Category Archives: Poetry

The Secret Sits

Robert Frost’s poem “The Secret Sits” is one of my all-time favorites.

We dance round in a ring and suppose,

But the Secret sits in the middle and knows.

Secret, with a capital S.

It’s a simple couplet; just two lines of poetry that rhyme, but brilliantly speaks volumes to me.

I’m sure it speaks volumes to you as well.

And I’m equally sure that how and why it touches you is entirely different from what Frost’s poem means to me.

Its poetic rhythm is in anapestic trimeter; a rhythmical combination of anapest: (A foot of poetic verse consisting of three syllables) and trimeter: (Three iambic feet within a single line of poetry).

Three.

Tri.

In the middle.

Trading Places


If you try to be me, I’ll try to be you.
Then for each other, we’ll know what to do.

If you look at me through my eyes,
there will be no need to wear my protective disguise.

Because you’ll be able to see that my inner child is in fear.
You’ll be able to see my insecurities quite clear.

You’ll see that I’m not nearly as strong as I appear.
And you’ll see that I feel more and more pain with each passing year.

Then it will be your turn to take off your mask.
And you’ll have no choice but to tell me your true feelings when I ask.

I’ll see that when you want to cry, you scream.
I’ll see that you, like me, are not as tough as you seem.

I’ll see that you’re going over the brink.
You’ll see that I need you to love me much more than you think.

When you look at me reflected in your view.
The picture is distorted by my ego—and yours too.

Look at me without the deep complexes of our past.
Open your heart and relate to me at last.

So let’s open our minds—I’ll become you, and you’ll become me.
And I’m sure we’ll be shocked and saddened by what we both see.

I’ll see that you need significance, and belonging.
You’ll see my dreams for you and my longing.

I’ll see that you are weary of the games we play.
You’ll see that I pray for you to love me and stay.

If I see your pain,
I won’t hurt you again.

If you see why I cry and complain,
you won’t abuse me the same.

And if I am you and you are me,
we can finally end this torture and agree.

To work on improving the relationship
and make it the best it can be.

So we can finally live together
in peace and harmony.

So let’s trade places.

Let’s open our eyes and see
What happens to the two of us

When I become you
and you become me.

International Women’s Day


“This

is

an

alpha male

job,”

he

spewed

with

confidence.

“This

business

is

dominated

by

us,”

he boasted.

“What can you

bring

to

the

table?”

He

smirked.

Answer

him

wisely.

Naïve

is

this

man.

A man’s

table?

A man’s

world?

The

Alpha

men.

Brought

here

by

women.

Amidst

hurdles

and

obstacles.

The egg

lies

in wait.

Until

out of

millions

one

finds

its way

in.

The

weakling

girl

transforms.

She

is

now

the

protector.

The fierce

one.

She

discovers

the

beginning

is the

hardest.

The

most

challenging.

The

riskiest.

She’s

petrified

but

confident.

She

observes

and

manages.

The

first

sign.

An

awakening.

A

flutter

then

a

thriving

kick.

Internal

strength.

And

power

from

deep

within.

Patiently

waiting

for

months

and

months.

While

nourishing

and

supporting.

Knowing

life

is

resilient

and

sacrifice

is

quiet.

Taking

courage.

Laboring.

Pushing.

Delivering.

Belief

that

survival

is

crucial.

Reassurance

that

all

is

possible.

Cracking.

Shattering.

First

the

table.

Then

the

world.

 

Brick by Brick

One brick

two bricks

three bricks.

Coming

at me.

One

right

after

the other.

Brick

after brick

after brick.

All in ABC’s.

