Hunt for the World’s Last Kugel

I’m staring at skeletons
of steel dinosaurs to one side
diamond-topped skyscrapers on the other,

standing at West Oakland Station,
bisecting the haves and have-nots,
port workers to my left

Google-bus-boarded,
hi-rise-dwelling hobbits
to my right.

I am both of you,
I want to cry to them.
And I am neither.

Hi.

I’m waiting for a train
to transfer to the airport
surrounded by code-monkey party boys,
sure-why-not executive assistants
and the starved and overworked skeletons
of the cafe workers
who serve them.

I could have been any of you.
But I left.

I shouldn’t be here
I’m earning too much money for a writer
and too little for a father
of three and a half.
I left this city in its latest infancy
to be legit

and far away from here
I have gained a home
but lost the meaning of it

I spent a week trying to fund other people’s dreams
but lost my own,
I write stories when I should be watching sitcoms
but for the rest of my life I am normal,
normal.

The difference between subway and taxi was 6 minutes
so here I am,
waiting for a transfer
and eating stale kugel
instead of a corporate buffet.

It’s not compromises I’m making
but a protracted negotiation, G-d vs.
my job vs. these four little souls
chirping for me, my limbs like worms
my mind hurtling through loose
connections like soppy dirt

I might be in our apocalyptic future,
buildings upon buildings of steel and emptiness
running through them, a child tucked under
each arm

Foraging for food in ashes and not
crunching charred crust in my teeth
everything is artisan when it’s one of a kind

We tell ourselves some foods taste better cold
Cold pizza is a consolation prize
you got it but you can’t wait
you got it but you have no oven
The sensation is still there, brittle cheese
clinging to ketchuppy sauce

Kugel is not one of these
Left cold it becomes lumpy and dripping,
a disembodied stickiness with nothing
to cling to.

Still in this mush there is a heart
the mix is a memory
of someone grinding, someone chopping
someone’s slender fingers pricking each potato
from the orphanage of a grocery bin
to an oven’s warm comfort

molding it for me
spending hours for the second
it eviscerates between my teeth.

I destroy it too easily
trying to hold it in my mouth,
to squeeze flavor from the cold
letting my taste buds reach for the moment
between pulp and potato
between what G-d made and what we made
the foggy indistinct moment
we call home

The train to the airplane comes
goodbye.