For My 88th Birthday

Two poems by Marilyn Zuckerman
March 26, 2013

Dance Latino

After W.C.Williams

When the poet,
well past middle-age,
is alone in her house
doing dishes
on a Saturday afternoon,
radio playing Latino music,
April sun blazing
through the red sun-catcher,
she ties a towel around her waist,
throws her arms over her head,
fingers snapping like castanets,
gets way down and funky and does
what used to be called the “dirty mambo”.
Hey, when no-one’s there to see her
Watch that old lady go!


“The nouns go first.”
– a neurologist

in this age of loss
it is a word that has deserted you,
slipping below the horizon
like the sun dropping behind the hills,
or like the nightmare
in which your small child
rides away from you on an escalator.
You watch him
vanish into the crowd
leaving behind his white shirttail
—wavering afterimage
at the entrance of a black hole.

You try to wrestle the word back
like a midwife birthing a slippery baby,
or like you butterfingered,
trying to keep your wallet
from slipping through the grating
over the subway
—or at the war movie,
listening for an engine
to sputter overhead,
hearing instead the noisy motor
of that jeep driving along the tarmac.
You decide to stop thinking about it
believing in the wisdom
of an empty mind.
Then while making dinner
listening to the news,
chopping vegetables,
you suddenly say
O. It begins with O!
Hear the rhythm beat
against your eardrums.
Three syllables
and music is in it.
You see the conductor,
his baton gliding through the air.
Opera? you wonder
and something moves into view
like the freighter shipwrecked sailors
think they see passing across their bow,
cabin lights leaking yellow.
They shout and wave undershirts,
but it only slips past.

In bed that night
you whisper
O, O, O
over and over
trying to construct a bridge
across the synapses
like an electrician holding two wires
together waiting for the arc and sizzle.

You wake to go to the bathroom;
while peeing,
half awake,
half in your dream,
you suddenly smile and hear
the roll of kettledrums,
the music, soaring,
swells into crescendo
and the overture is over.
The curtain goes up.

⋅     ⋅     ⋅

Poems from my book, In the Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press.

PNA Swoosh


8 thoughts on “For My 88th Birthday

  1. Wow, Marilyn, I really like your Dance Latino! That hits home with me — I thought I was the only one who indulged in such a lovely little pleasure. It reminds me of that aphorism, “Dance like nobody is watching.” And, Overture, ah yes. That one too, is familiar, very familiar. You capture it so well.

  2. Happy Birthday, Marilyn! I love the images conjured up by both poems. “Dance Latino” really made me smile. Somehow, I can just see you going at the mambo. And, “Overture,” well, what can I say, those lost words are such a mystery. What’s so interesting is how persistent we are at getting them back. You really captured that drive for retrieving what was once ours and the relief of reclamation.

  3. Pingback: For My 88th Birthday - Marilyn Zuckerman Marilyn Zuckerman

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