She never said a word to me—
at least that made it into the book.
The truth is she was always
asking me to throw out the garbage
or sweep the floor.
Those were the only times she ever used my name.
I never knew what to call her.
I admit it was weird—
half the time my dad sleeping with her
and then walking down the hall to be with my mom.
But after Isaac was born things got even more cockeyed.
I could feel the glare in her eyes burning into me
even when my back was turned.
But it caught me totally off guard
when she ordered us out
after Isaac started writing on the wall
and she blamed it on me.
We went from shelter to shelter—
even lived in an abandoned building for a time.
Once in a while we’d meet my father and brother in a park.
I was angry at my dad too—
he’d just gone along with it—
but I learned to let that go.
I never saw her again—
our one shared sentiment.
Then after my dad did that crazy thing
when he tied Isaac up in a chair,
it actually brought me and my brother closer.
When Isaac was in middle school
he would sneak out at night
and then I really did teach him how to write on the wall.
We’d tag together, especially on dark nights.
And then after we’d painted our names
everywhere we could
we’d play this game—
it’s hard to see stars from the city
so he’d claim the ones he saw first
and I’d claim mine.
Then we’d see who had the most stars.
That’s how it was
in those early days.
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Todd Friedman is a retired NYC high school English teacher who is happy to be part of the Brooklyn Poets online community during the pandemic. His poems have been published in Jewish Currents, Jewish Literary Journal, Poetica, Midstream, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, and English Journal.
Photo by Regina Weiss