Poem: Last Year’s Gift

It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are, without any sort of self-deception or illusion, that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.
–The I Ching or Book of Changes, Wilhelm Baynes edition, Princeton University Press

LAST YEAR’S GIFT

You are the last in line.
It is a short line to be sure,

but the sister in front of you requires much.


We all require much.
“More” is the single Oliver Twist word
that dominates reality.

You require more of me more
of me as a father
and as the image of what a loving man can be, should be, might be…

I am flawed flawed,
flawed, flawed.
My health is often precarious,
my energy limited,
my money gone,
my friends exasperated, tapped out, and overwhelmed,
my career prospects tarnished by the deficiencies of my past.

But I have a fast scooter
with two drop-in batteries that are fully charged.
“Speedy Solkoff” (as I fancy myself called) scooting through the streets of
     New York City
that can do wondrous things for my lame image.

Your mother and I decided to have you
or our conception of you
after the pathologist said I had cancer for the second time.

You were to be our commitment to life,
a reason for keeping ourselves
attached to the future at a time
when the past was hard and the present harder still.

You were born two months too early
stubbornly refusing to breathe before the nurses.

Later, relieved of your heart monitor
you crawled out of your crib
months before the nearly perfect model established by your nearly perfect sister

I thought, in darker moments, that Joanna would pour into you
the effort we had poured into her.
She would carry the tradition your mother and I had created;
her first steps would be
metaphorically, if not actually,
your first steps.
She would irradiate in you

the joy we had irradiated in her.

Hah. Double hah. Whatever I thought, I thought wrong.

I did not realize you were a second child with first child needs
no sister could satisfy no matter how Machiavellianly-perfect she
     imagines herself to be.
You did not turn out as I had expected (aimed)

and I am glad.
Somehow, you have become an embodiment of Zen archery wisdom.


You also did not get the gifts you deserve,
but, at least, I have a fast scooter
and the promises such speed can bring. Zoom.
I imagine you saying to Joanna,
“Of course, I am Dad’s favorite”
as a method of making smoke come out of Joanna’s ears.

Of course, you are wrong. You are not my favorite.
Nor is Joanna my favorite.
You are, instead, locked into a contest for love
that has only winners
as long as my batteries are charged,
the street cuts are not blocked with slush,
and I can earn child support.

Your love for me may be unconditional,
but I feel better knowing I am worthy of you–
of providing gifts more substantial than words.
–Dad
a.k.a. Joel Solkoff
Routes 95 South, 85 South, 85 North, 95 North, Here-and-there; at least a year late,

January, 2004

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