Friday Jun 21

BlochChanah Chana Bloch 's Swimming in the Rain: New and Selected Poems, 1980-2015 will be published in 2015. In addition to her four poetry collections, The Secrets of the TribeThe Past Keeps ChangingMrs. Dumpty, and Blood Honey, she is co-translator of the biblical Song of SongsThe Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai and his Open Closed Open, and Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch. Her poetry has appeared in Atlantic MonthlyThe Nation, The New Yorker, Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, Poetry, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Southern Review, and many other literary journals. It has been reprinted in Best American Poetry, two Pushcart Prize collections, Jewish in America, When She Named Fire, Don’t Leave Hungry, The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry, and other anthologies. Bloch is Professor Emerita at Mills College, where she taught for over 30 years and directed the Creative Writing Program. Her honors include the Poetry Society of America's Di Castagnola Award, the Felix Pollak Prize in Poetry, the PEN Award for Poetry in Translation, and two fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Audio clips of readings may be found on her website.


Summer in the City, 1947
after Helen Levitt

Your mudder is a Hore
chalked on the sidewalk
where the little girls
wiggle their shoulders,                                   
flutter their skirts
in sluggish August heat.                                                        
On the stoop, their keepers
are fanning themselves.                                

"Just the reverse," her Leica says:                                            
"The papas are glued to the stoop                   
by the sweat of their pants,                            
the mamas slump,
August is a bummer,  
but look at those girls!                                    
Their ankle socks,                                  
their jivey feet."



Out here, North of Eden, the sky
makes no promises:                     
one moody cloud and the pressure
plummets. A cold eye keeps watch                           
even in the rage of heat.

Work is work, but the storms             
are historic. Today the sky came unhinged                   
and the waters lashed                                                                          
our shoes, our glasses, our helpless clothes. 

That immortal weather was a bore.                                           
Too civil. Too many grapes on the vine.
Morning fog, a mild obliging light,                           
and no rain, not a drop, from May till September.

We might have lulled ourselves                                             
into living forever.

September Song


I've got my mother  
secured by two magnets to the freezer door.                         
We're the same age, almost.                                           
A cold day for both of us,
but she’s not complaining.

It’s a long long while from May
to Wherever, she sings off-key.                                             
Ten years since she died, and she’s got
my attention.

See how she managed
Glue Factory Road, all rocks and hard places,
with her walker, her pillbox, her purse
of sorrows, her freckled hands?                                              

She used to put those hands to work                         
stripping and chopping,
tchik-tchok on the cutting board.
How did she manage  
to chop without looking, to speak
without stopping to think?                                                                       

She made those knuckly fingers of hers
button her beige sweater                                
inch by inch. Eighty years                  
to complete the course from                                       
“I can button this all by myself”
to “I can still button.”

What a trouper you are! I salute her,             
more generous than I used to be.
You never knew me, she comes back quietly,
and lately that’s an invitation,
not a complaint.