Monday 11 November 2019

4 Poems by Nina Rubinstein Alonso

Cold April bleak dark and dirty as the outer halls of hell 
Ghost buildings used to be Brooks Brothers
Shreves and Bonwit Teller now closed down
moved around the block maybe wrecked
or bombed or burned or shoved across this or some
other city leaving bashed signs broken lumber cracked

bricks bent rebar detritus revised by catastrophe
why bother to memorize where anything is
though street names seem the same despite
arrows of misdirection pointing inexperienced
wandering or merely outdated eyes

that stone massif was an armory then a U. Mass.
library briefly beaming light on my poems
in a glass case with copies and revisions
joining thousands of other whispering pages
now flipped to a fancy restaurant

featuring valet service and posh platters
bedecked like somebody’s recycled wacky
parsley hat cute designer potatoes next to
clever spinach nestling slabs of morgue meat
I’ve trained myself to accept changes wear them

like time’s abundant decorations as what else to do
grateful branches survive though fiercely
trimmed back and squeezed for space
in this cold April bleak dark and dirty as the
outer halls of hell while I search buried fire

the ice and ache of it in daffodils and blue scylla
that row of magnolias along Beacon Street
pinched as they are in a city spilling throngs
of wild humans surging waste while buds push open
fragile and forgetful brief shocks of innocent bloom.


Somehow though dead three years which must be
exhausting my cousin Patti sent me a Facebook
message yesterday marked ‘private and personal’

distrust and suspicion are routine normal
trained to spot spies hit delete never open a hack
but curious to check obits as what if her husband

died and someone’s trying to tell me
peculiar finding many with the same name
Paul after Paul but the fourth photo is his face

his tenor voice sang at our wedding
but their kids don’t know me from anywhere
so it’s a hack of my dead cousin’s file

next day another ‘personal private’ Facebook
message this time from the daughter of a friend
worried she’s dead too I email though

this ‘message’ feels phony as last time
I saw this girl-- now a lawyer--she was in diapers
relief to get an email from New York saying

‘yes, it’s a hack’ assuring me Nahid’s fine
still writing stories momentarily alive what to say
about messy messages or whatever label

fits spidery threads of aesthetic disconnection
computer tech trolls digging into
what used to be more or less private life

not that I miss scratchy ink pens on paper
clumsy fingers clacking typewritten missives
it’s about one soul stretching to another in

conversation call it what you like feel free
to throw sentimental or nostalgic labels at me
I don’t care as it’s about connection closer to real.

Ibbetson #44 publication, fall/winter 2018

Chicken Camp 

Two chicks my brother named
Bobby and Bobby after ball players
stop being cute when they grow into
roosters pecking each other

but one day they disappear and
I’m too young to understand
keep asking where did they go
and hear my mother say

they’ve gone to chicken camp
puzzling my baby mind as
I’m barely tall enough to see
what’s on the table but can recognize

animal legs identify whitish meat
I’m told are from entirely different
chickens not members of our family
this isn’t my first refusal of what’s

presented as food though the cat
eagerly devours what I spit out
as my small mouth hates the taste
can’t swallow flesh pulled from bones

the only skin I peel happily
is from a baked potato also pods of
of little green things I like to eat
one by one called peas.

Meeting Isaac Asimov at Mensa

Rick invites me to dinner at a Mensa meeting
everyone but me passed a test showing brilliance in mathematics
pleasure in puzzles ability to project shapes
mid air in three dimensions the sort of thing they do for fun
my safety is smiling silence the food routine Chinese take-out
and I’m excellent with chopsticks no humiliation
Rick introduces me to the man on my right
Isaac Asimov MIT professor resident genius wearing
glasses--sweet-faced--I tell him I’m a writer
and dancer love butterflies swirling
above flowers love leaping to music that sort of thing
I’ll never touch Rick or let him touch me
he’s not pretty just tall and craggy talking in clumsy puns
though he can spin tetrahedrons in his head though he’s
pathologically nice maybe guesses I’m here tonight
because I had nothing better to do maybe keeps hoping

Somehow Isaac guesses my heart story sends me flutters
of  playful conversation pulls his chair close smiles
and starts to sing ‘Venezuela’ in a half-whisper unmistakable
breath of silken desire soft melody of sex
I melt listening easily flattered easily seduced wishing people
would disappear and the table full of left over food
and fortune cookies turn into a bed as Isaac’s song kisses my ear
Too soon it’s over Rick’s bristling blue fangs
dragon forefinger tapping my shoulder
people stirring in their chairs when Isaac squeezes my hand
says he has to go to a meeting and I’m paralyzed not sure
what to do what to say so keep smiling until my face aches
The love bubble swirling luminous floating toward the ceiling
reflecting colors of the perfect moment which
as I stand up--pops--but for years I wonder
even today was I an idiot not to say or do something more
it was long ago and I was newly divorced horribly young
dreams my only defense just an egg with no shell.

Published November 7, 2018, The Somerville Times, Lyrical Somerville, on line & paper


My work has appeared in U. Mass. Review, The New Yorker, Ploughshares, Ibbetson Street, Muddy River Poetry Review, New Boston Review, Wilderness House Literary Review, Sumac, Southern Women’s Review, Tears and Laughter, etc.  My poem Gender Veils received the 12th Annual Moon Prize from Writing in a Women’s Voice, and my chapbook Riot Wake will be published by Cervena Barva Press.  My book This Body was published by David Godine Press. I'm also
a ballet teacher with a small school, director of Fresh Pond Ballet, , taught
at Boston Ballet for eleven years, and have always had double interests, which seems to be more
acceptable these days than it used to be.

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