The Advice-Giver

by Judith Meyerowitz

She appears in my life in only one place— the Y locker room and always standing in front of the mirror. She has been reflected in the background for many years.

A seventyish woman, she applies her makeup as if cast in a horror flick. Her eyes outlined in fuchsia between purple and pink. She continues to apply more makeup and smacks her lips vampira bloody red. I keep the bench between her and me.

Like a Stephen King clown, something is disturbing about exaggeration, even grotesque. Face potion-maker… Conjurer… Character. Cara Bella! The Addams Family! The missing aunt—bizarre in looks but good natured?

She is always speaking to someone. She is known— to all, even to me who doesn’t speak to her.

I overhear her movie and book recommendations. And repeatedly— her mantra “I swim so I can eat ice cream”. I picture her in the pool with one arm in mid-stroke and the other holding an ice cream cone.

Or does she have a secret stash in her locker? or in the overhead light fixture?

Why did I talk to her today?

I was up— excited to be back at the pool after two covid years and the locker room was empty. She was available for consultation.

I shared: “This is my first time back.”

She said: “I have been here for months.”
You fool- where have u been? Scaredy-cat.
“I have to have ice cream.”
You fool, you can have ice cream without swimming, although I’m having trouble fitting into my suit.

To be fair she is a disciplined, regular swimmer. I have seen her in the pool. Annoyingly, she is not too fat, not too thin— just right.

She is standing at the mirror putting on makeup. I wonder which she needs, more makeup or ice cream? I fantasize her smearing ice cream on her face.

“I swim so I can eat ice cream”
A Descartian declaration. A statement of her raison d’etre. But even more frightening, I was beginning to fit together these pieces of her life.

I have overheard her stories of being a school guidance counselor–advice giver. This concerns me but she is retired now. And the kids either made it— or not. I imagine the advice she gave the girls:

“You have a cute figure but you need to keep it to attract the boys.”
“Enjoy your ice cream but it has a cost.”
“You can never have enough makeup.”

Is she all about appearances? Is it because we are in a women’s locker room— runway before transition to the world?

And then it all started coming back— The one other time we spoke, she had told me about having lived in Florida and how she had successfully matched a couple. Of course, storyteller of the locker room, guidance counselor, Florida matchmaker.

Unlike many of us, this woman’s life and her ideas had an internal integrity. We are rapt by her stories in the locker room like in the old village. She was the advice giver of the shetl more than a century earlier.

She laughs, “I’m putting on all this makeup that I am wearing under the mask. It is like women who need plastic surgery. “

You could see her doing a YouTube video with the Y locker room in the background, standing in front of the mirror giving her followers instructions on how to put on makeup under a mask and advising: “Remember! It is important to look good even if you can’t be seen.”

Judith Meyerowitz: Judith has written prose through her participation in the LP² Writing Workshop and is pleased to share it in Voices.

Memoirs of a Brighton Beach Childhood

by Judith Meyerowitz

I grew up around the corner from the beach in Brooklyn, that magical borough of saltwater and Dukedom.* And for two sweet months I was free from school—clothing, immovable desks, performance anxiety. I sat in the beach chair recliner with top shade surveying my land while reading an adventure book. I was above— the people on blankets, the hot sand, the wrappers and gulls, raised up to wave height.

And it was all about the waves. The magnet that pulled me beyond fear, beyond my non-swimming mother. Then, I belly surfed with abandon not worrying about knees; I tanned without hives. After the delicious waves, I waited for the Good Humor man in pith helmet, freezer strapped to the body. He seemed never to get closer, trudging through sandy desert mountains, distorted by sun rays— lost in heat waves. Finally! And my parents’ choice- huckleberry? I must be adopted! There was only one flavor in my genes—chocolate. Now to collect bottles under the boardwalk. Was it for two cents? The sun slated through creating patterns in the sand but also fears of the darkness and what dangers lurked under the boards, the people who never came out. And teenagers— what did they do under there? And then there was night on the boardwalk…

Ah, Brooklyn in the fifties and the Dodgers affectionately the Bums. I not only had sightings of the now extinct Ebbetts Field, but I sat in its belly—the bleachers. The two of us, my father and I would take the subway— the Franklin Avenue shuttle. I remember being startled going from the dark, to the sudden sunlight and the green expanse. And I remember the crowds moving with us, the noise— people cheering and jeering in the rising stands behind us.

