hal sirowitz is the former poet laureate of queens, new york. He's the
author of 4 collections of poetry. One of them, mother said, was
translated into 9 languages.

Pure Whiteness

Let's go look at your mother's teeth,
father said. She just got them whitened.
Pure white is a rarity, not often seen
these days. The whiteness is not going
to last. It disappears after her first encounter
with a chocolate bar. This is as exciting
as when we saw the last eclipse. That
remained in the sky longer than your
mother's smile. Hopefully we won't
have to wait fifty years for her to smile again.

The Game Of Tag

Let's play tag, father said.
I've touched you. So you're 'It.'
If you don't like being 'It,
then touch someone else.
You can't touch me. I've
called time-out. You
have to touch someone else.
It's not my problem if
no one else is around.
Go ring your friends' doorbells.
They don't have to go outside
to be tagged. Tag them while
they're opening the door.
That's the only advantage
you have in this game --
when the other person
doesn't know he's playing.

Our Spoons Shake From Happiness

There's only one correct way to act
towards strangers -- the family way,
mother said. People act better in families.
That's why I sometimes invite your friends
to dinner. I can tell their families are
malfunctioning. They need to see ours,
so they can fix theirs. 'Mom, I just had
dinner with the coolest family,'
they'll say as soon as they get home.
'Let's try to be a supportive family again,
now that we know it works.' And it does work.
All it needs from you is cooperation,
which means you don't act like the concept
of a happy family was staged.

Keeping Us Posted

You haven't called in a while,
mother said. We have no other way
of establishing that you're alive.
What we're afraid of is that a relative
will find out about your demise before
we do. They're be talking about you
in the past, we're be talking about you
in the present and what appears
to have been a simple grammatical mistake
turns into an embarrassing social situation --
you died without letting us know.

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