by GENE GRABINER
for the Rosenbergs
June 19, 1953
We lived in Parkchester the summer they burned
those other Jews.
Mom stuck to the radio
fear in her face.
The neighbors spoke softly.
Dad came home worried—
they’d gone once to a commie camp
so the Senate might get them too
and the angel of death passed over our house.
In July the Times said a mother
plunged from a fifth story window,
infant daughter in her arms;
a doctor and his wife were found dead
after drinking “poison cocktails.”
Riding through the Midtown Tunnel,
Harvey from across the street warned:
pull up your socks,
the water might rise
and we’ll all drown.
One day in August, Harvey,
who we thought had no elastic in his socks
made the front page,
shot his wife
and two sons
piled up on one side
of the bathroom door,
Harvey on the other
doing the government’s work.
by GENE GRABINER
When the slim disease came to Sing-Sing,
the hacks would shove in dinner
on metal trays with brooms:
a quarantine shuffleboard
He had blotches on his face, or his teeth rotted
or maybe he was queer, with a strange cancer—
worked in the kitchen
So when other cons
burned his cell, he got administrative segregation,
was sent to the hospital—
out of the narrow alleys
of their lives
One time, this lifer met with the counselor,
filled out a form,
handed back the pen
She just sat there,
pen untouched on the table
When the slim disease
came to Clinton, hacks in the yard
wore goggles, gas masks, gloves
In the beginning
AIDS fingered eight thousand when it came inside
by GENE GRABINER
At Jefferson’s home, the slave quarter
foundations along Mulberry Row
from his backyard, the Winding Lawn.
Cook-slave Edithe Fossett’s
cave-room held eight of her children.
It swims under my feet on the South Terrace.
Our docent, who doesn’t mention those places
must be prompted by a question.
The great man is buried
in the fenced-in family plot
guarding the memory
of the Declaration’s author.
At the parking lot a plaque
by an open dirt patch
framed by a wood rail fence:
[s]lave cemeteries were the first black institutions
Next day, late morning at the hotel.
Most guests are gone, beds get tossed.
The familiar cart with towels, refuse bags, cleaning tools.
Briefly whisking in,
and out of the empty rooms—housecleaning,
two black ghosts, this man and this woman at work.
Gene Grabiner’s poetry has appeared in Rosebud, Ilya’s Honey, Blue Collar Review, J Journal, In Our Own Words (ezine), Earth’s Daughters, HazMat Review, and other journals and anthologies. He was a runner-up in the William Stafford Award Competition, has been featured at the Jackson Heights Poetry Festival, in New York City, has read at IFPOR in Toronto, and was a semi-finalist at the “Discover”/The Nation national poetry competition, Unterberg Poetry Center, also in New York City. Grabiner lives in Buffalo, New York and is a SUNY Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus.
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