Erica Michaels Hollander practiced law for 33 years, taught speech communication, and is a trainer, educator and practitioner of psychodrama, sociometry and group psychotherapy. She also paints and occasionally sculpts.
She lives near Denver with ther husband and the World’s Foremost Dog.
Nakba, Great March of Return,
Back to Palestine. Seventy years
Since we had our houses, villages, lemon groves.
Early in the day, coffee in my cup,
Sunlight caressing our tabletop.
Burning tires, throwing stones, setting kites afire.
Green print Hamas headbands for jihad.
Gasoline fires, billowing black smoke, wailing voices.
Shouts, protest signs, anger boiling onto desert.
Sublime morning, light through scrub oak tops,
Red rocks backlit by slow rising sun,
Golden and transparent at their edges.
Rockets and drones lobbed to an enemy,
Hating, hating, hating, hopeless.
Tear gas grenades and bullhorns.
Easy talk on recent reads, kisses traded,
Laughter about goofy political news.
Bullets and rubber bullets fired into crowds,
Into our desperation, our poverty.
Warmth, pleasure, expectancies,
Gratitude for this life, this sunlight, this love.
You say there is a God who ordained this?
I have not earned these riches.
Open the door, start your adventure.
Escape the cursed confines of the everyday.
Quotidian be damned and left behind, I say.
Come away with me to sail the Carib seas.
Believe me, I am a true pirate of the Caribbean.
Leave your ordinary, humdrum habits where they live.
We’ll sail to St. John’s, Tortola, Peter Island, Norman Cay.
Sleep on the deck of the little sloop that’s sailed round the globe,
Beneath stars of other worlds glittering in indigo sky.
On a fine day you’ll sun bathe in the foot of the sail--
It’s a classic Kodachrome moment.
Can you hear the steel band playing, people singing?
Row ashore in that tiny dinghy to get provisions.
Stop for rum punch at the bar on the beach.
Watch the palm tops bending wildly, fronds rustling, in the wind.
Hold the tiller steady with your full weight in the gale.
Straight through the Windward Passage, then the Narrows.
Bury the gunwales in the whitecaps.
This is romance! I am inviting you!
Come away, come away!
Now go over the side, your face in the water,
Schools of blue tangs, shading navy to aqua as one.
Military striped sergeant majors move as a shoal.
Dusky damselfish hurries forth to protect her home of coral,
French grunt doing what they do best, glinting and grinding their teeth.
Through a thousand silverlings a large, solemn, dark red eye looks back,
Octopus glaring, hoping you just go away.
Hermit crabs lifting their repossessed shells, skittering to safety, shutting in.
A circle of squid suspended motionless, colorless, in sunlight below the surface,
Effortlessly moving off together in line, transparent sides ruffling.
Brittle stars, purple sea urchins, waving sea fans, elkhorn coral,
Parrotfish and box-shaped trunkfish, barracuda and dark angels,
Flame scallops dangling from the reef, siphoning, siphoning,
Elongate trumpetfish hanging vertical, so still, leopard rays flying soundlessly, ominous,
A sea turtle, bashful under its front fin beneath a vast brain coral.
Spiny West Indian fighting conch inching across the floor, pulled by its black velvet ruffled snail.
A second octopus gallops across the tall eelgrass sand flats.
Lookdown fish, silver jacks on the hunt, four-eyed butterflyfish, spotted groupers lurking,
A little jawfish smiles, showing his many babies in his mouth.
Black durgon outlined in blue-silver iridescence, wafting along as if there is no tomorrow.
Hurry. Open the door, come away with me. The islands and seas are calling.
“Rat” is a word that conjures
Filth, darkness, telling tales to trouble,
Scurrying, awful animal vermin.
I had no notion any different.
No idea of charm or endearing aspect.
I only knew what I’d been told.
Movie and TV characters,
Stereotypes of evil.
A tough rodent I ought to shun,
But I had a pack rat once,
Living under the warm corner of
My hot tub in the dogs’ run.
She did not ask my permission
To move in, nor did she
Announce her presence directly.
Instead, I had to discover her,
First suspecting her
From her habits of collection.
In the mornings I found
All kinds of things near the tub--
Sequins, buttons, beads,
Dog poop, ribbon, yarn, pencil ends,
An ever-changing array,
Depending on what the night
Had offered most recently.
She apparently had an eye
For fashion and glamour.
Well, maybe also scatophilia.
After all, why acquire dog poop?
I mean, you can see the reason
For beads, sequins and
Ribbons and lace, right?
But all that stuff was left
Just outside her front door,
As if she had it ready for
Her next trip to the airport.
If I cleaned her front step
She would just pile up
More new things the next night.
And I was worried for
Her safety. The dogs were
Not always civil. So
A “pest removal” service
Was called in on the case,
No kill, of course.
A steel trap was baited
And set near her primary zone
of operations by the tub.
Apple and peanut butter--
She was trapped
The first night.
I took her down to our
Neighborhood trash site
And set her free there.
Figured she could make
A good living on trash
And not get mauled by
My dogs at least.
But I was sorry to part with her--
Her fluffy whiteness, pink tail,
Stand out whiskers,
Rapidly whiffling nose and
Bright button eyes made
Me wish to travel with her.
Amazon—what is it?
Once a river in South America,
But what now? The supplier of all things.
You can get mink coats, star anise, fenugreek,
Parts to replace defunct, broken plumbing,
The newest chic electronic minders, ready
To spy on you 24/7,
Rubber liners for your beater car’s floors,
Anti-bark collars for dogs to spray them
With citronella, or shock them quiet,
Long out of print books, and tree ear fungus.
You just sign on and quickly run a search,
And, if you do not buy one right away
They remember that you looked, and remind
You next time in case perhaps you changed mind
Betimes. So convenient, so personal.
What I wish they‘d add to inventory--
Hard as it seems to imagine any
Thing at all missing—is new relatives.
What about a new uncle or an aunt?
Someone who agrees with me, convivial,
Who is quiet and well- behaved always.
Who does not argue while at the table.
Could you use a new in-law? Many of
Us might, I think, if only they could be
Found available for instant packing
And shipping by drone. Gladly would I pay
For express delivery if the river
Could just have them here by the holidays.