Archive for October 2016


October 27, 2016



I call her earlier than normal, mid-day, to tell her we’ve not been hurt in the explosion.

I can tell when she answers that she’s been awake, though her voice still wears sleep like a nightgown,

but, before I can deliver my news, keep her from worrying–

“tell me,” she asks, “is our family all dead?”

I walk out to the porch, sit in a dilapidated rocking chair. It is the rocking chair where I nursed my first child, though, of course, it was indoors then, Brooklyn.

I want to say, Mom!  Mom, are you okay!? But her voice is too subdued, serious, for me to remonstrate.

“Do you mean your family?” I ask at last.

“Yes, you know–” She names a sister, brother.

“Yes,” I say, “yes, they are.”

She is quiet.  Then talks of how that was what she thought, how she realized that she hadn’t heard from them. “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”

I tell her that for some, it has been many years–”how, you know, they smoked.”

She admits, one of the first times ever, that her memory’s just not so good anymore.

Though I can be hard as nails against her bragging, I dispute that. I tell her how she couldn’t get to some of the funerals, how, because she took such incredible care of my dad back then, she just couldn’t travel.  No wonder the deaths might not seem very real, I say.

She thanks me for going through it all.

I don’t usually rock this chair, the cushion completely shot, but feeling now the edge of the board at my thigh, I rock, as I tell her about New York City, the homemade bomb, how she will hear of it on TV,

but how none of us was even there this weekend, how, thankfully, no one died–

“Oh yes,” she says. (She thinks she did see something.)  “Oh good,” she says. “Thanks
for letting me know.”

As we talk, I think of how her dearest sister died the day my first child was born, how my mother went from one hospital to another, how that was a funeral that I couldn’t make, what with the baby.

I think of how she’d complained, later, about the pink gown they’d dressed her sister in, her sister who would never have been seen in such a pink gown, she said, her sister who worked out in the world, her sister, who, whenever she dressed up, would wear a suit–

the gown as real to me in that instant as if I had been there, my aunt’s still, pale, face above its folds. I want to say, “You remember, right?  That pink gown?”

But I can’t do that to her, even if it would trigger something, her sister–


Draft short story of sorts for Real Toads Open Link.  Pic is of a sculpture made of foil, cardboard, by Jason Martin.  

Even the Wind

October 23, 2016


Even the Wind

I held you so close
that even the wind could not blow
between us
and any other blow
was fended by my back–

but in the end, it was going
you wanted–
a driven flow to somewhere air,
a flight of what felt
like wild lightness–

oh, my back bent then


A poem of sorts posted very belatedly for the wonderful Kerry O’Connor’’s prompt on Real Toads to write a poem stemming from some lyrics of Bob Dylan, recently awarded the Nobel prize for literature (although I don’t think he’s yet acknowledged it.) 

The pic, which is unedited, doesn’t really relate to the poem, but I just really like it!  All rights reserved. 

More Reasons Why I’m With Her–Mom, Me, Moon

October 16, 2016


My mother, not believing that anyone would ever want to marry her, had two choices as a young girl.

I call them “choices”–I should say that she had two dreams.  Only they weren’t actually “dreams”–simply her view of best possible outcomes.

One was to be a teacher, the other a nurse.

My mother was born in the U.S. to an extremely Northern European family that could not “be having with” bodies, so she opted, eventually, for teacher.

Pay attention to the “eventually.”  Long before she could dream of (or, accept) becoming a teacher, her father wanted her to be a hired girl.

A hired girl back in the 1930‘s was someone who basically did dishes–that is, drew, carried and heated water for dishes, made things to be put on dishes, cleaned up what resulted from things put on dishes. Hired girls usually lived in someone else’s house so that they could work just about any time of day (as in, all hours of the–.)

Not that my grandfather thought his daughter could not manage becoming a teacher or nurse–she was the valedictorian of her high school–he just thought she should take the first paying job she could get; being a hired girl had the added bonus of also providing for her keep.

But my mother persisted–and to my grandfather’s credit, he let her persist–and World War II served as a stepping stone out of hired girldom, allowing her, under its heavy cloud, to take on greater variety of work than ever previously available to women.  Her burning desire to visit California turned, oddly, not into a trip to California, but into a job with the U.S. occupation force in Yokohama, Japan where she lived from 1947-1949.

On her return to the U.S., there were her same choices once again–teacher/nurse–and–oh yes–typist. Ironically, after earning (and personally paying for) her college degree, her career dream was to become a typist with the U.S. foreign service. But by that time, amazingly to her, she had found someone to marry her, someone she loved;  being a married woman in the U.S. foreign service was simply not a “go”.

My mother was not a born teacher. She cared deeply about helping kids learn and she worked extremely hard–but she did not have the gift of maintaining control of a class. This meant that teaching (often with 32 or 33 in a room) could be a nightmare (as in, she sometimes cried at night.) Still, she kept at it for thirty years.

