Spring 2011 - THE POTOMAC



Two Poems
   Robert Cooperman

Avoidance

"[I] didn't notice many Jewish names coming back from Vietnam. . . I don't know how the hell they avoid it." — Richard M. Nixon, then 37th President


What about my two buddies,
Mark and Dave? Neither
came back from Vietnam,
because they left their one
and only Jewish lives in the jungle,
for a war neither wanted to fight
for a lying piece of crap president.

The night before Mark reported
to Ft. Hamilton, we drove Brooklyn,
listened to FM rock stations, drank beers,
while he talked about "Afterwards,"
after he got home and had his life back.
But he died in a mess of limbs and blood,
screaming, shuddering, then silent.

And Dave? He left one dawn, didn't want
to make a big deal out of serving,
didn't want to put anyone out
by keeping him company
on his last night of freedom.
We never saw him again,
just heard whispers he'd been killed,
his folk guitarist's fingers finally still.

Too bad Nixon isn't alive,
to have their names shoved down
his throat, along with the names
of all the other boys: who at the end,
were all Jews, all gentiles, all black,
all brown, all yellow, all white.

 

Reading Poetry to the Sholem Aleichem Society of Detroit

 

Sholem Aleichem,
the pen name of the Yiddish
short story writer and playwright,
this society of old socialists
named for him. Forty years ago,
they'd have yelled, "Sentimentalist!"
for these poems that mostly recall
my childhood, my parents:
still young, vital as April run-off.

But now, they smile
when I read of Sandy Koufax,
who refused to pitch
in the World Series one Yom Kippur.
They applaud a poem
about lukshen soup
and its eggy noodles swimming
in delicious, fatty broth
my mother made
for Friday night suppers.

Forty years ago, these smiling
seniors dreamed of saving the world;
now, some may have voted Republican.
But with a poem about one
of the Righteous of the Nations,
they're on their feet, shouting,
"Goddamn Nazis!" ready
to be the last sniper
at the Warsaw Ghetto.

"Throw in Stalin, that traitor!"
one woman, with thin red hair
shrieks, the battlefield calling.

  
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