Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Changing the Window to a Door - Concentration Camp Liberation, 67 yrs this month - Prose Poem: Death Watch for Uncle Marvin

I've lived on Cowbell Road since 1990. That's 22 years. My sister Donna suggested I put in a door in my kitchen so I can eat outside on my deck. Well, now that I'm $50 richer from winning third prize in the short story contest, I decided to spring for a new door.

It would never have happened if carpenter Dave Small hadn't been working a couple doors down. He gave me a good price and began work two days ago.

Dave and Chevy w/over 200,000 miles. He's a very active man. He sings in an Abington chorus. His wife is a police dispatcher. They have 5 kids and 8 grands.

Dave said he recognized me from Hope Community Church in Willow Grove. My friend Alex Zachariah took me to hear holocaust survivor Marianne Fischer tell her amazing story of surviving after the Nazis rounded up the Hungarians (like me!)

Can't quite remember, but she did have a baby in the camps, who died, and she later married the father. She converted from Judaism to Christianity b/c her piano or violin teacher helped her through the ordeal.

First order of biz was transplanting the bleeding hearts that stood in the way of the new steps Dave would build me.

Dave moved them for me. I also took a sprig and planted it in the front yard of the Abington Demings.

You can see the window on the right. He's constructing big posts. That's an azalea in front.

Dave arrived around 8 am and stayed until my naptime 5:45 pm.

I was busy working on my Guest Column for the Intell so I only saw the last 15 minutes of the Rockford Files. I had actually napped earlier w/Scott. We were watching one of the Holocaust programs in memory of the 6 million Jews and others who were methodically exterminated - like insects - by the Germans.

The show we watched was about a married couple who survived Auschwitz. Prisoners actually had sex in the camps. And this fellow Jack and his beautiful wife are still having sex today.

What about that nut from Norway who killed 71 Muslims? That man is not mentally ill. Neither was Hitler. I don't know how you'd describe them. I suppose "human annihilists" might be a good word.

The reason I chose this below prose-poem is b/c my "Gramma Green" lost many of her family members in the Holocaust. My other grandmother, Lily, never discussed it.

Gramma Green would position herself in front of the TV on Silsby Road in Cleveland Heights and scream out in horror at all the terrible things going on in the world.

She was the mother of three fine children:

Photo of Left to Right, Uncle Marvin, Dad, Aunt Hy. All dead.

Note to dad: Hi Dad. Doing great, thanks. You'd love my new windows. Miss you soooo much. You'd be 91, brave man that you were. Love, Ruthie


Hi Kevin (said my email),

Just came home from a poetry reading at Barnes and Noble Jenkintown.

I read my 3-page poem “People Follow Rock Bands” to thunderous applause. People came out of the aisles to hear me, every goddam aisle was emptied out. They left behind their half-read books, they were trying to get them read before closing time so they wouldn’t have to buy them, but they knew they’d end up buying them b/c they’re booklovers, all of them.

And when I finished my poem the cashiers too came over to me and even the assistant manager who was drinking chai in the indoor cafe. They all just sort of rushed in and lifted me onto their shoulders and carried me around the store three times, just before they dropped me off in the parking lot at my snowy car.

I flipped on the wipers and brushed the snowdust from the back windows for my drive home in the snowfall, up The Fairway and down Washington Lane.

When I came to where it deadends at Terwood Road I paused for a moment at the pass, only for a second, and watched the lovely pasture glowing with snow and night sky, before I made my crucial left turn, and the horses had all been led to the barn for the night.

And then I came home and the phone rang.

Kevin, it always rings the moment I get in the door. It was my mother. Her voice was normal.

“He died?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said.

“What time?”


“Oh, eight-ten on St. Patrick’s Day.”

“Yes, I think my father died on St. Patrick's Day, too.”

“He did,” I said. “I remember you told me.”

And I thought of our family and the significance of the dates of things. I for example was born on Christmas and christened on Valentine’s Day.

“We were all holding a death watch,” I said.

“Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it a death watch,” she said.

“Let’s just say that I was holding a death watch.”


“He went real fast,” I said.

“Yes. They were giving him morphine.”

The life supports had been stopped. And he was deep in there, deep inside, curled up like an embryo. We come in that way and go out that way.

He wanted an orthodox burial. He and my father both....just loved the Jews like crazy.

“Three hours,” I said. “He was gone in 3 hours. I was thinking about him all day, on the off.”

“I was eating Tastycakes,” mom said.

I concentrated intently on being with him when I was driving to my poetry group at 7:15. He would die an hour later when Barbara Wagner was reading her poems. She was the featured speaker.

My mind kept wandering while she read. She was good, but my mind kept going over to the side and I was reviewing my life. Thinking mostly about a poem I was working on about throwing away an old mattress. It was a long involved poem of 8 pages.

And I was reviewing it the moment his invisible presence departed and went out into the ether, that good man.


  1. Good post and good prose poem.

    The picture of your father, Uncle Marvin and Aunt Hy brought back memories. I never met Uncle Marvin but did meet your father and Aunt Hy when we all lived in CA.

    I think the kitchen door access to the deck is a great idea. I know you will enjoy it.

    Art's brother in PA died on Friday night of sepsis. He was immuno-compromised from his brain cancer and treatment. We did not learn of his death till Monday night at 9 PM when a cousin called to express condolences and we were shocked. He will not be buried in the country where he lived his whole life (Delaware) as his wife thinks nothing good ever happened to him there! ????

  2. pretty shocking about art's brother but i know it's for the best.

    also, google blogger got its arse in gear and made it easier for ME to post your comments.

    have a good day, iris. i'll mail you something to review if you have time. thx