Archive for November 2011

Important Numbers To Any Generation

November 30, 2011


Important Numbers

My parents, nearly ninety, have a paper posted on the wall just above
the phone on the kitchen counter.
I typed it myself a couple of years ago.
“Important Numbers” it says, and leads off
with 911.
Below that comes the number of a saintly neighbor, then all my various phones,
my brother’s, the local GP–

On this visit, I’ve noticed a new paper–a small purple index card really–
taped up just next to the phone numbers; it reads,
scribbled in my mother’s thin hand:
“50 million – WII.
20 mill Russians
6 mill Poles
6 mill Jews.”

As my mother trudges into the kitchen
increasingly trying to catch up to
the reason she’s there this time,
her eye lands upon the purple card:

“Do you know how many people died in World War II?” she asks
expectantly.  “50 million–can you imagine that?” her voice rises in both
horror and wonder.   Her voice becomes almost strident
with deserved significance—“20 million
Russians, 6 million Poles, 6 million Jews–can you imagine it? And
that doesn’t even include the Japanese.”

(My mother, having lived a couple of years
in Japan shortly after the War, is particularly partial
to the Japanese.)

“I think it does,” I say.

“Oh yes,” she says, leaning over the jars of nuts, the foil bags
of dried fruit, the salt and pepper, to stare more deeply into the card–

“Yes,” she says quietly.  “I guess that’s right.  50 million
in all.”

P.S. Posted for Imperfect Prose for Thursdays.  in the hush of the moon

What’s Best Not To Be Caught Doing In the Stairwell (Middle-Aged Version)

November 29, 2011


Here’s an older poem for dVerse Poets Pub Open Link night and Thursday4Poets Rally, apologies to those who’ve seen it before.  (The drawing at least is new.)

In the Stairwell

Descending the building’s stairs, she tests her breast,
fumbling beneath her bra to get to skin,
palpating (as they say) but in a mess
of here and there and not all within
the confines of an organized exam.
Silly to do it here, not time or place,
someone else might come, have to move her hand,
and yet fear seems to justify the race,
as if by checking each time it crosses mind,
especially checking fast, she can avoid
ever finding anything of the kind
that should not be found.  And so, devoid
of caution, but full of care nonetheless,
she steps slowly down the stairs, feeling her breast.
PS – A version of this and other poems can be found in my poetry book on Amazon called “Going on Somewhere.”  But, for real fun, check out my new teen novel, NOSE DIVE (written by Karin Gustafson, illustrated by the wonderful Jonathan Segal.)

A Shameless Plug on Cyber Monday–NOSE DIVE

November 28, 2011

I am somebody who generally finds the holiday gilding of the overconsumption lily both unsettling and unseemly.   Patagonia, to its credit, posted an ad today, Cyber Monday, urging customers NOT to buy one of its most popular jackets, because of its heavy environmental cost.  (This, by the way, is a jacket that is made of 60% recycled materials.)

But I am making an exception in the last eight minutes of this online shopping day to make a shameless plug for my new novel.  It’s called NOSE DIVE and is a comic teen mystery set in downtown New York City.

The book has some very silly, but (I hope) fun, elements–Broadway show tunes, phone sex, gouda cheese.  The illustrations and cover by Jonathan Segal are especially wonderful.

So, check it out.  It’s available in paperback on Amazon, and will soon also be on kindle.   (Which means that even if you want to save trees, you can buy one.)

Yes, it’s for teens, but anyone who (i) likes music, (ii) has felt unhappy with their looks, and (iii) has had a friend in a tight spot should find something to relate to.

And it makes a great gift!

MagPie Tales 93 – “When The Couch Was Saved”

November 27, 2011


Here’s a piece for Magpie Tales 93, a writer’s blog hosted by Tess Kincaid, and also GooseberryGoesPoetic.  I have made my version of Tess’s photographic prompt above. The first piece I did for the prompt was about “Hello Dolly!”, but then I started thinking of Novembers in years past, and ended up with the piece below.

When the Couch, at least, was Saved 

It was a time in which couches were saved for company,
their cushions, if not under actual wraps, under threat of maternal bemoan.

It was an age of short white gloves for Sunday School, and
a brand new outfit at Easter–hats with brims if a child, a prim
round edge, if not.

It was a period when the National Anthem was played in movie theaters, and we would stand, conscious, in the projected ripple of stars and stripes on the screen and the echoing thrill in our chests, of the seats at the backs of our knees, the brush of velvet cushion, the chill of metal frame.

It was a day when we parked at McDonalds, its arches like a movie theater too, and from the radio of our white-finned Olds, heard the news about Jack Ruby and his sawed-off shotgun in Dallas.

It was a day we had spent much of standing, down at the Capital, in grieving awe at the jagged prance of the dark riderless horse, the turned-back polished boots.

The news of Ruby, Oswald dead, hit like a third anvil, an odd blank thud on the already crushed. My mother leaned from the car door as if sick, “what in God’s name is happening to this country?”

It was a whisper she would repeat several times over the next few years as we sat on the living room floor before the ultraviolet of aging TV, my mom in a kitchen chair (the couch still saved for company), praying for someone we had loved from afar not to have been shot, or at least, not to die, watching too the riderless wave of what came next and next and next, a velvet place in our aching chests more and more conscious of metal.



