NESSLESS

There are no monsters
in this lake I tell
my granddaughter, answering
her unasked question.
There are bears in the woods
around here and there
used to be an owl which made
an afternoon visit.
There are deer, certainly
and there could be a coyote
or two. If you don’t
believe me, ask the crows,
everyone knows that they
can never keep a secret.

First published in From the Finger Lakes: A Memoir Anthology, Cayuga Lake Books, 2021

COSMOS

As a child he decided,
after watching Cosmos,
that he wanted to be an astronomer.

He was six, we bought
a large telescope and I was assigned
the job of aiming it
according to his directions.

After a while he did
have a mment of panic, wondering
what he would do
during the day.

That soon passed
when he discovered the radio telescope
and time became of
absolutely no importance.

He is an adult now,
a theoretical astrophysicist,
much easier on the eyes
he says, and your hours
are your own
and the universe’s.

THE LETTER

Today I should receive the letter
that I sent to myself twenty years ago,
telling me what I should be, where I
should be, who I should be, for the me
of twenty years ago was, by his own
admission, far smarter than I am, although
I am here and he is nowhere to be found.

If the letter does not come, I will sit down
and write to myself twenty years ago,
expressing my disappointment with him,
with his lackadaisical manner, ignoring
his epistolary obligations, content with
what, who and where he was without
though for where he was going, who
he would be, what he would do in life.

Ultimately, I will forgive him of course,
much as he did twenty years ago when,
on the day he expected to receive
a letter from me, the me who is
he twenty years hence, the letter
did not arrive for I have more
important things to do today than
to sit down and write to him, he would
not appreciate what I have to say,
so, it is time to get on with my life.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

SUDDENLY MORTAL

I now struggle to remember just when
my childhood suddenly ended, when
I became mortal, and the childhood fears
were replaced by those of the real world.

It might have been watching the news,
the planes at Dover disgorging coffin
after coffin, each neatly flag draped until
the flag became a symbol only of death.

It might have been the first time a kid
on the playground at school called me
Jewboy and asked why I didn’t also
perish in the ovens with my Polish kin.

It might have been as they wheeled me
into the operating room, my fever 105
unsure of what they would find, I then
unsure I would be alive to learn about it.

It might have been that as an adoptee
I knew I never had the childhood
of my natural born siblings, I always
the outsider, mom’s words notwithstanding.

First Published in Cerasus Magazine (UK), Issue 3, 2021

A PAINFUL REMINDER

I had it good, I

had it easy, I

would be the first

to admit it, to save

you the trouble

of reminding me,

more by way

of illustrating how

badly you had it.

I’ll concede you

had it rough, 

money always 

tight, but you 

never were, never

would be a Jewboy

although you 

and your friends

reminded me I

was, constantly.

CARNEY BARKER

You there, walking along the midway

come into my tent, for only a dollar

I will show you wonders

beyond your meager comprehension

but this offer is only good

for the next fifteen minutes

for that is when I start my show,

It’s not something you want to miss.

I know you’ve seen quarters pulled

from ears, doves fly off

from and oversized top hat

that moments before was empty

but you have never seen

the likes of what I will show you.

Here is my father, watch him

closely cast his seed, closely

and like that he is gone.

Not good enough you say

then watch again, even

more closely this time, see her

lie on my table, her gown

draped over her, see me reach

and pluck a small baby

better than a pigeon isn’t it,

but you blinked, where has she gone.

Only tepid applause, so I guess

you want one more, and I

am never one to disappoint.

See him standing there

it almost looked like

he is standing before a mirror shaving

and now he, too, is gone

before your very eyes.

If you still aren’t satisfied

if you haven’t gotten

your monies worth then please,

please step forward, for I can work

with others than my parents,

truly I can, so where are you going.

Step into my tent ladies and gentlemen

the next show starts

in only fifteen minutes,

all for a single dollar.

First published in The Parliament Literary Magazine – Issue 5- Masks and Manes 

MISSING SONGS

The problem, or one of them, is
the lack of music today. We have
all manner of what people call music,
but not the music of the sort
we need, needed once and found,
as we stormed the bastions
and bastards who mired us in war,
who shunned darker brothers
and sisters, who made alienable
basic rights to half of us without
rhyme or reason, save greed
and fear of loss of status, power.

Where are the songs now,
calling us, you, to regain
the victories, no matter how small
that we won with our sweat
and often our blood, eroded
or taken over time by those
who live in the shadows, who
crawl out in the dark, who
dread the light we would
so willingly shine on them again.

MASKING

The Air Force shaved our heads, was it
because of the heat of a San Antonio
summer or that we’ll all look equally like fools,
and easier for Sarge to maintain unit
cohesiveness in his rag tag band
of semi-successful Army avoiders.

Now we all wear masks and assume
we all look equally foolish, knowing
the virus cares nothing for cohesiveness,
and normal is insignia only to dreams
and at times life is shit on a shingle now.

We want our childhoods back, before
the war, before the barracks and bad
food, before expectations, and those few
imposed could be ignored at minimal
parental retribution, we want what
never really existed, it is our right.

We marched and sang “Suicide is Painless”,
never believed it for a moment, but now
we consider it in passing as we walk
down the shortening pier
into the ocean of darkness.

First published in Circumference, Issue 4, June 2021

FLIGHT

As a young child, I always imagined
myself a bird, poised to take wing
the next time my parents told me
I couldn’t do what I wanted,
to swoop around, out of their grasp,
until it was time for lunch or dinner.

Years later my dream was to be
a pilot, Air Force not Navy, I might
get seasick and that isn’t a sight
even I would want to see, until
I read Jarrell’s “The Death
of the Ball Turret Gunner,” and
the ground seemed a safer place.

Once in the business world, I
thought about some day retiring
young and seeing the world
on the cheap, Asia, Africa, Oceana,
and that lasted until the second
time I had to fly to Japan with
fourteen hours in a coach class
middle seat on a Boeing 747
when my backyard suddenly
became the future of my dreams.

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.