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.
It is just that sort of summer day
when the sparse clouds crawl ever more slowly
across the city, peering down, as if wishing
they could end their journey, knowing this won’t happen.
On the fields of Falkirk and Culloden Moor
stained with the blood of ancestors who, only now,
claim me as one of them, allow me to wear the tartan,
the clouds build and flee without ever pausing
to peer down on the carnage below.
They want only to move on, continue the passage,
give endless chase to the sun, certain
they will fail and fall, only to take up
the chase again onward into eternity.
The fado fades
under the weight
of the Highland pipes
and dreams of Cascais
fade into the Scottish sky.
Where once I thought
of wandering Lisbon
looking for my face,
I imagine I see it
in the Grampians, reflected
off the lochs whose
headwaters now feed
One joy of being adopted is that what you imagine is not always what really is. For years, based on what my birth mother told the adoption agency, my father was “a Portuguese Jew.” DNA later showed that I had no Portuguese blood at all, and I doubt my Russell and McDonald paternal ancestors spent much time in Lisbon.
Macbeth had a witches problem,
but that hardly made him unique.
It’s true that Scottish witches
are more difficult to deal with
than those of much of the rest
of Western Europe, something to do
with being under English dominion
for so damned long that Erse
is a nearly forgotten tongue,
but you’d think a General would
at least speak the local lingo.
Still, you have to wonder
just how things could have
turned out if only he had
a pair of ruby slippers
to get him back to Inverness,
for an afternoon dip in the Loch.
I was a foundling
wandering from Guinness Stout
to Ouzo and back,
in search of identity.
In Schul I would cry out
to Him asking, “Who am I?”
and He would answer,
“you are, you are.”
of my mother’s grandfather
a cacophony lost
in Oporto, Lisboa.
On the streets of Vienna
I thought I saw him, and ran
to find only shadows.
In villages along the Douro
into fields shorn
for winter’s approach.
The Capitol’s penumbra
found him laughing,
reflected in my mirror,
staring at my thinning hair
I was of all places
and of none until
on Glasgow’s streets
I walked his steps
and smelled the Clyde
and Talisker, his breath mine.
I don’t know what
I am, the Buddha said.
I don’t know why
my mother gave me up at birth
or how many cousins walk
the streets of Glasgow
or where I lost my first tooth
I don’t know what
became of the nickel
or why the tooth fairy was so tight
or who will wash the blood
from the streets of Fallujah
I don’t know how
my iPhone drains batteries
like a thirsty drunk
or why fungus grows underground
or why the Sudanese child stares through
I don’t know why
my dough rises, only to fall mockingly,
or why forced to eat manna, the Jews
didn’t go back to Egypt
or why I poke my sore knee to insure it hurts
I don’t know
my birthright name