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Best Poems Written by Ruth Sabath Rosenthal

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Sister -- a poem in 2 parts


End-Cut Prime Rib of Beef,  
Crab-cake, Lobster Tail,
Sea Scallops.

I feel — no — need to, 
eat those foods 
you asked I get you. 

So I scour the internet 
for upscale Manhattan 
restaurant menus, listing, 
first and foremost,
roast prime rib of beef, 

confident, if I find that, 
the seafood items 
will appear on at least one 
of them, also. 

It’s the Post House,
on East 63rd Street,
that has everything.
And, on this day, 
the 1st anniversary
of your death, 

I’m eating the foods 
you craved, yet, I do not 
savor a morsel. But 
not to worry, Renee, 

for next year, same
date, I’ll try again, and 
maybe, just maybe, 
I’ll find it easier to enjoy 
what you surely would have, 

if only I’d realized there was 
no time left. No time left, 
as I held your hand and 
watched American Idol.

while you morphed into what-
ever it is one becomes 
at death. 


I muse if Robert Frost
had taken the other road, 
would he have moved to
England, where 
his poetry was a hit
from the get-go; 

would he have remained, 
the constant farmer, or 
teacher, or journalist
he been, rather than 

the bard who'd crafted 
the simplest words 
into mysterious, 
memorable poems; 

and the father who
couldn’t prevent 
his children’s deaths; 

not the husband 
who couldn’t keep
his wife from sinking 
deep into depression.

Renee, every day, since
your death, I think about 
what I could’ve done 
and should not have done 
as your sister, your twin. 

How I’d sat on my laurels 
and let you navigate 
on your own, with me 
never wholeheartedly
trying to steer away
from conflict with you. 

Me, who found it too hard
staying involved in that life 
of yours. Truth be told, 
if I'd seen two diverging roads 
to choose from, way back when 

— neither the worse for wear, 
I would’ve sought you out — 
asked you which one you’d take 
if you were me, and surely 
I’d have taken the other.

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

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A Changing Heart

Longing for heart-quiet
in the inevitable fall
into Winter’s short days of sun
forwarding to Spring’s
longer days — a circling back
in the sameness of time.

Heart-and-mind-numbing time
with no respite. A longing to quiet   
those thoughts playing back
battle after battle. The awful
repetition. Mind and life wasting.
And, in the darkest season,

the conviction that the sun 
will only half-rise in this lifetime
of mine. Feeling that sting 
as from a bee’s disquiet
of green slumber. Swelling to a fault,
every damned day. Slamming me back,

season upon season. Holding me back.
Chilling me with doubt that sun-
shine can overcome rainfall
and that, invariably, given time, 
better times will come and quietly 
advance into Spring. Fast forward, past Spring 

to Summer, and onto Fall springing
back to Winter, and round again. Flashbacks
ever more glaring under the sun, then, quite
out of the blue — a glance, a nod. Overrun 
with fluttering, my heart paces in time
with fledging love’s free-fall.

And, with the passing of another Fall,
Winter heralds in the sweetest of Springs:
daffodils and Easter bonnets — a lifetime
of celebration ahead, no looking back.
Past risk and reason, I bask in the sun
that is love’s shine. Rain or shine, quiet

in the peace of it all, Fall after Fall, back
to Winter, Spring, Summer. Quiet as a Spring sun 
bursting through clouds. Love, for all time, requited.

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

Into the Light: Safe Haven, 1944

         “And you that shall cross from shore to shore…are more 
          to me and more in my meditations, than you might suppose.”

                                                  Walt Whitman, “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry”      
Thank God for you, Henry Gibbins, ship of dreams 
laden with bedraggled brethren 
dark and fair, tall and short, all frail-boned 
and gaunt, each and every one a survivor reborn 
in the wake of conscience. 
Blessed, their leader, Ruth Gruber; praised, her leader, 
Franklin D. Roosevelt; and you, Captain Korn 
— commanding officer extraordinaire —
your kind face and outstretched arms, 
the ship’s crew — their smiling faces, helpful hands; 
the stalwart bulk and hallowed halls, sky-crowned decks 
surrounded by sea-speckled rail — 
far cry from barbed wire.
Joy, the glistening white toilets; 
divine, clean fresh air that fills sunken chests, lungs
ashen from the fires of Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bergen-Belsen, 
Buchenwald, Dachau, Treblinka…
And you, buoyant sea, revered for strong currents and 
changing tides; and you, gulls that glide the breeze, 
assuaging wounded spirit.
“Are you America?”
And you, huge dining hall bejeweled with vegetables, 
cornucopia of meats, kaleidoscope of sweets 
that swell shrunken bellies, smooth withered souls;
the soft pillows and ample blankets nestled in tier after tier 
of bunks, the nightmares you help smother, 
sweet dreams you set in motion; 
talent shows, chess tournaments, movies, musicales.
“Are you America?”
“Yes, you are America — my America!
Land of the free, home of the brave!

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

Mother's Wishbones, No Doubt


All furculae with not a fragment
of dried-up flesh or sinew 

to despoil their luster — the slew 
of them ranging in size from 

Cornish hen to turkey. Funny,
I’d never noticed her extricate

one, strip it clean, secrete it 
somewhere long-forgotten. 

I took possession of those bones,
pried loose some of my own

from birds broiled, barbequed, 
fried; primed each, applied gold 

leaf. Made more of them
than Mother could’ve ever conceived 

— the gilt, over the generations 
of bones brittling whole, striking

beneath the wait of wishes.

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

Cooking with Jim

COOKING WITH JIM                      

actually, with him in spirit, in the kitchen 
of his quaint brownstone on West 12th Street
in Manhattan, decades after his death.

