Yellow Mama Archives II

Bernice Holtzman

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This Most Magical Season

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

 

I walked to work this morning past Spring Street, and they’re setting up the wooden racks for the Christmas trees, the giant plastic snow globe, lights, the whole Santaland enchilada. 

 

Oh, it’s magical! For a Jewish girl, I think I get more into Christmas than my Christian friends. I think that’s because I don’t have to; there’s no obligation whatsoever, my Jewishness is a get-out-of-Christmas-free card. All that’s expected of me is to eat Chinese food and see a movie on Christmas Day—so I can just relax and enjoy the fun parts!

 

Actually, Christmas Day depresses me a little, but I love the month leading up to it: The Holiday Mart in Union Square! Sending cards! Cozy holiday drinks and dinners with friends; the window displays and strings of lights all over everything; the smell of fireplaces and hot chocolate and gingerbread. Everyone bustling around, happy, with bright shopping bags. The little Christmas-themed plays. A Charlie Brown Christmas, Mr. Hanky’s Christmas Classics, the air of anticipation….

 

Then, in one day, it’s over. The discarded, dried-up Christmas trees start appearing on curbs to be carted away. The garbage cans are full of tinsel and gift boxes. 

 

And you still have to get through New Year’s Eve. 

 

… which you know will be a big disappointment, but you put yourself through it every year anyway, and even when you stay home like you want to, there are constant reminders of what you’re missing, even though you know from experience you’re not really missing anything.

 

But those people outside do sound like they’re having fun, and you don’t dare go into the hallway to throw out the garbage because people will see that you’re in your sweatpants and quietly feel superior to you like you did with the disheveled girl carrying laundry in the hallway New Year’s Eve 1992 and now you’re being paid back, and they’ll know there’s no boyfriend in your apartment and even if there is, what kind of boyfriend doesn’t take his girlfriend out on New Year’s Eve?

 

And there’s some girl who just got engaged on TV right before the ball dropped and she’s making out with her new fiancé and putting the ring right in the camera and you can see both their tongues while they’re kissing, she’s making sure of it, and maybe you’ll burst into tears and maybe you won’t, it’s really anybody’s game at this point…. 

 

But this year will be different! Right? 

 

Right! 

 

Please enjoy this most magical season.



The Rocking Horse

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

 

The bag says Primo Gifts

Inside I notice a flyer announcing a new Disney figurine now available

The unwrapped box has a sticker stating “Rocking Horse Music Box”

I remove the gift from the Styrofoam insert

And place it on the Valentine’s Day table

Next to roses I bought myself

And look at the green flowers, gold swirls and fake pearls decorating its white plaster body

Its painted face expressionless.

On a bookcase behind the table

Blurred in the background

Is the stained glass wine goblet I had admired one day

A month before I tore off homemade giftwrapping

To find it nestled in its box

A relic from a time of both arms around me when we walked

Single roses just because

A card I discovered in the morning after you had left

 

I reach underneath and wind its key

The music starts and it rocks back and forth

The tune is frantic, too fast for the pace of the rocking

A distortion of something beautiful and fragile

Making hollow what would be resonant at its proper speed

It slows for a moment

And the melody becomes familiar

Then all sound and motion stop.



We Have a Bond

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

I can’t see you tonight

No, not for another month

Too much work to do still

Have to cut myself off

From all distraction

I’ve thought of you often

But stopped myself from calling

I had a dream about you

When I slept at my parents’ house

You’re light

And I’m darkness

We have a bond

I won’t call again until my songs are written

So have a good spring

Oh, by the way

Something happened

That girl at work came on to me again

Straddled me in a bar

And of course it felt good

It’s been a while, and I’m a man

Why are you crying?





Everything Is the Same

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

 

The room is quiet, like yesterday. The shadows fall in the same way, making the same shapes, as familiar as the furniture. The sheets still feel cool, the walls are still blue, the plant on the windowsill still leans toward the sun.

His leaving had no significance at all.

Everything is the same.

The curtain ripples from the breeze, the way it always does. He wouldn’t be here at this time of day. He would be working. The floor still shines from the wax. Its wooden boards are still different shades. Later he would be with the girl, whose name she knows but won’t bring herself to say. The sheets are still white. She didn’t think he’d leave.

The walls are still blue. The vase is still ceramic, with painted tulips. Except for a hairline crack, from the impact—that would have to be fixed—it looks the same.

The walls are still blue, with dark red speckles.

She didn’t think he’d leave.

The floor is still different colors, and now it has one more. He is still here.

Everything is exactly the same.

 

 

© 1999 Bernice Holtzman


The Monster in the Mirror

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

 

When I was a child

I used to play a game

Called “The Monster in the Mirror”
I would wait until it was dark

And I would go to my mirror

I would stare

And stare

Until the darkness contorted my face

And I could pretend I saw a monster.

 

I still play the game sometimes

Only now it’s always dark

And now I pretend

I don’t see him.



The Utilizers

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

There were more of us not long ago

But it was determined by the electronic internal tracking system

That utilization for the human facilitation units 

Was below the 85% required by the expense management agency

So their use was terminated by the Corporation

And now I am alone

There is one human management unit left from before the takeover

Who understands

But when this unit is eliminated

I will no longer be safe

I enter the complex each morning and show my coded identification card

To the security enforcement guard

The smiling face in the photograph does not anymore bear a resemblance

To the one waiting to be approved and waved through

And the paper bag with my cup of coffee the only indication

That I require anything at all.



© 2010 Bernice Holtzman



Fire

 

by Bernice Holtzman

 

1.

 

If You Were Fire

 

If you were fire

Then I could be air

Surrounding you, but never confining

Always allowing you your freedom

To expand and rise as you saw fit

Sometimes I’d gently fan your edges

Coaxing you higher

Exciting your color deeper and brighter

A tribute of sparks popping from you

And dissolving into me.

 

But I think I would end up being a glass

Turned upside down over you

Meaning only to touch you

Embrace you

Shelter you

Feel your warmth

But slowly and finally

Snuffing you out.

 

 

2.

 

If I Were Fire

 

If I were fire

My flames would be too wild for you to handle

You would shrink from my heat

Beating me back with your disapproval

Walling me in until I was tamed

Contained by your limits

Of manageable size.

 

You would never let me go out completely, though

For then who would give you warmth

When you needed it?

 

 

© 1999 Bernice Holtzman




Bernice Holtzman is an author of poems, short fiction, autobiographical pieces, two (so far) children’s stories, and all manner of clever commentary. Her work has appeared in The National Poetry Magazine of the Lower East Side. That was 30 years ago, and she’s still talking about it.

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