Saturday, March 25, 2017

A Short Visit to the Emporium

and then i climbed up a flight of stairs
pulling on the bannister for assurance
until i reached the level where shelves
of fiction lured me into mystery and
domestic triangles and lonesome pining
where if i went to the left into non-fiction
i roamed through poetry, soap making,
coin collecting and theology for dummies
until i settled for a book about
the romance of adam and eve, a mystery
billed as a nail biter and a memoir of
spiritual disobedience by a woman
who believed that the road to faith
means tasting the how to book on sins
and all the sinners raised their hands
and shouted hallelujah





Friday, March 24, 2017

Food


I have a memory of a jelly dipped marshmallow topped with a fig, but I can’t find anything to document that thin memory. On cold days the jelly man stood outside with his push cart and warmed his hands over the black kettle of hot jelly. His hands always looked chapped and cracked even as the weather warmed.

As soon as I was old enough to walk down the hill to the candy store I discovered egg creams. I recall watching Max, the owner of the candy store, tilt a glass— drizzle a large amount of chocolate into the glass, and then add some milk. He then removed a seltzer siphon from under the counter and added the seltzer to the glass. When you do this correctly you end up with a head of brown froth.

Still later on I went down to the Lower East Side and bought hot potatoes from a pushcart and pickles picked out of wood barrels.

But what happened to my chronology? At the age of three or four my grandmother came to live with us. We shared the bedroom and my parents slept on a pullout couch in the living room.

 My grandmother brought her own recipes to our home—honey cakes,  jars and jars of chicken soup, as well as gefilte fish. She also taught me to pluck the feathers from a chicken.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Move

The Move

Of scarves. I recall asking my mother why a woman waiting to pay for her groceries was wearing a dead animal. After hushing me she said, “It’s a fashion.”

Of scarves. Recently I learned that the dancer Isadora Duncan lost her life in a most bizarre  manner. She loved long silk scarves— the type you could fling over a shoulder— and that was her downfall. On September 14, 1927  her scarf became meshed in the rear hubcaps of her car. She was strangled by the movement of the car. Gertrude Stein, never one to shy way from saying whatever came to mind, blamed the death on Isadora’s penchant for affectation in fashion. Stein was a plain dresser.

Of scarves. Am I mistaken when I recall striped wool scarves  six feet long? Every school had scarves with their school  colors. I had dated a boy who attended Columbia and the scarf was a Christmas gift. Being short a scarf that long entailed considerable fiddling to find a way to live with inches of unneeded knitting.

Back to chronology. Sometime during my third year we moved to 176th Street in the Bronx— a slanted block off the Grand Concourse. We lived on the first floor, but it was the second floor because it was a flight of stairs up from the lobby. Yet when you looked out the window we were not two flights up and you could easily open the window and jump out— without causing undo damage.

At this point I must jump ahead to note that for years no one was concerned about our proximity to the street, but by the time I entered Junior High School, what is now called Middle School, our windows could only be opened six inches. My father’s friend created some impediment so that the window could not be opened beyond a hand span. All neighborhoods change.

We moved just after my grandfather died. I don’t remember him except for one vivid picture. He was sick and in bed. Everything was white—the sheets, blanket, his pallor and next to the bed was a large metal canister. Today I assume that was oxygen.

When he died my grandmother came to live with our family. Was I three or a bit older? I don’t know and there’s no one left to ask.

 176th Street. Once there were six trees on the block. Each tree in its own square of dirt and surrounded by concrete.

Our three room apartment—2B was identical to every other B apartment in the five story building. You entered and to the right was a narrow kitchen with a small place to eat. Straight ahead was a dining room and beyond that a living room with two windows that looked out on the street. The bathroom was to the right of the dining room and just beyond the bathroom was the bedroom. To my child’s mind it was huge. Later on it held a dresser, a double bed, a single bed, a desk , a small metal bookcase, and a standing wardrobe. And a large window looking out on the street and another window that faced an alleyway.

My earliest memories of 124 East 176th  involved watching the mailman deliver mail, walking with my mother to the incinerator, and being outside when coal was delivered—watching it pouring down a long chute right into the basement.

