Up from the grave to denounce a naked emperor

Helen&Me.jpg
Helen and me. I was so happy to get to see her, and I think she was happy to see me, too. Maybe even happier than she would have been to see Donald Trump. (Actually, I’m pretty sure she was happier to see me.)

Donald J. Trump is a man his supporters would avoid like gay pride parades if he were saying the things he says while unshaven and pushing all his worldly possessions in a shopping cart.

But he wears bespoke suits and lives and works in buildings with his name on them. So instead of being called out for what he is – the emperor with no clothes  – his rants are miraculously elevated to the level of worthy discourse. It would be lovely to live in a world where his call to bar Muslims from entering the US would signify the beginning of his being exiled from public life. Sadly, I know better.

I don’t often put words in the mouths of dead people. But I’m pretty sure that Helen Sperling, who died last week at the age of 95, would have excoriated Mr. Naked Emperor.

Helen was the first Holocaust survivor I ever met. I don’t remember not knowing her. But until a Sunday School morning when I was 12 and 60 or so of us sat on the floor in the Edelstein Room at our synagogue while Helen sat on a chair and told us her story, I only knew her as Paul and Franny’s mother.

Helen was the mother with the musical laugh and long hair worn in a braid down her back. My mother had short hair and a short fuse. I wanted the mother with the musical laugh and long hair. I loved being at the Sperlings’ house. I spent a lot of time there because Paul was one of my best friends until we turned 5. His sister Franny was two years older. She was beautiful and way too sophisticated to hang out with four-year-olds.

One day, which I only can tell you about because it became the stuff of legend for the mothers involved, Helen served a lunch that consisted of pretty much none of my preferred menu items. (In Helen’s defense, I was a pretty strange eater. I didn’t like peanut butter. I didn’t like jelly. I didn’t like tomato sauce. I didn’t like sweet things.)

But I had been taught to be polite, and to be a good guest. Good guests did not ask for food that wasn’t already on the table. Good guests did not say “I don’t like that!”

So, when Helen called Paul and me into the kitchen for lunch and sat us down, I evidently surveyed the repast and looked up at Helen.

“These,” I said, eyeing up the contents of one of the serving plates, “are the friendliest cucumbers I’ve ever seen.”

I know that Helen must have laughed and laughed in that moment, because she and my mother both laughed every time one (or both) of them recalled it – right up to last year, when I was in Utica for my Aunt Bessie’s funeral and had time either to go to the cemetery and see my dad or go hang out with Helen, who was 94.

I called Franny to make sure Helen was up for visitors. Sadly, Paul and I never re-established our pre-kindergarten bond (there’s always hope, and we do have our memories), but when I was 15 and Franny 17, we got close. Ten years ago, we reconnected. Aside from being a generally fabulous human being, she is is also an amazing aerialist, and my hero and inspiration in all things flying.

Helen was as full of life and as feisty as ever. That she needed oxygen to breathe and wasn’t so good at getting out of a chair did absolutely nothing to diminish her vivacity and power.

She exclaimed over the cream puff I had brought for her (“My favorite! How did you know?” What I didn’t say: “Because Franny told me when I called her to see if you’d be up for a visit.”) and lamented that she didn’t have anything to serve. I’d bought frozen fish sticks; Helen was thrilled to let me use her oven.

We yakked like girlfriends. I told her about my experiences as a reporter in Central Wisconsin, where a Holocaust denier had taken possession of a good deal of Public Square real estate. The denier used local media to broadcast her message, got herself invited to an eighth grade classroom to talk to students, and even arranged for a public talk at the local two-year university center. I spent three years there, I told Helen, and was most proud of two things I’d done. One was connecting a local coffee shop to Colectivo, a Milwaukee-based coffee roasting company, making it possible to get a great cup of coffee in the (relative) middle of nowhere. The other was getting a Holocaust survivor to come to talk to those eighth graders, and to give a public talk at the university center.

We talked about getting old and dying. She was ready, but as long as she could, she said, she would tell her story. I asked her if she’d recorded it.

“Yes,” she said, “I spoke with the Spielberg Foundation. (The disc is) in a vault, because until I’m dead, I want people to hear it directly from me.”

She told me about the bracelets she gave every attendee at the end of every talk. Blue, and engraved with the words, “Thou Shalt Not Be A Bystander.”

“I don’t have any here,” she said. Then, she remembered that she was wearing one. She took it off and gave it to me.

Helen was a staunch supporter of Israel. She also loved the United States, and the best of what both countries aim to be and represent.

