AT THE POETRY READING
October 30, 2012
A poetry reading at the college:
Several of us, different ages,
Different journeys and ways
Of saying whatever it is
Poets have to say.
But a common thread shows through:
Our fathers all smoked cigarettes
In a time of dangerous innocence.
Lucky Strike Green had gone to war:
A common urgency, a
Conduit to loss,
And reason for words
That grieve and warn.
THE SUBJUNCTIVE MOOD
The English teacher had asked
A Latin student of mine
About the mood of a piece;
Dark, foreboding were answers
He had in mind.
Subjunctive, the boy replied.
As though wit might somehow lie in
The hand tools on my father’s bench,
Which I could neither name nor use.
The conditional sentences of our days,
Lives of if, what if, if only,
Jobs accepted, those not offered,
The place her mother had passed up
On the waiting list at Golden Pines,
The sorrow of the pluperfect tense.
If I was you, I joked,
I’d pay more attention
To the future less vivid,
The present contrary to fact.
Filled with turkey and family,
I recall another late gray November,
An Army post between wars,
Brave comrade clerks
In the Dental Detachment.
We nibble on celery,
Stuffed with cream cheese
And watch the Lions on TV.
My friend, from Grosse Pointe,
Wonders if his parents are there
This year, the first he has missed.
Our commanding officer,
Who had perhaps expected better,
Has put on his dress blues,
Walks around the room,
Makes himself greet
Each of us
Where are you from, Soldier;
What did you do on the outside?
On the last day of middle age:
Our daughter’s turkey dressing,
Not to her mother’s recipe.
Walking her dog after dinner,
Joints scrape, metal against metal,
In the crystalline air,
Those sharp November days
They have up there.
We drive back south in a gray rain,
Road getting harder to see.
“Thanksgiving 1995: appeared in Maelstrom, January 2000; “Thanksgiving 1961” appeared in Foliate Oak, December 2011.