Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Poems Written at Maya Stein's Tour de Word Workshop in Asheville, NC

After settling in from the drive from Raleigh to Asheville, and after being taken aback from the breathtaking view only moments earlier, I sensed I was before artists who were serious about writing and who share a love for poetry. About ten of us were there at Maya Stein's Tour de Word workshop in Asheville, and below are the poems I wrote that Maya prompted us with.
"Little Moments" Prompt--This prompt evolved from writing on sticky notes little moments that we remembered from the past year, month, or day:

Raspberry Colored Leaves
written by Stephie Goldfish
Quiet heart that settles down after a long
drive where harsh words spoken along bumpy
roads of racing cars and fast beating hearts,
calmed by the view of bright raspberry colored
leaves on a tree as we entered Asheville up on
a hill that reminds me of a park drive in my home
town that winds around distinctly situated and
procured houses. Welcomed by a yellow mailbox
and a room full of poetry writers, I should be anxious
and yet I’m not. I feel among those where I belong.

“Substitutes” Prompt--We were to bring or think of a food item that we either love or hate, and then to think how we substitute this in our lives.

Peanut M&Ms
written by Stephie Goldfish
Edna would bring the daily peanut M&Ms. Throw a bag to
each of us. I often wondered why I still had half a bag left
while my twin sister’s would be already gone. But I know the
secret of savoring each one. The candy coated layer melts and
shades my tongue a bright red, yellow, green or orange.
They didn’t have the blue ones then, but I was blue anyway.
When my nails are painted a candy apple red, my older sister
says, “They look like peanut M&Ms.” And, after the coat of red,
yellow, brown, and blue are gone, I’m left savoring the milk
chocolate until it uncovers a crunchy toasted nut.
That’s the way I eat my M&Ms, which brings some comfort
in a world where everything seems like there will be no end
to chaotic and unsettled lives.

“First Love” Prompt--First love is kind of obvious.

Journal Club
written by Stephie Goldfish
In the 6th grade journal club is where she found
her first love, but reading stories from the Herald-
Dispatch wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It wasn’t
like The New York Times. So back to Art Club where
they thought she’d be better off.
She knew someday she’d venture into this writing
life—free afternoons sipping decaf café con leches
at Nueva Victoria, reading the headlines of The Daily
News, and watching and observing millions of stories
pass by outside on the streets.

"Contrasting Poem / Object Poem" Prompt--This prompt was to be a contrasting of thoughts and ideas regarding a clothing item that we also brought with us that we love or hate.

That Pink J Lo Coat
written by Stephie Goldfish
It’s not about driving 600 miles in a nor'easter
just so I can see you for the last time. It’s not
about the last six years we’ve spent having a
home and someone to come home to. It’s not
about the way your smile tilts downward on one
side in a shyish way that says something’s up. It’s
not about a three room flat on the Upper East Side
that I want to keep because a flat in NYC is so hard
to come by. It’s not about whether you and I will be
spending the rest of our lives together. It’s not about
these divorce papers I just signed.
Yes! It’s about that pink J Lo coat I just bought.

"Title of a Poem, Short Story, or Novel" Prompt--In this prompt we wrote a title of a poem, short story, or novel on a sticky note and then passed it to our right, and we wrote a poem with the selected title. The title I received was taken from the book titled Five Quarters of the Orange

Five Quarters of the Orange
written by Stephie Goldfish
Five quarters of the orange is all I ate
that day because Dr. Zins said to eat
everything in half.
Like in Jeremiah where he was told to
eat in portions. I ate all my vegetables
though. I was hungry and starved and
to have that NY slice of pizza that Kim
brought me. But Dr. Zins declared, “Stephanie,
I’m surprised! You know that’s not good for you.”
So five quarters of the orange is all I ate.

Lost Highways & Living Rooms is a compilation of writing created from Maya Stein's "Tour de Word" workshops in the fall of 2010, as well as contributions from readers of her ongoing 10-line Tuesday weekly poetry newsletter. The two-month tour took Maya on a circumnavigational trip around the United States and parts of Ontario, where she facilitated nearly 30 workshops for children, teens, and adults. Lost Highways & Living Rooms features poetry, fiction, and non-fiction from more than 60 contributors ages 8-80.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dr. Else Goldstein: The Good Woman

written by Stephie Goldfish

In the spring of 1991, at the ripe old age of 26 and 1/2, my life was falling apart, symbolically speaking. The words that follow cannot even compare to all the feelings that spring up when speaking about her, Else, but her patience with me through twelve years of therapy with her is how I would define the nature of a good woman.

She is my mother
She is like my mother
She is not my mother

Will I ever see her again?

