Norma Ketzis Bernstock

Ode to Flesh

Marilyn Monroe
taught me
the ways
of flesh
flaunted beside
my skinny
school girl shape,
flesh as soft
as sin.
She slipped into
my psyche
as if she were
a song
with bits
of truth
and lies.
I thought of
abundant flesh
that spill
like lava flow.
I thought of
arms as
beefy slabs
and chubby
butts with
beauty marks,
spotted skin,
skin veined
and scarred
squeezed in,
painted flesh
worn out.
My wild mind
by pulpy,
to be
kneading it.

What We Remember

Now when my father can't even recall his wife's name,
he still remembers that salami is his favorite food.
I see us all at Rockaway Beach,
the stained paisley quilt squeezed between
rented umbrellas and striped canvas chairs,
Beach 35th Street, close to the knish and hot dog stand
even though we never bought anything.
But mostly it's the scent of salami
and fresh seeded rolls that stays,
sandwiches thrown together early on a Sunday morning
when Dad awoke to a sultry sun and declared it a beach day!
Although Mom complained that she'd nothing for lunch,
we always had a Hebrew National salami in the fridge.
At times like this, Dad would volunteer
to pick up rolls at the bakery
while Mom scurried around the house
in search of the plaid, insulated beach bag
and the blue Coleman jug to be filled with Koolaid
or some other sweet concoction,
and always a bag of over-ripe peaches and plums for dessert.
And the ride home in the car, salt-water hair
pasted back by the breeze,
damp swimsuits with sand digging into skin,
unable to breath deep from the salt in our lungs,
not knowing then that the taste and smell of
salami and rolls with seeds
would outlast the memories of a fifty year marriage.

Why I Live Where I Live

Meet me on Old Mine Road
near Bevans Church and
I will tell you about
that snowy February day
on the gravel trail
near Van Campen's Inn,
air, ice fresh,
rock-strewn fields
like whipped cream swirls,
the sounds of foraging
mice, snow crystals
shifting in afternoon sun,
the click of a Nikon
as we pushed knee-deep
through drifts
shooting crumbling
barns and shadows
cast by barren limbs
in late day light.

I will tell you about
the lone house near
the river's edge
warm with yellow light,
how wisps of smoke
like wind-blown kite tails
danced above a slanted roof,
how a memory of one day
can change a life.

About the Author

Norma Ketzis Bernstock lives in Milford, Pennsylvania where she is a member of the Upper Delaware Writers Collective. Her poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies including Connecticut River Review, Paterson Literary Review, Lips, Stillwater Review and the anthology, Paterson, the Poets' City. Her most recent chapbook, Don't Write a Poem About Me After I'm Dead, was published in 2011 by Big Table Publishing.

A first collection of poems appeared in her chapbook, What We Remember, the title poem about a father who suffers from dementia. Poet/journalist Charles Johnson writing in the Home News Tribune described her poetry as “…linguistically colorful…” referring to her poignant and entertaining narratives of family life, marriage and life after divorce.

Her previous achievements include a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts and recognition by the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards.

(click here to close this window)