Friday, December 14, 2018


         “ambiguous loss”
                  Pauline Boss
to find a phrase 
a few words to describe
an immigrant’s loss of country
a person lost in dementia’s labyrinth 
a family separated by the past
a child estranged

Thursday, December 13, 2018


we revived a Christmas ritual and purchased a puzzle— one with 1000 pieces, small pieces, quirky pieces that deceive and a picture that offers a challenge but we’re determined to finish by  Christmas in part because that’s what we always did and rituals by definition follow similar patterns but we changed because originally we set the puzzle up and invited people over Christmas Day for a brunch and then a walk in the woods or around a pond except if the weather— as it was one year— too frigid and too windy to leave the warmth of a house and a chance to place the last piece of a puzzle

now and for a number of years we go out for brunch with friends and then take a walk and that too has become a ritual 

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Shopping for Music

Once upon a time you bought a record player and plugged it into the outlet— put on a record and music. Then you moved up to CDs and  inserted a disk, fiddled with some dials — and music. Then you moved up and two big speakers, amp and pre-amp, changer—and the music. Then you pulled back and settled for an all in one—plugged your cord into an outlet, settled an iPhone into a designated spot, fiddled with a music stream station or your own playlist —and music.

Now there’s Bluetooth and some complications. Now you bring your unit home and attach to your router ( first figure out where to plug in), download the application for your unit, follow the directions on your iPad screen, settle on a music provider, select how compressed you want the music ( or what your unit can handle) and hope for sound. 

And there’s help—$120.00.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Roll Call

Looking through an old, but not ancient, Christmas list I find three names that I shall erase. They no longer occupy houses or read cards or plan Christmas menus. I cross out addresses that no longer receive mail, but don’t erase  names and addresses. There’s something too final by blotting out a name. 

Reading a name conjures up the person. Someone you knew, perhaps someone you would have liked to know better, or someone with whom you shared a history. 

Looking through an old, but not ancient, Christmas list I find people I once knew, but now I barely can conjure up their face even though I can recall small specifics. 

Then there are the names of people I don’t recall. There are no intact memories.

I write unsent letters —in ink or in silence. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Just Say a Blessing

It takes too many words
to explain how the world 
rotates or why the horizon
line keeps moving further away
It’s best to stand in awe
and be grateful you’re not
dizzy or falling off the edge
Sometimes science 
stands in the way 

Sunday, December 09, 2018

Reading Scripture

ancient place names
confound my tongue
i find myself slurring
past the syllables
or in the act
of creation

Saturday, December 08, 2018

All Lit Up

My next door neighbor added to her Christmas display. She’s drawn to snowmen—inside and on her front lawn. Of course there’s Santa and white trees lit with lights as well as reindeer and a large gold star. At night everything blinks. 

Another neighbor festooned all her bushes with syncopating lights. Yes, there are bulb studded candy canes and sleds. Thus far I haven’t spotted any blown up figures or almost life sized figures holding music and singing carols. But it’s early.

Our house is still waiting for the yearly wreath and two gaudy bows hanging on the outside lights. Thus far no one in the neighborhood has a crèche outside.

There is one house with a menorah. Yes, the candles blink.

Friday, December 07, 2018


I’m a day 
behind myself
doing what I 
meant to finish
yesterday —
hurrying to catch
up to today 
before tomorrow

Thursday, December 06, 2018

The Bookstore

The tea I ordered three weeks ago languishes in an unmarked place unknown to anyone. They say it is in transit. What does that mean? On the way. Stopping off somewhere. Opened and brewed. No one has said—“delivered”. And the word lost hasn’t been spoken. 

How many packages disappear into space— unknown and never found? This is what happens when we turn away from small stores and consume our goods by googling what we want or checking online purveyors of goods. 

How do you check the feel of a sheet or if that sweater is scratchy? We will depend upon descriptions written by people reared in the language of promotion and advertising. 

