Charles Chaim Wax
The Red Thread - Poem by Charles Chaim Wax
I called Foy and told him
Jack Miller needed to speak to him.
“Come right over, ” he said.
We drove to Michael Foy’s apartment.
I listened to soft jazz on WNEW.
Jack closed his eyes.
When we arrived Foy sat in the living room
his wife Kathy in the bedroom watching TV.
I told Foy the sad crazy tale, as best I could
how Jack stopped loving his wife
when he met an actress
then felt guilty, sold coke
to make a fortune and give it
to Carol, his wife of 22 years,
thus absolving himself of guilt
but got ripped off,
took more money out of the bank,
same thing happened
nothing left now.
Foy said, “We all dream of Paradise
that’s no sin, but selling drugs is a sin.”
Jack bent his head forward
resting it between his knees.
Foy continued, “You can’t ever go back
to the life you had.
Tell the truth.
Tell everything to everyone.”
Jack slowly raised his head
a thin stream of saliva
stuck to the left side of his chin.
He made no effort to wipe it away saying,
“I could do that, couldn’t I? ”
But there was no conviction in his voice.
Kathy came into the living room
and asked if we wanted tea or coffee
to go with the cinnamon cookies
she had just baked.
I said, “Thanks. That would be wonderful.”
Jack said, “I can’t face anyone.
Foy, could I live here with you secretly?
For a while...until this is all cleared up...
I wanted more…
now there’s nothing
but spikes in my heart.
I’m bleeding to death,
bad blood leaving a bad body.”
Foy remained silent.
Kathy brought in tea and cookies,
the room at once smelling of cinnamon.
I drifted off the balcony to Sumatra
and watched huge orangutans
float from tree to tree.
Their orange fur rippled in the air.
A sweet smile curved their lips.
The cookies were still warm.
They melted in my mouth.
I didn’t want to think about Jack now
just wanted to be with the great apes
in the great trees
watching life on the forest floor.
I looked out the window.
Metal planes sailed through
an ocean of air to distant places.
Silver clouds yielded effortlessly to their mass.
I walked to the balcony
and opened the glass door.
A blast of cold air
pressed against my warm flesh.
I turned and looked back at Jack
his face a solid mask of lead,
his heart, I supposed, a dead end sadness,
all the more terrifying
because he had seen Paradise,
but had gotten lost on the way
to that fabled spot.
If only he had said to Carol,
“I’m leaving. I found another woman.
I don’t want to hurt you but I have to leave.”
Unfortunately he didn’t say that,
and now he could never say that.
Not after the lies. Their money gone.
I walked inside to silence.
I took another cookie into my mouth
but no dreams came.
Jack went into the bathroom.
After a moment he returned and sat on the couch.
Kathy said, “I have to get up early in the morning
to go to work.” Then she left the room.
I took a third cookie into my mouth.
It had cooled slightly but was still warm.
Foy said, “There is no harm done.”
Then he became silent
as if he did not believe in what he had just said.
Jack’s head fell back on the couch
his eyes closing.
After a moment he said, “The game’s up, Bernstein.”
There was a lightness in his voice which surprised me.
I gazed out into the darkness.
The planes still sailed to distant places.
I looked at Jack and wanted to say something, but couldn’t.
Foy ate a cookie and smiled,
then ate another and another.
A great golden glow suffused his face,
and for an instant the gloom
in the room was gone.
I whispered, “The great orangutans of Borneo and Sumatra
sleep well in the cinnamon trees tonight,
as well they should being both good and free.”
Jack laughed at that,
but only for a moment.
And then he wept.
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