New York City in Verse
>> If you want to bring home a piece of New York City that’s as individualistic and outspoken as many a New York native, look no further.
Awakened, a joint book of poetry published in April 2006 by Rogue Scholars Press, contains work by Madeline Artenberg and work by Iris N. Schwartz.
The poems found in Awakened - many performed throughout NYC in venues as varied as Barnes & Noble Booksellers, The Bowery Poetry Club, College of Staten Island, and The Knitting Factory - speak of family, love, relationships, the state of the world, New York City, and much more.
Here are some review excerpts:
- Re Madeline Artenberg: "Ms. Artenberg's voice is incisive, informed by compassion and necessity. Ranging from 'Queen of the Late Bloomers' to 'Sister,' her poetry is unflinching and eloquent in its investigation of private and public secrets." -D. Nurkse, poet, professor, and former Poet Laureate of Brooklyn
- Re Iris N. Schwartz: "Read this collection. Savour it… Ms. Schwartz is here to stay, is here to demand that we listen to her compassion, her humour, and her poetic manipulation…and I for one am grateful for that." -Alan Corkish, poet, novelist; anthology and journal editor; UK People’s Poet award winner
Awakened is available through Iris N. Schwartz (email@example.com), Madeline Artenberg (firstname.lastname@example.org), or the publisher, Rogue Scholars Press (www.roguescholars.com).
Let Us Now Praise Socialist Mothers
by Iris N. Schwartz
Ma was sixteen when
She started her job at Ratner's.
"Such a landmark,"
Neighbors cooed. "Such a famous
Deli." My Ma had wanted
To study. Instead, she rode the el
From Brownsville to the
Lower East Side,
Leaving high school but
Grateful for the work.
That was Great
Depression time, though
She'd been unhappy long
Before, along with my bubbe,1 zeyda,2
Uncle, and an aunt.
Ma understood poor
People: she’d fought for
Chicken backs at home; still,
She didn’t view cut-short
Schooling as defeat.
Ma would ride the train to
Ratner's, fans redistributing the
Heat, always a book or
Newspaper on her lap.
At her baked goods station,
Ma would weigh
Cake on silver scales,
Charging immigrants and others
By the ounce. But for those
Who lacked a coat,
Those with little gelt,3
She’d say twelve ounces when
Sweets weighed a pound or more.
Workday after workday, Ma
Would tip the scales their way,
Wiping errant crumbs into her pocket.
Three weeks into the job,
Mr. Hirsch took her aside.
"Why they shouldn’t pay? Why
Take gelt from my wallet?"
Ma wouldn’t answer, and
He fired her that day. But
I know why she did it,
And now I understand why
Ma was thrilled when
You’d eat a little extra.
Last time I passed Ratner's,
I thought of left-wing Ma, and
Raised my well-fed
Fist in firm salute.
1. Grandmother (Yiddish).
2. Grandfather (Yiddish).
3. Money (Yiddish).
Note: Iris N. Schwartz is Articles Editor at Littleviews.
At the Gorilla Forest, Bronx, New York
by Madeline Artenberg
Three times I wave my right hand
at the female gorilla,
standing before me separated
by a few inches of impenetrable glass.
Each time I wave, she waits,
as if deciding were I friend or foe,
then picks up her left hand,
palm open, folds it closed,
brown eyes searching mine,
as if she were someone’s grandmother
come here from the Old Country,
couldn’t speak the language,
reaching out to her grandchild.
My name and that odd little word OK
were all my grandmother could say in English.
All along our walks to the live poultry market,
neighbors interrupted us every few feet -
I never knew if she were the mayor
or the gossip of our Bensonhurst block.
They hugged my grandmother’s lumpy body;
she filled their palms with slices
of her famous blueberry cheese Danish,
saving some for me.
She would brush her leathery face across my cheek,
kiss me on the forehead for being good,
whisper sheine maidele.
I didn’t understand,
but the look in her eyes was sweet as her pastry.
The female gorilla stands before me,
gray hair on her hips,
one arm wrapped tight around two young ones,
the other hand returning my final wave.
I feel her warm brown eyes pulling at me
as I walk away leaving her
pressed to glass.
Iris N. Schwartz
First published on 5/11/2006. All rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com.