POETRY MONDAY:  November 6, 2017


                             Joan Cusack Handler

Good morning, everyone.  It’s hard to believe daylight savings time is about to end here in the Northeastern U.S., where the trees are splendidly scarlet and gold and poetry almost can’t compete.

Our poet today has a name that is already familiar to many of you who have purchased and read the lovely books produced under one of the imprints of CavanKerry Press since its founding in 2000 by Joan Cusack Handler and Florenz Eisman.

Joan herself is a poet and memoirist whose poems have been widely published in  literary journals, including several in Psychoanalytic Perspective, and have received The Sampler Award from Boston Review and five Pushcart nominations. She has four published collections: Confessions of Joan the Tall, a prose memoir, and three poetry collections: GlOrious, The Red Canoe: Love in Its Making and, most recently, Orphans, a verse memoir that presents three stories spoken in three voices (her mother’s, father’s and her own) in three different forms.

Informing all of her work, undoubtedly, are insights derived from the fact that she is a psychologist in clinical practice.

I’m happy that she has shared with us the three poems below, all from her newest book, Orphans.

                            –Irene Wills
                               Poetry Editor


Therapy Room

The coat rack that holds your coats also holds your names.
Each forty-five minutes a different one, from plump purple
down to red fox, Burberry plaid, denim blue, windbreaker
blue and green matelasse, black leather motorcycle, Eisenhower,
trench: multicolored shapes bearing your names.
That crease at the elbow – your father’s hand to your face;
a tear at the hem – dark hands on your crotch; that tarnished
buckle – the brother who never returned. That permanent
grease spot on the sleeve – the swollen head of a dying child.
It’s strange how clothes like places become people.
In my own life, the wide block from 79th to 80th across Park
became Henny, my own analyst, will always be Henny’s
vanilla hair and faint purpose. And the Bronx and Brooklyn,
the whole two boroughs became my brother; and the river,
the nuns. The shape of that river is the nun’s fat shoes.



It happened when we got the diagnosis.
Resentment suddenly gone; only
love left – each of us standing in line. Beside her,
Dad, her vigilant supporter, up as always at 5 a.m., breakfast
of oatmeal, by her bedside at 6. Even
the nurses conspired to let him
be the one to kiss her awake.
Then came hours of talk – what’s happening at home,
the mail, did the roof survive the storm? How is he managing meals?
Neighbors send love; the grandkids visit this weekend –
David’s coming from camp.


Even A Psychologist Struggles To Compute

Even A Psychologist Struggles To Compute

Fifteen years she’s gone, there’s still
such regret – never enough
phone calls, secrets, girl talk;
she craved more; I kept her
safe an arms length away – that chasm
I constructed to mute the bite of her
silence, innuendo, accusation.
Deep in the belly of that divide – the truth
of my divorce, clinical depression, loss of faith, and her
mother’s death, loss of her brother, disappearance of her son – the one
I most regret – refusing to listen to her heartache.
Instead, safe talk of clothes, recipes, neighborhood gossip – a few giggles,
this time it’s easy – she delightful – I’m moving closer,
even loving her…when
suddenly, the provocative child leaps, You’re the psychologist,
why do you think I can never get enough from you kids?
“Well, Mom, you lost your Mother when you were six” I never told you about my mother!
she spits; the phone goes dead,
three weeks of silence,
Hi Joanie.

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