Monday, June 21, 2010

The Day After

Share with me the gall of this day, fathers!
Feel the absence, part of your heart excised!

Just a day ago, Rebecca, singing,
Daddy, Daddy, I love Daddy
Erez shaving strokes to let me win
His big heart saying, "Make Daddy feel better."

I push them on the swing, higher, higher
No vision of shattered children fouls my spirit
They touch hands at the zenith as the chains go slack
Erez pirouettes, adding a noogie to his pendular path.

Planning a picnic for King Daddy, Crown Prince
And Princess, and kitties knighted, not benighted
We spend Monopoly money on Costco caviar, lox,
We leave with vitals, and a story to share.

The root beer float
Makes Erez beg for mercy
So his tank-topper
is water and a kiss.

Already the void in the casting of my soul
Opens, as I turn down HER street
Becca practices, "I love Mommy, right?"
Erez, silent, reads my heart.

Father's Day, an excuse-me holiday for men
Married, a month after the fete for the stay-at-home
Mother, witnesses the pain of the cast-off Dads,
Taken to the curb as we did for so long.

Let my words speak to the fullness of yesterday,
Tha the hole in my soul fill with love, not bitters.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

13/38 the gift

what do you want to do next dad asked
was there ever a question
i dazzled on my day at shul
like the cantor i'd become
i took over at the torah servicce
boy soprano plus a new octave
they could hear me in the kitchen
lecturing leyning loving

i had earned the question i thought
i put it in dad's head or else
he plucked it straight from mine
let's go to Duke's house i said
as if Dukey were a neighbor
not ten neighborhoods nine exits eight months away
it was decided
not like there was any question

seven of us squeezing
lap to cheek to thigh to handle
of the sky-blue Pontiac station wagon
if we could breathe in any deeper
when the wagon turned on Tulip
Street, the gasp would cause a vacuum
never had arisen any question
would he be there

or at the ballfield

at the warehouse

visiting a canine lover

a new family

yet a golden form came into focus
lighter, smaller than i had remembered
at a distance smaller than the bulldozed
track above our house already fallen
speckled like the sandstone blocks in sunlight
head cocks growing recognition
Duke? says dad not totally believing
answer bounding through unbounded bonding

rang out the breathless wagon
your family has found you
in a flash of synchronous emotion
the back door opens as the dog flies inward
never was so much dry cleaning created
never has the bill been so forgotten

still the puzzled fearful look
of the children living there
shades the moment - still the shift
from dad to patriarch commanding
half against his will
we'll come visit you i promised
yet another vow
i couldn't

12/37 we are your family forever

(how else to say it)
up and down the bulldozed trail
that used to be The Clearing
you golden boy
and your long haired
black buddy
(it was 1970 when we met)
bounding where The Sweetheart Tree
once squeezed me in her arms
with acorns
recalling the day with
the haze of history
it was your friend
i pet

(I think I'd call it)
In and out of earshot
Your bark's report like buckshot
So rarely I would hear you
Beyond your happy panting
From games of kid-tag leaving
Children doubled over laughing
After romping
Catching breath and back to ramble
Round the Gordon's Warehouse building
Soon no longer rambling
You became like family
The name of your
Black buddy
I forget

now in a pack of playmates
up and down a blacktop trail
they call Duff Road
where once we lobbed a basketball
back and forth like Nipsy
no point of destination
you chose your own stunt
settled in the center for a good long scratch
and if a car approaches you'll catch his eye
and continue scratching
i threatened you with a leash
that you'd listen
but not too

Only 'til your scratching
Scraping on our screen door
Ends whatever sojourns you've
Attempted. We learn later
You've another family
Another set of children call you
Dukey, another
Grocery list attests to
The feelings you engender
Even when the Shabbes round roast, left untended,
Disappears into my dizzy spell
The sitter's split attention
And your animal soul
Or doggie

growling with your nuzzle
down in the grit grout of the sofa
grand and giant gestures
with names you gave them wordless
majestic Duke loving Duke playful Duke
shifts in sense so subtle
that to name is to overstate
paw on each shoulder
resting your chin on Gary's neck
like a lineman, injured,
leaning on a referee or
napping with one front leg
folded under, one
leg over my

When Gary broke
His leg you sat
By his cast and licked
His little toes peeking through plaster
And my injury? No different.
Mel could pay for hands to replace mine.
None could pay for a heart to touch mine.
You would curl up, feline -
You'd protect me, caring, ursine.
Even Mel fell in your thrall
His eyebrows danced to hear your call
Or scratch on screen with paw uplifted;
In his heart rocky mountains shifted.
Duke, I could never
Begrudge you that
Pot roast

every box we packed
held youandthebooks youandthegloves
youandtheclothes even youandthechina
every chair every pillow
bore soundless panting spotless pawprints
every room disappearing into echoes
and i? away to school
ten miles and a light year away
Not a floorboard left unsniffed
Not an echo unremembered
The coldest, wettest nose yields
Moisture to your eyes and mine
The softest ears I've ever touched
Now mop my little Gary's cheeks
Gary's arms still felt
On your neck
As the truck
Pulls away

