Post Road Magazine #29

Location, Location, Location

Richard Michelson

Someday I'll build us a house, my father says,
from the ground up. Maybe upstate, he adds,
while upstairs, the neighbors, as always,
are arguing. The Hebrew Honeymooners
he calls them. The Kosher Kramdens.

We're not so quiet ourselves. Today Dad plays
Ricky Ricardo; tomorrow he's Clarabell Clown.
And me? I'm wondering what other way is there;
no one builds from the clouds down.

And me? I'm wondering why my mind begs to leave
the house of this body. I am my father's son,
mired in a familiar neighborhood, my daughter seeding,
my wife weeding our string and staked garden plot.

Even today, as the gastroenterologist snakes up
my intestines, I lie on my side, wide-eyed, watching
his work on this tiny TV. Back home, I pay
the plumber, who holds up Barbie, comb, and brush.
Good as new, Mr. M., he says. Go ahead. Flush.

Back home, I'm brushing out cupboards,
purging the house of chametz while my mother,
feather in hand, dusts for leaven. This year
it's Pesach at our house. Next year in heaven,
Zayde prays. And between that prayer
and this one, my father lived his whole life--
his babaloo, his howdy-do, his bottom line:
all dust of the earth. And now, I tickle the plume
to my daughter's lips, as one day she will to mine

And now my grandfather burrows underground,
abandoning Brooklyn. He craves to be buried
on Israel's Olive Mount, among the too crowded
tombs and desecrated graves. There, HaShem

will shepherd these first lucky few
through Heaven and Zayde will stake his claim
for a seat near the dais. I have his picture,
as a young Jew, in my wallet. It could be me,
if he removed his kippah and cut his payess.

It could be me, this Palestinian planting bulbs
near a West Bank bus station. Same eyes,
my wife insists. My daughter agrees. Could she be
this child killed on her Holy Land vacation?

Even now, body scanned, my cavity's suspect.
Nothing personal, the guard explains; his domain
overseeded with wild-eyed Semitics.
Don't blame yourself, the surgeon says as he
searches my rectum. Some things are genetic.

Some things are genetic, my mother proclaims,
excusing her lateness. How could a Jew hurry
to catch the last train? She shakes her umbrella.
It's raining outside and you should set a stone
on your father's grave. Back home,

my wife worries. You're soaked to the bone
she tells my body, which enters alone.
My mind remains dry inside the house of my
childhood, wondering where else does it rain?

Where else does it rain? I ask my father,
as if prayer were the nutrient needed
to prepare the soil for my own final rest.
Already, I'm knee deep in mud,

checking off my life's achievements
like my life depended on it. I built
a new house, I shout; safe, estate-gated,
and not a neighbor in sight. Good location,
my father agrees, but why so quiet?

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