Archive for the ‘Family’ Category


When Cronus Ruled the Earth

March 11, 2011

I bounced the boys on my knees
and spun a story from the seeds of my sour grapes
sharing with them the news of my disappointing life.

“When Cronus ruled the Earth”, I said,
“the Seas sang and the Mountains danced
and Cronus fretted over the Music of the Cosmos.

“He foresaw his immortality ending
he saw that he would be overturned
by the ones who called him Father.

“He worried about Delphi’s warning
and he never let his children live another day
swalling his progeny like an unpalatable meal.

“The aftertaste burned his throat
Stinging reminders of his half-baked plan
as the worry (and his children) gnawed at him from the inside.

“But Gaia galled him and Rhea lured Cronus into swalling the stone,
a menagery of misery to replace Zeus in his digestive tract
swapping one troubling mouthful for another

“And Cronus was deceived, believing his son was deceased.
While Zeus, under Adamanthea’s spell, lived in suspension,
halfway between childhood and eternity.

“But finally the day of confrontation arrived,
and Zeus slipped his father a strong dose of Ipecac
spiking his wine with a more potent brew.

“And Cronus regurgitated his five other offspring.
He looked at Zeus in shock, realizing the Oracle’s
will had won out, and that chasing fate was foolish.”

“But, my children,” I continued, “I have learned my lesson.
Your father won’t make Cronus’ mistakes.  Instead
of swallowing the echos of my disappointment

“I’ll bury them.  I’ll accept that you three will someday
soon rise above your father who raised you,
becoming the gods that you were meant to be.”

The room grew quiet, as my sons digested the lesson
of Cronus.  Their thoughtful stares lasted as long as
it took for the sounding of the dinner bell, and

All was forgotten as they headed for the Halls of Paradise,
a meal of ambrosia and nectar awaiting them
as I, the once powerful God of this realm, settled down for my nap.


Constructed by my younger daughter and me, this story started with a much darker ending in mind…  She has been reading a lot of Greek myths recently (anyone else seen Percy Jackson?) and the story was heavily influenced by what she’s been learning.


Spring Training

February 18, 2008

School’s ceasing; start screaming!
Vacation vision, I’m day-dreaming…

Go and get my golden glove,
Ball will be batted to the big sky above.

Catcher’s cares are carried away,
Home-run, my hero, will save the play.

Pit-pat on the pitching mound
Rain on the rooftop! Dreams are drowned.

  • a poem by my daughter, Rachel (11 years old)
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    August 6, 2006


    Maybe it’s the heat
    of this sultry summer
    wafting in the window
    and fighting the slow fan
    rippling eddies of cold comfort

    Maybe it’s the lightning’s
    violent flashing
    fireworks on the horizon
    which we try to push away
    with stoic indifference

    Maybe it’s the turgid
    way I have these days
    of moving with my pre-
    arthritic leg, my own
    unbending in this humidity

    Or maybe it’s just that
    we aren’t speaking anymore
    so we let the children voice
    our frustrations as we
    watch each other melt away…

    Maybe it’s the heat
    of this sultry summer
    wafting in the open window
    and fighting the slowly spinning fan
    for dominion over the empty room

    Maybe it’s the lightening
    fizzling far away from us
    fireworks on the horizon
    which we hope by ignoring
    will maintain their distance

    Maybe it’s the turgid
    way I have these days
    of moving with my pre-
    arthritic leg and my knee
    unbending in this humidity

    Or maybe it’s just that
    we aren’t speaking anymore
    we let the children voice
    our frustrations as we
    patently ignore the melting away…

    I should definitely say that this is not based on current experience at all! Rather it is an exploration of some of the ways we experience heat.


    More cinquains

    August 5, 2006

    after his rest
    the grizzly bear stretches
    sniffs the air for honey and writes
    new poems.

    The coarse
    bristles; his beard
    itched me when I kissed him,
    I could smell the scotch on his breath:

    would be so much
    easier to handle
    if they came with pins that didn’t
    pull out.

    Pull out
    all of the stops!!
    It’s my birthday today
    (really yesterday but I’m still


    Little fruit

    November 3, 2005

    Little fruit
    of poisoned vine
    you look for
    a water source
    with the roots
    of your branches.

    You will find only
    dry riverbed there.
    Once there was a
    rushing stream which
    carried water
    past like miles
    by a speeding car.

    You ignored the
    water then, like
    we ignore the cries
    of drowning sailors,
    marooned at sea
    by pirate ships.

