Issue 151, Summer 1999
The surgeon Celsus, at the time of Christ,
Said the right hand should operate
On the left eye, the left hand should invade
The right. He meant the interns to practice
From the weak side like switch-hitters.
An old strategy which makes us smile.
But the smug health of the moment
Turns a page in the book of longing:
I looked left, then right, at the pictures
My father showed me: the husband, the wife.
Through five generations that ended
In German scrawled unintelligibly
Across the back. I was young enough
To believe, because he had lived
With grandparents who spoke privately
In German, he would translate the three pairs
Born somewhere other than Pittsburgh.
I expected a second language to
Enter me like the left-handed layup
I practiced each day, but he said German
Was forbidden like taking the Lord's name
In vain, that he'd shaken off Kraut and Hun
And Heine, slurs I'd never hear because
We'd changed. He might as well have tried.
Like some, swallowing a child's raw heart
For beauty and love. Consider