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ISSUE:  Summer 1996


Nearer to heaven, though she disclaims its presence,
my mother, since I last saw my parents,
a visit to them confirms, naps longer
each afternoon, awakening to prepare dinner,
always a great event for her, the readying of others’ pleasure.
Even if my father and I are not hungry
we have long learned to fake a ravenous appetite
for her latest Salade Nicoise or Poulet Orange
or whatever these cookbooks from around the world serve up.
She eats slivers, brags she weighs two pounds more
than at her wedding sixty years back.
Dad waxes proud, head nodding, false teeth orchestrating
his best efforts on a chunk of filet doused in burgundy.
Like all of us, I am a child again, going home
where I hear the old adage in my head, sitting down now:
pretend you’re eating with the queen and king; eat slowly.
As a child, I hated it. Now I see cutting everything up fine
to eat with mincing bites just piquancy
to love longstanding, theirs for each other,
ours. I think I’ll go for seconds in a minute
on the Bavarian Chocolate Cake. Tomorrow my wife
will help me start my diet. I’ll have to ask her,
however, since she doesn’t talk with food
about affection, only with words.


My time has come to go, I can’t sleep
my aunt, ninety-two, announces to me
long distance, as if I knew the window
she will fly through, even though
her body, aching from arthritis,
is in as good a working order as my own

at fifty. Her sentence hangs over the miles between us
until I open my hands to release the feeble bird
squawking, oh, you don’t mean that, devouring her words
as if he could grow fat on the silence I consign her to.
Putting down the phone now she says she must go,
I wonder how the soul, so ravenous, year after year,
can come to have enough of earth after awhile
that hunger and thirst are slaked entirely.
If only she believed in heaven, if I could make her,
I would know where she conceived herself to be
when this is over, though I can put her there
later whenever I want, but still wish she had one of her own,
a blue vault she could pray to, a little infinite
limited just for her, so she could sleep at night.


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