Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Transitional Moments Captured in Poetry: A Few New Poems by Yours Truly

First, a poem about so many people I know, facing new physical limitations, forced job changes, or abrupt endings to life as they knew it....

By Susan L. Lipson                                                      

"Well, I used to be a..."
He pauses.
Hearing his own regrets
in casual conversation 
sparks an epiphany:
Time to BE,
who he is now.
Time to accept
and roll onward--

And now a personal poem, about becoming an "empty nester":

Tides of Change
By Susan L. Lipson

Sometimes a wave hits me,
knocks me over with a question:
Is this really not temporary--
are my kids really not coming home to live with me again?
And I think I might drown in my lonely cup of coffee,
at a table meant for five.
But then, into my paddling hands, float lovely seashells:
a phone message, a text, an email
from one of them,
and my buoyancy returns
to keep me afloat.

And finally, a poem based on my first published poem, about a shocking moment in the life of a new doctor--a poem featuring a few simultaneous transitions, colored by irony:


Unscrewing the top of the bottle of nail polish,
Aachooing from the odor of the “Pink Pearl” liquid,
Eschewing her desire to paint her left hand first with her steadier right fingers,
Renewing the brightness of her thick, yellowed nails,
Undoing the ancient look of her wrinkled hands,
Subduing the wave of wistfulness she feels about her once lovely skin,
Imbuing every stroke with a feeling of accomplishment,
Reviewing the accuracy of her colorful coverage,
Redoing the nails that show thin spots,
Pursuing beauty until…
 she dies, and a medical student begins
Undoing it all with a scalpel:

Dissecting the withered hands,
Inspecting the bones, tendons, and ligaments of his live model,
Protecting the structure to keep it intact as he is
Detecting the actual parts that were mere terminology until now;
Respecting the complexity of this appendage, while
Rejecting the sight of the chipping pink nail polish to keep it from
Affecting his composure by
Connecting this hand to an old woman, who only weeks ago, was
Selecting this pink color to paint over her nails, and never
Suspecting that the color would outlive her—No!
Correcting his use of her to it in his mind,
Electing to ignore the one sign of humanness that remains, and
Reflecting on that irony.

 The transition of one of my favorite children's authors, Natalie Babbitt, whose writing days ended forever a couple of days ago, made me feel contemplative today. Words left in others' memories carve out our place on this planet better than any tombstone markers.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Poetic Response to a Mass Shooting: Another Day in the Life of America

Sometimes the only response to recent news is an angry poem:

(written after the mass shooting at the Pulse dance club in Orlando, Florida, June 2016) 

By Susan L. Lipson

The Holier-Than-Thous are twittering again,
moaning online and calling for public “moments of silence”
to honor more victims with the passivity of prayer,
victims whom they’ve victimized themselves
by dubbing gay love an “abomination,”
and by restricting their rights to liberty in love,
and to living with acceptance, rather than mere tolerance.

The Holier-Than-Us call out for prayers
to protect our world
(when they really mean their world)
from terrorism
(when they really mean a certain non-Christian religion),
and also from hate crimes
(not including their crimes of exclusion, derision, and delegitimization).

How convenient to pray now for the souls of some of the “sinners”
whom they previously reviled,
to pray in the interests of the “greater” Good
(their greater Good),
and how ironic that they do not dare now
to publicly call that Pulse stopped by evil
“a Divine scourge against sinners,”
only because this time, the judgment was wreaked by those
who also threaten them.

A murderer planned to induce terror,
but instead, he induced a bittersweet moment of forgotten labels and  
       remembered humanity.
A moment of possibility,
lasting only until the next judgmental rant…

Saturday, June 18, 2016


I received the ignorance-filled, anti-Muslim email below from a devout Christian, and wrote a reply to everyone on the sender's list, which appears below the email. Rather than merely shake my head in disapproval and delete it, I decided to take a stand against ignorance and the perpetuation of hatred-infused sentiments masquerading as patriotic, "good Christian" values. I decided to use education as my weapon against xenophobia. Writing a "reply to all" message to people I don't know is always risky, but worth it if I can even broaden one mind. As the late great Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "To be is to stand for." I stand for fair-mindedness, as much as I can.

