A Measure of Conduct

“A collection of poems about lonely lemons, elephants, grievances, cracked walls, insects, ghosts, peach pie and invisible survivors. Barry Wallenstein has a wonderful interest in the poetically sharpening the details of his real and imaginary encounters.” 

 

- Jayne Cortez

Excerpt  from a review published in the Woodstock Times

 

 

Barry Wallenstein, whose new book is A Measure of Conduct,  is a guide who shows us things of the world around him and talks about them.  He likes to say, “here’s what is, and here’s what’s important about it,” and he finds engaging ways of doing it…. He also provides a world that's not there—a deer without a meadow without the deer; a jungle beast that doesn't show up, although he leaves traces of how he might have; the creatures of a puppet master who may have had an existence prior to the one the puppet master gave them, but they can’t be sure. These worlds, fittingly, are given to us with very little comment, and little is needed.

Detroit, MI, Ridgeway Press, 1999

Father at 85

rails against his lapsed memory,

kicks against the gaps--

what was it he meant to be doing-- 

a missed cue in the talk-fest,

a slack look felt on his face

as it dulls.

 

Why does he worry his memory so

when most conceived in 1912

recall nothing--zero

they're colder than gone

more gone than the grave

stone--the lettering already fading

as in weathering;

 

and he's seen it happen over and again

in the fraught elongation of his years:

all the younger brothers gone before him

the wife of lifetimes gone before him

a young nephew and all those cousins 

gone before him;

 

still, out of the stew he is 

of grief and good fortune,

the griping goes on

--even over the olfactory,

the loss of the sense, he says,  

except when some stench

sends it back to life, quivering.

 

My father's years are circles 

around my circles.

He's there too in the rich plenitude 

of his life; still a presence at the table,

alert and reaching over, demanding more.

He still wants more.