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Richard Becker

On Sunday Afternoons

Half-Baked Memoir

On Sunday Afternoons

 I do okay with a Capuchin monkey and a cashbox by my side:
a music teacher moonlighting on weekends at the corner
 of seventh and second. Just across the street, my son wants
“Stars and Stripes” and “Sidewalks of New York,” staples
of the hurdy-gurdy. Listening he will ride his truck around
the room before his nap.
                                             On the roof his mother’s taking down
 the laundry under cold January sun and below a Piper Cub
 circling over Lady Liberty, whose buzz reminds her of our
 vow to not tell him how before we went to War, the US refused
 asylum for the passengers aboard the SS St. Louis. 1 Not after
 his school tried to block her run last year for PTA president,
we think because she’s Jewish.
                                                        She pockets clothespins
my jacket worn over her blue pinstripe housedress. Folded
bed sheets she takes down rock the wicker basket on the hard,
uneven roof tar where Sam from 6-A lets him sometimes feed
the pigeons.
                       The brood touch down on the roof rail, circle his feet
and make for the coop. I can see my wife’s and his heads bob
among the sheets. My son would hear their jovial chatting
were he not sound asleep, though he’s probably too young
to know what sometimes hides behind such talk or laughter.

He builds model ships and planes. When he broke a destroyer’s
rigging, his tears surely tasted salty as the Gowanus. He dreams
of planes and ships and how his will save the world.
through strength,” as they say in the news and on the new TV.
It’s not as though my own hopes weren’t forcefully for peace.
He’s on a carrier deck. Its Thunder Jets start mixing with
my wife’s loud radio tuned to “Ghost Riders in the Sky,”
a rounding up of the devil’s herd: Yippie yi yay! Yippie yi ooh!
Ghost Riders in the Sky!
                                           The radio’s “Magic Eye” vibrates
Vaughn Monroe’s bravado verse and smooth crooned choruses.
I gladly play for coins dropped here in my cash box, adding
up to Chinese dinner down the street.
                                                                    Now my son wakes up,
squints through sunlit dust wraiths from his cot and gazes,
not at dream of waves and thunder jets, or red-eyed longhorns
of the loud song that woke him, but at my black leather jacket
on a nail, and through the stair window above the laundry basket,
at no gray, city buildings. Just bright sky.

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Half-Baked Memoir

Your apostacy left me
cold and dry, like they say.

Defeated and maligned
you ran from my hard sell.

Outside my writing desk
the plague of canker worms

by now has eaten half
the leaves of the poplar oak.

Yet the arborist tells me
after such great loss

next spring’s trees will come back
leafier than ever.

And if the canker worms
and oaks can so well get through

winter: why the hell does
my half-baked memoir act

as if it were a moth in a drawer
with only moth balls for its memory?

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Richard Becker has published poetry chapbooks Fates (The Literary Review, 2008), and On Sunday Afternoons  (Finishing Line Press, 2022) and poems in The Baltimore Review, America, Columbia, Cold Mountain, Slipstream, and U City Review.

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