Heal The Family
I. The Sicilians
The smallest of 9 or 10 rough loud trampling sibs
teasing to well beyond today's criteria of sexual abuse,
Dreamed as a child of old men's snoring peace and dignity
and apple-sweetened tobacco in overstuffed parlor thrones
Where no one teased or poked from behind
to enjoy a squeal for laughs.
He dreamed of the dignity of man as a serious concern,
Wrapped in over-stuffed, almost mounted, and fumigated sanctity.
And he made it.
He ruled a well-wived roost
And scattered the children with his rumble,
And won the perpetual anger
Of his naturally wild and teasing daughter-child, my mother.
Blowing Italian martial rage was his only available defense
Against her all too intelligent, and instinctually impeccable
demonstrations of woman juice
If ever someone in the house had his cazones strapped on,
If someone had arrived at age 4 as a sturdy little earth giant
Instead of a whining pin cushion,
The last cushion in the patriarchial pecking orders of little chicken-hood
The last or maybe one or two past the worn last
Of a tumbling brood of town-cooped farm-stock.
He would have been ready but
He wasn't ready - he blew it.
He lived to 80 and he never
A day in his life
Was ready for Mom.
Grandma - a beauty bright but stunned quiet
by something I have no right to know -
Was not ready for mom.
II. The Jews
My father wasn't either.
His own mother was wildly energetic
and overblown, volumnious,
A frolicking partyer.
She wrapped herself around her beloved Mayo,
A muscular man-child devoted to her whims,
For raddishes on snowy nights, or ice cream.
(It made him blush.)
She would have been an "actress"
But when she was 3 or 5
Her father found out her aspiration
And blew up with the shame and shock
Of his traditional concept of heresy.
But he only diverted her dramatic verve
From the mild boundaries of the Yiddish stage
To life-long deathbed trajedies of Hypochondria
Pursued with unflagging vitality for 90 years.
It would take big warm balls
With heavy duty shock absorbers
To keep up with her,
Which I suppose Grandpa Mayo had.
A house painter and plasterer,
A Jewish Tarzan,
Veteran of an arm-flailing fall
Through 5 flights of back-yard clotheslines
To a landing he walked away from,
Limping on a crutch to the Hoopa
To marry Grandma Bessy,
Who praised his memory
After he left his, at his age 54 (mine 8).
At his funeral, my mother asked me
If I knew what it meant that he was dead.
I knew, I said, "we won't be seeing him anymore."
Zaidie Mayo, with brood-baked love for me,
The only one who seemed to see something in me
That I could possible want in me
(Something normal and already present
Not something I theoretically should be
But probably wasn't),
Carried on his broad back
The last work-worn father-blessing in the family
Left to him.
My father carried a reflection
And a reflex of it,
But he wasn't sure he had it.