Boxes in the Attic

filled with photographs,
people I had never seen:
my parents, happy, in bathing costumes
on boardwalk Revere beach;
father smiling and his parents,
whom I never knew,
despite monthly visits
to be kissed with grandmother’s old-age musk.

No pictures of Benjamin,
father’s brother
who died young
and was never mentioned.
Memory of the dead is a luxury
we were taught to scorn.

Had he lived, perhaps the family rage
would have burned less hot.
If there had been time for tears,
perhaps father’s cries would have
extinguished the flames.

Hiding from mother’s protection,
I played solitaire with fading photographs.
Who went with whom?
Where did they go?
I never asked.

When they were dead,
the last casket mourned,
I asked cousins who recalled
a different grandmother,
one who gave love with food,
strudel and gefilte fish,
and sang bobeli Yiddish songs.

In the boxes of photographs
uncles and aunts
graduations and cousins
but no Benjamin.
There were no photographs of tears.

Only smiles
worn like new clothes
and stiff Sabbath shoes,
an un-kissed mezuzah.

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About the Author

Sometimes Ken Weene writes to exorcise demons. Sometimes characters in his head demand to be heard. Sometimes he writes hoping what he has to say might amuse or inform. Mostly, however, he writes because it is a cheaper addiction than drugs, an easier than going to the gym, and a more sociable outlet than sitting at McDonald's drinking coffee with other old farts: in brief it keeps him a bit younger and more alive. The result has been a lot of words.

Kenneth Weene
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