I WAS, BACK THEN

Fifteen years ago, I tell them,
I was invincible, nothing bothered me,
nothing held me back and even
the few surgeries were short
rest stops on a runner’s highway.

I knew it would last forever, I
knew I was kidding myself.

Now, aging, I am held together
by titanium and injections,
trying to fall apart with
as much grace as possible.

My little problems are now
chronic, degenerative
and progressive, yet I live on
for there is no good alternative,
and hope that medicine finds
solutions before my problems
completely overtake me.

LACKLAND

They marched us to the middle
of nowhere, sweat running down
our backs, our olive drab uniforms
now three shades darker.

They handed us a rifle, an M-16
they told us in class, with a 5.56
round, it would tumble after
it hit its target, good for killing.

We lay on the ground, shouldered
the weapon, aimed it at the
target, a bottomless torso and as
instructed, gently pulled the trigger.

Nothing happened, which is what
the Air Force wanted this day
for we were here to know our gun
to befriend it, to cradle it.

Another day we would come back
to the range, take our weapon, assume
the firing position and hopefully watch
the round tear a hole in the target.

And on this day, our sergeant said
we had finally become warriors, then
he quickly took the weapon away,
never for most of us, to be touched again.

First Published in Half Hour To Kill, August 2022
https://halfhourtokill.com/home/lackland-by-louis-faber

WRONG AGAIN

As a teenager, like so
many others of our narrow
minded, obsessed gender,
I imagined myself a great lothario,
girls on the edge of womanhood
lining up for my attention.

The absurdity of that dream
was lost on me and my peers,
testosterone drowning it in a sea
of hormones, and we were oblivious
to the real obstacle always
right in front of us, that we
imagined love and sex
in the first person only.

Now that youth and even
middle age are behind me
I still try to recall when I realized
that love requires the second person
singular, and my pleasure is
complete only when
my partner’s is as well.

POLISH

Mother made a point of reminding
me to polish my shoes, she said
untidy shoes are the mark
of a poor man, one to be avoided.

I noticed she never wore shoes
that needed polish, never had wax
and brush in hand, and when her shoes
showed wear they were replaced.

I learned early not to talk back
to her, the penalty too stiff so I
never asked why any reasonable
person would be staring at my shoes.

SUNDAY MORNING

Every Sunday morning my parents,
usually my father at mother’s direction
would drive me the four blocks
to attend Sunday school.

I could easily have walked, a long
block and a half by cutting through yards,
but they were afraid of I have
absolutely no idea what.

My friends that weren’t there with me
were probably in church so
it wasn’t like I had anywhere else
I might go, anything else I could do.

I never asked why my parents were
so insistant I attend the school, they
knew I’d be Bar Mitzvahed with or
without the Sunday mornings,

and they were Jews only in the loosest
secular sense, and I was in those
awkward years and the only thing
else that came to mind, fed by

my father’s not so well hidden stash
of Playboy’s was too grim to imagine
and given how little they liked to be
around one another, could be rejected.

KP

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.

YOU ARE INVITED

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.

THE FROG

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.