Did I mention that in the first full year of my life she had to pretend that I didn’t exist? This, because of a law in Maryland at that time, which automatically reduced a teacher’s pay to substitute’s rates (i.e. maybe two-thirds) if she had a child at home below the age of one.

After that first year in hiding, I had many more choices than my mother, in part because her second salary in our household helped pay for my good education.

But, unlike the male members of my family, I simply did not have what it took to pursue the careers of my heart. How much did this relate to my being a woman? All I know for certain is that I just didn’t have the ego, confidence, self-esteem, or just plain selfishness, to reach for my wishes.  As in the case of my mother, my dreams felt like the moon to me–not because I wasn’t talented enough, but because I wasn’t somehow cool enough, hip enough, deserving enough–qualities that seemed especially important in a girl reaching for the moon.  Because the jobs I needed to take to support myself while I aimed for the moon–i.e. being a waitress to support myself while trying to make it as a writer–exposed me at times to a kind of dismissive treatment from the world that my weak ego just couldn’t stomach.

Then, finally, there was the guilt. My mother really wanted me to to have a clearly defined way of earning a good wage–i.e. “something to fall back on.”  I couldn’t bear to disappoint her.

So rather than become a hired girl, I became a lawyer (a “hired gun” as some used to call it.)  Only it turned out being an attorney is not something you actually fall back on, but rather it is a job you actively need to pursue many hours of the day.

Many things about this choice have been heart-wrenching; yet it also turned out to be extremely fortunate. Because, like many women of my generation, I ended up unexpectedly and for years as the primary source of my children’s support.  (Making me, in other words, very glad to have the steady wage my mother pushed me towards.)

I want to say this first:  I am so grateful to my employers for the jobs I’ve had. There are too many men and women both who have no chance of any good job; too many men and women who don’t even consider fulfilling a dream, too many men and women who, even working night and day, cannot provide for their children.

My complaint is just that there are so many many many women in the non-dream boat–women holding the bag, women raising the kids, women holding the bag and raising the kids. There are so many women, who have so few choices in how they make their living, only knowing that they better hurry up and get busy at it.

Of course, there are men in this situation too.  Many obstacles in life are not gender-based.  Yet the fact remains that in the U.S. and the world, the majority of those living in poverty are women and children.  (The non-dream boat isn’t exactly a life boat, even if one feels stuck in it for life.) This is not because of women’s liberation–women have not “empowered” themselves into lives in poverty–( women’s liberation did not begin in a context in which women had control over their economic and personal lives)–rather, it is because of all kinds of worldwide economic and societal factors.

I am convinced, based on her lifelong career, that Hillary Clinton cares for these women.  I am not saying that she gives preference to women and their work and dreams over the work and dreams of men.  But she understands the special challenges that women face based upon our history and the reality of our present, and she understands that in much of the greater world, especially, helping women to some share of economic power must be a priority.

My own (albeit lucky) history makes my support of HRC extremely personal.  Because mixed in with my devotion to Hillary is my devotion to my mother, my devotion to mother’s sister (who worked for over forty years as a dietician, which then was like a non-body-touching nurse), my devotion to one of my mother’s other sisters (a stay-at-home mom who taught briefly and thereafter seemed to yearn almost desperately for some income of her own), and then to my mother’s other sister (who was brain-damaged and, though beloved, the reason my mother believed that no one in that eugenics-prone age would ever marry any of them)—-

Mixed in with my devotion to Hillary is my devotion to all the wonderful teachers and nurses, I have known, the secretaries and waitresses —

my devotion to my Dad (a scientist), my husband (a nature lover),
and, most strongly, my devotion to my daughters, who may not get the jobs of their dreams but at least are strong enough to choose fields based on their vocations and not their gender–

and to my baby granddaughter, who, every time she sees me, says moon, pointing up–


October 15, 2016


I am inspired by Michelle Obama to do more.

Yes, I’ve felt sick to my stomach, but that’s not a reason to stick to the sidelines

It’s not just the Billy Bush/Donald Trump bus tape –though, like Michelle, that has shaken me to my core. (If you have ever been prey to a person who’s tried to use money, power, body weight. and your learned compliance against you–and I think there are a whole lot of women who have had had this experience–it’s pretty hard not to feel sickened–)

Though I was fed up to Trump before the surfacing of his “sex” tape. His much-voiced wish for stretchers for protesters (especially if they areAfrican American or Latino)–was enough for me–

But what’s making me particularly sick and worried right now is that the sordidness of this election will just turn people off.  What I fear is that the ickiness of Trump and the stickiness of his smears are making some people feel like simply stepping away, as if voting will somehow sully their hands, as if pressing that little lever for either deciding choice will stain them.

There is nothing farther from the truth.  First, the two candidates are NOT the same.  Donald Trump is a bullying serial liar whose attention span appears to be limited to 150 characters.  Hillary is an intensely hard worker, who studies the issues, tries to understand various sides of a question, is knowledgeable about history and geography, social conditions, science and policy–

“Hang the b—-” Trump supporters yell.  “Lock her up.”

This is unheard of in a democracy; this is not a joke.