    You were used
    to plenty but as
    you’ve ripened
    you see that
    love is not

    or free or
    You stick your roots
    in whatever dirty soil
    will hold them,
    and as the soul

    gets dingy by the
    stink of pollution
    you close off this
    chapter, wall it off,
    leave it in the
    fruit jar, ignored.

    until it bursts,
    festering, and
    causing heart-burn
    or -break. Fruit
    of my loom,
    sleep the troubled

    dreams of childhood
    when your biggest
    fears are big fears
    and let me know
    tomorrow if the
    fruit remains
    on the vine,

    poisened and unripe.
    Or, travel elsewhere
    so you seek more sun.
    Pull up your roots, and
    travel to another
    orchard where the
    Keeper watches over you.



    October 10, 2005

    Children shriek roughshod on the playground . . . ripples on still water



    August 22, 2005

    Finnegan is a tooth rat.

    I know, sounds improbable. Some might even say it’s kind of gross, but in the Barkowitz family, we don’t have a tooth fairy. We have a tooth rat.

    Finnegan’s story is not well-known, even to those whose teeth he collects. The bare bones of his story goes something like this: an Irish tooth rat, Finnegan lives in the attic of Read Brothers in Charleston, South Carolina (a family store). Finnegan’s mission is to search out teeth from the Barkowitz and Read families when they are placed under pillows, and to leave little rewards for those teeth.

    Growing up, I accepted Finnegan as fact. My children do too. This poem is written from Finnegan’s point of view.

    You left me an enamel treasure tonight,
    proof that your childhood is falling out
    as your roots reveal another row
    of permanent changes.

    I was there, hiding in the shadows
    when your parents saw the first
    moving pictures, lily-white buds,
    later flowering into pearl-studded
    crowns for a princess’s mouth.

    I was there when your first teeth
    broke gums. I soothed your
    feverish skin with cool cloths
    as your tiny hands struggled
    to express your triumph and tragedy
    of those first teeth.

    I was there at the first check-up,
    helping to count your teeth,
    helping the hygienist remove the cookies
    from your hesitantly open mouth.

    And I will be there, through
    orthodontia, wisdom-teeth, cavities
    and caps. Whitening, straightening,
    miles of floss and gallons of paste.

    I will help hold you together,
    binding you in a line to your parents
    and their parents, and theirs.
    Teeth stretching back through the generations.

    And you will tell my story to your children,
    inspiring them with the tale
    of a small Irish tooth rat,
    living in your family’s store,
    whose sole job has always been,
    not only to collect teeth,
    but more importantly,
    simply to celebrate your triumphs.


    Voices of My Children – Poetry Written this Morning

    August 12, 2005

    Rachel’s Poem

    Don’t you just love the feel of dew in the morning?
    No, but I do love the feel of you in the morning.

    Caroline’s Poem

    I think I saw a spider,
    I wonder where it could be,
    I think it’s on my sock,
    Oh what a mystery.



    July 16, 2005

    Imagine what it feels like –
    cultural conflict contained in your voice,
    words a haven from daily exposure
    to a world with noisy populace.

    Messages mixing, I spent my years
    enshrined in a tomb of my own creation
    watching Spanish ladies dancing to
    the sounds of Hava Nagila.

    Mola-weaving Cuna women
    with Stars of David round their necks
    existed in my dreams as
    their soft Ladino voices caressed my ears.

    Guayavera-shirted boys turned men
    chanting their Haftorah in the
    tropical heat, boys who “twinned”
    with Refuseniks who had been denied.

    Did these things really exist?
    Or did I invent them into being
    taking pieces of my fabric and
    wrenching them apart and then together?

    I open my mouth and words
    fused by the cadence of memory
    slip from my ready tongue. If only
    I can remember what language to speak.

    As I have said previously, I was born in a place that no longer exists — the Panama Canal Zone. From birth to 14, I lived in a cocoon, in a warm utopia where cultures mixed in the warm tropical sun. My parents were Jews from the American South living as teachers in a foreign land, and I was born a native to neither land, but at home in each. This poem gives voice to the expression “you can never go home again”.


    That Day: A poem written with the help of my two daughters

    July 9, 2005

    I went with mermaids
    in the mountains and
    it happened then.

    There was a crown
    on the princesses
    who married frogs.

    Tomorrow they will
    skydive and the ground
    shook very loudly.

    It was on the first
    Equinox. The snow
    glittered so it shimmered

    very sweetly. The end of
    the story is only one
    word away. Each word begins it.

    This poem was created in a round — each one of us volunteered a word one after the other. My 5 and 8 1/2 year olds played with me. Can you tell who went first? The poem is written in circular order.