And quite at home with him, I chop and slice;
bake, twice-baked potatoes — their skins crisping 
to perfection; roast, the prime tenderloin of beef 

he’d earlier instructed me to hand-rub with 
coarsely ground black pepper and kosher salt. 
(I used sea salt and that was ok with him.) 

Right now, he’s reminding me to stir my roux,
then I should add the crisp bacon bits, made earlier, 
to the finely chopped spinach I just finished sautéing. 

He says I should wait till the last minute 
to toss the mélange of local field greens with 
the lemongrette he had me make in lieu of 

vinaigrette, because, it seems that vinegar 
often spoils the taste of wine. As for the wines 
with dinner: for the salad, I’m chilling 

a 2011 Seyval Blanc from New York State; 
with the beef dish, a 10-year-old California 
Zinfandel; this followed by a 2010 Pinot Noir 

from Oregon, paired with artisanal cheeses 
from Vermont and Connecticut, plus 
crisp sourdough rolls and flatbread; 

and, in the frig, chilling, a late-harvest, Long Island 
Riesling to complement the secret confection hidden 
away on a silver tray till dessert-time.

According to Jim, red wine should be served at 
room temperature, and since older reds have a layer 
of sediment in the bottle, he said the Zin will need
to be decanted, and that, right before serving; 
he wants the Pinot to breathe 15 minutes, or so, 
in the glass before being drunk. 

(The aeration of younger reds will rid those wines of 
their chalky tasting tannins.) All this for my guests 
who’ll soon be sitting round my dining table akin to 

Jim’s 60 inch round green marble slab of a tabletop, 
where, before the first bite of the Jim-inspired, 
5-star meal, I’ll raise my glass to the big bald guy —

James Beard, “The Father of American Cuisine.”

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem


Always, there would be darkness hovering through-
out the bushes and trees, massive sky and earthen ground 
he tiptoed upon in shoeless stealth, machine gun slung 

over one shoulder and, strapped across the other, 
a leather pouch holding coded messages he delivered 
encampment to encampment, their locations razor-sharp 

in his 11 year old brain, in a body tall enough to be 
mistaken for older. Tall enough to be made a Partisan — 
a courier, and down the road, likely qualifying as 

a full-blown saboteur targeting Germans and the war 
machinery they were transporting through Yugoslavia’s 
Mosor mountain villages. 

(German soldiers, who, if they’d caught him, a Jew, 
& partisan, to boot, would surely have beaten him 
to death extracting every bit of information they could.)

Upon each return to his farmhouse refuge, the 
communications he’d been charged with having been 
delivered hours before and miles away, 

the fear he’d braved began melting away. And, 
in the moments it took him to hang up his courier bag
and machine gun, he felt ready for the evening meal

of pit-roasted mutton and stone-ground bread 
washed down with goat’s milk. Then, a foot soak 
(weekly, a full-body scrub), followed by deep sleep,

in a basement below a trap door — a peasant woman’s 
woven blankets softening the wooden floor boards 
and his heart. And when that heart rejoiced with freedom 

in ’45, at 13 years old, is truly when he understood why 
he detested the taste of lamb, no matter how gourmet 
the preparation offered the boy he once was — 

the boy who’d put meat back on his bones in Brooklyn, 
and the gastronome he’s become — a content 82 year old 
grateful for his hero Tito and the fact that he’s managed 

to keep his Hitler-torn past safely locked away 
in a tight-lipped box, he rarely chooses to open.

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

New York-Style Hungarian Stew


In the darkest corner of her living room, 
she waits to eat. A stone’s throw away, 
her ex lives with their kids, his goulash 
wafting reek into her open windows. 

Through the one in her master bedroom, 
the man could easily catch sight of his successor 
swaddled in goose-down, identical in color 
to the old comforter she could see, if she cared to, 

just beyond her window, on the bed where 
she’d been fed, “I’ll cherish you always.” 
Abutting that room, the den with surround-
sound TV, where the vulgarian had charmed 

the panties off her during commercials, turning 
up his volume so she could grasp every syllable 
of his accented endearments, his excuses. 
Adjacent, their son and daughter’s rooms 

(now, with suitcases the children bring back 
and forth each weekend); and down the hall, 
the state-of-the art kitchen where her louse ex 
still plays chef. How she’d wished he’d played 

spouse with as much know-how and gusto. Oh, 
how he’d cooked and cooked their goose, served it 
up every chance he got, till she got good and fed 
up and fled to an old flame in a brownstone 

across the way — where, at this very moment, she sits 
with the stench of the dish her ex is, no doubt, cooking 
to death, and the essence of her Crock-pot stew 
cooking up a storm, inextricably mesh.  

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

Awake in Long Beach


awaiting the perk 

from freshly brewed java 

the lull in gull squabble over 

a tide dredging up debris

blemishing beach

husband and wife

skiffs passing in night 

each wake muster 

“good morning” 

sugar black coffee

crack boiled eggs 

never a smile

their chink in armor


amour not at all

what it’s cracked up to be

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014

Details | Ruth Sabath Rosenthal Poem

On Her Porch

ON HER PORCH,                             
she rocks after dinner,
and flurries of stardust sprinkle her                          
sterling. Inside, the dog, snug             
on the still-warm Eames,

shudders with dream and, in the tub,
her prince of a husband soaks,
swirls of pipe smoke                 
crowning his damp, curly mane.              

She rocks, and nostalgia reigns               
over night beneath moonlight.                    
Breathless, alit with old flame,            
she goes back 

inside and is struck by the sight                                
of his majesty’s limp curls, 
white — not that bewitching black 
in the locket of this once starry-eyed girl.    

Copyright © Ruth Sabath Rosenthal | Year Posted 2014