Sunday, August 21, 2011

Precious moments with Sarah and Ethan / Poem: Cardboard Houses

Sarah and Ethan borrowed Lisa's Mini-Cooper and drove in from Brooklyn. Ethan asked if I wanted to drive it. First test, he said, is figuring out how to use the keys.

Back in Brooklyn, he said, Sarah had handed him the keys she got from Lisa. It took him 10 minutes to figure out how to start the car.

Keyhole is on the dash. You stick the entire black fob in the ignition, put your foot on the brake, and simultaneously press Start.

Did you know that, Rob?

The car handled very well. I loved driving it. So did Scott and my son Dan.

Ethan said, "It's a cute car, isn't it?"

"Yes," I said, "it's the kind of car where you look at it and think, 'What a wonderful world we live in.'"

I drove us to Flori's for breakfast. Sarah was still asleep so we brought her back b'fast which she enjoyed. That's my new go-to place for breakfast.

The late pianist Bud Powell, born in Harlem (1924-66), was born into a musical family and was "the Charlie Parker of the piano." Sadly, he was also mentally ill, suffering from either bipolar or schizophrenia.

Despite spending a third of his life in mental institutions, he recorded and wrote prolifically. One of his compositions, according to Wiki, is Hallucinations.

He would often recuperate from his illness in Willow Grove, at his mom's house.

Ethan and I stopped our Mini-Cooper in front of the house. He snapped a few photos, as one pianist to another.

The house is quite lovely and large.

After we got home, we had a surprise visit from:

After they left, I read Sarah and Ethan two poems. They actually didn't mind hearing them.

First, I read my newest poem, Cardboard Houses, which I presented at my Writers' Group yesterday.

Then I read them Before Pinsky Went On, about the former poet laureate reading at Bucks County Community College.

When I finished, Ethan said it reminded him of a long-forgotten memory. When he was in second grade and growing up in Minnesota, his mom took him to hear a reading by then-famous poet and translator John Ciardi.

How cool, he thot. This guy has a job where he just writes poetry and reads it aloud to an audience.

Now, of course, Ethan plays jazz piano, and plays it with his band to an audience.

At our party yesterday, I sat at a table with Julio. When Ethan walked by, I whispered in his ear (that was the only way you could hear): He's a famous jazz musician.

Suddenly, Julio took note!

Americans love FAME.

When the band took an intermission and were eating at one of the tables, we all had a chance to talk. Ethan was pleased that I had liked his choice of mystery novels for me to read while in the hospital: Detective X and the Wallander books.

"Scott and I also love the Jack Reacher books by Lee Child. Dyou know them?"

"Sure do," said Ethan. "They're gonna make them into movies."

Scott and I gasped. Who would play Reacher?

Well, with Ethan you have to guess.

Reacher is very tall, around 50 or more, massively built, awkward on his feet, thick dark hair, a face that's not necessarily handsome, and he's not interested in sleeping with most women b/c he's after one woman.

We couldn't think of anyone.

Think of someone from a cult, said Ethan.

John Travolta? He wouldn't be bad. He was brutal in Pulp Fiction and he's a great actor.

No, it's not Travolta. What's the name of the cult?


Well, said Ethan, who's a famous Scientologist?

Not Tom Cruise, said Scott.

Tom Cruise, said Ethan. Totally miscast.

He's always smiling, said Scott. Reacher wouldn't smile.

Well, I said, I guess they want the movie to sell. Do people still like Tom Cruise? I have no idea since I just landed here.


Pulled by mysterious forces from
my nighttime bed
I sleepily descend the stair
open the front door
and peek as a stranger
into the dark night.

A misty, charcoal world
lay before me
no moon
no stars
was this the earth I knew so well?

Two houses like cardboard cutouts
grinned at me from
across the street
windows dark
tilting slightly toward the other.

Had they just landed?
Were they sturdy or
in imminent danger of
Did they see me or
have any regard for me?

I closed the door.
Opened it again.
They hadn’t left.
Was it my imagination or
did I hear them laughing
under the cloudless sky?

At the Writers' Group, we write comments on copies of a poem to help the poet. He can then choose whether to use them or not.

Here are some comments from my poets, with my answers:

ONE: Putting a different spin on what we see on a regular basis is very good.

TWO: I love the first line. Love this, too. Mysterious. Interesting ending written from poet's eyeview. Great. I love the way you write. I'd like to write the same way.

Answer: You have your own unique style. Stick to it.

THREE: The word "Mysterious." Would another word be better?

Answer: I agree, but I couldn't think of any.

FOUR: You make a mind picture of a dark night. "Did they have any regard for me?" Would "thought" be a better word?

Answer: No. Regard is what I wanted, i.e., affection, but regard is a milder term than affection.

FIVE: It is a very deep piece in the memory you brought up as a subtext. I'm curious, what inspired you in writing this piece?

Answer: I opened the door on a dark night and saw two houses across the street that looked like cardboard cutouts.

FIVE continued: How old were you?

Answer: 65 and a half.

FIVE continued: What's very stunning is how much character you give to the houses - and with such personality. Interesting as you see this as a poetry "self portrait" - what a neat way to look at it.

Answer: When I was halfway through the poem I began receiving unconscious messages that the poem was really about me. I tried to shut off the message and just write. I've always believed my House poems are about me, including The Tyvek House, Houses on the Corner, and about 30 others.


  1. No comment for you to answer. Enjoyed the poem and that is enough.

  2. i heartily agree! am gonna send you an email now.