Jeff Friedman

Tails | On the Other Side
March 21, 2016 Friedman Jeff

Tails

 

When our tails fell off, we had nothing to wag or wave behind us, nothing to curl up or
unfold, nothing to keep us honest. We tried to sew the tails back on, but they just hung
limply. Some of us ripped them off out of frustration. Others went to the priests to have
them blessed as if a blessing would recharge our systems and get us back in touch with
our feelings. The blessings were beautiful, but ineffective. Our tails didn’t sync up with
our inner thoughts and feelings, didn’t respond to our fears and hopes. Eventually, they
pulled loose and dropped off. Then we planted them, hoping that stalks would rise up out
of the earth, and our tails would burst from the buds and blossom. But the stalks
produced only a few buds, and when the buds opened, some tufts of fur poofed apart and
flew into the clouds. Weeks later, the clouds grew dark and heavy, trailing their tails
across the sky.

 

 

On the Other Side

 

See you on the other side, Manny says, his eyes barely open. On the other side, I repeat,
as if playing out the final scene in a bad Western. But where is the other side? I wonder
and how will we know when we get there? Will the flames open for us to step through?
Will the waters part? Manny lies in bed, dreaming of the beautiful fields on the other
side. I think things will be tough there also, and who’s to say, we won’t still be hobbled
or sick on the other side? I lie in bed counting the minutes until the sun falls on our faces.
The nights grow longer, but the days are longer even than the nights. Down the hall an
old man is coughing. Heels click against hard floors. Voices come to us slowly. When the
old man stops coughing, it will be time for breakfast or another funeral service. Manny’s
eyes close, and he no longer hears me when I ask what time it is. I know what time it is.
On the other side, there is always someone talking about the other side.

JEFF FRIEDMAN’s newest book, The Marksman, was published in November 2020 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. Friedman’s poems, mini stories and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Hotel Amerika, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, The New Republic and numerous other literary magazines and anthologies. Dzvinia Orlowsky’s and his translation of Memorials:A Selection by Polish Poet Mieczslaw Jastrun was published by Lavender Ink/Dialogos in August 2014. Nati Zohar and Friedman’s book of translations Two Gardens: Modern Hebrew Poems of the Bible, was published by Singing Bone Press in 2016.  He has received numerous awards and prizes including a National Endowment Literature Translation Fellowship (with Dzvinia Orlowsky) in 2016 and two individual Artist Grants from New Hampshire Arts Council.