November-December 2014 … The Global Online Magazine of Arts, Information & Entertainment … Volume 10, Number 6
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Gail Gerwin/Poetry

 

Vapor

 

After The Three Fates (Working Title)

Seward Johnson, Aluminum and Foam, 2011

 

Double, double toil and trouble . . .

—Shakespeare, Macbeth IV-I

 

Three Fates or Hags or Witches, call them all;

They boil a cauldron filled with feet and brains,

A fenny snake, its venom’s pow’r forestalled,

And hollowed eyes and toes from lives well drained.

Who are these Fates, and why are they portrayed?

What do they think as throngs walk by their site?

And why were kings and nobles so dismayed

While little children giggle with delight?

And why am I so sad to light on them?

Why fear, why yearn for times I spent in class

When time stretched wide, my studies mattered then;

I’m trapped by years like vapor that has passed.

So boil and bubble, Fates, my pot awaits—

But hark, my ending do not annotate.

 

 

 

Slick: A Love Story

 

Chicken soup, the holiday’s here, right?

That’s what Slick the Plumber would say

twice a year as he lay prone on my kitchen

floor, cleaned out the clog in the disposal—

peels of parsnips, onions, leeks, carrots,

turnips, fibrous stems of fresh dill.

 

Slick, name that stuck to him like Elmer’s Glue

well into his octogenarian years, when getting

down to view the cavern of vegetable carnage

became a challenge. Arthritic knees belied the lank

teen who’d evaded the police as he slithered away

like a greased pig when mischief marked his

reputation, his full head of jet hair the only

flash as he fled through the streets of town.

 

This oversized scamp-turned-man never married

and as he aged, he cared for his ailing sister in a

home near the church where he attended daily Mass.

He’d appear minutes after a frantic call—Slick,

the disposal, hurry, guests on the way—lower

his old balding self, flashlight in hand, to install

wider pipes under the sink, sometimes to mount

a ladder in search of the source along the garage

wall where pipes rebelled at the touch of his wrench,

spewed slop on this wet warrior—unfazed, dedicated.

 

A gentle man—Slick who visited whenever puppies

were born to watch them suckle, quiver in their

sleep, tears in his eyes at life’s miracle. Chivalrous

Slick who took a shovel, lifted the dead bunny

from the driveway, reverently placed it in a bag-

turned-coffin, its last rites tendered by his soft hand.

Quasi mayor Slick who held court nightly in our

town’s diner, sat with his back to the counter near

the door, greeted familiar faces, made new friends,

his gap-toothed smile a radiance.

 

When Slick died, the church that may have

hidden the teen hooligan, the church where

he prayed every morning before helping

housewives of New Jersey clear their paths,

that church was filled to the apse with a host

of dedicated  admirers who miss him still.

 

Time

 

                                   for my Nana

 

We plan

As we planned our trip to Prague, we said we

would take a train to Plauen, the Saxon town

where you lived, birthed seven children, my

mother the youngest. Your dark photo, arm on

your husband’s shoulder, bears the address

Banhafstrasse 19, next to the hotel we’d booked.

The town clerk’s email: be sure to visit the lace

museum. I still own the lace my grandfather

tatted in this town. I drape it on my shoulders,

try to gather his scent, to sense his fingers work

the loops. Once in Prague we knew the trip was

too long, too many transfers, a driver too costly.

Someday we’ll go to Berlin, we told each other,

from there we’ll take a direct train, we have time,

we have time.

 

   our lives

On my fourth anniversary my mother gave me

your gold carved bracelet with dulled red and

green stones, give it to your youngest daughter

on her fourth anniversary, she said, my mother

gave it to me when your father and I were married

four years. Carry on the tradition, tell your daughter

to do the same. (I did.) My younger daughter birthed

sons. Where will the bracelet go?

 

      with devotion

On Fridays at sundown, I kindle candles on your

silver candlesticks, 1862 etched in the base. Did

candles burn in your Plauen home? Were they

your own mother’s? My mother never told me

her name, but I do know that you were born

Augusta Gold, somewhere in Austria.

 

         and full hearts,

You may have called Gin when you died playing

cards with my sister the year before I was born.

Perhaps you put down the Queen of Hearts before

your own heart stopped.

 

            waiting.

Plauen, my mother’s birthplace, your home, her history.

Do we have time?

 

About the poet:

Gail Fishman Gerwin, a Paterson, NJ, native, graduated from Goucher College and received her MA in fiction and playwriting from NYU’s Gallatin School. She owns inedit, a Morristown, NJ, freelance writing and editing firm. Her memoir Sugar and Sand was a finalist for the 2010 Paterson Poetry Prize. Her second collection Dear Kinfolk, (www.chayacairnpress.com) earned a 2013 Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Her poems, reviews, fiction, features, and essays appear in print and online. Gail, associate poetry editor of Tiferet, facilitates poetry-writing workshops.