HANGING BY A THREAD

In Riga, my grandfather
was a master tailor,
the great and the rich
would come to his shop
some bringing bolts of fine cloth
and others trusting him
knowing that wools and silks
were not beyond his reach.
Even after they marked
his home as that of the Jew,
the Captain, who rode
through the city with his men
torches thrown through windows
would come to him,
late in the night,
seeking a new dress uniform.
Eventually they took his needles
threw his spools of thread
into the river, he could stand no more
and with the few kopecks that remained
he left for New York
where, he though, even
a poor tailor could walk
on golden streets and create
garments the likes of which
a Tsar could only imagine.
Each morning he would arise
and strap on the scarred phylacteries
to recite his morning prayers
then go out into the cold
in his threadbare coat
to the factories and couture houses
only to return before noon
to a bowl of bread soup
awaiting the visit of one
of the men or women in his tenement
who would ask him to sew
a new patch into a worn jacket,
a fraying dress, all
for a few pennies
begrudgingly spared.
He was, he said, the new Moses
free of bondage, told
that milk and honey
would be his portion
wandering the desert
of this new land, free
at last of the bonds
that had enslaved him
plucking the bitter manna
from among the sands
but free he would shout
to starve on the cliffs
overlooking the land
promised to him.


First appeared in Aura Literary Arts Review Vol. 26, No 1 (2000) and later in Legal Studies Forum Vol. 30, Nos. 1-2  (2006)

PIERCING

It is a simple two pronged pin,
steel, a circle around the letter U.S.
It has sat in my jewelry box since the day
I clutched the DD-214, hung up
the two or three uniform items
I didn’t turn over to Goodwill,
and filed the paperwork with the VA.
Every month, when the VA Disability
check came in, I’d glance at the pin
and remember the heat of Lackland,
the sound of the planes when I
was out on the line delivering
a manifest to the pilots, Ray-Ban
aviator glasses, dirt cheap at the BX.
I never agreed with the war, had
no idea why we were in the paddies,
but the U.S. was us and I owed
a duty to us and served.
I don’t know quite when it happened,
but I look at the pin now,
and wonder to whom I
could send it for it now has
no meaning, and if possible
I’d really like those two years back,
for I no longer feel a part of US.

HUP TWO

In his dreams he is still marching across endless paved paths on an Air Force Base that might be Texas or might just be hell. In his recollection, in July there is virtually no difference between the two. He stirs each time his Drill Instructor bellows, which is every few minutes, likely seconds in this dream. He is sweating through his uniform, finds it absurd to be wearing high combat boots in the heat and humidity. But he realizes that he has enlisted in the Air Force, a four year hitch in the theater of the absurd. He awakens in a sweat and peers out the window at the building snow on the lawn.

RESURRECTION

In the picture
he is young, wearing
a uniform that fits him,
has his name over the breast,
but his hair is longer.
The picture is a bit askew,
there is a clock on the wall
but the time does not matter.
He knows it was the radio studio
but others would not, the mic
is out of focus, the dials
of the transmitter peeking in
from the periphery.
He can barely remember it,
that is what 50 years will do,
but he remembers the parade ground
at Lackland Air Force Base
and the hospital
where they told him
his trip to Da Nang
would be canceled
and his life reinstated.