By: Vern Fein
OF PARROTS AND FRIENDS
After my wife’s weekly visit with her friend
who has early Altzeihmer’s, she sheds quiet tears,
I listen to her speak of creeping dissolution.
On our honeymoon, I got to know who I wed,
watched her enjoy a bird show as if the various birds—
pigeons, toucans, cockatoos—could understand, appreciate.
The parrots riding trikes came last as the bells struck noon.
Before those birds finished, the audience rose and fled to their fare.
Not my wife. We stood alone and watched till the last bird was done.
She clapped and clapped as if those parrots knew, could take a bow.
Now she tells me of her friend who paints, stands or bows no more,
just lies glaze-eyed, hand-holding, when only fetal remains,
sympathy falls silent, no clapping heard,
that same heart and kindness, like the brilliant sun
that July day with the birds.
Even after my Mother is dead,
she speaks to me.
When I was five, at a theater,
her ghost nudges me,
reminds me of a movie
about the life of Chopin,
his Opus 40, Military Polonaise.
You were so enthralled,
refused to leave,
wanted to watch it again.
Your Grandmother and I
dragged you up the aisle,
Another memory rises:
Dragged from a different movie
about my first crush,
the ingenue Margaret O”Brien.
Lucky in love
with music and beauty was I.
A passionate boy.
It never left.
Today we rescued a dog.
She is cute, lovable.
Never had a home,
never looked at by anyone
the kind man told us
who rescued Butter
from a wretched cage,
confined by hoarders.
for the first time
sniffing away loneliness—
yard to smell
toys to hassle
laps to snuggle
beds to flounce
in a single day than ever.
South of here,
children in cages
not even their own,
like dogs on display
Separated from family,
My wife and I cannot
stroll into that place
look into imploring eyes
fill out paper work
take a rescue by the hand
perhaps stop at McDonald’s
on the way
Once the best fun, baseball cards—
sacred for poor, working-class boys
before we could afford to go to a real game,
Collected cards, a big deal and cheap.
We could stuff boxes full
all the stars along with the bench jockeys,
shuffle fantasies before our eyes,
each face our own miracle catch or towering home run.
In the winter, when snow and ice pinned us inside,
we made a game with them.
Placed the cards on the floor,
each player in his right position,
even a catcher.
Our own All-star team, changed line-ups.
We were the managers!
Teams took turns.
With our index finger, we flicked the batter card
across the wooden bedroom floor,
a dirt diamond in our minds.
Whereever it landed determined the play.
Hit another card—out!
Land clean, a hit, depended how far it flew.
A home run was atop the heating vent.
Rooted for our favorite team.
Pirates, Reds, Cubbies!
Charted the league standings.
Nine innings, whiling away winter.
Played for hours until our cuticles bled
from snapping floating heroes into the air.
Heal in a few days—Batter up!
We had no idea of value—Cokes were a nickel.
We did not know American greed
would soon make some cards—
Williams, DiMaggio, Mantle—
if we did not bend or crinkle them,
worth enough to pay for college fees.
Comic books, then girls, took over.
The cards sat in a box in the attic,
buried in an Easter basket with fake green grass,
looked more like a field than the old, brown floor.
A small attic fire incinerated them.
Childhood dreams up in smoke.
Years later, our own children collected cards:
“Mom, Dad, buy boxed sets and keep them.
They’ll be worth a ton!”
Good parents stored safely,
not in an attic,
like rare books with perfect spines.
Years later, a surfeit of cards—
America knew her business.
Everyone collected and saved everything.
The market crashed.
Like a player who slid past second base—