I’m not certain how old I was when I heard the peddler call out “ Old clothes” or did he say “ I sell old clothes” ? I’m not certain how old I was when I discovered that the jelly man with his cart of hot jelly came during the cold months. He dipped marshmallows in jelly, twisted the stick so that it didn’t drip and sold them on our street corner. The other treats came later—egg creams, Charlotte Russe desserts, long pretzels, wax lips, and Dixie cups.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Two Tiles

Do I start back on Featherbed Lane? But what do I know of that street. According to pieces of information told to me by, I think my father, or it could have been by the man who delivered seltzer, Featherbed Lane got its name because the homeowners on that hill dumped their feathers on the road to prevent the British from ascending the hill too rapidly. That was a long sentence probably inspired by the George Elliot novel I’m reading— Daniel Deronda. Actually, can I say I’m reading it when I’ve only read sixteen pages. The print is small and the pages are big. And I need to convince myself that I am truly committed.

If I start back on Featherbed Lane I need to include Neil, Nedwyn, and Jerry. We were all about the same age and our mothers all played Maj Jong. All I can recall about that time, which only lasted the first two years of my life, come from photos or family stories. My mother told me that she dressed me in lovely little pinafores with starched bows. Hard for me to visualize my two year old self with a starched bow, but that was a different era.

I know that the mothers of the three boys and my mother often played Maj Jong in the afternoon. It was not until years later that I remembered hearing the tiles knock against one another and someone saying three bam. I have two of my mother's Maj Jong tiles ,from her last set, on my bookcase. It's like having my mother sitting amongst my books.

 My mother was considered a skilled player and I do recall, not when I was living on Featherbed Lane, that she memorized the new plays when the new yearly card came out. My mother lived and died Mai Jong. That’s much later, but since I brought it up I shall proceed before getting back to where I am.

My mother was sitting in viewing distance of the condo pool in Miami Beach where she lived after they moved from the Bronx. Oh, I do so want to be chronological. She wasn’t just sitting near the pool she was enagaged in playing Maj Jong when a terrible headache felled her. By that evening she was in the hospital and I received a call from Miami. She never recovered and died four weeks later. So in a sense her demise occurred over a game of Maj Jong.

But decades before--her games simply continued on and on to the next day. No one had a lot of money so they played for pennies.

It's hard for me to continue in a straight line because I don't know exactly when we moved to 176th Street. Perhaps I need to attempt hypnosis to get in touch with that move. Everyone moved, but not out of the Borough. Even today people will say, "Are you from New York?" How can my accent still hang around my shoulders like one of those fake fox fur stoles they sell in Vintage Cothing stores. They were precursors of woolen scarves.
And I'll talk about woolen scarves on another day. For now I need to find out about the move from Featherbed Lane to 176th Street.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Making a Place for Spring

when the earth warms up
and digging is possible
i'm going to dig
a few holes and plant flowers--
large flowers with a sweet smell
that lingers until moonlight
i'll sit outside
and let the sun warm
away the winter





Monday, March 20, 2017

Lawd, Please Listen

Oh Lawd
I like the way the blues
sings in the sound
May I borrow it for now
Well Lawd
I got some complaining
I sat too long trying to get strong
and now I got this pain from too much
sitting and waiting for the tiredness to flee
No one said that some days I'd drag
like a heavy sack from place to place
I know I could go to scripture and find
fine words to rest up against
but I just want to rant a bit
and let you know that
I'm waiting on you
to take this leg pain and smooth it away
I believe and that's that

Sunday, March 19, 2017

To Do

     I always walk quickly up a hill.
     It saves time. You see, I collect time.
           Curt Leviant   Kafka's Son


I shall bury time under my  winter socks
I shall add a note--a reminder not to squander
Come, look out the window at the snow
and patterns of elongated  tree shadows
Later those phantom shapes
will  fold into the night
Tomorrow I shall walk up hills





Saturday, March 18, 2017

Time to Look in the Mirror

I'm watching the NCAA basketball March Madness tournament-- silently in the background. Save for particular schools, I select who will win and who will lose by geography, uniform colors, and nicknames. It's the identical system I use when at the racetrack-- which isn't often. And I also favor the underdog. Since employing this method my success rate has been minimal, but it hasn't dampened my enthusiasm nor convinced me to alter my approach.

