A woman in Frankfurt whisked me

off Taunusstrasse when I was eighteen,

vowing that if I bought her a drink,

we could go directly to her room upstairs

and “do everything.”


Though I knew little then of the expanse

being offered, what crisscrossed

the hitherto lofted mind were the likes

of bodice and orifice, syrup and stirrup,

cold cuts, no buts and eyes shut,

sauerkraut and thereabout,

tether, feather and fur.


So, after a shot each of Jägermeister,

when she asked did I want another,

I assured her that no, no, I was quite ready

to retire to her fine apartment

and do everything.


To which she replied,

as if we had no understanding at all,

that just one more beverage

would put her in the perfect mood.


In due course, I bought her Liebfraumilch

and Riesling; Schnapps; Sekt and Apfelwein;

Löwenbräu and Doppelbock;

Kirsch; Bellerhof and Bärenfang;

coffee and tea; soda-water with lime.

I kept paying even after it was clear

I would run out of deutsch marks long before

glimpsing even the mirage of an areola.

Kept paying, giddily at first,

then the way Vegas junketers do,

though in the end it was hard not to think

of my great aunts and uncles

behind all that barbed wire, how they

kept working and praying.

I had come here in particular

to ask big questions of history,

make inquiries of guilt and forgiveness.

Yet as I stumbled from Bar Karl-Heinz

into the dusk of a world still combing

its anger and shame, I saw that

even though everything

had stepmother eyes and woodcutter hands,

hair the color of Eva Braun’s before the bleach,

I wanted it,

wanted it fondling the buttons of a blouse

rummaged from a corpse, wanted it in a room

with lampshades and ashtrays, wanted it

drinking cut booze while doubling mine,

wanted it just for a moment,

but wanted it all.



Edith Did

During Geraldine Ferraro’s run for vice president

as a congresswoman from Queens in 1984,

one burly heckler on the campaign trail questioned

how Archie Bunker had ever elected her,

to which she replied, “He didn’t; Edith did.”

Which happened also to be my mother’s name,

and when Edith Baines took sidestage

in the top sitcom of the seventies, Edith Lang

sat right beside her, making it easy for us

to notice what they didn’t do: object or judge

or burst balloons, say this is what I want

or say no to their outrageous men,

hide the racing form from their fathers,

or miss Days of our Lives. Instead

they wore their brassieres, practiced being

unembarrassed, learned to type, played canasta,

and boiled the parts of meat that could be eaten

no other way. And they understood.

The black neighbors, the lesbian cousin,

their hairsprayed heads would not be pictured

on the book jacket for The Greatest Generation.

Their superpower was not invisibility,

but optimism; Fred and Ginger twirling in air,

that cigarette ash on top of the scrambled eggs

always pretending to be a cherry.

Long before all of which, the sailor my mother

had met in an ice cream parlor prewar

came back dirty, darkened, craving a son.

And although the odds clearly favored delivery of

another just like him—man with two separate hearts,

one to love her and one to deny her—

when he insisted she don his favorite nightgown

(the chiffon of lace yoke and floral applique),

with one dry eye and a cauldron of hope,

Edith did.


by Ken Haas


Ken’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Alabama Literary Review, Caesura, The Cape Rock, The Coachella Review, Crack The Spine, Existere, Forge, Freshwater, Hawai’i Pacific Review, The Healing Muse, Helix, Lullwater Review, Moon City Review, Natural Bridge, Pennsylvania English, Pisgah Review, Quiddity, Red Wheelbarrow, Rougarou, Salt Hill Journal, Sanskrit, Schuylkill Valley Journal Of The Arts, Soundings East, Spoon River Poetry Review, Squaw Valley Review, Cottonwood, Stickman Review, Studio One, Tattoo Highway, Whistling Shade, and Wild Violet. His poetry has been anthologized in The Place That Inhabits Us (Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010) and the Marin Poetry Center Anthology (2012, 2013). Ken has participated in the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, where he studied with Bob Hass, Brenda Hillman, Dean Young, Lucille Clifton, and C.D. Wright, as well as numerous other workshops led by Sharon Olds, Dorianne Laux, Joe Millar, Ellen Bass, and Richard Jones.

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