Poetics Prompt- Wild Poem – “Kali”

November 26, 2011


I’ve posted this for DVerse Poets Pub “poetics” prompt “wild” and Gooseberry Garden’s poetry picnic.  It’s an older poem about the Indian Goddess, Kali.  Kali is a  Goddess of Destruction, often depicted in a fairly violent, i.e. wild form,  but it is my understanding that this destructive force is also an energy that can be channeled in a protective manner–against obstacles!  Blocks!   Enemies!  (She seems to me to be kind of like a life coach mother bear.)  At any rate, here’s my effort and a new iPad drawing above.


Dear Kali, you are my favorite goddess.
It is your krazy hair,
and all those men that you wear
at your waist.
It is the way that you waste
them with your big mouth,
that you break them in two with your teeth, 
that you bear down hard.

Dear Kali, you are my favorite goddess.
It is the way that you slit,
the way that you split,
the way that you pit
them against each other, heads against heads,
and that sharp spear that you hold
in your hand.

Dear Kali, you are my favorite goddess.
Make me your third eye.
Make me the clasp at your waist.
Give me the weight of fifty men, the hook of the chain.
Dear Kali, you are my favorite.

(PS the poem is in a collection of my work GOING ON SOMEWHERE available on Amazon.)

(PPS – I’m so sorry that I’ve not been in a good position to return comments the last few days.  Thanks to all who’ve commented.  I will get back to your work.)

Another Flash 55– An Angle of Sleep

November 25, 2011


Here’s another Flash 55.  (55 words seems to be my limit these days.)   (Tell it to the G-Man.)

An Angle of Sleep

Night spent in a hospital chair is a tired next day.

Though you are amazed as head shifts from hand to forearm, guard rail to startled and alert, that you have slept, and, as staff shifts too, that you don’t feel bad.

Of course, it also depends on how the person in the bed feels.

A Flash 55 of Thanks

November 24, 2011


Here is a poem for Thanksgiving–dVerse Poets Pub prompt on what one is thankful for, and also, since it is 55 words, for the G-man, Friday Flash 55.

The Luck (and thanks) that come with Parenthood

What I am thankful for:
First, this birth.
(Second, their births.)
The resulting constitution–one that
Can accommodate
The sickness of babes, also of
The old; that, when faced with a dog’s
Tick, pulls it out; reaches into a blocked drain;
Cries readily, laughs quicker, allows
Itself to dance. How
Did I get so

Not so thankful for injected juices–pre-meal moan.

November 24, 2011


Oh for the days when turkeys were not shot up after their miserable overcrowded deaths.

Oh for the days when the cook would rub her sweaty brow through hours of desperate braising,

Oh for the days when everyone sat around reassuring the braised cook that the turkey really wasn’t awfully dry and, um, could they have a little more gravy.

Oh for the days pre-pre-injected juices.


November 23, 2011


A crazy day during a week in which it seemed that nothing further could go wrong.

But nothing further did go wrong, and much went better.

And here I am–suddenly aware of how lucky I am for the day, the week, for Time itself.

With all those people around me and all of you.


Thanks so much.

Ps– I do not, however, have wifi at the moment so posted from magical iPhone.

Have a great Thanksgiving.

Same Strokes, Slightly Different Folks. (“Buddha Hands”)

November 22, 2011


Last week, as part of the dVerse Poets Pub Poetics prompt, I posted a poem on the theme of “change,” which spoke of mothers stroking heads.  I was struck by how many commenters mentioned their memories of this experience.   This brought me to re-write an earlier poem (posted as a draft some time ago) about the same subject,  but with a slightly different take.

Buddha Hands

My mother was a demanding child,
“right now,” her favorite phrase, though
her father egged her on, she says, liking
to see her get a rise
out of her own mother, a tease.

“Terrible,” she says, and I picture
her father, whom I don’t truly remember,
as a man with bits and pieces
of her same face–
determined nose, staunch forehead,
bead eyes.

Yet, when she was tired, my mother goes on,
her mother (to whom she could be so ornery) would let her
put her head upon her lap, and, without mention of
the day’s spat, gently
wipe back her hair.

It felt so good,
my mother sighs, that now, nearly 90,
she sometimes wipes her own hair
back in just that way,
and, as she stands
before me, she palms
the grey strands from the still dark
widow’s peak, again
and again.

And I think, watching the path
of her palm,
how she used to do exactly
the same to me: how, in the back seat of a long drive,
where no tasks could be tended, my pointed
busy mother stroked my head.

I suddenly think  too
of Buddha hands,
a temple market in Mandalay,
where they were lined up–spare parts–
the loose stares of single eyes on the
shelf above–
tapered wooden fingers
flaked with gilt–

And I know, standing before that far counter,
and lying in the seat of that ghost car, that if ever
there were such a thing on this
Earth as freedom from suffering, freedom
from desire,
it could be found (for me at least), in that space
upon my forehead where my mother, her mother too,
ran their hands–
without grasping,
without clinging, without even
holding on.

(P.S.  I’ve edited this poem some since first posting–really just the beginning.)