Friday, April 28, 2017

Thursday, April 27 was POEM IN YOUR POCKET DAY, organized by the wonderfully creative people at the Tompkins County Public Library. Dozens of writers contributed poems. They were then printed up as postcards and distributed around town. WHAT FUN!!!

Here are the two poems that I contributed:


in a restaurant
i saw a woman across the room
and walked toward her.
i was critical of her haircut
but other than that
she looked like someone i'd like.
i gave her a friendly smile.
i even waved.
as i got closer i realized
i was looking in a large mirror.
the woman was me.
luckily no one else noticed.

=== === ===

sitting on my front steps
waiting for a ride —
i must be careful
not to get into the wrong car.
strangers pull up in front of my house
all the time —
i jump up
and greet them like long-lost friends.
this scares them.
it scares me, too.
i'm always having to explain
about being nearsighted.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cherry-Burst Candy Lipstick

 (This is one of the first stories I posted on my blog, years and years ago. Here it is again!)

There's a goldfish in the bed. And a blue velvet pouch with a broken zipper, some marbles, a penny, a fake ruby ring, a couple loose bobby pins, wads of used tissues, an overdue library book, a #2 pencil, half of a pink eraser, a candy lipstick, a spiral notebook, crumbs of buttered toast, a spoon, a cough, a sneeze, a hiccup, and one sick little girl known as Needle.

The goldfish, Maxie, isn’t supposed to be in the bed, she’s supposed to be in her bowl, keeping company with her ceramic castle and her mermaid and her colored rocks — green, yellow, orange, turquoise.

The bed business was a big mistake. What you might call a fatal error. Somebody got careless. Let’s be honest, and also specific: it was Needle.

We could blame it on the fever. But it wasn’t necessarily the fever’s fault alone. There is the fact, not to be ignored, that Needle is absent-minded, self-absorbed, selfish, unaware, forgetful, indifferent, uncaring, neglectful, irritating, bossy, noisy, and whiny. Even without the fever.

We might feel sympathy for Needle, but we don’t have to like her. In fact, we don’t like her. We hold her responsible for Maxie’s death, even if she considers herself blameless.

Well, of course she would.

Now what is to be done with the ceramic castle? What is to be done with the mermaid, poor thing?

The library book stinks. It smells of fish. Don’t hold that against Maxie. It was Needle, flinging things around the bed, willy nilly, who created that most unholy of combinations: goldfish flattened within the pages of Little Women.

Needle is hungry. Famished. Starving. It’s been fifteen minutes since her mother brought in the lime jello. Fifteen minutes since her mother said "I—am—not—your—servant." Fifteen minutes since her mother said, “I’ll be back in one hour with your sandwich, not a second sooner, do not call me again, Nadine Weinstock, I mean it.” Forty-five minutes to go.
Needle doesn’t think she can make it. She reaches for her cherry-burst candy lipstick. She smears it all over her mouth. It cheers her up. She licks her lips. And licks them some more. More. She sticks out her tongue and licks the lipstick that peeks up out of the gold cardboard tube. It is delicious. Like a cherry coke. Better, even, than a cherry coke.

Another lick, and then a nibble and then a bite. And another. More. Again. It's heavenly.

And then she throws up.
We could say that wasn’t her fault, either. She was sick. Hungry. Tired. Bored. Lonely. We can always find some excuse if we want to. But do we want to? Do we?

Her mother comes in even though the hour is not yet up. "Oh Nadine, Nadine, Nadine," she says.

She goes to get a cold washcloth and then she changes the sheets. That’s when dead Maxie is discovered. What a hullabaloo. Maxie down the toilet. Flush. Flush again, just to be safe.
Needle weeps. But not for Maxie. She weeps for herself and the cherry-burst candy lipstick, which she knows she'll never be allowed to have again. Probably not until she's old and in high school, whenever that will be. Who knows about the future, anyway?

