Sunday, December 1, 2019

Last Ride on the Merry Go Round (Poem With A Smile - My teenage warrior mom -

MY MOTHER IRENE KETOVER 7/23/31-11/9/19  (eulogy 11/14/19)

My mother was a realist undoubtedly a force of nature – the perfect 
counterbalance to the dreaminess of my father – between them they balanced my world.  My mother was the center of any gathering and frankly it seems ridiculous surreal downright silly that she is not here nodding her head as I speak. – Then again who amongst us knows for sure. She was certainly the loudest, clearest voice against any injustice personal, political or even in the case of her pond - duck related ..  Others have paid fitting tribute to her sass her strength her joy - her fierce loyalty to family, to the values which she felt in her unshakable moral core was the right thing -  All such tributes are absolutely true .. I stand by them as well .. and yet as children from time immemorial we all see different aspects of our parents.  I wrote something for my mother’s 85th birthday,  a sense of my mother who always had me feeling protective of this woman most viewed correctly as a warrior. I know she wouldn’t mind my sharing this personal take on my teenage mom, as I always thought of her, since she surprised me by reading it at her 85th party – and so with her tacit approval and just a few edits here goes… 

WITH A SMILE   … My teenage warrior mom
I watched as you proudly stood my stiff starched dresses to stand like soldiers in the kitchen - 
and you smiled
I felt your long fingers fumble through my hair twisting white clean strips of rags into wet curls as I stood watching out the window and you smiled
You smiled on your hands and knees scrubbing a floor, tush waggling long toes bare behind you, singing Que Sera Sera
You smiled patting endless perfect balls of chopped meat into magic fricasse
On Friday nights, dishtowel on your head, you struck a match with a shaky finger and lit candles, I watched your arms circling the flame three times, covering hands over your eyes, whispering something I knew had something to do with all of us, and then flung the towel onto the counter, called out Gut Shabbas, with what else – a smile.   
You smiled wiping out kumitz - cleaning heavy cut crystal dishes –until they shone with rainbow prisms, cooking, setting table with good silver, serving, clearing, washing, drying – still you smiled
You smiled singing Frank, and Nat, with my father, sang in your uniquely uniform continuously consistently off key fashion, 
you smiled as we rode off to where I do not recall - standing with me wind whipping your hair in the front car of a swaying wicker-seated-porcelain-railed train - the chain in front of us swinging against the blackness of the rushing tunnels  
You smiled bathing that new beloved-by-you baby brother splashing in a white vinyl bathinette as I stood and watched your face flush with a new softness 
You smiled swinging hands on the way to the park as we pushed that huge carriage - cold steel under my outstretched clinging hand walking in dappled sunlight singing A Tisket a Tasket,   
You smiled at walks end as we slid onto high stools to eat whipped potatoes, a stick pretzel, a chocolate malted – 
the baby asleep outside in his carriage- perfect 
Even if one that time, just that one time, we did forget the baby,
All the way home after running back and retrieving him you panting out of breath and deliriously relieved, smiled –
You smiled, needles flashing and clicking knitting long into the night 
and early at morning breakfast – your hair delightfully mussed, cigarette dangling from your lip you smiled.
Oh yes, you smiled, that mega watted klieg lit smile  
at your parents and inlaws and friends and passerbys and later you smiled at customers and employees that became so much more to you -
One and all individually and collectively they loved that signature smile 
Of course you smiled at my father in a way that set a template that made every Russian romance novel, every love poem, every lusted look and giggled pushaway known and familiar to me when I later met them – 
You smiled as I watched, lucky spectator with the best seat in the house – in the center of the love story that rose to the moon and stars and beyond
I inhaled the love and lust and passionate possibility of you - the dances you danced together, the secret looks, the arms around each other close, the whirl and whisper, the giggle and sighs the very magic of this love of you -

