Monday, October 26, 2015

Chinese Cookies

Chinese Cookies

New York Chinese cookies:
studies in flour and chocolate heaven,
not those thin almond things.

Last Friday
I took the Riverline
to New Jersey Transit.

As I ordered Chinese cookies
and black-and-whites
at Zaro's in Newark Station,
my grandmother's
voice and hands
took the boxes
and carried them with us
all the way back.

She took the 2 train.

I took New Jersey Transit.

She bought them
at the big bakery
a block away.

I traveled ninety miles.

Together we escorted
the boxes back
and forward in time
and made sure
that no cookies broke.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

The Bronx Upon a Time

The Bronx Upon a Time

Six story buildings
with gently
weathered brick
the cracks
which give kids a way to
learn the math
of sidewalks.
Women stand
and chat.
Their baby
snare passersby
who smile.
Cooking smells beckon.

No one is ashamed
to be seen.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Choosing Up For Dreams

Choosing Up for Dreams

Imagine ten kids
who, instead of choosing
for softball or hoops,
put their fingers out
for dreams

one gets boat
owner and swimming
with small town

another gets stockbroker
with wrap around window

another gets electronic
engineer with house
in quiet boring suburb

yet another gets prison
for thirty years
after killing her abuser

and you wish that they
could choose again
just to see if they'd get
something better

but by then the fingers
are clenched in again
and the world sails along
until someone wishes it flat

and dreams squish
pancake style
along with doubts
and possibles

and someone
we can't imagine yet
crows in flat language
"I told you so."

Friday, October 2, 2015


Charms To the memory of my grandma, Helen Glaser (1900-1988) Little sweet squares in bright colors resembling flavors before Lifesavers You bought them in Olinsky's around the corner when you bought chocolate kisses obviously for us, the kids, but my mom and dad liked both The floors still had hay stalks on them and an appetizing counter You took a number and waited Neighbors talked and shrank the world to four streets They made politics with their hands I grew happy

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Crack In Time

Crack In Time Looking up to people: not all it's cracked up to be So much better to revere trees or sky or birds At least they don't throw unexpected temper tantrums or a third finger Ever seen a tree make fun of denim skirts? Ever seen sky unfriend? Crack crack Human shell may break into small flecks like Humpty But it's how birds get born Looking down Looking across Easy as saints Until they crack up Crackdown is just as bad

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Fires of Autumn

The Fires of Autumn (To the Memory of My Mother - Millicent Kant (1928-2014) When autumn came to the Parkway, it was as if the trees decided to play with the warmest colors they could find and sent them to unsettle everyone who lived there into dancing on the most unsettling air it could supply. In my Rosh Hashanah dreams you sang, matching your high notes to your scarf as if they became colors that already knew northern autumn. We were supposed to be sober and think. But when you sang I could feel nothing but love that pretended to be sad but lilted in tones tinged the deepest of burning orange. Day shortened, but burned and trembled all the higher, like God vanishing in the holiest of flames, if one decided to believe.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Last Bright Days of Elul

The Last Bright Days of Elul Rosh Hashanah comes early this year. I.L. Peretz wrote of the "last bright days of Elul," the month before new year's time. Hot, with nineties just last week, sliding to the eighties. Our climate lags behind the Russian, brings a later autumn. This year, one year since you left, the month can't decide whether to preserve summer or start on fall. You left us between the seasons. Some part of me stays in that between when you were going, wanting you to sleep, to stay between the worlds. For me you are here still in the early New Year, sleeping in the summer-fall, new season to bring the year when it's too early and the leaves stay green or drop yellow from no rain. Do you keep the New Year from starting before the leaves turn? I keep you and memory from falling.

Thursday, September 10, 2015


Refuge When the sirens roared downtown and I boarded a MetroNorth train and it carried us away from the smoke and chaos, it let me off at 3rd and Fordham, where I took a bus. As I stepped off near Stilwell and I breathed the deepest breath I had ever breathed in my life, I thanked the trees for safety and the smell of home.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Egg Cream: The Movie

Egg Cream: The Movie Seltzer. Chocolate syrup. Milk. No eggs. No cream. Sweet and fizzy with salt aftertaste. Like life. Like sex. Chocolate drink: The beginning. 1920's primordial. Evolving. Like knowledge.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Almost Remember when you and I and Eduardo walked around the neighborhood singing "Reggae Music" and dancing and swinging our hips and we wore sleeveless tank tops and Eduardo wore shorts and a T shirt in the warm but not too hot summer wafting all around the Parkway like a good nose-filling smell composed of bagels, pizza and almost ice cream

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Yortsayt II: Dialogue with my Mom

Yortsayt II: Dialogue with my Mom "Wear the brown dress with the trim." "But it exposes my chest too much." "So what? They won't see your bust." "But it's sort of fancy for Yom Kippur." "People wear all sorts of things at those programs. This looks so nice on you." "But Ma, I thought I should wear something more dignified." "Dignified? It is plenty dignified. Besides, you're reading the part I read for years." "So you want me to represent you in this elaborate dress?" "For once in your life, you'll be fashionable. Is that so terrible?" "Yes, but if you think I should, I will. After all, I'm reading what you read and following in your steps." "Fine." "Thanks for your help." "You are welcome."

