“Why worry about a speck in your brother’s eye when you have a plank in your own?”
Matthew 7:3

What if beside the plank in your eye
                             your brother had a millstone
not just a speck?

Old men shove young bodies
                              under the wheels of war.
Oil pipes thrust into
                              the body of Nature.
Ogres sell children
                              for fucks.
Those are millstones,
                              not specks,
specks, venial—gossip, white lies, petty theft,
                              minor acts,
to rent our daily webs,
                               an irritant you can rub away
like a fly in your eye.

I can forgive my enemy
                                but I can’t forget what he did.
Let’s fling those millstones
                                far out to sea
hang them round the necks of the evil ones
                                destroy no more.


When I was nine, babysitter Elsie
flipped on Medic right before bedtime,
excited to have someone watch it with her,
snack on homemade cookies and milk.

The show features a nine-year-old boy,
whisked in from an ambulance,
pale, even on black and white TV,
afflicted by a weird disease
that sounds like a pagan God
from Sunday School.
He dies on this program,
his mother sobs at the end.

Sit stiff as a gurney,
don’t eat Elsie’s cookies.
Ask what killed that boy.
“Oh, leukemia. No cure.
Not many get it,
but don’t worry, most don’t.
But ya never know.”

Daily created good deeds
so I could fall asleep after I prayed:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
I pray the Lord my soul to keep,
if I should die of leukemia
before I wake, I pray the Lord
my soul to take, ” until I got old enough,
realized it was just a TV show.
Relaxed until cousin Jane died from the disease.

I never let my young children
watch medical shows
until they were old enough
to switch the channel themselves.

Castor Oil

We waited, shaking,
newspapers under the chairs
we sat on in case we vomited
as the Grand Poobah—
our Father—
approached with a tablespoon,
filled to the brim
with the smelly oil,
aimed for our terrified gullets.

It was the cure of our generation.
Should any child manifest
the slightest stomach ill,
down came the dark, brown bottle
with the yellow label,
maybe skull bones on it,
given without hesitation,
the cure for all gastronomic pain.

My brother and I
faced each other,
began to spit on the floor,
pleaded with our Dad
we were too sick
to imbibe the ghastly brew,
like drinking Quaker Oil
we cried.

To no avail,
avail did not exist.
But the cries elicited some mercy.
Mixed into orange juice
or orange soda.
“Drink it down fast boys.
It will heal you quicker,
not taste so bad.”

It took me years to drink
a Big Orange, quaff
the golden elixir of Florida,
suck on a Navel.

Even after castor oil
proved worthless,
the mere mention
causes a shudder
in my soul.