Sunday, April 18, 2004

Letter to Mordecai
It was one of the holy of holies, not to be discussed,
the possibility of appearing traitorous to your own people
who had grounds enough to believe you were not to be taken lightly
after a brick had slipped off the roof of a building
and landed on the head of a cop.

You were doing what you always did, one of the Mordecai brothers fighting the class war in America,
but who knows if any of it is true, pieces of dust filtered
through a light tunnel of years, with the bundled saga of how you were forced
to ride the rails and ended up in Cleveland, Ohio, and once you came home kept it zipped up.
It was okay to talk politics. Those were the terms.

I listened to you around the dinner table when we visited Aunt Clara in her Westchester County house
whom you wrote about in your letters to your wife my mother, Olga, her stuck-up sister
who hardly drove to the Bronx because she and her husband, Jack, were worried
about their car parked outside being broken into; but we always went there
and you were polite at their table and blotted your mouth with a napkin,
and listened to Aunt Clara describe her work with Hadassah,
and Uncle Jack a Shriner or Knight of Columbus or one of those orders so he could get more business,
and let them talk about planting trees along a boulevard in Jerusalem,
making the Holy Land into a Suburbia; azaelas and rose bushes
grew in their backyard, gladiola, flaming torches.

You were the peace-keeper of my mother's heart, my mother who took us in the car
on get lost rides half-hoping we'd never be able to find our way back,
maybe drive up a moss-covered ramp and do it all over again,
three tasks, pulls on a lever; for the first few hours it was custard
and chicken-in-a-basket, until we drove back down the interstate, passing
Aunt Clara's house to where our dreams settled on the second floor of a walk-up.

I wanted you to go for it, but you were the bottom man,
holding up pyramids of acrobats above your head. Other people
depended upon you and so you found a balance
between what you wanted and what you could live with,
and like you, I rest on that fulcrum, always your cautious daughter.