On the Steps of Eternity

The steps are white marble, marble plate
   There is graffiti washed and faded on the walls
The building smells musty
   old soup and onions
This is a neighborhood of poor people now
There are glass and metal doors leading from the sidewalk
   through which you can see
   the marble steps and graffiti walls
There are five steps and a plateau and five steps up
   to another plateau
There is a black rubber rug and another set of glass and metal doors
   where the floor is dark brown and smells of polish
To the right on the marble plated wall are black buttons and
   an intercom into which you may talk
Here you push the button of her apartment
   A buzzer sounds, you are expected
You pull the metal handle of a glass and metal door
   You enter
I had never seen a shooting star before my
   father pointed one out to me
The sky was black and clear over the beach
   the moon a large yellow circle
the star a white dot flickering across the sky
   past the moon, its tail past the big dipper
Now a father and his son, stand on the beach
   stare  at the sky—
“A shooting star” dad said,
“that’s lucky”
These are the steps of eternity
   covered in false marble
They were built in the early thirties and then
   were all the style
The graffiti on the walls
   mocks the majestic gravity
of her building


With his back to the ancient
   Chateau de Maintenon
He stares into the grayness of the day
   past the sculptured gardens over the
pond with its brownish gray water over
   green manicured lawns
past the initial of a queen
   sculptured in green bushes
      bright flowers
Grandma, the trees sway in the distance
   the branches of the trees sway
      their leaves tremble
In this fine mist
      in this fine rain
Like her daughter
      who also died of cancer
      she died Thanksgiving weekend
I didn’t go, it wasn’t my turn
My two younger brothers, Matthew and Jonathan went
   by bus from New York carrying with them delicacies
   from Zabars because of the holiday and because there were
   things she still liked to eat
When they arrived she did not respond to the intercom’s buzzer
   Still, they got into the building
Generally cautious, this time her apartment door was open
They walked in, closed the door behind them and called her name
She was in the bathroom
   After about a half hour of talking to her through the bathroom door
   they overcame their reluctance and opened it
She was naked in the bathtub, the water having long since drained
   unable to lift herself out while refusing to admit
   that anything was wrong
“Boys, I’ll be out in a minute”
Nor did she understand why the ambulance came
   to take her to the hospital
I explained this to Jonathan
“She does not understand why she is here
   and she blames you two for all of the trouble”


It grows colder
The trees have lost their leaves
Winter is early this year
Only the bushes show green
It was mid-August in a hot seedy neighborhood
   in which the police don’t give a damn
that a building caught fire
   a block away from me
Screaming and sirens, flames burst from windows
   firemen shout to each other on the rooftops
Homes of the poor burnt homeless
I walk my way forward in the cold morning
   the white mist of my breath in front of my face
In everyone of us is a sadness
   nothing can touch

-December 21, 2009-