Thursday, 29 June 2017

Kneeling and Falling

by Florence Weinberger

Has my mother fallen to her knees?  Memory
is never enough, I believe her head’s nearly touching
the radio, I’m old enough to know Roosevelt’s voice,
I can hear the dusk of war in his grief, and see,
my mother’s hand is at her throat. 
She tells me, years later, no matter whose war,
the Jews will be on the losing end.

Jews are forbidden to kneel to anyone, not even God.
Only on the Day of Atonement, the cantor falls
prostrate, humbled for all of us, and I, in the dazzling
cathedral where Lori got married, couldn’t fold
to the kneeling bench at my feet.

Keening without consciousness, my father dropped
as if he’d been struck when my mother died,
and slowly my sister and I raised him up. 

Sometimes in yoga when I double over into
the child’s pose, knees and elbows tucked under,
I could be that girl sunk down next to my young mother
and it looks a lot like prayer.

* * * * *

"Kneeling and Falling" was first published in Miramar

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

All Memory is a Lie

by Florence Weinberger

I knew, when I was two,
the woman I followed up the stairs on all fours

was my mother, and the child she carried my little sister.
My vocabulary too crude to describe her shoes.

Did they have laces, was she wearing hose?
No one tracked me to freeze that crabbed climb,

the way they posed me bare-assed
on fake leopard when I was five months old—

And the kitchen that we entered when we reached
the top (I don’t see my father)

has an ice box, and an iron tub she bathed me in.
There must have been an ironing board, a hot iron

carelessly left plugged in, a sink over which
she peeled potatoes, so she could wrap my burning fingers

with those cooling strips.
Why is it I remember my mother’s tears

when my sister speaks only of her laughter?
Maybe it’s because all the memories we carted

as we moved from house to house, from coast to coast,
the ones we kept in shards and flashes,

were always wrong and always vivid and seldom shared.
Maybe it’s because memory is all scars, and still alive.

* * * * *

"All Memory is a Lie" was first published in the Topanga Messenger.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

How to make a good pumpkin pie

by Grace Marie Grafton

It’s near Thanksgiving. In her anguish
she wishes to conjure a narrative that would
lure the family out of their parallel distractions,
their cold slumber. How many hands
carry the small memories?
Did Dad really hunt that deer,
did Grandpa grapple with the thief
under the sycamore, was there
the gleam of a gun? Nothing as serious
as murder but never the lifting of the rug.
Her aunt wept but turned her head away,
everyone knew whose baby
it was, but portraits weren’t
allowed and nobody asked for filet mignon.

So she hauls out the cloud shawl
to cover the nicks in the diningroom table,
harvests pomegranates, unstitches
the web that veils the doorway.
A display of brushes and paints,
watercolor paper in a pile, an old record
of children’s shouts and laughter in the yard
under the tarpaulin. Her nephews –
their daring percussion, her daughters
braiding and unbraiding everyone’s hair.

* * * * *

"How to make a good pumpkin pie" was first published in Sin Fronteras.

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poems, most recently 'Jester,' published by Hip Pocket Press. She has taught thousands of children to write poetry through her work with CA Poets in the Schools.

Monday, 26 June 2017


by Grace Marie Grafton

Lend my heart to a passion flower in Surinam
because it has guardian ants and there
my heart would be, tucked down
between the stems of the pistils
and the ants would assume it to be integral
to the flower and would guard it from all threat.
I'd be safe. At least, my heart would be.

Yesterday I heard a poet say 'the price of love.'
Of course she didn't mean legal tender or even
a ring or deed to a house. She meant sorrow.

Do the guardian ants love the flower, their job?
I'd like to think so, maybe an insect kind of
love but I know I love the passion flower and,
despite the fact that I know it will die and
I will die (the ants too), it still feels good.

I want to share my passion with their
passion, just look at the color of those petals,
just look how beautifully my heart fits under the
cerise punctuation of the pistils, look at the articulated
dangerous complexity of the ants' legs.

* * * * *

"Passion" was first published in Askew.

