Two Poems

for my mother

I am sleepy, she says.

Why don’t you put your seat back
And take a nap?  I ask

Nah, she says, closing her eyes.
Her head drops, and she snaps back awake.

When we used to leave your home, she says,
The sun would be going down.
Particularly on this stretch of the Merritt Parkway.
The way the light hit my eyes,
It always made me sleepy.  But I was afraid
To fall asleep, because I was afraid Daddy
Would also.

Yes, I say.  But I am not going to fall asleep.
You can take a nap.

Nah, she says, and closes her eyes once again.



In second gear. Making good time.
Stain free. Events remain fluid,
But Nose Brodsky doesn’t care.
He is locked in. The traffic pattern has changed, but Nose
Finds the correct lane – the lane of his destiny.
Uncompromisingly centrist, he is thinking
       About his mother. If accusations are leveled,
       Nose will deny nothing.

If I were married, Nose thinks.
If I were a senator or a research scientist.
Well, he thinks, I am the world’s best
Back-up harmonist. Of all the people
Who harmonize with their car radios,
I am the best. I used to drive well, too.
Before I became so dangerously distracted.

He stops at a Lebanese restaurant
To take a little lunch. He has enough time
To spare for lunch, unless the service
Is particularly slow, and, of
Course, it is. Looking out a window
Nose sees a sign that says WRONG WAY, but he is
Sure that he is on the right path.

At a table nearby, 2 men speak into their cell phones.
From the cadence of their voices, Nose realizes that
They are speaking to each other. He spills the little pot
Of Lebanese coffee. A woman walks by outside,
And he realizes that he knows her.  She is a neighbor
From back home, only she has aged 20 years since he saw her last week.
Time has not been kind. In fact, time has been cruel. Quite cruel.

The food is good, quite salty and
Water is scarce. The waitress
And the service are casual. 
Back in the car, Nose looks at the steering wheel.
Life is a pizza, he thinks,
Buckling his seat belt,
He suddenly sees circles, cycles,
And circular connections.
Pizza, tires, life.
The world is a steering wheel.
Fate is a bagel.
And the flavorings in the cream
Cheese – What do they mean?
Vegie, chive, salmon.
Destiny is swimming upstream, perhaps.
Either it is the trip – represented by the chives – that counts,
Or it is the spawning ground – represented by raisins and walnuts –
That is important. It is the philosophers who must decide.
Or the deli countermen.

On the highway now. Nose passes a sign
That tells him that he is only 320 miles
To a famous destination. Buffalo, perhaps, or Milwaukee. 
Albuquerque, perhaps. Somewhere big, notable.
Somewhere far beyond his turnoff.
He wonders what meaning can be derived from pizza toppings.
He thinks about interesting combos that he would like to try:
Pesto and fresh tomatoes; eggplant, onions, and olives; red peppers,
Dried tomatoes, and artichokes.

Life must be in the gentle cycle, Nose thinks.
And then he realizes that he has lost his way.
For several moments, he has no idea where he is or
Where he is going. There is nothing figurative in his being lost –
It symbolizes nothing. (At least not to Nose.)
He can’t remember what exit is his,
And he has no idea if he has passed it. 
Nose searches the countryside for landmarks. 
Have I seen this tree before he wonders. 
How about that seagull? Is he leading me back
To port, to safe haven?

In Greece, the world must be an olive.  Nose wonders if it has a pit.
In New Zealand, they think of the world as a kiwi.
Off the highway, Nose drives past stores, trees, roads, houses.
Some houses have windows left uncurtained and are warmly lit. Wholesome,
Loving families reside within, no doubt, or single adults, whose spouses are no
Longer in residence. Dysfunction must also reside in some of these edifices, though the light
Seems so warm. Still unsure of this destination, Nose pulls into a driveway.  He turns
Off the ignition, unbuckles his seat belt and looks up – there, in the doorway, his love awaits.

—Mark McGuire-Schwartz, Guilford, CT