I too enjoyed all those smiles 
But there was more, seen in stolen moments when a slipped glimpse caught the shimmer of your bright tears 
those times in the quiet of a still afternoon 
those times in the dark of night when on bare feet I was drawn to the golden light of you sitting there in a cool room as you let your knitting drop into your lap and just for a moment let silent tears fall onto a doll’s dress or a sweater for the baby, – as I watched quietly and tiptoed back to bed-  
those times of quiet hidden tears, that I came to know –
the shimmering beauty of your courage – confronting and besting that Fellow, Death that, silent, shunned, and hidden boarder who lived with us. 
I remember and acknowledge and celebrate along with all the dazzle of your dancing smile- 
I came to know early on, consecrated in one precious singular sacred moment so very long ago when I approached you, and reached out and dared to touch a single tear easing its way toward your mouth – 
When that little girl me intoned "Don't cry Mommy" I came to know – 
the nature of my teenage mommy - 
the true majestic nature of those smiles 
that manifesting mystic magic, born and borne as a shining talisman protecting us all.
So long ago, in that cool darkened living room, the click of knitting needles, quieted , stroking the soft wool in your lap, the wetness of that brave secreted tear on my finger, you, my teen warrior woman, the powerful mother I adored, was revealed in all your vulnerable shuttered glory.
Then, now and forever as years float, tumble tossed through life and death  – I feel that smile, that chosen strength scored, seared, branded in my soul, side by side with my protectiveness of that secret girl under the smile, my love sealed forever and a day, for the who you were and the majesty of the who you chose to be, then, now and forever ...
And now the ride you both spoke about on the merry-go-round has stilled – the calliope quieted and yet I still feel the whirl, the wonder, the whisper and wallop of the girl who for a few short days lay with me alone in a quiet hospital room in a foreign state and chose to hold me close before going out to face the world with a smile 
The mold is now broken – 
The lessons remain –
The meaning of the song and the flash of your actual Smile 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

I Sing the song of my father

I Sing the song of my father *

I sing the song of my father
every particle of my being
today infused with him as
though he stands beside me
and has never left – though
he did vanish one hot
August morning - sunlight
burning through white
coverlets – though I felt
His heart beat three times
Once – Twice – Thrice
under my palm and
then stop – he did not die

I sing the song of my father
Who left with black hair
glinted with silver in his
Sixtieth year – slipped from
any coil mortal or otherwise
but for the coil that holds my
heart pounding my soul still –

I sing the song of my father
He turned my head to
the first cloud in my first
sky - to the wind in the shimmer
of sun filigreed leaves to the
sea rippling – as he drifted sand
through fingers and we sat
Together watching a tiny flag
on the top of a curlicued  
Castle tilt and fall into the
Onrushing tide. 

I sing the song of my father
In the eyes of all who work hard
and deserve respect and those
who cannot find work through
limitation or exclusion.  In the
wonder of all that sprang natural
and all that rose from the mind
of men and women –

I sing
The song of my father who turned
my face to cobalt and burnt sienna
the shock of turpentine on a clear
morning a blank canvas holding all

I sing the song of my father
in the crabs that poked from
the mud on the day on the pier
while he painted and the sun
began to slip below gilding all
In that silent sacred place to
Which he granted me entrance.

I sing the song of my father – to
Sun burnt ribs that rippled under
Young flesh – to his ebony hair
To the taste of salt on his young
Flesh as he carried me far out
Into the sea. 

I sing the song of my father
to that crinkle nose secret
smile he passed to my mother
as they sang from song-sheets
To his eyes closed in ecstasy as
Music shook the walls around
and I peeked from my own
encouraged experience to see
A tear trailing at crescendo

I sing the song of my father as
I feel his hand in mine strong
Ever present – singing in the
Shimmer of leaves in a willow
Rustling in chestnut blossoms
Soaring on the velvet tip of
A blued jay on a clear day
Returning caw for call

I sing the song of my father
As he stood watching my ride
On a carousel light slanting
Through high window – calliope
Playing waiting for me with
Open arms to jump – I jump
I sing – the song of my father
Holding my newborn son
in aquamarine waters high
above his head – diamond
droplets falling about them
I sing the song of my father
Coffee cups before us
Words flying as red cardinals
soaring from- between –above

I sing the song of my father
I sing in memory, in reflection
In honor, in dedication and
In love – I feel his presence in
the air that brushes my cheek
In every particle of my being
and though I thought it a wonder
that he left when his hair was
mostly black and his back straight
when he could bend and rise
From the earth of his gardens hands
rich with fragrant loam – Left still
young enough
I see him now – hair white –
The slightest stoop as he stands
Shining in the blaze of sun
Beams shooting dancing rays
For it is from
His lips - I sing his song
Forever with the life he
Lent to me.

