LISTEN TO YOUR MOTHER

My mother no longer speaks to me. It is not that she has been dead two years, that passage would hardly be an impediment for her. I would like to think she has nothing left to say, having said it all so many times in the past. Some say we will see each other again in heaven, but it is unclear which, if either of us, will be there, and I don’t look forward to once again being a child who can do nothing quite right enough for her, yet again, and for eternity, this time.

THE QUESTION

If my mother was here
she would ask me what
I have to say for myself.
Just this once, I
would remain silent,
for there is nothing
that needs saying
and she would be certain
that if there were
she should be the one
to say it, but silence
would drive her mad.
So perhaps it is good
that she is not here,
that she did not ask,
though if there is a heaven
and hell, God or the devil
will need to tell her what
they have to say for themselves,
or they will never, ever
hope to hear the end of it.

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

IN TRANSIT

Mom died, the text
message read, similar words
we’ve been hearing too frequently
but always leaving us
with the same hopelessness.
The words my brother, estranged
now, estranged then, come
to think of it, said two years ago
in a quickly left phone message.
I thought of confronting him,
but when he never answered,
I knew I couldn’t say what I
needed in a text message.
When my mother-in-law died
my wife and I were there, watched
as she took her final breath,
easy, calm, as if to say, this
passage is easier than I thought
given all the time I asked God
to let me take it. We didn’t feel
helpless that day, more like
silent observers, standing
on the pier as the ship slipped into
a vast ocean on the maiden voyage
a very new sort.

TOMORROW

Tomorrow I will lie to him
will tell him when he asks,
at least the first ten times he
he does, that she is doing fine,
that she is a tough old bird,
that she’ll outlive us all,
that she’s a Taurus, the bull
and he will remember the end
of their marriage, the Battle
Royal that was the war of divorce,
and he will smile a bit,
and say, “I miss her,” and I
will agree with him.
I do miss her a bit, but even two
and a half years of death have not grown
the size of my missing appreciably.
We will move on to other topics,
will circle back and rerun the tape
for with him every day is a series
of scenes from Groundhog Day, but
in his world, it never snows.

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.

DACHAIGH

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 one I had never seen, never known.
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 or McAllister’s might
be kin and which Tartan I can
rightfully claim as my own.