Anna Halberstadt

 

 

(Lithuania, Russia, USA)

 

 

 

OH, WHERE IS BEAUTY IN OUR LIVES

 

on this grey rainy morning

with rain whipping grey buildings

like a dominatrix a fat crying

investment banker on his knees

licking the borderline psychotic dominatrix’s

spiked Doc. Marten boot .

Rains spits on you like the sadistic girl on

the whimpering banker

imagining she spits on her stern critical

Turkish father who thinks American  girls

who wear lipstick the color of earth and blue nail polish

who dress in ripped pantyhose

and blow their boyfriends in cars

are all whores.

 

Oh, where is beauty in our lives

where is it hiding from us

on a day like this one

of rain and soot and dirt and aching joints

and thoughts of lost loves

and opportunities

and mind cataloging rejections

and miss-communications in vain

and friends’ shameful indifference

and your own avoidance of dealing with more  insanity

outside of our  office walls.

 

Oh beauty, where are you?

And you, the flirt– goddess with rosy-colored fingers

and taste for young men and women

and you, the curly haired naked youth

standing and waiting at the Florentine plaza

on a hill overlooking Arno

and you–

a white marble amputee beauty

standing alone

amidst noisy crowds in the middle

of the Louvre?

Where have all of you gone?

And you, my lost love with salt and pepper curls

falling on your forehead

and you, my  dear friend with your infectious laugh

and love of tarte tatin and chocolate

your hospitality and kindness

even in the face of death?

 

Oh, where is beauty in our lives on a day of sorrow

of fear or worry about the future

day of hypochondriacs and manic-depressives

of the shy and the insecure

of ugly or just unsure

of themselves

of twice divorced and dumped by their lovers

of addicts alcoholics compulsive gamblers

kleptomaniacs binge eaters

women practicing retail therapy

while husbands are cheating with best friends

secretaries  and just acquaintances.

 

Of, where is beauty in the  lives

of the mourning widows and widowers

sixty five year old orphans

( when your mama leaves you

you still don’t know what to do)

who  will ever  call  you again

to know you have landed safely

or will listen to your steps on the staircase

late at night

to be able  fall asleep.

Oh where is God’s mercy and forgiveness

in lives of parents

who lost their sons and daughters

to drugs and booze?

Where are you, the beautiful shining angel

To stop  Abraham’s knife?

 

Oh, where is beauty in our lives, when we most need it ?

 

 

 

A DAY DISGUSTING

 

. . . like an aftertaste of rotten fish

like spoiled milk in

your coffee,

ruined perfectly strong java

flakes of radioactive

fallout in your cup.

I try to talk to you, God

in my imperfect layman’s

language

do you ever hear me

over there,

above the clouds?

Beauty will save the world

Dostoyevsky wrote.

I am looking for you in vain

today.

Grey sky

construction noise

garbage piles.

Fruit flies flying

out of my salad

at the News Bar.

News – what news

any good news

anyone?

The plane that crashed

on the way from Egypt

had Russian newlyweds

and children in it.

A charter, probably, dirt cheap,

now people in gloves search

for human bones in Sinai dust.

All in the name of you,

the old man with a white beard

above clouds.

Take off your glasses

look at us!

Religions and parties

are all divided

into decimal fractions.

Most of us don’t understand

or forgot the difference

between prophets

and their agendas.

I will focus on what I know:

this patient needs medication

to sleep and get up

and function

to kiss her kids in the morning

to put one foot in front of the other

on the way to work.

It ‘s simple – get up,

wash up,

make your bed

organize your small world

and put one foot in front

of the other

buy a cup of strong fragrant coffee

and send your thanks

to the old man

in the pair of reading glasses.

Looking at you

I am a tiny fruit fly

out of your salad.

 

He smiles sheepishly

 

lowers his glasses like a train conductor

and says:

it’s OK, child,

 

have a nice day

 

continue

on your way.
 

 

 

AN EMBRACE

 

. . . like an answered prayer

like first breath

of a cool wind

from the ocean

after a scorching day.

An embrace

like the ancient meaning

of my name

which means God’s grace

in Hebrew,

your embrace.

 

Lethargic rainy

afternoon

 

drizzle behind

the office window

 

Separated parents

of a nine year old

plump

girl with blond

wavy hair

fighting over

the cost of her

upcoming communion

 

I put my foot down

to help them

stop tearing

apart

whatever’s left

from

what had brought

them together

to the point of oblivion

 

or rather –

extermination.