Just ask Maxie. Maxie expected to live at least until tomorrow and look how wrong she was.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

A Happiness Poem in 8 Parts: Flashes from my Ithaca Life

This was originally written a few years ago, in 18 parts. But yesterday I was invited to read a poem at tonight's meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature, as they celebrate the county's 200th birthday (which is officially on April 7). I said Yes, since I'm always looking for an excuse to share some happiness, but I figured 18 examples was just too much. So I did some quick revisions and read this version at the meeting. 


happiness is when you're moping around your apartment on a cold wet Sunday afternoon, bemoaning the fact that the only time the phone rings these days is when someone — usually just a recorded voice — is trying to get you to buy something you don't want, and so you're startled when the phone actually rings in the middle of these morose thoughts, and it turns out to be a dear friend who used to live here, but now she lives there, and she wants to hear all the local gossip, which you want to share, and you both laugh and talk, for more than an hour, and when you get off the phone you are in such a great mood

happiness is when you are out for an early morning walk around the neighborhood, and the sun is so bright in your eyes that you can't see a thing, and it's a surprise when a person passes you, and all you know about that other human being is that he, or she, smells very good


happiness is when you call Time Warner Cable customer service first thing in the morning, and in less than 2 minutes you are connected with a real person named Eric, and you explain your problem, and he understands immediately, and tells you to press one button, and then another button, and you do these things and your problem is solved, so you say Hurrah and Eric (a very young man) says "excuse me?" and you say it again — Hurrah — and then you thank him over and over because now you can watch the Inspector Morse DVD you rented from Netflix

happiness is when you bring 8 books to Autumn Leaves Used Books to trade for store credit, and after a quick look around you find something you want — "The Rarest of the Rare: Vanishing Animals, Timeless Worlds," by Diane Ackerman — and even though you think it is possible that you already read this book when it was first published, you gladly take it home because you remember nothing about the short-tailed albatross or the golden lion tamarin — and you still have lots more store credit you can use on a future visit

happiness is when you go outside to sweep away the first gentle snowfall of the season, and when you say hello to a stranger walking by he tells you this is his first snow in 26 years, because right after graduating from Ithaca High School he moved to Atlanta, and today is his first day back in Ithaca

happiness is taking yourself out for lunch at New Delhi Diamond's Restaurant, for their amazing Saturday buffet that includes Bhindi Masala — okra and peppers and onions — and you are very proud of yourself: you avoid the white rice, and potato puffs, and even those golden pillows of fried dough, and when you leave you're feeling both full and healthy 

happiness is walking into Bramble, that collective of local herbalists, in Press Bay Alley, right around the corner from Diamond's  — the warm welcoming  atmosphere enveloping you the second you open the door, and you come home with a jar of coconut/lavender cream called "Cloud Butter," and also with a small bottle of Dandelion Flower Essence to aid in your efforts to Be More, and Do Less (it says that, right on the label)

happiness is when you wonder if a small poem will find you on this day, so you open a haiku book for inspiration, and your eyes land on the words "peace of mind," and right away you feel calmer, and you take a deep breath, and then another, and realize you are no longer anxious about a poem —  it will come or it won't come — so you lace up your sturdy shoes and head out the front door, walking toward the sun

Monday, April 3, 2017

Snow / No Hummingbirds (revisited)

{All winter I wanted to re-post this, written a couple years ago, but I couldn't find it in my computer files because I didn't remember what I had titled it! And today — a very spring-like day — I came across it, so I am sharing it here again. Just because.}

Finally, the refrigerator motor shuts off and the loudest sound is one I make myself by circling my thumbs around each other. I don’t realize I’m doing this until I try to identify the sound and, by the process of elimination — since there are no hummingbirds in the apartment, no rustling leaves — I figure it out.
It’s been snowing all day. The last car went by hours ago and the tire tracks are filled in. Only two people pass, a man and a woman, walking down the middle of the street instead of on the sidewalk. I watch from the window: the woman, in a pale trench coat and high leather boots, holds a black umbrella over her head; the man wears a hooded jacket and lumbers beside her. They pass my house, then the fire station’s parking lot, the pretty house with the stained glass windows, the health club, and the abandoned storefront. They don’t appear to be talking to each other but I can’t be sure.
I go back to my chair, and the novel I don’t yet care about, and realize too late that I should have changed into warmer socks. I am too lazy to get up again. The refrigerator has started to hum again and the fire department’s generator just kicked in.

hour after hour
at the window —
yes . . . it is still snowing