1949: A True Story

Hi Everyone,

Happy Fall. Just a quick note: I have a short piece published over at TWJ Magazine. Please do check it out. 

Until next time,
Judy

---

 

Teresa Marie Kapansky spoke her first baby words in Polish, learned from her parents, but then, by age four, she could also make herself understood in Italian, the language used by many in the Displaced Persons camp near Rome.

The camp was a bunch of ragged tents thrown up to temporarily house a legion of refugees: Campo Profughi, makeshift, dusty, under-supplied, and overcrowded with the war-weary, was Teresa’s first home, the place she was born, the place where she was first loved.

Piccolo Jesu, the Italians called her, Little Jesus; because of her beautiful skin and because of her hair, the mass of tight curls that formed a golden halo that surrounded her tiny, luminous face.

Teresa Marie slept in a crib until she was nearly six and the family left Italy for America. There was no room for anything larger in the tent, nor was there another bed to be had, anyway. A threadbare burlap curtain separated her crib from the rest of the single room which was the family’s living space in the DP camp.

At night she listened to her mother and father and the adults on the other side of the curtain arguing over cards, drinking, and telling stories. The world seemed to be made of these large, grown-up people, each one of them quite a distinct, looming presence.

Also quite real to her was la roccia, the rock quarry down a steep set of steps behind their tent, where Teresa was warned not to go, ever. La roccia frightened and fascinated the little girl; sometimes after her nap, if the afternoon was fair, Teresa was allowed to play along the narrow strip of earth in back of the tent. Holding Bambina, her rag doll, she would sit, shivering deliciously at the top of the steps to la roccia, gazing down as far as she could see.

What was below, among the huge stones? Or hiding in the dark, shadowy places between them?

She dared not go down there; instead, she stretched the arm that held Bambina as far out over the rocky steps as she could, and shook her, until the doll trembled in her hand.

“Don’t cry, Bambina,” she whispered, excitedly clutching her, “I won’t let you fall, oh, no, I won’t!”

Later, in her crib, with Bambina beside her, she fell asleep listening to her parents and their friends, Mr. Michaliwisc and Mrs. Contano. At first it sounded like Mrs. Contano, whose husband had lately disappeared, was crying. But after a while, as she drifted into sleep, Teresa could hear the cards being shuffled and dealt, and the laughter begin.

As these sounds faded, Teresa suddenly felt herself begin to roll and to slip, and was unable to stop. Falling fast, her arms flailing, she tried with all her strength to clutch something, but she could not; she was surrounded by hot air churning in deep, pulsating waves. She saw Bambina tumble into the black rocks just ahead of her, and she screamed. Terrified, she cried out for her mother. Then, just as the enormous dark world rushed up to envelope and smash her to pieces, Bubba Doritchka arrived.

“My darling Teresa, Ukochany, Niemowle, sshh,” Bubba whispered, catching both Teresa and Bambina easily and lifting them into her arms. “There, there, my darling baby, I love you, sshh, sshh…”

Teresa collapsed in a spasm of tears against her grandmother’s bulky body. Bubba’s warm arms held her fast, and soothed her. She smelled so clean, like her mother’s own wind-blown sheets. The child shuddered, repeatedly, breath after jagged breath, then became quiet.

And suddenly there were no more rocks, nothing to fear, and she slept.

She awoke to a sunny Roman morning. Light lay in a warm yellow triangle at the doorway of the tent. Her father and mother were sitting at the small table on the other side of the curtain, drinking coffee.

“Come, Teresa, come,” her mother said. “Look at you, still yawning!”

“Yes, Mama,” she answered, but did not move.

Her mother came and lifted her from the crib. “Wake up, Teresa. What is it, child? You look like you are still asleep!”

The little girl rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. “I was calling you, Mama, but you didn’t come.”

“What? When were you calling me, Sweetheart?”

“Last night, when I was scared.”

“I didn’t hear you. What happened? Are you alright?”

Teresa nodded. A slow, sweet smile lit her face as she remembered. “Bubba came and held me. She kissed me and then I was alright.”

Her mother set her down, and kneeled before her. “What did you say?”

“Bubba came. Bubba Doritchka, Mama. She took care of me, and everything is fine.”