There is no way she would have stood by while a well-dressed, charismatic political wannabe spouted religious hatred. She knew exactly where that led. Which is why she spent her life doing everything in her power to make sure no one would ever have to go there again.

Note: Even though Helen didn’t want any video of her telling her story while she was alive, I did find one – on one of her many visits to Union College, her talk was videotaped. Click here to see it. 

A bottle of wine and a cat: Surviving the first dogless days

 

Tuki&SweetheartOptimized.jpg
Tuki & Sweetheart, relaxing. This was after she’d reached the point where we let her on the couch and before the point where she couldn’t get up there by herself anymore.

 

The house is so quiet. No one needs to go outside before we go to bed. There are no clacking feet in the middle of the night, the prelude to a trip down the stairs and outside into the dark. No one needs to go outside first thing in the morning. And no one is chasing Sweetheart out of the driveway when he leaves for work.

How things went

Four of us left the house to go to the vet on Saturday morning. Three of us came back.

Tuki and I sat in back of Talia’s SUV. Sweetheart sat in front. T had put the seat down on Tuki’s side and spread blankets out, so she could lie comfortably. She’d also bought a bag of freeze-dried duck hearts for her Best Girl. I spent the ride feeding them to the grateful recipient.

When we got there and got her out of the car, Sweetheart took her over to eat some snow. It had snowed the night before. Fitting, as it had done the same thing the first night she’d been with us all those years before. That morning, she’d been in constant motion, dancing all over the yard, sticking her nose in the snow and tossing what she didn’t eat, openly delighted at this toy that spanned everything she could see.

I walked into the office. Joanne was sitting behind the counter. She’s been the receptionist there since before Tuki was born. I put my head down on the counter and burst into tears.

“I’m sorry,” she said. “It’s the hardest thing we have to do.”

She took us into the exam room and got a blanket so Tuki wouldn’t have to get up on the table. Tuki, never one of Park Pet’s grateful patients, stayed true to form, growling at the vet. Dr. Poehlmann told us what would happen – first a shot to send Tuki into the Happy Place where Everything is Wonderful (or that state of mind where, as Talia said later, Tuki would be doing things like staring up and saying things like, “Wow! My paws are SOOOO big!!”). Then, five minutes or so later, she would shave Tuki’s back leg, insert an IV and inject the drug that would stop her heart.

Sweetheart held and petted Tuki, so she was distracted when Dr. Poehlmann put the needle into her left flank. The vet stepped out. We got Tuki settled onto the blanket, and Talia and I laid on either side of her and stroked her. We talked and sang to her.

When Dr. Poehlmann came back, Tuki was unconscious. Dr. P shaved Tuki’s leg. She told us that the knee was very swollen and that Tuki had practically no muscle in that leg.

“I take comfort in biochemical information,” Talia said. “Can you tell me exactly how the drug works?”

I don’t remember what Dr. Poehlmann said. It had to do with interrupting some process or other.

Pho and tears

After it was over, we dropped Sweetheart at home. Talia bought pho for lunch, and we ate at Oldest Daughter’s house. We hugged Layli, my granddog, and talked about Oldest Daughter’s impending baby (yes, I’m going to be a grandmother, which feels very weird although I’m told by all my friends who have grandchildren that it is amazing). And, of course, I cried some. But it was easier because I wasn’t home. Then, I was. I spent the rest of the day sobbing.

I was a little better on Sunday, though not much.

“You need a bottle of wine and a cat,” Sweetheart said at one point.

On Monday, Sweetheart took the car to work. I managed to get all the dog things – water dish on a stand, food dish, food container, grooming tools and toys – gathered up and put away.

Then, I picked up her bed. She slept, ala “The Princess and the Pea,” atop a dog bed under which several blankets were piled.

I am not ready to wash it, or throw it away.

Goodbye, Tuki, and thank you for 15 amazing years.

I’m writing this with a view.

TukiLastMorningResized20151121.jpg

Tuki is lying with her head on my outstretched leg. In two hours, she will be gone and I will be bereft. I’ve never had to put a dog down before.

In between writing, I put my hand on her head and stroke the space from just above her nose and between her eyes with my thumb.

We’ve had nearly 15 years together. Our 15th Doggiversary would have been November 30th. That was the night I found her, a three-month-old stray puppy gamboling in the grass with a friend’s dog.

“Who’s the other dog?” I said, as we watched the two of them frolic from a porch above the patch of lawn where they were having a grand old time giving chase.

“No idea,” she said.

