I sit in Central Park with my near-same-age, crushed-by-life-these-days cousin,
and confess to the still air we both face forward into: “I feel like a cork in the sea.”
I glance at him, but he doesn’t look back from silence.
He long lived on another side of words from me, the interfered-with-by-speech-defect
cousin, his struggle to verbalize all but undetectable now,
and me, with early disability, undiagnosed-for-years-gland-problem
cousin whose hands shook, whole body shook like a small motor screwed to spine,
shook so I could barely grip a pen, mouth moving with joy-to-not-be-stifled words.
Both poor-students-parents-worry cousins, entered our teens growing tall.
I know it’s still here, in our 60s, glancing at a cousin the same size,
seeing one’s pain in the other, behind our not speaking for a year.
My capable-with-carpentry-hands cousin,
in early years wasn’t bookish but gave me the collected Yeats for my 15th birthday,
writing inside: “For Allan, to help with his education.”
Now, he smiles an embattled-but-good-nature-deep-under smile,
says: “You and your images.”
cork tossed in a poisoned sea
not ready for highs
or lows cork
bashed by high crests
cork dropping with wrenching speed
to the deepest opening of water
cork turned relentlessly
water close to taking it all apart
cork needs air
please stop I’m suffocating from
the waves cork
cork so far adrift
it will stay lost
Seeking the power secrets of the sea colors,
I returned to my bottom depth, danced with shafts
of deep purple and deep blue and deep burning yellow.
I pressed from them, my hands spread wide to the
tinted water, forces I’d never found in people,
soaking in their dark-hued yet bright responses
to the touch of my palms.
I wanted to take advantage of the colors, for they were
the only advantage I’d ever had over the powerful—still, I worried:
From colors? Just touching colors? Would they, wet and luminous,
deflect the assault I’d face for being able to make them mine?
No, I concluded. I had farther down to go.
I stitched together transparent jelly fish that flew under the sea,
through the wavy light, bound them with transparent thread.
I gathered them as I surfaced, and their sinewy folds slid
on my skin as I wore them to the house of the powerful,
and the war over it—a colonial with a sloping roof and gables a mile from the sea—
that had lasted 300 years. They didn’t recognize me, the armies for either side;
soldiers made fast movements toward me, but I marched against them
dressed in my jelly fish robe.
And that is how I won.
ContributorAllan M. Jalon
ALLAN M. JALON is a New York-based writer whose work in poetry, fiction and journalism has appeared in a wide variety of publications. His poems have been published in the Rail, the Scapegoat Review, the Jewish Spectator and elsewhere.