Summer 2004


Summer 2004

Rochelle Ratner: Four Poems (1)

Like waiting for her turn at the slide. All the other boys and girls are lined up, laughing, anxious. She tries to hold her breath, smooths down her dress, prays her panties don’t show. She’s waiting to be the tomboy Daddy wanted. But she’s small for her age. Slides and swings and monkey bars are so enormous. Climb a tree? Not even if she had
to get the overstuffed cat down. That’s when Grandma comes over with the small and absolutely perfect Bonsai tree, bought cheap at the end of a street fair. This is worse than the seesaw, worse than the motionless white swan on the carousel. She grabs the dusty and moldy stuffed cat and runs to hide under the bed with it.


Rochelle Ratner: Four Poems (2)

She’s given a little blue and white Israeli flag to wave at the demonstration. Perched on Daddy’s shoulders, she waves it waves it waves it waves it waves it. Then Daddy sets her down. She’s too heavy to carry, he tells her. Maybe later. But that maybe doesn’t appease her. Angry, she starts to run off, falls down, scrapes her knee, presses the flag against it to sop up the blood. It’s a red white and blue flag now. Daddy kisses her knee and tells her how brave she is.


Rochelle Ratner: Four Poems (3)

After nosebleed on a high high high high floor of the new highrise Holiday Inn the Haitian housekeeper, who saw the white-haired couple in their sixties leave the room, his arm tight around her, her eyes following the trail of the vacuum on the carpet, sees the pillow moved to the center of the bed, and thinks oh my God, a virgin!


Rochelle Ratner: Four Poems (4)

It was the 1950s when she attended Hebrew school, the middle of the cold war and the race for outer space. They used a series of workbooks called Rocket to Mars, probably somewhere in her parents’ attic. But she grew to hate Hebrew school, and was never bat mitzvahed. She might never have married, either


Her seventh grade teacher lived next door to a man who set up telescopes in the middle of the street. She remembers stopping there with her father as a child, before she’d met this teacher, before she grew up, before her father retired, before he took sick, before her mother died. He was interested in the heavens then. Tonight he says he read about Mars in the news, thought maybe he spied it through the car window


In the dark, alone, she searches the skies for that glowing reddish light three days early. Just in case she misses it. But her eyes need time to adjust. At first not even the big dipper’s visible. But maybe it’s too early. She goes inside to get warm, vowing to return in an hour.


Think of the mar that is marriage. They thought she’d never marry. Then she met him. The old problem solver, accustomed to doing things on his own, who doesn’t need her help and yet doesn’t reject it. Call it love, not help. At 6:00 a.m. this year, on the very morning of his birthday, Mars will be closer to earth than it’s ever been before. But he’s not some little green man. Like it or not, she’s from New Jersey. And she won’t be with him.


Rochelle Ratner's latest poetry book, House and Home, was published in Fall 2003 by Marsh Hawk Press. Two poetry e-chapbooks, Tellings (2002) and Lady Pinball (2003) were published by Tamafyhr Mountain Press, and Sugar Mule magazine recently devoted a full issue to her writing. Coffee House Press has published two novels: Bobby's Girl (1986) and The Lion's Share (1991). An anthology she edited, Bearing Life: Women=s Writings on Childlessness, was published in January 2000 by The Feminist Press. She lives in New York City, where she is Executive Editor of American Book Review, reviews regularly for Library Journal, and is on the editorial board of Marsh Hawk Press.





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