Her mother’s frightened eyes found her father’s face. “Pieter…Pieter?”

Pieter Kapansky’s face went pale; his mouth fell open but there was nothing he could think to say. His own mother, beloved Dora—Doritchka---as she was called---had been shot dead in the center of the town called Lidice, more than four years before.

A Poem, Plus

Hello Poetry Lovers,

A video came across my desk that is causing me to share something in addition to poetry today. It is a short film that deals in a wise and tender manner with an aspect of our history. Tragedy is no stranger to the Jewish people. Need I say more? It's not to enjoy, but it is real, and well done.

Here I will include a poem written as a blessed American Jew, spared by time and place from the Shoah.

Yad Vashem*

Here bloom green
carob trees
sweet with spring;
the righteous few
are not forgotten
in Our Garden.
Silence pours
from leaf and vine.

Note the smooth
Stone shapes
amid the blossoms:
the sculpted mother's
arms around
her baby:
Tenderness,
the first remembrance
of the human artist.

Beyond the blossoms
his last remembrance,
Darkness:
the dying ashes, the
tiny flames that
burn eternal
within the concrete
and basalt.

---Judith R. Robinson

* Yad Vashem is the name of the memorial to the victims of the Holocaust in Jerusalem

With thanks to Yale Cohen for the video, and thanks to you for clicking in. 

xo Judy

Randyland

Greetings Poetry Lovers,

I'm sure I share with most, if not all of you, an abiding love for our beautiful city. Every community poet worth his or her salt has written at least one "Pittsburgh poem." Then there are the many outstanding photographs, paintings, essays, short stories, novels and films; the artists as well as the Pittsburghers themselves are moved by our special place, no question about it.

Recently, I discovered something new and unique in our city: Randyland!

What is Randyland?

Located at 1501 Arch Street, on the NorthSide, Randyland is billed as Pittburgh's "Most Colorful Landmark," as well as "The Happiest Place in Pennsylvania." Visitors have called it "a hoot!" "a happening!" "a must-see-to-believe!"

Actually the home of artist Randy Gilson, Randyland has also been called "a candy-colored testimony to one man's efforts to revitalize an inner-city neighborhood..."

At Randylandprepare to be be startled by outdoor art in a barrage of color: bright yellow dominates but makes way for all manner of painted objects , maps, animals, birds; walls adorned by elaborate designs, faces, creatures done up in purple, green, red; add to this raucous mélange the gaily adorned old cast-offs: I particularly was taken by the ringer washing machine and the multi-colored metal porch chairs hanging above my head. Folks, you've got to see it!

Somewhere along a festooned wall at Randyland sits a Pittsburgh Poetry Box. What's that, you might ask? Another of our city's small wonders. A trio of poetry lovers have created small boxes, "poetry houses," placed here and there, which contain lovingly selected and printed poems, free for the taking. 

Currently, my poem, "Spring Fever," occupies a shelf alongside three others in the Poetry House at Randyland.

FYI, I will produce the poem here, but strongly urge you, the reader, to have the delightful experience of a visit to Randyland. I can assure you, it is unforgettable. 


Spring Fever   

The desire in the old man’s mind
is a stone anchor
that keeps his boney feet tethered
to the home place, dirt and all:

to own the first intruding green
he sees, the almost gold
that should burst to green
during his daily watch.

He must not miss the moment,
fears it may come forth
at once, like sudden water:
pouring, seamless.

His craving appears each spring.
He suspects this must be by design,
simple and meant to be, the way
morning overtakes the brightest moon.

Otherwise he would be able;
unpossessed, he would turn away,
free to leave the garden.     

              —JRR

So give yourself and the kids a treat--Randyland.

Thanks for clicking in!   xo Judy

Poet of the Week

I'm happy to report that I was awarded "Poet of the Week" (along with George Moore) on Poetry Superhighway for the week of January 18-24. The award was chosen for the poem, "If This Was A Movie."

IF THIS WAS A MOVIE

I would drift back
onto a slope in Pittsburgh
when my ballerina days
were still a dream
and the kids on the block
found what to do
that had nothing to do
with parents.

Only the bike named Betsy
negotiated for me,
helping me always win
down the hill, the street hill
not the cemetery hill.

All before I cared about any other wanting.

