My lifelong inability to sleep has sometimes been an aid for writers block. And being a father of a teenager can be both a cause or a cure. Thanks to my daughter, no longer a teen, for giving her OK for me to publish Poem a Night. Remembering Ralph Edwards is a poem that bears a title which might be mysterious to some. Ralph Edwards was the host and producer of a popular TV show from the '50s and '60s called This Is Your Life. Each week the host would surprise a member of the studio audience and then tell the story of his or her life, with the appearance of friends and family who hadn't been seen, sometimes, for many years. Remembering Ralph Edwards was originally meant to be sort of a "place-holder title" until I could come up with a better title. All suggestions welcome.
Poem a Night
Since the good poems have already been written
someone’s got to find the ones left behind.
Arise, you seekers of the poems of desperation,
it’s four a.m., high time to stagger, sober-drunk
from pillow to post, poet on patrol,
and now into my daughter’s room
where the music might entertain the dead
and every light’s left on.
But there she is asleep, naked the waist down
with Mac alive and grinning on her lap,
the images of cheap re-runs playing
on her thighs and in her dreams,
and even at that hour
her friends vying to let her know the news:
who’s grounded for life
and who broke up with whom.
I avert my eyes and stumble out
managing only to shut the lights.
What more could I do,
her lap dancing and dinging?
We’re only poets
and daughter-rearing is useless distraction
that keeps us from the poems
that have long been promised
in our sorry covenant with a vengeful Lord.
Remembering Ralph Edwards
My mother, a practical sort, never offered
the forced elan of long-term wanting,
or the thrill of spontaneous combustion.
In fact, she never made demands at all—
till now, when she announces
to any who’ll listen
I want my personality back.
I don’t know where to go to get,
but I’ve learned how to distract—
to talk about the weather;
how the kids are doing in school;
how you have to sleep the night
if you want to keep whatever world you’ve got
from bursting into flame.
That’s nothing, she hisses,
like a long, slow leak
then waves her arms, elbows locked,
as if they’re meant to break like waves,
as if that would show me how.
This is the stuff you never got
at your mother’s apron strings
as you learned to pair the socks,
counted pennies into rolls,
or yelled Rummy loud enough
to be heard in a roomful of Jews.
If I had the guts I’d exclaim,
Esther, this is your life!
Then my practical mother
might return for just a moment and add,
Whether you asked for it or not,
or even better, maybe she’d say,
Not now, I’m busy.
First published in Borders and Boundaries, Blue Thread Books (Jewish Currents) 2017
© 2017 Alan Walowitz
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