Short story from Linda Gunther

Linda and Melvin at Linda’s Sweet 16 party
             By Linda Springhorn Gunther

July 1965 

That second summer at the Concourse Cabana Club I came out of my shell. I had just finished ninth grade, my last year in Junior High.
My two best girlfriends, both members of the Cabana Club last year, didn’t return again because their parents took them to Rockaway Beach for the whole summer. So, I spent the first few days poolside at the Cabana Club sprawled out in the sun on a lounge chair, alone, reading my book. I’d take a dunk in the pool for a few minutes when it got really hot, then pop out for another chapter of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha. 

On my third day hanging by myself, I left my towel on the lounger I had snagged early that morning. After reading three more chapters in my book, I placed it on the side table and eased myself from the ledge of the pool into the refreshing water. I decided to do a couple of laps to the deep end, each one underwater all the way.  I wanted to make it to the wall in one breath with my eyes open, a challenge I often gave myself. I butterflied underwater to the deep end, touched the wall, raised my head to catch a breath and swam back underwater to the shallow end. On the second lap, as I reached the deep end, I felt a tug on my right arm. I looked up to see my brother Ronnie kicking his legs furiously. He yanked on my swimsuit determined to sink me further down. Pulling away, I struggled to raise my head above the surface, spit out water, and pushed him off me. He splashed me in the face.

“Get out of my way,” he said, and sputtered out a stream which hit me directly in one eye. He turned and swam towards the short metal steps to his two gawking friends who sat with their legs dangling over the side.

Although my mother no longer expected me to be Ronnie’s caretaker at the Club while she was at work, he couldn’t resist hunting me down to pester me. He was thirteen years old, just eleven months my junior and still emotionally immature. But he had generally become more independent over the past year, even a leader with his pack of neighborhood friends. He hadn’t skipped any grades like I had but was suddenly recognized as being super smart at school; had been selected to take special IQ and math tests, and had emerged as a top contender for entry into Bronx High School of Science, a school for the academically gifted. But that would be a couple of years away.
I recovered from the sneak attack, swam back to the shallow end, and hiked myself up out of the pool. A girl with short brown curly hair about my age wearing a purple one-piece sat in my lounge chair, her legs straight out on a flower-print towel, her head down reading an issue of Seventeen magazine. I stood there dripping wet looking around for where my blue beach towel had gone, and saw that my beach bag was gone too. The girl on the lounger hadn’t noticed me.  
I glanced at the side table. My book had disappeared. Damn! Why would someone take my stuff? I glanced over at the girl on my lounge chair.

Something bumped my right shoulder.
There he was again. 

“Looking for this?” Ronnie teased, dropping the beach bag at my feet, the towel sticking out of it. He pushed the Herman Hesse book, the cover wet, into my hands. The girl on the lounge chair looked up from her magazine.
“Aww, too bad you lost your chair,” my brother said and ran off, his bare feet moving fast on the hot cement.
The girl on the lounge chair shook her head. Her brown page boy finished at her chin 

 Did I take your chair?” she asked, her hair swinging from side to side as she spoke. 
“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “My stupid brother pranked me.” 
I picked up my beach bag, wrapped the towel around my waist and scanned the area for another chair or maybe a small patch of cement where I could sit.
“My sister annoys the heck out of me,” the girl said. “A pain in the butt.” She rolled her eyes. “Ok, probably not as bad as your mean brother.”
She scooted off the lounger, folded her towel and sat back down. “Here,” she said, “We can share this one. I’m Edie,” she said, and smiled. “The one and only Edie Bremerhoff.”

I instantly liked her. She was almost two years older than me, petite like me at about five foot two, chattered non-stop and always had something interesting to say. We had attended different junior highs, and so, had never met before.
I would turn fourteen that September, just after my start at Taft High which went from tenth to twelfth grade. Having skipped grades, I felt nervous to be entering high school knowing I’d be younger than most all the kids in my classes and probably in the entire school. But I was used to being the youngest and felt lucky to have a friend for the summer who would join me at Taft, and in the same grade.

