Naomi Ruth Lowinsky


C:\Users\rodica\AppData\Local\Temp\author photo .jpg 





This series of poems is written in response to



Emma Hoffman’s paintings.








I See You in the Foothills, Oma



Da ist keine Stelle die dich nicht sieht

There is no place that does not see you



I wear you like a necklace with one lost stone

I feel you in my bones, in the slow dance of the vineyards

In the violet hills, how they meander, to the edge of sky—

In the bed and breakfast mirror your nose is my nose—

What brings you back now, with your cranky stomach


Complaining all night of too rich food? 

I am with my husband—he manages maps

Schedules, reservations, while you carry on—

In English, in German—about shades

Of mauve, of purple, of green


He has taken me away for my birthday.  I’m as old as you were

When I was the age of my grandson.  He’s 10.

And I suddenly need to know—what became of your spirit—

When your husband who managed visas, investments

Who got most of the family out of Europe


Dropped dead one afternoon, the smell from the ovens

Fresh in his nose, and me just born?  You were so new

To this far west—so far from all you knew—

With 25 years still to go—vineyards to paint

And mountains and me. How is it I never asked?


Your daughter, my mother, can no longer find her way

From yesterday to tomorrow.  Who will complete the story?

I wear you like a necklace with one lost stone

There is no place on earth where you don’t see me

No place where I don’t feel you in my bones…





Portrait of the Girl I Was, Age 14


Although I don’t enjoy

Looking at you—a clogged life

In a white dress, holding red flowers—


(Oma must have thrust

Those blood blooms

Into your haunted hands)


Although you sit there—deer eyed

Ready to bolt—Cossacks will gallop through

Nazis will kick in the door—


Although the music’s

gone underground, and you’ve lost

That wild horse you used to ride


Although you’ll dream

Of spitting broken teeth

Into the road for years


Before you learn

The sanctity

Of your own red room


Although I’ve never noticed

This before—behind your back

In a far corner


Of canvas—there is an open

Window, a hint

Of radiance, a glimpse


Of green trees—

You can’t see it yet, but

Oma has painted

Your way out…





Cuba, 1940


I’m here    

Footstep and breath

Real as the trees

Real as the archway they make

From shadow to glow

Real as my painting in oil

For your eyes


Trees are my rock and my roots
Trees are my silent angels

Will the ghosts ever find me?

Will they build their nests in these branches


As they did in Europe?


We are refugees from that room

With its single bare light bulb

Will our visas ever be granted?

Will our dead know where we’ve gone?


I’m here

Heartbeat and belly

Real as the woman I paint

Passing through shade into glow

Hungry for sun and the sea

And for you yet to be


I’m here

Belly and breath

Trees are my rock and my temple

Trees are my vigilant angels

And you     soon to be

Will you make your nest here?