I ventured out into the dark for a closer look. Lucas, Ann’s dog, was a seven-year-old Schnauzer/Yorkshire Terrier mix. He weighed about 10 pounds. The other dog was bigger but, as I got closer, I could see how young it was.

She spent one night with us, and those of us not crazy in love with her from the jump (my then-husband) were moving in that direction. Animal Control picked her up in the morning so she could be reunited with her owners. We filled out a “first dibs on adopting” form if no one claimed her.

Fast forward three weeks.

The Humane Society says we can adopt her. But, they say, she has kennel cough and they want to keep an eye on her for a couple of days. The next day, they call and tell us to pick her up. We bring her home.

A week later, we’re at the vet for the second time. The first vet said it was bronchitis and threw pills at us. The second vet says, “I don’t know if this dog is going to live through the night.”

I ask how what it will cost to see if we can save her. Money is short, but I decide I can handle giving up three months of cell phone service.

As we leave, I can hear her shrill puppy cries as the vet tech and vet insert an IV.

The next morning, the vet calls.

“Good news,” he said. “The antibiotics did the job. She popped up this morning and gobbled her food. We want to keep her another night.”

Fast forward to now.

There are not enough or the right kind of words to express the universe of love, kindness and joy this dog has brought me. She was the valedictorian of her manners class. You could leave a plate of food in reach and she wouldn’t touch it if it wasn’t offered. She caught two squirrels, and tried to be a good friend to all her feline housemates, some of whom were more receptive to her overtures than others.

So, I am going to get dressed now and the three of us – that 13-year-old, who is now 28, and Sweetheart, who’s been my best human partner for 10 years – are going to do the last, best right thing we can for someone we love.

Tuki&Flowers.jpg

Before Obergefell v. Hodges, there was Della and Dorothy: a tribute to ‘The Jones Girls’

“I just think of all the older gays and lesbians that worked so long and hard for this day, especially the the ones that passed away without getting to see it happen.” Mark Kavouksorian 

I don't have a picture of Della and Dorothy. This will do, though.
I don’t have a picture of Della and Dorothy. This will have to suffice.

It was during the winter of my freshman year of college that my mother bought a house on Ridge Road. She and my sister moved from the townhouse on top of a hill that shook whenever the wind blew. We’d decamped there the summer after Dad died. (The synagogue owned the house, and the board had not been subtle about shooing us out the door to get it ready for a new rabbi.)

We hadn’t mixed with the immediate neighbors at Townhouse Complex, but on my first trip to the new house, Mom introduced me to “The Jones Girls.” The front door faced two driveways – ours and theirs. A tiny strip of land separated the two.

Della and Dorothy were probably in their 70s. Della swanned around in peignoirs, graceful and elegant. Her hair was always perfectly arranged atop her head in a swirl of snow. Dorothy’s hair was close-cropped and iron gray. She wore flannel shirts and jeans, and spent a lot of time outside, gardening. Della was an inside-the-house kind of person. I’m not sure what she did in there, but she always looked beautiful doing it.

The first year I came home to Ridge Road for semester break, I spent an afternoon watching them decorate their Christmas tree. It was a fake tabletop model. We talked about nothing very important as they brought out the ornaments and arranged them. They were interesting and good company and made me feel welcome, which wasn’t a frequent occurrence at that point in my life. (I was one of those kids who shouldn’t have started college right out of high school.)

After that, I made it my business to spend time with Della & Dorothy whenever I was home.

Over Spring Break, I asked them how they met and whether they’d lived in Utica their whole lives. It turned out that they’d met there as young women. They finished their schooling in Utica and went off to live in different cities. A lot of different cities, as it turned out.

As they ran through where they lived and what they done there – I think Della was a secretary and Dorothy did banking of some kind, or maybe it was the other way ‘round – a theme emerged.

The narrative went kind of like this:

“We lived in (name of city) and I got a job working as a school secretary and Della was working at the bank and we were there for (insert number of years). And then we had to leave.”

It took me three or four “….And then we had to leaves,” to figure out that I was in the presence of a lesbian couple who’d been together for 50 or more years.

I was an immature 19-year-old kid who’d never been anywhere – unless you counted Connecticut College and Cape Cod. Listening to those two recount their life adventures had been fascinating even before I’d made the Big Connection. After it, I was increasingly angry at the people who’d run them out of so many places. I was awestruck at what it must have taken for them to survive. And I was so happy they’d ended up someplace where I could meet them and hear their story.

