Two poems – Les Epstein

Les Epstein

Kicker in the Tub

If commanding Spirits
Played the scene right
He’d be a chorus girl
For the ages—
A dancing Angel—
Jazzing it up
With the old Rockettes
High stepping
On Radio City Music’s floating boards,
Dazzling tourists
Enveloped by Deskey’s deco decor

But he’s a wide-eyed
Bastard offering his regrets,
For kicking up a tempest
In the community tub

“I’m sorry,” he says loud and louder
Over the water aerobics juke box jam.
“I splashes when I kicks.”

Oh! He’s the grand master
Of hot tub mania
Blasting sorties of hot drops
Into bather’s eyes,
Scattering lumpy humans
Soothing the week out of gnarled joints

“I splashes when I kicks,”
He says, believing he’s a jovial jester,
A seventy-year old kicker of joy,
A sprite living for his own light
A damned Rigoletto for the wet set

Ah! And he’s our curse!
As frowning Nanas—
Who witnessed the Rockettes
Just after the biggest of wars—
Snarl and pray
Water spirits should reach him
And justifiably tow away.

Pretzels Before this Moon

It’s a driving hanker
For salt upon my tongue—
A need for an excellent chew
On severely baked bread—
That rouses my midnight pantry raid

It would only be a quick sneak
In through that
Blasted squealing pantry door
That alarms your salted brain
Out of sleep and away from bed—
Away from your wife of fifty-seven years

“Where’s Mom,” your lips say,
Trembling like
Strings on a banged upon Les Paul,
Crushed by Townsend
Or even merry, old Paul himself

“It’s morning again,” you say—
Raw words slurred allegro
With unabashed spit exploding
From your eighty-two year old lips

But here follows silence
After your violent stammer
We gaze face to face
My arm reaching for a taste
Yours leaning to embrace
The pantry door,
Launching another whine.
We gaze face to face
For a minute or two—
Dumbstruck by our fading union—
It’s a minute that plays itself as hours

“Pretzel?” I ask,
Hands retreating from the Snyder’s tin
“Care to share an old Monk’s treat?
A little reward
Before we all cross our arms in
A decent sleep?”

“No!” you say
Since the thrill for food has long since left you

But consider pretzel trivia!
Since small talk
Has quit
As a Holy Deal for this bunch

“It’s said the Pilgrims
Met the first Americans with pretzels,
Or that brave Austrian bakers
Once fought off invading armies with pretzels
Adding salt to thousands of Ottoman wounds.”

But your arms dangle
Like Townsend’s busted strings
Yours a mind—
That once professed faith
Emphatically in polymers—
Now spins like the
Cratered Moon that catches your eye—
Its reflection painting
A false gleam over blued Irises

“Looks like a Harvest Moon,” I say,
Dreaming of a jaw full of pretzel,
Longing for the puffed cheeks
Of a squirrel on an autumn hustle

“Why should there be
A harvest of the moon?” you reply.
“For the Swiss cheese,
You once said, that made up the moon
So many years before…
For the best Swiss cheese
In an otherwise callous cosmos”

“Where’s Mom,” your lips say

“She sleeps
Under the moonlight”

We expect sleet
Will soon spitefully lash the ground

We consider lost
The chemicals that bind and bind

I hanker again
For that Marvelous smack of Mustard
I think I’ll be damned
Or we’ll have Pretzels before this Moon
Settles away

You fearfully consider
How reach for yet another Moon.

Half past Midnight
And Pretzels drop into the right hands

We chew hard bread
Arms crossed, eyes glazed
I’ve my squirrel guise
Yours a stunned face,
With salt spraying from your lips
Into the kitchen sky,
Making new stars
For your own briefly-lived constellation

Or a deathly shower of indoor sleet
Nevertheless, the best of evenings
Are spent with Pretzels,
With that right touch of Mustard,
Spicing up the right color for this Moon

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