REAR VIEW MIND

I spent too much time looking
backward, looking into the past,
looking into the mirror
to frame a dream history
of my desires and fears.
He called one morning, left
a message, “Mother died,
more details will follow.”
A mother his by birth,
mine by legal act.
I should have felt stunned
anger, I said quietly to myself
he’s cocky, has issues, and went
about momentary mourning.
That is the psyche of the adoptee who
was never family, always an adjunct.
Later my antediluvian dreams
gave way under a torrent
of deoxyribonucleic acid rain.
She who I imagined in the mirror
took name, took shape from
and old yearbook, offered
a history, a family, a heritage.
When I knelt at her grave
she told me her story
in hushed tones, or was it
the breeze in the pines on the hill
overlooking the Kanawha?
I bid her farewell that day,
placed a pebble on her headstone,
stroked the cold marble
and mourned an untouched mother.

IF ONLY

If there were truly justice
at least of the poetic sort
perhaps Van Gogh could
have been born 75 years
earlier, and in Vienna
not Holland, so that when
he decided to be rid
of an ear he could have
offered it to Beethoven
neither of his working
in his later years. And
if a poet could arrange
time travel using his license
then he could just as easily
have made the ear work
for Beethoven. But
on second thought,
heaven knows what
the mighty Ninth Symphony
might have sounded like
if Beethoven had to listen
constantly to the critics.

ORIGIN

I am told that I should write
about my origins, that is the stuff
that long poems are made of, or
rather the soil from which they bloom.

I have written about my birth mother
and visited her grave in West Virginia
seen those of my grandparents, met
a cousin, I’ve written all of that.

So its time to write about
my birth father, about the places
he was as a child, a young man,
where he is buried, dead long before

I discovered his existence, our link,
but I know nothing of Burlington,
or Camden and my passing knowledge
of New Jersey is limited
to Newark and its airport.

That is hardly the stuff of great poetry
or even mediocre memoir, so he
will be nothing more than a picture
of a gravestone in a national cemetery.

HAUNTING

The ghosts of my birth parents
blow into my dreams as
so many white sheets torn
from the clothesline
by gale winds, fly over me,
at once angels and vultures
carrying off memories
created from the clay
of surmise and wishful thinking.

I invite their visits, frail
branches to which to cling
in the storms of growing age,
beginnings tenuous anchors
to hold against time, knowing
the battle cannot be won,
but take joy in skirmishes
not to be diminished
by an ultimate failure I
have long come to accept.

STAGED

At the moment of your birth
my son, I grew suddenly older,
mortality became a reality
that I could no longer avoid.

You could not imagine this,
and I doubt others could see
but I knew and the infinite
collapsed inside the event horizon.

Your brother came later, but
that death was incremental,
a single cut among thousands,
a step on a path you chose for me.

You have your own children now,
your shochet impatiently
waiting in the shadows, and
they cannot imagine their

roles until the play rolls out
and they are thrust onto the stage
with no possible exits, and an audience
that knows how this play ends.

SONNET TO A PORTUGUESE

You came into my life last week, your name
forever locked away inside her mind.
My life, she felt, would never be the same
and therefore left all thought of you behind.
You loved her, I suppose, that summer night
then left her, bearing me, until she turned
me over for adoption, that she might
forget the love that you so quickly spurned.
A Jew, she said, but would say little more
a father, Portuguese, is all I know,
who cast his seed, then left and closed the door
and me, the son, he never would see grow.
You left her life long before I was born,
the father I won’t know but only mourn.

First published in Minison Project, Sonnet Collection Series, Vol. 2, Sept. 2021

WRITERS

I was born the same day, in
a much later year as Thornton Wilder,
a fact that had no impact at all
on my life, since I discovered our
common birthday long after
my life’s path was half tread.

I read him in my youth, and must
admit I can recall nothing of what
I read, which I attribute to all
that I have read since, and not
as any criticism of Wilder’s writing,
for his talent is beyond question.

But what was disconcerting
was to learn that Nick Hornby
was born five years to the day after me
and has penned works that I love
but cannot hope to equal
despite my having lived longer
if not more fully than he has.

DECISION TIME

Checking the calendar, I see
that today I must make
a profound decision that will
affect my life for years to come.

I am certain it will not be
a simple decision, important
decisions seldom are, and this
offers multiple but no easy choices.

I have long taken the facile way
around the issue, a straightforward
“same as everyone else does”
approach that has gotten me by.

But it is time for a change, so I
am left with organizing my library
by month and day of birth of author,
year not counting, first name initial,

or, and here is where I am leaning
given my love of the film High
Fidelity, arranging them in
perfect autobiographical order.

GRAMMATICALLY APART

What sets us apart
from other species
has little or nothing
to do with self-awareness
and everything to do
with parts of speech.

The birds outside
my window shun labels,
think only of eating,
mating, flight, of going
and arriving, of being.

They know nothing of birth,
do not fear death, for it
is merely a label they cannot
accept or understand.

It is left to our kind
to need to label, to define
every small and large thing
for we sense our existence
and must rely on two things,
for we knew that we live
a world of pronoun and noun.