Our eerie, timeless processions

Here’s the way it is—
   no unencumbered gifts
   just the stilted, superficialities of our politics
Our gifts, like prepayments
   for essential, resourceful, anticipated as yet
   unspecified tasks, within a glorified, graceless mix
Baffled, lonely, narrow, or willful
   we pace within grit cages
   our eerie, timeless processions
Except for Dad’s death
   I can’t seem to remember the date
   that anyone dies
Once they die, I think
   don’t they relinquish time and aren’t
   all of those dates meaningless?


I shed these roles, the old actor says—
   The juvenile
   The brash leading man
The suave romantic
   The funny character
   The estranged wit of the party
I’ve been the father
   I’ve been the grandfather...
   If I try to cling
to any one of these roles now
   my life would be quite miserable
   Not that I don’t want them back
Not that I don’t want them back...
   I can still hustle but
   I thought I was done with that


After high school he didn’t go to college
   like the rest of us
   Tried to drive a cab
but that didn’t last
   Got into three fender benders
   on the first day
At the last one a cop who saw it all, said to him
   “Do you know what you’ve done, son?
   Do you know what you’ve done?”
He pointed at the offended family
   and their newly dented car
   “Uhh, uhh...”
“You’ve ruined their day”
   “Well, I’ve ruined my own day too, sir”
   He quietly, ruefully, states


I go with my grandma to church
   where she talks to the priest
   about the organ pieces she’ll play on Sunday
I was about four or five (we are Jewish, by the way)
   I was thirsty and she wasn’t watching me close
   and I started to drink
from a bowl of sweet water
   “That’s the holy water
   They put their hands in that!!!”
she cries out, in horror
   Later, my dad calls one of his Catholic friends
   “Peter drank the holy water, Chuck,
what does this mean?”
   “Well, Art,” he flatly states,
   “Now, he’s one of us”


Later he told me how he learned about
   body mikes on Broadway,
   how they easily broke and were
expensive to replace
   He would sit in his apartment with a pile
   and fix each one with a flick of his wrist
Somehow this became his entry into
   the stagehand’s union (“Bad news, brother M is dead”)
   and he became a soundman on Broadway
He made quite a good living
   Even bought his building, a brownstone
   and also supported a minor actress
who wasn’t a great success
   The gossip was that she didn’t really love him and
   they weren’t physically intimate


I thought I saw Howard again
   He leans with his back against the subway door
   his full black hair shows from a bright baseball cap
(isn’t he nearly bald?) which he wears backwards
   his full black beard against his chest
   as he stares into his phone
and reads something that amuses him
   He snickers to himself,
   amused the way he so often was
by some inner joke that he would try out
   on himself to use in company later (or not)
   His intimidating intelligence, his bulk,
his charm, that charisma...
   Howard’s dead so it wasn’t him, obviously,
   it wasn’t him



-January 11, 2014-