Waiting tables, dyeing textiles, separating goats in heat
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My son sprinted to each traffic light
in his black hat and dark Sabbath suit
while the elderly congregation two miles away
waited for him to help lead morning prayers.
Moments earlier, after my final attempt
to wake him,
I stood at the bottom
of the steps,
unleashing dire predictions about how he’d fare
in yeshiva high school the following year —
until his mother whispered in his ear,
and suddenly he was in the foyer, putting on a scarf and a coat,
then running full stride past the mini-mart
and corner gas station
and doubling back
until I’d caught up to him,
reminding me of a loyal pet
or the buttonhook play
my father called
in our backyard football huddle:
Run straight out, then turn back.
The ball will be waiting for you.
A week earlier I’d screamed
through the bathroom door,
a rehash of the year’s arguments
softened by a thousand wooden fibers between us,
the way, the mystics say,
Divine severity filters through
countless intervening worlds
before it reaches us
in diminished measure.
Oh, the terrible words I’d said
about things he couldn’t help,
his belief that we’d get there sooner
walking this way.
And now he is crossing the bridge
over the Hackensack River’s dingy waters,
Saturday-morning traffic swooshing by, wind
stinging my eyes, and I run ahead
to catch up with him.