Grace Marie Grafton is the author of six collections of poems, most recently 'Jester,' published by Hip Pocket Press. She has taught thousands of children to write poetry through her work with CA Poets in the Schools.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Another Morning on Earth

by Meryl Natchez

On the altar in the living room, pictures of my parents,
my brother at 40—one of the last photos—Larry’s parents,
my mother and her sisters on Atlantic City Boardwalk in the 30’s,
and Erwin, my mother’s last love, for the besotted, lively gaze
she turns on him, though I try to keep him
behind the flowers. Perhaps they watch me,
even watch over me. When I fell
and it was just bad enough
to put up railings and walk more slowly,
I felt they had given me a warning.
Or when the baby is here, or when we gather,
turkey or brisket or pot de crème, or an ordinary morning,
open newspaper or book or laptop, the ramekin of salt
on the table—there they are,

I change the flowers as they wilt,
alstroemerias, anemones, the last sweet peas,
because I want my dead to keep watching out for us,
for the children and grandchildren and beloved friends
in this chancy world where death lurks on the landing
or in the car, or microbes
or snipers or breast
or bone or stomach.

What do they think about the time I waste?
Such an abundance that I throw whole hours
into online Scrabble or Threes with the excuse that they
are a form of meditation,
because it’s hard to be here now,
now being a confused elixir
of sun and fog and email and bird shadow and superstition
and chicken feet and toast and news
and insatiable longing and I have to pee, a fusillade
of random moments that can converge
into a ravishing pattern,
which I have, from time to time and briefly, glimpsed.
But mostly I wander the planet with blinders on,
going somewhere fast.
I like to keep moving.
I like my time full.
And I like to believe that because
their photos look out from their niche
in the living room, they are present, and if
I keep a fresh parade of flowers on the altar
they will keep on keeping me
from harm.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

With today's brilliant poem "The Conservation of Matter" by Meryl Natchez, Writing In A Woman's Voice goes on a week's summer solstice vacation until June 25, 2017. Happy mid-summer days to all!

The Conservation of Matter

by Meryl Natchez

                                    for J. E.

I follow the hump of the whale exhaling
as it heads for the Bering Sea. I want to see it, and see it again,

closer. Or branches in a storm, their exuberant dance
with the wind. Even rain on a New York street,

cigarette butts in the gutter, taxis splattering. I can’t get enough of it.
You say: When we die we cease to exist. Everything else

is illusion. But what about that law of physics:
the conservation of matter? How water changes to

steam or ice—mass plus energy
equal to the first wet splash.

And this hard-won companionship, smelted
in a blaze day after day—surely something endures.

Slowly, light turns the bay slate blue.
Night departs. Morning reappears.

The dead look out from their accustomed photos,
stopped in time, but not altogether silent.

The last whiff of the whale’s breath
transforms into ocean, air.

Friday, 16 June 2017


by Judith Offer

for Toni Locke
Stand still;  I am trying to fit this poem around you,
Around your wrinkly smile and your eyes of sky,
Around your recorder waiting on the piano bench;
While you drift to the dining room,
Drawn to the afternoon sun spreading  gold
Over your geraniums and your jig saw puzzle.
If you would come back in here
And listen to what I have so far,
The way you always have,
I’m sure this poem would gather neatly around you.
But I stand here, mouth full of pins,
And you float further away,
Across your spare kitchen, out your porch door,
Over the bird feeder and the bird clothesline.
I basted the pieces of your poem yesterday,
A New England style that will be the real you,
Never blustery, nor braggadocio:
A Boismoitier duet, or a Baton,
Or maybe a folk song from your book.
But on you float, over the wormy apple that made good sauce,
Toward The Food Mill and Farmer Joe’s
And I suppose Laurel Books.
The fine fabric of your new poem
Is the one you wove yourself, Toni:
The warp, things unspoken but judiciously lived:
How you kept your body moving;
How you didn’t own things you couldn’t use;
How you tried to make sure
Everyone’s children knew the songs;
How you collected real friends,
The ones who did something for someone else.
The woof is the things you were moved to say:
How you learned to edit a newspaper,
So the people could hang together on the truth;
How you enjoyed and admired your children,
And their children and their children;
How fast and furious and funny life is,
And how impossible to control.
The poem is almost done;  one fitting won’t take long.
I know you’ll love it; you’ll wear it forever.
If you will only come back over here and stand still. 

* * * * *

Judith Offer has had two daughters, five books of poetry and dozens of plays. (Eighteen of the latter, including six musicals, have been produced.)  She has read her poetry at scores of poetry venues, but is particularly delighted to have been included in the Library of Congress series and on “All Things Considered,” on NPR.  Her writing reflects her childhood in a large Catholic family—with some Jewish roots—her experience as teacher, community organizer, musician, historian, gardener, and all-purpose volunteer, and her special fascination with her roles of wife and mother.  Her most recent book of poetry, called DOUBLE CROSSING, is poems about Oakland, California, where she lives with her husband, Stuart.