July Poetry

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Poetry is magical. Thanks to our Tomato poets, Madlyn Epstein Steinhart, Nicole Freezer Rubens, and Marjorie Levine for this month’s poems.

Shut the Door

Lots to be said for open doors

Great metaphor for life

Let’s examine the opposite

Be happy for the people and places that have come and gone

Close the door

If somebody moved on and left you behind

Lock the door and don’t look behind

It is,it was,not Today or Tomorrow

Sleepless nights and worry like a chicken little gone hyperspace

Go for a walk or do something that requires positivity no matter the situation

Shut the door

~Madlyn Epstein Steinhart, author of Put Your Boots on and Dance in the Rain


Heirlooms

Daddy was a B+ father, at best,

like the jagged but beautiful

entangled city skyline

fronted by a layer of drab polluted haze.

I could see the buildings,

but the rooflines and antennas

were not visible.

I knew the gist of his story

from the time I was 6 on,

when his only brother Uncle Asher

threatened via rotary phone

to kill me.

His parents said there was nothing

they could do.

I remember waking up to find

the commotion of the cops

in my living room,

their pressed dark blue uniforms

and polished shoes

standing in stark contrast

to our ruby red rug,

my father’s favorite color.

Nothing happened

and I went back to sleep

to rise the next day to a world

where half of my grandparents

and my only uncle

were erased

like the vague shapes

of the missing skyscrapers.

My mother built a precautionary stone wall

to avoid siege.

I was safe.

Three years later

my parents divorced

as so many did in the ‘70s.

My father reconciled with his parents,

but they never asked to see me,

their only grandchild,

nor did he offer me up to them.

It was what it was.

It was what family can be.

Over the years

the threat of Asher

sometimes surfaced

and I heard vague details,

everyone sparing me,

like I was still 6.

I knew Asher was violent

and angry and not right.

I knew my father was always the fat son

of skinny people

to bulk up in defense

of his brother’s rage

and powerful constantly swinging

and flailing arms.

When my father lay dying in the hospital

he had repeated nightmares

about Asher coming after him.

The sting of the punch

of his younger brother

never stopped burning

like an eternal flame.

Two nights ago

I went to dinner with Arlene,

my father’s second life partner.

They were engaged

but never bothered to get married.

During Covid

she cleaned out every nook and cranny

of her home

that she had shared with my father,

like so many of us did

to take control

and make order out of a virus

that forced time to stand still.

On the empty chair next to her

at a Mediterranean restaurant

tucked into a cozy west side townhouse,

was a recycled Trader Joe’s paper bag.

I had assumed she went grocery shopping

before meeting me,

but mid meal she mentioned

that she had several pounds

of my father’s family history

in one dimension

piled into the brown paper bag.

She said I could do what I pleased

with the photos and letters,

granting me permission

to toss anything I did not want.

I said you are handing me a bag

of people who disowned me.

I knew I would not enjoy

sifting through the contents.

I was quite curious to see

any family resemblance

to my 3 daughters,

but I could not see any at all.

What I did find

was a diary

written by Asher at age 14.

His penmanship

recording his history

as per a psychologist’s request.

My father spent regular evenings

sheltering from hurled furniture

flying for hours at a time.

This was the melody and tempo

of his childhood antique filled home.

Later homelessness, speed addiction,

degenerate gambling and begging for cash

was Asher’s routine adult profession.

I learned from the pile

of cracked black and white pictures

in varying sizes and finishes,

mixed with yellowed documents,

that there was bankruptcy and a diagnosis.

I found the explanation for my father’s

mediocrity as a daddy

and it stemmed from his house

in the 1940s and 50s.

The haze over my father’s childhood

was too thick and dirty

to ever lift.

Every bludgeon bruised deeply.

The black and blue remnantsView Post

are stashed in a bag

in the back of my dark coat closet,

as the groceries were too many

for me to unpack

all at once.

~ Nicole Freezer Rubens, author of The Long Pause and the Short Breath…Poems & Photos & Reflections on New York City’s Pandemic


AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL

She sits wishing something fortuitous will enter her day

And as she types in bold font she finds nothing new to say.

Her work is bland and dull and never cuts with a sharp knife

So she plays chess online to try to mitigate her strife.

Every day is a rerun, nothing different and nothing new is ever said

And after watching Buzzr and laughing at Password Plus she goes to bed.

In her dreams she meets Frankie Avalon who asks her out on a date

And when she awakens she truly believes he could have been her fate.

If truth be told she believes she is delusional but tries not to pout and mope

Because honestly without her imagination each day would be a difficult cope.

Go get this, go get that, go for a drive and go get the mail

A travel brochure arrived and the picture of the Mediterranean entices her to sail.

So she packs up her stuff and considers taking a pink cute little bikini

But the last time she wore it she was insulted by a crude meanie.

Life is fraught with ups and downs and taking chances is hard I know

But at least today she has a future and she is not yet six feet below.

What is this puzzle on this planet all about she wonders aloud

Is there nothing she can leave behind of which she can be proud?

She finds a little old black and white photo when she was little and small

It seems like just yesterday when she wore a diaper and that was all.

So now she is old and why did the years pass so quickly into a puddle

It is bewildering and confusing and a riddle that seems like a muddle.

She can stick big words and metaphors into this thing she sits writing

But honestly, at the end of the day would a reader find it more biting?

And so another day ends and she pulls up her orange weighted blanket

A new trip will begin and magical thinking will be her impetus to crank it.

Then she will return home to a dusty apartment that needs painting

And for some laughs she will dance the tango in her lobby and then feign fainting.

That’s it! It’s all about the comedy and jokes

Without laughter we simply have no hopes.

~ Marjorie J. Levine, author of Road Trips

Author

  • Poetry is back in vogue and through The Three Tomatoes Book Publishing we have the honor of publishing books by four poets—Madlyn Epstein Steinhart, Stephanie Sloane, Nicole Freezer Rubens, and Carol Ostrow. Check out their poetry submissions each month.

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