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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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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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

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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.

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The House II

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Zuckerman home deck (courtesy Louise S. Wright Design)

(Photo courtesy Louise S. Wright)

Deck Afternoon

Hello Louise,
I’ve been sitting
on your beautiful deck
imagining I am
on the deck of a steamer
although I am listening as well
to the pileated woodpecker
ratatatting away
a few blocks below me
(unless it was a neighbor
driving nails)
but, no it had that intermittent
woodpecker tattoo.
So thank you.
M

Pileated woodpecker

The deck for me is the star of the show for one who can no longer travel. It is my ship reaching out to the Sound and to the mountains and to go on sea voyages. So I’m almost surprised not to feel the swell, not to get seasick.

When one is of ripe old age, it is easy to imagine many things as one watches the sea and the earth with its billions of years – earthquakes, mudslides, floods and death that old trickster lurking.

My Ship

Sitting alone
on the deck in the dark
in a steamer chair
counting airplanes and Christmas lights
instead of stars
watching the storm break
breathing fresh air
staring at the Sound
for this is what I came for

I said I wanted a deck to see the world from, a balcony of cables so slender you could forget they were there. I said I wanted something spacious, I wanted sun and shade and now here’s the railing burnished red, there the fragile cords fine as threads. Now someone as restless as me is calmed by the scene before me – the sea, the trees tumbling to the ground, the wild wind singing.

Crows: An Anthropomorphic Poem

Crow on a Branch by Kawanabe Kyosai (1831–1889)

What do two crows say to each other
sitting on a wire above the deck
staring as I am at the sunlit waters of Puget Sound
They are:
talking
courting
smooching
grooming
sometimes posing in haughty indignation
beaks at dueling position
a high wire act
as one sidles over in sad supplication

She: seductively
maybe we can stop tormenting eagles
and settle down
spend more time together
He: sleepily
we’ll see
though he has clearly
begun to feel
the lure of a quiet life

when one flies off
the other follows in hot pursuit

·    ·    ·

Dedicated to Louise Wright who designed not only the deck, but so much of the house.

These poems form the second installment in an ongoing sequence about the construction of my home—read the first here.

 http://marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Roofers

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Rooflines | ©2014 HouseofHank.me

After W.C. Williams

Mountain climbers—
striding across the sloped roof
where yesterday they stripped
away old tiles
until only the beams remained,
then spread blue plastic
when it rained.
Today
balanced like dancers
they turn in efficient choreography
and place each length of plywood
board by board and straight
to cover the incline,
gear strapped to a sagging
belt about the waist—
hammer, bags of nails,
carpenter’s level,
a flexible tape measure
—the lethal power saw
set down across the slanted planks
and safely roped.
After a flamboyant toss of the staple gun
one to another
they stand swaggering at chimney level
while one casually gets off a golf swing
in silhouette against the mountains.

·    ·    ·

A belated Labor Day poem, dedicated to all workers everywhere. May they always have work and be paid well!

From my book, In the Ninth Decade, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010.

www.marilynzuckermanpoet.com

Roofers 2 | ©2014 HouseofHank.me

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Like the Story of Brigadoon

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Days-Eyes I | ©2014 HouseofHank.me

I see them only one day a year
−dawn
the sun appears
through trees,
mist rises over bog and meadow−
and they come racing
over the brow of the hill
crying, Grandma, Grandma
Watch me! Watch me!
The boy steps forward to sing all the stanzas
of the Mets team song
with gestures,
then the girl, dressed in green leotards,
does an Irish clog dance
while the baby takes her first steps.
Now brother and sister face each other like duelists
and hurl insults full of potty words at each other
until one of them cries.
Finally, the girl, with cigar clamped between her teeth
and the boy with Chico’s Italian accent
act out the funniest lines
from A Day at the Races.
The baby watches in admiration.

Days-Eyes II| ©2014 HouseofHank.meAs night falls
and the silhouette
of the others fades into the background,
the girl falls to the ground,
throws her arms around my knees
in mock supplication.
I watch as she disappears
arms first, then torso
her upraised face like
the Cheshire Cat’s
−only her smile
lingers

·    ·    ·

June is graduation month and in my case two of my grandchildren are graduating – one from high school and one from college. This poem, which I wrote many years ago when we lived in different cities, is dedicated to them.