11/36 The Piano

too many fingers hitting
too many white slabs
too many black bumps
how can i make those sounds

wherever i found one
i grabbed the bench first
or if by myself i
slid the cover off the keyboard

placing a pudgy finger
on an arthritic key
scouting for don't touch that
adding more fingers, forceful

now while the synagogue
songs flow choppily
second time a melody
add something - hope you like it mom

He has an ear, an eye, a feel
He lacks an instrument
We lack space and the money
But just a Spinet in the corner, maybe

Then some lessons if you practice
thanks mom listen
The notes flow out of him like breath
Let's stop at Volkwein's; don't forget the Liszt

little Gary climbs on the piano bench
the cast on his leg keeps time
am i special if my baby
brother plays like me

Both demeaned will be in the
Sibling rivalry

10/35 I Take Over the Religious School

I am the gardener
Each child skips through my flowers
I don't plant the same bed twice
Each set of toes knows where it has danced
(or trudged or ground into the mud,
spurning each blossom with "Ewwwwww!")
I take cuttings from one bed,
Splice to stems from another
The cheery yellow tulip from the front
Goes double, earns frills and purple trim
No single path to blossoms here
Each species groomed, each petal sculpted
Drawing every set of toes forth
Never tiring of my garden.

One set of feet, too nimble, too quick
For even a garden so crafted as this
No mere tulips for this dancer, orchids,
Bird-of-Paradise, Spathodea,
Bloodlily, jacaranda,
koutruk leis around his hips his neck
For this one is my dancer
My child my Ronnie-Me
And the most elegant plantings
That I craft for the others
To dance five years 'til their legs grow weary
Cannot hold him for a fortnight
The artist gives her star student
To the conservatory

9/34 Mom on the Moon

the moon we could see
no Magnificent Desolation
that Buzz Aldrin described
a friend, a guide
by day a ghost of the future
by night a companion
we all drew what we saw
you never knew the moon had
so many faces

mom prepared us like a teacher
i don't remember
that summer
before the mission
that July it was stories of
space time travel journey to the center of the earth
cutting moons out of swiss cheese
painting round rocks
dad even bought a UL-approved
bottle rocket

we launched that rocket at Penn Hills Junior High
more amazed than thrilled that it worked
two long-haired young men watched and exclaimed
lucy in the sky with diamonds, man!
i never called her lucy
my older brother said she was luna
apollo went up 7/16 9:32 am
ours went up 7/14, more like 1:32 pm
lucy luna could wait until
after lunch

the night that we came in peace
mom caused a stir at shul
she left the board meeting early
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have to watch
history with my children."
our sitter had special orders that night

we would not sleep until the Next
Frontier had been claimed
the Channel That Brings You All The News
would unite a generation

at 10:56 Pittsburgh time
The Man in the Moon
accepted an oversized boot
and with it
six hundred


8/33 Bobby

Bell tolls, tape extends.
In the sadness of the day I wrote
A liturgy with my dad's tape measure.
Brass clangs such a solemn note.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
Days ago I'd read the news
Kennedy Dies in 72 point type
As if all hope to disabuse.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
By inch number 44
Not for birthdays lost to Ray
Bring him back, the peals implore.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
Once my father's uncle died.
Will they give him a parade
Like they did John F? Mommy cried.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
Harry only mattered here.
Kennedys to all the world
Touched hearts and spirits. No, my dear.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
I have to catch my taxicab.
Dad and Zayde sick at once,
Mom's Kleenex gives her tears a dab.

Bus rolls, Mom attends
Her father destined for the Home.
Huntington's had won the battle,
Leaving him a helpless gnome.

Top floor, Montefiore.
Good my men are in one place.
Three hours' travel for a visit
Checking vitals, just in case.

Bell tolls, tape extends.
So much trouble in one year.
The country shakes to its foundation,
Dry ducts fail to shed a tear.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

7/32 Gary

While you formed in my belly
My soul swirled first.
I could say to an insect
I feel you.
I feel you.

Still smaller than a marble
Tiny bundle of nerves and sea water
Refracts my essence
Filling me

My eyes saw four children
My heart saw five
Den and Ron would play chess
I imagine
You teaching.

When you emerged from me
In the typical way
My compass gyrated off its center
Then, like a magnet,
Two complete.