Which brings me to the followers of Trump-- will they continue to follow him or are we seeing some cracks? Maybe they like his long necktie or is it his ability to tell fantastic lies or fables. No, maybe they believe that Meals on Wheels contributes to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle-- which in turn forces people to need more medical interventions.

I'm willing to acknowledge that my system for picking winners is flawed and if I bet money I'd be assured of losing. How long will it take for the Trump followers to understand that no one is looking after their needs-- unless they are a fat cat or someone who needs to upgrade their opulent lifestyle-- no one in power is listening.

In fairness, I did see a photo of a man who voted for Trump holding a sign: I made a mistake.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Healing

This evening I made a bucket list
Instead of a hike on Fairyland Trail
with its hoodoos and flame colored
stone I wrote of my desire to walk to town
Instead of following stone cairns
down to the frog pond bench
I wrote about Great Meadows and
a flat walk to find a heron
I'm honing down the list to possibilities
Perhaps with time I can examine belief,
Gideon's fleece, tarot cards, I Ching,
divination, dispensations, scripture
Add to my list a simple wordless prayer







Thursday, March 16, 2017

After Hearing of the Proposed Budget Cuts

Pardon me, you can't learn
 if you come to school hungry
Pardon me, elderly people who rely
on Meals on Wheels need those meals
Pardon me, poetry, music, art, literature
are the cement of civilization--
Pardon me, why does the budget seem punitive
Pardon me, do you have something
against clean water
Pardon me, why are the wealthiest
 individuals getting tax breaks
Please explain why your budget sits
squarely on the backs of the poor,
the middle class, the sick, the disabled,
those who rely on public education
I have a few questions for you
Why do you need
so many gold trappings in your homes
Why do you need so many rooms
Why does your child need his own floor
Pardon me,
I am frightened for those without
I am ashamed
of this path

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Another Way to Be

Imagine the length that kindness
travels as it rubs against strangers
Imagine words fine turned until
splinters and rough edges can't snag
bare skin or catch on outer garments

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A March Snowstorm

I sat on the couch and watched snow
spin to a dervish melody, preening
before spring pushed her
into the background
and people forgot
and tended gardens
and waited for early buds

Monday, March 13, 2017

Arriving Home


it's where
all the sounds are familiar
and even the spaces where
one oak floor board
edges into another board is known
and the scene outside the window
could be a painting--a rare print, the spot
where you know a man walks his Alaskan husky,
where the trash man pulls his truck over
where the mailman walks to your
black mailbox on its granite pedestal
and deposits the day's catalogs and bills

Sunday, March 12, 2017

The 6th Floor at the Hospital

Stay somewhere long enough
and you begin to set up a routine--
when to walk, when to eat, when
to find the space to dream
Even in such s constructed place 
there is enough room to listen
and move beyond plain words 
to words that tell stories

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The World Outside

how many times do I say thank you
for bringing a new pair of socks,
taking blood without leaving a bruise
or simply taking the time to spend a
few words that originate outside this room
which has grown smaller and tighter
leaving the outside world in a small black box
hanging on the wall opposite the bed

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Reprieve


the cancer hasn't spread,
the nodes are clear
a reprieve

     the woman who works
for housekeeping
had a birthday yesterday
and celebrated with her family--
today she showed me the photos 

     the nurse who loves
Bedford Farms Purple Cow
headed there after her shift

     the assistant nurse went for crackers 
to drown out the taste 
of a bitter medicine drink

     the doctor came in his scrubs
to assure me that the blackness 
was normal and would abate

the cancer hasn't spread
now dear lord - if you can slow
down the black blood 

but a reprieve
give thanks








Thursday, March 09, 2017

Stop and Listen

The surgeon said not to worry
when I see black blood, 
it's old blood, darkened
at the site, rushing to leave
I want to say this is too quick 
Too immodest, too independent
I want to say, let's control
what is happening
This is my body and it feels as if 
this black blood has its own agenda 


