More Tankas, from Nancy Levine and Deborah Levine

Pilates
Right muscle, right work.
Contract, release, exactly.
Breath and work are one.
Tense for use, relax the rest.
I stretch, I breathe. I open.

By Deborah Levine

 

Lovers

dancing in the rain
minutes precious ticking clock
till we meet again
it is said love conquers all
without it I am nothing.

By Nancy Ruth Levine

 

The Nancy Ruth Levine Tanka Contest

Nancy Ruth Levine, my former student from my days teaching in the English Department at Westhill High School in Stamford, Connecticut in the mid-Seventies,  challenged me and others to a Tanka contest.

The Tanka is a Japanese closed form. The most typical meter is 5/7/5/7/7.

Here’s mine:

Teacher’s Complaint

No one’s read the book
Except my three best students;
Discussion flagging,
The slackers dream of spring break—
London,Iceland,Cozumel.

 

 

Add yours, in a comment!

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Gardner Museum

 

Since today, March 18, is the 27th anniversary of the Gardner Museum heist, in which 13 works of art (including several by Degas, a Rembrandt, and a Vermeer) were stolen from the Isabelle Stewart Gardner Museum and never recovered–I thought it was fitting to republish my poem about the robbery. The thieves have never been found or brought to justice, and to date, the paintings have not been found.

Sunday Afternoon at the Isabella Stewart Gardner

Thieves in darkness smart enough to wear
cops’ uniforms, clever enough to talk
their way into the mansion
crammed with rich tapestries,
room after room of paintings, drawings
bowls, sculptures, carvings—
thieves experienced enough to tie up
museum guards, dazed and sleepy on the graveyard shift,
I suppose these interlopers came armed
with a shopping list and box cutters,
worked quickly, lifting the art
from the wall, and not gently,
slashed the canvass from each frame.

In the dim light they must have complained
about the working conditions as they moved
from the Rembrandt to the Vermeer, the Degas
— the unlucky thirteen stolen works, thirteen fruits
but for whom? A prince shut up in his rich apartment
somewhere between Boston and the South Seas,
or a Brandoesque recluse in London or Philadelphia
with only a handful of friends—no, acquaintances—
who’d see his art, and gasp or sigh, perhaps even
touch the oil paint, tracing the drapery of Christ’s garment,
so that nicotine-stained fingers rubbed against
the master’s brush strokes, the light that seemed
to gather in the painted figure’s eyes and shine out
from paint and canvas to catch the viewer’s gaze?

Or maybe the canvasses are shut-ins themselves,
rolled up and stashed in an attic or barn,
the thieves perhaps not so smart after all,
now long dead and their confidants
addled hoarders, barricaded behind newspapers, junk mail,
packing boxes that fill floor to ceiling, leaving
only a narrow path from front door to kitchen.

The museum’s glass addition sparkles
in the winter sun, people line up in the glittering
entryway, pay the price of admission and wander
from gallery to gallery, fixing on what’s here,
every wall covered, the art jammed so closely
it’s easy to forget what’s not there
till you enter, single file, the room
with the empty frames, the nothing of it all
startles you, and you think
who did this, and why?

Hard not to take it personally,
the absence of these canvasses,
as if you could walk right up to the woman
in long black evening dress, the pearls glistening
around her white neck, roping her waist,
and whisper sympathetic words– great loss,
dear Isabella, infuriating, irreplaceable, tragedy—

Walk through the crowd waiting to retrieve
coats and umbrellas, more people
than you’ve ever seen here, hear them
talking about the missing stuff, wondering
aloud, asking guards for details, hear
the same story over and over, it’s
a prayer that ends with
Give it back, give us back our art.

 

 

 

 

 

“Fusion,” in Quail Bell Magazine

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Claire was stuck in traffic, edging into the left turn lane just before Central Square, when she glanced over to the near left corner of a side street and saw the makeshift booth set up. Someone had used black magic marker to draw a Hitler mustache on Barack Obama’s face. She used to love that campaign poster from 2004, the one that proclaimed HOPE in large letters across the bottom.

It was those kids again, the ones who sold the newspaper with the same bizarre, fake news stories month after month. The car ahead of her wasn’t moving an inch, and Claire leaned to her left to find out what was causing the holdup. A long line of cars stood idling in the left lane. Maybe the signal was on the fritz. Or someone wanting to make a left turn was waiting for a break. Either way, Claire had time to observe the action on the sidewalk. IMPEACH OBAMA, the poster’s block letters entreated passers-by. Two women with young children veered away from the kids in the booth, moving into the crosswalk to cross Mass Ave.

Claire was on her way to visit her friend Rosie…read the rest at Quail Bell Magazine.

“Baltimore Girls” has shipped!