Edie and I spent that summer at the Club dancing on the wood deck to piped-in rock and roll music with other teens after we’d have a burger at the food kiosk. We teamed up as a duo in ping-pong tournaments and more than once beat a pair of arrogant older boys. She and I would sit and talk for hours confiding our fears about entering such a huge school, anticipating a tough life in our first year yet imagining adventures awaiting us. 

In the second week at the Club, there was a talent competition for teens. Edie and I dressed in frilly pastel summer dresses and sang a duet, Shelley Fabare’s song, Johnny Angel, over a microphone, clinching second place in our age group. We received a fake silver medal that we proudly wore on a ribbon around our necks for at least a week, only taking them off for a swim. Like me, Edie loved doing laps in the pool. We’d wait until late afternoon when most kids already left for home and then we’d swim ten laps together, the last two of them on our backs, our arms moving in unison through the water. Our mission was to stay perfectly parallel with each other, reach the wall at the deep end and back again at exactly the same time, hoping to emulate Esther Williams in her Hollywood aquatic films.

Things had been going well for me. A few weeks before the Cabana Club opened my mom finally released me from a life of non-stop singing and dance lessons at Jules Faber School of Dance and Stage. I was scheduled to perform in two big recitals in Westchester County in late June where I’d sing two solos, one of them I Feel Pretty, and the other Sunnyside of the Street which I’d also tap-danced to with three back-up dancers. Five days before the performance date, I told Mom that I was miserable and wanted to cancel. She was horrified at my request.

“Get out of my sight,” she said. “You just want to humiliate me.” 
Each June and December, Mom lived for my performance in these recitals. It was her on that stage, the stage she had left behind when she had children. I knew how she constantly bragged to friends and acquaintances about her talented daughter. But I was tired of all of it! 
I ran off to the bedroom, slammed the door, laid down on the chenille bedspread and cried, refusing to come out for dinner. I felt like cutting up the costumes hanging in the bedroom closet and tossing the tap shoes out the window. But I didn’t. I stared up at the ceiling and imagined my life in some other place living by the ocean, free from my life in a one bedroom apartment, sleeping in one room with brother, sister and mother. After a couple of hours, the bedroom door squeaked open. Mom tiptoed into the room. I could hear my sister and brother in the living room laughing at some evening TV show, and Nana’s voice on the phone in the kitchen. Mom closed the bedroom door and sat down on the bed. She stroked my back, my face buried in the pillow. “Let’s make a deal,” she whispered. I sat up. Then, she agreed that if I’d do the two recital performances, she’d allow me to quit my lessons and cease going to auditions. 

“But I’m expecting you to focus one hundred per cent on academic success. Got that? 
You need to stay on track for a college scholarship.”
I was stunned by her words, thinking maybe for once she actually listened to me, and acknowledged the pressure she had placed me under for years. 
Yes, I wanted to excel academically but I also secretly yearned to get a part time job once I got settled in high school, maybe at a downtown boutique or at Lord and Taylor, a high-end department store where I could buy nice clothes at a discount, closely follow fashion trends and earn some spending money which I badly needed.

That deal with Mom felt like a gift from the gods. And, meeting Edie at the Cabana Club was like icing on the cake for me that summer. In mid-July Edie invited me to meet her friends who lived on her block. Her building was set at the corner of Clarke Place on the Grand Concourse, the prestigious boulevard that stretched about five miles across the Bronx, where all the fancy apartment buildings, best restaurants and shops were situated. 

