WHAT’S IN A NAME?

He is four, he announces
to all gathered at the extended family table
that he will be five soon, in January.
It is important that we know this
just as it is important that he sit
next to his cousin, for boys like he
should always sit next to cute girls
and sisters don’t count, everyone knows that.
Four people in his class have birthdays in January
And he tells us their names, we hoping there will be no quiz.
As I call him to get his food from the buffet
he turns to his father, and says,
“Josh, save my seat,” and smiles broadly.
He repeats this ensuring we have all heard.
When I ask him why he says Josh, not daddy,
he laughs and says, “Because it’s his name, silly,
like your name is Papa Lou, and anyway
he always calls me Charlie, not son.”

SUSIE

What do you say
on the loss of a child?
We sat in the lounge
drinking a vile potion
from a hollowed pineapple
giggling insanely
for no reason.
We wandered the tunnels
faces painted,
clowns in bedlam.
We lay together
on a mattress
on the floor and listened
to Aqualung
my arms around you
both, but sleep
came slowly and we talked
until night ran from
the encroaching sun.
I can feel her soft blond hair
and see her smile
as we walked
hand in hand in hand
along the abandoned
railbed, dreaming
of what might be.
As I struggle with sleep
and with a new day
I can hear the tape end
snapping at the end
of the ever spinning reel
wanting only to hold your hand
and stroke your hair.


First appeared in RE:AL The Journal of Liberal Arts Vol. 23, Issue 2,  1998

ASHES

When I die, my friend Larry
said one morning in the third
inning of a double header
of stoop ball, I want
to be burned, not
that I intend it to happen
any time soon, but when it does.
They burned my grandfather
I think it was Dachau, but
unlike him, I want to kick
some ass before it happens.
Just let them call me Jew boy
I’d like to hear the sound
of their balls imploding
up into their bladder.
They burned my grandmother too,
years later, until all that was left
was the cancer eating her stomach,
but I want to be burned
in an oven set up properly
for the job, my ashes cast
into the wind or maybe
in the infield of Buffalo’s
War Memorial Stadium
if Luke Easter is still playing
first base for the Bisons.
It was only two days later
that Larry tripped on the curb
outside the variety store
on the way home from school
and later that day they took
his kidney and laid it, all bloody
within, on the steel tray.
When he came home his mother
said he had to be careful
when you have only one kidney
you can’t fool around
and you certainly want to avoid
the strain that comes
from kicking any ass.


First Appeared in Afterthoughts (Canada), Vol. 2, No. 4, Autumn, 1995.

A CALL

The thing about it is
it is so damn quiet
I can hear myself think
but I can’t think anymore.

And I’ll tell you
this box is so cold
it just leaks air
and water has seeped in.

Somehow I expected more
it isn’t at all what
was promised
and the stone

is not set straight
which is driving me
only slightly crazy,
so tell me

about my grandsons
are they still handsome
young men, do they have
girlfriends like your wife.

You know steel would
have worn far better
and white satin
would be so much

more cheerful than this blue,
it just clashes with
this white gown
which fits terribly anyway.

You should come to visit
more often, Hilda’s son
and all her grandchildren
visit each week, but me, no one.

Its starting to rain again
so go, you don’t want
to catch a cold, it could
kill you, of this I’m certain.


First appeared in Children, Churches & Daddies 1999 Vol 117

AGING

He is four today. He’s been practicing being four, so it is somewhat second nature. But he made a decision. Next year he will be five. He was going to be 27 next year, but decided that can wait another year. I asked him why he was delaying, he said, “You get better presents when you are four or five.” I confess his logic, but wonder what I should do with the tie and cardigan I bought for his next birthday?

MAGIC

The money wasn’t really real then,
it came in a box with a board,
dice and property deeds, and it
was in colors, one for each denomination,
(kind of like and Canada and other countries).
It was fun having a lot of it
until the first time I snuck some
out of the house and went off
to the variety store, I’d had my eye
the magic kit they had tucked
in the front window, forgotten, now
clearly the only one of its kind.
I asked the shopkeeper how much,
he said it’s been here so long
I can’t remember, so it’s yours for a buck.
I gave him a 10, pale yellow
he laughed, said that’s foreign
so it will be 990 for the magic kit
and I can’t make change but I’ll
throw in a Mars bar if that’s okay.
It was the one and only time
that trick worked.

LIKE DUST

We are obligated to carry
memories, and as we
get older, the burden grows
ever heavier, we bend
under its weight, knowing
we dare not lose even one
for once cast off, the weight
is carried off like the smallest
feather on a storming wind.
Soon enough it is we who
Will become the burden
that others must carry
and we hope they will
willingly shoulder the load
lest we become the excised
dust of a forgotten stone
grown over with weeds.