SCAVENGERS

by Hank Kalet

Father Becomes the Son

He says he should just
have a heart attack. Done. And when
I reprimand, I feel the embers
of past fires burning
in my gut. At eighty,
he’s earned his self-
obsession, but pity
is not his color; a stubborn
refusal to face what’s in front
of him suits him better.
He gets what’s happening, that
his wife — protector, salvation,
arch nemesis — is washing away,
a sand castle at the water’s edge.
She gets angry or doesn’t talk, loses
things and blames those kids
like she’s Mr. Wilson in the old
Dennis the Menace strips.
I feel like a bachelor he says,
or a punching bag. I don’t
have to take this, can’t, so he smokes
more and more, an escape
that does no one any good. But what
can I tell him, and why
should he listen? It’s not like
I listened when I should have.

This Is What Religion Does

My uncle was forbidden
from carrying his mother’s
casket. The dead defile
the sacred — from priestly
lineage, a Kohein called
to sacred duties, sacrifice
the lambs, bless the Temple.
My salesman uncle had
to watch from a distance —
four cubits, the Talmud says —
as we conveyed her in plain
pine casket across the dried
August grass to her
markerless grave.

Scavengers

Hard to distinguish what’s not
from what is from what’s left as carrion
for the beetles and predatory birds.

Difficult not to see
the purple of her tunic against shadows
and sand. No way to miss the dance
of light in the dense stillness of pixels
under the tiny spot in this narrow seat.

A crowd of men on the river’s bank. Mud
-streaked body. Rohingya.
Muslim. Illegal. This is what they say.

“Reincarnation of snakes and insects.”
Exterminate them. Clear the fields,
the valleys of the vermin. Feast
on our prone bodies, suck life
from the nation. Bring down the machete.

Drive on in the rain. Crows rise
Christ-like from the blood-stained
macadam, move on from
the dead flesh of a ransacked corpse.

Ode to El Tiante

Was there anybody cooler
than Luis Tiant,
toast of Beantown, fireplug 
of a man so smooth
Reggie called him
Astaire. Ball in glove, back
turns like Miles
to his audience, wicked
horseshoe mustache
giving him the look
of El Diablo
in a ‘50s western.
Hit this, if you
can see it, ball
sweeping in from points
unknown. Palm ball. Slow
curve. A sneaky
fastball that arrived
before it left
his big right hand.

Ghosts at the Acme

No grievous angels, these kids
in cowboy hats, singing cigarettes
& whuskey, pedal steel soaring
below wild, wild women, the drummer
driving the band with a whip.
The baby-faced singer
with the Gram Parsons hair, eyes
two stage lights cutting through the funk.
They’ll drive you crazy, he croons,
They’ll drive you insane. This song’s never
sounded so wise, its skin rubbed red,
tingling with the soul of old Nashville,
these new pioneers of the sacred sound
unbowed by honky tonk angels calling
for Skynyrd covers as beer
& bourbon pour onto Lower Broadway
like two drunks from Quebec
as the Cumberland flows
like the Willie Nelson song.

About the Author:

Hank Kalet is a poet, essayist and journalist, who lives in central New Jersey with his wife Annie and their two dogs. He teaches writing at Middlesex County College and Brookdale Community College and journalist at Rutgers University.

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