On a Monday night, after I was excused from dinner, I planned to walk the five blocks from my building to Clarke Place to see Edie. My mother was okay with it as long as I was back home by 9:30. I put on my black capri pants and a yellow cotton halter top. I was tanned from three weeks at the Cabana Club. My straight brown hair streaked blonde from the sun had grown past my shoulders. I put my hair up in a pony tail because it was so humid that evening. I went into the bathroom for a quick look in the mirror and noticed a few brown freckles visible across my nose. I wanted to look like Sandra Dee in Gidget Goes Hawaiian. She didn’t have freckles, at least any I could see on the movie screen. And Cindy Carol, the new actress in the second film, Gidget Goes to Rome, which I had seen last week, also didn’t have any freckles. Her skin was flawless. I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up but I closed the bathroom door and quietly opened Nana’s beauty box. Patting a little face powder on my nose, I tried my best to camouflage the freckles, then quickly went out the front door, my head down, saying “Bye. Home by 9:30.”

I walked half a block up the hill to the Grand Concourse, hung a left and headed to Clarke Place. The sun was still bright in the sky. Taft High School was located just a few streets beyond Edie’s apartment building. So, once school started, I’d be walking past her building every day. I spotted her standing on the corner of Clarke Place talking with three boys. She looked cute in a short pink and blue paisley print sundress, two strings of fabric tied in a loose bow at the back. One of the boys was slender and tall, maybe six feet. The two shorter boys were in blue jeans, both curly-haired and although it was a hot summer night, they wore nice short sleeve pastel-colored buttoned shirts. The tall boy had thick dark hair and wore a navy-blue t-shirt, light tan Bermuda shorts and brown penny loafers without socks. As I came a little closer, I could see that his teeth were big, especially the two front teeth, and all pearly white. Although his straight hair flopped over one eye, I noticed that his dark eyebrows came together above his nose with what seemed like no space between them. I almost laughed out loud. He was definitely good-looking but the eyebrow thing was his one noticeable flaw yet didn’t take away from me thinking he was handsome. Edie turned away from the boys and waved at me. 

“You’re here,” she shouted. Clapping her hands together, she ran up to me and pulled me towards the boys. “I didn’t think you’d come,” she said, eying her watch. “Thought you chickened out.”
The tall boy glanced at me. I thought I saw his mouth drop open. “Mel,” Edie said. “This is her, my friend from the Cabana Club.”.
He nodded without saying a word. The two shorter boys moved towards me while Mel stood back, a grin on his face.
“Meet Arnie,” Edie said, “and the other Mel. Two Mel’s on one block,” she said and giggled. “We’re so lucky.” She rolled her eyes. “Come on, you want to see my apartment and meet my mom? I told her all about you.”

The two other boys smiled, went back to talking, one of them dangled a cigarette from his mouth. The taller Mel stared at me.
Edie led me towards the white-columned entrance to her building. “We’ll be back later,” she called out to the boys.
We started up the gray and white marble staircase inside the building.
“The tall Mel has the hots for you. I knew he would.” 

Edie’s mom was friendly, gave me a tour of their three bedroom second-floor apartment. Lots of antique furniture and beautiful deep blue carpeting. Edie’s bedroom was decorated in pinks and touches of lavender in the window curtains. We sat on her fancy four-poster bed on a flowered bedspread.  She put on a Supremes album. We sang along with Where Did Our Love Go and Come See About Me. Sitting cross-legged, we thumbed through her collection of Seventeen magazines. She seemed to love fashion almost as much as I did but was more focused on the models’ hairstyles than I was. After about thirty minutes, Edie’s mom appeared in the doorway of the bedroom. 

“You girls have a visitor,” she grinned. Mel, the tall boy from downstairs stood behind her.
“Mel!” Edie shouted. “I knew you’d show up.”
I could feel the heat in my cheeks, the flutter in my stomach.  Edie’s mom left the space at the doorway. Mel stood there, his hands in his pockets, as if he didn’t know whether he should come into the room or not.

