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An excerpt from The Death Cycle Machine: Poems by Charlotte Mayerson

1995

Charlotte Mayerson wrote The Death Cycle Machine in response to the death of her son, the journalist Robert Henry Mayerson, who died of AIDS-related causes in 1990. Ms. Mayerson's other books include Home Fires, An Easy Life, Two Blocks Apart, and Goin' to the Chapel, published this year by Basic Books.

The Odds

You can't replicate love or pain
So experience gets you nowhere.
Love lessons
(If there are any)
Teach only what went wrong
In each case.
With pain, too,
You buy nothing
In those dark stalls
To help you
In the next black hole.
Hard knocks leave marks
That help bad luck
Pick you out.
Don't be fooled:
The distribution of fortune
Isn't random.


Postmortem Shopping

I The Greengrocer

Outside Washington Market
In tall, tilted baskets,
Artichokes
Barely past the bud stage,
The kind Rob loves.
Ninety-nine cents? A deal,
A steal,
I'd take three pounds
(If he were dining at home tonight).

II The Haberdasher

Latter-day O'Casey his style:
Long wool scarf,
Rough tweed coat,
Turtleneck under...
The perfect dun cotton shirt
I spot on my way to work,
I'd send one
(If he'd provided a mailing address).

III The Card Shop

He's wanted a sorry-I-haven't-written card
For his sorry friend Elena.
Stubbornly,
Less noble than he,
I've delayed
But today, saw one on Broadway
That's okay,
Given his strange taste
For Hallmark.
Slyly,
I buy it but --
Raked at last awake --
Where we used to sleigh,
Belly-whopping down Dead Man's Hill,
I let the wind off the river
Take it.
I let the wind off the river take it.

Excerpted from The Death Cycle Machine: Poems by Charlotte Mayerson. © 1995 by Charlotte Mayerson. Reprinted by permission of Crown Publishers, Inc. This book is available in bookstores, or can be ordered by calling 1-800-733-3000.

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