Abandoned * abused * accused * afflicted * afraid * aggressive * alarmed * alienated * an-accident * anguished * angry * anxious * apprehensive * argumentative * awful * awkward * bad * banished * banned * belligerent * below-average * berated * betrayed * bitch * bitter * black-sheep * blamed * blocked * boney * bossy * bothersome *brainwashed * break-up * breakdown * bridgeport * broke * broken * broken-hearted * browbeat * bruised * bugs * bullied * burden * burns * burned * can’t  * careless * catastrophe * chaos * cheated-on * cheater * chicken * clingy * clueless * clumsy * cockroaches * cold * combative *competitive * compulsive* conceited * condemned * condescending * conflicted * confused * conned * consumed * contentious * court * coward * crazy * critical * criticized * cruelty * crushed * crybaby * cutoff * cut-out * cynical * damaged * damned * dark * dark-skinned * defective * defensive * defiant * deficient * delicate * delusional * demons * depressed * deprived * deserted * detached * destroyed * destructive * detested * devalued * devastated * devil * different * difficult * disappointed * disappointment * disapproved-of * disbelieved * discarded * disconnected * disgruntled * disgust * disliked * disloyalty * dismal * disobedient * displaced * disposable * disrespected * dissed * distant * distraught * distressed * disturbed * disrespectful * dizzy * dominated * don’t * doomed * doubtful * drained * dreamer *  dreary * drop-out * dropped-off * drunk * dumb * duped * eliminated * elusive * embarrassed * emotional * enabler * engulfed * enraged * entrapped * estranged * evil * exaggerator * exasperated * excluded * excommunicated * failure * fake * fatherless * fat * fear * fearful * feeble * fire * fired * flawed * flee * forgotten * forsaken * fragile * frightened * frigid * foolish * forgettable * from-a-broken-home * frustrated * furious * gawky * ghetto * get lost * goodbye * graceless * greaser * guarded * guilt * guilty * gutter * half-sister * harassed * hard-hearted * harmed * hassled * hated * havoc * heartbreak * heartache *hell * hidden * hindered * hindrance * homely * hopeless * horrible *hungry * huron-street * hurt * hurtful * hyper * hysterical * illegal * illegitimate * immune * imperfect * impossible * imperfect * incapable * incompetent * inconvenient * indifferent * ineffective * inept * inexperienced * inferior *infested * infected *  injured * insecure * insensitive * insignificant * insolent * instigator * insubordinate * intense * in-the-way * intimidating * invader * invisible *isolated * jaded * jealous * jeered * jew-lover * jittery * jumpy * judged * joyless * kept-apart * kept-away * Kept-in * kept-out * kept-quiet * lanky * left-out * let-down * liar *lied-about * lied-to * lonely * loner * lonesome * loser * lost * loud * mad * made-fun-of * malicious * mangled * man-handled * manipulated * marginalized * messed-with * messed-up * misbehaved * miserable * mistake * misunderstood * mixed-up * mocked * mod-martian * molested * money-hungry * mouse-traps * muzzled * naïve * needy * negative * neglected * nervous * never * no * nobody * numb * nuts * objectified * obsessed * only-child * opportunistic * out-of-place * out-of-touch * over-controlled * ambitious * overlooked * overwhelmed * overly-sensitive * overwhelmed * pain * panicky * paranoid * pathetic * persecuted * persistent * pessimistic * pests * petrified * picked-on * plain * played-with * pock-marked * poor * powerless * pressured * problematic * pulled-apart * pulled-back * punished * puppet * pushed * pushed-away * put-down * quiet * questioned * quirky * rage * rambunctious * rats * rattled * reckless * reject * rejected * rejection * restless * reticent * reluctant * repulsed * repulsive * resented * resentful * retaliatory * retard * revengeful * ridiculed * ridiculous * rodents * rogue * rollercoaster * rude * ruined * sacrificed * sad * scape-goat * scared * scaredy-cat * * scarred * scary * scolded * screwed * screwed-over * screwed-up * second-class * self-destructive * sensitive * set-up * shame * shamed * shameful * shipwreck * shouldn’t * shouted-at * shunned * shy * sickly * silly * singled-out * sinner * skeptical * skinny * smothered * snapped-at * step-daughter * stereotyped * stop * stressed * stressed-out * stuck * stuck-up * stupid * sub-par * substandard * suffocated * suicidal * suppressed * suspicious * swarthy * tattle-tale * tense * terrified * terry * theresa-the-greaser * threatened * timid * tormented * troublemaker * ugly * unable * unapologetic * unappreciative * unattractive * uncaring * underestimated * underdog * undermined * underpaid * uneducated * unequal * unforgiving * unfriendly * unhappy * unhealthy * unjust * unlovable * unlucky * unneeded * unlovable *unqualified * unwanted * unwanted-advances * unrealistic * unrelentless *unruly * untalented * untrusting unwelcome * unworthy * upset * used * useless * vermin * victimized * violated * violence * volatile * vulnerable * wary * weak * weary * wedge * weeds * weepy * weird * wicked * wild * won’t * worthless * written-off * written-out * wrong *  zero

Some bricks

broke my

bones.