There were all sorts of customs in Dodger territory. We got hot dogs and peanuts by signaling and your row passed money to the hawkers in the aisles who sometimes threw the food to you- played catch. We bought a program, and I learned the secret codes to record the history of outs. But when the seventh inning stretch came we were all hushed with expectancy. Then the sacred music and the pipe organ began and we community of Brooklyn Bums stood joined together and yelled “for the home team” and paused after one… then two… and finally “three strikes you are out”. They never sang it more than once and the words eventually echoed hollow of a relationship and closeness that belonged to that time and place and became as extinct as the stadium.

*Duke Snider, Brooklyn Dodgers

Judith Meyerowitz: Judith has written prose through her participation in the LP² Writing Workshop and is pleased to share it in Voices.

A Chinese Scholar’s Garden

by Judith Meyerowitz

Out of the mist, a clearing slowly comes into view.
A secret scholar’s garden inked into a mountain.

Amid the craggy rocks, green splotches, hints of evergreen, smell of pine.
Around the trees light bends
Is it all illusion?

In the gazebos student scholars gather
They unwrap the silk cocoon of ancient writings
Silently let the narrative landscape materialize
Scrolls unfurl, rolling, rolling, unrolling. Calligraphs spill into the skies.
The thickly inked brushstrokes crash into boxes of red seals.
Colophons cascade like waterfalls down the steep ravines.
Poems tell the story of a
secluded scholar artist
relaxing at his back gate in bare feet
His robe unfurls like the leaves of the scrolls.
His Buddha belly soft in contrast to the hardness of the mountains.
He looks at veins of green foliage between the thighs of fleshy prominences
Lines of art and poetry in intimate harmony

Judith Meyerowitz has published both poetry and prose in Voices. She began to write poetry after participating in LP2 groups.

Ode to Sylvia

by Judith Meyerowitz

(In Memory of Sylvia Brill)

Tall woman, classical smile
You sweep me into poetry
It is your voice that takes me
hushed, sultry.
I want you to read forever

You bring me into the poetry group
Via black holes and reminiscences of Chicago published in Voices

We walk to Thirteenth St.
I slow down to meet your cane
Soon we are chatting in that hole of a West Village restaurant
With the warmth of home cooking.
Blackened pots and pans lined up for our review.
You had soup.
You told me of the Vermont house with garden, now sold
Of your small apartment with renovated kitchen
Your love of Rome
You sound young
I imagine that we are undergraduates
It is still the sixties
We are excited by poets and writers
I wish I remembered more the films you liked, the study groups you led.
But the warmth remains

You say goodbye–not yet
Chat about poetry for a while.
The cane out of sight
I walk on
Your voice stays in the air
And carries me

Judith Meyerowitz has published both poetry and prose in Voices. She began to write poetry after participating in LP2 groups.

Jump Up Children

by Judith Meyerowitz

Twirled rope
coiled round black hands
Spin a crisscross story in
magical bands

Jump into the half-moon circle
Hip Hop between invisible lines
A blur of quick hands
Now u see it. Now u don’t.
Jump up heaven bound
Return before sound
Taps the ground

the chain gang
Carries you up
Carries you up

Jump up children
Trouble the waters
May jubilee voices
and African rhymes
Set you free
from imposed ties

Judith Meyerowitz has published both poetry and prose in Voices. She began to write poetry after participating in LP2 groups.

Is This One?

by Judith Meyerowitz

How does it start?
An overheard conversation, an image, a question, a howl?
How do we capture it? How do we paper train it?

To rhyme?
One two, buckle my shoe
A line thin or wide
O for osmosis.
Sestinas for math majors

Does blank verse need words
Does punctuation save lives?

We sit in a Greenwich Village apartment, close by the spirits of Cedar Tavern.
Masks on the walls and spirit visions.
Do they watch over us or mock us
as we ponder who is Antinous and how do you say Bluet?

A congenial group draped on couch and easy chairs. A frieze. We are one with the classics.

But should we be in nature, sitting around a fire?
Glowing embers, sparks like Frost’s fireflies,
spirits in a jar.

We are well educated and intended
But can we find the incantation:
“More s’mores and pass the metaphors please”

Do we write the poem or does it write us?
If we wait, will it come?
What makes it a poem?
When does it stop being a poem?

And if you can’t understand it,
Is it no longer one?

Judith Meyerowitz has published both poetry and prose in Voices. She began to write poetry after participating in LP2 groups.

Saturday Night Fever

by Judith Meyerowitz

Trapped in a Groundhog flick
I open the window to change the frame,
watching the march of the food delivery fairies.
Not to be upstaged, doormen fashionably dressed in blue gloves and matching masks.  

