As If Free by Burt Kimmelman – Susan’s Newsletter April 2010



April 22, 2010 Susan’s Thursday Note
As if Free by Burt Kimmelman 
Beautiful poem on continuum of life.
Good morning!  I think this is the last morning I can type that for awhile – the storms are coming, aren’t they?!?!  But, if we know we’ll be safe, the coffee tastes really great when the rain begins!  You’d better get a new book, grab one of your treasures, or run to the library to be prepared for the perfect moment to open the cover when you have to stay awake to listen to the weather warnings!   
I know I have directed you all before to the website of Garrison Keillor’s “Writer’s Almanac” where every morning there is a new poem written that he read on NPR that morning.  I use this as my home page, (, and each morning am greeted with a new poem to have in my mind that day. 

This week was a beautiful poem on the continuum of life.  Birth.  Sickness. Aging. Children.  Nature.  Touch.  Quiet.  Words.  Elderly.  Mother/son.  Son/daughter.  I have received the book of poetry by Burt Kimmelman, As If Free, and highly recommend his poetry to you.  Poetry that speaks life.  Realities.  Making the painful realities part of something beautiful.  Since reading the poem I also can’t stop thinking about a book I read to my sixth graders years ago, Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt.  This book was on being given the ability to live forever by a family that chose life over mortality.  The novel was extremely thought-provoking on aging, life, death…how all are meaningful and beautiful and necessary…showing how sad life was for the family that had immortality.  Even though this is a children’s novel, I believe it holds more thought for us in our adult life than for children that haven’t usually had to yet experience sickness, sadness, goodbyes in death.  This poem is beautiful.  So many of you come into the store after visiting your mothers or fathers in retirement homes or the hospital.  This poem shows the beauty of what you are doing…giving yourself  to who you love at the end of their life, giving to those you love that need you regardless of their age, as you also give yourself to someone near the beginning of their life.  Continuum.  Life.  Beautiful even in caring for someone that we love that is aging.  Beautiful when keeping an eternal perspective. 
Taking Dinner to My Mother by Burt Kimmelman
My mother sits on the edge of her bed,
a scarf on her head to hide the gray hair
she can no longer manage to dye black,
her flesh falling away from the frame of
her face and shoulders, loosened by the loss
of weight when the body betrays the soul,
when the body’s pain forbids all desire.
But tonight she is hungry, and I have

come bearing corned beef and pastrami, bread,
sour pickles and a kasha knish..
I help her to the table in slow, small

steps, a pas de deux we have carried on,
I realize, for almost sixty years, and
I think of how, some time before, I held
my daughter’s hands, bent over, as she learned
how to walk – the fact of balance, which we
live with until it abandons us – and
how my mother, in a photograph, held
me in the same way. Earlier today,

I had stopped at a café and, sitting
still for a moment, looking up from my
book, I watched how, at a nearby table,

a new mother fed her infant daughter,
who sat up in her baby carriage, some
bits of crustless bread held between thumb and
forefinger, while her grandfather talked on,
the smell of her mother’s hand mingled with
this first food, a small bird in her nest. At
my mother’s table I fix her sandwich
and tell her about her granddaughter who

met a boy for a moment in a flea
market, who is now a first love, but my
mother’s eyelids are starting to lower,
her head nodding forward slightly, so I
gather her up and walk her back to her
bed, sit her down and swing her swollen legs
up and then under the covers, turn off
all the lights but one, close and lock the door.

What will we write for our epitaph tonight – on the moments today that we won’t get back?  Will we take the time to look in the eyes of who we love?  Will we turn off the electronics and give our minds space to think.  Pick up a journal of ours from the past – let ourselves from 10 years ago speak to us today?  Encourage us?  Will we write a handwritten note (even one sentence) and leave it where someone we love will see it, and then they will tuck it into one of their books?  Will we take the time to put all in perspective?  We only have one chance at the moments today.  Our gift.  Let’s make the epitaph tonight worth writing.  Thank you so much for letting me enter your Thursday again.  Let’s go above mediocrity.  Look to the hills – the promise that our help is only a glance up, or only a foot away if we drop to our knees.  Be still and know that I am God.  Life.  Short.  Beautiful.  Painful.  Fleeting.  Everything.  Eternal perspective.  Susan

Latin for this week:
cura – care
accurare – to expend care on, to take care of
Works Cited:
Kimmelman, Burt.  As If Free.  Jersey City, NJ.  Talisman House.  2009.
Babbitt, Natalie.  Tuck Everlasting.  New York.  Farrar, Straus and Giroux.  1985.



Poetry. “Make no mistake about it: Burt Kimmelman appears here–& not for the first time–as a successor to the lineage of William Carlos Williams & George Oppen (to name but two), no less so for being a master of that lineage worn proudly. The sense of number in his writing–particle by particle & breath by breath–& the attention that he gives to other particulars–the littlest words & the small moments through which we live–are of a piece. In this there is nothing minor or modest, although it might appear to be just that, but a strict & powerful accounting, leaving me–for one–filled with admiration & hooked on every word”–Jerome Rothenberg.

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781584980698
  • Publisher: Talisman House, Publishers
  • Publication date: 12/22/2009
  • Pages: 89
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.30 (d)

Recommended in Susan’s April 22, 2010 Newsletter


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