Monday, November 29, 2010

PICTURE PERFECT

On Tazewell Avenue Southeast,
In Roanoke, some houses sit very high
Above the street under a bleak grey sky.
The trees are suffering and bent and leafless
And the air appears to be chillingly cold.

I wonder who climbs those long steep
Staircases to sit closer to that foreboding
Sky, where clouds cling together trying hard
Not to let thin patches of blue peek through
Because the view might be less mysterious.

© 2010 Marjorie Levine

Thursday, November 25, 2010

OPTICAL ILLUSION

On Edinburgh Street,
In Winnipeg, parts of the ground were still
Covered in snow under a crisp blue and
White sky that almost crackled with sharp
Definition and clarity.

It was there that I turned a corner
And stopped at a driveway and saw
In the icy cold snow carved footprints
That finally reached an almost
Tropically lighted home.

© 2010 Marjorie Levine

STANDING STILL

On Højdevangs Allé,
In Copenhagen, the flowers
That line the street
Are so fragrant that two
Women stopped walking.

They stood between two buildings
To look at small blue flowers on
One side while purple and white
Flowers flourished without moving
Behind them, on the other side.

© 2010 Marjorie Levine

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

THIS PENTIMENTO

Via Comandante Simone Guli,
In Palermo, a street so old that
High above wives still hang the wash
Out over the black iron balcony gates
Next to green leaves and blue and white
Striped curtains falling out of windows.

Once children stood there with mothers,
Waiting for fathers to return home.
The red flowers now sit high over sad
Graffiti and a tobacco shop which
Serves as some reminder not
To obscure the view.

© 2010 Marjorie Levine

Monday, November 22, 2010

NAKED AMNESIAC



DAWN ON SEVENTH AVENUE

There is a moment of quiet stillness
Right before sunrise, before light;
When a clammy breeze passes
Through Manhattan
And nothing moves, nothing stirs.
My pristine gown clings in the humidity
Like translucent second skin.

I awaken, not knowing if it is evening...
Or morning.
See my reflection
In the haze of this smoky cracked mirror:
This is all I have ever been,
And all I will never be.


SPINSTERS AND GHOSTS

It is murky and dim down the street
Where an unforgiving lonely spinster
Lives almost protected under blankets
Of carefully crocheted elixirs.

Here- where the ghosts of ancestors,
Sitting on the moss of invisible oaks,
Offer kind words of encouragement
Adding seconds to midnight
When dreams turn to film noir.

There- where starry-eyed children
With handsome fathers
Would spin until dusk... or dawn
On a forgotten Ferris wheel
Left behind by the carnival
After roadsters skidded home along
Slippery highways.

Now- up on a vacant fifth floor
The weariest is carefully coifed and rouged,
Sitting on the other side of gold brocade.
Bloodless thighs wrapped in an opaque afghan,
She is clinging to a teacup of cold chamomile.

Later, she shares ambrosia with gods.
Then in a final gesture,
She scrapes and scrapes the bottom of her dish
Searching for one last drop.


OBSESSIVE-COMPULSIVE DISORDER

I catch a subtle whiff of dried lavender
As the director, a wiry-haired widow,
Lights a cigarette and with a simple single
Gesture flicks the ashes into the palm of her
Fashionably tattooed and manicured left hand.

“There is no need to state your full name;
Just speak of the fear, the constant fear,”
The director coaches.
Behind us, the steady swing and flutter of
Gold diaphanous curtains as a clammy, familiar breeze
Passes through the old chartreuse theater.

We describe strange, tormenting, ritualistic behavior:
Washing, checking, hoarding... mental anguish so
Exquisite the weariest sheds mellifluous tears:
“I’ve shared ambrosia with gods;
At midnight, demons turn my terror to film noir.”

That evening, I dream of solitude
And the transmigration of souls...
One lonely soul wishing to return
Washed in amnesia, hypnotized and untainted.

When I awaken, it is still dark-
Down below, the street is eternally bathed
In disconsolate orange moonlight...
Trapped in an endless maze of mirrors.


