Suzanne Levine

Politics

Folks, I fear that Trump will bash Hillary over and over and over again on how untrustworthy she is and her huge foreign policy mistakes until her supporters cry uncle and begin to question her for themselves, and he has a trail of road kill to prove it.

She is terribly vulnerable and the media is too limp to refuse Trump’s only by phone interviews, or, to call him on anything. They allow him to spew the same bullshit every morning rather than press him to answer the fucking questions.

To my mind, by far the weakest panderers are Mika and Joe. She’s an empty head in a sleeveless dress and he, in his food stained tee shirts and fleece jackets, is such old news, primarily about himself. (see my book, Haberdasher’s Daughter, for the sartorial qualifications, lol)

A poem of mine inspired by a photograph

Eating Alef

 

Hungry to learn, a grandchild singsongs the alphabet

while eating a sandwich without crusts and drinking

from a cup with a safety lid. In the photograph

 

of my father’s father, shtetl boys in a wooden wagon

hold honey-laced cookies shaped into letters, alef

to zayin. Some wear bits of knitted scarves and fingerless

 

mittens, others shrunken skullcaps stretched to their ears.

Leftover snow darkens the foreground but the threat

of a blizzard hovers like destiny against the cheer I imagine

 

as their morning lessons tumble into sugary crumbs caught

in mouths, pockets and the troughs of woolen trousers.

 

Presidential Primary Day

Voting is a privilege and voting in a primary can sometimes make a real difference.

If the Independents had a name other than independent, i.e. Nationals, would there be as many people interested in signing on? I think not.

I fear that many Independents don’t fully understand that they, as all of us, are free to vote for whomever we want to vote for. Registered Independents very often lose their vote because they aren’t aware of the rules that prohibit them from voting unless they have registered as a Dem or Republican before the deadline which can vary state by state.

Not that I care, but two of Trump’s kids couldn’t vote in the New York primary because they were unaware of the rules and missed the deadline.

So, just a suggestion, think seriously before registering outside of our two party system
so you won’t miss out on filling in the bubble on the ballot and having your say.

I am always so proud wearing my I VOTED sticker.

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Below is a poem by the great Polish writer, Wislawa Szymborska. Photographs bear witness which makes them so difficult to part with.

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Hitler’s First Photograph

And who’s this little fellow in his itty-bitty robe?
That’s tiny baby Adolf, the Hitlers’ little boy!
Will he grow up to be an LL.D.?
Or a tenor in Vienna’s Opera House?
Whose teensy hand is this, whose little ear and eye and nose?
Whose tummy full of milk, we just don’t know:
printer’s, doctor’s, merchant’s, priest’s?
Where will those tootsy-wootsies finally wander?
To garden, to school, to an office, to a bride,
maybe to the Burgermeister’s daughter?

Precious little angel, mommy’s sunshine, honeybun,
while he was being born a year ago,
there was no dearth of signs on the earth and in the sky:
spring sun, geraniums in windows,
the organ-grinder’s music in the yard,
a lucky fortune wrapped in rosy paper,
then just before the labor his mother’s fateful dream:
a dove seen in dream means joyful news,
if it is caught, a long-awaited guest will come.
Knock knock, who’s there, it’s Adolf’s heartchen knocking.

A little pacifier, diaper, rattle, bib,
our bouncing boy, thank God and knock on wood, is well,
looks just like his folks, like a kitten in a basket,
like the tots in every other family album.
Shush, let’s not start crying, sugar,
the camera will click from under that black hood.

The Klinger Atelier, Grabenstrasse, Braunau,
and Braunau is small but worthy town,
honest businesses, obliging neighbors,
smell of yeast dough, of gray soap.
No one hears howling dogs, or fate’s footsteps.
A history teacher loosens his collar
and yawns over homework.

Bearing witness

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I wanted to put a name to how I am feeling today but could only summon that I was having a cris de coeur which was a bit too melodramatic even for me, so forget that.

A year ago, while packing to move to New Haven, I needed to tackle the photograph albums and endless Kodak envelopes of loose photos and put them in some sort of order.

That task quickly fell to the wayside as I was in a “who are these people, anyway” mood and tossed a lot of them. Then came the albums, baby albums and baby’s first tooth books to be filled out presumedly by me. This mother didn’t get very far as I was certain that I’d actually remember the date every one of my children’s teeth fell out. These days, just trying to remember the years of their birth takes a lot of concentration. lol, kind of.

Naturally there were many black and white pictures with pinked edges of grandparents, great grands, aunties, and others I never was certain of from the beginning. I always adored the baby pictures of my beloved mother especially the one where her mother “sat” her in a little wicker chair at two months to have her photo taken. My grandmother did not have a maternal instinct. The baby’s chair was to be sat in. Period. Thus, there is mother, tilting to the left and sliding down the woven seat as the picture was taken.

I wasn’t sure that my kids would know , in fact I was sure they would not know, that the picture was of my mother and so I wrote her name on the back. There were many many others photos, quite a few of people that I didn’t really know either but their images had woven into my childhood memory and become important in some way.

Next I tried to decide which pictures of my kids were my favorites and that I could not live without. I did the same with my grandchildren and packed them in boxes marked either for the bedroom where I would either hang them or place on my bureau or desk or bookcase or basement where most of the albums will stay.

