Saturday, September 19, 2009

In the Apartment Above the Butcher Shop

(First appeared Fine Madness, Issue 26, 2001, pg 34. And is also in The Soup of Something Missing.)

In the Apartment Above the Butcher Shop

My mother washed dishes in the bathtub

then bathed me and my brother,

set us on the sofa to watch television.

Black and white washed over us.

At the end of each show Mother sat with us

pointing out good people always win in the end.

By the time I was eight I could hear the difference

between a cleaver chopping a flank of beef, leg of lamb

or the thin ear of a pig. You have to be

a butcher’s son to know why this is important.

My father worked for the butcher,

hanging pigs in the window.

Steel hooks through their cut throats.

Mouths open as if they had one more thing to say.

The headless chickens in the cold

box were always gone by noon, an hour earlier

Father wrapped two chickens in wax paper and newspaper,

put them aside until Mother brought his coffee.

My mother shouted

don’t track blood through the kitchen,

when she heard us come up the stairs.

Outside, shadows quietly battled

for control of the streets

-- a sound often mistaken for wind

dragging newspaper along the sidewalk,

a sound we wouldn’t identify for years.

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Woman Not Wearing A Hat

(First appeared in American Poetry Review, Vol. 33/No. 1, Jan/Feb 2004 pg 31; and is also in The Soup of Something Missing.)

The Woman Not Wearing A Hat

For two dollars you could run

your hands through her hair.

That’s what the cardboard sign

between her hands said.

A hat at her feet collected the money.

Wind pushing against her hair forced it to sway.

I dropped my two dollars in and grabbed

the hair at the back of her neck.

I closed my eyes; she closed hers.

(I don’t recall whose eyes closed first.)

It was the middle of the afternoon.

Perspiration dampened her hair.

I could feel people looking at me.

For years I told people I only did it

so she didn’t feel like she was taking charity.

That’s not exactly true,

for years I wouldn’t tell anyone.

I ran my hand to the top of her head,

turned and left before she opened her eyes.

There’s no telling what a man is willing to pay for.