Yortsayt (Year's Time - Year's Remembrance): From Sadness to Knowing

Yortsayt (Year's Time - Year's Remembrance): From Sadness to Knowing I. The Ache Last year at this time I sat, looking at you as you slept your last sleep. I told the hospice nurse that I wished I could keep you as you slept for a few more days. She said it would be cruel. II. The Journey In this year I have lived your various lives as I thought and channeled you - singer, daughter, mom. I never did bring you grandchildren. III. The Seeing The Yortsayt candle burns in the dining room. In its neat, small flame I see you dancing on the apartment roof and I see you playing the piano at meetings, smiling your gracious charm across the room. IV. The Seeing - 2 I see you in bed as you left, and I feel you in and around me as you travel. I give my own secular prayer to the candle, in Yiddish, the language women used when they were forbidden from Hebrew: "Eybiker ru, ober alemol mit undz." "Eternal rest, but always with us." You are still with me. This the candle tells. With me, in me. V. The Knowing At Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, I will apologize for my mistakes ask your forgiveness and wear the brown dress with autumn trim that you insist on, even now. You always have excellent taste in clothes.

Monday, August 31, 2015


Unveiling I wanted to stay with you after I put the stone on your monument, but I was expected to leave with my dad, and it would have shocked everyone there if I had said, "I'll take buses and trains back, so go without me." So I looked all around and visited you through each year that you were with me and added all the years to the words on the monument, with the sentence, present in supposedly non-authentic Jewish texts: "We'll meet again." Not goodbye, then, but good new life and years. Come when you're ready.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Leading Through (On the Occasion of My Mother's Unveiling - 8/30/2015)

Leading Through (On the Occasion of My Mother's Unveiling - 8/30/2015) On the cover of the program for your unveiling, I stapled a photo of Pelham Parkway where it meets Wallace Avenue on the esplanade. The funny thing is that in Letter, instead of arriving as a photograph, it branched into some kind of modern impressionism in which tan became red, the shadows mellowed to green and the air between blanched to sheer white. It made Pelham Parkway look like Psalm 23. Then I realized that this is indeed where you might rest and that you were here would always be here with me and I thanked Letter format for blending two times and places and for joining us once again.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bronx Elevated Train Stations - 1

Built in the 1900's through 1920's, Bronx elevated IRT Stations were serious about trains flying over track far above the ground. They featured massive tan bricks over light tan cement, and columns like those of an aqueduct. At the time subways seemed to rocket through their underground Manhattan lairs, then shoot up at Jackson Ave. through thick air to become els in light and messy sparkle. Even now, between West Farms and 180th, the 2 train, now an el, still curves to reveal buildings, streets and other trains, as well as people, at angles and panoramas as wide as shock. It's as if you see ten miles and two centuries revealed in kaleidoscopic mini-drama and all the shades of ground and sky you can encompass and possibly some that you can't. Then, at 180th, many tracks come together and trains glide straight in. If you get off to change, you can feel the Zoo not far off and all sorts of old quiet in stations never completely demolished that give unexpected pleasures in wood.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Back to Me

Back to Me To the memory of my grandmother, Helen Glaser (March 15, 1900 - March 3, 1988) All the rainy nights bring you back, Nothing has changed. I miss the fierceness of your love And I miss without stopping the finest glance in the world and I miss your clarity of heart, more beautiful than the best lies, and more thoughtful than any beauty.

The 10 Commandments and Shavuos

The 10 Commandments and Shavuos (According to Mel Brooks, 15, but one tablet broke.) The great granddaughter of the Muscover Rebbe could tell you what the holiday Shavuos meant and why she didn't believe in it. "God wrote and spoke Hebrew?"she said. "Or any other languages?" I would add that belief systems adduced a god-voice when they wanted to own power and point up truths: outpourings of culture, campfire legends. My grandma would grimace, then turn cheese blintzes in the pan. "This is my truth," she would say. "We eat dairy on Shavuos." The blintzes were crisp outside, melting inside. In my grandma's kitchen was the land of milk and honey. This was my truth. I wanted no other.

