symphony

 

city dawn sq

It starts with a soft hiss
in the dark
that percolates into a jangle
like chains
being pulled through pipes
which, in turn,
complain
of growing pains
with loud clanks and bangs
as they learn
again
to radiate heat.

The sheets
and the dog are warm.
The bathroom tiles will take
a little longer to comply.
I lie awake and watch
the dark blue silhouetted peeks
wink open
as windows light
one-by-one
to the rhythm
of my radiator
symphony.

groundhog day

The sun lurks past coldly,
an estranged friend
sneaking by
on the opposite sidewalk
avoiding eye contact
behind a turned-up collar of silhouetted buildings.
He hangs in other hemispheres these days.
I must be last season’s affair,
if he thinks of me at all.

The day opens her doors only briefly,
pulling in her awning
as schools let out,
flipping her sign to “closed”
as the shadows grow long on the sidewalk,
slipping onto the bus before rush hour.
I pass her grated storefront
on my way to and from work,
wondering if she’s gone out of business.

The papers pile on my desk,
layers moldering together,
settling into impenetrable strata,
insurmountable mounds.
I should have raked them into manageable heaps
and burned them back when they first fell there.
I cannot begin to make sense of them.
They are past their deadlines
waiting as mulch for the crocuses.

James J. Kempster, 2000

my first christmas dinner at bubba’s

chocolatecakeChristmas of 1989, my first after having moved to New York City, would have been fairly lonely had my then brand-new-beau Bob not invited me to his home in Beaver Falls outside of Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate the holidays with his family, or should I say at “Bubba’s.” That’s what his family called his mother. Bob’s father’s side of the family was Serbian, and even though his mother is a lean, wise-cracking, back-woods Kentucky woman—someone who’s real name of Katherine or “Kitty” would have suited her better—nevertheless, as soon as her first grandchild was born, she was given the nickname “Bubba,” a Serbian term of endearment for grandmothers.

Now, Bob’s family is one of the wildest, most chaotic groups of people that this little son of a lockstep German woman has ever spent the holidays with, but that first Christmas at Bubba’s swirls in my memory as the wildest. Continue reading “my first christmas dinner at bubba’s”