BEFORE YOU LEAP

She always told him
that he should, no must,
“look before you leap.”

He said he understood
and would do so, almost
always, he was after all
a child and no promise
could be that absolute.

When he came out
of the anesthesia,
his arm and leg
in a cast, he saw her
scowling at him.

“I did,” he said, “I did,
I looked for quite a while
before I jumped 
off the garage roof,
just like you told 
me I had to do.”

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.

LESSONS

The most important lessons he taught
were in those moments when he was
absolutely silent, the smile across
his face shouting across the background
din of everyday life, his eyes wide
with a sort of childish awe that I had
long since given up as adolescent.

The child sees everything for the first time
regardless how many times she has
gazed at what we adults are certain
is the same scene, a pure iteration,
hears each call of the cardinal as
a never-before-heard song, not
the now boring chorus of a too long
repeated lyric, its melody now painful.

His lessons too easily slipped away,
as he did a few years later, mourning
a poor substitute for memories that
eased into the damp ground with him,
but the smile of my granddaughter
at seemingly everything and nothing,
her laughter at the squirrel inverted
from the crook arm of the bird feeder
defying the shield below to stop
his constant thefts, the giggles
at the clouds filling the sky with
characters I could not hope to see,
brought him back, and with him
the joys of my childhood long suppressed.

GRANDCHILD

You more easily remember
the birth of a grandchild
than his or her parent

whether from a memory
sharpened by age
or regular sleep

or by a vision
more acute for knowing
what to look for,

or simply a clinging
tightly to any symbol
of youth denied you.

It may be as well
that grandchildren see
you differently than parents

a hope for a long life
and the possibility of
one day being old

or someone whose mind
more closely resembles
in innocence and simplicity

or simply as adults
whose rules can be ignored
with no real consequence.

ETD

As a child, I could never
understand why, when I knew
that it ws time to go, my parents
were never ready, always needed
one or two more things; and why
en route, we were never quite there
even though I had waited the ten
minutes more they said it would take.

But I had nothing on my beloved
dog Mindy, who would stand
by the back door, leash in moth
and growl, wondering, no doubt
why I always need more time,
it wasn’t, she was certain,
because shoes were necessary,
or a rain jacket, she got by
just fine without them, and
why my last bathroom stop had
to take precedence over hers would
always be beyond comprehension.

ROCK AND HARD PLACE

The hardest age by far
is the one where you are stuck
in the middle, children below,
parents above, and utterly no
hope of escape from the vise.
Things your mother could do effortlessly
now seem impossible for her, and those
things now need doing immediately.
Your children, ever wise at creating
novel approaches to anything they want
in life regardless of your opinion,
suddenly cannot perform the simple tasks
they once could, more so if the task
takes them away from whatever
is their pleasure of the moment.
It is this middle period where
you cease to live, at least
to live fully, taken with tasks
above and below, and only
in the rare spare moment
can you contemplate the tasks
you will no longer be able to do
as soon as your children cease
to be a burden and can be one

THAT LOOK

She stares at the menu,
her eyes incandesce brighter
than an eight year old’s should be able.
And I can eat everything
on the menu, she says to herself,
her smile broadening, as she thinks
and they may enjoy it too, and I
can move them one more step
in the right direction.
She has been a vegetarian
for six months, since the day
she declared to the waiter
that she would never again
eat a dead animal, and she
has held to it without fail since.
She says her father is almost
a pescatarian, and she whispers
in an aside that close to vegetarian
and an easy move once you are there.
Her four year old brother laughs
and says today I’m vegetarian too,
and the waitress laughs and thinks
in a vegan restaurant,
that is a universal truth.

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

EDISON, GO TO HELL

My mother was a firm believer
In lecturing, offering vast bits
of knowledge, culled from here and there.
One of her favorites was Edison’s
1% inspiration, 99% perspiration,
and she leaned toward quantity,
“It’s all about hard work, go
clean your room, clutter
will get you nowhere.”
Sitting here today amid
what I prefer to think of
as eclectically arranged items
of potentially great importance,
I see her picture, before
the chemo took her bottled red hair
looking disapprovingly at me,
saying, “You are killing your genius,
Edison would agree with me.”
I want to say to her, “But I’m with Einstein
and if a cluttered desk is evidence of
a cluttered mind, why was hers always empty.