Thursday, December 31, 2009

A New Year

12:00 midnight sharp,
and one year on the cusp
of another; the perns and gyres
(never really understood)
in perfect balance
for one second,
or something like that.

war is here;
war is there;
war is everywhere
it seems:

insipid and facile
as a nursery

like janus,
we can look forward and back
at once and see
atrocity. nobody learns
from history.

12:01: the new year
has begun.

G-d give us strength;
G-d give us health;
G- d give us the one
who will bring
peace to everyone.

G-d give us Zach,
the scion
of Akivah
and Yisrael.



Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Back to the Psychedelic 60's with the Help of My "Friend," (Morphine)

1.The day after hip-replacement surgery a young man with a kippot (yarmulke) on his head enters my room. In his hands he carries a load of hardware, which he assembles above my supine body. I wonder why a person in a kippot, for heaven's sake, would be insisting that I learn to hoist myself up using what surely is some useless gear that has been smuggled in from the Al Qaeda training camps. I give the young man, who turns out to be an interning physical therapist, the most sour look I can possibly manage, considering I am quite high on morphine and sink back into that most marvelous of all marvelous escapes, the fetal position. I tell him to take his stuff and go back to the Taliban and BE a traitor to our nation, if that is what he wants because I simply WILL NOT do that silly and disloyal jungle gym stuff that we see on TV all the time. The man looks very disappointed and discouraged and leaves me in the care of my poor suffering family.

2.Before I know it, (such is the confusion of time), I am at the Billy-Bob's big old mansion on Surf Avenue in Sea Gate, Brooklyn. From my (non-existent) hospital room window I can see that there is a posh tea party to raise money for Nefesh Academy in progress in the spacious garden downstairs. I tell a very sympathetic nurse that I have not been invited because I was such a poor student at Barnard. Then I think I see four nurse's aides screaming and yelling at me to shut up and stop being such a baby. I dissolve into the fetal position again, leaving my poor sister sitting quite alertly in a chair, wondering what will happen next.

3.Nobody has to wait long to find out. Soon I have become a character in a Chagall painting, floating my way above, around and through the shetetl known as Brooklyn: I am searching for a place to spend the night. Flatbush will not do: after all, whom do I know there who would put me up
for the night? or even for one minute? So I fly to Sea Gate, where all the houses seem very red. I tell Jeff, who is ACTUALLY sitting right near me with poor Sheryl, to take me back to my old house on Oceanic: surely someone there will let me stay, if only the ghost of my unfortunate dead mother. Jeff says, "Ok, let's go," and gets up to begin the journey home. (After all, home is where they have to take you in when there is nowhere else to go, isn't it?) Sheryl tugs at Jeff and tells him it is too cold to go outside. I am very disappointed but decide to ask the Rebbitzen Rivkeh, who is also ACTUALLY in the hospital, if I can stay with her. (The Rabbi seems to be conducting a class behind a striped drape, which turns out to be the hospital room separator.) Jeff asks Rivkeh if I may stay with her, and she says that I could. Then I ask again and again - and again, and each time the answer is yes. Suddenly this does not seem like a good idea, so I send Jeff behind the striped curtain to ask the people there if I may stay right where I am. It seems that there is a teenage girl there who takes time out from the Rabbi's class to say it is ok if I stay. Unfortunately Jeff has to pretend that he is asking her over and over and over again, such is the virulence of my OCD, which really does not need much impetus from morphine.

4.Towards what seems like nightfall I realize that I need sleeping medication very, very badly. So I go to Lyme Avenue, still in flight thanks to Chagall, and ask the Rabbi, who has somehow magically evanesced from the hospital, if he knows anyone who has a tranquilizer. He says there is a lady on Cypress Avenue who is a very good naturalist, and will make some safe medicine for me. So I fly over to Cypress and find the woman, who seems vaguely familiar. She says she is all out of tranqs, but will make some since I seem to be having difficulty of one sort or another. She comes back from her garden and tells me all her herbs are gone too, but to keep me from going (from GOING?) completely mad, she will catch some bugs, crush them up and magically turn them into Atavan! YAY, ATAVAN! At that very moment, the nurse must be stuffing Atavan, or lorazapan, as the pros who all love generic names call it, into my big mouth that is perpetually open and spouting pure nonsense. The bugs seem a little chewy, I think to myself, but, thank goodness, they work. Much to the relief of everyone, I am soon asleep.

5.But not for long. I soon wake up and imagine that one of the nurses is Sherri Shepherd, accompanied by an illicit lover AND her son Jeffrey. I call my own Jeffrey on the phone and tell him to call the ENQUIRER with the scoop that Sherri Sherpherd, who appears on THE VIEW at eleven A.M., works as a nurse at Lutheran Hospital before showtime. "We will be rich!" I tell him. He promises to call asap.

6.Every now and then a group of nurses go on their breaks to a nearby swimming pool. They are dressed in swimsuits and carry very large, very clean white towels. I wonder what laundromat could possibly provide such immaculate towels?