Others

broke my

spirit.

Then I heard

him

speak

on TV.

About building

with bricks.

Don’t

be afraid.

Pick them up.

Each and

every

one.

Pick them up.

And then

build.

You can

do it.

Construct

a firm foundation.

Brick by brick.

But how?

That was my

question.

So many bricks.

Too many

bricks

to handle.

And even

If I could.

Pick them all up.

Brick by brick.

What to use.

To build and

protect.

Maybe mortar.

Lots and

lots

of

binding

mortar.

Let me try.

Able * abide * ability *accept * accomplished * accountable * achieve * adapt * adjust * admired * adore * adored * advocate * affectionate * agile * agreeable * alert * alive * always * amazed * ambition * amen * analytical * angel * appreciated * appreciative * approachable * ariel * aspire * assemble * assent * assert * atone * attract * audacious * aunt * authentic * available * awakened * awed * babies * backbone * balance * barb * beginnings * believing * belonging * beloved * benchmark * blessed * bliss * blossom * bold * boy * brain * bravery * breakthrough * brilliance * builder * buoyant * busy * caleb * calm * can * candor * capability * carefree * careful * caring * celebrate * centered * certainty * chances * change * charity * charm * charmed * cheer * cheered * chief-operating-officer *  child * child-like * choice * chosen * clarity * climb * coequal * cogent * cohesion * comfort * comforting * comfortable * commitment * communicate * community * companion * compassion *  competence * complete * complimentary * composed * conciliatory * concise *   concrete * confidence * connect * consensual * considerate * consideration * consistent * consoling * constructive * content * continuity * contributive * conviction * cooperation * cornerstone * courage * courtesy * creativity * credible * cuddling *  curiosity * cutting-edge * daring * darling *  dauntless * dawn * decency * decisiveness * dedicated * deep * defend * defiant * definitive * deft * deliberate * demonstrative *   dependable * deserving * desired * destined * determined * devoted * dignity * diligence * diverse * doting * dreamer * dreams * durable * dutiful * dynamic * eagerness * earnestness * eloquent * empathy * empowerment * emulate * encouraged * enduring * engaging * enthusiasm * epic * equal * everlasting * example * exceed * excel * excellence *  factual * fair * faithful * family * fearless * feisty * flexibility * focus * forever * forgiveness * freedom * friends * fritzi * funny * future * garden * generosity * gentlemanly * genuine * gianna * giddy * give * glad * god * goodness * grace * graceful * gracious * grandma* grateful * grounded * guided * happy * harmless * harmonious * hazel * healing * healthful * healthy * heartfelt * heaven * hello * hero * honesty * honor * hope * hopeful * hospitality * humanitarian * humility * humor * husband * imagination * impartial * important * impression * impressive * improvement * improvise *  inclusive * indefatigable * independent * indestructible * indispensable * infant * insight * inspiration * interconnected * ipod * jovial * joy * jubilance * just * kindness * kindred * lasting * laugh * lead * leader * lean * learn * legal * legitimate * lenient * life * light * lila * * little man * live * lou * love * loved * loyalty *   lucky * mammy * magic * mate * maternal * melodious * mercy * merit * mindful * miracle * modesty * moral * motivated * moved * mulberry * music * mutuality * newborn * noble * normal * nurturing * objective * open *  open-handed * open-hearted * open-minded * optimist *  organized * original * pam * paradigm * paradise * parent * partner * passion * patience * peace * peacekeeper * permanent * perseverance * persistence * peter * playful * poetic * poise * positivity * possibility * potential * presence * pride * principled * productive * proficient * promising * protected * protector * proud * provider * purpose * quick * quiet * rainbow * real * realistic * reasoned * reasonable * reassured * reborn * reconciled * reliability * relief * resolute * resolve * respect * responsible * responsive * restorative * safe * safety * satisfied * selfless * sensible * sentimental * serene * serenity * settled * simplicity * sincerity * sister * smile * snuggle * soothing * sorry * soulmate * special * stable * strength * substantive * subtle * successful * sunshine * support * survivor * sympathy, symphony *  talent * teamwork * tenderness * teri * thankful * thoughtfulness * tireless * together * tolerance * tome * touching * tough * tranquility * triumph, trusting, trustworthy * truth * truthful * unafraid * unbeaten * unbroken * uncle * unconditional * undefeated * understanding * understood * unflappable * unicorns * unified * unique * unfazed * unlimited * unshakable * unstoppable *  validated * valued * victorious * vivacious * vivid * vocal * vulnerable * warm * welcome * wes * whimsical * whole * wife * wishful * witty * writer * worthy * yes * youthful * zany * zealous * zestful

Lots of mortar.