My friend –and guest lecturer visiting from U of Miami– Gina Maranto snapped these  photos, as I was opening the shipment of my 100 copies of Baltimore girls, last Thursday when we returned from a long teaching day.

 

If you did not pre-order, I have 100 copies I’d like to part with, so if you’re in the greater Boston area, let me know. I deliver signed copies!! If you’re farther away, Barnes & Noble, Amazon and Finishing Line Press carry the book.  Or wait till I come to Baltimore or Stamford, CT, and come to my readings–I  will be selling and signing books!

 

Next reading: Sunday, April 2, 2017, Westwood Public Library,  660 High St, Westwood, MA 02090, 2-4 PM

 

 

Influenza

 

No more will I poke fun at people who wear surgical masks on public transportation, or those who eschew the hug or handshake of peace at church, preferring the elbow bump, so popular a couple of years ago when flu was rampant.

Remember? Hand sanitizers appeared everywhere–at the public library, at a front pew at my Episcopal church, and in the hallways at the college where I teach. I kept a pump dispenser of Purel on the desk in my faculty office. I washed my hands  so any times a day that it called to mind Lady Macbeth’s soliloquy, the one that my Hamilton Junior High eighth grade teacher, Miss Ruth Magill, made us memorize. Continue reading “Influenza”

I’m “live” today on the Jungle Red Mystery Authors Website!

Please post your questions and comments there about poetry, Walt Whitman, Dylan Thomas, Emily Dickinson, Robert Louis Stevenson. Shel Silverstein, Allen Ginsberg, Adrienne Rich, Leonard Cohen, Alice Notley, Joyce Kilmer, John Greenleaf Whittier, and more!

Here’s the website url.screen-shot-2017-02-24-at-9-04-43-am

Guest Blogging on Jungle Red, Feb. 25

My pal Hallie Ephron, one of the Jungle Red mystery authors, has invited me to guest blog  on Jungle Red next Friday, February 25.  their tagline: “8 smart and sassy crime fiction writers dish on writing and life. It’s the View–with bodies.”

The Jungle Red website features eight women mystery authors, many of them winners of prestigious awards: the Edgars, Agathas, Anthonys, Neros, and more.

Of course, I won’t be talking/writing about Private investigators,  or who was responsible for that corpse in a mystery novel, but about my poetry–how I came to it, my writing process, where I come up with ideas for the poems.

My poetry collection, Baltimore Girls, is in the works at Finishing Line Press, although the February 24 delivery date has been pushed a few weeks later. Pre-orderers, please be patient–this small literary press in Kentucky is working as fast as it can to get the book to you.

Take a look at the Jungle Red blog now, and again on February 25 when I blog. Its interactive feature allows readers to comment or ask questions of the guest blogger, and I will be checking in all day (and early evening) long to see what you have to say.

Hallie will start us off with her interview with me, and you, readers, can take it from there!

Hope to see you–virtually–on February 25, from 9 AM EST to 9 PM EST! Please come!

 

The Color of Her Volkswagen

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The Color of Her Volkswagen

 

Atlas blue. First Bug I ever saw.
It showed up one day, a shiny little thing
in Miss Kay’s driveway two doors down.
Their old Dodge long gone.
People on our street drove Chevys or Fords,
nobody even knew how to say Volkswagen,
were skeptical about a foreign car, but
Miss Kay packed up picnic basket, playpen, her toddler son,
the baby, her Coppertone oil. There was room
for my sister and me. I rode in the front,
watched Miss Kay shift the gears, her pedicured feet
depressing the gas pedal, working the clutch
like an extension of her body. She tuned
the radio to WFBR, the Four Lads sang
Standin’ on the Corner Watchin’All the Girls.
She didn’t like rock n’ roll.
When we got to the swimming place, an old
quarry now flooded with water, now a club
where you bought a daily membership,
the loudspeaker blasted my kind of music—
repeated every hour. We ate peanut butter sandwiches,
Miss Kay plunged into the water from a dock.
She wore a green bikini, adjusted the top
over her small breasts when she emerged from the water.
I slathered on her suntan oil, bounced the baby.
Around us, teenaged girls mixed iodine and baby oil,
greased up their arms and legs and shoulders,
lit Newports and blew smoke rings.
I longed to be like them. Homeward, the blue VW
rolled up and down country roads back to the city,
steaming streets, dried little lawns.

[Reprinted from Maryland Writer’s Association magazine, Pen-in_Hand, January 2017]

Catherine  Mumford Cave, Miss Kay in this poem,  shuffled off this mortal coil on September 22, 2016.  She was a kind  and inspiring neighbor who shared her talents as a cook, gardener, seamstress, and all around cool adult with the neighborhood kids. She also gave me my first babysitting job. I wrote this poem last winter.