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Love strays

Grandpa used to joke and say
“If you don’t stop that
I’ll have to hit Matthew”
But Gramps wouldn’t hit us kids, me and Matt
Not for nothing, not now, not ever

He used to, I’m told, like to talk
with his fists when younger
But not to us kids and not at all
after the Polish truck driver incident
You see, Gramps ran a garage in those days

and he was kidding around with this Polish
truck driver who went and said something about
“Dem damn Jews” –-so Gramps popped him good,
knocked him out, felt terrible, paid his medical bills
and didn’t hit no one ever again

Love strays from one to another
Fine dear, if that’s how it is
Good night

For him emotion was always close
He ran with that edgy, druggy, drunk crowd in darkness
You develop a feel in the dark for everything
The moisture on the grass,
small changes in elevation,

the exactitude of distance from tree to tree
All kinds of things your eyes don’t see
Memories change their shape a lot
They’re creative, malleable—
mercurial and savage

As a kid he slept with one leg up
one leg back, like his hero, Superman
He’d fly through the air, free and invulnerable
With that crowd he threw up a lot
That may have saved his life

Love strays from one to another
Fine dear, if that’s how it is
Good night

Once a much-feared columnist and prophet,
our admirable warrior for all that’s good,
the old fart became a figure of fun, ridicule
Hawkish on the Vietnam War, we said,
“That damn war is what killed him”

When Patricia told me she had a $10,000 cd
coming due and she wasn’t sure whether
to roll it over or invest the cash elsewhere,
I thought, she must have inherited it
because how else could one

as young as us possibly
have that kind of money?
Hers was a kind of bruised history, alas
Scar tissue is tough but it’s not
at all attractive or resilient

Love strays from one to another
Fine dear, if that’s how it is
Good night

She meanly evoked feelings
of love and lust
with an aim to chide, humiliate, bruise
That celebrity — her fans, they’d even steal
old French fries from her plate as souvenirs

All the vessels cracked, shattered
No reference for her, no hold
In the absence of kindness lies
brute force, cruelty, sadism—
all the curt hidden earthly horrors

Grandma had a Wagnerian temperament
but her sweet lyric soprano
was best suited for the tricky classic
exuberance of a Gluck or Mozart that animate
the hidden horrors that lie beneath us

Love strays from one to another
Fine dear, if that’s how it is
Good night

I was at the beach taking time out
from a business conference I’d gone to
I’d put my money and my wallet
in a plastic bag and went for a swim
When I came back there was the money

on my chair in a tidy green stack
But my wallet was gone and with it
every trace, every proof, of my identity
And there I was a foreigner, alone
with this big wad of cash

With no sense of direction
I’m often lost
You’d think I’d get used to it
Never mind, each river finds the sea
Each sadness its peace

Love strays from one to another
Fine dear, if that’s how it is
Good night

 

 

 

-February 28, 2015-