In Praise of Unions

I must have been three and played
in my crib while mom cleaned.
She never looked at me but shouted.

“Your father is a BLUE collar
worker for a printing plant—
long hours, walks 20 blocks
home from the subway,
Every Friday, union meetings.
fights for good pay, holidays.
He loved Roosevelt LaGuardia.,
Remember those names.

“Did you hear me?” She came close,
waved her dust rag in my curly hair.
I nodded, yes, asked for jelly beans.
“What color?” I said blue, pointed to pink.

I worked as a teacher for thirty years, believed
In unions. Today my daughter does too.
The Board of Ed wants teachers back in school.
It must be safe. It’s only
the union leaders  who demand teachers
be vaccinated, that schools comply
with Lysol cleaned desks, insist everyone must
be masked, no contact with other students or adults.
My dad did not have any safety regulations
or ventilation. He inhaled benzene, died
from the fumes.
I demand my daughter speak up, use her intellect,
ask her union president to insure teachers’ needs.
“But do the best teaching you can, and always wear blue.”

Forget the Chocolate Cake the Crème Brulee on My 76th Birthday

I read the headline in the NY Times.  The Justice denied a bid For Trump to hide his tax records
This, the beginning of the end? Will Vance give us a chance?
to accept our nation’s  ethnicities? My grandparents
carried their lives in burlap bags, moved into the slums
of Hell’s Kitchen.  Their skin  brown ,  their language—
the movement of their hands. They were  taunted by  yells
of  WOP ,  without papers.   Have we moved on?.

I tell myself to celebrate my birthday for god’s sake,
get politics out of my head. My husband and I grab a bottle
of Sancerre to watch the  last episode of Call My Agent.
The show relied on weaving politics and surprise,
The characters became our family for a month.
I am sad to see them disappear

A Zoom call from the east and west arrives. Chants of   Nana. Nana.
The three year old yells “Everyone calm down.”   Someone is singing
76 Trombones off key and finally Happy Birthday from my entire family.
See you all this fall at the Jersey Shore. We still have time to finish off the Sancerre
and watch Chris Hayes of course.


Mom tosses clothes all over her bed
   tears out seams

See that green dress, a skirt
                             this silk blouse,
 a jacket

          rip     sew  press

Split open close
                      Betsy J  said
“let seams show”

  This wool dress       a skirt    the  pink linen
            a scarf   who knows

                  My dear girl   You will be given scripts

                   Don’t let anyone tell you

          what to say to  ask    Tear

 it up      Spread the scraps  over  your desk
                                                The beginning is
The end

A woman must   split open      close
rip    out what seems

A woman has to be more than seen
                   Listen to me   listen to your mother

You have to

                    Do not listen to me