On Sat, Jun 18, 2016 at 10:51 AM, [name deleted] wrote:
[I abridged this by removing two irrelevant paragraphs at the end that had nothing to do with food labeling, but with Sharia law.]

Make sure the grocery buyer in your household reads this.

There should be more leading Australians like Dick, he gets to the bottom of important issues and anything that amounts to selling out Australia is very important.

You may be aware that " Dick Smith " chain franchise stores are being pressured by the Islamic Council of Australia to gain 'Halal Certification' otherwise they will be proscribed and banned from Muslim custom.

This is their response:

"We at Dick Smith 's have received a number of letters from people asking if we will be putting the Muslim Halal logo on our food.

To acquire Halal certification, payment is required to the endorsing body (the Islamic Council) and involves a number of site inspections of both our growers and processors in order to ensure that our practices comply with the conditions of Halal certification.

It is important to note that this does not reflect the quality of the food being processed or sold – it only means that the products are approved as being prepared in accordance with the traditions of the Muslim faith.

We are aware of an increasing number of large companies both in Australia and overseas, such as Kraft and Cadbury, who have obtained accreditation to use the Halal logo. We don’t believe they have done this because of any religious commitment but rather for purely commercial reasons. Perhaps these large organizations can afford to do this.

While we have a choice however, we would prefer to avoid unnecessarily increasing the cost of our products in order to pay for Halal accreditation when this money would be better spent continuing to support important charitable causes where assistance is greatly needed.

We point out that we have never been asked to put a Christian symbol (or any other religious symbol) on our food requiring that we send money to a Christian organization for the right to do so. Others would add that money paid to ANY Muslim 'organization' (and you had better believe it: these people ARE 'organized') can easily find its way into the hands of Islamic extremist-fanatics and murderers, irrespective of assurances to the contrary.

What other assurances do we accept from Muslims? Oh, that's right, 'Islam is a religion of PEACE'! How less Australian can companies get, than to place money into the hands of those who seek to exploit us?"

This is an example of how the leaders of Muslims in Aus./NZ. are bullying large commercial organizations (especially in the food industry) into paying what is no more than blatant extortion money. The amazing part is that these weak-kneed organizations (Cadbury/ Schweppes/ Nestles/ Kraft etc.) actually pay the large sums demanded by these self-appointed religious bureaucrats.

Of course, the manufacturers promptly pass this levy on to unwitting consumers as cost increases. Next time you buy a block of Cadbury's chocolate, look for the Halal Certification seal on the wrapper. So, regardless of your own religious faith, you end up subsidizing Islam.

How many more warnings do people need?
Check the produce on the shelf and don't buy anything Muslim extorted.

You'll forward, yes?


Dear __________,

This assertion that purchasing food with a Halal certification is supporting Islam (with the further implication that Islam means "terrorism") is completely false and unnecessarily inflammatory. That's like saying that the Kosher label supports Jews or Israel. A RIDICULOUS ASSERTION. Kosher-labeled products do not indicate a support of Jews, only that Jewish food restrictions have been kept in mind during the production of the food, so that Jews can know that the food is safe to eat, per their religious traditions. The same applies to Halal food--in fact, Muslims also prohibit the eating, per the bible, of "unclean" animals that eat waste products, like pigs and shellfish.

I do agree, however, that no store should HAVE to pay for Halal or Kosher certification, because that is an optional extra expense to be determined by the ultimate financial gains they might receive from doing so--in terms of extra business from observant Muslims or observant Jews. That is a store's choice.

Being an observant Muslim does not mean that one is a terrorist or Islamist. Many of my students this year come from Muslim families, to my Jewish home, for lessons, and they are some of my most respectful and talented students--as are their parents.

I had to point this out to you because emails like the one you sent are contributing to the xenophobia and hatred that are rising in this country like never before. As a peace-loving, proud member of the interfaith community, as well as a practicing Jew, I cannot stand by and not stand UP.

Thanks for listening to my "counter-rant."

Blessings to you,