 Years ago when I moved from Maryland to Massachusetts not only didn’t I know anyone, but my favorite bookstore owner no longer was  near by. But I did find a bookstore run by an incredible woman who turned her small home into a bookstore. A small wood sign— Books— hung on the side of the front door. Rather than a bulky cash register she preferred a ledger and a desk drawer with wooden dividers for different denominations. She liked paper money, but didn’t turn you away if you used a credit card. 

I happened upon her store when I was out investigating my new environment. Within a few weeks I became a regular customer buying poetry books that had sat on her shelves for years— judging by the prices. Once she learned that I taught school she introduced me to Peter Elbow. Reading his books altered the way I taught writing. Over a period of five years she encouraged me to dip into previously unexplored areas and genres. 

She was reticent about her background or her age. But in time I heard about her missionary parents, growing up in China, and the book she kept in her house in New Hampshire. She had a number of guests visit— “over the years.” Her living room had some comfortable chairs, a fireplace, and bookcases. In the evening, “ after we talked ourselves out we read.” 

The book was for her guests. She encouraged them to write about meaningful things and especially about the books they read. 

The collection of books in her store — or what had once been a parlor and living room— included philosophy, poetry, history, fiction she considered worthwhile and essays. Then there was a shelf of odds and ends. That’s where Peter Elbow’s book on writing resided.

Locals often ordered books, but a day might pass and only one or two people showed up.  That never bothered her. Often after a day of teaching I stopped in to chat. Her friend who sometimes came over with sweets told me that my book friend was close to ninety. 

She died six years after I first walked into her store. The sign came down and the books were boxed up and disappeared. Within a month the house that was a bookstore was renovated and an insurance company hung out a shingle. Since then a realtor, a women’s dress shop, and a antique store have occupied the space. No one really settles in and stays for long. I expect that her soul is still there suggesting books and writing down your name and what you purchased.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Early Winter Reading

I’m looking at my collection of reading and all I can say is— it’s eclectic. There’s Sun After Dark by Pico Iyer. I actually wanted to take out his latest book, but that meant a wait so I borrowed this earlier book where “...he invites us to accompany him on an array of exotic explorations...” 

But this isn’t a usual travel book because of the questions Pico poses: “ How do we reconcile suffering with the sunlight often found around it? How does the foreign instruct the traveler, precisely by discomforting him?  And how does travel take us more deeply into reality, both within and without?”

I found the following book in a display of new books— The Dinosaur Artist by Paige Williams. This is a true - crime story that involves a dinosaur eight feet high and twenty-four feet long, a bidding war, “an international custody battle” and “ a sometimes murky, risky business populated by eccentrics and obsessives.”

The Modern Hebrew Poem Itself was published in 1965 so it can no longer contain the truly contemporary poets. It is written for the non- Hebrew reading English reader. Each poem is written both in Hebrew and an English phonetic  transcription. The reader is instructed to read that version aloud to absorb the sound of the poem. There are English approximations. The translation and here they quote “  Robert Frost  —are discussed into English.”
 “The commentary offers a literal rendering of the poem and an extensive prose commentary.” 

And into this mix I’m engrossed in a lightweight saga of a small town and its citizens. There are twelve books in the series and each book is akin to eating penny candy and delighting in the experience. Nothing is required of the reader— save a cup of tea and a bit of time. 

Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Early Winter

a cold wind
wraps a shawl
around my shoulders

Monday, December 03, 2018

Monday Morning Walk

I’m not a truly adventurous spirit although I do read of people engaging in death defying exploits. My hiking exploits skip areas where I’m apt to run into “ wooly mammoths” or gruff bears. I avoid snakes— even those whose venom is non-lethal. I do enjoy heights; however, I can’t imagine myself on a high wire crossing over an expanse of space with nothing below.

