April Poetry Month (Day 13): Sue Blaustein #npm16 #wppoets

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

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Sue Blaustein has worked for the Milwaukee Health Department for 25 years and hopes to retire this year.  Her poetry has appeared online in Kudzu Review, Stickman Review  and Blue Fifth Review  and in print in Mud Season Review, Verse Wisconsin and Wisconsin People and Ideas. She read at Woodland Pattern in the Urban Voices and Red Letter reading series, and participated in the Marathon for many years running. She has also participated in a panel at the Milwaukee Public Library,  Poets and Their Day Jobs, organized by Brenda Cardenas in 2010. More information is available at www.sueblaustein.com.

 

 


 

Paul

……..The baggy, studded
flesh of snapping turtles

……..bulges between
the mossy badlands of the carapace

and the plastron below – that
……..undersized vest.

……..This one’s in an aquarium,
paddling and paddling in place.

……..His name is Paul.
With flesh so loose, it’s

like he’s wearing soiled briefs.
But his round and steady eyes!

……..I stand before his tank
and know that I have been seen.

Were You There? (2005)

I.
……..Gene McCarthy is dead
at 89 years old. I turned fifty
……..just twelve days ago.
……..I don’t remember
how he phrased his speeches,
……..how he stood or spoke.
But I remember posters from his times –
the almond eye of Ben Shahn’s

……..dove, the brush-stroked
……..spread of her firm toes.
She was resolute, affronted by war,
and I chose her side. Every day
……..I wore the button
with “McCarthy” in a serif typeface
across a ribbon as reflex blue
……..as scallops eyes.

II.
……..In a sixth grade essay
“The Idea of Brotherhood” I wrote
……..about “angry white people
watching demonstrating Negroes”.
……..I concluded:
“Exposure to one man’s suffering
……..is not enough
to make a man resolve to relieve him”.
……..Proud of my “gift for words”
my mother saved the Holliswood Torch
……..June ’67 magazine
……..of PS 178.

III.
……..What was enough?
We saw bumper stickers
my mother called “inane” –
“Better Dead Than Red”
and “America – Love It or Leave It”.
……..In 1968 my family ate
at Howard Johnson’s,
……..under the Americana
of colonial turrets on an orange roof.

……..I chewed clam strips
while we discussed longhairs
who “stayed clean for Gene”,
and the approach of King’s
……..Poor People’s Campaign.
Home on Sunday nights, we watched
the Smothers Brothers in red blazers,
work “bring the boys home”
into the patter of their Comedy Hour.

IV.
……..McCarthy nearly won
New Hampshire as burgundy skunk
cabbage led the March thaw. We saw
……..the inelastic creases
of Lyndon Johnson’s face,
……..when he gave in, gave
up, on the final day of the month.

……..Then it was April.
On the fifth, I rode silent buses to school.
Newspapers folded to King fallen
made a boulevard of the aisle.
……..No rider could meet
……..the eyes of any other.

Some years, in the spring issue
……..of the Local 1091 News,
I write a “Did You Know?” column one more time.
……..Did you know the sanitation men
were members of our union? that they marched
with signs that read “I Am A Man”?
Do you know the story of the strike
……..by their Local 1733
that brought Martin Luther King
……..to die in Memphis?

 

 

[April Poetry Month 2016 Table of Contents]

Woodland Pattern is nonprofit book center in the heart of Riverwest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. We are dedicated to the discovery, cultivation and presentation of contemporary literature and the arts. 

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