I have been an educator for over 35 years in various roles as teacher, principal, professor and currently superintendent of schools in Mountainside, New Jersey. I have published articles in several academic journals, frequently on the subject of teaching poetry, but my great love is writing poetry. I recently received Honorable Mention in the 2014 Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards. My poems have appeared in a number of journals including Paterson Literary Review, Poetica, Poetry Nook, Stillwater Review, and Tiferet. My chapbook, Tattoos, is available through Finishing Line Press, http://www.finishinglinepress.com
River Road, East Paterson
for my father
Each year, when the river freezes
north of Dundee Lake,
he parks his green Rambler
across from the high school
along the bank. He opens the door,
lets the dog run, stretches one leg out
to avoid a cramp. After a day or so grocery
carts begin to appear on the ice.
Through the windshield he can just see
Grand Union on the handles.
The carts slide together, converse,
like the break room in the old days
at the Marcal plant up the road.
He keeps an eye out to catch
any change in alliance.
Soon the spring melt will creep up
and, on rainy days,
flood across the street.
The carts will gradually sink
until nothing is visible
but a small steel pyramid
that juts out from broken ice —
the only proof of the tangle below.
The ink journeys down the arms of the man
on the beach; dragon wings, recently added,
wrap around his back, meet at his belly — the
landscape blurs over rolls of stretched skin.
At a summer business meeting, my neighbor’s
legs are trapped — black opaque stockings
cover sunflower vines; she regrets the
drunken dare in her last month of high school.
My former boss’s right shoulder is sculpted
with a butterfly in mid flight, just above the
line of a strapless dress; her plan is to leave
her husband but he never looks up.
My friend’s son is haunted by his roommate’s
senseless death — random bullets in a Virginia
Tech hallway — a ribboned Rest in Peace
shields his back and finally frees him.
And my three dots, a triangled bulls eye, just
right of my heart, guided weeks of radiation,
a darkened room, a cold steel table — one
mark still visible if I lean slightly forward.
What If, As Your Sister Claimed
for my father
A thing may happen and be a total lie; another thing may not happen and be truer than the truth.
-Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
What if you were never on that battleship, as
your sister claimed, when she heard your voice
on the tape I mailed to her after your funeral?
What if you never went to the latrine — there
was no explosion, no friends left behind on
the deck, no shrapnel in your leg? What if
you hadn’t spent months in a hospital, tending
the gash that she argued was from an accident
in your father’s bakery? What if there was
no purple heart — you didn’t give it away to
a stranger? That day we talked for hours; I
recorded it all. Years later my friend asked
if I was curious about what really happened,
but I already knew. It was a war story.
My father brings us here Mondays
before school — his only day off
after a week of nights, of hot ovens.
We mount red vinyl stools.
The aisles behind us
gated, in shadows.
I can’t see my sister through him,
but that doesn’t stop the random
pokes and hair pulls.
He unfolds the Post, scans the
headlines, reads and rants.
Gert knows our order.
Before we can spin once, two
chocolate milks and a coffee
appear. Her voice is thick.
We can’t always understand,
but my father says it is English
(jumbled with German).
When the food comes, they
kibitz; he turns back to the paper.
Gert wipes the surface, fills
sugars and ketchups for the lunch rush.
His fist suddenly slams the counter;
the plate of easy-overs slides to the floor:
Eichmann, Mengele — safe in South
America, he yells. Those Nazi bastards.
We hope he doesn’t blame her.
I hang up the kitchen phone.
I just heard yet another tale
of my friend swept away
by a stranger she met on the Internet.
Dinner at Boulé. An overnight at his
West Village brownstone.
I slump in the chair. He yawns, wipes the
coffee grounds on his already stained t-shirt.
I have a surprise. My chest tightens.
He leaves for a brief moment and returns
with a basket of laundry neatly folded-
For you, he smiles, for you.
©2015 Nancy Lubarsky