Their Blessing

My dead grandparents from Poland,

Hungary, the shtetles, 9 days in the bowels

of a ship, are in my pool,


taking turns floating in the blue

and white plastic chair filled

with my breath.


Grandma Tillie, who shined shoes

outside the men’s room

at the Port Authority, lays back


in the postcard sun. Her faded rose-covered

housedress fluttering above her pale,

plucked chicken legs—


bathing in the sequined water; her

childish laughter mixing

with shy splashes. Then my father’s father,


whom I never met, his name my name.

A subway pole of a man in t-shirt

and brown slacks, smoking


a cigarette, mystified

by the tenement tall palm trees,

squinting to see if this is real, him


in a chair in a swimming pool

at his grandson’s house;

no taxi cab to drive


all night, no meters counting

away his life, no Jew-hating bosses,

no bolt of pain in his chest


stopping him at forty-six.

Just the breeze from a new ocean,

the gentle waves


of his own breath. I see myself

wading over to him, I’m holding

a glass of dark schnapps.


He kisses my wet head, sighs soft

and blue, “It’s too much,

Meyer, too much.” He rows himself


around me and around me.

Michael Mark is a hospice volunteer and long distance walker. His poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Bellevue Literary Review, Cimarron Review, Cutthroat Journal, Paterson Literary Review, Poet Lore, Potomac Review, Rattle, Spillway, Sugar House Review, The Sun Magazine and Tahoma Literary Review. His poetry has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes and The Best of the Net.