The night closes in
chasing the sun, dragging
heavily laden clouds that stare
down, watching warily for us
to step outside without glancing skyward.
Clouds of night are particularly jealous,
most often ignored if not
completely forgotten, unsure which
would be worse, ultimately indifferent.
As we begin the walk to the car
the clouds open, a torrential reminder
that Mother Nature
will not be easily ignored.
The snail oozes slowly
across the gravel floor of the aquarium.
He would have you believe
his slow progression is normal, for
snails have cultivated people
to this view for millennia, the easier
to go ignored through life.
He is comfortable with my staring,
turns his back to me and meanders away
hoping I will grow weary of his glacial pace.
I finally nod and turn away,
allowing him to return to his breakfast
and say to him, “I’m sure the doctor
enjoys your algae cleaning almost
as much as you enjoy your vegetarian buffet.”
Turning back to him moments later
he is scurrying up the wall of the tank
thinking he is unseen, headed
for his morning nap under the warm
light of the long fluorescent
sun that is carefully anchored overhead.
The introductions were relaxed
but complete as befits three people
in a small room, she the linchpin
knowing each of the others, utter strangers
to each other, save in her stories.
The men stared at each other gently
ensuring the other saw only a smile
for the better part of two minutes, basking
in the silence that introductions demand.
“I am really surprised,” the older man said,
“it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly
like what I imagined the adopted son
of Isadore Myers would look like
not more than 30 seconds ago.”
“It is truly odd,” the younger man replied,
“you look nothing at all like
the man I met in this room
not a second more than a minute ago,
and why, pray tell,
is that woman over there smiling?
We kept them together to protect them,
he said, though we did make the men
wear the red And yellow badge.
You must understand, this was for their good.
We didn’t want them corrupted
by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure
we would not mingle with and debase them.
There were our bankers, without them
the King would’ve made tax demands on us
and a kingdom cannot long survive
on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people.
And anyway, they knew they need not comply,
after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.
Some, mostly of us, said we
were the chosen people, as if
wandering the desert for 40 years
was the grand prize, okay of Sodom
got the runners-up gift.
I didn’t buy it then, don’t now,
even after I sold my membership
as the price of final freedom.
No, we were, still are, the people
of the candle and oil lamp,
the latter far too sooty these days,
playing hell with our smoke detectors.
Two every Friday, and Hanukkah
is good for forty-four, and on
the anniversary of a death, just one,
but that to burn a full 24 hours.
So while our butchers fatten their thumbs
for the scales, and our bakers
tell their wives they won’t be home for dinner
on Thursday nights, busy braiding dough,
it is our candle makers who have
chosen us as their kind of people.
The house is suddenly empty
standing alone on a stark barren lot.
The old drapes are drawn tight
and little light enters, but
there is no one there to see it.
Every once in a while there is a rattle,
a creaking, and you expect someone to appear
in one of the now dark windows,
the door to be thrown open, an invitation
to enter or at least a wave, life
asserting itself within, but it will not happen.
You know the house cannot stand long
unattended, that it will, too soon, fall away
leaving only a hole to mark its presence.
On the anniversary
of the start of a war
one feels almost compelled
to speak to its horrors,
its cause, its effect.
But we live in an age
where wars are plentiful,
when peace is the exception
and war seems to loom
around every corner.
So on this anniversary
I watch the snowy egret
stare into the pond
outside my window,
the great bird calmly
in her world
all of the people
are merely fish.