Tuesdays in New Jersey
Halloween, and I watch my son, intrepid Superman,
trip over his cape, walking around Union City with his class
of four year olds. They hang tightly to a long white rope.
I am a fearful man as it is lately, no hero, afraid
of black cats and masked men, over worried
about cars suddenly careening out of control,
of Krypton falling from the black heavens.
This park, a patchy place of green and cement,
provides cold comfort: it is deserted.
I need a cigar. Across the street
from Martin’s school, a funeral home. Today,
people will bury Jose Hernandez, aged twelve,
ailments, desires, and ending unknown to me. His mother
wears brown, carried aloft by a throng of family
and do-gooders. Our eyes meet, and she is ashamed
of her grief. I want to help carry the casket
to the hearse, but it is small, grey, shiny
in the unusual searing sun and heat.
The casket is not five feet long. This cigar
tastes like burning black tires after
skidding over a vast sandy stretch.
Inside for lunch I help serve pizzas
and Oreos. My son will probably turn out gay—
he likes show tunes and wipes the crumbs
off the dirty mouths
of the other boys. This is all fine with me.
I am in a state of shock anyways, no longer
bound by laws of narration or newspapers. In the corner
a timid Dominican breastfeeds her four-month son.
They are more beautiful than Abraham’s wrists.
I stare, unafraid to show my concern. Her brown breast
appears full. I fall to my knees and reach
for that woman’s daughter,
my son’s classmate, and clasp her
to my heaving chest, whispering into her frightened ear,
there is enough today, for once, to go around.
by Michael Baker
from Autumn Sky Poetry Number 6, June 2007
Photo by Christine Klocek-Lim