|Issue 1:||January 2020|
I’m in Herald Square with my camera Street photography Looking to take pictures of the people I pass couples holding hands tourist families business people rushing to an appointment negotiating their phones Air Pods Tee shirts REMAIN CALM LOVE IT’S GONNA BE OKAY Sirens shrieking More than one ambulance three of them so loud people hold their ears Remain Calm I wonder who they are saving? Who’s in trouble? Sirens shrieking Two days before you died the nurse from hospice wanted me to sign a DNR form Do Not Resuscitate I didn’t want to Counterintuitive What about our marriage vows in sickness and in health to love and to cherish until we are parted by death Do Not Resuscitate I don’t think that’s what we said We wrote our own vows Support each other Stick with each other no matter what No matter what And the rabbi said “Adonai our God let there soon be heard the voices of the loving couple the sound of their jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts” People hold their ears Remain Calm Nineteen weeks after your death but who’s counting I attend my new bereavement group Good to be with others in my predicament to hear their points of view their struggles tears but also laughter The Hassidic man in our group slept in a separate bed from his wife six kids ages 6 to 28 two married Collages of her on the walls blown-up photos spray painted a red heart over her bed Two months after she passed “It’s how I survive It’s how I keep her” The rabbi told him “Stop this craziness” two months after “Stop this craziness It’s time to move on” Sirens shriek Remain Calm A woman in the group husband gone seven months says she’s always running Always running Not as in running in the park but running on trips Rome Amsterdam “I guilt my girlfriends into going with me guilt them” Another time taking her young children to Paris Running on trips I have no plans to travel I have no plans I can’t because Izzy is finishing high school I have no plans “Stop this craziness It’s time to move on” Always running Do Not Resuscitate Another woman in our group always did lots of physical sports with her husband all over the world All over the world Hikes surfing rock climbing cliff dives They were in Indonesia when he died From the Greek “Indos” means India “Nesos” means island Comprised of 18,110 islands more than 6,000 of them uninhabited Ocean’s calm translucent surface Active volcanos grade into swamps lowlands shallow Java Sea Decades of purges and coups violent secessionist movement But you wouldn’t know it here so peaceful a paradise They were hiking along the Kinabatangan River in Sabah, Borneo Ancient rainforest temples orangutans clouded leopards They spotted elephants by the river Borneo pygmy elephants a rare sighting They felt grateful and blessed But later after surfing Mentawai Islands an archipelago off the coast of West Sumatra waves up to 15 feet tall They’re on the beach Her husband collapses Dial 118 Takes an hour for an ambulance to come Takes an hour Not well equipped doesn’t look like an ambulance They don’t have the same level of paramedical training as elsewhere in the developed world It’s too late Too late She wants to take him home hassles with the authorities leaves their 70-kilo bags behind told by someone “Nothing goes unused here” Nothing Too late Sirens shrieking Remain Calm Do Not Resuscitate “Stop this craziness It’s time to move on” Always running running on trips I have no plans to travel I have no plans I am an elephant isolated from the herd Lost Nineteen weeks after your death but who’s counting Another in the group afraid she’ll lose more people Afraid because she’s a single parent now she’ll die on her young children I nod in agreement I’m more aware something could happen to me More aware What would happen to Izzy? Fear I will lose people Do Not Resuscitate “Nothing goes unused here” Nothing Too late Sirens shrieking The other day I was supposed to meet my close friend Jane for a walk in the park She texted me had a stomach ache had to cancel I’m sorry to hear that Feel better The next day she texted me “Had to go the emergency room” Gallstones in her gallbladder Alarmed I visit her I have not been in a hospital since you died I have not been in a hospital Familiar and strange EKG/ECG monitor blood pressure She has to have laparoscopic gallbladder surgery cholecystectomy to remove the gallbladder and gallstones several incisions Surgeon inflates her abdomen with air to see clearly