From my book, In the Ninth Decade, Red Dragonfly Press, 2010.

www.marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Welcome

Two poems by Marilyn Zuckerman

Children at crumpsall workhouse circa 1895

Somebody

Somebody lost their job
Someone else had a heart attack
And needs an implant
Somebody broke their leg
And Someone else made a bad investment and didn’t get a bailout
Somebody’s pension is gone
And now there’s nothing left
Someone else’s mom has Alzheimer’s and had to go to a nursing home
Somebody’s kid has leukemia and needs costly meds

So Somebody went bankrupt
And Someone’s house is in foreclosure
Now Somebody’s unemployment benefits are running out
And who knows where all the Somebody’s will sleep tonight

Booth Poverty Map 1898-99 detail (http://booth.lse.ac.uk/)

· · · · · · · ·

I first wrote these poems back in the early days of foreclosures and predatory lending.  I felt helpless then in the face of evictions and the consequential homelessness.  Now that $40 billion in food stamps have been taken from the starving – mostly children, the elderly and the disabled – and 26 states have denied Medicaid funding to the needy, I’d like to post these poems on this blog to reflect how doubly helpless I feel today and where I believe all this will take us.

Waif Girl © The Children's Society (http://www.hiddenlives.org.uk/)

Back to the Future

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.

Victorian London (via Wikipedia)

·    ·    ·

www.marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Ode to Summer

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Rockport MA

Rockport, MA 1996

“…Supper’s ready, everybody come on in
Taste a little of the summer…”
—Greg Brown

This summer becomes all the summers,
a childhood garden
green wooden table and bench
lattice canopy arching overhead,
hung with honeysuckle,
wild flowers tipping in the breeze,
and the sea
this slow green surge slipping like silk
past the rock ledge below,
this calm that ignores
the throng on Bearskin Neck
shouldering each other
off the sidewalk,
moviemakers, who came
for a few weeks
bringing down rain
where there was no rain,
turning night into day,
lighting bonfires along the beaches
even though it was not the Fourth of July,
standing on balconies with cell phones
clasped to their ears
shouting across the summer night
trying to be heard in Malibu
or Santa Monica.

I lean over the rail,
watch children run into the water,
foam frothing around their toes,
scuba divers rising like sea monsters
from the waves,
sea watchers edging the shore.

And behind me
along the path,
these wood shingled houses
bleached grey
surrounded by porches,
trestle tables set out
ready to receive
this doormat sized flounder
stripped of its scales,
sizzling for a few moments
in butter melting in a hot pan
until it is crisp and golden,
covered in dill
clams drenched
in bread crumbs and garlic
rushed in and out of the oven,
the corn, small kernelled
like infant teeth,
picked while still sheathed in dew,
tomatoes fresh from the vine
sliced and drizzled
with basil and olive oil.

I turn, face the shore,
see a flotilla of sailboats
come home,
let twilight end
the slow drowse
of memory.

·    ·    ·

Rockport rowboat

This poem, an homage to the many summers I spent walking (and eating!) along the Atlantic Ocean from Fire Island to Cape Cod, focuses on the town of Rockport, an hour’s drive north of Boston.

Because of pedestrian right of way laws, the town is a walkers paradise where the so-called Atlantic Path allows for a glorious ocean front hike over flat granite rocks that extends for miles around the shoreline in either direction. People who own homes along the way are usually gracious as you pass and often offer greetings even as they enjoy their sunset cocktails or the evening meal on the porch.

Then there is Bearskin Neck, a quaint but not cloying collection of cottages placed at all angles, weathered like sea wrack and jutting out into the harbor, a flourishing artist colony, the Neck is a tourist destination with many restaurants and shops.

As for the film, it was a forgettable Spielberg effort—indeed I don’t remember its name— but enjoyed watching it in progress.

From my book, In the Ninth Decade, Red Dragonfly Press.

www.marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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Farewell to the Snowy Owls at Sunset Park

By Marilyn Zuckerman

Photo by Andrea Loewen

(Photo by Andrea Loewen)

Goodbye to the migrants from up north
— from that other latitude
where when food became scarce
they flew south to fend for themselves.
Two teenagers from the Arctic
roosting in trees
or sheltering against a brick chimney
Only the blazing yellow eyes
glaring down at us in disdain,
black and white barred feathers
standing out against the sky.

No more daily visits to the park
where folks loaded with binoculars
and scopes gathered together
to stare up in wonder at
this icon,
this mythic animal,
this totem visitor,
— its rare appearance
met with reverence and awe…
and the ritual question of birders everywhere…
“Are they here today?”

⋅     ⋅     ⋅

Owl Fever 2

Yes, during the winter of 2012, Sunset Park became a place sacred to the two Snowy Owls who had alighted there to survive the winter. We made daily pilgrimages to the park and learned to greet others in owl-born friendliness.

Those who had seen one or the other or both, gave directions—which tree, which house or pointed to those who had gathered together with binoculars and scopes under a tree and were looking up.

We shared pictures and information…that they lived on the rats dwelling on the bank going down towards Shilshole, that they were fighting as adolescent males of many species are wont to do, probably for territory.

Finally there was only one left and now there are none.

www.marilynzuckermanpoet.com

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