Before I packed them up I put photos of myself on the dining room table. One was a photo of me in kindergarten at the Spring Street School in Suffield on St. Patrick’s day. My teacher had brought in a cake and we had sung Happy Birthday but I cried to my father that night because St. “Paterick”wasn’t there. It was very sad.

The photos looked back at me and after a moment I understood that they were the sum of my life and it kind of freaked me out. I kept them on the table for days hoping the trauma would lessen. It did until today when I decided that it was time to hang those pictures up in our new home.

One good thing about waiting so long to hang them was that I’d basically forgotten the original agony of making the choices. Out of sight, out of mind, I guess. Placing the kids and grandchildren around and hanging some others didn’t take long but when it came time to building the shrine to myself (that’s what I call it when I hang more than one picture) I couldn’t stop staring at my young self. All black and white, there are no smiling pictures, only full frame, smoldering stares into the camera. There’s no artifice, but I’m bewildered and a bit frightened by the intensity of this eighteen year old. That’s when I began to cry.

New Haven Easter

Cherry blossoms:
an Acela away. Pink
hyacinths here
under my nose.

Queen Elizabeth II

Happy 90th to ER II.
As a child I read every book in the West Hartford library about Lilibet and her sister, Margaret Rose. I was fascinated by the Royals, their gold carriages, jeweled crowns and, as a child myself, the amazing dollhouse the princesses played with.
I saw it for myself in my early twenties on a trip to England and once again fell in thrall.
On that same trip, while meeting family members for lunch at Claridges’ Hotel, we practically walked in together with the Queen and Prince Philip as they were also having lunch at the Hotel.
They arrived w/o any fanfare, unlike the chaos our presidents create by closing streets, setting up barricades, police sirens and endless motorcades.
The few of us outside the hotel stood by the doors under the canopy quietly clapping as they passed by. Again, no in the face photographers or news’ people shoving mics, just us and a few others showing respect to the the Queen and Prince Philip.
She was a tiny woman dressed as she always did in a dowdy fashion with the prerequisite hat and empty handbag.
I will never forget the moment she turned and I saw her full face. Her skin was the ultimate definition of peaches and cream and I thought she was the most beautiful woman that I had ever seen.

A Writer’s Schedule

I get out of bed at the crack of 8:30. I wake up a lot earlier but nouns and verbs and occasional adjectives need to be rearranged in my head, the ones that keep me up at night. I separate the whites from the darks in the basement and the first load begins to slosh. Breakfast is something like oatmeal with fruit and yogurt, a cup of coffee then I read the Times or whatever else might be on the kitchen table while a red pepper roasts on the gas range for lunch or something else bubbles into another meal. Check emails and fb until the first load needs more separating like the clothes that can’t go into the dryer and need to be hung. The ones I call hand-washed. Load next load wondering, is this how Lydia Davis does it before running back upstairs to jot down more irony? W.C. Williams between patients with a stethoscope around his neck? I type a few lines on the computer when my husband shows up with a bushel of tomato seconds, those with slight decay or deformity and because I think that I want to make a lasagna for Sunday supper, I get a sauce started so that it can cook for the next three hours when we have to leave for an appointment to schedule a teaching job. I’m hungry and drink a delicious leftover cold beet soup straight from the mason jar. The beginning of a poem starts to crack across the screen. I can’t stop and think I’m so fucking smart to have gotten onto something this original but I’m in sweats and a moth eaten maroon sweater that belonged to my ex and need to get lunch ready now in order to have time to bring up the last of the clothes to fold and get to the appointment. Also I haven’t washed a dish from breakfast. Yes, he helps but he helps his way. Over lunch he reads what I wrote in the morning, slim as it is and makes some suggestions I’ll mull over later. Dishes go in the sink because I want to spend the last few minutes before leaving to get this into some kind of shape, to at least get it on paper so I can carry it with me. We arrange to lead two eight-week writing classes for next spring and fall, stop for an ice cream on the way home and sit outside where the charity of September isn’t lost on us. Like all writers, we’re stealthy observers. I begin to wonder if the two seventh or eighth grade girls on another bench might have changed their clothes in the middle school bathroom before coming here because, beside the smoky eyes and kewpie-doll-pink lip gloss, I don’t think their mothers would approve of the cutoffs or cropped tee shirts, or the chandelier earrings grazing their bony shoulders. A cell phone rings and the large breasted girl talks with her mom, the heavily mascaraed eyes roll wearily at her friend whose face begins to tell the story.

PRAIANO WRITERS 2014

Although our work for the week was devoted to words, I’m posting some photographs to illustrate our magical week on the Amalfi Coast.

 

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He’s back for DNA testing

A Monarchist Declines the King

Oh my lord, that spine. The S shape is my imprimatur,

just S. But you, after six hundred years, you are Mantel-

ready. Ready to replace Wolf Hall’s Cromwell as her

latest he. And who knows, her revisionist history might

then bury you in Westminster, in a stone-riven crypt

from Sussex at Horsham! A worshipper of royals, I

pressed esses into sealing wax and imagined the princess

sisters bowed over polished escritoires. With a head full

of pudding and suspicious of my birth year by centuries,

you and I have settled down, like the dig at Greyfriars church.

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