I stood outside the door for five extra minutes
More than enough time
To pack a toothbrush
And slip on your boots
But you did not come

It is settled, then
Not all frogs leap
Some, in fact, stay put
Stuck to the lily pad
Waiting for the perfect moment, forever

I do not seek perfection
But I bake banana bread
And, in my back pocket, carry a few conversation starters
To ease your shyness at parties
Should you want to attend parties

I have, on my best days, patience For women who do not follow me down the stairs…

Why does Happiness always hover
high above my bed sheets
like the pesky house fly?
Too agile to be swatted away,
her buzzing too shrill to avoid.
“Pay attention to me!” she pleads.

I prefer the less prying Woe.
She, unlike Happiness, does not ask for anything.
She does not require a daily check-in,
endless reassurances of unwavering devotion,
reminders of how wonderful she is,
and how grateful I am just to have her around.

Woe is not high maintenance. She sits in silence, and doesn’t need me to acknowledge her presence. But Happiness, with her constant demands, so impossible…

Woody Allen and Dianne Wiest in ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’

I was in high school when I first saw Woody Allen’s Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) and it changed my life.

By that time, I had discovered movies and knew who Allen was, but I wasn’t familiar with his filmography. I found the DVD at a local Target, of all places, and since they didn’t have a copy to rent at Blockbuster, I decided to buy it. Of all the movies I own, I’ve rewatched Hannah and Her Sisters the most.

What struck me then, and still does, is the melancholy tone of the film. Unlike Allen’s previous slapstick comedies…

Mother, when you forget my name
will you at least recognize my face?
Or will I become indistinguishable
from the janitor on the night shift?
Like grandma, the last time I saw her,
when she thought I was her dead brother.

Will you save me a place
among the ruins of your mind?
Just a small secret space
where we can watch Jeopardy together,
and race to shout out the right answers.
As if everything was fine, like normal, like before.

Or must I accept this fate of inevitable degradation, of finite devotion? of lost car keys and misplaced kitchenware…

The morning was reading my poem,
but I wasn’t paying attention.
This happens, sometimes, when I focus solely on myself.
I forget to look up and listen.

The sun was singing her song.
(one of the classic jazz standards)
The clouds were coloring their canvas.
(a new shade of cornsilk)
The wind was dancing.
(the jitterbug is his favorite)

But I, lost in trivial thought, missed the show,
assuming I would find inspiration elsewhere,
in my own sullen isolation, most likely,
not accepting the wisdom of my muses.

Dear sun,
will you ever forgive my fickle mind?


Where ATMs taunt the poor on every street corner
but the polling place remains closed
the abortion clinic is bloodied with false choices
the food pantry is riddled with rotten plums
the homeless shelter is stacked with a hundred sobbing children

Where chickens bellow in cages as progress breaks their beaks
but the vegetable garden is barren

Where the white supremacist wraps himself in satin sheets
but the sage sleeps in the sewer

Where rifles are the religion of the masses
but reading is an endangered ritual
the shooting range shouts the hillbilly’s screed
the library whispers the hero’s lament

Jon Alexander

Follow Instagram @jonalexandernyc

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