Richard Fox

 

Yellow wine

 

After children’s services, I join Zady in the Sanctuary,
listen to announcements, chant the final prayers.
Zady removes his tallis, packs it in a blue velvet bag,
slips it on his shelf in a Chapel closet next to his tefillin.
The congregation files into the Social Hall for Oneg.
Before pastries, salt herring, chopped liver, lox,
we, led by rabbi and cantor, sing the berachot:
first over challah cut and passed hand-to-hand
then over sweet red wine in plastic shot glasses.
The old men wrap arms around my shoulders,
bring me to the yellow wine cups. Drink only this.
A beard will sprout before your Bar Mitzvah.
Chest hair, thick and curly, will please your bride.
I heed the righteous’ advice, down the bitter
schnapps in a single gulp without a grimace.
Dip your honey cake in the yellow wine too!
Another cup drained, perhaps a third.
Zady & I walk home amid a flock of neighbors,
greet Nana’s brisket, kishke, braised string beans.
We say the berachot again over challah, wine.
After the meal, we bench the full Birkat Hamazon.
Nana & Zady go to their bedroom for Shabbos naps,
me, to the den: Red Sox, Notre Dame, Bogart, Cagney,
sunbeams. I brace for the bliss of budding hair.

 

 

 

Willie Grubbs


sprints

into the supermarket parking lot. 

From Elm Park, we watch him

          dodge

          cars, catch

an escaping grocery cart filled

          with brown bags.

A gray-haired gram robed

in pink housecoat shuffles

toward him, cane taps.

She hugs Willie who

          smiles,

          poses

a question. Gram points to

her car. He

          packs

her shopping in the trunk,

          opens

the driver door,

          starts

the engine,

          helps

her get seated.

She offers ten dollars. He

          nods

          no, kisses

her cheek,

          bows

God Bless You,

trots

back to us, seated in a circle,

passing a joint.

He takes a deep swag,

a second,

grins.

We call him Jesus


—not to his face—

halo of copper hair,


bristly maize beard. He 

    
feeds

stray dogs, cats, humans—

soothes


toddlers fallen on playground gravel—

holds


hippies, trips gone bad—

prays


til they’re still, eyes shut, breaths deep.

          Willie’s dad is


Chief of Police.


Makes us invisible to cops.

Sometimes they ask Willie for help:

vets flashing Nam—

bums needing a crash pad—

looneys listening to  voices. He

          mends

          misfortune, saves

calling for ambulances,

paddy wagons.

We ask Willie if dad knows

of his ministrations. He

          points

at a terrier

chasing squirrels,  
    
          replies

which one are you?

Girl uncaps a gallon of red wine,

hands it to Willie. His Adam’s Apple

          bobs.

I’m the tree.

 

 

 

 

Richard H. Fox dreams three-decker rainbows encircle The Woo. When not writing about rock ’n roll or youthful transgressions, his poems focus on cancer drawing on hope, humor, and unforeseen gifts. He is the author of three poetry collections: Time Bomb(2013), wandering in puzzle boxes (2015), You’re my favorite horse (2017) and a chapbook: The Complete Uncle Louie Poems(2017). The winner of the 2017 Frank O’Hara Prize, he seconds Stanley Kunitz' motion that people in Worcester are "provoked to poetry.” smallpoetatlarge.com