THE BOARDER

Long ago...
A child rested on a maroon sofa
In the still musty living room
Of her grandmother’s house.
The house was decorated with gold tassels
And white lace and starched doilies...
And it trapped a scent of burnt potato pancakes.
At night, the ghosts of ancestors sucked the juice
From the peaches of a backyard tree.

A fake fireplace electrically glowed
Orange-yellowish and whispered in
All seasons the child was home.
On a maroon table, sat an
Incandescent pink seashell...
“Hold it to your ear and you can hear
The sounds of the ocean,” ventriloquists urged.

The steady whir and flutter of the slats
Of off-white Venetian blinds lulled her
As chill winds passed through Brooklyn.

At dusk, the front door opened and
A man, wearing gray and gray,
Silently traipsed through the house
To “his room” and he closed “his door.”
He was home, too.

The grandmother called the man
Just “the boarder.”
The child only glanced up as he passed and
He never spoke to her... nor she to him.

On the clearest of days she cannot even recall
His face... yet she stares at him whenever chill
Winds pass through Manhattan.


NAP TIME

At dusk, a dream through stained glass:
In a hazy deciduous forest, I am almost naked-
Pristine gown clinging like translucent second skin,
Chartreuse satin slippers, cheeks pale porcelain rose,
And humidity turning my hair burnt sienna.
The scent of dried lavender drifts through trees-
“Alone in nature, by nature,” ventriloquists murmur.
Bejeweled spiders, resting on carefully crocheted cobwebs,
Melancholy widows, eyes green tourmaline,
A soldier seduced by indifference...
Haunted beauty washed forever in soft pink light.

A fading fragrant French cologne-
Earlier a sweet intoxicating elixir- melting and melted.
An elusive black-throated warbler,
Pausing on a great oak, bears witness:
An icon is shedding mellifluous silver tears,
Reflecting my grandfather, wrapped in his tallit
Stirring, turning, saying, “You look very familiar to me.”

A clammy breeze passes through Manhattan.
I awaken this time, awakened last time,
Acquiescent and still, not knowing
If it is evening... or morning.


TWO DAYS

One hot sunny Sunday, in July, at Long Beach:
An amnesiac sat on the boardwalk watching
A strolling lady who was carrying a pearl-handled parasol.
A handsome soldier passed holding a love letter that was
Written on a faded lace white doily and a lonely spinster
Stared at vague images in the sand...
Lines soon to be scattered by an insouciant breeze.

An innocent, guileless, sienna-haired child
Paddled to shore in a teacup.

This is what happened on a hazy sunless Sunday,
In mid-August, at Westhampton.
A spiritual man, who once posed as an amnesiac,
Conducted past life regression sessions
In an old chartreuse theater and
A tattooed director, with wild cinematic aspirations,
Filmed the event in shades of mysterious gray.

Later, I rested on sands
And watched one lost kittiwake fly
In circles overhead while an organ played
Music from an invisible carousel.

I listened to the ocean and
Imagined mermaids swimming painlessly
In peaceful and seductive warm waters.

A sienna-haired child
Stepped out of a floating teacup,
And walked with sea legs
Along colorless sands.

Sometimes before twilight,
I think of those two days.


SWEATING MADNESS

Speak to me in hushed tones
And tell me who stole the peaches
From the old backyard tree
The night I danced the fandango
In front of a closed automat.
As the humidity of that evening
Turned my hair a burnt sienna
An elastic lady teased, “Tsk tsk,”
Because the chartreuse slippers I wore
Were not even my own.

Siamese twins took turns
Stroking the belly of an insect
That rested on the sterling silver tray
I held in my outstretched left hand.
A fading fragrant French cologne-
Earlier a sweet elixir-
Melted under the neon lights
At the very moment
The tattooed film director
Held a lit match to her cigarette
And started a small fire.

And the charlatan I once loved
Did a few fancy smart steps and knew,
As usual, I would forget.


MURMURS IN THE DARKNESS

She is not the first tenant who weeps
Into that stained pillow at night.

She limps to the window
And peeks out to face the pale moon
Jumping from one side to the other
While the heat of the evening
Becomes even more oppressive.

So! That bright star is not a star, after all!
“It is Jupiter,” she murmurs.
The strange sound of a fog horn,
In the clear night, seems to place
Her in one moment and then another.

