Donna Fleischer / Helen



all the years
we formed a twosome,
shouldering whatever the world gave


drugstore Christmas dinner in red
leatherette booth, a man’s back stooped over
at the counter, cigarette wedged between yellowed
fingers slow stirring coffee, clattering the metal
spoon against ceramic sides. turkey dinner with
pumpkin pie for us & that rock and mineral set
from G. Fox & Company I silently wished for,
more voice lessons, and books, always . . .
Treasure Island and the newest Black Stallion


a pack of Teaberry or Blackjack gum
from the candy machine where she worked,
her smile quiet with exhaustion, arriving
home with the sweet surprise


Friday nights the package store, where I
studied each month of the Miss Rheingold
calendar, or the corner taverns where we ate
homemade lasagna, slid quarters into the jukebox slot —
sometimes for a fast dance song, but usually
the broken-hearted ones. I got a ‘shirley temple’
for every time she ordered, and in the very
long night watched her slide into an oblivion
that she craved, tasted, until morning


one year she made a birthday cake with white peaks
of frosting and the biggest gumdrops every color,
invited all my friends for a treasure hunt. I found her
passed out on her bed upstairs, in the middle of
her day off Saturday afternoon

Donna Fleischer
December 2010

    • Ourida
    • January 19th, 2011

    As transported into the precariousness of my own childhood, I read this mirror poem and gasp at how you have captured these memories so poignantly. Deeply, deeply moving.

    • Hello, Ourida. Recently I learned of a finding that involved physicians bringing Alzheimer’s patients to museums in order to view art works. The painting or drawing, sculpture or installation evoked feeling which activated a memory presumably unretrievable. As poets, you and I already know this.

      It’s taken me until the last few months to write something unified, for all before this were shards, some dull, others sharp and piercing. Wanting, needing more, to hold the truth of it — that beginning and ending which is love, bold lodestar, that it is, pulling us through numbing loss. Roland Barthes wrote in “Mourning Diary”(42) ~ “Struck by the abstract nature of absence; yet it’s so painful, lacerating. Which allows me to understand abstraction better: it is absence and pain, the pain of absence — perhaps therefore love?”

      Thank you for your treasure of a response. ~ Donna

  1. Wow! That’s a corker. Love it. (and happy to remember teaberry gum!).

    • Thank you, Gray. Great word, that “corker”. Hasn’t landed on my ear in a good long time. (ahh, yes, Teaberry gum . . . & still chewing.)

      I’m eager to read your recent interview with Connotation Press and more of your Eleanor Roosevelt dramatic monologues; your essay on Thomas Hardy (!) then on to “Little Boy Blue”. I missed the last WordForge due to a cold. A standout series — leave it to Jim Finnegan. Hope to see you at the next one. ~ Donna

  2. Reblogged this on word pond and commented:

    for Helen, my beloved mother, long ago gone – word pond

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