Back to the Future

(Photograph by Horace Warner-Spitalfields Life)

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Back to let them eat cake
to Oliver wants more
to orphans, hair shorn, lined up, plates out.
to the Dickensian streets
to children lining the tracks, picking up bits of coal,
swallowing down road kill rejected by dogs
—while Oliver slaves in the blacking factory
and Tiny Tim does die for lack of a doctor’s care.
Back to Scrooge, who never went away,
to child labor in the coal mines or coal factories
out of Blake’s dark satanic mills.
Back to typhoid and tuberculosis.
When all the owners care about is cost, people die.

Out of the mist, the fog and soot—
comes the pauper, the chimney sweep, the starveling—
with hungry eyes and dirty fingers,
pressed against the glass of the restaurant window
where you are eating your Christmas turkey.

Back to the return of charity,
of the sanctimonious charity of the wealthy—
like the dimes Henry Ford scattered to the crowd.
And who but Scrooge denies heat to the freezing,
aid to the famished and rest to the tired?

Back to that heartless century, in a soulless city.
To the workhouse with its iron gates,
To smokestacks against the sky
Back to those dank, back alleys where we have taken a journey
to a time and place that are becoming more familiar to us each day
for soon the brown air of London will be ours too.

·     ·     ·

This poem is from a collection called “Foreclosure”, written about collateral damage caused by the Recession of 2008 and it unfortunately appears to be even more relevant today.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

Advertisements

Bella

Bella Abzug

By Marilyn Zuckerman

With her megaphone voice
threatening war
if there is not peace,
shouting a president
into banning above
ground bomb tests,
a Medusa of the vocal cords
a Minerva of pacifism
a postmodern Cassandra
cobbled together from an immigrant stew
and a New York mouth,
she stands before Senator Jake Javits
surrounded by cohorts of Amazons
in her bright red
lacquered straw hat
the light shards reflecting off it
dazzled straight into the eyes
of her antagonist
so he, unable to return the lightning
of hers,
ducks his head to scrape gunk
off his shoes.
Shame, she yells,
Think of all the children you are killing.
Outside a policeman on horseback asks,
Why don’t you women go home
take care of your kids
make dinner for the husband?

Once, lying on a bed at the Chelsea hotel,
I heard her voice over the strident traffic
shrieking, No More War!
loud enough for the pledge
to go echoing down 23rd St
cross the Hudson
and settle into the stones
of the Palisades
on the Jersey side.

·     ·     ·

Bella Abzug (1920/1998) was a leading feminist and anti-war activist who helped organize Women Strike for Peace during the Vietnam War. Abzug became a U.S. Congressperson from New York in 1971. In the poem, when she confronts Senator Javits, I was there and was with her when we were trying to get Senator Robert Kennedy nominated for President of the United States and hoped, as well, to end the Vietnam War and thus bring the veterans home.

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

Whale watching: San Juan Islands

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Moving slowly through the natural world,
trying to remember everything before it goes.
We count pelagic cormorants, auks, murres—
migrant seabirds down from Alaska for the summer,
watch the cormorant nursery, arranged along shelves
of a gently swinging bell buoy,
bald eagles lined up along crags
on the opposite shore.
Young auklets—swimming like amateurs—
divide, as we plow through them
and there are dolphins,
But not the killer whales
we’ve come to see.

From the tour boat,
video cameras scan the shore,
trying to get it all down—
the San Juan Islands,
Mt. Baker, Mt Rainer—
a polluted haze swirls around the summit
of the scalped mountain behind them
like a scarf covering
the hairless head of a cancer patient.
The scientist on board says
he doubts the same cataclysmic event,
creating the same bacterial scum
that become us and our whole world,
will ever happen again.

·       ·       ·

When I first wrote this poem, I had just moved from Boston to the Northwest and fell in love with its natural treasures—eagles barely saved from extinction, Puget Sound, the mountains, its forests, and the wonderful stock of wildlife.

Now as spring approaches after the long monsoon- like weather, leaving us in the rain and the dark, I am beside myself with happiness and sorrow wondering if we can keep this
Shangri-La and for how long?

The last lines of the poem speak of what that loss would mean to our children and grandchildren. Dedicated to Earth Day, everyday.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

84th Birthday, redux

84th Birthday Redux| ©2016 HouseofHank.me

By Marilyn Zuckerman

for those who still love peace and seek it

After all these years
of hoping that things will get better—
so this poem is for every child gunned down,
blown up as they walk down in the streets of their villages,
in Mexico
in Sudan
in the Congo and cities in America—
for every child who goes to bed hungry
for the homeless abroad and in the U.S.A.
for the victims of border wars and those kidnapped by drug
lords or pirates,
renditioned by the state itself
for those sent overseas and those who come back damaged
for the elderly, who now must work until they die
for all the species of birds, animals and plants that will become
extinct in a new, Great Dying
for cities slowly drowned by the rising seas, from glacier melt
and bad levees
for the millions of refugees on the road and in camps that barely
keep alive
for those living in failed states, trying to lead lives of quiet
decency
for the dying of the earth and the terror of nuclear disaster
for those who still love peace and seek it
For those who tell the truth and are murdered for it.

