Three-Cornered Jack (Written December 20)

Three-Cornered Jack

 

And pausing at the corners,

Waiting for the traffic to pass,

He gave a good hard look down

 

The familiar streets. His bookstore,

Which had been part of the town

For two decades, was now closed.

 

The café where he’d done his writing,

Day after day, as a self-imposed

Discipline, was home to a new crowd

 

That he had little in common with.

For a while he had been proud

Of his work, but lately he had pittance

 

To show for it. Down another block,

Tucked into a building next to the hospital,

He saw the headquarters of the festival

 

Where he’d been one of the main organizers.

He had thought he was living in the best of all

Possible worlds, until he realized

 

That one of his colleagues, unashamedly

Ambitious, was being recognized

For ideas that he had brought to the table.

 

Catty-cornered was the highrise where

His son lived, with whom he had a stable,

Though somewhat distant, sporadic

 

Relationship. Further on, toward the water,

On the opposite side of the street,

In a basement apartment, his other child,

 

A daughter, wanted to be left alone.

Instead of aging gracefully, with a mind

At ease, at every turn he was held fast.

A Man Fell Down (Written December 19)

A Man Fell Down

 

But he didn’t understand.

He had no memory

Of the incident. A man

 

Fell down and died.

Even the nurses ran

From him. What did he do?

 

All he wanted was the chair

By the window, with a view

To the garden. He was glad

 

To see his wife but who was

The girl? Don’t be mad,

He’d say. He was trying

 

His best. But wait, listen

To that poor woman crying.

What’s to be done, when

 

Nobody will tell him

Anything, and he has to fend

For himself. Once, in another

 

Life, he was young and carefree.

He had a father and a mother.

But that is a different story.

Needless (Written December 18)

Needless

 

Suddenly she lifted her head

And looked around the room.

It was as if she had seen a ghost.

 

She tried to say something

But couldn’t. I leaned close

And whispered in her ear.

 

No, she shook her head,

No, no. I could see the fear

In her eyes. She gagged,

 

And spit blood. A terrible

Cough shook her, like a rag,

Until she fell back and lay still.

 

How obscene, I thought, to be

Made to suffer, against her will,

And have no way to put an end

 

To it. To be without recourse,

Even to your dearest friend.

Much better the tomb.

Faded Jewel (Written December 17)

Faded Jewel

 

Soft and fragrant with the scent

Of a dozen red roses,

The young girl in the chair

 

By the window sits curled against

The night. Her little sister stares

At her, without blinking.

 

She loves her but wishes

She would go away.

Flakes of snow, heavy with sorrow,

 

Beat against the glass. She tries

Not to think about tomorrow.

She musn’t worry about things

 

She has no power to control.

She’s any girl who has to sing

For her supper. School

 

Can wait, but there’s work

To be done. Like a faded jewel

She sweetly dozes.

Never To Wake (Written December 16)

Never To Wake

 

The bathtub in which he lay,

Barely covered by water,

Was directly above the hall

 

Where the young people,

Including some of his own

Children, sang and danced,

 

To music that was much

Too loud. He’d lost

His memory, and his joy

 

In living. To lie

In the warm water,

Drink his vodka

 

And gulp his pills,

Never to wake again,

This was his wish.

 

His wife, whom he adored

As ever, would find him,

Or his daughter.

Something Hot (Written December 15)

Something Hot

 

I went into the bathroom

And brushed my teeth furiously.

It wasn’t even what she said

 

But how she said it. The sneer

In her voice. It made me see red,

And something hot, like molten lead,

 

Coursed through my veins.

A sinkhole, filled with dead

Promises, opened under us.

 

What a fool I’d been all these

Many years! What a dimwit!

It was like what a blind

 

Man must feel, who can see

Nothing but what he brings to mind,

And who looks at it, curiously.

The Pale Young Girl (Written December 14)

The Pale Young Girl

 

The pale young girl with the roses,

And the colorful knit cap on her head,

And the money belt around her waist,

 

Could not have been more than

Twelve years old. People

Hurried by, hardly glancing

 

At the waif. From four o’clock

Until eight nothing could pry

Her from her favorite spot,

 

Between Eighty Fifth and Eighty Sixth,

Near the museum. She was not

To be budged, this one, until

 

She’d made enough to cover

At least the day’s grocery bill.

With no father, and her mother

 

Not well, it was up to her to keep

The family together. Another,

Less industrious girl

 

Might have given in to despair,

But not her. She was a whirl-

Wind, determined to get ahead.

The Lake As Promised (Written December 13)

The Lake As Promised

 

And then took the road south

Such road as it was. Hardly wide

Enough for a mid-sized truck

 

To get through. Days of rain

Had turned the dirt to muck.

The wheels spun and lurched.

 

Mile after mile of thick spruce,

Then deciduous, mostly birch.

Drier, stone-infested foothills.

 

Mountains in the distance.

Not road but rock until,

Down one last dip, the lake

 

As promised, and the cabin

In the trees. For them to take

The money, for me to get

 

My daughter back, I deemed

A fair trade, for if I let

This chance slip, she was dead.

Inside the Bubble (Written December 12)

Inside the Bubble

 

With our caps on the backs of our heads,

Our ears exposed, our throats bare,

Oblivious to the cold, we danced

 

A little jig in celebration of our triumph.

Fame, which we had so ardently sought,

Belonged to us, if only for these few hours.

 

We had published our poems, and it

Almost didn’t matter if they were good

Or bad, over-praised or under-

 

Praised. We were where we wanted to be,

Inside the bubble, stealing everyone’s thunder,

Immune to the petty jealousies that beset

 

The profession. We had such great ideas,

My friend and I. We had only to push

The reset button and do it all over again.

Dropped All Wrinkled (Written December 11)

Dropped All Wrinkled

 

Dropped all wrinkled to the floor,

Diminished, the dream no longer

Seemed worth fighting for.

 

All was shattered.  A theatre packed

To the rafters, and a tall door

That opened onto rows of plum

 

Trees. With the crowd filing out,

Somewhere in the shadows a drum

Sounded. He could not remember

 

What the talk was about, but it

Didn’t seem to matter. September,

With its super-abundance of fruit,

 

Was his favorite month, because

What cannot be pulled up by the root

Can wait, for someone stronger.