My Parents

The Biggest Piece of the Pot

One time

I broke your favorite pot

the kitchen was brightly lit
Steve Miller skipped on the record player
I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a

midnight and I was lying on Mom’s side of the bed
wondering how two people could fall in love again
after things break.

And then the university brought in a wrecking ball,
tore down Stroove Hall,
the dormitory where you met.

Mom was selling watermelons.
Dad had a broken toe
and a car with a flowered roof.

Vietnam murmured.
Tomatoes tossed in their sleep.
You and you were hardly we.

On Dad’s side of the bed
I felt indebted to that hall
those tomatoes
that year he lived in Iraq
the record player
that sunburned jet boat
those pinochle games at the lake.

How easily can things be broken?
Are they ever stronger afterward?

Mom and Dad crisscrossed tiles in the kitchen
discussing imperfection in a minor key.
I laid on Mom’s side of the bed
having snuck off with the biggest piece

of the clay pot.

I wanted to be the biggest piece
the one that kept them in that kitchen,
in that house on that shady road
just a mile from the wrecking ball.

Then the night flew in the kitchen window
and blew out the lights.
Tempers simmered with the Shabbat candles
still burning on the stove.
Steve Miller lowered his voice
the record player shut its eyes
the grapevines whispered against the pane.

I heard feet patting up the stairs
first one pair, then another.
You with your fortysomething ponytail
you with your swaying beaded earrings.

You were surprised to find me there
torn between Mom’s and Dad’s sides of the bed
holding the biggest piece of the pot.

"It’s prettier that way,” You said.
“It’s just a pot,” said You. “We can fix it.”

You, and You, and me, us three, laid there
becoming we.

For My Father

On Your Thirty-Ninth Birthday

We walk on woodchips in October

while he sings the Beatles.

His hands are so large, calloused:

my baseball mitts.

Those same hands that place a waterski in my own,

that knead seven-year-old spines

whisper of sparrows

and gold nuggets every night.

This is the same man who illegally weights

our blue Weeblo race cars (we win)

and ferries birthday parties of six-year-olds

around in the green go-cart he built himself.

In winter he becomes Chanukah Harry

with a long martial artist’s braid.

Every summer he is the River King,

flanked by egrets and swallows,

a rooster tail pluming out behind him

as his body skids just inches above the water.

He tows cousins, endures every “one last time,”

follows teen rowers carving oar in eddy.

He sings the Beatles one rainy day in February,

injecting oranges with insulin.

He always leaves the sprinklers on too long

so we can sprint after leprechauns.

Hands so rough yet perfect for shaking.

Ocean child with windy hair, he sings.

Gentle Pop with holiday eyes, she sings back.

Happy birthday,

she loves you all across the universe.