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Ernst never calls

(won't talk on the phone),

writes me in German

about the heat, the cat.


After Lena takes

the stairs to bed

he wishes I were there

to sit in the

fluorescent lit kitchen

to watch him read

the Newark Star-Ledger

his fingers licked

and folding back the pages.

Intermittently he drinks

white coffee,

and with a spoon

scoops streuselkuchen

from the lukewarm cup.


I am who can tell

when he'd rather

take his teeth out

and have whiskey

in a short glass.

I am who finds

the bottle by the door

where Lena hides it

under the ironing.


I'm not so old

like her, he says,

to himself, and

points upstairs.


Lena will be down at six,

slicing spaetzle

piece by piece

into boiling water.


At midnight he would tell me

he’s not tired, but that

he’ll catch hell if he’s

not up by nine.


This morning I know

he’s sleeping on.

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