No big questions.
We may as well have been
tomatoes or anything else
alive that grows regardless,
like tomatoes.
What mattered was the bike
–racing–more than jacks
more than tar-baby stop
much more than Monopoly.

If there was thought
it was not deep
or has been forgotten,
slipped back, flickering,

a blurry frame
silver-gray as were those skies
if
this
was
a movie.

Best Chapbook

Happy New Year, All! The year is off to a good start as I'm please to announce that When I Loved You was voted Best Chapbook of December 2015 by Grace Cavalieri's monthly "Exemplars of Poetry" via Washington Independent Review of Books. Read Cavalieri's kind words below. Buy the chapbook here

Poetry will never turn its back on domesticity and a woman’s experience, often seen in deflected light from the motions of our neon world. There will always be a metric system for this poetic source, consolidatingtimeless themes of loss, children, friendship, and art. Robinson shows some leg tackling the classic reasons for why we write; becoming a better poet in the process.

 

 

A Visitor From Haifa

Hello Poetry Fans,

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of meeting a young researcher from the Technion, Israel's Institute of Technology, located in Haifa.

The Technion is a world class university where scientists, doctors, engineers are trained; a place that employs Nobel Prize winners, a place that has successfully solved such diverse problems as methods of irrigation for farming as well as methods for the strategic defense of Israel.  

Bio-medical advancement is just one of dozens of areas of research that are conducted there; for example, American corporations like Intel that produce computers have partnered with the Technion as well.

I was very impressed by this particular visitor from Haifa to our city. The experience of who she is and what she does struck me. I know from whence she came, and what her work means. I know the present state of much of the world's opinion of Israel.

I will share with you the following poem, which I hope, as an effective poem should, speaks for itself:

Doctor Esty

There is plenty of snow on the ginkos, the sycamores
& our Pittsburgh hills; ice chunks in the holes in the streets,
but not enough to deter my two aged
lady friends, having bundled themselves into furs,
leaning on canes,  off with me to meet
the brave cancer survivor from Israel,
herself young, blonde, articulate. Herself a distinguished
researcher, an engineer who investigates possibilities,
each one a bright hard pellet of silicone
she aims into suffering flesh.
Thousands of years of selection and here she is,
a matter-of-fact Israeli, a Sabra, she tells us:
Father Roumanian, Mother from Turkey, both of them Sephardic, 
and I think of how they got out in time, the parents,
and all the millions like them who did not.
She works very hard, their daughter;
obsessed with helping the world find the path to cure cancer.

                                                                   — Judith R. Robinson

Thank you for clicking in.
Judy

Read more: The Jewish Chronicle - entry A VISITOR FROM HAIFA

From Israel With Love

Hello Poetry Lovers,

It is a pleasure today to share something worthwhile from a friend in Israel.

Helen Bar-Lev is an interesting artist—she is both poet and painter, one whose work is hightly inventive and can charm young and old. She loves words and she loves images, and possesses the rare ability to create both.  She is also a skilled editor, one who reaches out way beyond geographical and cultural borders to others.  After numerous books of poetry, exhibitions and one-woman shows of paintings, Helen has three recent publications well worth noting here. All are published by Cyclamens and Swords Publishing, Medulla, Israel.

They are:

CANVAS CALENDAR, 2014;

IN MOONLIGHT THE SKY WILL SLIDE, 2009;

LOVE LETTERS: The Alphabet Falls in Love with Itself, 2014;

Canvas Calendar and In Moonlight the Sky Will Slide are both collaborations with others, but each in a different way. Canvas Calendar, for which Helen served as author, artist and editor,  is a seventy-seven page excursion through an entire year, remarkably with the words and illustrations of seven different poets and artists, each from a different part of the world, each sharing his or her own unique vision. Thus, in addition to Helen’s, we have the voices of  John Smelcer, poet of the Ahtna Tribe of Alaska, Lillian Cohen, living now in Australia, Katherine L. Gordon of Ontario, Canada, Luis Alberto Ambroggio, Argentinan-American, Robert Kihara of Kenya, and Mike Leaf, currently living half the year in Israel, half in Thailand.