Those two kind women were superheroes. They must have gone through all kinds of hell, and to have survived what they did with their love for each other intact was a miracle. That they could be kind to anyone else after all that is a tribute to who they were.

My mother moved away in 1983. Those ladies were old then. I did a search for their obituaries. I found Dorothy’s.

“Dorothy was born on June 2, 1917 and passed away on Friday, April 9, 2010. Dorothy was a resident of Utica, New York.”

So much has been left out, and so much we’ll never know. But I can add two sentences.

“She was predeceased by her life partner, Della Jones. They lived long, and loved well.”

Tuki: My heart on four legs

Things are a little hectic here in Flyover Country at the moment, so I am going to post a photo of my dog inspecting the bouquet of birthday flowers my sister and her family sent Mom, who turned 87 this week.

Tuki and flowers
My dog, on Mom’s floor, contemplates the the birthday flowers my sister and her family sent from Canada after a dinner of chicken and rice.

Mom is not the only senior citizen in our family. Tuki, the aforementioned dog, turned 14 this past September. I’ll tell her full story when things are a little calmer, but here’s a bit about the dogs of my childhood and how Tuki and I came to be a pair.

When we were kids, my sister and I dearly wanted fuzzy pets. But Debby was allergic to cats, Dad was not an animal lover and Mom had gotten her fill of animals growing up on a farm. By the time we came along, the only animals left there were Duke and Penny, a pair of dogs. We liked Penny, but Duke, a German Shepherd, was a tad scary. Later, Aunt Bessie and Uncle Sam, who lived nearby, acquired Prince, the ultimate in canine home security. Prince didn’t care who the humans welcomed. Everyone was the enemy. One night, Aunt Bessie, dressed in her nightie, bent down to feed him. Guess where he bit her?

It’s mildly ironic then, that Tuki, who started her life with me as a fuzzy round fur ball, grew up to be a Shepherd mix. She has long legs and a long, slender frame. I always tell people that if I looked like my dog, I’d be Naomi Campbell.

She was a stray when I found her. She was three months old, gamboling in the side yard at my friend Ann’s office with Ann’s dog Lucas. Ann rented offices and my employer at the time was housed there. I was running a night meeting and had to dash out to pick up a kid.

“Who’s the other dog?” I asked.

“No idea,” she said. “I’ve never seen it before.”

The puppy was having a lovely time playing that game where you get just so close and dash off. Ann’s neighbor Rodney walked up behind it while it was distracted by the game we were playing. He scooped it up and put it in my arms.

“Madam,” he said, “you have a dog.”

I tossed the puppy in the car and went to pick up the kid from First Husband’s. I’d gotten her the CD alarm clock she’d been asking for forever and was looking forward to her joy at getting it.

The puppy (it turned out to be a she) was quiet as long as I had my hand on her head, stroking her as she sat in the passenger seat. I prayed that she wouldn’t pee there. She didn’t. But whenever I took my hand away, she whimpered. So, when I wasn’t shifting gears, I was stroking her head.

I got to First Husband’s and can now testify that a CD alarm clock is irrelevant to a kid when you show up with a puppy.

I’d already called the Dog Lost and Found, because I wanted to make sure she wasn’t somebody’s beloved lost pet. They picked her up the next morning. We signed a “finder’s form” that would allow us to have first dibs on adoption if no one claimed her.

“C’mere, you cute little stinker,” the DL&F guy said, adding there was a good chance she’d be claimed.

I picked her up. I looked deep into her eyes and she into mine.

“I hope your people come for you,” I told her. “And if they don’t, I hope you get a wonderful home where you are loved and cared for.”

Then, I handed her over.

As it turned out, she was somebody’s beloved pet. I already loved her. Then, Providence smiled upon us. As Second Ex was deciding whether he wanted to adopt her during her week at the DL&F, our house got broken into, bolstering one of my arguments for why it would be good to have a dog. Her owners had a week to claim her, and the break-in happened in the middle of that week. As soon as the detective left, I called to see if she was still there. She was, and the woman on the other end of the phone told me that if no one had claimed her by now, they probably wouldn’t.

Sure enough, she became ours. We named her M’tukah Ruth Gettelman. M’tukah, because it’s Hebrew for sweetheart, Ruth because she was a stray (“Whither thou goest…”) and Gettleman because the Gettelman Mansion is where I found her. We called her Tuki.

Within a week of bringing her home, she almost died from bacterial pneumonia she’d picked up at the DL&F. I was beside myself at the thought of losing her. I was madly in love with this sweet little creature who adored me as openly as I did her. I have never stopped being grateful to the vet who saved my puppy. (In one of our rare areas of disagreement, Tuki has never forgiven him for those needle sticks and whatever else it took to get her well.)

