Saturday, November 30, 2013

Coffeehouse Writer's Group - Nearly a Full House - My poems: Black Friday and Mornings at the Joyce Hotel

A commercial I heard on the radio inspired the short story I worked on for two whole days.Wanted the Writer's Group to critique it, so I stayed up until 4 am, while running into my bedroom to watch Barbra Streisand, b. 1943, on a PBS Special.

She's as strking as ever and speaks crisply so you can understand every word. My Brooklyn-born friend Coach Iris has the same manner of speaking.

Too Many Migraines and Not Enough Cash concerns the evolution of a young woman who must learn to stand up for herself.

And what would her name be?

I probly spent an hour working on her name - Doreen Hennessey - and her boyfriend's. The name "Doreen" probably came from the Self-Checkout Cashier Doreen at the Giant.

I needed a good Irish surname and it came to me in a flash. 

When I went under the covers at 4 am - I always turn the heat down to 65 - I re-read it, always with a sense of dread, and learned to my horror, that Doreen was not a fully developed character, nor one we would root for.

I'll fix it in the morning, I thought, picking up The New Yorker and reading a new Rachel Aviv piece - she usually writes about mental health issues - that was so disturbing I put it down and picked up The Life of Pi.

I simply wanted nothing to do with The New Yorker. It felt tainted b/c of the appalling tale Aviv was telling.

Wait a minute! Not true. I began to read Calvin Trilling's story about a mozzarella shop on Sullivan Street in New York, near where my sister Donna had lived for many a year.

Boy, did that Mozzarella Story lift me up! Soon the mag began to slam me in the face, as I fell asleep holding it above my head. Slam!

We dress warmly as it's usually chilly in the Coffee Shop.

Is that the Grim Reaper behind Martha? If so, he didn't snatch any of us with his scythe.

Reminds me of those drearily wonderful Ingmar Bergman movies.

But let's get on with the show.

Martha wrote a poem called The Worst about her dental pain. What a great idea for a poem! "Make me feel your pain," I told her. I do hope she works on it.
Carly, wearing a Light Blue Cardigan, which was the name of an essay she sent us, wrote a poem her husband told her was awful.

The group members, who are endlessly kind and caring, assured her it would be quite good.

I took no stance but was pleasantly surprised at how good A Yardley Thanksgiving was. The whole family went out to eat.

Carly mentioned she didn't know what to make for dinner, thinking aloud that maybe she could make a pizza like Scott and I do on Sunday nite.

Can't, she said. Her husband works at Papa John's.  Here, for old timessake is a wonderful song with Papa in the title from the late 50s. The Rivingtons pretty much nailed the song, but so did the Beach Boys. Take a look at how young they were before the recklessness of their generation killed a few of em.

Scuse me while I get up and dance. (She's not kidding.)

Soon we were having a discussion about Karma and What Goes Around Comes Around. I listened to all these chatter with a sinking heart. Don't believe it for a moment. Good things happen to bad people. 

Donna, whose painted fingernails reminded me of Barbra Streisand's last nite, told us she wrote a poem in twenty minutes.

It was excellent... and you know what?

Twenty minutes is all it takes.

Daughter of Mine was just about perfect. We all have favorite lines in poems. Mine was "Put down the vodka."

Shall we start calling Beatriz "Butterfly?" Nah, she would not appreciate that. The latest in her nature sagas concerned the winged migration of these ephemeral creatures.

Say hello to The Comma Butterfly. The markings on its wings resemble commas. Another species has "question marks" on it.

But this dude is the Admiral Butterfly b/c of his "epaulets" on his tissue-paper wings. I mean, I just can't get over the fragility of the butterfly.
Who they?

Oops, I forgot to wear my earrings, so Linda will stand in for me. Her poem A Thanksgiving Thank You was written in gratitude for the meal and the company she and her mom had on Turkey Day. In the poem Linda thanked Brian, I believe, for driving all the way to Acorn Lane to pick up "My Mother and I."

We liked the way "Mother and I" sounded even tho it was grammatically incorrect.

Here are my two poems. Let me tell you something. I set a goal to write two poems today. I had no idea what to write about. Then I got the idea of "Black Friday" and jotted it down.

I had no idea what to say, but it did come to me.

