Barbara F. Lefcowitz


Probably I saw it only once,
that block of ice
a man released from black straps,
lifted with tongs, slipped
onto a rack inside a wooden box,
the block's blue sheen
so translucent I could study its inner life,
the rivulets and winding paths,
until ordered to shut the door
before summer heat ruined our dinner.
I barely had time to catch my face
on its surface, but the block remains intact,
long beyond the ice box, the gleaming
black pump, the kerosene stove shared
by Sadie and Jenny and Annie; the house itself
with its daguerreotype of Lincoln,
Civil War sword, the house three families shared,
fled from the City to escape
the latest epidemic, flu, typhus, polio, pox . . . .
Far beyond its latticed front porch
a war was going on, or so the grown-ups said
when a loud whistle from a nearby arsenal,
whatever that was, slashed the day
precisely at noon. O what did I know
about wars, epidemics, the women's labor
in the hot fanless kitchen, Sadie and
Jenny and Annie died long ago,
though their uncreased faces
sometimes flash, then fade
in that block of ice,
that yellowing mirror I still carry.

Barbara F. Lefcowitz has published nine poetry collections. Her most recent, The Blue Train to America, appeared in 2007. Her fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in over 500 journals. She has won writing fellowships and prizes from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Rockefeller Foundation, among others.  She lives in Bethesda, Maryland, and is also a visual artist.  Recently she has begun to write one-act plays.



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