Today, when walking around Walden Pond I knew that our recent rains—downpours —eroded parts of the path closest to the water. Previously the path, in some areas, was only a foot wide before the water edged onto solid ground. Everyone else took the higher dry wood path for most of the pond’s circumnavigation, but I love being close to the water. It never occurred to me to alternate between the two paths. After all I was communing with Thoreau and his pond. ( It’s a pond that takes 30 to 40 minutes to circle )

The first foot wide place was reduced to a dry area two inches wider than my hiking shoe. In order to avoid the water I held onto the bushes on my right. That area lasted for six feet. Three quarters around the pond a second close encounter with the water— more precarious. A foot wide dry area at a fifty degree ( or thereabouts) angle toward the water. If I went in it meant a solid drenching. I held fast to the flimsiest strands of a bush. At one point I lose my balance and grabbed a handful of strands and advanced slowly.

Once on dry ground I picked up my pace knowing I’d be the last person of our seven to arrive back at our meeting place. When I arrived— only a minute or two later than the previous walker—two of the women said that they were watching me straddle between dry and wet terrain. One woman said, “ I was thinking of how to keep you warm if you fell in.” Another asked me if I did the entire path that ran close to the water. “Yes.” But I did add that I’d wait for spring before I do that again.

So next Monday when we meet I’ll walk both paths. Did I say that after crossing each of those narrow places I imagined each as the passage over a  giant crevasse — or a mountain trek over fast running streams?

Adventures sometimes are small and gain stature in the realm of the imagination.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

One Word

     Four years ago I found my first word on the sanctuary floor. Words written on silver cardboard stars and placed facedown. My selection— random or drawn to the word. 
      Just yesterday I found a book that purported to offer a way to select one word. This word when  you follow their suggestions will alter your life.
     Yes, I’m skeptical. The first year my word— release. I did think that the word was appropriate. Yet, it’s a bit like a fortune cookie or an astrology reading. You can, without too much effort, read yourself into a word. 
     But the following year my word appeared to fit. Then the third year my word, once again—on target. On December 30th the sanctuary floor will be filled with stars and I’ll walk up and select a star without knowing the word.
                or drawn to a particular star? 

Saturday, December 01, 2018


catching up on letters
written to women i’ve 
never met who live
in places unseen
and imagined
through words
written in ink

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Let Loose

Today I taped a charcoal stick to a long branch and standing four feet away from my easel and paper I drew the still life set-up. Our instructor wanted us to use our whole body to create  gestures. After fifteen minutes we changed our spots and using a brush attached to the opposite end of the stick we used sumi ink to paint  the same still life— superimposing the second over the first. And we moved a third time.

Then we looked at everyone’s work. Four people managed to wield their implement into a tight drawing. I expect they did not hold the stick toward the end. Three people allowed the line to explore the paper. I loved the way parts were recognizable, but the lines flowed and overlapped and created a spontaneity that felt open and expansive.

I loved the playfulness— the invitation to explore a line without the constriction of needing it to follow a rigid interpretation.

Extrapolate that thought to religion, politics, dialogue.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Family Ties

That table with  legs that look like paws
belonged to my grandmother Cecilia,
my father’s mother who loved purple
and combed her hair with a tortoise comb
My grandmother Yette saved twine—
wrapping it into a ball the size of a melon
She drank tea in a glass and taught me
how to deal cards and play Pisha Pasha
My grandfather David  painted apartment
walls and once served in the Tsar’s army
My grandfather Abe owned a parrot
who  mimicked  my mother’s name
My mother copied dress patterns on brown paper
 spread out on our kitchen table
My father read history books and stories
about the Wild West and Butch Cassidy
My Aunt Rose smoked unfiltered cigarettes
and knew how to blow smoke rings
My Uncle Abe built a log cabin
and taught his sons spelunking
My cousin Bobby married  a man
who fell in love with her best friend
My cousin Cynthia’s car was hit by a truck
catapulting her one year old onto the highway
My cousin Melvin and I painted his car
with fantastical animals and graffiti
We lost our full family name on Ellis Island
when some letters were lost in translation

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

The Woman Rabbi

Wrapped in a tallit
she prayed 
the words her father
and grandfather chanted
ancient syllables
poured out
Her grandmother never
sheltered beneath a tallit
never held the fringes
never prayed the words
her husband chanted—
now we too may stand
wrapped in a tallit

