Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Song for a Damaged Man

They celebrated Hitler's birthday, but not yours.
I guess your Czech parents were busier than mine.
It's not their fault.

But, look- your father's beer bought you that white horse,
for one whole week-
until the Germans were on the run again. Your thighs
remembered the bony spine
for months.

Meanwhile, I was busy being born
in New York City. For me, the war's that
photo of the nurse and sailor smooching
in Times Square;

the war to me is you shouting in your sleep.
It's not your fault.

And I,
I know only that our American horses pull
sleighs in snowy woods, and that our American poets
have promises to keep.

At least that's what I thought I knew
before I met you.

It's not my fault.

Barbara Riddle

April 1, 2005

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

East Houston Street, NYC

(Christmas Day/2003, after seeing The Triplets of Belleville)

Fueled by panettone, high on French cartoon grandma energy
we bend low into the wind and head home

to more cheese, bread and doggy kisses....
and find ourselves passing a wheelchair
bound by massive chains to a playground fence.

The mind reels. Gangland victm? S & M routine?
All over Manhattan are bicycles so chained, to fences, poles, tree guards-
but a wheelchair? Abandoned? With such a chain?
No, awaiting someone's return, for sure.

Will he/she walk to it? Resume a panhandling scam?
Cut the chains and pawn it?

By now we are past the vacant lots, passing Starbucks, The Gap,
the known civilized world collapsing on us like slush around a wet boot.
We drown in dreams of pending comfort. We inhale familar safety.
We reject the cold chain-linked world.

We hurry home
to more blueberry tea cake
to Charlie Rose

and those custom-shirted experts telling us how safe we are
how safe we think we are.

Barbara Riddle
Dec. 25, 2003