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She was

She was short, old with white hair,
and bent over, my learned piano teacher
She was of Polish descent and lent me
a book about her teenage hero, Paderewski,
a fine pianist and for a time the Prime Minister
of Poland—She wrapped the precious book
in plastic, held together with rubber bands

Time passing is what life does

In return, I lent her a book on Beethoven
written by his friend, Anton Schindler,
and recently translated into English
I returned her book and couldn’t   
quite properly replace the plastic
She returned mine wrapped in plastic,
held together with rubber bands

Praise for our magnificent human beings

I complained because I wasn’t
allowed to smoke at school
She told me that in Poland, when
she was a girl, she’d be reprimanded
if she spoke Polish, instead of
Russian, in the hallways—Trilingual,
she refused to speak Russian again

Ambitious, cunning, treacherous,

He needed money, lots of it
He felt insulated by money, safe
Cicero pictured Piso, a political
enemy, singing obscene ditties while
lolling about naked among his tipsy,
malodorous, rich Greek friends—
“A mediocre mind, a cur in our time”

ruthless and armed

Cruelty and bombast—the mark
of the fascists—A screaming mob
that’s lost its principles—
Worried? Each night you pass
through death only to return
the next day—She wanted to
vanish, as we all do, each night

Mortal wounds inflicted in view of the

I was her safe place
In that photo, she had an
odd counter look, an innocent
unselfconscious, triumphant look
“He looked at her then with such
love in his eyes”—“You’ll always seem
beautiful to me, a miracle to me”

unrelieved corruptibility and transitoriness

I used to resent those who walked
slow, who blocked the sidewalk
A ridiculous sentiment, I know
I eat too fast and I walk too fast—But
the other day two slowpokes, a mother
and daughter, passed me and neither one
complained about my blocking their way

of human life by every breath, every parting,

He had no excuses for his genocidal acts
Even his son said “He was a lawyer and he
knew what he did”—No miracles unless you
think that unexpected, as yet unexplained
movements of matter are miracles—
She was not at all ambitious but she
was always looking for something

each betrayal, every passion

The dynamic, the patient—
it’s not so easy to combine the two
especially when the machine keeps
breaking down—He started playing
Mark Twain at 70 when he was 29—
As he got older he needed
less and less makeup

visceral, striking and real


-February 6, 2021-