I sit on the bench that holds your ashes,
look for some sign of you,
listen for something beyond the static.
But I only see the red oak overhead,
hear only Tamiami Trail traffic.

You aren’t here.
I sit on the bench that holds your ashes—
residue in metal canisters—
sing, read to you about you,
tender prayers into the air.

Last night I watched a dying fire,
last bits of red and orange fading. Now
I sit on the bench that holds your ashes,
the smoke long gone, your living faces
harder to conjure, conversations lost in traffic.

There’s so much in between,
so many you didn’t meet, who never
saw you talk at ease with absolute strangers.
I sit on the bench that holds your ashes,
smile at your corny jokes, now mine.

“New year,” the slender moon declares.
“The gates are open.” Can we meet
in between? Can you fill this space inside me?
As the moon watches, waxes, wanes,
I sit on the bench that holds your ashes.

World to Come, (2015) Jewish Currents, p.22

Age ten, in a huge screened cage,
hands protected by thick leather gloves,
I held a frightened chipmunk.
It squirmed. I squeezed
too tightly, then stuck it
into a pile of leaves
to hide its dead body
from the counselors. Discovered,
I was banned from the zoo. The shame
burned my cheeks. 

Age eleven, issued
two safety matches, a menu,
ingredients, a reflector oven,
I made empty #10 cans
into pots, skillets. Dressed in white,
I represented my cabin
in the “Chef’s Cap”
cooking contest, won
four years in a row.
        (Now it’s All-Clad on a natural gas flame, an infrared broiler.)
Almost sixteen, my final year,
I volunteered to be chaplain
on the “See America First” bus tour,
put together eight
non-denominational services,
dittoed prayers and passages
from the Prophets and familiar liturgy.
The campers, Jews, denounced
my efforts as too Jewish. Someone else
was assigned my duties, my blue-on-white copies
tinder for the campfire as we tented in Zion.
All summer I took 35mm color slides,
now like fossils caught in amber.
Winter Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis 2006-2011, The Brodsky Library Press (2011), p. 54

Like half the town
I work at “The Comic Book,”
where white men adjust
printing presses and bindery machines
that spew white heroes
Casper, the Friendly Ghost,
while blacks wield brooms, load freight cars.

Six months pregnant
with our first child,
Marian walks to the plant,
our tiny black poodle,
Voodoo, on a leash.
As we stroll home for lunch,
she tells me the dog bit her hard.
We chat about baby names.

Later, I go to Rotary.
The minister sitting next to me says:
You’re the first Jew I’ve ever talked to.

Winter Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis 2006-2011, The Brodsky Library Press (2011), p. 55

Jim eases the johnboat off the bank.
Bib-overalled on the bow platform,
I lift a trident gig, and Clifton
attaches wires to a car battery.
Spotlights illuminate the creek
like an aquarium. I stab, hit nothing
but creek bottom—the fish
are not where they seem.
Like a marksman trying to sight in,
I adjust to the left, right, up, down.
It’s not the weapon’s fault.
Taking his turn, Clifton
fills the boat’s floor with drum and carp. 

We skid onto a gravel bar
next to three other boats. Wives
surround a bonfire, tend pots
of boiling lard, make hushpuppies
of cornmeal, eggs, and bacon grease.
The men gut and clean the fish,
throw heads and entrails into the weeds.
The women rinse bodies in the creek,
dredge them in paprika-and-pepper laden flour,
pop them in to fry until their bones melt,
their skins golden. Rough men and women
wolf hot fish and fixings, drink cheap beer,
laugh and chatter until nothing is left but embers.

Winter Harvest: Jewish Writing in St. Louis 2006-2011, The Brodsky Library Press (2011), p. 56

You’re not
the brightest bulb
     in the box,
     on the porch,
     in the chandelier.
the sharpest
     razor in the pack,
     tool in the shed,
     cheese on the cracker,
the ripest fruit on the vine,
the fastest gun in the west.
You’re a few
    bricks shy of a load,
    sandwiches short of a picnic,
    screws short of a hardware store,
    dimes short of a dollar,
    fries short of a Happy Meal.
Your elevator doesn't go all the way to the top floor;
all your puppies don't bark; the gates are down
and the lights are flashing, but the train isn't coming.
Although you couldn't pour water out of a boot
with instructions on the heel, you’re kind, honest, happy,
and I’m glad you’re my friend.

Oasis Journal 2011, Imago Press, p. 200

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