Thursday, April 14, 2011


In sepia he sits beside her
Fixed eyes set on me as she sits in her floral dress
Daydreaming about a dinner, cold on the stove,
a depression era mortgage and two kids who rip holes
in the upholstery, just kids who didn’t know any better
and he stares straight ahead
Bela Lugosi eyes that cut into the twenty-first century
into new millenniums, that scream through golden parchment, burnt at the edges
That say, listen kid, I knew the depression would come again in your time
That remind me to stuff wads of cash into my mattress, not to trust banks
and bureaucracies, that tell me to drive slowly
All these things I have done mean nothing
When I know that you walked door to door selling vacuums to support your hungry family
On weekends you carried a sinking violin case to practice with the
New York Philharmonic orchestra until at 31 you could no longer hear the music
That once on an empty street you closed the car door on your son’s hand as he writhed in pain
And you walked away until a man in a gabardine suit tapped your shoulder, let you know what you’d done
The pain of the language you could no longer comprehend
The crossword puzzles that kept you company in the silence of decades
Your wife’s back pressed up against the wallpaper in a New York kitchen
Because she wasn’t obedient
a bloody lip and the silent screams you wished you could hear
to know you were still alive
You were stuck in the quiet silence for years before the big white took you
Under it’s thick embrace
And I loved you despite the rage
I can understand it now
That fear lights a fire under us whether we like it or not
I was not your baby girl for long enough
And you were scared that I’d turn out
Too Jewish in the nose
Perhaps worse yet, the shiksa I’ve become
Your eyes still stare back at me,
Your wife’s hands wrinkled by time, mind
Has forgotten most of what’s she’s ever known
But she remembers you on a beach in far rockaway
She remembers the dark eyes that held her in a Nat King Cole
Nature boy embrace---
The greatest thing you’ll ever learn
Is just to love and be loved
In return
And you stare back at me
Not blankly but knowingly
My grandfather twelve years dead
Seeing me more clearly
Than I have ever seen myself
My grandfather twelve years dead
You live on in my Russian roulette stare
In the quiet prayer I whisper
through the dashboard of my car.

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