they told us
to grow back
My younger step-siblings had it easy
once our father made seriouis money,
for then my mother decided we needed
a live in housekeeper, one who
could cook, clean and take care
of all those things domestic.
So my siblings had only to put
their dishes near the sink,
their laundry down the chute,
and keep their rooms marginally tidy.
I had missed most of that when
I was their age and father kept
us afloat with nothing to spare,
so I knew how to wash dishes,
how to run a load of laundry,
skills that served me well when
Uncle Sam gave me KP duty,
and waist deep in dishes and pots
I imagined how my siblings
might fare in that situation
for I needed a good laugh then.
I have to compliment you,
after all you ignored me
for four years in high school,
condemned me to the outcasts,
the geeks, the losers, the barely
tolerated and then only when
the Headmaster was watching.
I didn’t go to your parties,
no one without an invitation
ever dared, was left to the
clubs no one wanted to join,
but I have to say I was
truly surprised, shocked almost
when your letter came,
reminding me of our great
years of friendship, our
camaraderie then, but
regrettably I must decline
to contribute to our class fund.
I can still smell the formaldahyde,
see the frog pithed to the board
as I went about dissecting it,
taking copious notes on what
I found, identifying organs,
both of us hidden in a corner
of our fourth grade classroom
so the other students didn’t
feel like they had to vomit.
This Yom Kippur, even though
I no longer practice the faith
of my youth and early adulthood
I shall seek the forgiveness
of the frog who thought
he was giving his life
in the early training of a doctor,
not one who ended up practicing law,
and know he will probably
forgive me for even amphibians
have compassion for us,
despite our obvious shortcomings.
First, read the syllabus
and buy the books we will read.
Note that I have carefully selected
works for which there are no Cliff Notes
or their equivalent, so if you were
counting on that consider yourself screwed.
When you write an essay, do not ever,
let me emphasize EVER, begin by saying
in my opinion, for if I wanted
an opinion on a great writer’s work
I would as soon stop and ask
my multigrain bagel what it thought,
although I admit its Everything cousin
did have some amazing insights into Hamlet.
Do not bother plagarizing quotes
from things you find on the internet,
for they will either be wrong or
you will have found them by using
Google or another search engine
and I discovered those when you
were still in diapers. And finally
if you ask for more time to write
a paper, I will give you a strong
recommendation to take my friend’s
Intermediate Composition class,
the one you tried to duck
by taking my class instead.
Music was so much simpler
when I was younger, or so it seemed,
artists came and went but we
always knew who was who,
and when a group broke up
you’d almost hold your breath
until a new group was formed
by the lead singer or songwriter.
We missed the Zombies, but
Rod knew where his silver was minted
and Argent came along quickly.
The First Edition realized it would
have only one, so Kenny Rodgers
went solo and we all know that story.
And we learned never
to turn your back on Clapton
or Jimmy Paige, lest a new supergroup
emerge when we weren’t looking.
Now music is populated by genres
beyond my aural grasp, singers
name Lil This or That, and I
miss a world that revloved
at 33 1/3 revolutions per minute.
It was probably that moment
just after we sat down
at our new, huge or so
they seemed, desks
and the large person
in the front of the room
smiled at us and said
“I will teach you all
that you need to learn
this year so pay attention.”
Perhaps we stopped
thinking the year before
but I do think the first
day of first grade
truly marked the moment
of our mental subjugation.
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
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.