Matthew Flamm

Autumn Air

The famous writer 

on the seventh floor

who moved in leaning on a cane

and now needs a walker 

oxygen and an aide 

sits perched against the next building 

smoking a cigarette 

on the first bright day of fall


not just smoking 

demonstrating 

what she once told me 

at our building garden party 

about the parties she used to throw  


We knew everybody 


From across the street I watch her 

wave dangle and flourish 

the cigarette with an elegance 

you don’t pick up overnight  

a breath of beauty 

in those easy motions 


I’d like to walk over and say 

something nice about smoking 


her head cocked toward the sun 

a fluid hand in midair 

the oxygen tank at her feet


There were so many parties 

Oscar and Abraham

The same apartment, but for them 

larger, wilder, with variations 

in climate and landscape. 

A sign they’re better informed. 


So many nooks they’ve turned into rooms

along with rooms they’ve made their own. 

On sunbaked floors they alone

use up the day’s spare minutes.


No habits of distraction.

Their moments accumulate seamlessly:

a longer life in a shorter span. 

Years ahead from the start, 


they teach us, with gestures and 

simple commands, what’s needed 

to make a home. For Oscar, 

treats on schedule and demand. 


For Abe, strokes behind the ears at any hour. 

Most of all, patience and routine. 

Yet one look at us and they worry. 

How long have we lived with them, and still—


our attention’s in fits and spurts. 

We think we’ll have them both forever. 

Sometimes Abe runs in circles yowling, 

or Oscar barks at nothing we can see. 


It’s their game of charades, 

as they try to prepare us, 

their idiot children, who often 

have to guess at what they mean. 

A former senior reporter for Crain’s New York Business, Matthew Flamm has written for the New York Times, the New York Post and the Nation. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry East and Poetry New York.