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Category: Family

POEM: The end of the line

“Pennsylvania New Jersey Border” by Scott Kahn

The end of the line

We crossed this border so many times,
going to visit your family
or returning to our own.
Rather than a river of rapids and rocks,
our crossing was an imaginary line, a sign
sped past at 75 miles per hour.
With this poem I’m erecting a new sign,
painting a fresh imaginary line.
This time I’ll be the only one crossing it.
Across this border is the rest of my life,
all the other poems I’ll write,
all the other places I’ll go.
No more words about you,
no more places seen together.
The clouds will drift over the hills
and I’ll go with them.

/ / /

16 June 2022
Pittsfield MA

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POEM: Hand-me-downs


The first time I breathed in air,
it was the air of Pittsfield.
My mother took her first lungful
in the same town, as did
my grandfather before her.
I walk from city hall
to the Indian restaurant,
next door to where my grandma
worked in the beauty salon,
although the salon and the
entire department store that housed it
are no more than distant memories,
sand castles swept away
by the tide of urban renewal.
I walk another block past my grandpa’s
high school; I wore his graduation ring
on my pinkie for years,
marveling at his small hands.
My own hands are too big now.
It no longer fits.

/ / /

6 June 2022
Pittsfield MA

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Buddhism can be pretty @#$&^% useful

Thought process I went through just now:

1. I wonder if I should have a conversation with my sister about what my intentions are when one of our parents dies.

2. I might feel differently about that situation when it actually happens.

3. There’s no need to deal with it until it occurs.

4. That applies to so much of life. Too much planning and overthinking and playing out stories. 

5. The better way is clearly just to deal with what’s actually happening right now.

6. That @#$%& Buddhist approach sure does get proved right quite often. 

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Why I didn’t eat popcorn for decades

The Park Square Popcorn Cart

In about 1977, my mom bought me a bag of popcorn from this cart, and then we walked into England Brothers department store, in front of which it was parked. There was an escalator, and as my mom and I went up it I was eating fresh popcorn from my bag. Near the top of the escalator I lost my balance and tumbled all the way to the bottom, popcorn flying everywhere.

From that day onward, I could never eat popcorn without feeling nauseous. I tried many times. My family loved popcorn and made it frequently. I tried when I’d go to the movies with friends. Every single time, I’d take a handful and immediately start feeling sick. That lasted until my early 40s, when I ate some popcorn with no ill effects. I can still eat it today, though I spent so many years avoiding it that I usually forget it exists until I go to a movie.

I took the photo above during my lunch break today. I’m not sure if this is the exact same cart or a replica, but it sure looks the same as the one in my memory. I’m also not sure if this cart is still open for business. There was nobody in it today, but perhaps it’s only open on certain days or at certain times. England Brothers, where my grandmother worked for years, was razed during Pittsfield’s urban renewal.

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POEM: Unendling


I am the first of my line.
By my own hand I placed
a period on the page.
Taking up the pen again,
I wrote a new name.
Now there are more,
and they will trace back
their names to me.
Our creation story begun
at a dining room table in 1995,
with the unforgiving desert sun
pressing in through the windows.
Look on my works ye mighty
and think whatever you’d like.
I am the first of my line.

/ / /

30 April 2022
Pittsfield MA

(NaPoWriMo Day 30 — Fin!)

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POEM: My Grandfather’s Hands

My Grandfather’s Hands

He could make so many things with his hands.
He made the doors in the house I grew up in.
He crafted the scrimshaw I wore as a kid.
He painted the images that hang on our family’s walls.
He steered the car to my clarinet lessons.
He played the saxophone in the days before I knew him.
Just now I looked down at my own hands,
noticed the deepening lines in my knuckles.
They look more like his hands now.
That’s just a coincidence of aging; it turns out
one of the things he didn’t make was my mom.
But he decided early on to be part of my found family —
before he even knew I’d exist.
I try to make good things with my own hands.
And I do it in memory of him.

/ / /

8 April 2022
Latham NY

(NaPoWriMo Day 8)

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POEM: No One Involved Will Read This

No One Involved Will Read This

There we are together, smiling.
You’re holding the baby.
He’s sleeping softly against your chest,
wearing his little cap, red-faced.
You look so very happy.
I have my arm around you.
For reasons that are unlikely to become clear,
I’m wearing a propeller beanie.
My mom and dad are next on the bench,
both smiling, or maybe laughing.
Dad’s hand is on my shoulder,
his other arm around my wife,
who sits at the far end of the bench, also laughing.
Across from us are Jeff and Leeanne,
whom my wife and I would eventually visit
with our own baby, years later.
They are laughing.
I believe this photo was taken
on my twenty-sixth birthday.
I was young and so very much in love with you.
Later that night I’d be on stage at the Blue Nite,
everyone in this photo in the audience.
In a matter of weeks your friend in Las Vegas
would invite you to come out to the desert
to live with her while you figured out your next steps.
I’d drive you to the airport, one hand on the wheel,
the other holding yours, dreading the end of the drive.
But right then we were just in love and laughing
and celebrating a birthday and full of Mexican food.
Did everything seem possible? I can’t remember.

/ / /

1 February 2022
Latham, NY

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