The Ice Age

During the last great thaw
of the Cold War, a Red Army general
compared Russia to a dinosaur,
a lot of time is needed
for change to reach the tail from the head
My first-generation zayde feared change
as much as the old country’s old ways,
cast a small shadow in North Jersey
like he forgot his soul each time
he left the house. When a man’s voice rose
over a parking space, his soothed,
letting him have it, like in Dostoyevsky,
the Zhid always weaseling
out of a fight. I despised him too, ashamed
only now that I understand the wintry steppes
stumble on like centuries
and his own father fled the press gangs
across them, got drunk on the porch
of a failed farm in another life
with the same stubbled grass
while a sighing woman stirred
her unctuous schmaltz, the child ensconced
in his bed. I know the monsters
he feared in fourth grade grew up
to join the country club, run for mayor
of each bad memory like another
windy, drift-misted town.
But rather than regret, what occurs
to me is a weasel, niggling
and warm-blooded, stealing the future
from the mighty dinosaurs,
or if not, that day
again and again. I stare at him
in pictures as if at the world
out of those sly, patient eyes
as the snows came and went.

David Moolten’s most recent book, Primitive Mood won the T.S. Eliot Prize (Truman State University Press, 2009). He lives in Philadelphia. website:

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