FOR THE MONTH OF APRIL, which is National Poetry month, I am posting a new poem here every day as well as on Twitter & Instagram (@TaylorMali), and Facebook (Taylor Mali the Poet). If there are a few days missing here, they are elsewhere (I promise).
When to Fly Separately (& When Not To)
One big happy family traveling together,
my brother and his wife, because of their three kids,
fly on separate planes when they’re apart.
You have to think of who you’d leave behind.
My brother or his wife, with one of their three kids—
there’s only one exception to this rule—
you have to think of who you’d leave behind.
But if they have all their children with them?
That’s the only exception to the rule:
We fly on separate planes when we’re apart,
but if we have all our children with us, then
We’re one big happy family traveling together.
Magnifies an Object Ten Times
is what it clearly said
on the handle of the Magnifying Glass
my father received on his fifth birthday,
which he took to mean the birthday gift
would only work its magic ten times
and no more, becoming, after that,
just a small round window with no miracle,
a circle of simple glass, a toy giant’s monocle.
And so he went about his days with thrift
mixed into his curiosity, weighing how much
he needed to see any part of the world up close,
observing as best he could with his own eyes first,
thinking, I can probably guess what that bug
would look like big, that dandelion, that blade
of grass, that wriggling moth in the spider’s web.
Better not waste one of my ten precious times.
He doesn’t remember the moment he realized
ten times” in this context meant tenfold
and not ten instances, nor the joy that must
have come with such a limitless epiphany.
But what he said he sometimes missed still
was the way the magic made him see the world—
not through the glass—when he thought that magic
would not last.
Would You? Could You? In an Old Synagogue?
Passing the old shul in our neighborhood,
which seems now to have become a home,
the carved Hebrew in stone over the door
and the stained glass six-pointed star
the only clues remaining of its weathered past,
I turned to you and asked if you could ever
live in such a place.
And you, thinking I was asking if Judaism
itself would allow or approve such a move
onto ground once consecrated, told me
Jews do not believe in a place made holy
by ritual. Or rather, that the Sabbath
can be celebrated anywhere you choose.
In a cardboard box, were the words you used.
So I ask you next if this cardboard box
might also have in it a cute little fox
wearing purple socks. If he could help
light the candles on Shabbat.
And your laughter is a blessing to my ears.
You who know what it is I do, and exactly who
in my heart I am. You, lovely you, my foxy Jew,
the green eggs to my ham.
Write A Poem Every Day
An old journal I found began
with these words I wrote to myself:
Write a poem every day. It makes you feel
like a poet. And that is still true, even though
the rest of the journal was empty.
And now today, again, I start
to do for one month exactly what
I should be doing for the whole year:
Writing a poem every day.
Forget Cristin with her two poems a day,
her NEA, and her three-bedroom house
she gets to stay in for free for six months!
I will set my sights a little lower.
Begin this morning with tea
and the view of The Freedom Tower
outside my window, which has risen
as I have from the ashes of its former self.
And which, from this angle, is glassed
almost all the way to the top.
More mirror, more sky, more sun.
An Apology to Senator Robert Portman of Ohio
Because you changed your position on gay marriage
only after you found out your son was gay,
I am sorry for briefly wishing you had
another son with no health insurance,
and another with PTSD, and a daughter
battered by her husband, and another raped,
in need of an abortion, and a black son,
and an immigrant son, and a poor son,
and a grandchild at Sandy Hook.