Two Poems 
by Iris Gersh

Catskills, the Fifties      
 
My sister and I swing on the hammock,
Ignoring our father’s curses
when a pot of corn boils over,
corn gathered that morning
from the field behind our backyard,
then husked in strong pulls.

Traffic whizzes by on Route 209--
from New York City, green and white buses
of Hasidic Jews, dressed dark, warm,
escaping to bungalow colonies; other buses
of Blacks in summer whites, cool,
en route to Peg Leg Bates Motel.

Prison workers across the road pick
different corn, other families’ meals,
and I imagine they watch us,
plan to get in our house at night
while we sleep.

Our luxury of self-imposed stillness,
my sudden fear never voiced,
is broken now by my mother’s call,
come inside, set the table,
leave your father alone.

I arrange lilac flowers
in a Chinese vase, soft order,
the only noise, dogs barking
at an itinerant on the road,
the setting sun passing his shadow
across the now empty hammock.
  
Sweeter Than

A candy wrapper floats out her window
into the trailer park.
Morning’s barely begun and her ex
has left for the factory.
She removes pink foam rollers
from her still-wet hair,
hums commercial jingles,
Smears on grape-flavored lipstick.

As she vacuums ashes from Pauley’s Camels,
she tries to remember what he last said,
if it even made any sense.

Later at the drugstore,
she pushes to the front of the line,
wants her sedatives bad.

After she is told to wait her turn,
she walks down the aisles,
opens tubes of lipstick.

She thinks what a treat it is, almost a thrill,
better than passion purple nail polish,
prettier than the picture of the Madonna
hanging crooked on her bedroom wall,
Sweeter than her ex-husband calling her honey
when he left this morning,
when she thinks he said he loved her,

Is to test each lipstick
on the fleshy bulge below her thumb.    

Iris Gersh grew up in the Catskills and has lived in Boston, Taos, Fort Lauderdale and Greece, and Albuquerque since 2005. Lover of the high desert, avid traveler, writer, and teacher, she has been published in several literary magazines and has written stories for cruiseship magazines. She is in The Packinghouse Review, Ekphrastic Issue. She has her MFA from Florida International University and has taught college classes in English Composition and Creative Writing. Since moving to NM, she has trained for eight jobs, sometimes more than once. She serves on the New Mexico State Poetry Society’s board and is part of Dime Stories and Fixed and Free readings.