7.Then one day a miracle happens. I momentarily step out of the Chagall painting and hear my sister plead with the nurse to tell her what has happened to me. The nurse is very flippant and replies that my behavior is the typical reaction to morphine and that I would be myself again once the drug was out of my body.

MORPHINE! A synonym for heroin! Another word for opium! The drug they give people on theiir death beds, (which, in fact, is the only place it SHOULD be administered.) And I have not even mentioned the reactions of the other patients in the orthopedic post-op ward who awaken while still under the influence of that substance that comes from the poppy, that most lovely of lovely flowers with its pistils filled with hallucinogenic poison.

And then one day I am moved to another unit. While I am sure it will be the Psychiatric Ward, it is actually a nursing/rehabilitation facility, where I will (hopefully) learn to walk and to become a human being again. One poor man in that unit, dubbed "the Sheriff" by the rehab personnel, sits by the window in the hallway all day and then re-enters reality for moments at a time to yell at the gurney driver for coming too close to the wheel chair attendant and serves as constant reminder that I am in fact I (ME?) and NOT someone who thinks she is a sheriff. But at least he is happy, and his days are productively filled, whereas my main preoccupation is how to use the toilet in my room into which paper is forbidden due to frequent overflows. (I will not tell you how I finally manage to solve this dilemma.)

And at the end of this year, 2009, I must now give thanks to the L-rd G-d who has TWICE returned to me the ability to walk. When I asked the orthopedic surgeon what would happen if he just patched up the femur bone and forgot about the hip replacement, better known in medical parlance as "the prosthetic," he said, "Then you will remain a miserable cripple in bed like this for the rest of your life."

So ... his will - and His will - be done. And somewhere, somehow, mine too.

P.S. Marlene said that all canes must have names that suit their identities. Her mother's is called "sugar cane," whereas my device was dubbed "harmonicane," due to the silly little holes down the side. Right now I do not know where I have left h'ocane. Perhaps some hapless (or perhaps very happy) person is using it to belt out AULD LANG SYNE.

Qui sait?

The end. And happy new year.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Winter Solstice

I hide
I reside
I abide
in darkness.


a minute or two
of light

the sun, some say,
will be gone
one day.

for now,
its rays

from me.


Saturday, August 1, 2009

summer poem

The breeze
wends its way
down the alley
and stirs the flowers
that have survived
the heat of day.

So, too, the coolth
of reason
stirs briefly
along the corridors
of my heart.

O Lord who made
the flowers
and makes
the breeze blow,
do not take from me
what I have recently
come to know:

that broken
and alone
does not mean
that life is done.

Like the flowers,
we survive
the mid-day sun

and wait
for calmness
when the day
is done.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My Cousin Kenny Died (7/14/09)

1.used to peer with his big brown inquiring eyes into my big baby buggy and wake me up immediately.
2.used to scare me when he wore his brown horn-rimmed glasses because I thought he was a doctor.
3.used to come to our house in Sea Gate, open the refrigerator door, take nothing, close it and then leave (after dropping off his passenger).
4.used to point to his cheek if he wanted a kiss.
5.used to collect coins punctiliously in a long knitted sock/change purse.
6.had a laugh that started about 1w0 seconds before it actually started.
7.never said a bad word about anyone.
8.loved to listen to "Caprice Italiana" over and over again on his sparkling new spindle record player.
9.used to pick me up every winter and spring vacation, rescue me from 3723, warn me not to dare vomit in his perpetually new car, produce Dramamine just in case, and take me to the infinite delights of 120 Vermilyea Avenue.
10.used to share his bedroom with me during those vacations. He would come home from his late shift at the drug store very quietly; I would pretend to be asleep. One time he caught me peeking and started yelling that I was up too late. I got very scared at the time, but now I know it was just a pretend yell.
11.used to bring home unimaginables from his before-its-time-CVS-type drug store: PEZ machines, frog on a rubber string that squeaked when you squeezed the attached rubber ball, etc.
12.used to eat pretzel sticks while lying on his back on the floor (head on hassock) watching TV. I think they were Drake's.
12.found the love of his life, my "cousin" Helaine, whom he treated like a queen. (I remember how they both looked as they used to drive up Oceanic: beautiful Helaine with that red lipstick that could only look well on her; dashing Kenny, so much in love. (I believe that at one time he had a convertible.)

Rest in peace, dear Kenny. We miss you.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Poem by Anna Akhmatova, tr. Rivka Basya Blinova

I've learned to live simply and wisely,
Look at the sky and pray to G-d,
Before the evening walk and wander
To wear all worries from my heart.

When burdocks rustle in the ravine,
And rowanberry cluster dives,
I compose happy verses about
The futile, but beautiful life.

I'm returning back home. Fluffy cat,
Licking my palm is purring sweetly,
And bright fire's flaring ablaze
By the lake on the high saw-mill steeple.