She is not dying.
She is retiring.
Or is she dying?
It feels like she is dying!

I am dying inside over the loss it will be to not see her as often as I did over those 12 years.

In 2002 Else had sadly told me she had cancer,
"What type?" I asked.
She asked, "As opposed to what type?"
I guessed, "Leukemia?"
She bluntly replied, "I have Breast Cancer!"

Pausing...taking in that information...I started to cry, and so did she.

Life, I thought, would not be...without her...Else.

She walks with confidence. But, mostly talks and listens with wisdom. Pearls of wisdom. She even taught me how to eat swine! And not feel guilt. She taught me how to eat lox and cream cheese on an "everything" bagel, please! A jewish tradition.

She introduced me to Otto Dix, a German Expressionist painter, who painted Else's father, Dr. Mayer-Hermann, in 1926. The painting is now a part of the permanent collection of the MoMA:

the eyes,
the nose,
and those ruby lips.

Else helped me deal with reality, even in my states of insanity. She helped me through periods of depression. She made my sad days happy.

Once, Else gave me the coat off her back when I had gone to see her one early, bright, cool spring day in April 1992, the day after being released from the hospital, wearing a white linen dress suit with no blouse or bra, the jacket was not buttoned either, except I wore a string of pearls. I had lost so much weight after getting Salmonella food poisoning, which one doctor had first diagnosed as Typhoid Fever. During this week, one patient in my room had been double amputated at the ankles — she would never walk again. I symbolically identified with the woman, because back in 1988 I had had two ectopic pregnancies (or tubal-ligations), a metaphor of losing my "feet". No child would I ever bear having tiny feet to run or walk. After seeing me in this New York State of Mind, I was readmitted to the hospital for another three weeks to face more demons. Else made me see that the women in my life will continue having children, and inserted, "Children do grow up, you know!"

And, Breasts of women — another symbol of the life a mother or woman gives.

Else had been battling breast cancer for two years before she retired in 2003. I do not know if she was in remission. Should've I asked? Or did I want to know the answer?

Losing hair, wearing wigs, getting shingles, having chemo and radiation, having radical surgeries, Else showed me the strength of a woman. Through all this, she was still there for me, to help solve my petty little problems they now seem, but never once did she belittle me.

Her words of wisdom have stood the test of time, as I savored every minute that went by speaking and talking with her over my major issues, but to her simple ruffles of life that needed ironed.

I asked her if she would be at my next wedding, if I ever remarried, and she said, "You bet," and pragmatically added, "Only if it is in New York." I regret that I did not invite her, because I went and got married without her knowing. I was so foolish.

We talked of my mother at times. And through all my difficulties in life and feelings I have towards my mother — good, bad, happy, and sad — Else always made me remember that my mother did the best she could with the circumstances she was dealt. And all "that" is the past, and now is the "present", so Move On, as Barbra Streisand sings in her Back to Broadway CD.

Coincidences seem eternal since I have known this woman — Else:

I ran into her on the Upper West Side as she was walking along Broadway doing some shopping. We smiled in acknowledgment. I was with two friends, and she was with her soul mate. It was the winter of 1993.

I ran into her and her soul mate again on the Upper West Side at Nueva Victoria sipping decaf cafe con leches, which she later called dessert. Seeing her I exclaimed, "Else, what a small world!" It was the early fall of 1995.

Running to catch a 5th Avenue bus, I stumbled up the stairs, cursing under my breath, and there she sat, calmly reading The New York Times, which she always promised me a subscription to, so that I would be in the know. It was a hot summer day in 2000.

I ran into her in the spring of 2002 in the 34th Street subway exit to Macy's. She was again with her soul mate, but she was tired and resting on a bench. She didn't see me, but I saw them go to the Macy's Flower Show.

Something was wrong, but I didn't know.

It has been since the spring of 2003 when I saw her last, and now spring 2010 has come and gone. Why did it have to end?

Else calmed my anxieties and soothed my pain as we talked of dying, both facing death. She longed for twenty more years — I thought I just wanted five or ten!

She may not live to see those twenty years, but I pray to God that if she has gone I will see her again.

Else helped me grow up, not just to womanhood, but also to adulthood, a world that is filled with happy moments, sad moments, difficult times, easy times, some angry times, some fun times, a world filled with sometimes-happy people, sometimes-sad people, some difficult people, easygoing people, angry people, a world that is filled with war, and sometimes peace.

Else once told me that friends are precious, and I introduced her as my friend one time. She was curious of my introduction at the time. But, Else has been more to me than a doctor; she truly has been my "friend".

Through this woman's patience with me, I learned to be a more patient woman, which to me is the best attribute a woman can have.