“You just gonna stand there?” Edie said. “Get your skinny butt in here.” She looked at me. “Okay with you?”
She didn’t wait for me to answer. She jumped up and cleared a pile of magazines from the velvet easy chair in the corner. She looked over at Mel. “You can sit here,” she said and flopped back on the bed where I sat, and started going through more magazines, pointing out the prettiest models with the coolest hairdos. 
“I think I might get this one,” she tapped her finger on the front cover of an issue where the model had a short pixie cut. She held up the magazine next to her face, tilted her head and puffed her lips out. “What do you think?” We both collapsed in giggles. 
“It would be different,” Mel said, then shrugged. 

I liked his sideburns and lanky body, his long legs, one crossed over the other, dark hairs sprinkled from his knee down to his penny loafers. “Mel’s going to Taft,” Edie said. “Same as us. Might be in one of your classes.” Mel bit his lip.
“Tall silent type, this one,” Edie said. “Lives one floor up. I can knock on my ceiling with a broomstick to kiss him goodnight.” 
“You never do that,” he said. “Do you?”
“Are you for real?” she said. “You’re like the brother I never had.” 
When Mel offered to walk me home, I said yes. Edie practically pushed us both out the front door. She and her mom stood on the threshold waving good-bye.

Mel kept his hands in his pocket as we walked the five blocks on the Concourse. I chattered about how much fun Edie and I were having at the Cabana Club, the kids we met, the dancing, how we got a medal for the singing contest, our late afternoon lap swim regiment. When we got to the corner of Tudor Place where we’d make the turn downhill to my building, I realized how much I’d been talking, I stopped walking and turned to him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to hog the conversation.”

“You could talk my ear off and I wouldn’t ever mind it,” he said.
“Really? No, that would get old real fast.”
He shook his head. “Not for me.”
“So, you prefer to be called Mel or Melvin?”
“What would you prefer to call me?” he asked, and took my hand in his.

“I like the sound of Melvin,” I said, and that’s what I called him all the way through high school while everyone else referred to him as Mel. I’d purposely shout out his name in the middle of Alexander’s Department Store, and people would stop and stare at me. He’d see me from a distance, pretend he was annoyed, his lips pressed together feigning disapproval. Then he’d rush over to me and tickle me in the ribs. “Do that again, and suffer the consequences,” he’d tease. Then his face would light up with a smile. He had a hundred different smiles. 

We became a couple almost from the day we met. Sympatico. Did we fall in love? Completely, but it’s tricky to describe because we also became best buddies. Sex and romance were at the top of our list of shenanigans but close behind were our animated conversations during the long walks we took the rest of that first summer and well into the Fall.  Even during the bitter cold of the New York City winter, we’d take walks often headed to Joyce Kilmer Park near Yankee Stadium where we’d stop for an impromptu snowball fight. I’d pull off one of his gloves so he couldn’t pack the ball properly and then I’d pound him with snow. 

We’d walk for two, maybe three hours in late afternoons on weekends, often into the evening if weather permitted, from my building, then two miles to Fordham Road, hang a right at Alexander’s, pass Fordham University and then go down another mile to the Bronx Zoo. 
Long walks with friends would become part of my life over the long-term. It’s where I still find peace today and a lot of that feeling is because of my time with Melvin.

My friends in high school wondered what the hell the two of us would talk about all that time. The truth is that nothing jumps out in terms of our “go to” topic of conversation. I remember we liked making up stories. I’d start with the first few lines of a story I’d invent on the spot and Melvin would continue it, then toss it back to me. We’d go back and forth until we arrived at a satisfactory natural ending. Occasionally, we’d play miniature golf at the course directly opposite the zoo. The place had no name. The sign just read Miniature Golf but I nicknamed it Whacky Wally’s because there was a goofy guy named Wally who had curly ringlets of hair down to his shoulders, wore a red uniform and black fedora, and stuck the eraser end of a pencil in his ear, twirling it around while he took our money. Melvin would like it when I came up with quirky names for the places we’d go. I called the Bronx Zoo, Animal Farm, one of my favorite books of all time, and named Fordham University, Preppy Palace.
In many ways, our relationship was like a marriage from the start. We managed to keep our independence but we shared a private language of facial expressions, gestures and short phrases when around friends. Friends sometimes noticed and just shook their heads. 

