Among Men

A friend asks if I want to hunt wild boars with him.

He’ll only use a bow and arrow like he did

when he grew up in the backwoods of Wisconsin.

I think about growing up in Manhattan,

the times I was mugged, Father held up at gun point.

I tell him he can’t be serious. Boars are not kosher.


In the hot tub, the men talk about the latest football skirmishes,

the star quarterbacks. I haven’t a clue but, for once,

I agree that Someone could be the best quarterback ever.

I brag about the Australian football game I saw

and all the players who were bloodied and carried off the field

on stretchers, the crowd cheering for each assault.


A co-worker invites me over for dinner

and when I get to his studio apartment, I see that it’s all bed.

He pours me a glass of wine and tells me how good

he’ll make me feel, and I won’t have to do anything to him.

I tell him no, I just said the same thing to a woman

who was not as kind as I am, and finished her meal before leaving.


A friend has surgery for prostate cancer

and tells me his time with women may be up.

I want to tell him I’ve often fantasized about

an absence of desire, how much simpler life might be,

but my words would sound as shallow as my musings—and

what is desire, but the trembling to be whole.​

Jeanne Hebuterne, Seated
after the painting by Amedeo Modigliani

Perhaps she always knew her life would be short,

tied as it was to Amedeo’s. She sits on their single bed,

the white cover reflecting the colors of Nice in winter,

raspberry, a touch of mauve and yellow—

the duvet and pillow puffed up, and Jeanne,

20 and full with their first child.

Amedeo has a hunch it will be a girl

and he tells her how much he’ll spoil her,

and then he goes on about the croissants

he’ll buy everyday from the bakery downstairs,

and then the toys, dresses, books, and of course

she’ll be a painter so her room will be one big canvas.

He steps into the painting and kisses her on the forehead,

and she notices how hot he is, it must be the

fevers, and she embraces him, forces herself to imagine

how he’ll walk through the door with the croissants

and they’ll be so warm, the butter melts in his hands.​


When I find Mother in her room alone—

eyes half opened, locked on the heavens,

mouth in the shape of an O

I imagine falling into it,

until my breath is nesting inside her non-breath:

the first sound.


In a dream, I try to describe to Father

my trek through the Himalayas.

A movie screen appears and we step into it,

the air so thin we cannot speak.

I want to tell him he’s no longer alive

but it doesn’t seem to matter.

We’re climbing a mountain and he’s walking ahead.

Every so often he turns to make sure I’m still there.


When I’m a boy, Mother takes me along to shop

for her clothing. She tries on dress after

dress, asking me which style is most becoming.

She says she still has her waist, but the best part

about her body has always been her legs.

She pulls up her dress to show me, and then says

Father doesn’t really care how she looks or dresses,

Alles is lang gut.


On my parents’ first date, Mother is shy.

They go to the Tea Room in Washington Heights

and talk about life after Hitler—the meat market, two children.

That’s all they need for now. Later, Mother will read books,

talk to her American neighbors, meet other parents.

Father will come home with parts of animals

set in aspic—tongues, kidneys, hearts.

Mother will begin to cry for no apparent reason.