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BALANCE                             Brooklyn 1965

Passed my window

arms flapping inelegantly

his skinny boy-legs thrust out into

that menacing space

 -- then hoots!

from other stoops

The concrete sidewalk,

his shiny metal skates

make that young boy noise.

The fence at the end of our block is his goal,

then the grasping, turning around.

And out again-not far really.

Perhaps a tall shrub or balance-

whichever fortune brings him, 

and his leather straps tightened exactly for success.

But the sidewalk rises up for him,

the fence reaches out to him,

friction rules his feet

and the stoops are alive.

Passed my window

and everything about it makes me laugh;

his skinny need to do it,

his stoop-friends now solemn,

his insane propulsion without direction.

Scratch-scratch, over and over, back and forth,

until his stoop friends go in,

the sidewalks and fences retreat,

he wobbles home, sits on the steps and takes that

worn silver skate key from his back pocket.


Five rabbis come

to my mother’s tiny apartment

in Brooklyn.

Fifteen years

after the divorce

she stands in her doorway

with her babushka

and wet eyes.


There is a clicking

of tongues.

The young fat one

with pink cheeks

speaks first.

The middle-aged one

takes my mother’s hand.

He pays her a compliment

that embarrasses her.




I hold you and the rabbis file in quietly,

filling the small places quickly as salt.

With you in the dimming afternoon,

hollow closets, whispering old women with knitting needles;

and I have arrived,

welcomed with an array of kerchiefs and brassieres in every color.


On your bed, my pockets full of dirty salt,

while the rabbis file in silently and fill the corners of the room.

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