·       ·       ·

This poem was written 8 years ago. Tragically things have not gotten better. Events in Syria and Yemen have deteriorated as in many other places. Many people are worse off than before. The question is: what are we going to do about it?

From my book, In The Ninth Decade, from Red Dragonfly Press. Also published in the anthology, Perfect Dragonfly, from Red Dragonfly Press.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

Guns

By Marilyn Zuckerman

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the PNA. Please feel free to comment and join the conversation.  

Glock 22

The Seattle Public Library Permits Concealed Guns

Nobody asked me
if I wanted to sit next to a guy
carrying a gun
he can pull out at any time
something triggers his paranoia—
a suspicious movement,
a foreign face
or the librarian who has asked him to be quiet.
It’s the moment he’s been waiting for
ever since he bought the gun,
learned to use it at the shooting range
banging away at a moving silhouette
wearing a sign that says
KILL ME.

·    ·    ·

Shoot ‘em Ups

In the old west
the shoot ‘em up takes place in town—
in the old saloon, the brothel
or the boardwalk outside the barbershop—

These days, it can be anywhere
the church
the synagogue
a shopping mall
post office
your office building
a college dorm
the library or on the road.
Not with a Colt 45
but an AR-15 blazing at so many rounds a second,
the shooter—your husband or the boyfriend you
dumped,
the neighbor whose lawn was soiled by your dog.
There’s the guy who killed his five children
because he was mad at his wife.

Or the quiet fellow you pass every day
who shot up the kids in the schoolyard with an arsenal
he picked up at the local gun show,
whom everyone said kept to himself and was so polite
you’d never imagine—

·    ·    ·

The Gun

Known as the AR-15
built in 1958
as a selective-fire weapon
for the military only
but sold to Colt
for civilian use
as a semi-automatic rifle
Popular among civilian shooters
due to their accuracy
light weight
auto-loading assault style
air-cooled
gas-operated
and magazine-fed
The most wanted gun in America,
there are  millions on the streets today.

·    ·    ·

Colt AR15A4

Orlando

A Plagiarism (after Jonathan Lethem)

Once again elegies, services, and memorials for the dead after yet another mass shooting in America brought about by the violent misuse of guns. The following is a collage of remarks about our “American Olympics of murder” from several voices around the country. Every word that follows has been said before in newspaper essays, speeches, sermons and addresses on the floor of Congress.

One person did that?
Yes…but with a weapon designed only for mass killings on the battlefield, a weapon so dangerous that soldiers keep their versions locked up when not actually training with it. …No one can ever eliminate violence in a modern society. …The success of the AR-15 has led to increasing militarization of the entire consumer firearms market in America. If we had gun laws like those of most countries that resemble ours we would have lower levels of gun violence. This massacre is therefore further reminder of how easy it is for someone to get their hands on a weapon that lets them shoot people in a school or in a house of worship or a movie theater or in a night club. Now there are speeches of condolences, the service for the dead, tears have been shed—and everyone goes home.

·    ·    ·

Acknowledgements:
Anonymous
Natasha Singer, The New York Times
The Guardian
Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
Tom Diaz, Violence Policy Center
Congressman Christopher Murphy
and at the last, President Obama

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

Swing Time

glenn-miller-and-his-orchestra-make-believe-ballroom-time-his-masters-voice

By Marilyn Zuckerman

For LW whose father would wake her, her sisters and brother
to swing music on Sunday mornings

1.

The Make Believe Ballroom

A Saturday night in 1941
and I was a sixteen year-old girl,
alone,
listening to Martin Block,
host of the Make Believe Ballroom
radio show, from Meadowbrook, NJ.
As the theme song,
“It’s Make Believe Ballroom Time,” played
I could see the brass section,
clarinets, trombones and saxophones
rise to the ceiling,
shimmering in the lights
as the platform rose up
revealing the band,
hear the wail of trumpets
as the singer,
Frank Sinatra or Dick Haymes
crooned songs drowning in sentiment
—all those war ballads
filled with yearning for when
The Boys Come Home Again.
While I danced alone,
I saw others
slow dancing
under the dazzle of revolving lights,
her head tucked under his chin,
they inch closer,
barely moving
as Sinatra,
with a catch in his voice, sings
“We’ll Meet Again.”

2.

Mary Alice and I
drinking cokes,
smoking our first cigarette
at Lambs Soda Fountain
across from our all-girls school,
gossiping about
schoolmates engaged to servicemen
while listening to Frankie sing,
“I’ll Never Smile Again.”
But deep in my heart
I wanted to be Anita O’Day
or Peggy Lee
draped across the piano,
my voice a low growl,
as I sing
We’ll meet again,
Don’t know where,
Don’t know when….

