Leslie Gerber

The fat man smokes a cigarette,
drinks beer from the pitcher,
eats greasy chili.
The sharp-nosed woman
flits from face to face,
kissing, tasting, talking, testing
to see who still has anything left.
Despite his sign, the bartender
doesn't check any IDs. The black man
walks over to the jukebox.
The fat man says,
"Don't play anything your parents liked,
we're tired of that stuff," but he chooses Patsy Cline,
walking after midnight as we sit.
The river runs unheard outside.
As the customers leave
they bring french fries and hamburger buns
to feed the ducks in the spotlit parking lot.
The ducks command their spaces and don't flinch at moving cars.
"We built a section specially for them," the bartender tells me,
"but they use the whole parking lot all year.
They never learn to leave."


His faith tells him
his friends would never steal.
Everything belongs to them.
Even when they are caught
and the stocks crash
things will be OK.
His faith tells him
there is always
another tree, more oil, clean air, sweet water
no need to save
OK to spend it all
God will provide.
Faith tells him
the other side is wrong.
I am wrong.
The powerful must have everything.
The squatter's daughter's doll
the bag lady's bag
all belong to them.
Schools don't need more money.
They need more faith.
The poor don't need jobs.
God will provide.
The weapons will be found.
He doesn't worry
when others argue
when people say they are hungry
when the skies turn dark
and the oceans reek.
He is good
so what he does is good.
The strong are good.
They know what is right.
He listens to the voice of God
within him. That's whose voice
it is, isn't it?"

On Sarasota Bay

Six and a half million for that house
makes the six ninety-five condo special
look pretty cheap
even without that spotlit rooftop tennis court.
Meanwhile, the nesting cormorants dive for baby food
the propellor-scarred manatees swim south
in search of warmer water.
Barnacles and seaweed line the supports of the Siesta Key Bridge,
roadway to the whitest beach in the USA!
Seahorses hold fast to the mangrove roots
as they pray for protection
from the speedboats' wake and fumes.
The guide points out gratefully
a small shoreline of mangrove forest,
wildlife teeming at its roots.
"Once it was all like this," he says, waving his hand.
Now the shore is crowded with mansions
greedy for the sight of water
spoiling what they seek.
So many small deaths among those sundered roots.

Later, from my bit of beach, I look
from the gently waving beachgrass
to the darkening shades of gold in the sky
to the vanishing blue, to blue-gray,
to Venus and the coy moon sliver
and, beyond all, the gentle roaring of the stereophonic surf.

About the Author

Gerber was born in Brooklyn in 1943 and graduated from Brooklyn College. He says he escaped from New York in 1970 and has lived in Ulster County ever since, running his own mail-order business dealing in classical recordings. He does most of his writing for on-line websites (Amazon.com and Andante.com), reviewing classical CDs, and also occasional magazine articles. From 1980 to 1991 he did classical music programs over WDST, and he currently produces "The Grand Piano" weekly for WMHT-FM in Schenectady. He raised three daughters, one of whom has already published a book on salons, and has two granddaughters. He lives in Woodstock with a woman who, he says, writes better poetry than he does. He may be reached at piano@ulster.net

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