In ABC’s.

A

beautiful

castle.

A mighty

fortress.

To protect

and defend.

Now I’m

safe

and sound.

Fortified against

attacks.

All

bricked up

within

and

without.

My

safehold.

A Rose by Any Other Name


In light of all the anti-Semitism that has been seeping and creeping up since the recent presidential election, it got me thinking about Judaism, Christianity, and why I feel so loathe to discuss religion.

And talking politics isn’t much better. Certainly not right now. Both of these topics are better left private.

Except most people close to us know who and what we are. Should our religion or politics define us? Make us loved or hated? Respected or denigrated?

The constant and continuing turmoil around the election results has been disheartening and worrisome. Swastikas here, Confederate flags, there, and dissension everywhere.

It’s the holidays. We should be jingling, rejoicing, singing, wrapping, and planning for family get-togethers. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, right?

And yet, our nation’s recent political divisions have brought out the worst in us, prompting me to ask myself a weird-for-a-Jewish person question, as I poured over The New York Times this morning:

What would Jesus say about all of this?

A long time ago, and in another life, I had a close and loving relationship with Jesus.

If you know me or have read any of my blog posts, you know my family dynamic, which consisted of my Catholic grandmother, mother, and me, aka the fatherless child.

It was the three of us, not so much living, but more like surviving together on Huron Street, in Bridgeport Connecticut.

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, so to speak.  Except we were Mother, Daughter, and Afraid of Ghosts.

Soon my great-grandmother joined us, and then we were a family of four. And a mighty four we were.

Four strong willed, faithful Catholic females struggling to stay afloat in a swirling sea of men, with Jesus at the top of the food chain.

For any Catholics that might be reading this post, you get the Catholic thing. Fish on Friday, fasting before mass, confession, mortal vs. venial sins, and all of the other stuff Catholics do.

But I don’t want to talk about all that. I want to use this blog-post opportunity to discuss Jesus and how I felt about Him all those many years ago.  And how I still feel about Him today.

I would first like to start out by saying that were it not for Jesus, I’m not sure who or where Teri would be today.

Because my Jesus was all about love, which included everyone; especially the scorned, the sick, the forgotten, the poor, the forsaken. Jesus was all about solidarity and unity. He would never tolerate hate, bigotry or bullying.

My Jesus reached his hands out to everyone, and He would never discriminate.

And lest I should remind you, Jesus was the only male in my life. And what a fine specimen and example of an exemplary man He was.

He loved the marginalized. He blessed and exonerated all sinners. And as long as I had Jesus in my life, I knew I could get through anything.

Jesus was kind, loving, compassionate, and just. But my Jesus was also sad, and maybe even frightened. Because He knew, He was going to die. Jesus understood and accepted that all of us have sinned. All of us are imperfect, and yet He still loved us.

No matter how disappointed I felt about myself back in my other life, I knew Jesus was on my side.

Because Jesus wasn’t judge-y, and would NEVER pick out some, but not others, to heal, to feed, or to bless.

My Jesus was omnipotent. And I believed with all my heart and all my soul, the first couple of sentences in the Apostles’ Creed: I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.

A lifetime ago.

When I was thinking about converting to Judaism, it was the most painful and difficult decision I ever had to make in my life thus far.

And when I spoke of converting to my Christian friends, they would remark on how hard it was going to be for me to give up Christmas.

Giving up Christmas was going to be the least of it.

Giving up Jesus was what was going to be near impossible. He was going to be my sacrifice, my lifelong penance.

As I sat before the Bet Din, a panel of three Rabbis, sitting high above me on a stage, I ironically and irreverently, thought of the Holy Trinity. The Holy Three.

While  I sat below the Jewish holy three, the men who had the power to authorize or deny my application to join the Jewish people, my thoughts reverted to what had occurred earlier in my already very long day.

I woke up to snow. I snuggled with my son. I had an argument. My punishment was no car.

So I indignantly walked to the bus stop and waited. And waited. And waited. I transferred three times. Three buses. And then trudged three long blocks in the slushy snow. Ignoring the irony of the threes was impossible.