It's terribly exciting to know you ARE going to produce something, even if it's terrible. And in the germ of La Terrible, something good can certainly come of it.

I'm too tired to revise the two poems, so I'll do it the morrow.


I hope this last day of November
finds you well
Once the body learns how to make
cancer cells, her oncologist told her,
they look for hidden opportunities.
There’s no going back.
Like a child learning to read.

If only the abnormal cells were on the surface
we could pick them off, or take
an X-Acto Blade in the dead of night
Worry-Time, and slice them off
like bits of dried egg
under the reading lamp.

Nothing distracts like shopping,
America’s most perfect sport.
Only yesterday I went to Marshall’s
whispering “You’re looking not buying.
You’re looking not buying.”

When I came home I faced
my mortality once again. The new
credit card – the security code
reads “888” - expires in four years,
just in time for my seventy-second

The words look hideous to me
but some day I’ll count that “young.”
Does it ever cross your mind,
as it does mine, from dawn to dusk
that some day they’ll all be dead.
Every last one of them,
wept for,
buried, cremated, bodies given to science,
as a new generation begins the rhyme all
over again.

Come with me and stand by the window.
The leaves on the maple are withered and shrunk,
dangling like dry tea bags, ready to drop.
Swirls of branches I never noticed
quiver in the cold. They loop round
creating a vacuum in the sky
were I a painter I’d splash it
onto a canvas. I knew a sculptor
once, who said a sculpture is
a tree in disguise.
The cancer that killed him
was in his stomach.

I have peeked out my window
once again.
Is it fair to say
the leaves are waving to me?
They are. They are.
Thing is,
are they waving hello
or goodbye?


With my blazing red hair
I stride into the oblong dining area
on feet that had killed the day before
on our endless wanderings around
this strange city called Paris.

Sidewalks are narrow, but
practically dirtless. Crews of
city cleaners mind the streets
until the weak light of the autumn sun
blesses the tourists and
citizens alike. I totter when
I walk, bracing myself when they
pass me by, and like a drunk soccer player
miss them by inches.

The aroma is heady in the
dining room. Stainless steel
containers steam with
doubled-over cheese omelets,
and bacon from a slaughterhouse
outside Paris fills
another canister and
the various juices
stand at attention
in clear-colored jugs
orange, yellow and purple.

Lilia, dressed in black
nearly as dark as her skin –
they come north from Algeria –
balances a plate of steaming
chocolate croissants on her
hand while I crouch
in readiness to eat one
outside in the sunshine.

I can smell the coffee right now
shivering in a glass carafe
from my desk back home.
But it was the tea I was after.
Mint or Lemon.
Such flavor!
Unknown in the States
I swear on my ninety-year-old
mother’s still beating heart.

sip your tea, my girl,
enjoy these few free
moments before the
streets of Paris gobble you up
for your debut performance
wandering the streets
the churches
the palaces
the stairways
the gardens
and standing beneath
Le Tour Eiffel
where I pondered
how I got over.

1 comment:

  1. Always interesting goings on in your blog, that I don't keep up with lately, nearly often enough. I mean to but life gets in my way. Interesting poems in particular. I can't say why but like the first, Black Friday, more than the second. Will be interested to see what you do with them, if you revise. Some good lines like
    If only the abnormal cells were on the surface
    we could pick them off, or take
    an X-Acto Blade in the dead of night
    Worry-Time, and slice them off
    like bits of dried egg
    under the reading lamp.

    I love how you set goals for writing. I need to do that more!

    Do you really think I sound like Barbra? Nobody has ever told me that before. At first I was upset because I avoid Brooklynese like the plague and thought of her speech in movie roles as how she sounds. However, I listened just now to an interview with Larry King and the Bklynese was only a trace-a residue. Mine came out more when I conversed with Brooklyn family but now nobody left to do that with.

    I still envy your writer's group. Have tried and tried to get one going with no success so far.

    Today I stopped in at Macy's after another disastrous dental appointment to add to my already far-too-lengthy dental woe saga. I didn't realize I was wearing my green coat with the Poetry Lover pin on the lapel. It always generates some good conversations..Today it was with a young college guy in the sunglass dept, One never knows where one may encounter a poetry lover.

    At least you and I know we are both that! Thanks as always for sharing your poems and always for inspiring me with them and with your life.