The Trumpet Player
After spending all morning in the children’s service,
it turns out to be time for yiskor, but I stay
anyway—this room a home, this hallway a village,
this trashcan a landfill, this stage a sanctuary.
No one sat with my mother—God forbid
you should tempt the evil eye—
she had to be there with the old people.
The chanting starts with the voice of the cantor,
whose microphone has a feedback loop,
“May God remember my father, my teacher,”
because my grandpa lanced his mole with a safety pin,
died after the cancer swirled in his blood.
And the pace at which you run
from the squealing loudspeaker
Sound without anyone actually playing,
it reminds me of the people’s mic,
how those who can hear, repeat, louder.
In the hall, I tell a friend about Yom Kippur at Occupy, how
I stood up, opened my eyes.
The words I heard in my mouth—
I let them out.
Gone now my honey-sweet wrongs,
whatever I have done—
I cast them into the river.
Mercy for caring deeply about commas
instead of migrant slaves.
This year we decide to break the fast at a bistro table
near the bar at the Lizard Lounge.
I see after ten years
a woman taking off her sweater—a teacher I had—
she used to get all worked up,
and arms would up and over,
a faded sun on her shoulder, really faded—
like any good tattoo that’d earned its place on stage.
Her shoulder defined, the way any lead singer’s should be
if she’s going to wear tank tops.
She could always could tell when I was staring at her.
She taught me how to be in front of a roomful of teenagers
by singing in a punk-rock band
and hosting parties in her yellow house in JP.
She looked back at me from her table and said,
I remember you.
And I said, I have two kids so I’ve forgotten everything.
Onstage, the trumpet player takes a deep breath,
turns the horn to his face,
his bell a spotlight, his blast an alarm,
his harmony a mitzvah, his flat fifth a broken moan,
so that his white shirt and black tie,
his lips inside a chestnut bushy beard,
The trumpet has only three buttons—
the rest of the nuance comes from the acoustics of the room,
and the wet insides of his cheeks.
Today a paramedic asks himself if he has PTSD, or if he’s just down.
Held a boy, lost his leg, bled buckets, but yes,
he’s, weeks later, getting by,
every day a little easier.
What do we expect of him?
To pop out of the ground and turn green?
To, a second later in time-lapse
tendril over to the nearest root and climb?
And my mother-in-law, who lost her father not too long ago,
who nurses her mother now after heart surgery almost took her too,
is supposed to “stay positive”
and stake her phototropic efforts, even at night
when her eyelids fold under like bloodroot blooms
and turn inward
to grieve, the dew drops on her cheeks betray her.
In the end I want them all to be sad,
actually in the “pathetic” sense and in the “end of the road,”
heads not resting on their pillows sense, but pound and suffer.
I want my husband’s mother, whom I love like my own family,
to say how hard it is, to say It’s been three years
since my father passed, and it hasn’t gotten any easier.
I want to hear the medic’s voice break,
weeping at his wheel at first light,
when he in turn listens to an interview with the boy’s mother
on the radio, the boy who will never walk again.
The radio host’s voice crisp
as the paramedic catches his Adam’s apple in his throat.
His tense shoulders square off as he steps out of the truck,
his workboots thud on the pavement,
the rubber of his heels a cool shock to stop the shudder of his grief.
He has a job to do, a life to go back to living.
You’ll never hear the host say Give it a year, or even That’s as it should be.