My friend Grace, also a dog lover, summed it up perfectly when she called her dog “My heart on four legs.”

That is absolutely how I feel about Tuki. There’s only one way I have ever been able to bear the thought of knowing that dogs don’t live as long as we do and I will likely outlive her. It’s knowing that it would be harder for her to live without me than it will be for me to live without her.

Ruth Goldbas & Ernie Banks, who died old, and Baki, who died young

Four Februarys ago, I attended two funerals in the same week. It was the first time that had happened. A month later I was in New York hanging out with my niece and nephew. My sister had decided to fly down from Edmonton during their spring break, and New York is always a great place for a family rendezvous.

Funerals must have been large on my mind, especially as our cousin Debbie (z”l) had died that January. We were (and still are) still more or less reeling from that one as a family.

Anyway, I was telling Elizabeth about the two-funeral week when this slid out of my mouth.

“I know a lot of people,” I said, “and that means that one day I’m going to know a lot of dead people.”

Elizabeth burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. I accepted the invitation and joined her.

Sure enough, it’s four years down the road and my dead people list keeps getting longer.

This past Thursday, our family friend Ruth Goldbas died. She and her late husband Moses loved my parents, and Ruth played a large and quiet role in helping to salvage what was left of my family the year after my father died.

Once a week for that entire year, my sister and I would go to her house after school. Mom would meet us there when she got off work from her teaching job.

They had seven children, which I thought was the neatest thing ever.

Two were around our age, but way too smart and cool to pay attention to a couple of fatherless social misfits. To be honest, Debby and I probably weren’t great company at that point in our lives. That mattered not one iota to Ruth. She always treated us as if we were the most interesting people in the room, and always had a dinner prep job for us to do that made us feel welcome and useful.

When I went to represent the family at Aunt Bessie’s funeral this past September, I used some of my 36 hours in town to find out where Ruth was living and go see her. It was clear that she was not going to be around for a whole lot longer, but getting to experience her radiant smile again was a huge gift.

“I was sure that the Waldmans were in my past!”

We just sat there, happy as a pair of pigs in you-know-what and then dialed up Mom, so she and Ruth could have a chat. When her son David showed up, he snapped a picture of us.

Ruth Goldbas and me in September. Photo by her son David
Me and Ruth in September. Her son David took the photo, and her daughter Esther, who’d been up to visit the day before I showed up, had brought her the chocolate cake.

Like his son David, Mosie was an attorney. He even merited a mention in Roger Kahn’s book “Good Enough to Dream,” about a season Kahn spent with the Utica Blue Sox.

I mention this because on Friday, baseball great Ernie Banks (aka “Mr. Cub”) died. He never played for the Blue Sox, but he did spend a night at the Treadway Inn.  I know this because our dad took me and my sister there the morning Ernie and his fellow Cubbies were to play an exhibition game in Cooperstown at the Hall of Fame. We brought our autograph books and cameras. The autographs are long gone, but I have my memories of Ernie Banks, and of his teammate Ron Santo.

I took this picture of Ernie Banks in 1971, the year my father took us to get autographs from the Chicago Cubs. We weren't the only kids there, as you can tell from this picture.
I took this picture of Ernie Banks in 1971, the year my father took us to get autographs from the Chicago Cubs. We weren’t the only kids there, as you can tell from this picture.

Ernie Banks isn’t the only athlete I spent this weekend remembering. Baki may have made it into the Baseball Hall of Fame too, if he’d gotten a chance to grow up.

I was at work the Monday morning he died. It was 2005, and Baki was 12. His parents Marge & Andy are two of my dearest friends.

He wasn’t sick. He’d spent Sunday afternoon and early evening snow tubing with a group from synagogue. He went to bed happy, sharing a bed his nine-year-old brother, the way they always did. Their 16-year-old brothers shared another room, with separate bunk beds. M&A tucked four kids into bed that night. The moment before Marge went to wake them up for school was the last before her family’s life took a turn into a place no parent ever wants to go.

More than 1,000 people showed up for his funeral. On Saturday, about 50 of us gathered at the same synagogue for a Baki-centered memorial. There was some singing, some study of texts from Pirke Avot, and a lot of great storytelling. We shared our memories of Baki and what of him we have carried forward with us these past 10 years.

Baki was an astonishingly graceful and talented athlete.

