chocolate is a verb

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Monthly Archives: August 2013


trying to write…

Some mornings I let in too much noise. The clatter of what’s going on outside (it has nothing to do with me), of what’s on my desk, or what should be, of later or next weekend or the roof or trees or garden waste bin that will be picked up Monday but is only half full. All these things, more, this chattering tangle of static, clamoring, squalling, to block the quiet voice of poetry.

The big red…

a cold rain…

my sleeping…

and yet another postcard…

Oberndorfer-Aarons card

Oberndorfer-Aarons card backI know so little of my grandfather (seated at right, with his sister’s husband). I think my mother liked him, but she didn’t talk about him much except to say he was the youngest of ten children, always a joker, ready with a prank, and he died young.

In his six-page handwritten letter to his future in-laws asking for my grandmother’s hand, he wrote, “…promise you now & forever that you will not find me lacking in any detail of true manliness, & devotion for your dear and my dear.”

His gold wedding band, on my middle finger, is engraved inside, January 15, ’07. My mother wore it; she had it on when she died.

Here, at age 27, his life more than half over, bowlered and cigared and finely dressed in the voluminous fashion of 1910, he looks like he can barely contain the impulse to jump up and be silly.

in sepia memory
color of your eyes
timbre of your voice
chromosomal gift

questions for my mother…

1923 - D and girls

What were you at 12, on your birthday, in the very front, where you liked to be, your hair smoothed, for the moment, into a bob, like all the other girls? And who were those girls? Did you giggle together and share secrets? Or were they being nice to you because it was your birthday? Did you carry, already, your small tarnished coin of betrayal and fear? At 12, on your birthday, smiling uncertainly into the hard spring sun, were you happy?

I want to think of you as innocent, happy, undamaged. But in your face I can see only the self you gave me: wounded, lonely, hungry, afraid, peering ahead toward rescue.

The days…

in Emily’s garden…

another postcard…

Elsie and Jake postcard back

Elsie and Jake plus two unknown -- postcardNo note suggests the place or tells their names. Nothing in their faces says Wish you were here. But in their Edwardian garb, their solemn stares, my grandfather’s firm grip on my grandmother’s arm, the faint trace of ivied column in the background, the image says occasion. The postcard was never sent, and shall not be.

Still cinched into
my slenderness
my practiced gaze
behatted bride
I do not know
that you will die
so soon but only
that your earnest
heat can melt my ice
and make me laugh.

© j.i. kleinberg 2013

the faith…

to understand…

The unrelenting…


THE delicious…

bad feet…

Dorothy in saddle shoes, 1947At the children’s shoe store in Westwood Village, laced into a new pair of shoes, I stepped onto the fluoroscope, leaned toward the eyepiece and peered down at my phalanges and metatarsals within the stitched outline of the shoes. All of us had our feet irradiated then. If I asked and no one was waiting, the salesman would let me step onto the machine barefoot. It was fun to see your bones.

Distressing as it is in retrospect, the upshot was that I wore saddle shoes. That my mother also favored saddle shoes did not make them more appealing to me. They were stiff and heavy and, as I saw it, obliterated any lingering possibility that I would ever be pretty or popular.

Sadly, neither the fluoroscope nor the sensible shoes prevented me from having bad feet. Nor, even if I kept them polished to a gloss, did they make my mother like me any better.
. . . . .
photo: my mother in saddle shoes, 1947



1914 - D on burroFor the third year, I am participating in the August Poetry Postcard Fest. It works like this: you sign up, gather 31 postcards and stamps, then on each day of August you write a postcard-size poem onto one of the cards and mail it to the next person on the list. In turn, you receive poetry postcards, somehow always a surprise and a delight, even though you anticipate their arrival.

The send/receive ratio is not always perfect, but I take the challenge seriously and write a fresh poem each day, rough drafts to be sure, usually inspired by the image on the card.

After last year’s fest, I decided to continue the daily practice, sans postcards, each morning drafting a tiny poem inspired by whatever is on my mind or in my sight. Among those 300-some poems I may later discover something worthwhile, some words that merit further attention, that will perhaps find their way into a new poem. Meanwhile, it’s simply a practice in the many senses of that word.

Today, hoping to pick up my ragged thread of family stories, I found this photo of my mother. Appropriately, it’s a postcard.

we are bundled both
in our winter coats
uncertain strangers
holding very still
warming each other
this moment of love
we will not remember




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