Eighth Grade Shop
I planed and glued a large birch blank,
turned it down to a lamp with flared base,
fluted body, formed neck and throat,
three way socket, matching shade,
sanded glass smooth and varnished,
all blond like Mom's hair.
Then I made another,
same shape and hardware, for Mildred,
who came once a month,
washed the walls and bathroom,
who told me years later that her teen son
was thrown from a speeding car and killed.
I made that second lamp for Mildred,
the curves, balance and finish finer,
and under the varnish colored with a maple stain.
Dream Street ☊
I left her the house
and got a place on Torley. Each night
the neighbors put chairs on the sidewalk,
turn the TV face out, drink Iron City
and watch the kids play in the street.
I get home from work at 6 or 10
or 2, shower and then sleep
with eyes open:
a child shrieking on a hospital gurney,
her spine filleted and straightened,
the smell of burning in my hair,
a new mother life-flighted from the mall,
brain shifting in her head,
crushed by bleeding while we watch.
We drink coffee and wait
while a father facing doom in our hands
says good bye to his children;
each day I pedal in over the Bloomfield Bridge,
or drive when called at night, never knowing
that it will get worse.
Here in the school yard,
tribute wall to our murdered kin,
six million pull tabs washed clean,
stuffed in glass blocks,
stacked in stainless frames.
What of the Poles and communists,
gypsies and queers?
Anna and Isaac met in an orphanage
where they were hidden as Catholics.
They married in Antwerp. The house door
was six inches thick. Two great bolts
shot into the frame. The floor safe held half a million.
Their son, Len, drove me to see Breendonk,
Belgium's only camp, a feeder for Dachau,
dorms filled with wood bunks, a museum,
I felt only faintly what it was to live there
yet I will not visit another.
Len waited for those hours in the car.
An hour after Leah gave birth
her room was filled as they do in Belgium,
eating and laughing.
She lay in exhausted sleep. Bobby was in an ante room
absent fingernails and eyebrows, asleep like his mother,
too small to be held, they felt. Knowing no better,
I was the first, held him with these hands.
I bought a crib, clothes, everything
the next day, as they do in Belgium. That evening
we sat together, new family, full with each other.
Anna, Bobby's grandmother, showed an old picture,
her father and his 5 brothers
murdered when she was a girl.
Bobby is 18 now, his sister, Amy, 10.
Leah and Len are divorced.
We're all on Facebook.
Bob and Autumn
Autumn's talent brought them to Pittsburgh
She ran the seizure unit at Magee
It was Bob's idea that we might work together.
She died just after the Boston bombing
Bob's son had been there; he was on crutches at the reception
A line of us greeted Bob
When he saw me he burst into tears.
Bob was arrested two months later
Autumn was killed with cyanide.
My wife is gone too,
her twenty thousand per day hospital care
ended with morphine on my consent.
Bob got life without parole
I'm in love again.
I know there's a difference between us
I have not found what it is.