Monday, November 26, 2018


pock marks and brown spots
appear as grass emerges
from an early snow 

Sunday, November 25, 2018

I Want to Say

Imagine saying everything
in a few words
No redundancy
No circumlocution
No apologies
Just words chosen 
because they carry weight

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Only a Glimmer

I’m not complaining, not grousing, or groaning— but the dark gets darker and trees lose their shape against a background that insists on turning out lights too early, but I am aware, hyper vigilant of the figures running across a road, or the headlights turned to bright, or the cyclists with  a single reflector warning me to stay awake and not mistake them for a reflector on a tree or pole rather than a moving cyclist and yet i wonder why they travel these tight lanes in deep darkness  when drivers only spot a glint, a sliver, a quick movement before they move 

Perhaps the cyclist at night feels absorbed by the dark

Friday, November 23, 2018

Day After

my neighbor hangs Christmas lights
before the turkey carcass 
Is bare

Thursday, November 22, 2018

On This Day

Happy Thanksgiving

Because our trip to California was cancelled we ended up at Legal Seafood for a delectable, but untraditional lobster, crab cake, and shrimp— shared combo. We did have squash. It must be that more and more families are eating out because the place was jammed and people just kept filling up the waiting area. I did see a few platters of a traditional feast—but most folks relished the fish dishes.

Across this country people are giving thanks, filling their plates, and taking seconds—and waiting for the pies. It is also a time to think again of people for whom Thanksgiving is a time to hopefully have a meal, collect some groceries, and wonder about the next full meal.

I can’t help but think of the 85,000 children who died of starvation in one country and the  unthinkable number of children and adults who are hungry each day. 

When I was a senior in high school my friend Sandra and I came from families that didn’t really celebrate the holiday with turkey and the fixings. My parents and her parents were second generation and my grandparents didn't really understand “ how to do” Thanksgiving. My grandmother said, “Every day is a day of thanksgiving.” 

Sandra and I wanted to eat all the fixings we saw in the magazines so we decided to go into Manhattan and find a Thanksgiving dinner. We knew that the restaurants serving a big feast were out of our price range so we looked for a small place. We found a small restaurant—serving a full Thanksgiving dinner for an exquisitely cheap price. So we stood on line with a number of folks—some were alone, a number looked as if they were homeless—a few talked to  no one in particular. Two women were serving. We paid—many didn’t—and took our plates and moved along the line. “Dark or light?” I took light meat and Sandra asked for dark. “ Gravy?” Someone else scooped mashed potatoes, squash, peas, and cranberry sauce on the plate. 

The table were set-up so that six people sat at each table—

Just before the man who talked to himself began to eat he said, “You gotta say a prayer.” A woman who said she was homeless until a week ago said, “I used to go to Catholic School and I’ll say what I remember, but it ain’t much.” A woman who looked meek and didn’t seem to lift her eyes from the plate said, “I’ll say a prayer.” I don’t recall her exact words but she thanked everyone from the farmer to the people who ladled out the food.”

Sandra said a Hebrew prayer. Then we all ate and talked to one another. We hadn’t taken any pie because it didn’t look as if there were too many pies. 

Our plates were clean and without our even noticing pie appeared. “It’s a gift from the table,” said the woman who once went to Catholic School. We tried to pay people back, but she said, “ Just say thanks.” 

And so we were thankful. We broke bread with people, prayed and gave thanks, and then were given a gift. It was a Thanksgiving with all the fixings—just like the magazine pictures.

And so Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

What We All Need


A catalogue arrived with just the type of ultimate gifts I love.

A tabletop fireplace burning “ clean bio- ethanol fuel.” Just imagine sitting at your dining room table drinking a glass of tea and staring into a flame inches away.

When you’re ready to take a shower you can turn on the water and your Surround Sound Shower System —listen to music,answer phone calls ( hands free). You may never get out of the shower.

