I heard last year Uncle Keat
lost his sight, and nobody
has seen him since.
Tonight, my oldest brother– waiting
on a kidney, unable to walk–
unwraps a flashlight.
A gift of hope, I suppose,
what we lose we tend to replace
at the end of a year–
the longer Dad’s dead the wider
entropy’s net consumes us.
Today’s the fabled white
Christmas, trail of footprints
leading into the woods.
and familiar waits in a clearing,
hands cupped to mouth.
There’s no warmth in
red streams of wrapping paper
hanged from winter branches.
Uncle Keat was there,
we’re sure. Somewhere
As if another dark
world with open jaw
awaits, and time
pushes us forward,
every now and then.
(originally published in Overheard, Winter 2022)
On the way home from my first Passover
with your family we stop at an Olive Garden
in flyover country, where the waitress tells us
Happy Easter and, when you tell her we forgot
but still want angel hair, she jokes her last
table mistook pesto for alfredo. Sometimes
people confuse one god for another but never
their own, and food is ours– Jesus rising
with the dough of endless breadsticks
descending like ten plates of plagues, first-born
bastards in baskets we need no hunt to find
lest our mouths become black holes absorbing
absurd sanctities of tradition. Separately,
the Garden was where our families would gather
on intermittent nights to write our own Haggadahs
or speak sins of rock stars or mysteries
of faith. Afikomans for truth, perhaps, but instead
of matzo an endless bowl of a salad of words
in which we always beg for more
forgiveness without really wanting that.
And the waitress, before engaging the simplest rotor,
asks us to say when to end airstrikes of parmesan
and it does not matter when we do.
(originally published in After the Pause, Summer 2018)