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spacer.gif   American Open Mike Volume 2: Sandra Goldsmith
Posted by : cj on Wednesday, July 26, 2006 - 12:30 PM
American Open Mike:  New American Voices .

** Sandra Goldsmith **

Beyond Tradition


He was the man
who came home from the plant
cursing grime but soon gave up

trying to clean it off;
the man without recognition
who scratched an "L" for "Luke"

on the steel he forged;
the man who sweated tasks by day
but read books into calmness at night;

the drinking man
who picked fights in taverns
but wanted his son

to write poetry in a coffee house.
His son was the student who rafted
through swirls of ambivalence

over beer blasts and study dates,
four letter words
and frontier vocabulary;

who smirked at homework assignments,
etching scribble and kitchen-table crumbs
into college-ruled notebook paper;

who began to smile, though, at new ideas
gleaned from readings and workshops,
trading supper slang and video game banter

for ponderings;
whose blocks of resistance dissolved
into smooth meanderings

toward a river of consistency,
on the banks of which
his little boy can play.


She was the woman behind a lunch counter,
whose hands never idled
in pouring coffee and serving burgers and BLTs,

a robot waitress in pink, timing her moves;
a woman who rode the bus home at night
with a bag of caramel corn from Woolworth's

and a burlap sack to accent her pallor,
going home to laundry, breakfast dishes in the sink,
a supper of Spaghetti O's and Wonder Bread;

going home to vie with television
for a smile, a hug,
a finished homework assignment.

Her daughter was the student
whose repertoire of reading matter
included city street signs, cigarette labels,

safety instructions at her part-time job,
high school detention slips;
a student who came to freshman classes

with eyes lashing out
but turning back upon themselves
a boomerang of fear

whose autumn predicted a chilling season
of surveys, questions, uncertain answers,
but whose spring blossomed into new ideas,

one insight nurturing the next;
whose baby girl waits to take her first steps
down a tree-lined path.

Resort Summer 1969

In the confines of a trailer
doubling as a blouse boutique
she meets a freedom-monger
hawking tie-dyed cotton tee's.
"Where I come from," she says,
"this stuff will never catch on."
She tries one anyway, casting off
a solid beige over-blouse.
She likes her reflection,
smoothing down the tight purples
swirling across her torso.
Her elbow touches his
as she unbinds herself.
He leans toward the rack.
"Here's more," he says.
She smells liberation
in his untamed mane.
He offers her a drink.
She tastes wild oats
in the beer they drink together.
Later, they dive deep into cold water
that buoys her into summer.
They hold tight to the moment,
proud skin
glistening in afternoon air.
That night,
they step upon the moon
the Hippie
and the married woman
from Brooklyn.
He wants her
to stay up there with him,
but she says,
"Where I come from,
this stuff will never catch on."

Homogeneity Gone Awry

I've been expecting you, weasel that you are,
slouching in a corner, out of sight but never
out of my mind; and now you've come to prey on me,
your head one enormous mutation after another
come to mock and savage all of us
whose frayed lifeline
tethered in a village outside Warsaw
where my kin clustered for countless generations,
cousins marrying cousins,
their naive genes twisted by unnatural confinement,
determined to multiply and break out.

I do not know this village, yet I inhabit it every day,
just as it inhabits me,
just as I feel the crunch of its gravel path
under my Easy Spirit shoes.
That path splits two rows of centuries-old houses,
tiny ones whose doorposts still hold notches
for mezuzahs wrenched off in '42,
the year of my birth in America
when the desire for longevity was not yet hopeless
and hereditary cancer not yet
a foregone conclusion.

What did they know in the old days?

Today I sit entranced by a counselor
whose phenotype hits my jealous eye
as the genotypic idea.
I gape at her finely sculpted cheek and brow,
envy how her mouth moves
as she utters words from a well-ordered brain
and articulates for me the concepts
behind genetic testing.
Her essence seems perfect,
a contrast to my own frayed being,
which holds more than its share
of errant cells.

But what do we know?
Appearances don't account for much
never have.

Weasel, take your bite,
be gone, and be damned.

Sandra Goldsmith has a Master's Degree in English Literature and is a former editor of Oyez Review. Her poems have been published in literary journals throughout the country as well as locally. She has recently done readings at The Cafe, DvA Gallery and Printers Row Book Fair. Goldsmith is currently working on a chapbook. She is a long-standing member of Poets' Club of Chicago.

Copyright 2006, all rights reserved.

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