truth, the release
of which would loose upon those proximate
the sort of shock that Pandora only promised,
and I have more than enough problems of my own.

She asks what I keep in my over-fatted wallet
and I tell her it is not money, but thoughts
that haven’t come to fruition, and dreams
unrealized because they defy reality.

So, she says, your wallet is full of the stuff
that gets you through a day, that give you
hope for the next, and that marks your
ever present failure of irrational dreams.

CALENDAR

As a child I lived next door to a calendar,
but not the kind mother always hung
on the wall next to the refrigerator, two,
one for school events and the obligations
attendant on parenthood and the other
for holidays, and adult social events,
the important one she’d say when
she thought we couldn’t hear.
My calendar was Mrs. Kanutsu,
the woman next door, or more accurately
the aromas that would waft from her kitchen
foretelling the Greek Orthodox holiday
about to arrive, only a few hours
after she insured that I approved
of her latest creations, all of which
were replete, redolent with spices
my mothers would never dare use.
I liked Christmas most of all, even
though I was wholly Jewish then,
for it meant she would let me help
make the phyllo, knowing I would
soon enough be rewarded with
a large piece of baklava that strangely
never seemed to make it all the way next door

IMPENDING DEPARTURE

They finally used the word
or one near enough to it
and she was not surprised,
she almost welcomed it.
You can grow jealous of those
with a depth of faith
that a sentence of months
or perhaps less is received
with grace and a smile, a nod
and a statement “I’m more
than ready to go home now,
back to my husband.”
I hope I will show such equanimity
when I am told my time
is quickly drawing to an end,
but I am left with great faith
in myself, and that may not suffice
as I prepare to slip away
into oblivion.

SHARING

It wasn’t exactly what you wanted, but
you probably wouldn’t have been all that upset.
It was all about you, but not for you, that
comes later, and we know you’ll be pleased.
This one was for some of us who needed this
to be able to keep going, to keep from looking
only back, into the darkness that is our shadow.
He said it was a celebration, and it was that,
and we put on our best faces, hid our tears
as best we could, and as we stood in the cold air
in the cemetery, we only wished it over,
and when the sun appeared suddenly, we knew
you wished that as well, but in your case,
it was more likely that you wanted us working
on the party we will soon throw for you
and that one, too will be for us, but
among the things we miss you for,
was your willingness, you desire to share.

ANYWHERE BUT

I was twelve at the time, would have
chosen to be anywhere but there.
I hated visiting her at home, but this
took my disgust to a whole new level.
We were never close, never would be,
she so old, so old world, so unlike
anyone I had known, so like the women
sitting outside the old hotels on South Beach
waiting for a wave or death, whichever
first flowed in, life having long ebbed.
The room as I remember it was barren,
bleached to a lack of any color,
the bed a white frame, white sheets,
a small white indentation staring
up at the ceiling, up at heaven,
and everywhere what I imagined
were steel bars through which we
and the doctors and nurses could pass,
but which held her tightly within,
serving out what remained
of her ever shortening life sentence.