(published in Persimmon Tree, winner of Western States Poetry Competition)
On the sidewalk soapbox in East Flatbush
my mother called
by the Young Communist League,
buttoned tight against the chill.
Some, hurrying home with herring,
sour pickles, sweet cream
stopped to listen as the sky grew
Workers Unite! And they did for a
It had some good in it – at the steel mills,
actors studios, government bureaus.
And there was a family feeling around
the table covered in red-checked
cole slaw, and coffee cake.
They were smart, they’d read Marx’s
Manifesto. They tossed their hot-potato
opinions, each in their own eyes
They took the Fifth Amendment,
did not name names though their
“Am I blocking your view?” he quipped.
Fifteen and not keen on dialectical materialism,
I’d been wondering if I was pretty.
When the sky grew dim, an army of
do what fireflies do –warn away a predator,
defend its territory, look for a mate.
But it was alone, apart from the others —
and the etching on the glass obscured its shining.