HELL DONE OVER

My ultimate goal, never to be achieved
is to redesign hell and all of its circles
to better reflect the world we live in now.

Of course I’d need two circles for
politicians, one for each major party,
and independents get to choose.

Catholic priests, minister and rabbis
who abused members of their flocks
get a circle of their own with the movie

Dogma playing in an endless loop.
There would be all the usual circles
for the those whose lives fell short

and one for Buddhists. Imagine
a run down Motel 6 in the worst possible
neighborhood, since they will only

stay until their reincarnation as
something truly ghastly and detested.
Those would be my desirables, but

the one certainty, the absolute is
the worst of all, set aside for those
who spent untold hours toiling

to write catchy but ever so vapid, cloying
melodies and lyrics that become stuck
in your mind like an intractable fungus.

First Published in AGON Journal, Issue 0, 2021

CUISINE

When I was younger (much), I
could wander Manhattan and be
what any neighborhood required,
so long as I stayed south
of 110th Street or north of 155th.

I was Greek ordering gyros,
Russian at the Tea Room,
Italian along Mulberry and Canal,
although in Chinatown I was just
someone who wandered a bit far
from the heart of Little Italy.

I could order deli at the Stage
like a local, and complain
about the pastrami no matter
how lean it actually was,
and lift a couple of pints
at Tommy Makem’s Pavilion
listening to trad music late in the night.

Now I walk around man made
lakes in Florida, and cook
the ethnic foods so lacking here,
a bit of heaven, but really,
Cheesecake Factory is not now
and never will be fine dining.

THE HALF TRUTH

As a Jewish kid in a small city
I suppose I had it pretty good, enough
of us that I didn’t totally stand out,
and it helped living a single block
from the Jewish funeral home, some
just didn’t want to travel all that far
when the inevitable time came.

But we soon moved to the suburbs,
the shtetl neighborhood was gone,
and I was a Jewboy to more than a few,
so the Temple felt like a safe place,
setting aside all the OT stories
which were wholly unblievable.

I took a fair number of lumps
for killing Christ and all other
imaginary sins freely attributed.

I wish I knew then that as an adoptee
I was really only half Jewish,
and that the other half among
my distant kin were kings and saints
as well as a fair number of sinners.

RETIREMENT

He would arrive as I was still struggling
to convince the dog that he didn’t need
to drag me around the neighborhood,
that he knew the backyard well enough.

I’d lose the argument in the end, that
was a given, but he’d concede me
enough time to wolf down breakfast,
and I’d hear the small door in the wall
open and then the clatter of bottles
that the milkman deposited there.

Now it’s paper cartons from the grocery,
the dog and several successors are now
in whatever Valhalla is set aside for canines,
and I suspect I may be getting
lactose intolerant, which has nothing
at all to do with how I now spend
my mornings, with toast and a cortado
on the patio, deep into my New York Times,
trying to remember my long-gone youth.