When Trees Go Wild



They wander no man’s land

   With suspicious passports

      They clothe themselves in ghost fire

         Orange flames   green flames


They forget they belong to the ground

   They deny the skies

      They leap into waters where war lurks

          With crocodile teeth


If we ran we would lose our roots

   If we stayed we’d be chopped

      Into kindling

         For the mad man’s fire


If our spirits could rise and perch

   In the canopy     like jungle birds

      Like souls of a different persuasion

         Yoruba let’s say


We might dance ourselves into trance

   But be lost to our dead

      Forgotten by stones

         By bodies of water


When trees go wild

   They burn orange and green in water

      They dive in the dark where war lurks

         With crocodile teeth





Brown on Brown

Schreveningen, Holland, 1934


Brown is the color of ache

Brown and a touch of orange

Renders my Low Country brooding

In water color


Everything hangs in the air

Land water dikes

Somebody’s drifting house

My dead     my dread


Brown is the mother of longing

Brown is the mother of blood and its stains

Brown is this sepia daydream

This monochromatic mood


I sit by my window reflecting

On brown and its shades of pale

Watercolor won’t hold back the tide

Nor will the dikes


Only brown

And the slenderest brush I can find

Only my wistful

Sky reaching strokes


Say trees

Say roots

Say someday

Maybe leaves




Ghost Brother’s Complaint

Kassel, Germany 1930


Unseen in the wet morning grass

Unheard in the linden trees

Not smelt by the dog

Not hailed by the raucous parrot


Nor felt on the curve of your cheek

Little sister

Though I glower and glare

In the studio air


Our mother pays me no mind

Nor the holy flares of the sun

She’s dragged you in here

To be painted


She’s fixated on your living flesh

Your blue blouse

How your eyes go dark and inward

To the place where I am not


Your laughter

Your running footsteps

Have not been heard in this house

Since the day I never came back


From the snows.  I know—

I was your galloping joy ride

Your hide and go seek in the garden

Who’d toss you on high


To the sky—

Then why

Does our mother

Who knows there are other realms


Refuse to know me

Though I dance in the breeze

Though I glitter and soar

Though I rattle the windows



And brush the hairs

On your arms

There is no way out of sorrow

Or the shadow that falls


On your face—

Much worse is yet to come—

But you’ll hold still, little sister

In the brush strokes


Of our mother—

While the life you live

Does a circle dance

Until  one day your daughter—


Now a grandmother—

Pulls your sad young face

Out of the closet

And gives me





Only the Snow Knows

Kassel, Germany 1931


There are no more tears

Only the broken trees

Only the neighbor’s house in horror

At its cold dead load


Only the snow knows

Where they’ve gone

Into what black mouth


Everything is agitated

Agitated windows

Agitated walkways

Agitated brush strokes


Spirit leaks into earth


Only the snow knows

Where they’ve gone

My sons in the land beyond sun


Everything is torn

Limbs from trees

Heart from house

An agony of oil paint

Gouges the sky


Only the snow knows

The treachery of mountains

There are no more tears





A Grandmother’s Self Portrait Speaks


Flesh is my home.

Flesh, brief as it is, my consolation

I could have painted blue horses, gone galloping off

Into the unseen.  I could have rendered the wings

Of violins or dazzled your eyes with blazes of geometry


Even my own Corinth, who taught me to follow the light

Went wandering off  into inner life

breaking it off with Rembrandt, Franz Hals, Courbet

He told me my work was

Overly domesticated.  Why not?

Given that I was to lose

A daughter, two sons, a home, a country …


Flesh is my sanctuary

And my communion with you—

generations after the paint has dried—

you pull me out of the closet

you need to see me again—

to mirror my fierce focus

the unbearable set of my mouth

the North Sea light as it falls on my face

the loosening skin of my neck


What aspect of you do you seek in my eyes?


Notice my palette is dark

I use light and shadow

To define my decline

Behind me divided worlds—the hard edge

of studio wall, and the glow

from the unknown side—that blue green whimsy

where breeze stirs the curtains         

where your eyes go…

































 Naomi Ruth Lowinsky has written poems since she was a girl.  She was inspired to follow her muse by her grandmother, Emma Hoffman, who was a fine painter.  As a child she watched her grandmother, whom she called “Oma,” paint landscapes, portraits, still lifes.  She listened to her stories about all she had lost¾ three of her six children, her country and her way of life.  She was a German Jew who fled from the Nazis with her family¾first to Holland, then Cuba, and eventually to America.


Oma still haunts Naomi Ruth Lowinsky’s poems. This series of poems is written in response to Emma Hoffman’s paintings.


Lowinsky’s poems have been published in many anthologies and literary magazines.  Her most recent book of poems is called “adagio & lamentation.”  She is also the author of a memoir about her creative life, “The Sister from Below: When the Muse Gets Her Way.”  She is the winner of the Obama Millennium Award for poetry.  She is a Jungian analyst, and poetry editor for Psychological Perspectives, the journal of the Los Angeles Jung Institute.


She blogs at

Articles similaires