“Letter from My Mom” (with a reading)

I’m sharing this poem again, this time with a reading and photo. I’m linking it to dVerse’s Open Link Night Live.

Thank you to editor James Diaz for publishing another of my poems in Anti-Heroin Chic. This one, “Letter from My Mom,” is especially important to me. Not too long ago, a cousin who we have not seen in decades discovered a letter my mom had written to her long ago. She sent a photo of it to my sister. My mother was not a letter writer, and to read her words written when she still thought clearly–and when she also could see well enough to write–this was such a special gift. You can read my poem here.

Letter to My Ancestors: Haibun

You who came before me–how I wish I could ask you about your lives. My mom tells me stories, but there is so much she doesn’t know, and now much she has forgotten. Of course, I want to know what it was like to live in what was then Russia, to be a Jew there—the terror of pogroms and the ordinary day-to-day problems you learned to live with, until you no longer could. But I also want to know what did you eat? What did your house look like? What games did you play as a child? How did you feel leaving your homeland, traveling first to England, France, Germany, or Italy before finally reaching Philadelphia or New York? You had so much drive and determination. In my mind, I see the many generations that came before me. I see practical, no-nonsense individuals, and yet, I wonder how many were also full of artistic vision or musical talent. Somewhere lost in time, you, my ancestors, must have journeyed from the Middle East to Eastern Europe, and each time you had to learn so many new things. I wonder what else you experienced? I discover my great grandfather had grey eyes. My daughters have grey eyes, too–a gift from the past, a look to the future.


Endless storms weathered

again winter turns to spring—

young birds fly from nests


I’m combining prompts again—Björn at dVerse asked us to write a poetic letter. I hope this fits.

Colleen asked us to use synonyms for energy and knowledge for her Tanka Tuesday.

We’re also in the midst of a nor’easter with rain, snow, and wind!

I’m also adding this to Frank’s Barely Spring Challenge.


The Letter

I open the letter, read the words again and again. But they don’t change. They recount the battle and your acts of bravery. They describe the sudden storm, a tempest that battered your ship against the rocks, as you were journeying home to me. I had warned you not to go. I told you of my dream, where the storm clouds gathered and flew like demons, covering the moon, and you appeared beside me, cold and still, dripping, smelling of the sea, smelling of decay. I felt the pain then, clean and sharp in my breast. You laughed at my fears, called me Cassandra. Perhaps I am, for you did not believe me. I look at the ring on my finger and think of this other love-pledge you have given me, feel him flutter-kick in my womb. A son. He’ll be born in the spring. I will tell him about you.


ghosts drift in moonlight

clouds obscure the pale glowing

drops like silver tears


Johannes Vermeer, “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


This haibun is for Colleen Chesebro’s Weekly poetry challenge. The prompt words were clean and sharp. I’ve also used  this week’s Secret Keeper’s  prompt.  The words: | OPEN| ROCK| RING | ACT | LETTER |

Jane Dougherty used the Vermeer image above for a post this week, also using Secret Keeper’s Words.  I like it so much, that I decided to steal use it, too. The painting is carefully constructed and illuminated, of course, but I also like the literacy of the woman that is portrayed as unexceptional. Also, though it is most likely the fashion, the woman in the painting does look pregnant.






If Only: NaPoWriMo


I sometimes write a letter in my head,

“Dear Dad,” I think,

have you heard, did you see, what do you think–

or perhaps a phone call,

like when I called to tell him I was pregnant,

standing in the kitchen of that apartment in Woodbury,

the first floor of a house,

shaded by oak trees,

old enough to have seen

its former glory,

before multiple pairs, young couples

who, like the seasons,

moved in and moved on,

but that day,

door and windows open

the summer

was warm with promise,

(or so I remember it),

nature—and I–bursting with life,

he tried to speak,

but couldn’t,


his voice caught,

words tangled in salty threads of joy.

The baby is grown now,

and so is her sister,

they only got to know him for a short while,

he didn’t own a computer,

died before phones were smart,

but I amuse myself imagining him ranting on social media,

calling out the swamp monsters,

and adding heart emojis to photos of children and pets.

“Dear Dad,” I think

I’d love to talk to you again.


Day 16 of NaPoWriMo. The prompt was to write a letter.





Love is Calling



“I have not spent a day without loving you; I have not spent a night without embracing you; I have not so much as drunk one cup of tea without cursing the pride and ambition which force me to remain apart from the moving spirit of my life. In the midst of my duties, whether I am at the head of my army or inspecting the camps, my beloved Josephine stands alone in my heart, occupies my mind, fills my thoughts. If I am moving away from you with the speed of the Rhone torrent, it is only that I may see you again more quickly. If I rise to work in the middle of the night, it is because this may hasten by a matter of days the arrival of my sweet love. …
Napoleon to Josephine

Last night I was telling one of our daughters that after her dad proposed to me I couldn’t wait to call my sister to tell her the news. To do so, I had to use the pay phone in the hallway of the college dormitory. My husband and I met when we were in ninth grade. He sat in front of me in English class. He used to borrow pencils, pens, and paper from me. I, of course, was a good student and always prepared for class. (Did you doubt this?)

The first time he called me, my sister answered the phone, yelled that the call was for me, and because she’s my sister, she announced to the household, “It’s a boy!” Before cordless phones, much less cell phones existed, we shared a family phone that had an extra long cord that was frequently knotted and tangled. It was located on a small table in an alcove between the living room and kitchen. My boyfriend, now husband, and I spent hours talking on the phone and preventing anyone else from calling—because, yes, there was no Call Waiting either.

I think about how lovers in the past often had to endure long separations without being able to communicate, and sometimes not knowing if they would ever see each other again. When John Winthrop, first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, left for New England in 1630, his pregnant wife, Margaret did not travel with him. The couple arranged to “meet in spirit till we meet in person” on Mondays and Fridays “at five of the clock at night.” Margaret did join him in New England about a year later.

Before telephones and telegraphs, lovers could only communicate over distances by writing letters. Often they had to overcome obstacles such as the expense or scarcity of ink, quills, and paper, and the problems of getting letters over mountains, across seas, and in and out of prisons. Sometimes people had to wait months to send a letter with a traveler or a ship going to a particular destination. Moreover, many people could not read or write and had to rely on others to write or read their missives.

I value written notes and cards, and they are wonderful to reread. Yet the ability to talk quickly despite distances is wonderful–and it makes separations much easier to bear. (I’m still waiting for a Star Trek transporter device to be invented to make travel quicker.) I love getting a text from my husband or children knowing that they arrived safely somewhere. It reassures me. When my husband is away on a trip, I expect him to call me. When our daughters have important news or want to catch-up, we enjoy talking to each other.

Today, lovers who are separated can keep in touch through texts and social media, as well as by phone. They can have real-time face chats on their phones or computers. This type of rapid communication would have amazed people in the past—but if it existed earlier many of the passionate letters we read now would not exist. (What if Napoleon just sent Josephine texts? “Hey Jo, this Russia campaign is a bitch. Love ya.”) Do we perhaps take this ease of communication for granted sometimes? I don’t know. Does the ease of communication make love less profound? Does it make it easier to dismiss or erase?

I like to think that love is love, but a relationship does take work. As Ursula K. Le Guin said, ““Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
(Notice how I worked food into this post. . .because I believe sharing good food is also essential to a lasting relationship.)

On this Valentine’s Day, call someone you love—spouse, child, parent, or friend—and tell them how much you value them. If it’s too late for Valentine’s, pick another time–perhaps Monday or Friday at five o’clock.