Did you eat too much this Thanksgiving? No worries.You can purchase the Ultimate Fat Freezer—this looks like a belt with a freezer in a plastic pack attached.  It “shapes your body by destroying and dissolving fat cells.” The process is simple: you simply apply the belt with its freezer pads to those problem areas and select whether you desire a 30 or sixty minute freezer session. Stay close to an outlet—you are plugged in. Suggestion—do this in a warm room,preferably not in the dead of winter. 

If the cold is bothersome to you, you can try the Fat Reduction System. Instead of ice this system uses LED lights. The LED lights come in a Velcro belt  which you can affix around your middle, thighs, arms. Waist ( up to 51 inches). Set the timer. “The red LED light penetrates skin and opens the pores of fat cells, allowing fatty acids to burn off easier during exercise.”  This belt does require more of you than the ice belt. Your choice.

Do you play “do you remember” this season? This next gift knows that many people will recall their scouting or camp days and  the creation of s’mores over a campfire. Well, with the Electric S’mores Maker you can relive those times. “There are no flames. It uses a stainless steel electric heater to warm your marshmallows to toasty gooey perfection.” There is even a video to reacquaint and introduce how to create a s’more.

Concerned about germs. Don’t fret. Purchase  The Travel UV Sanitizing Wand which uses powerful ultraviolet light to sanitize every surface you suspect harbors germs. “Kills 99% of bacteria, including E. coli.” Visualize yourself in a store sanitizing surfaces.

Last, but far from least. Ever wondered what happened or happens to those wood boxes that held cigars? And did you ever have a yen to play American blues? If you combine the box and the yen you have The Blues Box Guitar System. It starts with a “3-string fretless cigar box guitar.” The system comes with a 32 page instruction book, a CD, and a glass slide. When I close my eyes and conjure up someone playing the blues I immediately see and hear Leadbelly. Profound. 

More catalogues will appear.
More unique can’t miss gifts to explore. Some throw back gifts and some brand new. 

AND ——Lydia E. Pinkham is alive and well. Did you know that her formula is still being manufactured? You can purchase Lydia Pinkham Herbal tablets on Amazon.


Tuesday, November 20, 2018

No, But Thank You

I’m being bombarded with requests—subscribe to this magazine—return and subscribe. Prices slashed. Offers of gift subscriptions for friends. Magazines I read years ago seem to have found my name and address. Despite a change of address they scope me out.

Most are worthwhile, but I can only subscribe to two at a time and even those I just about finish reading when the next two arrive. Perhaps one day a week needs to be set aside for magazine reading, but what about my pile of books. I’m about to set off for the Amazon. My time is limited.

And one book leads to another book—another essay or poem. You say a poem is short, but within a few words the poet encompasses the world. A good poem encourages reflection. Each word prods the reader on to explore the world within the word.

And genres. Someone suggests a genre that I don’t usually read and I’m drawn to wander in that  place. It’s a place of discovery.

So I shall ignore the pleasant requests to return and  settle down for my trek in the wilds of the Amazon. Who knows where it may lead.

Monday, November 19, 2018

This is the Season

This is the season —the season for catalogues with their array of gifts that defy reason. Years ago someone gave me a golf sized plastic tube in the shape of a golf driver. A long straw like appendage protruded from the side of the driver and this was attached to a tube within the outer tube. Fortunately directions came along with the gift.

The golfer , it stated, added a liquid to the tube inside the tube within the plastic golf driver and while playing could have a drink. Of course I thought this was absurd.

The friend who bought this ludicrous gift purchased it , and other gifts, while taking a long flight and having, I assume, nothing too read. She picked up the magazine that is usually tucked into the pocket of the seat in front of your seat—pursued the magazine and was lured into the purchases by glossy pictures and a slick sell.

I kept this item in the basement for years until we cleaned the basement and I thought of donating it to Good Will, but caught myself before proceeding and simply assigned it to trash.

By that time the friend had moved. She never did ask me if I used the gift—but I did thank her with an appropriate thank you note.