published in Bards Annual Anthology 

the ketchup wars

the ketchup wars 

whooping warriors of bloodless pretend wars

we ran, mugging fierce faces at each other as

we fell, graceless as bowling pins in faked suffering
the kind seen in the silence of marble chilled cinemas 

the kind of ketchup killing 

where rugged men rode ranges of firing rifles
stuffed with celluloid splendor of grace and always 
always lived to ride home with clean hands 
to some sweet lady holding her hair off her face
and their cows safe in the fence she had fixed 


Cat on windowsill - A Haiku

Cat on windowsill 
Folding boneless in sunlight
Origami breathes


Girls in Plum Sweaters

Girls in Plum Sweaters 

what can girls in plum sweaters
be expected to know of loss
as they pass the shovel among friends
unorated letters on pretty stationary drift
in the wind - as earth hard-hits the coffin
inside sweatered pruning friend on white satin
outside they, fresh as dropped stitches 
from a single skein of yarn
creating a forever hole
in matching plum sweaters,
dirt under fingernails
cold wind in their fresh washed  hair


Red Dust

Red Dust

On the steps behind the garden gate he sat, 
small dark eyed boy 
compact and steely as a newly minted dart 
coiled in the exile of his mother’s dubious fear. 
Outside others shouted, kicked unseen stones 
in the red baked earth – 
he watched as billows of joy drifted through the latch 
until a boy chasing a soccer ball came to the gate and  
waved him on - petulant, dubious, rebellion puffed his
sparrowed chest and dark eyes dancing he quickly 
lifted the latch and ran onto the red rousted dust 
as fuses sprang and all was glinting metallic,  
a boy arm, a shower of red rock, a sneakered foot,
that soccer ball, all collateral damage,
scar on the land – 
this now gone boy 
once safe behind the grated gate 
now mixing
with the red dust.

 New Myth  5-29-12 

In the center of the eye

In the center of the eye

In the center
of the eye
that can no longer
fragile sense of certitude in
nothing beyond Now
Crescendoed crash
light smash
shifts all in shades of shimmered
tide pulls
tremulous tempestuous

Indio Rising - 6/19/12

Papa’s Box

Papa’s Box

Mandated for centuries a plain pine box
raw wood unadorned slipping easily
into the earth from whence he came
But Papa loved mahogany
spent lemon scented Sundays
oiling the whirls in the towering breakfront
the cornered Victrola on its own fringed carpet,
the twin side-tables at which he knelt to polish each
claw footed toe in turn with his white cheesecloth
and soft sable mustache brushes

In the soft late afternoon Sunday light
glowing golden he’d smile at the gentle shimmered
sheen of his burnished mahogany
and so – when it was time – there in place
of that mandated raw pine was Papa slipped
into the earth in solid mahogany shining
as his smile lowered into the soft earth of
that final Sunday a scent of lemon oil drifted
a filament of pure white cheesecloth lifted into the air 

*scissors and spackle 8-23-12)   

I am haunted

I am haunted

by the tumbled toss
of cosmic die that
flung my speck of
soul “here and now”
full bellied and free
rather than there and
who knows when –
burkaed, beaten,
starving, perhaps an
ash blowing in wind –
cosmic toss of good
fortune – haunted by
echoes of the others
beseeching bloated
arrogant far too for-
me – I stumble on in
too much good inten-
tion and far too little
action -this languid
legacy of legions of
“there but for some
grace go I” haunted
by unearned privilege


Sunday, July 7, 2019

Away from home in my own skin - a prose piece for Poets United Sunday Pantry

Breasts. Yearned for as a tiny girl and then, and then, they came seemingly overnight. Breasts had power over my life, like some slutty cousins who come unexpectedly to stay with you and end up following you wherever you go and leaving you with their bad reputation. For, as everyone knows, or should, girls with big breasts do have reputations, whether they have earned them or not.  Reputations, that are created behind bathroom doors, mostly by adolescent boys who want to get their hands on “them” and less often, but frequently, by girls who would just as soon rip them off for their own if they only could. They boys, I knew at thirteen, would gather in clumps around the water fountain in the hallway at school or more disturbingly after school in front of Joe’s Pizza Palace in the shopping center, thumping each other on the arm and nodding as though they all had some secret knowledge about me. When you’re a girl with big breasts you can either go with all of this, or retreat.  I favored retreat – under voluminously big shirts and after school days at home after homework, down in our cool, damp basement, curled up in a soft old velvet armchair that had been my grandfathers, sipping iced coffee which I considered very sophisticated and reading a Russian novel which I knew was. Sometimes, I’d cry into that tall tumbler of iced coffee, the glass pressed tightly against those two treasonous mounds – sometimes I’d convince myself it was the Russian heroine who was throwing herself under train tracks or some such drama, though I knew.  I knew. It all seemed quite dismal until I met Jerome Fitzmaurice in Problems In Democracy, and everything changed.   (298 words) 

in short ...

