Monday, October 12, 2015


All day it has hammered on my chest
Telling me to write it into being
But all I see of the poem is its eyes
Which are frustrate and red.
Like a bad psychic I make vague guesses
"Something with flowers? You have lost
Someone whose name begins with a letter.
You will meet an apostrophe and fall in love."

Many poems have come to me and been lost
Or gone on their way.
                                        So what is different here?
Perhaps this is an old poem which first
Came to my grandfather in a dream
Forgotten when he awoke. Or my grandmother
Saw it looking at her from a heap of tobacco
And would have written it down, or at least
Told it to the girl next to her but the foreman was near
And the pay wasn’t bad – three hellers and a half
For rolling a thousand cigarettes.

Maybe the poem dogged my father for weeks
But love poems don't have red eyes and in 1946
Love poems were what he most wanted to write.

There may be something familiar about the poem;
Did it mutter its name to me on the L train
While I was coming home from high school?
Good luck with that! My mind was filled, hoping
The girl across the aisle would look back at me.
Could it be one I wrote, very badly, in college
And it has limped through the years, a caricature
Come to see if the years have taught me anything?
I make no promises, but I'll see what I can do.
Sit down; I’ll need time. While you wait, tell me
Things you know of my grandfather's dreams
Or of quick-fingered young women
Rolling Polish cigarettes in a half-lit room.

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