 

You are not here

not even there

not at the hand’s reach

distance is palpable

 

I light another office lamp

gathering stamina

to see the next patient

 

I need to do

something

something simple

something real

like go into

the bakery

at 16th street

to buy

something simple

something real

like a loaf

of what they call

100% percent

rye bread.
 

 

 

CONVERSION

 

August is slowly dying.

New York begins to shed

its summer colors,

down with pastels and flowers.

The blue of the sky

changes from cool

porcelain blue

to the deep blue shade

of plain wooden kitchen tables

and stools

from my childhood.

Broadway is still

swarming with tourists

and freshman students:

too voluptuous for the city

girls in too short shorts

on  well fed behinds

and boys in baseball caps,

shopping with their

blond anxious mothers in sweatshirts

silently disapproving of city

noise, dirt and looming from every corner

dangers to their offspring

glancing sideways

at a pair of disheveled

homeless

having a drunken argument

by McDonald’s.

Shrinks are still

vacationing ,

well-to-do analysts

that just recently discovered

immigration and multiculturalism

in their effort to adjust,

are still playing tennis

and  barbequing

in their Long Island

retreats.

The city is getting ready

to change colors

and turn into

its normal rainy noisy glorious

asylum of clad-in-black

inhabitants with gadgets

in leather studs purple hair

piercings torn jeans

polishing sidewalks

and rushing down

into the cavernous

antiquated subway.

 

 

 

A PRAYER FOR BETTER EFFICIENCY

 

Lithuania – country of two thousand lakes

and as many forests with Jewish remains

unmarked for the most part and vandalized.

So lucky to have been born

in this green and pristine collector of human bones

and  smashed in baby skulls

sight unseen  and unheard of in Soviet times.

As you approach the Western Wall in Jerusalem

your heartbeat turns into a metronome .

Minutes and hours of prayers

crumpled notes on lined paper

left for the Almighty in the gaps

between smooth ancient stones

condensed energy of human despair

mixed with hope

creates this aura of Presence.

Hey You there,

why are you always late

everywhere?

Elegant in black Satan

got to Litauen first in his Oppel Kapitan

In June of nineteen forty one.

Mephisto is more efficient!

 

 

 

HISTORY – AN ENDLESS GALLERY 

 

Let’s admit it – we learn shit from history

and what we try to explain

to our students

supervisees

children

they  will with certainty

repress

forget

uncover

recover

be in denial of

discus with their shrink

when you are dead

etc.

Don’t let sadness

tear your heart to pieces

let it rejoice in sunlight

on this June Sunday.

Take quiet pleasure

in recalling the goodness

of the stranger

who referred you

to Morris Black

the Jewish man with a beard

( a plaque with his name is on one of the trees

at University Place,

across the street from your office)

who had given you

your first American job.

Think of the  gentle

taxi driver

who brought

your pocketbook

left on the seat of his car

in a pouring rain

to your place

the following day.

Remember

your first

Christmas in Rome

the owner of

the beautiful  toy store

near Piazza d’Espagna

he looked in the eyes

of your nine year old son

who was

admiring the carriage

with cowboys

took the miserable

twenty nine mille lire

you had

and gave the luxurious thing

to bambino.

History – an endless

hall of funny mirrors

visitors wallowing

in distortions

that suit their needs

fat people laughing

at their reflections

in the skinny mirror

short ones enjoying extra inches

murderers

turn into martyrs

sinners into white sheep.

Delight

in watching the big spotted

cat carefully exploring

the mirror

in the cupboard

left  on the pavement

near the thrift shop.

The cat

unlike primates and dolphins

does not recognize

its reflection.

It looks with bewilderment

at his fluffy

spotted

white and black

bewhiskered twin.

 

 

 

 Ode to New York

 

My city, where I wasn’t born,

but the only one where I ever felt at home

July heat scrambling your brain.

My unsanitary, untidy and disorganized city

passersby paying little attention to one another

dressed down to slovenly uniforms

of tee-shirts and  torn shorts

beautiful women wearing  weekend

unmade-up faces

walking their poodles and terriers

a fat bearded guy,  like an Amish settler,

in a plaid shirt on a scooter

Sunday garbage bags on a cluttered sidewalk,

after the birthday brunch–

a foursome chatting at the entrance

to a French restaurant.

My city,

not ancient enough for a European

who grew up among medieval

forts and cathedrals.

You are still a teenager

less than three hundred years of age.

Your waters are choppy and not as blue

as the Mediterranean in the middle of summer,

you are not bothered by constant construction

obstructing traffic,

your inhabitants are a cosmopolitan mix or races,

sexes and trans-nationalities.

