Jeff Friedman

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



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 has published nine collections of poetry and prose, including The Marksman (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2020), Floating Tales (Plume Editions/Madhat Press, 2017), and most recently The House of Grana Padano (Pelekinesis, April 2022), cowritten with Meg Pokrass. Friedman’s poems, mini tales and translations have appeared in American Poetry ReviewPoetry, New England Review, Poetry International, Cast-Iron Aeroplanes That Can Actually Fly: Commentaries from 80 American Poets on their Prose Poetry, Flash Fiction Funny, Flash Nonfiction Funny, Fiction International, Plume, Dreaming Awake: New Contemporary Prose Poetry from the United States, Australia and the United Kingdom and The New Republic, and Best Microfiction 2021 and 2022. He has received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship and numerous other awards and prizes.