He was a middle child who navigated the shark-infested waters of sibling competition with the same elegance he brought to his soccer and softball games; he had a quiet sense of mischief he deployed skillfully and well. There was more than one comparison to Buddha, and those making it were people who had known Baki, but not one another.

His soccer teammates told of having started every game for the season after his death “one man down” for the first 10 seconds. Baki’s jersey number had been 10, and that was their tribute. The year they were high school seniors, their soccer team went to the state championships. They started their game “one man down,” because, as one of his teammates said, “If Baki had been alive, he would have been here with us.”

Everyone who spoke had beautiful things to say. His grandmothers read of adventures they’d had with Baki dating from shortly after he was born through to his last birthday, a month before he died.

The most powerful moments of the afternoon, for me, centered around Baki’s classmates, teammates, brothers and the family friends who had been peers. Now young adults, they had experienced his death and mourned his passing as children. Seeing them express, as adults, with adults, the grief they felt as children in a setting where their friend’s memory was the focus, was profound.

It was important for them in a way that was different for the rest of us, possibly because when you’re a child, adults are in charge. They may not be able to control death, but they control a lot of other things. So a kid experiencing a friend’s death may not really understand that the adults are as absolutely lost as they are in this particular situation.

What I saw happen in those young adults, all with the same particular searing hole in their psyches, is as close as I’ve ever been to a healing event in a spiritual setting. For them, being able to pull those feelings out and air them in a setting where they were not only safe, but welcomed and encouraged, was transformational in a very different way than it was for us adult mourners.

I know a lot of people, alive and dead. Yesterday’s event gave some things to chew on in terms of how it is and what it means to carry forward the memories of those we loved, liked and cared for.

Today, it also makes me realize that down the line, if I’m lucky, someone will be doing that for me.

Kelly Cherry, poetry and Mr. Perfect from the Neck Down

I used to write poetry. It’s been a long time, but lately, I’ve had an urge to start again. So it was interesting timing that my Christmas present from Sweetheart’s father and his wife was a volume of Seamus Heaney’s poetry.

There are massive holes in my literary education. Heaney was one of them, but thanks to D&K, that will be changing.

All the Christmas books from D&K include, somewhere inside, a photograph of a dead white guy. It’s fun to get money any time, of course, but there’s something truly special about being part of a family in which every holiday means that someone spent significant amounts of time imagining what you would love to read and went hunting for it.

Getting back to poetry, one of my favorite under-appreciated poets is Kelly Cherry. I met her when I was a baby journalist and my first editor sent me out to interview her. We don’t see each other often, but established enough of a connection to remain friends nearly 30 years down the road.

I was writing a lot more poetry then. Reading hers blew me away. It still does. I once told her – because it’s true – that my poems were like melody lines and hers were entire symphonies. Here’s one:

“From Venice: Letter to an Ex-Husband” (The Horses of San Marco)

I am riding on bronze,

Astride a sea-city.

I love my horse

With more than human pity.

His helpless eye,

His cool, wide flank

Are no less real than yours,

I frankly think.

His deep gold hue is like liquid,

As if a canal had been poured into the mold

Of a horse. He canters

Above the world.

Bold as the sky,

Eternity between his teeth

Like a bit.

Oh I love my

Horse with more than human

Love, with love

That is truer, animalistic,

Given to no man.

On him I ride

Through salt air and

The sinister, traitorous streets,

Sculpture’s bride.

It’s from her collection “Death and Transfiguration,” but she has many more. She’s written short stories and novels, too.

Anyway, back to when we met. It was an interesting time. First Husband had just met Better Wife than I’d Been, and I was madly in love with a guy I now refer to (when I refer to him at all) as Mr. Perfect from the Neck Down. The first time he dumped me was just after Thanksgiving.

This is a poem I wrote about it.

“Tonight’s Special”

What I would like

Is a fuse

To attach to the solstice moon

Lighting the year’s longest night.

Shining,

Benign

All ripe and round.

 Both of you,

Full of yourselves.

I, temporarily eclipsed by

Circumstance

In the pursuit

Of personal illumination,

Want that fuse

Lit.

Want to watch it crackle

And burn.

Explode

And fizzle.

Become a collection

Of harmless ashes

Floating,

Aimless

In a cold sky.

As unaware as the moon,

You have wreaked

Careless havoc in

Your attempt to ripen

And you continue on,

Willfully ignorant of

Any connection you

Could possibly have

To tides

Smashing against

Innocent beaches

As you orbit some

Nebulous idea

You call

“Holiness.”