She tries to remember what
Passed from there to here,
From one time to this time...
But she is lost now like a
Prisoner in this nightmare,
This fantasy...

This fantasy or nightmare
In a thick veil of darkness.


THE WAY I LIVE

My memories have always been vague-
Arriving at dawn on Seventh Avenue
Or at the beach on a sunny hot Sunday,
Visible as peculiar visions in colorless sands.

In an old chartreuse theater, a wiry-haired
Director captured a slight shadowy piece
In muted shades of gray and gray.
But, I danced the wild fandango
In front of a closed automat
To try to forget.

Then one day I remembered
Everything, just like that...
Just as smooth as slipping into
Second skin.

But whether I remember
Or choose to forget,

The forgotten has always determined
The way in which I have lived.


KIDDIE RIDES

I awakened and longed with desperation
To return to Brooklyn.
I wanted to ride until dawn on a creaky
Ferris wheel left behind by a carnival and
To visit the still standing luminous
Chartreuse home of my grandmother.
Memories behind stained glass windows
Beckoned like some naked amnesiac
Who struggles to reach home.

In the air, I could still smell the fullbodied scent
Of burnt potato pancakes that wafted through that
House and I often glimpsed the ghosts of ancestors
Lurking and sucking juice from the backyard peach tree.
I longed with desperation to return to old Brooklyn.

At 5 P.M. I slipped into my car
And drove south through Manhattan.
The pink sun soon sizzled on the Hudson River
And set, to my right, in bright blazing Technicolor.
In the distance, one kittiwake
Seemed to have found the way.

I headed for the elixir of the spinning
Teacups: the kiddie rides at intoxicating
Coney Island... in the most haunted and
Haunting of places: Brooklyn.

© 2010 Marjorie Levine

from The New York Sun

Letter to the Editor, July 20, 2004

Letters to the Editor
July 20, 2004

After I read "Education By Smoke and Mirrors," I sadly concluded that a discussion of the problems in the New York City schools has "jumped the shark" [Andrew Wolf, Opinion, July 9, 2004].

In Region 9's "Third Grade Summer Success Academy," the teachers were given a manual that has been adapted from the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project 2004.

The Balanced Literacy Program consists of a 95-minute Reading Workshop and a 55-minute Writing Workshop.

The components of the program include a read-aloud, independent reading, conferences, shared reading, guided reading, writing minilessons, independent writing, and word work.

The 2 1/2-hour block is so micromanaged that it includes prepared dialogue for the instruction of the children. When teachers help students choose a "just-right" nonfiction book, they are told what to say in order to model thinking:

"Hmm. Here's a book titled 'My Farm.' I've already read a lot about farms, and I don't want to learn more about farms right now. This is not a just-right book for me. It's not interesting."

Then, "Hmm. Here's a book called spiders. I've always been interested in spiders. Let me try reading a page. (Teacher reads page 10 fluently.) I'm used to reading a book with more words on a page and even some harder words. I think I won't learn enough. This is not a just-right book for me. It's too easy."

The teacher goes through a scripted process and then randomly distributes one nonfiction book to each student. She says, "Take a look at the book I just gave you. Decide if it is a just-right book for you by deciding if it's interesting, and checking a page to see that it's not too easy or too hard - a book you can make sense of while you're reading. Then turn and tell your partner what you were thinking.

At first glance, the lessons in the summer curriculum may be impressive and seem effectively crafted for successful results.

But, experienced traditional teachers would consider this learning model to be a major farce, where education has moved into the surreal world of "The Stepford Wives."

As more time passes, the articles on education seem to have deteriorated into redundant pieces "full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." I shake my head in disbelief and I am glad I am retired.

MARJORIE J. LEVINE
Manhattan



Letter to the Editor, October 10, 2006

Letters to the Editor
October 10, 2006

‘The Spin Doctors'

Andrew Wolf states [Op-ed, "The Spin Doctors," September 29-October 1, 2006], "This prevalent teaching methodology is the common thread that directs our national march to mediocrity."

At almost the end of my thirty-four year long teaching career, I was directed to change the seating arrangement in my classroom from rows to groups, develop an atmosphere of "productive noise," and construct mini-lessons. The new "balanced literacy" model was filled with layered components and the classroom was mandated to be have visual and heady appeal.

