This is not pedagogy

When I did not know a lesson, I was beaten; when I answered right, they pinched my cheek--it hurt either way.
--from In the Post-Chaise by Isaac Loeb Perez, translated by Helena Frank

This is Not Pedagogy; This is Love–Albeit a Special Sort of Love, But Love None-the-Less

For BBF

This is not the Durham shelter for disabled men.

You do not test my alcohol content nor lock me up for the night.

You conduct no random drug tests just to protect me

from my fellow poor folks or to protect the poor folks from me.

 

My gratitude surprises me.

Between the men’s shelter across from the city library in one of the

most dangerous parts of town

and this grand wooded Elkins Park, where danger comes fiom outraged environmental neighbors who see infractions in my trash sorting policies,

where my life exists in a World War I home stocked with gewgaws

and silver whatnots you once paid a Jehovah’s Witness to clean…

 

I do not need to choose between the devil and the deep blue sea,

 

Yet, grateful though I am,

I haven’t changed.

I’m not different.

 

You are you

and1 am1

and my gratitude is an item-not determinative, but an item none the less.

 

I do not know how things should be.

I know it would be easier on the children

if my former wife and I had gotten along

if we had lived together caring for each other

parenting our daughters

making a life together.

 

Regret does not come easily to me.

But this week and the week to come,

last week and the week before,

I go through my papers from the past 20 years-haphazardly, but all too comprehensively

documenting a life of love slowly and meticulously bad

where being away is clearly better than being on the spot:

My then wife and I parenting out misery for our children to drink in

like Strontium 90 in the milk.

 

There is a bond of affection between us

wide as a river

whose depths and tidal flows we’ve yet to understand.

 

It is no mystery why you break your elbow

and dislocate your arm.

 

No mystery why I dislocate my shoulder

before replacing an inadequate cane

with a battery-powered wheel chair.

 

Words matter, but they do not go far enough

Certainly when it comes to describing the next journey

the one away from the past the

journey that can only happen

when I throw away the files of my past

and you throw away the detritus of yours.

 

Imagine then…

 

–Joel Solkoff

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