Missing Barbara Today. I need to send her a card.

Monday, November 16th, 2009 by Rachel

I don’t know why I never thought to get her to autograph my copy of Junk City.


The Coat
by Barbara Anderson


The first time I noticed the blue
on the white snow was the day
my mother found a twenty dollar bill
on the way to the subway
and cautioned me to walk always
with my head to the ground
if I ever expected to find anything
in this world for free.
It was the first day my bather wore
the enormous brown overcoat,
all he had left of his dead brother,
the coat I was afraid of
because I believed my father
walked everywhere like a ventriloquist
wisecracking to his fat unfunny brother
like they always had
on Sundays around the kitchen table
while my mother basted the chicken
or peeled the potatoes.
It was New Year’s day, 1961,
the upside down year I turned over
& over again on the cover of Mad Magazine
while my father got drunk
on the subway and joked & cried
for his brother who he would
never seen again, not for Auld Lang Syne,
not for all the coming emptiness
of 1961 which turns over & over
like my uncle’s inscrutable riddle
about the weight of gold or feathers
that I had to answer
before he’d give me a silver dollar
or a chocolate kiss.
On the first day of 1961
my father cried on the subway
as my mother took the whole family
to see Natalie Wood & Warren Beatty
fall in love in a small town in Kansas
in a time my mother said she could remember,
the brief good years before the Depression.
She was my age then, thirteen.
On January 1, 1961, it was so cold
on the balcony of the Loews Valencia
my mother allowed my father
to give me a sip of the brown liquor
and then another & another
as Natalie Wood ran hysterical,
from a classroom, after losing her first love
and reading a passage
from Intimations of Immortality,
words about loss and strength
I memorized as the theatre went dark again
and we all rode home a little drunk
& silent in the artificial midnight
lighting of the IRT where I wrote my first poem
and my mother counted her change like feathers or gold
and my father fell asleep on her shoulder
snoring with his ghostly brown coat wrapped around them.

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