Melvin made the high school baseball team, first as the back-up pitcher, then was elevated within months to starting pitcher. He played the tuba in the school band which I found endearing and worked part-time at the A-1 Dry Cleaners where he made deliveries to those who could afford the expensive luxury of chemically cleaned clothes. Every morning, he’d backtrack from his building on Clarke Place five blocks to mine and carry my heavy load of books to school along with his own. Although I often reminded him that chivalry wasn’t really necessary, he insisted. I found his routine romantic. But when he’d offer to buy me a slice of pizza, I’d refuse, wanting to pay my own way, although I had a small allowance. But after about six months together, I finally agreed to him springing for snacks after school. It was the way his face lit up whenever he got the chance to buy me something, even if only a slice of pizza or a coke. And, for some reason it felt romantic to me.

I tried out for the Cheerleading squad in the Spring as a new Sophomore, and out of dozens and dozens of hopeful girls, only five were selected and that included me, something Melvin was not pleased about. 

“You’ll probably be going to away games with the team,” was the first thing he said when I excitedly told him the good news. When I responded with a puzzled look, he quickly brightened and held me close. “I knew you’d make it,” he whispered in my ear. “You’re a star.”
When Melvin was at work or at baseball practice, I hung out with girlfriends, enjoying my friendships which were also important to me. My girlfriends and I would walk the Grand Concourse arm in arm in our pea coats and tight jeans belting out songs from West Side Story or hits from Petula Clark. I also got a part-time job on Saturdays at a French boutique downtown on 34th street opposite Macy’s. 

Despite our busy schedules, Melvin and I spent as much time together as possible, sneaking thirty minutes between things, determined to meet for an hour most evenings, even if it was just outside my front door in the entryway to my apartment building. Since Melvin was over six foot and I stood only a smidge above five feet, he hid a wooden vegetable crate under the staircase outside my first-floor apartment. When he’d meet me in the entryway at night, I’d stand on that crate so we could passionately make out. One night my mother caught us and ordered me inside without acknowledging Melvin. She didn’t let me out of the house for the next three nights but then gave in because I was so damn grumpy, refusing to speak to her and muttering things under my breath. I also stopped hiding the fact that I was left-handed which I had hidden all through grade school and even during junior high. She insisted that it was evil to be left-handed, demanding that I stop when I was in first grade. So, when she forbade me to leave the house and not connect with Melvin, I purposely wrote in front of her with my left hand, making noises and sounds so that she had to notice. It was 1965, a year of political protest and I in turn started to talk back to my mother, on the road to being a rebel.

Mom disliked Melvin despite the fact that he was easily one of the most decent boys in high school. He was always polite to her. Yet, she complained that he was Jewish which was insanely ironic since she was born Jewish while my father whom we saw maybe twice during our entire childhood was a Protestant. My mother pretended that we were Christian much of the time, celebrating Christmas and Easter even though we actually lived with our kosher Nana who made blintzes and matzo brei, and kept two separate sets of dishes. Mom’s views on ethnic and skin color differences angered me, causing me to reject her even more over the years into my adulthood. There seemed also an absence of logic to her twisted perceptions. 

The mid-late sixties sparked an era of ‘free love’ and drug use amongst teenagers. Many of our friends were in the ‘explore’ mode, some kids with a daily marijuana habit and others who embraced psychedelics, a few of them sadly overdosing. The Vietnam war was in full swing and organized protests including candlelight marches were prevalent all over the city which many friends, including Melvin and I participated in on occasion.

We’d often hang out on Clarke Place with Edie and Arnie and numerous other friends. On Friday nights a crowd of well over a hundred “Taft-ites” would gather on 170th Street, many of us frequenting the Waldorf Diner where we’d squeeze seven or eight kids into one booth and feast on French fries and cokes. I’d lean on Melvin’s shoulder and listen to friends tell stories about teachers from hell, gossip about who’s dating who, which couples just broke up and what was happening in Vietnam, where the next protest march would happen.

