to impale a small wet worm.We are torn from being by a heavy horizontal line that bars the signifier from ecstatic union with the signified. FIDEL AND THE REVOLUTION I would like to write a poem, Fidel, that would serve your revolution, but I find myself unable. All that I can do, Fidel, is to write a poem about how I try to write a poem that would serve your revolution. In the first verse I start to write, Fidel, that I still remember Martha, my first girlfriend back in college; how she’d walk barefoot on the lawn from her dorm room to the commons, treading carefully so as not to crush the soft grass and the flowers; how proud I was of her when she went to Cuba to cut cane with the first brigade, the Venceremos, how much respect I had for her when she returned, dropped out of school, and went to work to serve the people at a clinic in el Barrio de Harlem. But then I have to write, in a second verse, Fidel, that I can’t forget how Martha wept and wept— I thought she’d never stop—when she learned about the dissidents that your soldiers put in prison, and her outrage at your claim that this was done to save the revolution; how she went back to school to study corporate law; how shocked I was to hear that she died when her car went off the road, which her parents called an accident, but I knew was suicide. And so the darkness of the second verse blots out the brightness of the first, and I erase them both. So I start to rewrite the first verse, Fidel, write this time about Marisol, an old woman in Havana, about my anger when I heard about her life under Batista; how she stood outside the iron gates of a mansion in Vedado and begged for food, wearing dirty rags that did not cover up what she called her private parts; about the joy I felt when she told me that the revolution taught her how to read and write, gave her work and dignity, and for a moment, Fidel, I believed in you. But then a second verse arrives, Fidel, about my father who once dreamed of revolution— he named me Carl Fredrick Auerbach, after Karl Marx and Freidrich Engels— about his bitter voice when he spoke about Stalin’s gulags, Khrushchev’s revelations; about the scorn he heaped upon his younger self, and I hear his advice to me before he died: to trust no one and to believe in nothing, and I feel ashamed, Fidel, of my belief in you. And so the new life in the first verse is aborted in the second and I leave them both unwritten I would like write a poem, Fidel, that would serve your revolution, but I find myself unable. All that I can do, Fidel, is to write this poem about why I can not write a poem that would serve your revolution. CLOTHES MAKE THE MAN Don’t stare at me like that. I swear on my signed copy of Che Guevara’s diary that the only reason I put on the uniform that Kim’s Chinese Laundry had mistakenly delivered to my apartment was because it was the only clean thing in my closet. Granted, there was a certain sensual pleasure in the deep blue of the trousers, the knife-edge crease, the jacket with the insignia and the badge. But as the students say, in their snickering, condescending way, I’m a child of the sixties. My uniform is the absence of uniformity. I will admit my genuine enjoyment walking past the group of smug young preppies loitering in front of College Hall, as I watched them freeze, desperate to look innocent. I felt powerful, confident, in charge. It was better than years of psychotherapy. But I can’t tell you what would make me wear it during office hours, so I could watch the students squirm in the only chair to sit on in my office— deliberately made too small—while they stammered out incoherent pleas for change of grades, which I found quite easy to refuse. And it certainly wasn’t me, it was what the uniform whispered in my ear that made me picture Stephanie—who comes to class in halter tops and miniskirts, when she’s there at all—on her knees before me in my office, working for her “A.” I beg you to believe that I never would have done it. And anyhow, the point is moot. Just yesterday the laundry realized their mistake, and Kim himself came to take it back, leaving me just me, which came as a relief. How can you imagine that I miss it.
Carl Auerbach lives in New York City, where he has a private practice of psychotherapy. Now that his four children are grown, he is pursuing a long-standing interest in poetry. Carl’s had three poems and a short story nominated for a Pushcart Prize. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, The Baltimore Review, Bayou Magazine, Blue Lake Review, Brink Magazine, Burningword Literary Journal, The Cape Rock, Chrysalis Reader, The Coachella Review, Colere, Confluence, Corium Magazine, The Critical Pass Review, descant, The Distillery, Eclipse, Edison Literary Review, Eleven Eleven, Euphony, and many other publications.