The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Israel Lewis

from "The Lies I Told My Children"


They asked if I'd had other girlfriends before
their Mom, and I said, Never, ever.  
I was shy and never had a girlfriend, but then
Mom came along and she was very pretty
and laughed at my jokes, so I kissed her on the lips
and we got married.  And they said, Really?
and I said, Really.   

But they asked me again and one day I said,
Well, almost really.  There was one.  
And they said, What was her name?
And I said, Shirley Finkelstein,
which made them very merry,

and I told them that she lived in a mystical
place called Brooklyn, an island near New York,
a floating island held anchored to the
land by a beautiful bridge and a tunnel under the
water in which ran a train called Canarsie.  

Brooklyn lay in mist, a wild place
all covered by grass as high as a man,
and on the whole island only one tree, and roaming
through the grass wild dogs and crocodiles, and a gang of men,
the Artful Dodgers, with spiked shoes and wooden clubs.
The people of the island were famously rude and spoke in a strange patois,
but on Sundays they dressed upthe men in suits and ties, fedora hats,
the women in summer dresses and picture hats

and went to the baseball game, played
on the one clear meadow of mown grass.  

But what happened to Shirley Finkelstein? they asked.
She wasn't my destiny.  I went to war, and
when I came back Brooklyn had drifted off into the mist
and the Artful Dodgers vanished into the West.

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