You are not showing off your gilded domes

and cake-like post-modern  buildings

like the center of Moscow.

A ferry slowly  crawls

from  Battery Park to Staten Island

tourists full of beer are snapping

the lady with the torch

who promised shelter

to all the tired and the poor.

Elegant white-winged  yachts

are crossing the bay

under the constructivist bridges.

At night my beloved Chrysler building

will turn into an art-deco

glittering  brooch,

couples will sit in Washington square

listening to a pianist playing Beethoven

on the portable piano

among old English elms and poplar trees,

holding hands.

 

 

 

RED ANEMONES

 

Angry-dog white lights of cars

coming towards us

from the mouth

of the highway

ATMEXXONOILSEARS

HACKENSACKUMC

INTERNATIONALFOODWAREHOUSE.

You and me

strangeness of being together

in the house.

Now warm red lights

in front of my bus

are leading us out

of the conundrum

of stuckness

on the crossroads.

Red hot lipsticks of lights

ahead of us

shimmering

in the black sea

of the suburban night.

Distance growing between

the house and the apartment

you and me.

A thin wireless wire

connects

two red pulsing sea anemones

we are not strangers

in this humid

illuminated

red and white

night.

 

 

 

RIVERHEAD

 

A windy day

waves the color of seaweed

dunes overgrown with bushes

with fresh slightly bitter smell

familiar from sun tanning

on a cool day in Palanga.

There you kept warm

hiding from the wind by

pressing yourself to the bottom

of the chalice formed

by the dunes overgrown with the same,

Just smaller, bitter smelling bushes.

Running out and diving into the waves

water the same temperature as air

or slightly warmer.

Shivering after the swim

and then gradually warming up

in a crudely woven sweater

happy, born anew

at your old age of fifteen.

This minimalist landscape

grey windy skies

pieces of dry wood

beach paraphernalia-

smooth pebbles, clean white shells

horseshoe crabs crawling under

a huge stone

anxious gulls shrieking

is closer to your Northern heart

than the illustrated journal

of the Caribbean

with its perfectly blue balmy water

lacquered palm trees and rhododendrons,

Its beauty excessive

like Sophia Loren’s voluptuous tits and ass.

My last meal should be a poor man’s breakfast-

a slice of Lithuanian black bread

a hard boiled egg and a piece of

fat and just slightly salty Baltic herring,

sitting on the shore

looking at cold seaweed colored waves

changing to opalescent grey

of fish scales

and a small whale’s back moving Eastward

on a late September day.

(…)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 

____________________________________________

 

Bio
 

 

Anna Halberstadt has published many works in the field of psychology but has found poetry to be a more adequate and condensed way to expand on the same themes—growing up as a child of Holocaust survivors in a country still struggling with past trauma, living in three countries (Lithuania, Russia, U.S.), and immigration. She was a finalist in the 2013 and 2015 Mudfish poetry contests and in Atlanta Review 2015 contest. Anna was a semi-finalist for the Paumanok Poetry Award 2015. She was a winner of the International Merit Award in Poetry 2016 International Poetry Competition in Atlanta review.

Her creative work has been published by Alabama Literary Review, Alembic,   Amarillo Bay,  Atlanta Review, Bluestem, Caliban, Cimarron Review, Cosmonauts Avenue, East Jasmine Review, Forge, Good Men Project, Hawaii Pacific Review, Lilith, Literary Imagination, (Oxford Journals), Mudfish, OVS, St. Petersburg Review, Permafrost, Crack the Spine, Rio Grande Review, Jewish Women’s Literary Annual, Tiferet and Vilnius Review and translations of her poems in the Lithuanian journals Literatūra Ir Menas, Metai and Šiaurės Atėnai.  Her poetry in Russian was published in the international anthology “Nash Krym” (KRiK, New York) in the winter 2014, and in Russian journals Interpoezia, Children of Ra, Arion and Poets Journal. Her translations of poetry from Lithuanian had been published in St.Petersburg Review, Quarterly West, Springhouse Journal, Sinister Wisdom, and the National Translation Month. Her translation of poetry from Russian had been published in Axolotl, St.Petersburg Review and Interpoezia.

 Her collection of poetry “Vilnius Diary” was published in the Mudfish Individual Poet Series, Box Turtle Press, in the summer 2014. Her collection in Russian “Transit” was published in June 2016, by West-Consulting, Moscow. Poem “I Was Reborn” was nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2014 by the Mudfish journal. Anna is a member of the American PEN Center.

 

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