A student shortly pleaded to "go back to the old way of learning," which was a more no-frills and basic textbook approach. I discussed this with my supervisor, and I was told it was my fault my students didn't like the new style. I had not properly motivated the students or successfully implemented the model. The whole system has become like scenes in "Alice Through the Looking Glass."

MARJORIE LEVINE
New York, N.Y.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Two Schools, a teaching career

These were the two schools where I spent most of my teaching career. The first school literally was on the other side of the tracks... in "Hell's Kitchen." The other school was on the Lower East Side, "on the D." The parents loved me... they said "Miss Levine is the only teacher that can handle a class."
I was quite innovative. I kept the students seated in rows and I taught with a piece of chalk at the board. And I kept a quiet classroom where you could hear a pin drop. The students had basal readers and textbooks and notebooks filled with material. And I actually gave spelling tests on Fridays.


A Manhattan Ghost Town, a "sunken corridor"

When I was a teacher at the pink school in the above photo, the low area in the photo was just simply called "the train tracks." I used to tell people that there were days the teachers and students had to walk over dead bodies to get into the school. I was often misunderstood. My listeners believed that I was telling them in some obtuse way that corpses blocked the entrance to the school. That was not the case. The bodies were found as they lay forgotten along these railroad tracks. They were often discovered by some "hobo" or other "drifter" as they wandered along these winding paths rummaging with long sticks through the piles of debris that were strewn along the way.

These days the "sunken corridor" exists in stark contrast to the much discussed more southern "highline." These tracks are between 10th and 11th Avenues and are visible on both 44th and 45th Street through the cracks of the silver fences. I looked north and I looked south through those openings, and I took photos of this amazing sight last year. I was even able to catch a shot of a train down below as it traveled south and whizzed by under the overpass on which I was standing. But, the photo could not be developed for some bizarre technical reasons. They are totally blank.
I returned the next day and took more photos, but unfortunately no train passed through. After waiting for quite some time for another locomotive photo op, I was told by a young teacher exiting the school that no trains even use those tracks any longer. I was confused, but I relished my eery moment and I left with a great sense of glee: my wonderful shot of that "phantom train" will now exist only in my memory as it sped quickly south on a rainy Thursday afternoon. It carried invisible passengers to some unknown downtown destination in... "The Twilight Zone."
Please enjoy these photos of the "sunken corridor" which still sits on a vista that now resembles a forgotten and neglected and worn out Manhattan ghost town.



These tracks pass from a "sunken corridor" to the famous "highline" as they stretch south through Manhattan.


That day, I visited the Allen Sheppard Gallery on West 25th Street and viewed the amazing photos of this highline by James Bleeker. And here is my photo of the highline that I took on West 25th Street as I left the gallery.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Francis Cape, The Other End of the Line



At the High Line: outside the trailer





At the High Line: inside the trailer





Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Helen Weaver, writer

an encore, from April 2010:


Shortly after I read the heartfelt and bittersweet memoir, "The Awakener," I contacted Helen Weaver. I was enthralled with her memories of her love affair with Jack Kerouac. We began to communicate in E-mails... and today, I am happy to call Helen my friend.
Helen met Jack Kerouac in November 1956, when at 7:00 on a Sunday morning he arrived with Allen Ginsberg at her apartment in 307 West 11th Street. This is a photo of that building that I took after I read the book. Helen was delighted with the photo, and she told me her window can be seen on the left, right behind the blue balloon.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Gallery Henoch

Gallery Henoch

Max Ferguson, "My Father at Katz's"



Max Ferguson, "Central Park Nocturne"



Max Ferguson, "Late in the Day"

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Angelino Heights

East Kensington Road



Carroll Avenue





from Wikipedia:

The Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum: Houdini: Art and Magic.


from the NY Times

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Museum Visits

Museum of the City of New York: SAMURAI IN NEW YORK: THE FIRST JAPANESE DELEGATION, 1860.

Museum of the City of New York: NOTORIOUS AND NOTABLE: 20TH CENTURY WOMEN OF STYLE.

Time Warner Center: “Dalí: Vision of a Genius,” “Persistence of Memory” and “Woman Aflame.”