· · ·

Anita O'Day

Anita O’Day

Swing time

Adolescence in the 40’s meant one thing to the young men going off to war, while for the young women it was an era of waiting, of often going dateless on Saturday night, especially if you attended an all-girls school, as I did.

For many, The Make Believe Ballroom was a restorative filled with songs redolent with
loneliness and hopes for the future. A partial list of these songs includes, “We’ll Meet Again,” When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World),” and swing music was the sweet thread that ran through through these longings. From Benny Goodman to Glenn Miller or Harry James with his skinny tenor Frank Sinatra singing his heart out, there was dancing in the aisles or sitting home alone and sighing.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

Martin_block_stan_kenton_wnewedited

Stan Kenton & Martin Block at WNEW New York

Editor’s Note:

Hello, world! For a trip down memory lane and a quick listen to some of the music Marilyn references in her work above, check out the following links (clicking will take you off the PNA Village blog website):

“It’s Make believe Ballroom Time” performed by the Glenn Miller Orchestra
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYQofQAQ3eE

1988 CBS Sunday “Make Believe Ballroom” Story WNEW 1130 New York
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRV37DK1UC4

Vera Lynn sings “When the Lights Go On Again (All Over the World)”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vzlFaY0s_QI

Frank Sinatra sings “We’ll Meet Again”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7q1r0LUXFI

Frank Sinatra sings “I’ll Never Smile Again”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pMaLvaPKPOY

Dick Haymes & Helen Forrest sing “It Had to Be You”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW6Jd7zVpxM

Anita O’Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer (Documentary)
http://anitaodaydoc.com/

Peggy Lee & the Benny Goodman Orchestra: “Why Don’t You Do Right”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4zRwze8_SGk

Frank Sinatra & the Harry James Band “All Or Nothing At All”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7klm1GS3v8

PNA Swoosh

In Spite of Everything: Joy

Red | ©2016HouseofHank.me

By Marilyn Zuckerman

I find myself at Skagit Bay
on a glorious sunny day—
following weeks of leaden skies
and much needed rain,
watching a pair of red-tailed hawks,
one settling into a tree
spreading his wings,
showing his tail
while his mate’s out playing with the thermals,
two eagles guarding their huge cradle-shaped
nest at the top of a tree.
Now another hawk
makes for our windshield,
sailing away just in time
over fallow fields,
end of the season pumpkins,
the futile search for snow geese
and the empty road.
Finally we chase the sunset
through traffic down route 5
all the way home to Carkeek Park
to watch its glowing plunge into the Sound,
the light reflecting
upon the deep red maple before us.

Puget Sunset | ©2016HouseofHank.me

Wind

So strong it knocked me over as we stepped out of the car. We could hear the seals barking over the noisy white caps; and there a small sailboat, its crew of one sitting deep in the gunnels, knowing one pitch would plunge him into the freezing water.

Seagulls struggling against the gale while hang gliders, rising and falling, ride the thermals one moment, the next dunked, dangling into the sea only to be dragged to the shore.

Walkers wrapped in rain gear, scarves and ear muffs—one brave mom pushing a baby carriage completely covered by a red blanket stopping only to adjust the cover while she turns her back to the wind and resumes texting.

·    ·    ·

Wherever we are these days, weather has become central to our consciousness as we become aware of the extreme turns it has taken. Floods, droughts, fierce storms and sometimes, just constant rains are hard to ignore.

As a result, I have been working on a long sequence of poems about the weather.

The two you find here are examples of that.

One expresses the impact of a rare sunny day that lifts the mood and sends flocks of birds on the move. The other poem reflects the violent presence of a windy day.

http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

The Garden

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence III

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Just Dreaming
for Colette

The crushed rock walks
wander here and there
the bright autumn Japanese Maple trees
bend over the path—
and there the different grasses.
In the distance Puget Sound shimmers
against the white-shrouded Olympics behind
and friends
sit
reading
meditating
in the quiet garden.

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence I

Sunday in the Garden

Now the birds arrive,
shrieking
and skimming through the garden
as though on urgent errands.
Most are hummingbirds,
those nimble acrobats
whirling overhead.
Then a swarm of bumble bees,
saved from extinction,
buzzing and sipping
—and butterflies too
attracted to this new habitat
—refugees from the holocaust.

Colette Highberger | Zuckerman Residence II

Colette in the Garden

Colette in blue,
hanging
over the blue Lobelias,
looking like a flower herself.

·    ·    ·

One thing to know about this superb garden is that it has evolved mightily from its original plan. At first I thought I wanted a walking path for exercise, meditation and the culling of ideas for poems—like Darwin’s sand walk. Then three things happened.