Only occasionally silence is pierced
By the cry of a white stork in fear.
If you'll knock on my door, it now seems,
I might not even hear.

(Rivka Basya, where and how are you? Should you read this post, please email me at Thanks, Ms. Moser. Same goes for anyone who knows anything about Rivka's whereabouts, activities, etc.)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sweet Simples

The sweet simples of sanity:
My love,
when you went away, I doted on the dance
of dust in sunbeams; I lived by the placement
of spoons, the arrangement of rooms, the presence
of spools and needles and pins and thread that kept me
walking through days and space without you.

We were the simplest of simples:
blood reds, bone whites, mud browns.

Sweet solid simples! Grain of wood
on old tables, the tiny rims of thimbles,
melted-down candles,
jars of Indian head nickels.

O simple simple simples.


Thursday, April 23, 2009


Recently I found myself sitting with a friend at Weill - Cornell, the hospital that houses my oncologist and his staff. This time I was there not for myself but for my friend: She was about to be diagnosed with chronic leukemia.

G- d knows we saw a lot during the four hours we spent in the waiting room, but I am going to tell you about one person in particular. We will call this person merely - Person.

Person walked into the waiting area about halfway through our stay. Person wore dark glasses, so the eyes could not be seen, but the face was delicate, quite pretty and framed by simple silver hoop earrings. The clothing struck me as rather cavalier for someone whose fate it was to join the rest of us on the third floor of Weill-Cornell: jaunty black gauzy shirt with three unclosed buttons at the top; sleeves about three-fourths of the way down the arms; standard jeans and the daintiest ballet slippers I have ever seen.

How wonderful, I thought to myself, to be so in-control of one's self and one's surroundings and simultaneously to carry inside the knowledge of one' s cancer! My thoughts continued: If only I could be so liberated from psychological pain - so free of despair ! - instead of being the miserable kvetch that never forgets for one second that she is walking this earth only by the greatest mercy of the L-rd above.

I continued to watch Person waiting for blood tests: I saw no anxiety; no apprehension; only self-assured ease and the prettiest, perkiest face in the room.

Then something happened: Person's hands started moving a bit, and I noticed - and I noticed - they were a pair of MAN HANDS, straight from an old Seinfeld episode. But this story has a different twist: It now became clearer by the second that Person was on the third floor (oncology, urology, hematology) because a sex change operation had recently been performed. On her. On him. Qui sait?

I waited for the receptionist to tell Person it was time to see the doctor, but she merely called out the name "Cooper;" no Mr., Mrs., Ms. or anything.

And then suddenly my envy became pity.

What of this person's mother? father? wife, perhaps? Children?

What if my own cherished son had come to me only to declare that he could no longer live in a man's body? What would I have done then?

Soon the totally inappropriate questions came to mind: Does Person have cancer? Or does she visit Suite B/Urology because of new excretory organs? There seemed to be a substantial mound of bosom on Person's chest: cancer? new boobs? Who knows?

I could not wait to share my story. I told myself this was not really gossip; it was only a natural need to unburden disturbing thoughts. I soon learned that I am about the only one with these disturbing thoughts: the rest of the world (including Iowa, of all places) has gone soft on difficult sexual matters. (Or should I say that hardly anyone cares anymore? Except me.)

This happened some weeks ago. I am waiting for my feelings to morph into guilt, the emotion that eventually replaces every single feeling I have ever had.

This time, however, it would be appropriate and welcome....

Post Script (Next Day)
I have been reminded (again) very ardently, very vociferously (again) that Hitler killed "odd" people like gays, gypsies, the crippled and JEWS. (Members of some of these categories probably did not even merit torture - just death.) Of course G-d wants us all to remain as we have been made, but, as a transgender individual asked Oprah, "How would you feel if you had a penis?" The resulting look on her face said it all.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fine Point, by John Updike

Why go to Sunday school, though surlily,
and not believe a bit of what was taught?
The desert shepherds in their scratchy robes
undoubtedly existed, and Israel's defeats -
the Temple in its sacredness destroyed
by Babylon and Rome. Yet Jews kept faith
and passed the prayers, the crabbed rites,
from table to table as Christians mocked.

We mocked, but took. The timbrel creed of praise
gives spirit to to the daily; blood tinges lips.
The tongue reposes in papyrus pleas,
saying, Surely - magnificent, that "surely" -
goodness and mercy shall follow me all
the days of my life, my life, forever.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

poem, for J:

To lose you, the fine-tuned boy
I used to know
would be like the French losing
the solid gold inch
that is kept for all time
as the standard measure,
the very basis of all
normalcy, regularity.

To lose you, my strong scion,
would be like losing
the stuff of me that
still remains: uterus,
right ovary, heart, breasts
all filled with mother's

To lose you, proud elk,
straight and true as any
of G-d's trees,
would be like losing
a pulse, a steady
beating continually
the rhythms
of whatever life
is left.

To lose you - dear Lord - to lose him
would be to press Your fingers
upon my lids forever.