1. Wheelchairs

The old black subway beggar in a manual wheelchair—
clear tubes in his nose, and a real oxygen tank attached
How does he get around on these trains?
How does he do it?
“I have emphysema and no home,
please help.”

Here’s the story of Mom and the wheelchair—
The disease that would kill her
hurt her particularly badly that day
So me and my brothers, on doctor’s orders,
hailed us a cab to rush her to the hospital
I let a few go by

because they claimed they didn’t know the way
to the Bronx, but she did,
I should have remembered that...
She was pale but coherent and we are on our way
We arrive, I’m in the lead
Quick, into the hospital corridor

Suddenly, two orderlies come from behind me
They grab my arms and gently sit me in a wheelchair
So febrile and sick with worry did I look
they thought I was the patient
Bad as she was, even Mom laughed
as I explained it wasn’t me

When Dad got sick
he would never agree to go to the office in a wheelchair
He didn’t want his brutish colleagues to see him that way
And Howard, when he couldn’t walk so well,
wouldn’t agree to go to a museum, we couldn’t convince him
to go with us, if it meant he’d have to go in a wheelchair


                2. Games

Childhood violence scalds us,
overwhelms us, terrifies us kids —
like a voiceless, brutish nighttime trauma
Last night I fought the fight I fight each night
The landmarks wouldn’t show in the darkness
I bust, clench and fight my angriest angels

She fixes her gaze on what’s no longer there,
her frown now a permanent part of her face—
her grotesque, fixed, upside-down clown smile
Some say it’s her character that’s bad
But that’s wrong and often said
of the very strong-minded

Uneven surfaces
The sidewalks slant down
How come I never noticed that before?
They do that on purpose to guide the rain
He craves a peculiar compensation and he can still,
he’s not that old, play at this game

Faith’s a feverish thing—
hot, unpredictable, loud
Truth’s more beautiful, I think...
Nevertheless, we need spice, it’s spice we all crave
Life’s not anything without it—
lots and lots of hot spice

He was drawn to her essence
the essentials in her
“Put on your flip-flops,
get on your bike and let’s go to the beach”
He needed our help but he disgusted us
so the government killed him instead


                3. He Shouldn’t Have

Grandma was always threatening to kill herself
“I’ll stick my head in the oven” she’d say
Until SP actually did it (you can read the reports for yourself)
I didn’t think it could be done
Grandma, for real, couldn’t do it
She didn’t really want to, I guess

I knew only his intelligence, idealism and generosity
It was only later (because of those tapes)
that I heard his more quarrelsome, surreptitious fulminations—
the nastiness, the moodiness, the repulsive grandiosity
of a stranger whom it was my great pleasure
never to have met

If you embarrass yourself in front of her
you’ll never want to see her again
So few things are like other things
So few comparisons really compare
Our art begins where technique ends—
the differences between

knowledge by description
and knowledge by acquaintance
Do you think it best to hide your
secret gods, ghosts and angels?
“Oh yes, I bet you’re a good boy all the time” she said,
as we kissed “All the time”

Walking with Alice, he saw CFW—
the horrid, anxious, skinny ex-true love of his life
He passionately kisses Alice right there in the street
(He never does that— that’s so vulgar)
He should apologize to Alice (but he doesn’t)
He shouldn’t have used her for that



-July 20, 2013-