Written on March 10th

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Menu

Beef broth, vegetable broth,
chicken broth all taste the same
Is it the kitchen or do they
only change the names 
and not the ingredients 
Drinks to raise potassium
Drinks to raise phosphorous 
Open your mouth to check
your temperature, stick one
finger in this mouse trap to measure
something else, let them bind your
arm with phylacteries that measure
blood pressure and then let you
go back to sleep before someone
comes to take blood
Today, the doctor says, you can 
eat a low fiber diet, and I choose
a chocolate chip cookie,
comfort food on this trip

Written on March 10th

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Unknown

This room is mine
until I return home
A tall apparatus, a sentry
bearing liquid  drips 
into a tube and finds
it's way to my body
It stands on sturdy legs
to the right of the bed
bearing witness 
We are tethered
by plastic tubing
People with name tags
prod me, take my blood
for reference points
and tell me that I am
to eat a liquid diet
The surgeon visits 
and explains what's been done
The piece that's missing
will be examined, peered
at by people who know cells
People I don't know, people who
don't know anything about me
will determine what happens next


Written on March 10 th






Monday, March 06, 2017

New Experience

What did I expect 
and what questions 
did I fail to ask 
when they wheeled 
me into the room
where an anesthetist 
asked me if I had any
removal dentures 
Just crowns, one brand new
I handed my two affirmations
to the assistant and started
saying my mantra to myself
until my words elongated
and all went silent



Written on March 10th

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A Thank You for Kind Words

it's all in the details,
the specificity, the particulars
the few words, the unbidden words



Saturday, March 04, 2017

Clearing the Air

I'm tired of reading comments that spew ugliness even when I agree with the political stance because it merely engenders another comment that also suffers from uncivil behavior as if the only way left to communicate it to toss away comments of substance and rely on barbs

I'd like to say that I only lose patience when it is done by folks whose political opinions are far from mine but the truth is I cannot suffer anymore crass comments

And while I'm complaining I'm weary of fake news or half truths or twisted facts or omissions or attempts to create substance from created or manufactured lies that are counter to a story

I am aghast at what is happening







Friday, March 03, 2017

Two Days Before Surgery

community
communion
is more than bread and wine
is more than hymns on sunday at 10:00
it's the person who calls and says what can i do
it's the friend who tells you a
bed jacket kept her warm
it's the friend who sent you words that spoke
to that sacred mystery, words that i could hold
it's the friend who sent an image
of a bouquet of roses
it's the friend who tells me
the walking group will
keep me in the light, will offer prayers
it's sacred scripture
it's the communion of saints
those who sit in pews
and those who read the sunday paper
over coffee at starbucks
those who pray
those who keep me in the light
it's the communion of saints
it's community

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Emily Dickinson Understands March

the woman waiting for the elevator
smiled, "It's windy out. Look at how
that pine bends with each gust."
i stared at the tree sashaying
with a partner, a dance happening
outside a window on the seventh floor--
when i didn't respond, she said, "my car
strayed from side to side this morning."
the elevator arrived and we both stepped in--
i said, " did you notice how the sun
stepped into the dance?"

     Oh March come upstairs with me -
     I have so much to tell

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Be Prepared

Toothbrush
Toothbrush holder
Glasses
Glasses case
Comb
Just a little list
My mantra

I know how to make out a list
for Maine
    Walking poles
    Hiking boots
    A pack
    Shorts, Jeans, Tee Shirts
 
I know exactly what to bring
to a morning at the library
     IPad for writing
     Notebook for jotting
     Pens, Highlighter,
     Library Card
     Books
     Hidden energy bar
     Eight ounce bottle of water

A sketching list
     Small watercolour notebook
     Permanent ink markers
     Pencil
     Small watercolour set
     Brush
     Small container for water
     Some paper towels folded and refolded

But what does someone bring for
a hospital stay
Will I want to read a tome? Probably not.
Perhaps some poetry? Too heady.
Perhaps some magazines?
A Bible or has Gideon infiltrated hospitals?

Will I want to write? Possibly
Will I draw? Probably not