I Feel You Everywhere Now
by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Married Fifty-Two Years | The Beach Where We Met

Sarah’s Ashes | Emptying Her Apartment | Tinnitus

Married Fifty-Two Years

Breathless, I return from Great Neck Chemists to tell you 
that after taking care not to trip on pavement cracks, 
on acorn nuts and the spiked balls of the sweetgum, 
a golden retriever bounded at me.
“Sorry, sorry,” his owner sang out. 
The dog reared up, pounded his weighty paws 
on my shoulders. I tottered back, 
but my fall was broken
by a high school boy about the age you were
when we first met.  

                                           I find you 
stretched out in the lounge chair, shirtless, wearing 
only cargo shorts. I well up at the graying vee of tendrils
on your narrow chest, your gangly legs with ropy veins, 
mushroom cap knees, your bald head, the patch 
of whiskers you missed on your cheek
because of your cataracts. 
You reach for my arm. I feel the slight tremor 
in your left hand. 
Let the gods dressed as beggars come to our door
as they came to the couple in Ovid’s tale. 
I will feed the gods kasha varnishkes, 
thickly sliced nova lox, cinnamon babka. 
Let’s give them our IRA, 401(k), social 
security checks, the use of our king-sized bed. 
In gratitude, may they grant us the same wish 
they granted Baucis and Philemon—
to die at the same moment, transformed 
into willows, our roots entwined, deep. 

The Beach Where We Met

It wasn’t like this brownish, gritty sand
lapped by the flat water of the Long Island Sound
rippling in concentric circles. 
The beach where we met had sand fine and white
as confectioner’s sugar and mountainous waves
that rose in foamy tiers and smashed against jetties 
so craggy and dangerous that we couldn’t resist
climbing them. The jetties of this beach
are piled rocks, rounded and tame as turtlebacks. 

At the beach where we met, the ocean churned up
seaweed that braceleted our ankles and wrists.
On the surface of the Sound floats 
leaf fall from trees hugging the horizon. 
Whoever heard gull-cry mixed
with sparrow song and honks of Canadian geese?
Canadian geese, you tell me, mate for life.

On the beach where we met, piping plovers
skittered toward the tide and back.
Gooney birds, we called them. 
Oh, look, I say. Dragonflies are stitching the sky,
and over there, a monarch just landed
on the head of a Queen Anne’s lace.

Sarah’s Ashes

(for my art teacher, Sarah Pincus, 1912–1989)

No one told me where your ashes were 
scattered. Your apricot flesh, raspberry hair
all devoured in flame. No grave to cool 
          Were your ashes strewn off the dock where 
we sketched rocking skiffs, stilted 
shacks, your straw hat casting a shadow-veil 
over half your face? 
Were your ashes at the house 
in Provincetown where you painted pink-toned bathers
dappled in lavender and green?
          Were they 
scattered in Washington Square Park
as a remembrance of your years in Greenwich Village
          where you sold your paintings in cafés, and survived
on a gruel of cornstarch and water or sometimes 
spaghetti sprinkled with cheese until 
you got the grant from the WPA?
You gave me a beer-stained Max Bodenheim
poem that he clothespinned to a string and signed
with his shaky hand, then sold to you for a buck
in Three Steps Down on West 8th
and that note from Martha Graham thanking you
for your India ink sketches of her, 
          and those two
tiny ivory Buddhas given you
by a Japanese doctor and the love letters
he sent you from the internment camp after
the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 
          Were your ashes 
scattered in your studio in Far Rockaway, that one night 
crackled and sizzled with fire, taking most 
of your paintings with their shifting planes and simultaneous 
points of view? 
          I feel you everywhere now, still 
dressed in your long skirts and peasant blouses, composed of edgeless 
wind-stirred notes. When I stand before a work of art, I sense your silent 
concentration like a tide coming from your high 
forehead, rippling into mine. 
          Your black-and-white 
photo hangs in my front hallway. People ask, 
“is that your mother?” I say yes. 

Emptying Her Apartment

I come upon it in the third drawer of her sewing cabinet, 
her cigarette lighter with a mechanical pencil at the end,
bought in 1934 with three months of tips 
from the fancy barbershop where she did manicures
for men who wore diamond rings on their sausage fingers. 
I touch the cool barrel and its green band 
where iridescent shapes float like lilies on a black lake. 
“The silver is rhodium,“ she’d told me. 
“Ronson. Ronson, rhodium,” I chanted.
I heard the sst, sst, sst when she struck the flint that sparked
a wavering flame and cast a Raphael-like glow 
on her powdered face. 
As I twist the tip and watch the fine lead descend, 
words seem to write themselves 
in her whispery script: 
Ronson, roses, rhododendron.
She puffed rings for me 
to put my finger through like the O of wonder 
when, for a moment, I wore a smoky ring. 


I hear a buzz that can’t be a bee
in this Northeast winter
when bees cluster
about their queens. 
This buzz cannot be a fly 
when flies in winter sleep
in cracks and crannies 
to wake in spring
and lay their eggs on compost heaps.
The ringing I hear cannot be church bells
when my double-paned windows
are weather-stripped, shut tight
against the icy winds, and I live
two miles from St. Aloysius.
Are the cricket chirps I hear
outside or inside my ear?
Am I crickets to think that males
are rubbing leathery front wings 
together, a come-hither to female crickets? 
Will I hear a fly 
as I die or the buzz 
of bees or be 
serenaded by crickets 
or will a bell toll for me?

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s novel, Miriam the Medium was published by Simon & Schuster in 2004. She has published essays in The New York Times (“Lives”) and Newsweek. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary magazines, such as Moria, Streetlight Magazine, Grub Street Review, and Frontier Poetry. Shapiro currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension. You can find out more about her life and work at rochellejshapiro.com.

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