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
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.
and I went back to sleep
to rise the next day to a world
where half of my grandparents
and my only uncle
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
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.
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.
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