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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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The Punch List

fern fronds in spring

By Marilyn Zuckerman

For Robert and Ron

When the shades don’t work
and the security doors are late
They come back.
When the kitchen needs a new register
and a cabinet needs fixing
They come back.
When the sliding doors don’t meet
and the closet light doesn’t light
They come back.
When the bathroom cabinet
bangs against the mirror
They come back and fix it
while I follow them around
like a kid filled with awe and admiration
and will miss them when they’re gone.

Envoi

The Punch List is the final push the crew makes to complete the remodel of the house, when they take care of every last-minute detail. It was fun to watch and I was sorry when they were finished and left.

“Now if you want us to come back, ” Robert said, ” you’ll have to break something.”

·    ·    ·

This poem forms the fourth installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here, and the third here.

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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The House III

Zuckerman home kitchen remodel (courtesy Louise S. Wright Design)

(Photo courtesy Louise S. Wright)

By Marilyn Zuckerman

“…the painters care that the wall is smooth…the carpenter cares that the corners are mitered properly.”   (From Steven Kurtz’s New York Times article, “Thanks For Ripping Up our Home”, about the combined effort of workers building a Chelsea loft and a fulsome thanks from the loft’s owners.)

Just Looking

Seeing beauty everywhere—
the deep glow of cherry wood cabinets
bookcases and ruddy floorboards
perfectly laid, arrow straight
and walls where the paint flowed flawlessly
light green and eggshell white
—the gorgeous tiled shower
fit for the Taj Mahal.

Like a visitor to the museum
I’m gazing at the art
examining the details
—a geologist at the Grand Canyon.
I think of the effort it takes
to make a house—
I think of barn raising—
everyone sweating toward one goal
—a house with walls
and a roof, sweeping windows
a basement and a fireplace.
This same effort once made the Pyramids
a cathedral or a prairie home.

But here’s the miracle—
everything has come together
as we planned—
See the workspace before the window
bookcases around it
for papers and poems in progress
no longer lying precariously as they once did
on the top of the dining room table.

Now the new refrigerator
sings, hums and makes
unseemly noises
in greeting.

·    ·    ·

This poem is intended as homage to the crew of Upright Construction, some of whom I met once or not at all while others I learned to know quite well.  Everyone on the team did more than pull his/her weight and left individual fingerprints on the job—my deep thanks for being so aware of my needs and leaving behind a work of beauty for my pleasure!

This poem forms the third installment in a sequence about the construction of my home—read the first hereRead the second here.

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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The New House

In Progress | ©2014 HouseofHank.me

By Marilyn Zuckerman

1. THE MAKERS

Everything I look at or touch
has been crafted by the Makers
skilled as Medieval artisans
—creators of a dwelling
that became a refuge
for someone like me—
longing for repose.

Though gone now
their spirits remain
within this well made home
I inhabit,
meant for sunsets and serenity.

·     ·     ·

Photo courtesy Louise S. Wright

(Photo courtesy Louise S. Wright)

Though I am in my 90th year, I bought a house overlooking Puget Sound and had it remodeled. Often I was told it was crazy at my age to do so. Nevertheless, the results are spectacular.

So this poem is dedicated to the Upright Construction crew who helped create this beautiful house, carefully made for someone in her advanced years who, like a “canary in the coal mine”, is sensitive to many toxic chemicals.

The products used—from grab bars in the shower, trip-proof strips on the stairs, double railings, and the team’s constant effort to use only harmless materials—beautifully made up the pure green whole.

(This poem is the first effort in an ongoing sequence about the house.)

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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