NO BACKS

As you age, your vision changes,
and not merely that of your eyes,
for you necessarily become
near sighted about many things.

Of course you dread the fact that you
could be myopic if circumstances
conspire against you, barely able
to be IN and remember the moment.

Even those healthy take to mythology,
and astronomy, wishing they were
Titan, living life in retrograde, but no one
has yet managed to become Benjamin Button.

TRIPTYCH

A triptych hangs in the gallery of memory. Admission is by invitation only.

The first panel is a time fogged mirror into which I stare. The adopted image hides behind the tarnished silver. My adopted mother’s voice is heard from a hidden speaker: “You were named after my father.” I want to tape his picture to the glass, a face to share the empty space. She has no pictures, she says, he never liked being photographed, said it would steal his soul. She can barely remember him: “He died when I was five.” I ask questions. I need to know more about the giver of names. She falls silent, drawing in, secreting memory.

In the second panel a woman sits, fidgeting. She is a striking blond. I cannot see her as being sixty-one, though she is. I deny that I am fifty. As the Rabbis climb the few steps to the Bimah, she leans over. “You know,” Lois says, “just like you, I was named for your grandfather. She talks freely of herbalism, life in New York, places she wants someday to see. “It’s funny,” she whispers, “I’ve never seen a picture of him; like he had some kind of phobia of being photographed.” Outside the Temple she stands with my mother and sister, arms interlocked, embracing both. I snap the picture. I am not captured on the film. Lois and I drive back to my mother’s apartment, stopping at one of the unending lights on Wisconsin Avenue. She touches my hand: “You know there was one more person named after him, your other sister.” The light changes.

There is only a picture hook in the wall — not even the faint outline that marks the space from which a picture is removed, the wall beneath unbleached by the sun. Lisa, my my sister, like me adopted and as quickly withdrawn, left no outward marks. She is a footnote in my father’s obituary. She is cast off by family, an unmentionable. She is my mother’s deeply hidden scar.

I am repeatedly drawn into this room. It’s walls never change, the pictures periodically replaced. I need to visit, to assure myself of — what? Someday, too soon, this exhibit will close.

First appeared in Pitkin in Progress, Vol. 3, No. 1 (2002)

THE WAVES

We, so far out at sea,
see only the waves passing,
the rise and fall, the rhythm,
and cannot imagine
it could be otherwise,

You, on the shore
cannot perceive the waves
we do, torn by the reef
that leaves you only
imagining what you think
the waves might be.

We cannot imagine
the silence, the isolation
you must feel in your
waveless world with
only memory of voices
to shape the shards
of sounds you hear.

SNOW

At first it was just odd
to think of snow as merely
a concept, a memory softer,
more pleasant than its reality.

You can grow accustomed
to concepts, they are generally
somewhat neat and tidy, easily
filed and brought forth on demand.

The concept of snow has
its great advantages, snowmen
of perfect shape, never melting
and no one must shovel a concept.

But there are moments, a tree
decorated for Christmas, you
want to reach out and feel
the chill suddenly warm your heart.

A SUMMER EVE

I can’t remember what year it was,
or why I was in his apartment, half
sprawled across the sofa, 
my girlfriend sitting with his,
or one of his, he had many,
on the floor, listening to 
Inside Bert Somers, and thinking
that was the last place on earth
I intended to go  that evening.

I recall the wine was good, but
then anything a step up from
Ripple or Boone’s Farm was good,
and the rugs were threadbare.

I was never a fan of Bert, didn’t
know until today that he died
and was buried in Valhalla,
thirty years ago, not long after
my youth did as well, although 
I am here to mourn that at least.

REFUSE TO RECALL

We have now forgotten what
it is like to take flight, to seek,
to finally find a true freedom
from an always grasping land.

Once we did it out of necessity,
lives incomplete, prisoners
who committed no crime
save those of thought and faith.

Now we only claim to admire
those who seek what we
once did, watch them with
mock awe, but deny them

perch when the journey
for them could end, and even
the birds now shun us, for our
lack of compassion and memory.

WEAVING

A length of thread
colorful to be sure
alone, easily
ignored, swept
aside.

Woven
into a tapestry
part of a picture
treasured
for beauty, or
depicting horror
but remembered.

Countless threads
colorful
alone
together
telling tales
locked
in memory.

First Published in New Feathers Anthology Spring 2021
http://www.newfeathersanthology.com/new-feathers21.htm

FINDING PEACE

It wasn’t lost on me, mother, that this year
on the anniversary of death, you had been gone
eighteen years, Chai in your beloved Hebrew,
a lifetime for me, having never met you
save in the half of my genes you implanted
in me when I was implanted in you.

As you aged, alone, did you wonder what
became of the closest family you had after
your parents were interred in the soil of Charleston?
Did you ever regret not knowing, or were you
comfortable that the Jewish Family Service Agency
would make a selection of which you would
have approved had your approval been sought.

You have grandsons and greatgrandchildren
who will mourn me, carry my memory forward,
but know that I do the same for you, and you
never aged a day from that one when the photographer
took your college yearbook photo, a grainy
copy of which is tucked in my wallet and heart.

PHOTOGRAPH

I saw a picture of you today, although
I can’t be certain when it was taken,
and while I can easily say that you
look exactly as I remember you,
that is saying nothing really,
for moments after I took the picture
we said goodbye to each other,
intending to meet again, knowing
the chances of that were minuscule.

I have returned your picture
to a place of safekeeping where,
some months or years from now,
I will pull it out and remark that
you look exactly as I remember you,
but more importantly, perhaps,
I will be keeping you alive, and
in this fraught world, that is something
to be appreciated, even if you
haven’t the vaguest idea it is happening

Be well dear friend, and if not,
be eternal for a bit longer,
be you dead or much alive.