Charles Wax

Charles Wax Poems

I said to Barry Waldbaum in the Teacher’s Center,
“One of my students asked me, ‘What’s a hermaphrodite? ’”
“That some kinda mollusk, Bernstein? ” he said,
“cause I think I seen that creature on NATURE.”

I strode to the Pier in Coney Island
on Christmas day. Eleven degrees
and with a gale off the vast Atlantic
the temperature zipped

well, most people don’t read my stuff
cause not published
except in little magazines
with an average circulation

Every so often
I felt the need
to spice up my class
with a sermon

I descended into the pit with Caligula
while my hero the Dalai Lama
serenely watched men
sawn in half

When I landed in my third
period class
Trisha stood near my desk
I thought to myself, “She’s blessed—

Billy Mullins trudged into Meng’s
having just returned
from four months in a Florida jail,
possession of marijuana

Matilda Halbert pushed into Meng’s
at exactly five in the afternoon
with her red shopping cart
empty except for cardboard

Miriam curled up
at the far end of
Meng’s Restaurant
in Coney Island

For the first time in 14 months
I went to the movies
afterwards we went to China New Star
myself and six friends.

Hubert at 38
and weighing 427 pounds
an only child
father dead long ago

Soon the snow would whirl from highest heaven to earth
spreading the nectar of happiness
on the tortured streets, on the tortured hearts.
“You ain’t heard a word I said, ” Hubert Tilton moaned.

Ever since Andrew Stern’s wife
left him for guy living
next door
he couldn’t shake the blues

Mabel Catherine Rose allowed herself
to be wheeled into Meng's once a week
for her beloved pork chops with corn and applesauce.
She could well afford to eat that feast every day

Mary McCall
one of my students
in an abandoned building

Best Practices in the Classroom
Principal Harry Zundel was instructed by
Superintendent Bertha Happ
to place an aquarium in each classroom

In 1968 I landed a job in Berriman JHS
thus keeping me out of Viet Nam
but if I faltered and got fired
I’d be there swatting flies and fleeing bullets.

secretly alive
in walls and closets and bookrooms
but even in daylight

The sadness had not yet
left her
burying her grandmother
two days ago.

1: 47 at night, still loitering on the Pier
with the usual crew
when old Tom Duffy walked by unsteadily
and as he passed under one of the lights

The Best Poem Of Charles Wax

A Wholly Unprecendented Wound

I said to Barry Waldbaum in the Teacher’s Center,
“One of my students asked me, ‘What’s a hermaphrodite? ’”
“That some kinda mollusk, Bernstein? ” he said,
“cause I think I seen that creature on NATURE.”
“Got both male and female sex organs.”
“I was born with four toes.”
“I never knew. Which foot? ”
“Left. A missing little thing like that
and my father was against me from the start.
First time I went to the beach
a crowd of people hovered around me.
Well, when my father seen that
he right away started charging a nickel
for a look and for a dame
you could play ‘This little Piggy
went to market’
with them four toes.
This one guy wanted to rent me
for his daughter’s birthday party.
‘Five dollars, ’ my father says.
‘All the cake the kid can eat, ’ he shot back.
‘That’s for him—what about me? ’
says the old man.
From then on I never took off my socks
always wore ‘em, both
cause if I only had the left sock
people would think
there was something funny.
Two socks never drew no attention,
even in the shower when I was in high school
I told the guys I didn’t wanna catch no fungus.
They believed me.
Julius Szollosy and Arnold Tranen did the same,
thought it was a good idea.”
“Your wife? ” I asked.
“How you mean, Bernstein? ”
“When you’re...intimate, socks on or off? ”
“On. After so many years
she got use to it
the socks
the toes.”

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