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.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

An Early Friends-Giving

It’s a Potluck
Just bring what you want
No instructions given
First came the appetizers
Cheese — soft, hard, crumbly,
cranberry laden
Round crackers, square crackers,
even octagonal crackers
Cheese, and salsa and bean dip
for chips and Tostitos
Brie and fig dip
Small canapés, nuts,  little pickles
Green and black olives
Out came  the casserole recipes
Some passed down—
through generations
A medley of gratin dishes
Rice and quinoa dishes
Of course meatballs bubbling
 in a sweet and sour sauce
A quiche next to sliced turkey
A resurrected string bean and
mushroom soup dish
A macaroni and cheese dish
One salad and two roasted vegetable
dishes— a healthy option
And I ate it all, a bit of this
And a smidgen of that

Saturday, November 17, 2018

On a Cold Day

           One wants a room with no view,
            so imagination can meet memory in the dark.
                 —Annie Dillard

Facing the wall I am not distracted by an occasional bird or a squirrel’s  frantic behavior. Our early snow upsets. I don’t notice the rare car on the street and I can’t fret over the bush that refuses to grow.  Nor do I count the dog walkers and their charges— nor the mailman carrying catalogues promising me radiant skin,  kitchen gadgets guaranteed to cut my preparation time, offers of delicacies sent through the mail each month, or a plethora of credit card applications.

My wall is not empty, but it isn’t moving —drawing me in —encouraging me to wonder about  comings and goings. Instead I stare at one hundred colored pencils set in a three tier wood stand. Each pencil in its spot waiting to be called upon.

If it is too quiet I find the noise of silence intrusive. It fills up the space. But too much noise distracts. Memory, for me, happens when I see or hear something that is a reminder, an echo that feels familiar. It also happens when I count backwards.

Friday, November 16, 2018

A Habitual Ritual

Tonight we ate at a new restaurant— different waitpeople, new menu. The waitress at ‘99’ discusses basketball and baseball with us. We know she goes to spring training, still harbors a grudge against David Price, and thinks the Celtics will put it together.

At our favorite Vietnamese restaurant they know we don’t use chop sticks and at our favored Thai restaurant they are pretty sure I’ll order Sweet and Sour with shrimp.

And so it goes. Almost every week we go out to eat with two friends and have a rotating list of local restaurants. It’s a ritual— bottle of Chardonnay— “We’ll pour it.” And Pat and I meticulously pour an identical amount in each of the four glasses. Some restaurants we always order salmon— they get rare and we get medium well done.

It’s like a ritual— we always catch up on books, some political tidbits, and bits and pieces of news. Tonight I brought up the two men attempting to cross Antarctica— each one going solo. Sometimes we talk about past times.

Some discovered things— some restaurants are more conducive to conversation than other restaurants. The noise level in our favorite seafood restaurant is almost as loud as the movie previews in a theater.

An aside— the meal in the new restaurant was delicious — the waiter made an excellent suggestion and we don’t know his favorite sports team.

We stayed away from politics because it’s better for digestion.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

And So it Begins

It’s here
Silent, determined,
Each flake unique—
Snow covers the bare
grass spots, the rocks
brought home from Maine,
a mum plant, a sign
planted in the front lawn—
and a bag filled with leaves,
a reminder of warmth

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Tomorrow It Begins

We heard the word snow—
 a nor’ easter tomorrow
and we went into winter readiness
The peacock standing guard
on the front step, another peacock
with painted metal feathers,
a three-foot painted fish
we bought in Maine—all placed
inside a deck storage box
We moved some of the outside  inside—
a pancake stack of chairs
A table covered with a tarp
moved away from stiff winds
Snow poles forced
in an almost frozen ground
Final leaves collected,
stuffed into a bag
We’re ready

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Good Luck

I am immersed in yet another story about intrepid Antarctica explorers. What internal force motivates an individual to push themselves to the point of physical exhaustion in a hostile environment? So many want to be the first to solo walk across Antarctica. Shackleton tried and failed only ninety- seven miles away from the South Pole. But his trip was with three other men.

David Grann’s Book The White Darkness related the story of Henry Worsley who wanted to be the first person to walk across the Antarctica continent— solo. He never made it and was rescued, but died in the hospital.

In 2017 Ben Saunders failed when he ran out of enough food to finish the trip and made the safe decision to abandon his quest.

And now not one , but two men have undertaken the journey to cross Antarctica solo and unsupported. One American and one British. They are not traveling together and started off ten miles apart. In a way it is also a race. They both are dragging sleds weighing about 375 pounds.

In order for this to be a truly solo trip they cannot accept any assistance— “ not so much as  a cup of tea from researchers at the renowned Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station as they pass by.”

Everything they need —packed on the sled.
They will also need stamina and a bit of help from the weather. Too many whiteout days and their food supply will diminish.