Now in your own body,
You grasp every toy like Torah,
Study every angle, every property.
Eyes hunger
For every action.

Not content to watch impassive
You capture and command attention
I who bore you see and witness:
I feel you.
I feel you.

6/31 Brigantine Beach, NJ

Encased in steel and glass
Nearly a thousand pounds of sinews, strength, and dreams,
Soar to a lofty platform. Ten thoushand eyes
Of sandaled children...

i among them
miss the spectacle
of the plunging half-ton
i hugged his surging white neck
from section one-eleven

These are my children
Never before have they seen
An animal DOING something
Does my oldest, Dennis, 8
Make sense of a horse
Leaping from a tower?
Does my Ronnie-me long to ride?
Joel, not quite four, will he remember?
Did I pack enough bottles for
Baby Joyce?

Four days ago a family pulled up
to Cottage 43 in Brigantine
The floor and sheets are full of whitest sand.
The cleanup task begins...

now now
i badgered dad
a day in the Pontiac wagon
i'm hungry i'm hot
the sand on the blanket
will be fine until we
get back

My Mel is like that.
Sweep the floor, set the stage.
Every prop has a grid in storage;
Every toy knows where to sleep.
You play like you rehearse.
The best window displayman
The Three Rivers have to offer
Doesn't leave for the water
With the wagon full.

The boys, aged eight and six, in an embrace
Reserved for lovers. Had they only known
A battle for a new room would take place
At least a sleeping bag...


Aware the sky, that silky black
Is turning steely blue I steal
A moment when even the seagulls sleep
But I perceive the change.
The water not yet boiling,
The sun not yet rising,
The children undisturbed.
A jigsaw of somnolent body parts
Will spring to life in not too long -
And they will be hungry.

Atlantic City boardwalk, where the boys
Eat shirtless, wistful gaze of teen girls met
With gestures to be seated, but the noise
Of wild guitars...

mary margie our sitters
recognize it in an instant
the guitar leads us like pheromones
dad, who for once touring freestyle
did not get that the music,
not he, was in command

Mel, what to do when we've obtained
The secret door, neglected
By aught but a crack?
The girls begged to stay
As Sgt Pepper rattled the door
Against its hinges
No expert on the changes, can't predict
The seismic shifts these sounds portend;
My children hunger.
Leaving legends to suckle offspring,
Time of day trumps epoch time
For us on the fringes.

The music stays, Alas! The band moves on
To feed the hunger of a different sense
Unvoiced resentment roils their Diet Cokes
No words are uttered...

maybe dad's afraid
of these new noises, strange
not the folk songs of protest
not mary abd margie's ballads
no, change progresses in measured steps
not this rip in time

Over lunch I sense the nannies
Glaring as if the meal's repugnant.
Mother-in-law asks, "How're you feeling?"
I mutter, "I think I fell pregnant."

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Prompts 6/4/10

1) If you EVER ask, "I don't need the microphone, do I?" then you DO!\

2) The apotheosis of defeat
the destiny defined by sorrow
watch all the minions, walking
in my tracks untrodden
see the tall guy's voice -
you can't hear it;
vibrato but no sound
water with no moisture
it rains but changes nought
of the cracked moonscape
that doesn't even cognosce
its soul in peril.

3) I can't bear this
solipsism or cynicism
vanity, vanity, all is vanity!
R'difat ruach - chasing after wind

while my powerful heldentenor
improve with age though rendered uncommercial
I sing the sorrow of the dues I haven't paid

to take away the miserable
folds of flesh you wear like plastic diamonds
in your mica throat
have you more right to your breath than i
how dare i share
the are you breathe
devoid of oxygen for prayer

6) and that same man who
ripped the song from my own palate
has ripped the prayer from these pages
turning pain and passion
into pabulum.
there is another cantor sitting here who...

7) Mchayei kol chai -
what if you're already dead?

8) No hard feelings
people walk through me all the time
what import is it whether i had
something to say or not
i had nothing

9) no hard feelings
they really don't want me here
they're just allowing me
until i pay my dues
then silence

falling into emptiness i
take notes on my way
so if i eveer have the fortune
that someone other than my children my mom
will know i soiled their earth

10) cycles of life

they don't need me here
unless i'm reading Torah
never torah small t for teacher
because i have nothing to offer

unless i pay dues
which i don't because
the world doesn't need me

unless i pay lots of taxes
which i don't because
no boss needs me

unless i utter some special incantation
which i don't because
without a pulpit i have no prayer

without a prayer i have no voice
without a voice i have no soul
with out a soul i am (add word art in circle:)
a cantor without a pulpit without a prayer without a voice

rendered soulless by forces of extraction
less subtle than a dental vise

11) There is another cantor in this place who_________