See clearly Relieved she’s going to be okay I want to visit again but Izzy is home sick bad cold hungry needs orange juice Am I at home? No at work Why aren’t I home with her? I had to work and have to visit Jane “Come home” I will early cancel a meeting Sirens shrieking Do Not Resuscitate DNR form purpose of informing and instructing paramedics EMS hospital physicians and medical staff to forgo any resuscitation attempts Forgo in the event of cardiopulmonary or respiratory arrest I reluctantly sign it In sickness and in health to love and to cherish “The voices of the loving couple and of the youths from their song-filled feasts” “Nothing goes unused here” Nothing Do Not Resuscitate “Stop the craziness It’s time to move on” Remain Calm Nineteen weeks after your death but who’s counting I open the second drawer of your night table filled to the top prescription bottles You were a pacifist but this was your war chest your secessionist movement Tramadol Escitalopram Letrozole Quetiapine and more Your war chest I am an elephant isolated from the herd Lost I want to see clearly see clearly Always running running on trips I have no plans to travel I have no plans When Izzy visited Tanzania last summer she went on safari saw elephants learned about deep rumble communicating over great distances sharing our human awareness of family bonds community recognizing the bones of a loved one A herd against the backdrop of ice-capped Kilimanjaro A little one runs for a river so excited about the cool water trunk wobbled like jelly Like jelly I am meeting parent friends Austrian restaurant for dinner I arrive early Hostess asks if we have a reservation No we don’t “How many will you be?” Six When the first of two couples arrives my friend Sarah asks do we have a table I say yes, for six “But’s it’s for five” She sees the realization on my face frustration I’m sorry “It’s okay” I oddly forgot Do Not Resuscitate I want to see clearly I’m in a small turboprop plane flying over islands I’m lost in the fog Lost No instrument rating cannot navigate don’t know if I’m up or down Looking for land an island an air strip a place to land The Twilight Zone episode jet airliner a flash of light severe turbulence unable to contact anyone on the ground no radio Descend below the clouds identify the coastline Manhattan Island but there is no city no buildings just forest and grazing dinosaurs They go back up increase altitude to catch the same freak jet stream hopefully return home Return home Captain addresses the passengers “All I ask is that you remain calm” Flying over islands I’m lost in the fog Lost Looking for an island an air strip a place to land where I’ll see an elephant on the beach Ocean’s calm translucent surface An elephant on the beach stroking the bleached bones long dead companion trunk lingering over the skull tenderly
—Appears here with author’s permission from his collection, Always Say Goodnight: Elegies for Lenora (KYSO Flash Press, March 2020). Goodnight is a tribute to his beloved late wife, Lenora Lapidus, who was Director of the Women’s Rights Project at the ACLU. Ms. Lapidus died on May fifth, 2019 after a long battle with cancer.
is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry including Radius (Les Editions du Zaporogue); Already Here, Ark, and Black Powder (three from Black Coffee Press); Bridge, The Valley of the Eight, and Third Eye of the Inner Light (three from Leaky Boot Press); Tell Them What I Saw (PS Publishing, UK); Formation (Weirdo Magnet); He Walks On All Fours (Dynatox Ministries); and Ascent and Wonder Weavers (two from Bizarro Pulp Press). His poems have appeared in many print and online journals including Cultural Weekly, Forklift Ohio, Gobbet, Green Mountains Review, H_NGM_N and La Zaporogue.
In addition, Matt’s an acclaimed street photographer (primarily black-and-white) and an accomplished painter of watercolor landscapes who has exhibited his works widely. Some of his photographs are held in the permanent collections of The Brooklyn Museum, The Museum of the City of New York, and the The New York Public Library, and his watercolors reside in many private collections. His photographic monographs, A Moment’s Notice (with foreword by D. Foy) and More Than You Know, were published by Les Editions du Zaporogue in 2016 and 2011, respectively. The same publisher issued a book of his paintings in 2012, Shadowbrook.
Author’s website: www.mattbialer.com
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