Armchair explorers will follow in their footsteps— via updates.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Just Another Day

I am beyond appalled when I read and hear blatant hate
I am beyond incredulous by the heroism of some
I am saddened by the lives lost to raging fires
I am angered by the lives lost in senseless massacres
I agree with the mother grieving over the death of her son
She said no more prayers. Gun control.
I am embarrassed by a president who didn’t honor veterans
I am tired of his lies
And I am confounded by those who believe the lies
or worse yet don’t care
I am not going to keep quiet

Sunday, November 11, 2018

A Sunday Morning

When the people sing
Their music
a prayer,
a  blessing
My  silent voice
unable to find the melody
soars with muted words
In silence
my voice
into the one voice
as I praise
and pray
This too is a blessing

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Move Over

Before the bookshelves bulged
with poetry, several Bibles,
commentaries and a few fiction books
they held my collection of early
mysteries, fiction, and an occasional
volume of critical literary analysis
But when my wall space shrunk
I asked each book if I could live
with it on a public library shelf
The mysteries went, critical criticism
disappeared, and only the fiction
I intended to read again stayed
But every poetry book remained
Poems grow with you, each reading
uncovers more, layers upon layer,
every pause, each breath another
place to wander, and every reading
another engagement

Friday, November 09, 2018

Someone Hears You

           ...we collide with the people we need
                     —Megan Miranda

Don’t look now 
cause maybe it’s bare
Then just hang around
and maybe out there 
behind a window or sauntering
maybe even sashaying 
or right next to you while you wait
for a train, or on some line
that’s too long and too slow
Look around
cause somebody out there
just can tell what words
you need to say
And just maybe that person
is someone who hears
those words that hang
quiet in your soul

Thursday, November 08, 2018

Another Mass Shooting

Again another mass shooting. We barely get over the previous shooting and the headlines once again speak of lives lost. Over this past year— so many names, snippets of their lives, friends and relatives statements, make shift commemorations of lives lost. A gathering of flowers, stuffed animals, prayers, mementoes— survivors retelling stories, tears, and moments of silence.

In a few days we will vicariously stand outside with the mourners and watch long black limos. Each newscast will show the same clips until we are numb.

There will be stories about the shooter or shooters. We won’t understand what motivated them, but there will be one common denominator— they all used guns, often assault weapons.

The same groups will demand action and the same groups will offer prayers and a moment of silence for the victims.

Human interest stories will proliferate and reporters will converge on the area.

Within days another story will push its way into the headlines. And nothing will happen with sensible gun control. And nothing will happen.

Here we go round the mulberry bush, the mulberry bush.

This is not a conundrum that has no solution. Start with universal background checks and the banning of assault weapons. Start anywhere and move forward. I am tired of reading the bios of those who died or were seriously maimed. I am tired of excuses and of politicians who rely on the blood money from the NRA.

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

Finding Depth

Behind every drawn line, 
each shaded area
Behind each line of poetry 
each sentence of prose, 
an interpretation
—a fingerprint
Words without meaning 
—merely babble without a soul 
Paintings without undercurrents
—a child’s finger painting 

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Armchair Traveler

A friend told me she will be in Patagonia 
I shall tell her of my trip to the South Pole 
pulling a three hundred pound sled—
a solo trip in minus 40 degree temperature 
The cold bites my breath. While she beds down I
shall open my tent and dream
of a hot shower and clean sheets
Traveling through the pages of a book—
I’ve been down the Nile, crossed deserts,
roamed through caves, listened to 
the roar of oceans, climbed the highest peaks, 
even collected rare orchids  in a primal swamp
Instead of a stamped passport I write
the name of where I’ve been in a lined journal

Monday, November 05, 2018

The Day We Vote

tomorrow brings both trepidation and possible redemption

do we wake up to a congress that can apply some breaks or do we embark on another two years of government  gone amok

do we experience our country plummeting into a hole supported by a scaffold constructed of lies and fears or do we get some breathing room

tomorrow we will learn if a man who would be emperor has cajoled, lied, fooled and convinced his followers to elect toadies to positions of importance

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Reading for a Lifetime

I admit to a insidious weakness—one that eats away time and often has no real value. Whenever I read about a challenge—reading or writing and sometimes art—I am drawn as if by some magnetic force to enter. These challenges are not for any renumeration or, most often, not for a badge or trophy. Although I did get a paper certificate when I completed my 50,000 word novel during the November Write a Novel Month. That was in 2012. I am once again partaking in this spewing of words on a page marathon.

But today when I was at the library picking up a book  I stopped to look at the new non- fiction books. There it was. The ultimate challenge to any reader. 1000 Books to Read Before You Die.

Perhaps this is a way to extend your life way beyond your statistical life expectancy. Then again, if you seriously embarked upon this ultimate reading challenge it would mean reading books you have studiously avoided your entire life.

