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Poetry Offerings from Jay Liveson | Poem

Poetics of Jay Liveson
Note From Alvin

Knishes With Dad


To  His No Longer Coy Mistress

Hospital Courtyard

Holocaust Torah


Jay's home page


Note from Alvin

     Labor Day has come and with it
     preparations for the Fall term. 
     I gather with my fellow father-daughter
     teams, in the parking lot of the off-campus
     dormitory.  It fits the standard mold--
     converted decaying mansion, charming
     molding on long narrow staircases, 
     many strange-shaped subdivided rooms, 
     many floors.  An elevator?  Illegal in a dorm.
     I follow the fatherly routine--drag box
     after box up 4 flights of steps, while daughter
     triages below and in her yellow room.
     There’s that tilted lamp, the tattered futon,
     the pile of bricks.  Many rest pauses later, 
     we assemble that crap into bed, dresser, night table,
     book cases.  My father always managed
     to stay uninvolved these occasions when I was a kid.
     I used to resent this.  Now I admire and envy him.
     I’m so deeply involved in all this stuff.  And yet, 
     when advice is sought, I’m so seriously ignored.

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Knishes with Dad

     This is an era when aerobics are unknown,
     cholesterol is “fine” in the hundreds, life so often ends 
     with sudden stabbing chest pains.  Father, 
     engaged all his life in a fight against obesity, 
     pauses between rounds. Outside,
     he reaches down for my hand, leads me 
     to our secret club--the knish factory. 
     The four block trek is ample to trigger my saliva,
     set my stomach aroar.  Father seats me at a bare 
     enameled table, my short legs swinging.  I shake loose 
     sawdust that clings to my shoes from our walk 
     across the floor tiles--like in our bathroom. 
     Smoke of overbaked dough is stirred through the room
     by lazy ceiling fans.  “Kasha, cheese?  What will it be?” 
     What a question.  I crave kasha grains,
     gray, flecked brown, spiked with onion shreds.
     Father craves cheese knishes, especially
     over a cherry lining.  I run small fingers
     over multiple green paint layers coating
     plaster defects, await father’s return. 
     He’s balancing two plates, a porcelain crock--
     home made sour milk.  His favorite.  Right. 
     I  noticed dozens of them cranked up 
     from somewhere on the dumbwaiter.
     Too sour for me.  “Wait until you’re older.” 
     He skims the crust, licks his spoon
     like mom’s icing ladle.  My fork slips so easily 
     into thin knish shell, allows kasha vapors 
     to burst free.  I saw off a soft edge, bite-sized for me, 
     scoop it, lower my head to meet the fork. 
     No need for idle talk.  Everything is perfect 
     in this perfect world.

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What should have been announced
by wailing of a siren, slipped by 
as a whisper in the night.
The pallor of your skin matched
the cream of your crib linen.
It seemed as if peace had descended
on you--our sleeping infant.
It seemed as if some gracious hand
had calmed your membranous lids
had settled their gentle tremor. 
No more restless movements.
Breezes no longer teased
white crests into the waves. 
And this calm--when did it evolve 
into terror?  After that forever moment
when I lay my head against your breast
heard its hollow silence?
After the frantic pressing of my mouth
to your so miniature lips?
Or only after all had come and gone,
while we finally stood embracing
beside your empty crib, when we recognized
the new vacancy that filled our lives?
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To His No Longer Coy Mistress
I know, my dear, that you make perfect sense.
Alas, these brief crescendo passion moments 
never measure up to scenes we dreamt
while in our years of youthful innocence.
How frivolously we would sacrifice
for (what once seemed to us) an endless love.
...What wouldn’t we expend to find some mate,
to run hot fingers underneath cloth’s ice,
to slide between the creases of moist skin...
But you are right, my dear. It doesn’t shock
me when we’re done, to realize the dials
have barely budged between the starting line
until the final tape.  I share your scorn.
And yet I say, my dear, restart the clock.
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Hospital Courtyard

This courtyard is different--designed
around a driveway--drop-off point
for ambulances, rimmed by a sidewalk
too narrow for benches, perfect 
for wheelchairs.  Here patients 
stretch out functioning limbs, whir 
around with abandon.  Outside hospital doors,
they laugh at medical rules, ridicule 
people they’ll soon summon
to carry them, change their sheets.
Here they’re all equal--forever damaged.
Patients who weathered radiation, 
cancer operations--share forbidden butts. 
A brain injured boy talks about weather
with a gray haired woman who thinks 
it’s always winter.  They compete for affection 
of pigeons with shreds of bread 
from bathrobe pockets.  A mother 
soothes her twisting son, tries to stop him 
from pummeling his helmeted head.
Aphasic patients forget race, religion
toss contrapuntal syllables back and forth. 
The art of the mime reigns supreme. 
This is the courtyard for the chronic in-patients,
their narrow asphalt turf of freedom.
Discrete nurses stay out of hearing range.
Doctors pass with a simple wave or nod.

It’s these “others” who enter the courtyard
who find the air slightly chilled.

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to Moongate

background by
Vincent Van Gogh

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