Five Poems


The back way home, no ground lights compete
with the Milky Way; or the amble of possum eyes
in my headlights; or the peepers, like disembodied
hands, stroking across the asphalt.

No one’s brake lights ahead,
with their stop and stop,
no high beams blinding me
from my rearview mirror—

at last, in no one’s way,
to more deeply take the curves, drive
both the coming left and going
right of the road,

in stretches to close my eyes,
feel the yaw and list of the car—
my larger body. At the crossroads
before the turn

into the one-lane tunnel
under the abandoned Erie line,
(although no one has been for miles,
nor likely to be), I brake for the Stop—

look left into the dark and right
up the hill where no one's approach
illuminates old power lines
into long, silver, bunting droops—

and turn my signal on . . .
so much for paying attention.
My what’s-next, what’s-next is
SOSing a sky so transparent

it transports my small
pulsing as if it were the
infinite spread of novas.
Beyond our daily traffic and gridlocks,

what do we have, waiting on this earth,
but our own red lights throbbing
in our rearview mirrors? Gold lights
striking at macadam ahead?

That it should come to me, like this,
staring out at my cockeyed beams,
that God enough and love are
someone to follow or be followed by . . .


First, you are outnumbered: three to ten of them—

one of you. Each leans on your vita
as if it were a place mat. You wear
an interview suit: starched labels
fidget from your coccyx to your knotted neck.
They sit you in the preheated depressions
of another candidate’s nervousness
and swirl your mind into a soup of names
you could never remember, bubbles of eyes,

smiles of string beans. Manicured fingers fist
around pencils, twist studded rings. Your tongue
swells into a ripe apple, too large to form
the right words, too slick to bite in time.
Then one pinches your collar, to see if you’re
100% or synthetic. Another thrusts
a business card under your arm, to litmus
whether you’re poly- or unsaturated. That
something thin worming into

your right ear, coming out the left is
mental floss. Two of them saw it back and forth
—slicing through the length of you—
and open you like a refrigerator to see
if the light goes on. They inspect
your drawers for uneaten spinach, decades
of unfinished glasses of milk. They calibrate
your tomatoes, toast your cold cuts and buns. Someone
unscrews your shelves with a dime and shakes you

like a pinball machine—to see if he can score.
Meanwhile, you must keep cool, pre-shrunk,
so they can truss you with lines of policy,
baste you with a chorus of benefits. Buttered up—
the better to slide you through the mail slot
—you leave. They roll your vita
into toothpicks and joints, discuss if
thirty K is too little, forty too much
like a commercial estimating prunes.

You will wonder in your bed if you
were the hole for their button, the shell
for their egg, the wallet for their wads of bills.
You will rise, hungry, open
your refrigerator, empty but for
something on the center rack—
—a heart—your heart.
It will fit in your hand.
You will eat.

First Published in If I Had a Hammer: Women’s Work.
Ed. Sandra Martz. Watsonville: Papier-Mache Press, 1990.



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My father wouldn't lead me down the aisle:
you were a Jew
and hadn’t asked him—
cognac to cognac—for my hand.

Good Catholic Hungarian girls marry
Royal Austro-Hungarian Empire types,
have children to speak
Hungarian for Grandpa's dollars.

For years my father came to brag
about the war: ministering to German
soldiers; his chocolates, Gillettes,
and stockings for their wives.

He brought wine from Polish vineyards
I feared
unspeakably fertilized—
some sympathetic magic I couldn’t drink.

Don’t let them lie to you, he spoke
like a spell over my Holocaust books,
Catholic priests, good people were killed
more than Jews—

Jewish bankers, Jewish doctors,
Jewish control of the media—
I asked him not to.
Robbed of his conjugating adjective,

he can’t speak.
He holds vigil by our bedroom window,
his eye filling the pane like frost,
assuring himself no children will mix

his blood with the Jews’.
In spring I gather flowered Seder plates
from Fortunoff’s, saffron tablecloth,
new five-fingered vase.

I bury our pots in the garden,
as your mother once did,
to purify them,
so we can all eat.

Originally published in Visions: International 59 (1999).
Reprinted in Writers at the Water’s Edge. Ocean Grove: Tri-Muse, 2003.
Reprinted in Dovetail: A Journal By and For Jewish/Christian Families. May/June (2003).



My mother’s Canon Sureshot lens
opens like a cosmic hole
and sucks in my front door.
Already she has taken the pin oak

that grew out of the lawn—
ah well, it dropped too many leaves,
now maybe the sun will make more roses
for funerals and weddings.

She lowers her camera to size her next frame,
dives back behind that single eye in
time for me to jump away.
Click , click—she takes my newel post,

newly stripped of forty years of paint,
butcher-waxed to a lustrous sheen;
and snap—there go my moon boots,
lined up so neatly for her coming.

Zoom, zoom—she goes to the “Ladies Room”
to squeeze off my eggshell Belgian sink,
then of course to my bedroom to shed
the coat I hand-me-upped to her, and

to burn into her emulsion my bed,
my stuffed Bugs Bunny, my Buddha-bellied ape.
My closet, where hung my red Chesterfield
with the black velvet collar,

is Cyclops schlurp.
My study where hung my crystal heart is
flash&mdthe void.
She mugs my husband’s desk, his shoes, his chair,

The Herald that was hiding him—
him. She photographs the dahl I stewed
for her, the potpourri wafting pine and myrrh,
and oops—she shoots herself and the camera

in the front hall mirror.
There she floats, a single sanpaku* eye—
hungry, unblinking,

*Japanese word for a condition whereby the whites of the eye show above and/or below the iris, symptomatic of acid/alkali imbalance in the body.

First Published in South Coast Poetry Journal



All night, the Mets and Rockies foul
balls into the bleachers
and I find myself wanting them
to tip one my way,

slip it like a coin into my blue
plastic commemorative
baseball cap ice cream cup—
for I know now what I didn’t before.

Forty years, God help me, since I failed
to memorize who was on which base
being traded for what
so Don Giordano would love me—

thirty-eight years since Kenny Texa pitched me a line
about going to a guys-only game,
breaking his promise to teach me, instead,
how to park.

Never mind, I never was the kind of girl who actually
liked men waving their sticks,
cheered them fingering their balls,
stared at their diamond for all it was worth.

Only fast girls, I told myself, let boys get to first,
then second, and then—well—
it was safer to be a shortstop widow
than a bleacher bride.

But tonight, you steered me to my box seat,
pressed your Carvel and peanuts into my hands,
grateful for my coming. And I scored myself
a wonderful wife, no longer a girl struck out:

I'm begging for hits, suffering over flies;
give me a tripleheader tonight for all those years,
a game of twenty-seven innings; I want this
study in anticipation, this festival of comets,

this reprieve from a life without bases—
this you becoming a boy again
and me a girl who catches it all
and slides us home.

First Published in Spitball

Copyright 2007