Monday, March 30, 2015

Want (a fan poem)

We  encounter characters
we want to live in
want to go to bed with
want to stay in mind with
want to repeat and repeat in
want to lodge in and over
someplace far from bodies
and yet deeper
than any body dreams

Don't let go,
we say.
We can leap
into  book
and become,
for you,


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Under Water - for Charlie

Under Water

for Charlie

A drop
Hydrogen oxygenized
If you do an MRI
you have a city,
parts and particles
become plantlike
and animalcules
and ribbons fluttering
in water's version
of a breeze

Suddenly you know
that if you did an MRI
of the world
it would come out
much the same.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Air 1 and 2

Air 1 and 2

Frannie Zellman


So they voted
to charge people
for air.

But not just one charge,
and not just one kind
of air.

There would be
your somewhat clean air,
the kind you let
into your bathroom
because most people
don't spend more time
there than they can help
(with some exceptions).
Then there would be
your pretty clean air,
the kind you would want
in somewhat traveled areas,
like the stairs, the vestibule,
the outside steps.

And then there would be
your premium air,
breathed in the dining room,
the kitchen and the bedrooms.

The fourth kind
was spoken only in hushed tones,
as if to confer holiness
on its very being:
the party air, the business air,
piped in and filtered
within an inch of its literal life:
gatherings of the sedately moneyed
most illustrious citizens only
to merit

There was, however, one more kind,
 researched by one group,
not placed before
any  committees.
The few who heard
 jumped on waiting lines.
All they would say if asked
was that it would make those
you knew very very well
want to know you even better.

"Friendly air," was
what they called it online.



"Some people can't
afford to pay for air,"
a congressperson said.

"Too bad,"
the Majority Leader said.

"They should have thought
of that
when they were buying food."

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Girl on Fire

I post this every year during the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire commemoration. I wrote it in 2012.
Girl on Fire
Frannie Zellman
In remembrance of the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, in Manhattan, Lower East Side -March 25,
The last thing I thought before I jumped
was not that the doors were locked
or that I would die
if I missed the net
and my body splattered
but of the new theater
they were building on Second Avenue
and that spring was coming.
King Lear lost his daughters.
The factory owners lost us.
They pretended in court
that the doors were locked
to prevent theft.
My fiancé put three rocks
on my gravestone
and sobbed.
Fire fought fire –
We were on fire, they said,
in 1909,
when we walked out
and even thugs sent by the bosses
could not quench the fight in us
as our eyes mocked them.
Two years later
after smoke curled
and flames crackled through the doors
and singed our clothes
and hands and faces
and some of us jumped,
100,000 people marched.
One hundred years later
little ones
around the world
chained to their work
as smoke rises
cannot jump.
Their owners do not bother
to lock the doors.
Yet somehow somewhere
a girl takes flight
at those who own the world ,
soars above them
and with eyes on fire
dares the owned souls of the world

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Slowly a Warning

Slowly a Warning

When the weather people
Keep changing the forecast
From hour to hour
And still miss
When cops stun
A murderer
And shoot
An unarmed child
When the post office
Says it’s been delivered
But it hasn’t
When someone
On the education committee
Doesn’t know
About rising water levels
When the doctor
Won’t treat
What you have
But something he can medicate
When the streets
Are silent
Because people fear guns
When kids
Are not allowed to
walk seven blocks
by themselves

Friday, March 20, 2015

No warning

No warning

Not with storm troopers,
but with a blockade
manned by paramilitary
or imitation police
who stop people
without rhyme
without reason
without warning

with a lynching
in a state they said
was embracing tolerance

with mandatory
voter id
for people
who never broke a law
in their lives

with a new law:
can refuse to serve
those they don't like
because you know -
who knows how
to sniff out gay people?

with police
walking around
looking for reasons
to yell
fire new weapons

or no reasons

and then

with no warning



Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Who says you can't smoke grass on the Riverline?

Not where I'd expected,
but who says
you can't smoke grass
on the Riverline?

Twenty five years
says you can't remember

Twenty five years
can go shove itself
up a butt

Would I laugh
as hard
and spill grapefruit juice
over our chins?

Monday, March 16, 2015



If I could fill
each heartbreak
with gold,
I would have
a valve
that shone
from inside

right up to unworkable

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Back to Me

 Back to Me

To the memory of my grandmother, Helen Glaser (March 15, 1900 - March 3, 1988)

All the rainy nights
bring you back,

Nothing has changed.

I miss the fierceness
of your love
And I miss
without stopping
the finest glance
in the world

and I miss
your clarity
of heart,
more beautiful than the best lies,
and more thoughtful
than any beauty.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

To Look for America

To Look for America

My greatgrandpa bought this land
and farmed tobacco
added cows for milk,
and chickens
for eggs.
His sons went to factories.
We lease the land
to agribusiness types
but we ride out
to see it 
when the snow leaves
and the road is as clear
as the sky.

