As is often true with poets, the hues, weather and emotions of the season stream through my poems. Below are four of my poems from my collection The Green Light (Finishing Line Press). The book tells the story of a family from the 1950s to the early 1960s. The husband Stan, a veterinarian, and his wife Rita, are an interfaith couple. They have two children, Kate and Josh, and their dog, Sparky
The Mean Reds
So much depends
the mean reds.
it makes no sense
to you now,
like when your
Dad and I fight,
but before you’re sixteen,
you’ll have seen
the mean reds
in broad daylight
and in the night.
Not the sweet reds
of candy canes,
your new Keds,
the jelly beans,
you gave Dad
on Valentine’s Day.
Then, you’ll meet
the mean reds,
the red of rifles,
Like Holly Golightly,
smart and sad,
you’ll have to use
all you have
to shake off
the mean reds.
Long ago, on Christmas Eve,
I had the mean reds.
Your Dad and I
were newly weds.
We had barely said “I do”
before your Dad
went to the zoo,
where he fed
the animals at night
after spending the day
at vet school.
Alone in our apartment,
with little heat,
looking out the window,
I saw no holiday cheer
in the night.
only a mangy dog
walked the streets.
You could hear
the stars breathing.
But when your Pop
we gave the mean reds
we shoved them off
into the night.
We found our own
the mean reds,
it might take weeks
or it could take years.
Your Dad plays poker,
I ride bumper cars\
worship movie stars
and sneak my ciggies.
All you have to do
is find your own
If You have the whole world in Your hands,
where is there room for me?
If I should sleep and die before I wake,
just burn my shoes, the orthopedic pumps.
My gimpy feet will tap and bop in heaven
where amputees fox trot on Your dance floor.
Just once, may Your blood sugar be so low,
that You break into a sweat, get clammy,
feel nauseous, forget Your holy name;
and that after You’ve had quarts of orange juice
poured down Your throat, You don’t know
where You are or were going,
until You remember: It’s Easter Sunday
and you were in the Pontiac, driving the kids,
wearing their new outfits, to church to pray.
The Green Light
you really had eyes in the back of your head
as you told me when I, age 5,
knew those eyes would stop mean giants,
evil queens, even the Wicked Witch herself –
dead in their tracks – with one hit of your X-ray vison.
you really were 17, as you told me you
were before I knew what any number meant,
instead of 36, immersed in The Great Gatsby,
bridge, housework and actuary tables.
The life expectancy of diabetics, on average,
is limited, you read. It’s not so bad, you said,
I’ll go out like Keats. The great writers
leave when they can still think of a good exit line.
on that sultry summer day in the Manhattan
TV studio, palms sweating, heart pounding,
your memory hadn’t failed like an overloaded circuit.
Who wrote the Great Gatsby? asked the quizmaster.
Hemingway, you murmured. I’ll think about
that answer for the rest of my life,
you’d say, staring off into the distance,
like Gatsby looking for the green light, that fur coat
I almost won is always draped around my shoulders.
Yom Kippur, 1950
Stan never wanted God, especially during the High Holy Days.
He craved unholy day pleasures, swapping racing tips
with two-bit hookers at the track, eating traif hot dogs
at the ballpark, schmoozing with ladies of the evening
when their night’s work was done, not lusting after
their forbidden fruits, but thirsting for their juicy tales.
Why would he, American as Bogart or Einstein, need God,
Stan wondered, listening to the lecture on rabies
at veterinary school on the day of Atonement. Growing up,
he’d listened to Orphan Annie, drunk his Ovaltine, given
to the March of Dimes, and run the farm while his brothers
fought the Nazis. What did he have to atone for?
Hitler was gone, Harry was giving them hell, Israel
was now a country and Rita, his bride to be, was so
beautiful, everyone said her last name should be Hayworth.
Why miss this chance to learn how to stop dogs
from going mad, to visit the house of a washed-up
Old Country God, Stan thought, until Professor X strolled
from the podium toward him, clamped the meat hooks
down, hard on to his shoulders and hissed, “Jewboy!”