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.
for my Nana
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.
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?
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.
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.