From Pelham Parkway Esplanade

From Pelham Parkway Esplanade I sit on a bench on the esplanade. It's summer, and the drowsy life of green too green and dried grass fans out. All the times I spent here slide in order, like a powerpoint. and even before, as if I'd been hypnotized like Bridey Murphy: Mom sitting with friends, flirting outrageously. Mom here with beaux (I love that old-fashioned syllable.) Great grandma with friends. Grandma and grandpa with neighbors. Then it's the dawn of my time, and I'm in a carriage. I'm older, being hit by a neighbor's boy. Older yet, in patent leather. Then it's onto Son of Sam and quiet as my dear friend guides us away in case horror obtrudes. And now. after they've all gone, I'm the last one in the bus. I flow back. Like Edelweis, the benches are glad to see me. And even missing all the people in my photo album doesn't hurt quite as much.

Summer Night Music

Summer Night Music The music is different on summer nights; it makes you want. You don't even know the shapes want will assume and the music could even be coming from your own window from a device you've known all your years and yet you'll feel there's something want is inspiring that you would scream or fly up or unbecome to capture and yet you don't know you cannot know and you will never know just what it is, cannot name one syllable of it or the time it encases which is just as well because by now the music has stopped teasing and become pretty well timeless and unshaped and the night to which it belongs, a hazy summer night has uncurled into smells of far off thunder and something you hardly recognize as day.

City Quiet

City Quiet To my mom, in memory Your favorite summer sound was that of the cicadas and locusts skricking at night. Coming home from a dance or party you'd stop and listen. On the Parkway late pairs of lovers sat on the far benches happily alone. The 2 train lurched to a stop with its trademark screech. All around, city quiet, not silence, but many sounds that should not have been but somehow ended up emitting harmony.

City Island

City Island Johnny's versus Tony's. Both hug the end of the Island. We go to Johnny's. We eat our fried sole, some of the fries, most of the coleslaw. Then we take the leftover french fries and put them on the ground. That's all. Within three seconds they're gone. The gulls strut about, their gullets full. They stay near the spot in case the miracle repeats. We watch them for a few, then head out. The Sound flows in us, unseen, for the rest of the day.

To The Dear One Who Came With Me To Pelham Parkway

To The Dear One Who Came With Me To Pelham Parkway On the same bench my mom, grandmother and great-grandmother sat, 70 years ago. (My grandfather didn't have time.) Old, blessed men and young ones played chess on the same stone inlaid sets. The stone benches still sparkled their metal bits in the sun. "This is nice," you said. "Yes," I agreed. The train screeched into the el station as it had for ninety years. My mind fashioned images such welcome ghosts to beckon before those who sat now in their place. I was a fool for leaving for staying and I hated missing what was and was not so much the same. Thank you for being with me

Frannie's Bed and Breakfast on Muliner

Frannie's Bed and Breakfast on Muliner I'd serve bagels with lox, cream cheese, tomatoes, cucumbers and slices of onion (someone else would peel the onion). Sour pickles. Whitefish, herring. Cheese danish, breakfast buns. Fresh squeezed orange juice. Coffee, tea, hot chocolate. New York Times in print to spread over the table in sections. Then I'd take guests to sit on the Parkway. Later, we'd take the train all the way to Queens and then the 44 bus back so they could sparkle into rivers of light over the Whitestone. To bed, removing cabbage rose cotton spreads on white cotton sheets. Parkway traffic would splay shadow monsters on the walls until 2 AM. Good night. Sleep very tight. No bedbugs. Open window. Wind from the trees. A short flight back. No seat belts. Just mind-years.

The War is Over/Not

The War Is Over/Not You sit on parkway chairs with friends and boyfriends. The war is over. I and an almost friend with benefits stroll the gracious parkway esplanade then read that Son of Sam shoots couples. The war has begun.

Friday, August 21, 2015

A Train For Us

A Train For Us

First three notes
of "There's a Place for Us"
from West Side Story
shriek from the 2 train
when it pulls out
of each station.

I wouldn't swear
for certain
that Leonard Bernstein knew.

But hell,
he rode the subway enough.



I still see them
in their chairs
on the sidewalk
No one minds.
In casual summer clothes,
they unfurl
the state of the city,
the country, the planet
but always return
to the Bronx.

Mrs. Resnick's son
moved to Florida.
Something with medical law.
The Anastasios' daughter
went, of all places,
to Utah.
"Is that still in the USA?"
one of the ladies jokes.

The Zoo now costs
ten dollars.
Once it was free.
Most of them
save with care.
There's a bargain
at Olinsky's:
chicken for 70 cents
a pound.

The massive stonework
near the building
somehow protects them,
even though
they're outside it.
Down through years,
their New York voices
rise in a circle
of raucous, happy sound.

Like a talisman
wrought from words,
not Commandments,
they keep me
even now
from a void
worse than harm.

Happy Place in the Rain

Happy Place in the Rain

In the chair
of 1950's brocade,
curled up
near the window
in the rain,
looking at the
deeper colors
of bricks
of the building
across the street
and its leering
that provided
unexpected comfort
as they stared back.