And now here I was, cold and wet, facing three Rabbis who would decide my religious fate.

The Bet Din had prepared three questions for me, explained my sponsoring Rabbi.

Three questions.

It was out of my hands, I recall thinking to myself.  It’s in Jesus’ hands, I instinctively reassured my weary self.

My turning to Jesus was reactive. I was always in Jesus’ hands. Those beautiful, delicate, blessed hands, marred by ugly bloody holes.

My thoughts of Jesus were interrupted by my first question:

“Tell us about your religious background.”

I gave the holy three the cliffs notes. I stuttered, faltered, and jumbled up my sentences. My family of females, Bridgeport Connecticut, my Salvation Army clothes, our tenement apartment, the nuns, bake sales, weekly mass, my grandmother’s rosary beads, my love of St. Ambrose Church. My Holy Communion, my Confirmation. The whole shebang.

I turned to my sponsor, who was to the left of me, as he gave me a worrisome sideways glance.

Second question.

“Why would you denounce your religion, to join one that is in the minority, the often persecuted, the sometimes reviled?”

I again turned to my sponsor who this time did not return my gaze. I looked up at the Bet Din. The three Rabbis looked sternly down at me.

I spoke of my sick son, the unhappiness of some, the wishes of others, my faith, my sponsoring Rabbi and his wife whom I had grown to love and respect. My newly discovered congregation of friends, whom I had come to rely and count on. I spoke of my lost family, my dead grandmother, my lost self.

The faces of the Rabbis softened. I could see my pain in their eyes.

“Last question,” one of the holy three muttered, barely audible. He’d lost his edge. They all seemed to.

I sat shivering, thinking about how many hours it was going to take me to get home. I was longing to hold my infant son; to rock and hum him to sleep with his favorite song, my favorite song, and my grandmother’s favorite song. The three of us all with the same favorite song.

“You speak so assuredly of your faith. When you talk of your Catholic upbringing, we see your light. Tell us about Jesus and the role He will play in your Jewish life.”

I swallowed hard. The Bet Din wanted me to speak about Jesus.

The words, they just spilled out. My sick and dying grandmother denied of her last rights because she was excommunicated, my prodigal status, my love of Jesus—a Jew, who was poor, uneducated, adored by so many, then crucified.

I blurted out the morning fight, no car, three buses, my son’s surgery, the snow, the hopelessness, the loneliness.  I told them that Jesus was going to love me and keep me safe—today, tomorrow and always. Jewish, Catholic, whatever. Jesus wasn’t going anywhere.

Because that’s who Jesus is. He doesn’t forsake. He doesn’t leave. He loves, He nurtures, He heals.  All of us, not just some of us.

I was on the last question roll.

I explained to the holy three that Jesus was everything hopeful; a constant reminder that even in the ugliest of times and despair, He teaches us that there is beauty and light and redemption. I was never going to give up on Jesus. And Jesus was never going to give up on me.

And then I sat back in my chair, letting the holy three above me know that I was finished.

The Rabbis looked at each other, one sank in his chair. I again turned to my sponsor. Both of his hands lightly covered his forehead; his elbows bent low to the table.

My nose was running, and I didn’t have a tissue, so I used my damp sleeve as I watched the Rabbi’s squirm.

Then the middle Rabbi spoke. His words were kind and soothing. He applauded my resolve, my strength, my faith, my love of my son.

The other two Rabbis nodded in agreement and approval, including my sponsor.

And then it was over. I was on my way to being Jewish. Everything yet nothing had changed.

I took the over three-hour bus ride home, all the time, writing, rhyming, transferring, praying. I wrote and rewrote the following letter to Jesus, to God, to the only Father I ever knew:

DEAR FATHER,
IF I COME BEFORE YOU
AND PRAY
FOR YOUR HELP
BEG
FOR YOUR GUIDANCE
CRY OUT
TO YOU FOR STRENGTH
WILL IT MATTER IF I CALL YOU
FATHER INSTEAD OF
JESUS?
WILL YOU CARE IF
I’M KNEELING
IN A CHURCH
OR IMPLORING FROM
A SYNAGOGUE?
IF MY PRAYERS ARE IN LATIN
OR HEBREW
WILL THE WORDS STILL HAVE
THE SAME MEANING?
WILL YOU STILL HEAL
MY WOUNDS?
 I LOVE YOU NO LESS
 THAN I DID THAT LAST
BLESSED CHRISTMAS.
I WILL LOVE YOU NO MORE
THIS MOURNFUL YOM KIPPUR.
WILL WHO I AM TODAY
MATTER TO YOU TOMORROW?
 I’M STILL ME.
I’M STILL THE SAME.
A ROSE BY ANY OTHER NAME.
I STAND ALONE.
MY LOVED ONES DISAPPOINTED.
ARE THEY PRAYING TO YOU TOO?
WILL THEIR LIVES BE EMPTY
WITHOUT ME?
WITHOUT MY SON?
JESUS/FATHER,
HELP ME FIND MY WAY.
GIVE ME THE GUIDANCE
TO WALK THE STRAIGHT
AND NARROW PATH.
GIVE ME THE STRENGTH
TO MAKE IT ON MY OWN.
AND FATHER PLEASE,
BLESS, PROTECT

AND HEAL
MY ONLY SON.

When I finally got home, my son was already fast asleep. I was heartbroken to have missed him. I needed his warmth, his life, his love.

I quietly and reverently tiptoed into his room, still wet from my trek. I laid next to his crib and hummed our favorite song, Oh Holy Night.

Bless Me Father

Bless-me-Father-AB

Your mother
is a sinner.

And so are you.

Go now
and confess.

The girl
was terrified.

Not sure what
to say.

She just had
her
First Communion.

But never confessed
any sins.

The confessional
was dark.

And she hated
it.

The dark
was always
merciless.

The priest
was barely
visible.

Bless me father
for I have sinned.

How long since your
last confession
he asked.

Never.

What have you
to confess
my child?

Adultery.

Lord please have
mercy
on my soul.

The priest
moved
swiftly.

And opened
the curtain
to reveal
himself.

She knew him and
he knew her.

He sat the girl
in a pew
and held her hand.

It was still wet
from blessing herself
with the holy water.

Why would you
confess such a thing
my little one?

Because Mother Superior
ordered me
to
beg for
mercy
and repent.

He took her hand
and they walked
to the school.

In silence.

She was in trouble.

Maybe she was supposed
to genuflect when
she came into
the church.

Who would ask a child
to confess such a thing
asked the priest of
the nun.

Her mother is
excommunicated.

She pointed at the girl.

And she doesn’t belong here.

Perhaps it is you
who doesn’t belong
here, he fumed.

The mother arrived
quickly.

Dressed in a yellow
mini dress
and fake pearls.

Her hair in a bee hive
her cheeks a rosy pink.

Her heels high
and her scent lovely.

The nun was dismissive
and merciless.

But the mother
was fierce.

Protective.

And ready to
rumble.

Adulteress?

This is what you call
my daughter?

You are a sinner,
and so is she
the nun spat out.

The priest gasped.

The mother moved in
for the kill.

And cut the nun to size
with her biting
humiliating
words.

No mercy.

The nun was quiet
humbled and ashamed.

The mother was triumphant.

Vindicated.

The priest was pleased.

He did his best to
hide his smile.

The child trudged back to class
knowing the
consequences
would be merciless.

Bless me father

Hello

Pam
Her cross
her loss
was more than
one person
should ever bear.

First her husband.
Then her son.

Before she left
she promised me
a sign.

But it never came.

Almost to the day
I thought that plane
was going to drop
right out of the sky.

When we landed
I couldn’t wait to
kiss the ground.

Its brilliance
caught my eye.

On one side
the year
he was born.

On the other
a mother
father
son
and daughter.

Hello.

I secured it
with shipping tape
inside her
framed photo.

Years later
I spoke of it
to the child.

He sensed its
importance.

He asked to see it.

I took the photo
off the shelf
to show him.

But it was gone.

Just tape.

No sign.

I tried to hide
my sorrow.

But the little one
the sensitive one
knew.

We looked
around
and around
for it.

And then
we looked again.

Tape
tightly affixed.

The curious one
asked how.

No answer.

Just grief.

A few
weeks later
his tiny hand
fished around
in his pocket.

Its brilliance
caught my eye.

On one side
E Pluribus Unum.
Out of many
one.

On the other
a smiling mother
holding her child.

I could see
he loved it.

Keep it
I tenderly
told him.

It belongs
in the frame
he gently replied.

And pressed it
into my
trembling hand.

Am I a Poet, but Don’t Know It?

