Hi to my regular readers and to any new ones. I know I haven’t been putting up new posts for a while. So much has been going on personally and professionally. I promise to get some things up for you soon.
Meanwhile, this is a poem I have been working on for a while. I recorded it on Sound Cloud and shared it on Facebook but here it is in print. I would appreciate your sending it on to others who might enjoy it.
If you haven’t heard it through the post on Facebook, here is the Sound Cloud link:
Remembering Thumbs and Other Parts
Iris Arenson-Fuller-Nov 2011
We danced in the kitchen
on the linoleum you could eat from
if all the dishes were dirty
(though we knew that would never happen
in my mother’s house).
My father let me stand on his shoes,
held my hands tightly till I felt the blood
squeezing up through my arms, past the neck,
oozing out my elf ears like Crest toothpaste
forced from the tube.
We waltzed and laughed,
his extra thumb an anchor as I gripped it,
thinking all dads had one,
steadying myself from waves
of dizziness, seasick from twirling,
after big bowls of spumoni from Sal’s store
on the corner..
While we waltzed, we listened to
the mixmaster churning, finally freed
of the plastic cover she dressed it in.
the oven slowly worked its way up
to meet requirements, ready to greet
trays of perfect white circles,
rolled into balls, flattened, kissed
with jelly thumbprints by my mother’s
two loving hands, diamond rings off,
sitting on the speckled counter.
I got a gift around that time,
a book about K’tonton, Jewish Tom Thumb,
mischief-maker extraordinaire, like me.
I climbed in and out of his pages,
hung upside down by my own thumbs
from the rim of a wooden mixing bowl,.
never once scolded for the flour I scattered
to the winds when I happily swam in the batter.
It took me years to look up and notice
the things that others saw.
my fat little thumbprints were
dancing on the kitchen window
smudging my visual highway
to the life stationed outside awaiting me,
a windy, cold world I never ran through
without furry white coat, matching
hat, gloves and fancy purse bought with
my big sister’s first paychecks..
Sometimes my father’s extra thumb
tapped tensely on the formica kitchen table,
he frowned into the black phone balanced on his shoulder
while my brother shouted at him across town
where he lived with his wife and kids.
I covered my ears, till the voices softened,
fought off the twitches I hated,
yet that kept me snug and safe,
took me far away from scary songs
of self-blame nobody else ever heard,
went back to my books and waltzing.
Years later, they put my brother’s leg on display,
a hospital peep show through a small window
in the hyperbaric chamber.
they all cringed but I looked in.
when they severed the leg, tossed it on a pile
in leg limbo, my brother took his first wooden steps,
eyes frozen on my father’s face, no more shouting,
but no more waltzing for either one.
My brother’s eyes were tired the last night I saw him.
standing together, we caught a quiet moment,
cradling it, a firefly captured in the dark.
he was the sick one, he told me–that was that,.
no discussion, so my kidney stayed safely tucked inside,
as his body parts continued failing and falling,
collapsing organ dominoes.
I was grown then, my two eldest with sweet fat cheeks,
the blonde one and his suck-a-thumb sister,
her neat cornrows perpetually housing sand
from pre-school playtime,
they stayed up past bedtime, thumbing through Oz books,
thumbing their small noses at grown up rules,
they thumb-wrestled with their strong father in the days
before MS claimed his body parts as ransom.
I begged the wind to blow our inside-out umbrella-world
back in place, to send bad luck swirling over trees
to raise leafless branches high, twig-thumbs up
in praise of whatever gods could wrap the pieces
of our shattered lives in cotton wool, carry them home
in the sweet silence of dawn, glue them together, make them work,
the cut up parts and limbs, real and artificial,
the crutches, borrowed kidney, defective hearts
that seemed to stop time for us.
.My begging though, was like watching a hitchhiker
thumbing a ride on a dark country road
where few cars passed and those that did
spat rejection as they kicked up stones and dust.
I can also see the girl, braids flying and the woman,
with the heart that goes wild with no warning,
yet finds its own mini- rhythm and beats on,
a ruddy structure with invisible holes,
a tiny instrument in a symphony on auto-play,
making music even when she believes
there is only death.