in short ...

when in the course of human events 
ringing - this chime of a line, that sign 
of a time that still holds within the melt
of time, the groan of time, the shimmer
oath of time, in each heart beat then, now
and ever that looked over the horizon to a
time, a chime a sign, over the water and be-
yond a rainbow where all would find in the
course of human events a place, a purpose 
a vision of life, liberty and the unfettered 
pursuit of happiness…that chime of a line
crystalline, perfect ringing - sometimes so
soft one needs to strain to hear the sound, 
othertimes pounding with purpose, passion
and the urgent push of now . When?
In the course of human events, 
it becomes necessary…

Monday, June 3, 2019

a.m. thoughts: fruit and eggs

She wondered for a while
at the perfect color of the 
peaches rinsed with cold
water, put into a white bowl
the exquisitely perfect oval
of pure white eggs hard boiled
and cooling, the navied majesty
of blue-berries – She wondered 
why she ever though of any
other – 

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

A Writer Admired:Dr. Seuss – Theodor Seuss Giesel – father of Horton who I heard *

Dr. Seuss – Theodor Seuss Giesel – father of Horton who I heard *
long ago lived the small me
big eyed and quite serious
some said an “old soul” a
little mysterious ….
Questioning rabbis, teachers,
father and mother – questions
‘bout G-d and country and why
some people did what they did
to each other. Up late at night
watching dark curtains sway
unable to sleep, or even to pray
Even grandparents and elders
never knew what to say – when
I simply asked them why some
people treated others in a horrible
way – I’d seen pictures of piles of
childrens’ ripped away shoes, was
more than enough to give a small
child the blues – I continued to
ask all I could find – the strangest
thing was that most grownups did
very much mind – did mind that I
knew and questioned about things
not so cheery- they looked back at
my big eyes awaiting with looks that
were, well, yes, I’d say leery –
Leery of what? I wondered
about that too -! for I only wanted
to know what, what could I possibly do –
But, they shied away from my questions
told me to go out and play – when all
along I knew they did not know what
to say – and there were other things too
not just this old war stuff from back then
the way some people were treated it looked
like it could start up again – I stopped asking
so much and read and read more – even found
uncle’s book on a doctor Sigmund when I opened
his door – but it wasn’t until I found a big picture
book by another Doctor that I stopped and gulped
and took in a big look!!!
For there in of all places in this “childrens’” book
there it was! not the answer for don’t but the guideline for does!
Right there in sweet rhymes –
an elephantos whale of a tale – of how all could be set
right going forward marching on out there into our future times –
A tale of morality, persistence and kind
A tale of empathy, passion, courage and of so much
more – a tale of standing up for what one believes
one must stand up and fight for –
and there in the words was the
validation I sought – that view of the world as I thought
it could be ‘ought’ – the ache that I felt could vanish if all
just accepted and lived the sweet credo that a
“person’s a person no matter how small”

* inspired by prompt at Poetic Asides to use a writer's name as title of poem - on re-reading this lovely book - it occurred to me, given our turbulent times then and NOW, why this book moved me so profoundly. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019



We all sit in our own booth 
ears straining to hear our song
Others walking quick stepped or slow 
footfalls of mercy or damnation we do
never know - as we sit in our own booth -
contemplating a new song, a verdant  new 
beginning -  emerging from souled cement 
from our own booth,  blinking softly in the light 
we dare to open the gate ... 
we dare to open the gate. 

The Song

The Song 

There through the gate on rusty hinges 
walking through trials of hope, surprise, 
and anticipated mercy ... 
walking through the gate on rusty hinges 
there on the other side cement gives way
to green pastures 
I kick off my shoes
let my heart fill once