Family Tree has Problems

If you put me in a room with my grandparents

I would not recognize them. They are

Just blurs on ancient photographs to me

Having died early

Or been banished

Or vanished

I am not exaggerating.

My father’s mother Gazela died two decades before I was born.

As they say

The operation was a success but the patient

Not so much.

My father’s father Moritz died five years before I was born

Just keeled over in his barbershop

Scissors stopped mid-snip.

My mother’s mother Annie spent all her days in the madhouse

Hearing spirits and afeared

My mother’s father Victor

Just disappeared

Sadly, 32 years before I was born.

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My father died in our spare room

Where he had been sojourning

Getting weaker

Until eventually he stayed put and

Turned an odd wax color.

Helpers came to care for him

Our house turned busy

With nurses and aides

Buzzing around.

In dying my father asked for nothing

Not even a sip of water.

You have to understand

He was 99 years old

He thought he would live forever

And really wanted to.

Instead he slipped away silently because nobody

Not even my father

Who could argue like a lawyer

Has much to say in death.

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Spin Me

Oh Lord

Spin me a carousel

I ride a speckled horse

Upside down on the merry-go-round

Spin the top, gyroscope me Lord

Send me to heaven

Tigers rampant on the sword

Ride me oh spirit

Spin me

Spin me

Ride me oh spirit

Tigers rampant on the sword

Send me to heaven

Spin the top, gyroscope me Lord

Upside down on the merry-go-round

I ride a speckled horse

Spin me a carousel.

Oh Lord.

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I went to a church


Tom took me,

My mother’s friend who

Saved her from loneliness when my father was in the army,

He was a big white haired Catholic old guy

Thick in the waist and red faced and good-hearted.

On weekends he drank schnapps in the Poe Cozy Nook down the street.

Sometimes he watched me, like that Sunday.

First we passed some time in

His apartment which

Had framed pinups of girls on every wall

I admired them.

Then we walked to church.

Tom said to just do what he did

So I kneeled when he did and

Crossed myself

Whispered mumbo jumbo when people prayed out loud.

I have old black and white photos of Tom and me

He is holding my hand in front of our apartment building.

Another one, digging in the sand with me at Orchard Beach

While my mother sunbathed.

We moved away when I was ten

My father was back from soldiering

And doing well

My mother lost touch with Tom

And sometime along, as Tom was walking home from the bar

One evening

He was mugged and killed and his corpulent body left in a vacant lot.

We found out by chance.

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Self-Portrait in Mirrors

Over the years I have stared at myself

In the mirror millions of times, seen

Millions of reflections

Glances and sly genuflections.

When I was twelve I looked into

A smoky mirror

Dimly lit by dusty sconces

I kissed the air and put on lipstick

And adjusted my glasses.

When I was sixteen

I fucked a man in front of a full length mirror

Twisting under him to get a better look

At our bodies.

My glasses were on the table next to us.

I looked in a mirror today

Ten times I bet

Sometimes I saw an old lady with frizzy white hair and glasses

Sometimes I saw me

A million times I saw me.

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Nostalgia is Disappointing

Twenty years ago

I had a fine affair


We never met

Rarely talked on the phone

It was literary

Strictly apex and exotic.

It ended of course

In due course and I

Was sad for a time

But tossed it off

Thinking only in passing fragments about him, wisps of nostalgia.

I looked him up on Facebook today

On a whim

And read some posts

He is now the European version of a Republican

Noxiously railing about foreigners

And anarchists

And government.

Just goes to show you why you should

Let sleeping dogs die.

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A While Ago

Back in the day

My husband used to say I didn’t

Understand him, that

I had no clue

About the mysteries of his soul

The pain he suffered in this world.

In response

I was querulous and confused

So tell me I said

Explain the working of your psyche.

He looked at me

With a glance close to hate

Sharp and critical

As if I should know that his spirit could not be


Only inhaled

And it was clear that I was short of breath.

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Hollyhocks have been growing

Outside my kitchen window

For fifty years. Even

Before my house was built

They grew next to the ramshackle camp

That stood in its place.

Tall flowers with carnivorous dinner plate smiles

In rosy pink and white and ruby

Taller than my cat they grow

Taller than even I am.

Their faces peer through the kitchen window

Watching me

They act indifferent

But I know better

I know that hollyhocks were here first

And will be around when I am


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Feet Accompli

My husband likes my feet

Which are flat and bony and useful

For moving and shaking

At least they were

But I have been having trouble lately

My ankles feel stiff and

My left foot hurts when I run

Doggedly up the hill and down Lake Street

While listening to an exercise tape

With earphones on.

The doctor says

I need different shoes

I must wear

More supportive sneakers

The kind made for old people


I am getting on

And my feet have some mileage.

But never mind

My husband likes my feet.

And I will buy new shoes with wings on them

Like Mercury

And dance up the hill and down Lake Street

Listening to the music of lightning bugs

And tree frogs.

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I entertained today

For the first time since

Our isolation started

A couple came for lunch, old friends

We circled gingerly around one another

Keeping our distance

No hugs, no kisses. We stayed

Outdoors with a breeze sweeping everything away

Watching boats on the lake

Birds swooped past, gulls and eagles and more

I stuffed myself with scallops and tabouli and gazpacho soup

Until my belly sprung.

We recounted our adventures in solitude

Timid trips to the market, to the doctor

How we missed our children.

We have known this couple for 50 years


We knew them when our kids were babies

And now we look at photos of grandchildren and birds

Roseate spoonbills they saw in Texas

Back in January

A picture of a wood stork

I took last year. For hours

We discussed the state of the world and

Poetry and woodworking and flowers.

Then they left

And I don’t have to eat dinner tonight

Or say another word.

I am full up.

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