Word Girl
At a dinner party a few months ago, I was asked by a friend if I was a poet. “No,” I quickly and definitively answered.

And then she queried “How do you know?”

I didn’t speak it, but I thought it: Duh, I think I’d know if I was a poet.

I tried to be pithy in my actual response to her: “Maybe I’m a poet and I don’t even know it.” She rolled her eyes and changed the subject.

But her question stuck with me all these months.

I have over the years tried my hand at poetry. Haven’t we all?

But I was never good at rhyming. The perfect timing of rhyme scheming seemed cheesy to me. Now I recognize that not all poems have to rhyme, but they often flow better when they do.

I wrote a Haiku once, but the whole three lines, totaling 17 syllables throughout seemed forced.  And three lines was near impossible for someone like me.

As the self-proclaimed queen of verbiage, the poems I have written over the years have been rather longish. Getting a four-page poem to rhyme and flow would take a fair amount of poetic talent. Or maybe they aren’t poems at all. Maybe they’re super short, short stories.

So here’s my question: Am I a poet?

For those of you who are familiar with my writing style, you know that I can occasionally be sardonically witty.  But for the most part, I am supremely morose. I apologize for that. Sort of.

Anyway, I combed through some of my journals and found this entry I felt compelled to share. It was one long rant of a paragraph, so I chopped it up a bit. Perhaps you too have an ex-friend. Perhaps I am a poet after all.

It’s my birthday today
and I’m not thinking about
how I’m going to spend it.
I’m thinking about
my ex-best friend
and how I wish we were
fourteen again
caring only about
boys and clothes,
and  listening to
Simon and Garfunkel
while we weep over
life altering happenings.
First kisses and sweet sixteen’s,
pimples, breakups, and proms,
becoming women,
high school graduation
and leaving for college.
I want my teenage years back,
and my grandmother,
and my dog Raleigh.
I want to sleep out in a tent
in my still best friend’s backyard
and sneak boys into her house
while everyone is asleep.
And I long to hear her mother’s shrill voice,
ordering us to shape up.
I want to giggle with her
and hang out for hours
in her magazine perfect bedroom.
But her room is gone
and so is our youth,
and her parents.
And our friendship.
And I wonder what we will share next.
What event might break
the silence.
The thought is unnerving
and scary
so I put it out of my mind.
Instead, I remember
the good times
the old times
when we were young and naïve
with flowers in our pigtails.
Kodak color prints
of the two of us
in teeny weeny bikinis,
with our hair in jumbo curlers.
And then engagements,
marriage, pregnancy,
the miracle of birth,
child rearing.
I want to remember
even the bad times
they were okay too
because we shared them.
Heartbreak, deceit,
misunderstandings,
tough love,
health scares,
divorce, remarriage,
rejection, repudiation,
the golden years,
ex-best friends forever.
Girl on a park bench

My Memory of 9/11

September 11 A

I wrote the following short story on January 8, 2002:

New Yorkers are known as pushy, arrogant, loud, and unfriendly. That’s the nice stuff said about us. I say we have our reasons.

First, let’s talk about the crowds in New York. Have you ever seen so many people? The streets are clogged, the restaurants are packed, and the subways and buses are like sardine cans. Our pushiness is really a survival tactic. In order to get from point A to point B in some reasonable amount of time and in one piece, one needs to be assertive. And when dealing with so many people, us New Yorkers have to stand up for ourselves. Thus the arrogance.

Loud? Well how else will we be heard? And unfriendly? Maybe we should say hello to every one of the thousands of people we pass daily. As Billy Joel so succinctly put it: New Yorkers are in a “New York state of mind.”

A pathetic creature of habit, I catch the 8:01 Long Island Railroad train every morning. I get on the same car and sit in the same seat. Then at Penn Station,  I take the same E subway car to West 4th Street and get out at the same subway exit. I then walk on the same side of the street for six blocks to my office on lower Broadway. On the way home, I precisely reverse the entire trip.

Every day my round trip, six-block, same-side-of-the-street walk on Broadway went like this:

I would pass a police command station permanently parked outside of Washington Square Park by New York University. In the morning, there was always the same police officer – a graying man in his fifties, bopping up and down to old rock and roll music wafting from his mobile post.

Every day I would get about a half block away from his post and try to guess what music he was playing. Sometimes it was Elvis or The Beach Boys; sometimes it was Frankie Valli singing “Big Girls Don’t Cry.”

