LOWER FLAT, BUFFALO

It was a small house, that much
I still remember clearly, not wide,
what some called a railroad flat,
but ours had two floors, as if two
railroad cars had been stacked
one on top of the other.

We, luckily, had the bottom, or
at least that’s what my father said,
and his varicose veined legs applauded
his selection of our new home.

I was less convinced as Mrs. McCarthy
upstairs was a Reubenesque lady, that
was my mother’s term, her sons
were every bit as large, and they
seemed to walk about at all hours,
mostly over my room, leaving me to wonder
amid the creaking, when the ceiling
might suddenly blanket me.

That never happened, and I have no
idea what became of the McCarthy’s,
but I would have buried my father
last year if my step-brother had bothered
to give me the location of the body
in his text telling me of his death.

So I am again an orphan, but in
the process of building a new home
as wide as it is long, and with only
a single floor, and the birds have
promised to be tread lightly at night.

FATHERING

Recalling it now, the sight had to be absurd,
and I suspect it was at the time,
but as its beneficiary then. I dared
not say anything, I’d mastered that already.

My father in khakis and a poor excuse
for a flannel shirt, Goodwill no doubt,
but you had to have one just for occasions
like this, not that they would ever repeat,

struggling mightily to heft a bale of straw
from the roof of the Ford Country Squire wagon,
and haul it into the back yard, placed against
the wooden fence that backed the nursery.

He’d repeat this task two more times, using
language I knew well, but had never heard
him use before, wondering if my mother would
threaten to wash his mouth out with soap.

When the third bale was stacked, he pinned
on a target, and reaching into the trunk,
pulled out a fiberglass recurved bow, smiling
at me as he said, “I know it isn’t what you wanted,

but you are good at archery, the camp gave you
a prize for it, and a new three speed bicycle
isn’t something you need, the old Schwinn is fine,
and the BB gun you wanted is out of the question.”

PARENTHOOD

Two headstones
Name, rank, branch
of service, dates.

One New Jersey, one
Virginia, both Bittle
neither certain.

An email from
another Bittle, never
knew my father

but his was
William, and in
that moment,

James Owen became
a father yet again
and I complete.

And later still
a single picture
he in the back

row and the mirror
agrees that we
are truly family.

GOING DOWN

Hell is a place where what you
least desire becomes eternally yours,
or so we were told as children, well
not us, not the Jewish kids, for us
Hell was our mothers’ finding
that copy of Playboy we stole from
our father’s stash our mother
didn’t know about, and which he
would deny, throwing us under
the bus or any large vehicle she found

If we buy into Hell, and given that
ours is an aging population, many
of whom have landed in Florida
and Arizona to avoid the winters
that are hell on the ubiquitous
arthritis, and all those who have
joyously consumed the evangelical
Kool-Aid, when the final bell
rings, they may be surprised
to discover there is far, far more
of a chance of a snowball in Hell.


For Something Different, a new bird photo each day, visit my other blog:
Bird-of-the-day.com 

DEPARTING

We now live in a strange world where nothing is as it was mere weeks ago. I am blessed to live on a small nature preserve and have been spending my afternoons with camera in hand. So if you want something other than words (which follow) you are welcome to visit https://www.flickr.com/photos/98342503@N00/, my Flickr site, which is updated daily. A sample of what you will find:

 

IMG_0363

and now:

 

DEPARTURE

It seems odd how often
our fathers depart suddenly, our mothers
make a slower retreat, slipping away while
always still present, a death
by 1000 days, the cuts inflicted
on our psyche, small wounds
that never fully heal, but fade, so the scars
are only seen and felt from the inside.
My parents never did things as expected,
so my mother complained bitterly
of the small difficulties of life,
until the morning she suddenly departed,
at the stroke of 6:15 while
my father lingers, still happy
in ever shortening increments, both
of us knowing he is fading away
and I may never know he has departed
after he is gone.

STATELESS

I suppose it is oddly fitting that
I was born in the continental U.S.
but can claim no state as home.

I was a Federal child, and that
meant nothing at all to me, a child who
left town at two after a father’s death,

a sister reclaimed by the government,
which was no State, just a Federal
enclave, and we all know how bad

things are inside the Beltway, those
trapped there are denied even the small
joy of self governing, waiting for Congress.

But I was an adoptee, stateless
in heritage from birth, so that was
a familiar condition, until the moment

my DNA took voice, and I suddenly
had two heritages, fully mine and
my mother’s cherished Mountain State to boot

FINDING

Even when I was briefly in Edinburgh
I dreamed of walking the streets of Lisbon
or Porto looking into the faces of older men
and wondering if this one was my father.
the father I had never seen, never known.
Was the one my Jewish mother described
in detail to the social worker who took me
from her shortly after she gave me life.
It is many years later, now, my mother
has a face, discovered in the twisting path
of a double helix, good West Virginia
Jewish stock, Lithuania left far behind.
I may someday visit Lisbon, I hear
it is a lovely city, but the faces will all
be alien to me, and there I will dream
of my day touring the Highlands
of Scotland, the Isle of Skye, and which
of the McDonald’s and McAllister’s might
be kin and which Tartan I can now
rightfully claim is my own.

A CHILDHOOD

I have fond memories
of a childhood I never lived.
Those are the best childhoods
from for they reflect life as you
meant it to be lived.
In this life my father
is in his late nineties,
still smiles when he sees me, not
didn’t clutch his chest
sixty-one years ago,
didn’t fall to the floor,
didn’t leave me half
an orphan again,
doesn’t live only
in the periphery
of my dreams.

INTO THE TIDE

The woman at the next table
stares at her fork
with eyes which appear
bottomless pools of sorrow.
She picks at the noodles,
raises and lowers
the glass of wine
without sipping.
She is lost within herself
and even the waiter
approaches with trepidation
for fear of falling in
and drowning
in her sadness.
In her eyes
are pools of cabernet
spilled from glasses
cast aside
by retreating lovers,
the blood of a mother
who died in her birth,
tears of a father
hopelessly alone.
You see him returning
to the table
and a smile of faint hope
crosses her lips,
lingers a moment
and is drawn
into her eyes.
She watches him
finish his wine
and with a nod
of his head, hers,
and she sinks back
deep within herself.


First appeared in Erothanatos,  Vol. 3, No. 3, July 2019 at Pg. 41