Poetry | September 01, 1997


It is 1975, the year before my parents stop speaking.

Old, rabbinical, Uncle Leo takes his glasses off to gesture,

while on my shoulder my brother softly dozes.

At last, triumphantly, my aunt holds the plate

of offerings aloft. On it a broken eggshell

and the shankbone of a lamb. My father still

is happy; not manic, not depressed.

He stands with an electric carving knife

near the windowsill geraniums

in a pinstriped Brooks Brothers suit.

My mother, a stylish urban hippie, takes off

her sparkling turban to kiss him.

From the kitchen drifts the smell

of pot roast and string beans and sweet potato pie.

And it is beautiful and fragile, that instant,

but I can’t keep it from what happens next:

my mother swings the door open to starlight;

my father pours an extra glass of wine.

Dazed, I gulp at my grape juice,

watching the pendulum of the grandfather clock

flicker in the candle’s light. A dish falls

in the kitchen, cracking. Someone curses.

My now-dead uncle taps me on the back.

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