It feels especially sickening that Trump and his supporters trumpet their threats at a woman in this manner.  (Trump literally sics his supporters on!)  This is not about a side show of emails.  This is not about a speech at Goldman Sachs.  Rather this smacks to me of  “how dare SHE?”

As in, how dare SHE be smart and SHOW that SHE is smart?

How dare SHE stand up to insult and abuse?  How dare SHE transcend personal humiliation?

How dare SHE answer back with sense and factual support?  (Or, omg, complexity!)

How dare SHE be ambitious?  How dare SHE be successful? How dare SHE be inclusive?  How dare SHE even smile like that when we are talking to her?

(We’ll put her in her place!)

I am another SHE and I am frankly astounded by Hillary’s bravery.  (The effrontery of it!)   She has taken so much bullying and sullying, and still, she listens to what others have to say, and still she speaks out on their and our behalf, and still she stands straight and calm and ready to move ahead–

Come on, people, we can’t just sit this one out.  Your vote is one certain way to make a difference.  Not voting does not absolve you from an outcome, nor will it safeguard you from the election’s results.  Make it count.


Here’s another piece pro-Hillary.  I am so upset by the election–not sure what I can do to help Hillary’s side, but I do mean to start at least posting some of things I’ve been thinking. Even if they have no effect or are in an echo-chamber, etc. etc. they make me feel better. 

PS – thank you, Michelle Obama, for wonderful speech in NH.  I spent a long time today trying to do a picture of Michelle!  Nothing could convey her life force and grace.  Oh well!  


Why We Have to Just Keep Trying

October 10, 2016


Why We Have to Just Keep Trying

I’m wondering if what’s iron in us rusts,
I’m wondering if what won’t contract just busts

in that cold
we can’t old away.

I think of my grandmother’s heavy hand-cranked pump
stumped in the yard,
how it groaned with each new use, rained
what first seemed stained
with blood, till it gushed a flood, aglow with those stars that flow
even in ground water.



A very drafty drafty poem for Kerry O’Connor’s micro-poem (ten line) challenge with a theme of rust and gold on With Real Toads.   Pic is mine.   


After Hearing the Tape (Trump/Billy Bush)

October 8, 2016

IMG_3344 copy


After hearing the tape (Trump/Billy Bush)

The story I don’t want to write tonight is a story of laying on a bathroom floor of white and black square tiles that float above a spine that connects to the hard shiver of even my finger bone, but not to the throb of those soft spots that I am pretty sure were also once me.

The bathtub is one of those old-fashioned ones with feet that they call clawed, only truly, they are cold painted iron, only they feel by my ears like one more thing calling me stupid, part of that black and white right-angled roar.

Almost every woman has been subject to some level of sexual assault; many of those women have been told (even if only by  inhaled cultural assumptions) that it was her fault.  This is particularly the case of women who were conditioned (i) to be pleasing and (ii) to use whatever looks (and complaisance) they had as part of their currency to negotiate the world.

Men like Donald Trump rely on relative wealth and power to push such women around, to take advantage of them, knowing that the women’s own concern for negative consequences made up of the feeling (self-abdicating) that it was all her fault, the feeling (true) that it happens to everyone, the feeling (sensible) that she will be smeared if she complains, the feeling in those cases where the woman continues some skewed and toxic relationship with the attacker that she should at least try to get some good out of the situation–some job, some economic benefit, some absorbed power, maybe even some form of turned tables–

An ego is a delicate thing.  Women’s egos probably shatter a lot more frequently than glass ceilings.  It can be hard to see clearly through all those cracks in self-esteem and self-worth.  But this much we’ve got to be able to see–we cannot elect someone like this to national office.

One more of the many reasons I’m with her.


Sorry for those that hate political posts.  This election is obviously very important to me so I feel compelled to use whatever forum I have. 

In October 2016

October 7, 2016


In October 2016

The costume I’ve too long worn: compliance.

Once on an Indian train, in the creak
of mustard-dust plain, a student trying to find
some laudable use
for the 18 hours,  I asked the man across
the best quality in a woman.

He replied without beat/blink:  “submission.”

I’ve worn mine Western style, pulling
at the belt loops, bra droops, specializing
in bowed uplift.


Poem of sorts for Mama Zen’s prompt on Real Toads to write about the Halloween costume we may wear this year in 65 words or less.  Perhaps with more words I would have written of non-compliance!  The pic is mine from the Pergamon exhibit that was at the Metropolitan Museum in New York earlier this year. 



On Hearing of his Suicide (New York City Story)

October 1, 2016


On Hearing of his Suicide  (New York City Story)

She wondered if she’d have seen
the depression
had she known his name wasn’t actually
(that, only some
Americanized version.)

As it was, she’d always imagined
a teen mom in Eastern Europe,
loving some dream tenderly
as she danced with her two-stepping toddler,
his eyes even then
darkly circled, brow somehow
weighed down.



55 drafty words for Kerry O’Connor’s prompt on Real Toads.  Sadness felt too on hearing this news about a young man I did not know well.