“Have your eyes ever been crossed or turned out?” by Barbara Buckman Strasko, “My DNA” by Judy Catterton, and “Glass Half” by Lachlan Brooks
“Have your eyes ever been crossed or turned out?” by Barbara Buckman Strasko
At the eye doctor
I hesitate. Each day of my young life
I wanted to say what the world looked like
to me. And what they said was,
Don’t think about that now,
don’t see that way, don’t say ─
My great grandmother Rosa Vitoritto Greco remains inside of me
a voice that could not speak when
she lived. She was left to mind the grocery store
in Lambertville, while her husband drank at the Elks.
Last week my mother told me
We did whatever was asked of us and thought this was love.
As a child I wrote
“Oh my goodness!” in lipstick on my mother’s jewelry
box. I wanted her to see me,
my jewels, my goodness in words.
My grandmother Maria Concetta Vitoritto tells me
To love is to be a slave. We lived between raindrops, afraid to be
cast out with no place to go.
Daughters and their daughters have tried to swim
farther, to move into the sea.
But still my eyes learned to turn in, to cross,
to be crossed out.
I grew up in the fifties and sixties . The women in my life were strong but had very little power and had little freedom to know who they were. I was determined to get an education and over come their issues. I am and educator and poet. – Barbara Buckman Strasko
“My DNA,” Written after George Ella Lyons by Judy Catterton
I’m from the shtetls of Eastern Europe,
the charred earth under the hooves
of the Cossacks’ horses.
I’m from Kiev and Lvov, from bearded old men in prayer shawls
and women in long skirts, heads covered with kerchiefs.
My DNA travelled on foot, by oxcart, and ship,
a ship that shuttled strangers across an ocean,
strangers whose names are lost to history.
I’m from Brooklyn and the Bronx and the tenement houses
on the Lower East Side.
I’m from bagels and bialy stocker rolls and the yeasty smell
of Challah warm from ovens on Friday night.
I’m from bitter herbs and the bones of smoked fish.
I’m from the guttural sound of consonants crashing and
from harsh right angles of Cyrillic letters.
I’m from Grandma Ida’s treadle Singer Sewing Machine
and the sweatshops of 7th Avenue
where my mother labored to send the eldest brother to
college, a place she longed to go.
I don’t know how to read from right to left or bless the wine.
But the blood of Samuel and Saul, Jacob and Joseph courses through my veins.
I don’t daven or say koddish.
But I inhaled the smoke from the chimneys and choked
the dirt shoveled into the pits.
I clutched the hands of small children on cramped trains and
ate crusty bread with wormy soup.
I’m from the summit of Masada where a minyan cast lots
as a Legion swarmed below.
I’m from tears spilled
on the sterile soil of camps with no conscience.
I have no numbers on my arm, but millions stand behind me
touching my sleeve
urging me forward.
I am the 2015 recipient of a fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts in the Emerging Artist, non-fiction writing category. I teach essay and memoir for the Rehoboth Beach Writers’ Guild. My essays and poems have appeared in a number of literary journals. – Judy Catterton
“Glass Half” by Lachlan Brooks
Empty is the reliquary of averted disappointment,
And the start of every assertion that the world of possible revelations
Is dictated by a terrible cap on quantity, that life wanted me
And what it wants from me is an admission, however late,
That there’s no fate besides the earth’s undated appetite
For our time and energy. The debt of living is self – contained:
A steady spending that spends itself as it’s itself obtained.
But don’t refrain from it; living is a few decades of grasping,
Of asking for hope: that quantity of bright and eager expectancy
Whose having sometimes thwarts all the cynical learning
Of the world, with its lidless sense of simple possibility.
Mortal life is the brief use of bodies — your own and others’ —
Before a great indeterminate nothing. If indifference smothers
You, it is only the excuse you use to abstain from this worldjoy
And worldpain, this grain wherein the world seeds itself,
And learns, in you, to be humane. To count life cheap
Or count it satisfactory, to indulge or not indulge in hope,
These are simple sayings, they buckle under force —
And at the source, where life is a grope in the dark, a trope
Too weary, only forge some new theory of totality, and endorse
Your life by living it. The state of every half -full cup, or glass,
Every vessel tasked with portion, with proportion, with mass
Of want, is only that which we fill with our fear of wasting.
But life is waste and spill and things uncooked for tasting.
Your shabby consolation is only this crisis of legitimacy —
Is there an immutable state of quantity, an immunity
That can be spoken by science, or only threadbare opportunity
To fasten our fancies to object and call it empty or full?
The fact of life is still half. The halfness of things is that pull,
Which causes all the grasping of the world; all the gasping
Is only wanted air, all the asking is only wanted answer —
To be is wear and tear, a tango with despair, and where
Would anyone be without the first dare of life? Life’s spare
Is a second glance at anything, a second chance to stare
And determine the ness of a thing: and this urge to know
An unknowable whole by branding your piece of it — laugh,
Laugh at this big undisclosed,and then affirm the half.
I am a New York-based writer and actor, and recent graduate of NYU, where I studied Drama at Tisch and at RADA in London, as well as minoring in Linguistics. I was homeschooled for my childhood education; most of my education has been self-directed. I speak/read Irish, German, and Latin. – Lachlan Brooks