|Three Poems by Lois
Mom, at the feeding
table, splatters milk,
opens her mouth like an o in hollow
as the aide spoons in a blob of something green.
Even the Birdseye frozen string beans
she served in the 1950's had more appeal.
in a compartment
of her metal tray isn't the sauce that would scent
our whole apartment when she simmered
strictly Macintosh apples chosen for their tang,
with one Italian plum to add rosiness,
cinnamon, lemon, and palm full of sugar, when
she knew without measuring exactly
how much we needed,
the kettle was
for cooking, her refrigerator
for cooling the sauce. Didn't her hands
teach mine how to crank the Foley Food Mill,
scrape away the peel and the seeds,
watch rose-colored droplets seep
through the sieve filling bowl after bowl?
draped in a bib apron,
the front, her face, her hair smeared with
this puree rainbow - "Such a cockamamie idea,"
she would have called it "from the moon."
would be Lauren Bacall, cigarette
dangling, pageboy dipping seductively over one eye
if she hadn't used permanents and peroxide.
Nettie would be
a showgirl if she weren't size eighteen,
if her father didn't own Berkowitz's Fountain, if he
hadn't kept commenting, On you, it looks good.
Nettie would still
be vacationing at Montauk with Frieda Katz,
all the girls from Klein's Jewelry on 47th street,
if relatives weren't saying she'd be an old maid,
they only wanted
to see her happy. So Nettie Berkowitz
became Nettie Liebowitz and would have taken
a little trip every year with her husband to Miami
if six months later,
there hadn't been a pimple on
his face that turned into a carcinoma, and the
miracle child they conceived despite radiation
hadn't turned out
healthy but disdainful - a smart
girl who wanted no part whatsoever of her mother's
housedress, frizzed-hair, cigarette-breath-life.
Wonders Never Cease
was truly dreadful
though we'd shove in huge amounts - the old
Jewish joke: Such terrible food
and such small portions!
Kosher beef, the
limp French style green beans -
Yonkers haute cuisine a la Birdseye. We survived
on bakery layer cake and chocolate cream pie.
Later, it amazed
me how Mother, Francis Glick,
the whole crew of fat women got swept up
in the Weight Watchers craze, stuck with it,
and Mother, God bless her, lost sixty pounds.
hold onto your birdseed.
Women are not geese, after all, imprinted for life.
The holiday goose, cups of schmaltz
drained from the greasy meat, disappeared.
There they were
in Yonkers, women
trashing their muumuus, swigging diet cola,
sprinkling Sweet and Low on their grapefruit halves,
outliving their husbands.