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Sunday, February 28, 2010

GOING OUT TO EAT WITH HIM


We remember how he’d walk deliberate
and slow scanning the restaurant from
left to right, looking for his spot, usually
a table off to the side, over by the window.
They steal four wheel drives in these parts.

If he heard a squealing baby or cranky child,
he’d tell the lady, best not sit us over there.
And when a boy at the next table spilled his
orange soda and it splashed a bit towards us,
we held our breath waiting for his reaction.

We remember how the waiter apologized
for the meals coming out late and how he
promised they’d be out in five more minutes.
That’s what you said twenty minutes ago
is what he said in his matter of fact way.

But we laugh the hardest when we talk about
how he ordered the chicken and dumplings,
then asked a naive young waitress if she was
the one who choked the chickens in the back

HOW TO WAVE


I wave to my neighbor across the street ,
he’s been there for six or seven years,
but I don’t know his name, his story.
We smile, make small talk about weather
as we shovel out the cars in our driveways
from the latest snowstorm, that’s it though.

I remember back when, everyone made
an effort to know the neighbors, I could drive
down the block today and point at the houses
and tell you the family names that are gone now
from the neighborhood where I come from.

There’s a white stucco half a double, just around
the corner, not far from my grandparent’s house.
People took a liking to the lady who lived there,
looked out for her, made her one of the family.

A widow, no kids, no relation to anyone, but when
mothers walked babies in strollers and carriages
Mrs. Wallace made conversation, admired babies,
spoke about living each day, enjoying the little ones.

Don’t remember who started it, we all called her
Aunt Helen, the lady who taught us how to say hi,
and how to wave. As we grew older she invited us
in to her home with candy dishes on every table.
We’d lift the noisy lids,find York Peppermint Patties,
Canada Mints, jelly fruit slices, Reesey cups, Wilbur Buds.

On a hot day, she poured ice water from old orange juice
bottles, tall, thick with an icy texture and an indented side.
We’d step on the pedal of a shiny chrome trash to open
the lid and throw out our little pastel colored Dixie cups.

On the screen porch, in back, clay pots all shapes and sizes
lined the edges of the room soaking in sunshine. In the
backyard was a closed down pool, with massive cracked
a concrete wall, piles of dirt, leaves floating in a foot of water.
We’d ask now and then, why doesn’t anyone use that pool?

When she passed, they explained to all of us kids,
who ranged from four to twelve, she went to Heaven
back then they simply told kids, “She died of old age”.
At the funeral, our first funeral, we all walked up
for the final viewing of the woman who had taught
us all how to wave hello and how to say good bye.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

ALARM CLOCK


How times have changed for me,
each morning the Blackberry plays
the song “It’s a Great Day to Be Alive”.
I’ve set it this way as a little prayer to
begin another hectic day and to remind
me to be thankful to be able to walk out
of bed and get ready for work once again.
My wife says I ought to change the song,
"You won’t like it anymore, if you hear it
every day", and I just laugh and tell her
that she should know me better than that.

NATURAL BORN KILLER


For a week, he sat on my chair listening to
scratching under the front porch steps and
when it’s in the twenties outside, little animals
try to come in to eat, to get warm, to survive
the harsh January weather of a Jersey winter.

My wife says it must be a chipmunk, the ones
we always see scurrying around in summer.
But the cat and I think it’s got to be a mouse.
Early this morning, I’m up before everyone else
and I hear that old cat running around the house
banging into furniture, batting at the curtains,
scampering in short bursts through the kitchen.

And when I decide to check it out, I find him
sitting calmly, staring at the lifeless gray body
of the mouse, and my cat looks disappointed
that the game is over, not knowing he’s made
his first kill after nine years of never going
outside and always eating the same dry pet food.

Instincts from thousands of years of mouse catching
were summoned this morning and to think he did
it without having any claws on his front set of paws.

Friday, February 26, 2010

DISCO SHOPPING


You rush for the last few items
as the 24 hour A&P grocery store
announces to a handful of shoppers
that they’ll be closing in 20 minutes.
A moment ago, unknowingly you
strolled through the aisles, carefully
selecting cans of Mexicana corn,
coffee that was on sale, rye bread,
gallons of green tea, sweet mustard.
You were happy then, drumming
on the cart’s handle, whistling and
enjoying the Knock on Wood song
like never before because it has
a whole new meaning now, a history.