by Barry Wallenstein
A mark on the calendar –
the first anniversary
of when his heart failed
to allow him another day.
His body conspired
against his self
for a too long lingering while,
and then the muscles failed.
“Time to leave,” he would say,
drawing on a cigarette –
“don’t get me wrong” –
“the way I see it.”
His voice, infectious,
inimitable, catches in my throat:
“vodka martinis straight up
and a plate of unsalted fries.”
We’d swap radio bits from childhood:
Jean Sheperd late at night
(so important) and Mystery Theater,
(not important at all) – we agreed.
He left finger prints,
medical bills, other bills, and
the lines that came out of his mouth
penned in ink on paper.
If the cycle were different,
he’d return to us,
put on a clean shirt and tie
and set his Trilby hat at an angle.
Barry Wallenstein is the author of ten collections of poetry, the most recent being It’s About Time [New York Quarterly Books, 2022]. His poetry has appeared in over 100 journals, including Ploughshares, The Nation, and American Poetry Review.
A special interest is his presentation of poetry readings in collaboration with jazz. He has made twelve recordings of his poetry with jazz, the most recent being Lisbon Sunset (2018) and Lisbon Sunrise (2022).
Barry is Emeritus Professor of Literature and Creative Writing at the City University of New York and an editor of the journal, American Book Review and advisory editor of BigCityLit.