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Letters to My Father

November 28, 2009

by Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld

Each one had to be edited,
every ambiguous word excised.
How pungent words were!
My mother’s eyes
traveled the page —
down, up, left, right,
regimenting each line.
Mustn’t offend him.
Mustn’t say
something he might mistake.
If I spoke of an ocean voyage,
described myself as putting out —
my God, I’d named myself a harlot!
I made promises, took oaths.
Oaths became curses
in the crinkles of his mind.
He was a wordsmith too. His hand —
the right one — blessed,
pulled its object close.
The sinister left one
drove the sculpting stiletto in.
After him, how could I trust
tenderness? The best he gave me
was when he called me a cat,
said if you dropped me
from the 7th story,
I’d land on my feet.
No small feat that!
Thanks, Dad, for my sense
of ambiguous language.
Thanks, even, for the thumps
on my wet clay that felt like blows.
Your hand crafting finished me.
I am your best poem.
Read me.

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Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld has been published both nationally and internationally in journals, books, and anthologies and on the Internet. A former SMU Press editor, SMU English instructor, and Navy missile analyst, she has also done poetry therapy with forensic patients at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital and has made and maintains three websites for JewishGen on perished Jewish communities in Eastern Europe.

  1. December 3, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    “the thumps / on my wet clay that felt like blows” – a powerful and chilling image.

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