  1. Colette read a book about a Japanese garden and passed it on to me.
  2. I saw photos of Zen gardens in Kyoto.
  3. A team was assembled consisting of Louise Wright, architect and designer for the house reconstruction, Clint Ceder, carpenter and creator of the trellis and gates, Colette Highberger, landscape designer and gardener—and me.

Next, Louise and I visited Kubota Gardens in downtown Seattle and it became a model for ours. Since we had begun to think environmentally, the vision for the garden expanded to one with less grass, more Pacific Northwest drought-resistant plants, and crushed rock paths and huge rocks set within a Japanese scenario.

After Louise drew preliminary plans and Colette fleshed them out and began the planting with the support of Usiel Lopez (2nd gardener), Jaswinder Singh of A and J Retaining Walls gathered rocks large and small and with his team dug trenches for the paths and placed the huge quarry rocks in their proper place. The result is what you see today—a
garden not only lovely to behold, but environmentally green and already a habitat for bees, birds and butterflies.

The Upright Construction Team

Brian Highberger: Head Coach and Master Builder
Louise Wright: Residential designer and overall design coordinator, who worked with me to help create my dream house
Mary-lynn Ballew: Interior designer—another magician
Colette Highberger: Landscape designer and garden visionary
Robert Mitton: Master Craftsman
Ron Horne: Foreman and primary contact man
( Both Robert and Ron checked out final details on the project—commonly known as the Punch List, and spent about 2 weeks at my house on that task thus allowing us to become good friends).
Marty Walz, Captain (demolition)
Dillon Baker: Demolition
Austin Thompson: Demolition (and framing)
Marty Walz: Demolition
Steve Bell: Painter and poet
Clint Ceder: My ambassador to the team and detail man

Everyone did extra duty and extended themselves in order to find and use only non-toxic materials from paint, finishes, window trim, and closet doors in order to provide a truly Green house. My gratitude to all.

These poems form the sixth and final installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, the third here, the fourth here, and the fifth here.

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

The House V

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Instead of photos, these poems use words to tell of the phenomena while I sit on the deck drinking it all in.

Silence
For Pico Iyer, whose thoughts about silence and the sacred I have borrowed.

In the distance
someone is beating a rug
or wet laundry,
children’s voices shouting
then fading away,
their cries muffled
as though under water.
Overhead a silent plane
its lights flickering like stars,
insects,
a crow cawing,
a train whistle.
Everything flowing
within this irresistible silence
while I lay splayed on the lounge chair
like a TB patient
when suddenly the sound of traffic
soars like the growling of a storm cloud
far away—
and the deep silence returns
that first empties your mind,
then brings you to the true self
that lies trembling beneath your heart.

Sunset by JMW Turner (Tate)

Pictures at an Exhibition

Sunset,
like a Turner painting.
The sky’s afire
and we are looking
into the hot heart of a furnace.

Thick clouds streaked with Blakean light
streaming through, as the sun slips down
to the other side of the earth,
leaving a rosy shadow of itself
silhouetted behind the mountain
as black-cloaked night falls

·    ·    ·

These poems form the fifth installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, the third here, and the fourth here.

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

PNA Swoosh

If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month

Full Moon photo via Wikimedia Commons

By Cathy Ross

If the moon came out only once a month
people would appreciate it more. They’d mark it
in their datebooks, take a walk by moonlight, notice
how their bedroom window framed its silver smile.

And if the moon came out just once a year,
it would be a holiday, with tinsel streamers
tied to lampposts, stores closing early
so no one has to work on lunar eve,
travelers rushing to get home by moon-night,
celebrations with champagne and cheese.
Folks would stay awake ’til dawn
to watch it turn transparent and slowly fade away.

And if the moon came out randomly,
the world would be on wide alert, never knowing
when it might appear, spotters scanning empty skies,
weathermen on TV giving odds—“a 10% chance
of moon tonight”—and when it suddenly began to rise,
everyone would cry “the moon is out,” crowds
would fill the streets, jostling and pointing,
night events would be canceled,
moon-closure signs posted on the doors.

And if the moon rose but once a century,
ascending luminous and lush on a long-awaited night,
all humans on the planet would gather
in huddled, whispering groups
to stare in awe, dazzled by its brilliance,
enchanted by its spell. Years later,
they would tell their children, “Yes, I saw it once.
Maybe you will live to see it too.”

But the moon is always with us,
an old familiar face, like the mantel clock,
so no one pays it much attention.

Tonight
why not go outside and gaze up in wonder,
as if you’d never seen it before,
as if it were a miracle,
as if you had been waiting
all your life.

·    ·    ·

Title poem from If the Moon Came Out Only Once a Month, by Cathy Ross (Seattle: Forsythia Press, 2012). Posted here with kind permission of the author.

PNA Swoosh