Wednesday, January 13, 2016


Listening Device
She tells me I don’t know, I don’t know,
I never knew.
She claims I only see spots and scotomas,
that I miss the truth
hiding in the fringes,
out of breath but beautiful.
Another time she says she is a cut-out,
not flat,  
not like that,
but living pages and improper pictures.
“Here,” she says,
running my hand across her spine,
“maybe you can read me a story.”
The nurse pokes her head in, mouths, Everything okay?
the same way she does every day.
When she’s gone,
I turn back to the woman on the bed
whose eyes are a blind man’s milk-blue.
I hit Record on the device,
say, “Tell me again how you met Dad,”
and she begins to laugh.
My son says he sees Tutsis, Hutus
and machetes in his sleep.
He says there’s an imposter looming outside his window.
When I tell him the Tutsis are safe now,
he asks how I can be sure.
I pull back the sheer curtain
to take study of the twilight and tell my boy,
“No, it’s the same moon.  We only get this one.”
In school he learned that history repeats.
Now he gives examples—Hitler, Pol Pot, Idi Amin.
I tousle his hair, kiss his sweaty forehead and hum songs until he nods off.
Outside the moon looms like a glowing onion,
daring me not to think of evil men in other countries
too busy for sleep themselves,
scheming to make my son correct.
While you sleep I read your arms,
flames and barbed ink
stitched into your skin as if you are
a totem pole
grocery list
or story without nouns.
Like the tenant in 14 B
who made the news because he spoke Farsi
and learned to fly in Florida,
people are on alert around you.
Yesterday the ballroom went still upon your approach,
the music stopped and a sparrow dropped dead from the sky.
But I am still waiting on you,
a little bit desperate and dangerous,
using both hands and all three wishes,
madly in love.
Her black eye is a crushed grape behind the glasses,
overripe colors
that are not sweet fruit
bleed free of the frame if she tilts her head
which she is careful not to do.
She speaks about Jerry.
He is tall for his age,
smart for his age.
He’s starting to look a lot like me.

The black sea
inside the cup doesn’t concern me
yet my daughter pauses to ask, “Need some sugar?”
forgetting—or maybe not—that her sunglasses are
dark but not reflective.
“Sure,” I say.  “Yes, I’ll have some.”

I am always on the wing,
grounded yet airborne,
unable to see
on either side,
neither north or south as it may be,
thousands and thousands of feet up.
Yet I hold a picture of you like
a colorful cameo come-to-life.
It sits on the closet shelf
closest in my memory--
of you dipping your head demurely,
shy and so very lovely,
a copse of hair slinging across your right cheek--
always that one--
as your now eager eyes lift to mine,
you a famished Jaguar.
I can go nowhere.
I can do nothing.
I can only make small leaps
take shallow breaths
run rings from here to there
without that image of you fulfilling its promise.
It is but one piece of you
yet it gives me reason and purpose,
a peaceful explanation of why
living makes sense.
There were scars on those kids
wicked homeschooled homemade jewelry
the skin serrated
caned from stained leather belts or buckles
so that there was no way to hide
to hide from other kids
when it came time to take showers
after PE
after PE everyone knew
and --frightened by this discovery-- they
did what teens have done for centuries
they made a game out of the horror,
said those kids were Jews,
filthy Jews
same ones that killed Jesus,
these Jews just got the belt instead of ovens,
see how lucky they are
but stay away from them
they're infected.
Here is the tree
that resembles the tree
my forefather
hung from
while not playing games
trading seconds for years
suffocating strangling always struggling
the rope a good thick one
sturdy coarse and dry.
Why all these years later
I can't reconcile my past
is something my wife asks
a few times each year.
And yes, only yesterday
she said, "You're too nostalgic."

She said, "And it's getting on my nerves."

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