On the way home in the evening, I would pass the command post just about the time that the morning and evening officers were changing shifts. The evening officer was in his mid-twenties and his music of choice was Billy Joel and U2.

I got to know their names –Officer Tommy in the morning and Officer Kevin in the evening. Kevin would occasionally play Beatles music and every time he did, I would compliment him on his choice, and tell him how much I liked it. When he started to play more and more Beatles music, Tommy would tease Kevin and say that he was playing Beatle music for “Madam Publisher.”  Kevin would blush and give Tommy a friendly jab on the arm and tell him to “cut it out.”

And then came 9/11.

Following the horrific events of that day, our offices were shut down for a few days. My first day back into the city and back into my routine was a tough one.

After 9/11, my “normal” routine was painfully different, and I wondered if anything would ever be normal again. At the train platform, the commuters looked shell shocked and walked from person to person asking about others they hadn’t seen since the attack. We shared our good and bad news with each other. Who was okay and who was “missing.”

On the E subway, everyone seemed nervous, and we all looked sadly at each other when the conductor made his announcement: “Next stop on the E to World Trade Center is West 4th Street.” When I got off the subway, I walked numbly toward Washington Square Park.

The smell was unbearable, and I panicked at the thought of what it could be. There were flyers everywhere—faces of hundreds of men and women hanging on telephone poles, fences, park benches, trees.

As I approached my half block point from the police station, I heard the faint sound of a Beatles ballad. “I’m looking through you” was playing in the background while people walked in a haunted daze. The flyers were blowing all over the sidewalks and streets and everyone carefully avoided stepping on them. Many passersby wore facemasks. It all seemed terribly surreal.

In the distance, I saw Officer Tommy running toward me saying, “Thank God, you’re okay. I haven’t seen you in a while. I thought somethin happened to you.” And he hugged me incredibly hard. I felt a little awkward so I tried to lighten up the mood. “The Beatles music,” I said to him “It’s so sad. We need your rock and roll music today.”

With his hands on my two shoulders, he looked at me through tears and said “Kevin, the night cop—you know, the kid—he’s missin. He went to the World Trade Center to help that morning and no one has seen him since.”

Then it was my turn to get teary, and with his hands still on my shoulders we stared in each others eyes, slightly embarrassed. And when the song “Blackbird,” started played in the background, I began to cry, and we hugged again.

Officer Tommy was crushed. “He was my son’s age,” he said. “I lost so many friends. So many gone, just like that. How do we recover from this?” I was fairly sure we would never recover from “this.”

As we embraced each other on the sidewalk, all I could think of was to lie to him and tell him that time heals all wounds. We were an unlikely pair, the two of us. A police officer from the 6th precinct being comforted by the chief operating officer of an international news magazine.

Every day we would talk for a few minutes on my way to the office. He was going to ground zero most days after his shift to help “bring his brothers home.”

On the way home—at the evening shift, it was always someone different, and the music was gone. Only Tommy played music anymore. One morning Tommy broke down and was trying not to cry. I told him that I found that keeping a journal was good therapy and that he should try writing everything down. I assured him, even though it was another lie, that he could get rid of his pain through words. “I’m no writer. I’m a New York City cop,” was his reply.

But he followed my suggestion and began to write. On my way into work some mornings he would give me various things he had written and asked me to check his spelling.   I loved his writing – I felt he had real talent and told him so.

Then one day he was gone. At first I thought maybe he was on vacation. But after a week, I figured he was probably not coming back. And like the afternoon shift, there was someone different there every day. And no more music.

I finally stopped one morning and asked the officer on duty what happened to Tommy. “He’s gone. He retired from the force. He couldn’t take the job no more.”

I often wonder why he never gave me a heads up, or said goodbye. Some might say he was a typical New Yorker.

He gave me the poem below the last time I saw him. I never even got the chance to tell him what I thought about it.

HONOR GUARD AT GROUND ZERO – Police Officer Thomas B. – 6th Precinct

Rake gently over our brother’s grave

Speak softly where he sleeps

His soul ascends

His spirit raised

Raised well above these ruins of death

He speaks to us

We stand erect

Amid the numbing breeze of winter’s breath

We salute our brother and raise our palms

Raised well above our breast

Our palms outstretched

We crease our brows, our minds, our hearts

Where underneath our brother lies

In sorrow, we salute him

Honor Guard