Category Archives: Ruth Z. Deming

Mammogram

MAMMOGRAM

Ruth Z. Deming

To please Dr Cynthia
I said I’d get a
mammogram, controversial
though it is.

The Mary Sachs Breast
Center right around the
corner fit me in
like a lost library book
assuming its rightful
place on the shelf.

Judy was my dark-haired
host. The all plastic
machine was a marvel
with Plexiglass shelves
that lovingly bore
down on each breast.

They seem to get bigger
with time, I said, making
polite conversation, to her
no reply

I helped her lay each
pliable fish-like
appendage on the
shelf, arm clasping
balance beam
and chin held high
like a Tolstoy princess

Then held my breath
one two three
one two three
until Judy, who
smelled like
Febreze, told me
to relax, like a
stiff soldier, and
finally bade me go
home.

Come round to my
house on the upward
slope of Cowbell Road.
No one feels my breasts
anymore. Let’s get
acquainted. What kind
of foods shall I
pleasure you with.
Perhaps later on
you’ll make me feel
like a college kid
on my first date.

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MISSING BLUEBERRIES

DSCN1397MISSING BLUEBERRIES

Ruth Deming

You wouldn’t happen to know
a Miss Regina Ziegler would you?
I’ve been studying her handwriting
to figure out her first name,
I’m no cryptographer so
can’t rightly tell if it’s Regina
or Rina, but it’s a mighty regal
“R” she writes, with the sureness
of a woman who loves poetry and
may indeed write some herself.

It was Miss Regina, as I’ll call her
who once owned my sole
book of poetry by Robert Frost,
the cover of which states
“The Pocket Book of
Robert Frost’s Poems.”

Leave it to me to check where
apostrophes go. They ought to
get it right, don’t you think,
the editors, all dead now, I’d imagine,
as is the poet himself.

Regina herself met a terrible end
and not meaning to keep you in
suspense, bear with me a little, while
I prattle on.

With a number two pencil
Miss Regina has lightly
underlined some phrases,
not many; like me, she probably
doesn’t believe in marring a book.

“Plain language and lack of
rhetoric” is where her pencil
first touched the book. Then a
lapse of fifty pages until
pencil, resting in her mouth,
dared come down again
“For to be social, is to be
forgiving.”

And there we have it. But
half a dozen phrases underlined,
Miss Regina, a spinster school marm who
taught in the one-room school house,
a converted barn with only eleven
children, from blue-eyed Mary nearing
pubescence, to tough Frankie who
begged his daddy let him come and
learn instead of mowing hay and
minding the cows.

These were the children she never had.
Did she read them Frost? You bet she
did. They loved the one about the blueberries
“as big as the end of your thumb, real sky-blue and
ready to drum in the cavernous pail of the first
one to come!”

And that goodly Miss Regina had brought silver buckets
of blueberries and passed them around after class with
another bucket of cold milk she brought from a neighboring
farm. There were farms in those days. More than
you can count. Just like there are shops today
teetering on what used to be farm fields.

She also read them a few poems about the stars up above
in Heaven. Where we would all go when life has had
enough of us. The eleven children made sure they
wished upon a star every night, their little heads
pointed upward, hands clasped together in prayer
as their eyes skipped merrily across the sky.

Were those owls they heard hooting in the distance?
And the so-dark sky, a different flavor indeed
from the gay one they saw in the morning.
She introduced them to the wonders
of the world. Would it ever leave them? On their
death beds would they think, “It’s been a wonderful
life?”

One winter it was too cold to walk the deep snow
to get to school. Miss Regina turned on her coal stove,
glanced at the glowing coals, black as the night sky,
warmed her shivering hands and went back to
bed to keep herself warm. She heard the explosion
first, a sound like a million church bells going off
at once.

Was that her last thought as she catapulted, quilts
nightgown and all, from her straw mattress, floating up
up up in the air
like a bread rising in the oven?
Oh, they would miss her all right.
And I will miss her most of all for it’s
time to mourn her once again,
to think of Miss Regina and
the spell she bound. In her memory,
I’ll eat some blueberry yogurt
the kind where the cream
rises to the top.

Danielle’s Dog Tags

Danielle’s Dog Tags

Ruth Z. Deming

 

A good postal team at the
19040 post office in
Hatboro, Pennsylvania, so-named
for the hats they made
in the American revolution
thousands perished but are
forgotten in this little town
no one’s ever heard of.

How quickly we forgive
the Brits, we slurp their
tea in fine Royal Albert
China, pinkies lifted

Danielle of the page boy
shining black hair I have
never seen at the post office
her short sleeved blue blouse
reveals a pair of jangling
dog tags upon her breast
A loved one, I am certain,
has died in one of our wars
most likely in the Afghan or Iraq
where we send our black men
to die instead of cherishing
these descendents of our
“peculiar institution” and
helping them become
architects or doctors or wealthy
entrepreneurs, it’s
only right

Danielle tells me
with a shy smile
her gleaming
teeth white as a
pearl necklace
that he is a victim
of another one of
America’s peculiar atrocities.
Her black brother was
shot
shot dead
by a sniper’s fire
not overseas
but here in Philadelphia
in what we call a
drive-by shooting
black turning on black,
cannibalization

“The worst day in my
mother’s life,” she smiles
her eyes brimming
like a river overflowing
Thirty-five. His whole life
before him. Danielle’s dog tags
clink together
a Hail Mary full of
grace, or
chimes on the old
clock tower tolling
twelve times
lest we forget
lest we forget.