Thus, we learn that in Alaska,

January and the sun is a memory…

Most living things huddle…*

Or in Canada,

April is so tender, casting green shadows on dissolving snow heaps… **

While in Thailand, in August,

The festival of the Hungry Ghosts that visit us from Hell

..burn paper money…

Whilst the Monsoon rages…***

Come December, in Kenya,

…We slaughter goats, roast them and enjoy hearty drinks…the year is a tortoise, slowing

covering miles step by step…****

And Helen herslf tells us that in Israel:

June is delicious

smooth as a peach

beautiful as a bride

a hybrid between seasons

yellow with acacia and broom

mellow in its temperment

plug up the clouds

don’t sit on the thistles

take stock of the hollyhocks…

It is difficult to convey the sweep of  this collection here. Suffice it to say CANVAS CALENDAR succeeds in bringing the reader a fascinating variety of pictures and poetic impressions, a year experienced fully, month by month, place by place.  

Finally, many people feel that poetry is not for them—not accessible, not relevant, not enjoyable. For them, and everyone, really, this collection is a way “in,” a highly entertaining, informative and often quite lyrical journey around the world.

Thanks for clicking in.

Click in soon again for reviews of  IN MOONLIGHT THE SKY WILL FALL and LOVE LETTERS.*

 

                                                                     xo Judy

 * all three titles can be ordered at:

www.cyclamensandswords.com/bookshop.php

In Moonlight: $10.

Love Letters-The Alphabet Falls in Love with Itself:  $15.

Canvas Calendar: $20.

 

 

 

 



Read more: The Jewish Chronicle - entry FROM ISRAEL WITH LOVE
 

Art Deco

Art Deco

 


The hotel is vast and pink

squatting on a southern shore

grand old palm trees

turquoise water

shimmering waves of white heat.


I am running the burnished halls

that reek money

I am not naked

exactly but searching for my nightie.

Butlers in tuxedos are on the lookout.


I can’t get the elevator

to come for me

can’t remember which room I had;

utterly lost and out of ideas.


But I don’t cry, don’t give up,

just keep dashing around

in full frenzy,

the angry butlers closing in on me.


They don’t get me. I wake up.

Just in time to tell

the whole wretched tale to Y.


She listens, nods in her wise way

then goes to the kitchen to make coffee.

The paper says rain she says

and you’re not too old to dream.

 

 

 

Happy New Year

Approaching another year, after a lifetime’s worth of instruction by Kim and William, Ingrid, Humphrey, Cary, Fred and Ginger and the Warner Brothers I realized that dances into golden sunsets are not regularly happening. My daily life runs more along the lines of  confrontations with machines grinding away in order to outsmart me and other humans and surely take over.  It could happen in 2015. According to gleeful nerd experts, computers will write symphonies greater than Mozart’s, paint masterpieces that surpass Monet’s, contol and or hack into every system we’ve got, defensive, economic, strategic, etc. Then the superhuman contraptions will go on to destroy the electric grid, whatever the hell that is. The only way I sustain a small  measure of hope is to think perhaps they can’t do everything we can. The way I figure it, they will not likely commit petty larceny or string along some other machine just for carnal pleasure.

 

A Poem for King David

Hello Poetry Lovers,

As I am certain you already know, our ancestor King David was, among many other things, a psalmist, a poet.  The psalms have guided Jews and Christians alike, across the centuries. The wisdom is as palpalable today as it was thousands of years ago. As I consider the terrible rising tide a Anti-Zionism, which is another expression of the curse of Anti-Semitism, as well as the growing marginalization and isolation of Israel, I cannot but note how King David addressed a situation closely akin to what we face today.  For your consideration, I offer Psalm 129:

Psalm 129

A SONG OF ASCENTS

1 “They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,”
    let Israel say;

2 “they have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.

3 Plowmen have plowed my back
    and made their furrows long.

4 But the Lord is righteous;
    he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked.”

5 May all who hate Zion
    be turned back in shame.

6 May they be like grass on the roof,
    which withers before it can grow;

7 a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
    nor one who gathers fill his arms.

8 May those who pass by not say to them,
    “The blessing of the Lord be on you;
    we bless you in the name of the Lord.”

We have faced hate and discrimination from time immemorial. And we have survived.

Thank you for clicking in.  xo Judy



Read more: The Jewish Chronicle - entry A POEM FROM KING DAVID