Robert Klein Engler

( Chicago, Illinois / New Orleans, Louisiana )

from BFR, Winter 2001


The Cliff Divers of Acapulco: Thanksgiving Day
For A. N.

Tonight we share the chronic sore of kinship.
A tired family from America sits down to eat. 
In this soap opera, they sip the soup of convention, 
stuff their hearts with cranberry blood,
then unbutton their pants to sleep on the couch.
Disappointment clouds their eyes
the way fog turns to frost on the trees.
The cats, asleep on their breast,
rise and fall with the tide of breathing.
Amber light from the fireplace licks the leather chairs.
For special effects, a design of brads on each arm
curves to brass question marks.
Outside, raw Minnesota air congeals
around one suburban house after another.
How can I be hard on them?
I come from this stock, too, yet thirty years of work
has not made a dimple in the tin ceiling of the world.
The old lesson that love is suffering slides 
beneath the ice of the lake like a car used in a kidnapping. 
Come midnight, the crime freezes over, and the beast 
snarls the steam of its clotted breath into winter. 
Be quiet! Maybe it will not know we are here. 
Pretend to dress in the humid cotton of a tropic night. 
Say this prayer: "Meditation is betrayal." 


Please, let someone else tell us about our spoiled 
lives in symbols that fall like glitter from above.
We want this gay melodrama to give glory 
to all the gauze of winter and the grave. 
The sharp light off sheets of ice teaches us
that most marriages mature to grumbles. 
Beauty lies with its momentary eternity. 
Let's promise instead intimacy to merchants
and later push shopping carts
through chrome rows of frozen food. 
How do you tell a young man about our past, 
or why some men flame on even in abandonment? 
Youth does not see in the candlelight of memory. 
"Why would a man spend a lifetime waiting for another 
air to fill the room," he asks? "I mean, life is music video!" 
The circuit world of romance is given, never taken away. 
Because our love is queer, we learn to wait.


He stands behind the cash register looking at me. 
I am the only one who comes here alone to eat. 
We are alike. He knows it. He is afraid. 
From another hall a melody lingers like incense. 
Then I imagine I leave off writing and go up to my room. 
He is there combing the oiled mahogany of his hair. 
I hear the sweet company of his voice
and move around his body like a moon. 
We watch the sun set behind rooftop vents, 
and then slip behind a ridge with its picket of trees. 
Here the Gnostics preach their cure to live removed. 
Forgive me, I still approve the fire above the frost. 


The ice of a morning walk alone to the supermarket
focuses my mind. Already, the slow dip of hills 
wears the glass shawl of new office buildings. 
I buy what I need and then sit close to them
as we drive to the train station. 
In the winter of our settlement, they hope 
we can slide by on a sullen sled of silence. 
Last month the doctors cut my brother's chest 
open and played with his failing heart. 
It takes courage to be patient with such techniques. 
Yet who awards the "confirmed bachelor" a medal? 
The sponge of liberalism has soaked 
their minds so that we still remain invisible. 
Heat and odor from all that is human perfumes the car. 
The old familiarity from our common childhood rides
as a ghost beside us. Odd man out without a wife, 
I try to encourage them to a life of reason, 
on earth as it is in heaven. They know me too well, 
for even now I pretend I have no longing, but I do. 
It is an up hill walk along Calle Quebrada, and then below
we see La Plancha, with waves crashing around it. 
Hope burns in me. They leap, before my heart melts. 

Next - Melissa Fondakowski / Leslie Marcus

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