Chirp/Boom street birds’ tweets alternate with car rap bass
Can the virus travel on sound waves? 

Shut the window
just in time for Cuomo’s chats
Need to hear his covid stats
Now down 

Do I shoot up lysol or wait for chloroquine hallucinations?
In my altered state, I smile like June Cleaver and prepare another meal

Why does the virus look like a disco ball?
I count pink and red
fuzzies before sleep,
Wuzzie all about? 

Judith has taken several writing and poetry study groups since joining and is a member of an ongoing poetry group. She thanks Voices and all those coordinators for their encouragement and support. 



A Bio Genetic Uprising

by Judith Meyerowitz 

Shadows are marching between our hi riser twins
Eyes shut to the advancing lumps, the great lump in the other bed, snores
My “twin” is almost ten years older and always beats me to sleep
Deserted, I watch the little black puffballs roll stealthily through the night
I can smell them as they draw closer
Aliens have invaded Brighton Beach and I am the last line of defense
Between my bedroom and the homeland.
I stand my ground.
A warm squishiness attacks my toes
I dive under the covers of my dugout
Motionlessness my weapon.
Unseen, unheard, be gone
Morning lights the battlefield.
The great lump rises and screams:” Get your dirty socks out from under my bed!”

Judith has taken several writing and poetry study groups since joining and is a member of an ongoing poetry group. She thanks Voices and all those coordinators for their encouragement and support. 



Hack Back

by Judith Meyerowitz 

You open my email account
Oblivious to the years I’ve inhabited it.
When unexpectedly. It chimes: “You’ve got my mail”
Startled but yet in disbelief, you ignore the first visitation
And set loose your virus on an unsuspecting population.
“Can you do me a favor?” You write
My name and invade my world
Then unexpectedly. My family, friends, acquaintances, associates spill onto your computer
A tsunami of letters flood your keys

You spin your chair around
Only to see a wave of @s rise up.
You scream in terror and race against the rolling addresses

In red you tumble down the swirling vortex
In blue the waters of fantasia engulf you
And in yellow-
The @s spiral out of the cartoon frame and wrap you in the entrails of my emails.  

Judith has taken several writing and poetry study groups since joining and is a member of an ongoing poetry group. She thanks Voices and all those coordinators for their encouragement and support. 


The Headwrap

by Judith Meyerowitz

As a very small child, Jasmine had watched her grandmother fold the piece of cloth into a rectilinear shape and knot it on top of her head. It looked like a crown. It was very old. She loved to hear the story again and again of how it had been passed down from generation to generation. However, she never saw her mother wear it. When she asked her why, she would firmly say, “We are in America. Not Africa! We are in the North. Not the South!”

As she entered her teenage years, Jasmine was increasingly drawn to the beauty of the headwrap and curious about how it was made. Threads of multiple colors intertwined to create the traditional design. Her eyes followed with wonder the thin black and green cone shapes which rose into the gold and red sky. She thought about the weaving process.

She had watched with fascination on YouTube, men working the loom. The threads of different colors wrapped around their toes, the red brown soil and sweat of Africa mixed in with the colors.

She couldn’t figure out the spacing of the design. It was as if the weavers’ bodies knew where to place the threads, as if their feet danced the rhythm of mathematics. It was a striking piece of Kente cloth from Ghana.

Jasmine’s family was part of the Great Migration. Her great-grandparents had journeyed from Mississippi to Chicago following WW1, while the headwrap had journeyed from Africa to the South with slavery. It had gone from expressing African identity to symbolizing white power and enslavement.

She had seen the headwrap taken over once again by white America in the form of “Black Mammy” in old pancake ads and on servants in old movies. She felt demeaned not only as an African American but as a young African American woman.

She struggled with her own thoughts while also trying to understand her mother’s discomfort. She was in America and the North but how she saw herself was bound to the history and diaspora of her people. She had recently seen an exhibition on representing the Black model at a local art gallery. The theme was portrayed over time and between continents- Europe and America. She read the introduction: the purpose was to “explore aesthetic, political, social, and racial issues”. Beautiful and strong women looked out at her from the walls in headwraps.

Jasmine had never worn the headwrap. She went to the mirror and as if part of her body memory, her grandmother’s movements came back to her. She completed the crowning knot and got on the “L” that would bring Jasmine to her first class at the University of Chicago.

Judith has taken several writing and poetry study groups since joining. She thanks Voices and particularly the members of the Flash Fiction writing workshop for which this piece was written.