WORKSHOP

Grace settles into the chair,
less an act of sitting than
of floating down onto the seat.
She has borrowed my grandmother’s
smile, kind, gentle, inviting.
She pulls a book from her bag,
its pages or most of them
dog eared, and I glimpse
some annotations in the margins.
We sit around her like children
awaiting presents on a holiday,
as acolytes seeking knowledge
from a font of poetic and prosaic
wisdom, or so we think.
She reads in a voice that is
at once soft and loud enough
to reach the back of the room,
opening the book to a random
page and diving in, then after
what seems like a minute and
an hour, she stops and asks
for questions. We sit dumbstruck
for a moment then fire at her
like machine gunners on the range.
She answers each, claims she is
a simple grandmother who writes
but we know better, know we
are in the presence of a true master.

SAY CHEESE

The meeting drags on. Time is frozen. The space between a smile and a grimace is the edge of a fine blade and the width of a canyon. And you maintain the smile hoping it is not seen as the rictus you feel. Politeness requires a smile, your heart requires a fast escape. So you stay and tweak all of the little facial muscles to maintain the semblance of a smile. You don’t watch the clock on the wall, for it is only a source of frustration. When you leave for home, your face feels almost sore around the lips.

STARING

She sits demurely on the step
staring off at something.
You want to know what but
her face isn’t saying, her eyes
soft, revealing nothing, her smile
enticing, teasing, and out of grasp.

You want to sit with her, see
what she looks at, what has captured
her thoughts, and there is room
on the step for you to join her,
but you have never met, you
cannot sit next to her, she
there half a century ago, and
you know she will only be
the stuff of dreams one night.

INJECTION SEAT

Another day, another needle,
it is the cost of growing older,
I suppose, and does beat
the alternatives, but still,
I am growing tired of feeling
like an underappreciated pin cushion.

And please, it is not necessary
for you to smile while pushing
the needle into whatever
body part wins the prize
as that day’s recipient, leave
me to decide whether to smile.

And I’m not a child, so feel
free to dispense with the
“this is for your own good,”
if I didn’t know that do you
think I’d be sitting in this chair
having the imagined conversation?

THE WRITER

Why do I write, you ask.
I’m a writer, so I should have
a good answer, or at least a glib one.

I could say I write for others
but you would ask who
those others are, and smile knowingly
when I have no answer.

I could say I write for myself,
and that would be true enough,
but rather sad and egotistical,
for the thoughts alone should suffice.

I will probably choose
not to answer you, and I will
suffer that sneer you will adopt,
but I am a writer, you know,
so being sneered at
is hardly anything new.

TOO MANY COOKS

I can still recall
the day my mother
was ecstatic on learning
that everything grew
out of a primordial soup.
It was proof, she
was certain, of a Jewish
God, even if he didn’t
do it all with his own hands.
And, with a broad smile
she said, I’m fairly certain
at the soup
was chicken, maybe
with kreplach on the side.

THE TALK

She sat us down this morning for a heart to heart conversation. We had mentioned the neighbors’ new dog, their second, this one little smaller than a pony. She smiled at us, but we could tell it was a false smile, something was hiding about to be set free. “That is the problem with dogs,” she said, “they come in all sizes and temperaments. You never know what to expect, except that in any weather, but mostly the kind you hate, you have to walk them, or they walk you. And loud, they all seem to come without volume controls. So be thankful you have me. Now excuse me, my litter pan beckons.”

WHY NOT

Today in odd places,
at the most unexpected moments,
a child will smile without reason,
a young girl will laugh,
the young boy will stroke
the neck of a wandering cat,
and in that place
at that moment
there will be a simple peace.
Only the children will notice this,
though it gives lie to those
who deem peace impossible.
A child knows that it is
only preconceptions
and attachments
that blind adults
to the peace that
surrounds them.