I Had Buckets
By Howard Faerstein
There were arctic ice dams & bent busted eaves
in that ramshackle house in the woods—
ceiling falling, plaster peeling,
lath exposed—& I had buckets,
though of different colors,
strategically placed so the five cats,
exiles also, could lap water
at any time in any room.
That was when my nails began breaking,
then bleeding, my first term
as a professor, age fifty, having left the city
to teach argument to college freshmen.
The Chair provided advice,
just remember you're smarter than they are.
& the students questioned why
I wore bandages on every finger
& I confessed my envy of them
& lectured them on rhetorical formulas
when composing essays on controversial issues;
for instance, capital punishment:
how my father had killed two men,
in self-defense he'd said;
how Mao's Four Pests campaign
eradicated sparrows, leading to the Great Famine
when twenty million perished & the locusts grew fat;
& we spent a class on Stalin's Night of the Murdered Poets
when we took up censorship,
also how Alan Freed's rock & roll show
was banned in Boston & later in the semester
I spoke of the silence between brothers,
of young men in India dialing wrong numbers
hoping for love, on the rising mortality rate
among white, midlife Americans,
& how I've always wanted
in the soft wallow of time
to witness snow falling over an ocean.
Then I told them about my ex-wife's abortion,
never mentioning the father.
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