My greatgrandpa rented the store,
rented the apartment nearby.
They moved to Brooklyn
to rent a bigger house.
When he died,
my greatgrandma moved in
with my grandparents
in the Bronx.
She rocked back and forth
in the chair we still have
and she fed the stray cats
who prowled through spring 
and summered
near the parkway.

My grandpa put in the sheds
for the cows.
He planted corn in the left
field. There were birds
and squirrels and other things
like voles
who tried to gnaw
but abandoned temptation.
Electric fences cost,
but they deliver.

My grandpa was night manager
for the Home News. 
My mom played as quietly
as she could,
The kids threw bottlecaps
in new sidewalk games.
You could hear their "threesies"
drifting up,
feathers of sound
as the bricks across the street

A bigger newspaper bought it out
but he stayed on.

Nowadays music thunders
through nights
when it reaches past 70.

Nowadays music drifts
over what people used to own.
No local farms here now.

We moved out.
We moved out, too.

I don't know where my home state lies.

And I too don't know the words 
that label 
a piece of ground
and walk it forth
into home.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

City lights

City lights

So much a part of us-
words of
fields, trees, forests,
mountains, rivers.

Allowed: to love
and approve
 nature colors,
textures, tones,
earth, that
travels or sits


what word
for a park that meets,
knits together
two proud sets
of buildings?
What to say
the street where workers
struck, did not back down?
What image
for bricks, concrete
walks gleaming with snow?
What recreates
old people sitting
near iron grilles
tossing words
to passersby?

What grabs

when light
passes a gutter
flow from its sides?

Sunday, March 8, 2015

On a Day of Not Quite Spring

Inspiration for the title is from Buffalo Springfield and e.e. cummings.

On a Day of Not Quite Spring

A breeze with no ice
in back of it
laps against the snow,
water runs
and in blue without grey
the sky unexpectedly
and tentatively
with fingers of near-white-
below it, un-iced brown
of revealed thickened earth-


Friday, March 6, 2015

I Do Not Wish To Join A Leather Group

I Do Not Wish To Join A Leather Group

No, I do not wish to join a leather group.

Have nothing against leather,
nor  against groups
per se, but I get hamstrung
can't make  conversation.

in such a group
should smack of good short words
and some stellar breathing runs,
clear sounds, short sharp shocks,
to echo Pink Floyd.

However, I see no sign
that someone would fathom
or whisper my unplumbed depths
or mount efforts
to uncover my unguessed
It goes with words
and a few sighs
and, I am sure, could be
played quite happily.
Just...not sure that skin
would glow
 and eyes flash,
 you know?

So thanks for the invite,
wish the members well,
am sure  they will draw out
each  penchant for groans,
greet the fine
curving slashes they pray.
I will continue to float
ungrouped, unspurred
uncloven, yet to raise
my candle to any planned hurt.

If you want  to grab me,

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Not A Thing You Can Easily Move

My grandma (mother's mother) died on March 3, 1988. My grandpa (mother's father) died on March 5, 1985. I keep on thinking of how they would have reacted to Netanyahu's statement, "America is a thing you can easily move."

Not A Thing You Can Easily Move

Frannie Zellman

To the memories of my grandma and grandpa, Helen Glaser (1900-March 3,1988) and James Glaser (1899-March 5,1985)

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I fought for the rights of workers.
I wrote, I marched, I spoke.
I testified. I planned.
I grew up in the slums of Philadelphia,
Mr. Netanyahu,
not the suburbs, as you did.
Gangs threw my papers
in the street.
America was a road littered
with the hopes of poor kids.

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I fought for women, especially
poor women
to have a voice, to have more ways
to control their lives.
When the landlords tossed poor tenants
into the streets,
we grabbed their furniture
and shouldered it back up each step.
America was a street blocked
by threadbare couches and hard chairs,

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I told the powerful
that they would be called
to account.
At the HUAC hearings in 1956,
I asked the Chair
if he had ever been poor.
He wouldn't answer.
America was a room swathed
in righteous privilege.

All my life, Mr. Netanyahu,
I walked up and down
our stairs and sidewalks
calling on people to vote.
Too many, it seemed to me,
got their way through
dollars, not decisions.
America was a green haze
of comfortable favors.

And so you see, Mr. Netanyahu,
my grandparents both claimed America
after mind-breaking, soul-bruising,
heart-bloody work.
Their acts of strength
and word grew their hopes
and replaced their dreams.
They and their colleagues
built something of stony beauty
harder than flowers
and angrier than sunsets.

We who care love it
only after we cry,
 as they did, silently.

So be warned:
It shall not be moved.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Time Since

The Time Since

To the Memory of My Mom (July 31, 1928 - September 2, 2015)

Six months.
The hardest thing
is trying to figure out
what I am
in the space
where you were
and are not.

It does help, however,
when you awake
in my dreams.