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.

GOING HOME

They say you cannot go home
again, although I have never
had occasion to meet them.

I’ve never been one to follow
the dictates of them, unless they
were my parents or spouse, and
in the case of my parents, often
not even when they demanded it,
so I went back to the home
of my childhood, a shockingly
new place as I remembered it,
setting the neighbors astir
as they saw it go up and out.

It, like I, am older now, but
seemed to have borne time
far more harshly than I.

I do sometimes have a gait
to accommodates arthritic knees,
move a bit slower than I
imagine, but the house seemed
to be looking for its cane
knowing it would soon enough
require a walker, and I knew
that while I could go home
I’d be happier if I didn’t.

AND UNDER THIS ROCK

There is one thing that none
of the books on discovering
who you are when you are
adopted bother to tell you.

If they did, it wouldn’t change
anything, but it is a burden
you assumed you’d easily bear
that grows heavy with time.

What they don’t warn you is
that you will discover yourself,
your heritage that was denied
to you for one engrafted on.

But you will not be prepared
for the hidden tax that is levied
with that knowledge, for your
mourning is too soon doubled.

WE WERE SPECIAL

We were a special generation,
that’s what they told us, and although
we had no real idea who they were,
we drank the Kool-Aid and believed them.

We got liberal educations, were
smarter than our parents,
and went off to the wars that they
started for us, did enough drugs
to numb the pain of our existence,
and became first class working drones.

Our children are grown now, and they
have been told that they
are a special generation and although
they were skeptical, we convinced them.

Some got liberal educations, most
couldn’t afford that thought,
so we found wars for them to fight,
and drugs to kill the pain of lives
that were and would be nothing special,

and we wondered what they
would someday tell their children.

DEFLATED DREAMS

when did youthful dreams
slip away
erode
get consumed by
parents
teachers
or simply abandoned

reality, yours
theirs a poor substitute
all edges
and points
piercing hope

love once (a) given
rendered faint hope
worse, impossible dream
delusion? you want
to think not
want so much
can’t have
bad for you
we know good
when we give it
none for you

time
past so
grow up

INSIDE, UNSEEING

I’ve been trying to discover how
it is that those inside the beltway
elected to office, or working
for those who were elected,
have all sense of irony (and
in some cases. civility) erased.

How else to explain that for many
there can be no climate change
while the nation they serve
is bearing its cost, climatologically
and in discourse and diversity,
and still they won’t see that
baked Alaska is no longer just
a dessert at a Party or PAC dinner.

Or to be blind to the fact that
their parents or grandparents
once stared up at the Lady
in the Harbor, that they were
the tired and the poor yearning
for the freedom they would now
so easily deny others, that they
and theirs were the invading mob,
nonetheless welcomed in the
promise of an ever greater land.

Perhaps it is best I never learn
for in this world a finely honed
sense of irony may be our last,
best hope for salvaging our sanity.

WINTER MEMORY

As a child I know the winters
must have been milder, as it
was never too cold to have my parents
take is to Sheridan Park where
my father would drag the old
wooden toboggan up the chute
adjacent to the stairs as we ran ahead,
and smile as we hurtled down
seeing how far we could go
across the snow packed runway.

After an hour, when our hands
were blue, the mitten clips
long since defeated, he would
once again smile as we drove
to Louie’s for a foot long and
a couple of orders of curly fries.

I’m thinking the weather changed
right about the time my parents
packed off to Florida, as if God
had given them some Noah-like
warning that winters would soon
get ugly, or maybe He was just
trying to help Detroit, since my step-
siblings had to have certain cars,
while I struggled through winter
in the north in my leaky, rusting Opel.

TICK TICK TICK

He awoke this morning to discover his mortality.

This was a concept he had never before
considered, it had never crossed his mind.

He had never been to a funeral, came from
a small family, an only child, his parents

and grandparents still living, not that he
ever saw them, he valued his solitude.

But this morning, while everything was the same,
something was radically different.

He had always recognized the passage of time,
but it was a finite measure backward only,

forward, time was an endless expanse
of possibility and uncertainty, nothing more.

Yet this morning he knew nothing had changed,
but he was mortal, that his time remaining

was not only finite, that was sad enough,
but it was ever so slowly shrinking.

He knew he had to get on with his life, so
he set about his day as though it were any other,

but he couldn’t get the thought of mortality
out of his mind, it was like a smothering shadow

that accompanied his every moment, he focused
on it obsessively even as he stepped off the curb.

THE VILLAGE

I’d like you to tell me
about the village in which
you grew up, and how odd
it must have been for you
to have met my grandfather
so far from any village
in the heart of Lithuania.
I suspect you left
with your parents, exhausted
by pogroms, exhausted
by the Jewishness
that to them defined you.
I’d love to know
about my mother who
I never got to meet,
the seventh
of your eight children,
but like you, she
is silent and all
I have left
is a small photo
and a volume
of imagined memories.

A COMMON TONGUE

It has been said, wisely,
that all children speak
a common language,
regardless of what adults
believe they are hearing.

The proof of that proposition
is simple enough, pause
and watch a parent make
demands of a child
in the presence
of other children, see
the reluctant child glance
at his foreign peers and gain
silent and instant affirmation
of adult unreasonableness.

When do we cease
being able to communicate
without words, in that
language of childhood
that is at once universal
and capable of silence.


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