Art that opens conversation...

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Selected Poetry

Flu Vaccine

Because I have been persistent

and aggressive;

because I have been chummy, chatty and charming;

because I have mentioned the names of Doctors Bigshot

and Poohbahboobah;

because I have pleaded, let my voice   

waver at Desperation Cliff;

because English is my native tongue

I know

to phone this Friday morning;

to bypass the message that recommends I call


to press 3, the live human voice

and inform said voice:

I know 2000 vials of vaccine have arrived.

I present credentials -

chronic this-and-that, upcoming danger,

possible hush-don’t-speak-its-name. 

The human voice checks. Corroborates.

Finds that Yes,

my name is on the playing grid to compete

against two-year-olds, mothers with AIDS,

my friend with emphysema to win

Most Desperate 2000.

The chosen will be called,

appointments made.

The others, she’s not sure, maybe

a letter will come by mail.

This same morning in Fallujah


mothers with AIDS,

someone’s friend with emphysema,

a woman like me - chronic this-and-that,

upcoming danger, possible

hush-don’t-speak-its-name -

hide from election prizes

tossed from the sky.

All this interrupts my lessons.

I am studying kindness of heart,


I have taken a sacred vow

to ban the word “evil” from my mouth.

But words, too, persevere, pry open the jaw.

There it is, caught between my teeth

where my tongue can’t dislodge it.

from Blind Spot (2006)

My Grandmother Hated the Neighbors

Every Saturday morning, in 3-inch heels

and make-up, her dress hemmed

to the knees, she walked up the driveway

and –– right in front of them –– started up

her car, then drove to the beauty shop

where, beneath the hairdryer,

that chanting wouldn’t be heard.

Was it just to humiliate her

that they prayed outside

wearing long coats and velvet hats,

their sideburns curled like girls,

davening their mumbo jumbo

like it was the Middle Ages

and we lived in a filthy shtetl?

Or, just to shame us all

in front of the goyim

that they grew their beards

untamed — like they wanted

someone to yank at them? Pull them

down to their knees and her

–– an American –– with them.

Blind Spot

All poems copyright Susan Eisenberg.

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