It reminded me of Nina Sankovitch who read a book a day for a year and wrote a review for each book. She did this while taking time out to ferry her children to their activities and  cooking and whatever else falls on the shoulders of wife and mother.Now that’s a commitment. Her year eventually became a book: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair— a year of magical reading.

So I took out this tome which not only includes his list but also fairly detailed details about each author and a synopsis of the book he has on the list. It’s either a labor of love or a way to direct an obsessive character trait. 

No, I am not about to start on page one, but I am willing to peruse the book and find some books that are not the usual selections of what ever educated person must or should read.

I opened the book to a random page and there was Philip Dick staring at me. ( I’m famiar with Philip, but never read any of his books.) I do so like a photo. And there was a line that caught my attention: “His powerfully paranoid, surreal, and gnostic tableaux are invoked by journalists, conspiracy theorists, and hipsters alike.”James Mustich, the author of this fascinating book, also includes when the book was written, awards won, any adaptations, and further readings. 

After reading about the three books listed I do believe I shall pick up The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch. What a incredible title. This book contains “ sassy cybernetic constructs”. I’m not sure I know what those are, but what can I lose. 

This book may be the lost treasure trove of delight. I wonder if it’s available on kindle. Now if I read one book he suggests every month...

How long is Proust’s In Search of Lost Time?


Saturday, November 03, 2018

Solidarity Shabbat

Last night worshippers in synagogues across this country , in big cities and small towns, literally saw the support of their neighbors. Solidarity Shabbat gave voice to those who eschew a hateful and destructive anti-semitism that demeans all of us. 

I can’t speak about how arrangements were made in other small towns, but in one town two ministers spearheaded an effort to get people out and to make sure that as many people as possible knew about the vigil. Other religious leaders in the town made announcements to their congregations. 

Last night about eighty people showed up. We held candles and stood in such a way that the congregants walked through a pathway of lights. We sang songs. As the congregants walked in they thanked people—moved by those who stood with their candles and songs.

Because the rabbi invited us all in for services we went—hardly anyone left. We sat outside the sanctuary in a foyer because there were no more available seats. Our chairs faced the sanctuary and a loud speaker system allowed us to take part. Synagogue members handed out  Siddurs. 

When the rabbi gave his sermon he spoke about anti-semitism and the Tree of Life synagogue murders, but he also spoke about the  racial discrimination and the horrific acts —both individual and group—that have been perpetrated on the African American community. He spoke of the nine parishioners murdered at a Bible study by a white nationalist. He spoke about the Muslim community and how individuals have been targeted and mosques having to deal with threats. He spoke of the gay and lesbian and trans community and the violence perpetrated on that community. Who can forget the Pulse nightclub massacre? 

He also told all of us that we needed to do more. We needed to be welcoming to the other, to the immigrant, to those who are the targets of hate.

It was a spirited sermon and a call for both communal grieving and action. Showing up is one action.

Showing up is action. Across this country people showed up for Solidarity Shabbat. That’s a step.

Friday, November 02, 2018

A Few Words

My father’s mother lit 
two Shabbat candles
and prayed
as she held her hands
in front of her eyes
The challah she cooked
and braided the day before
remained on the dining room table
until my grandfather chanted
an ancient prayer over the bread
My mother never lit candles
or bought challah for the Sabbath
I don’t light candles
but each morning I silently
recite a Hebrew blessing
to begin the day

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Slow Down

Tomorrow is International Fountain Pen Day. Perhaps this is not important to those folks who long ago switched over to ball points or roller pens. But if you’re an aficionado of pens— if you own a pen case for your pens, know your inks and can talk about ink flow this is an important day. It was in 1827 when Petrache Poenaru received a patent to develop the first fountain pen—so that he could take notes faster without dipping and dipping his quill.

I love pens and discovered that one pen to a pen enthusiast is not enough. One leads to two and then it keeps going. Did I really need the pen with dragon decorations on the barrel? Or how about ink? My latest color— Oxblood Red. 

Some pens are designated as drawing pens and some letter writing pens. Twice a year pen lovers have an opportunity to exchange letters with other pen lovers. For the past six months I’ve been corresponding with five people I’ve never met. One lives on the west coast of Australia and the other four are in the western states. We don’t discuss politics. One woman dropped me when I referred to my wife. One woman who teaches American Lit at a college in South Dakota is originally from Chicago and is chafing under the constraints imposed upon her by a “ puritanical” vision. We share comments about literature.

One correspondent lives in a small town in Wyoming and writes poetry that grows out of that scenery. We all spend the extra twenty-one cents to use a wax seal which requires hand stamping. 

Writing with a pen slows down the world— no electronics. No one telling you of a spelling error. You are on your own. No hidden spelling wizard to help out. This is pull yourself by your own bootstraps.