Grace settles into the chair, less an act of sitting than of floating down onto the seat. She has borrowed my grandmother’s smile, kind, gentle, inviting. She pulls a book from her bag, its pages or most of them dog eared, and I glimpse some annotations in the margins. We sit around her like children awaiting presents on a holiday, as acolytes seeking knowledge from a font of poetic and prosaic wisdom, or so we think. She reads in a voice that is at once soft and loud enough to reach the back of the room, opening the book to a random page and diving in, then after what seems like a minute and an hour, she stops and asks for questions. We sit dumbstruck for a moment then fire at her like machine gunners on the range. She answers each, claims she is a simple grandmother who writes but we know better, know we are in the presence of a true master.
Take one part Grand Marnier, one Frangelico, a short cup of coffee, whipped cream only if you wish, curl on the sofa with your life’s greatest love and your first real, truly your first Christmas Eve makes you wonder why you waited so long.
First published in The Poet: Christmas (2020 United Kingdom)
I spend considerable time thinking about what it is that I am, what is I, whether Descartes’ God or Spinoza’s could possibly exist, or must if I can have meaning beyond self-reflection, needing a godly mirror, and image reflected. Cogito, on what basis can I draw that conclusion what logical proof, carefully constructed will not fall under the weight of the axiom, cogito cogito but of what? Keys that spit words that fade under a misplaced finger, she caught in the web twisting, unable to pull free, staring at an approaching holiday of praying forgiveness Vidui, as though to posit God is to validate emotions, control impulses which leap synapses and flit and fade, I have sinned and transgressed I have violated laws and statutes and I beg forgiveness that I might live, this I, this cogito who has no external reference save God which makes all things real, all illusion. It is comforting knowing in death the soul is carried on, thought lingers, or does it cease such that I am not for I think not, yet why should I fear, for when it is done, I will not have been save as a reference point, a linchpin from which may hang ornaments of a life, a tidy sum.
As a child I lived next door to a calendar, but not the kind mother always hung on the wall next to the refrigerator, two, one for school events and the obligations attendant on parenthood and the other for holidays, and adult social events, the important one she’d say when she thought we couldn’t hear. My calendar was Mrs. Kanutsu, the woman next door, or more accurately the aromas that would waft from her kitchen foretelling the Greek Orthodox holiday about to arrive, only a few hours after she insured that I approved of her latest creations, all of which were replete, redolent with spices my mothers would never dare use. I liked Christmas most of all, even though I was wholly Jewish then, for it meant she would let me help make the phyllo, knowing I would soon enough be rewarded with a large piece of baklava that strangely never seemed to make it all the way next door
The once gods have been reduced
again to mere mortals
and find the change disquieting.
Just the other day I saw Hermes
meandering along Fifth Avenue
pausing to look at scarves in a window
of a store he never imagined.
Even the once great queen
finds herself behaving like
a love-struck teenager.
One who bred desire now works
as a hack writer for a card company,
a blow to his psyche more
than anyone can imagine.
Even the nameless one
has been seen working behind
the register at Walmart
thankful for the extra hours
as the holiday season approaches.
We no longer aspire to be gods,
it is too much work and there is
simply no payoff.