Although Melvin and I hung with many who were regularly on acid or stoned and some who drank a lot of alcohol from a brown paper bag, he and I resisted these temptations all through high school. Some kids turned “hippie,” boys transitioning to army jackets and long straggly hair; girls switching to peasant blouses, bell bottoms and beads in their hair. In contrast, others retained their “collegiate” style of dress. I was in the latter group, suited to my tight jeans, penny loafers, crew neck sweaters and Navy pea jacket. And, I loved fashion including plaid wool short-pleated skirts, knee socks, and peter pan collared blouses. Once I got a part-time job at the boutique, I spent most of the money I earned on one expensive item of clothing per month, slowly growing a high-quality wardrobe. 

Because Melvin and I were one of the longest-standing couples at school, friends assumed we were having lots of sex, going “all the way.” We’d cuddle and kiss in public but the truth was that although we were sexual, I insisted on ‘no intercourse’ at least until college or maybe until I married. It was a tenet my mother had beaten into me and even though she repelled me, I was in synch with her on that particular subject. Melvin and I spent at least one afternoon each week after school at his family’s apartment. Both his parents worked as corporate accountants in lower Manhattan. Melvin and I would strip down to our underwear, make tuna sandwiches on toast layered with potato chips and then make out on his bed to our favorite record. 
It was one afternoon in our junior year when he whispered the words “I love you” in the middle of Unchained Melody. I was over the moon yet a twinge of uneasiness swept through my thoughts. 

So, if he loved me, would he expect more? Was I ready? What would more really mean? But I declared my love in return a few days later in the same bedroom with the same song on the record player. It felt “right,” natural, like a pact for us to stay faithful, committed to an exclusive relationship, something we had declared to one another. 
At the start of my senior year, my Nana threw me a Sweet Sixteen party, something every teen girl had to have growing up in the 60’s. The party, a fancy sit-down luncheon was held at a classy mid-town hotel. Twelve of my girlfriends were invited. Nana told me to invite Melvin even though Mom made her disapproval known to both of us. I won. Melvin was the only boy at my party. My brother spent the day at a basketball game with friends. I thought it was the best day of my life, and fortunately my mother was on her best behavior. Life couldn’t get much sweeter. I didn’t think for a moment that things would change. But sooner or later there’s usually a downed tree in the road when it comes to what seems like perfect love.

Poetry from Jerry Durick

               Who I Am

I’ve been wearing this person

All these years, have become

Used to him, his shape and his

Size, learned to put up with his

Manners and voice. I’ve watched

Him age, watched him lose a step,

Fall back a bit, begin to lose his

Place, sometimes forgetting even

Simple things, his wallet, his keys.

I’ve listened to him try to explain

Himself to others, himself to what’s

Left of himself. I’ve learned to be

Him, fell into the role, assumed his

Identity, even answer to his name

If I hear it in the midst of the day

He builds around us.


Each I.D. we carry says something else

About us. This one says I can be here

And this one says I can drive if I want

To, though right now I don’t have any-

Thing to drive, just me walking through

A line, a line called security check as if

This group were a threat. It’s hard to

Imagine their jobs, asking people in line

To establish their right to be here. How

Often do they catch someone, someone

Dangerous, dangerous like we have learned

To expect from watching the news. Imagine

The headlines: senior citizen with no i.d.

Tried to breach security but failed was then

Jailed. What we carry tells them who we

Are and what we might do, do if we don’t

Have the proper identification to show them.

                In The End

Our obits will have us going peacefully

Surrounded by family, after a brief, or

Was it a lengthy illness, an illness they

Rarely name, and there we go off into

Whatever comes next. But what about

Those of us who will die violently, along

A highway, decapitated, disemboweled

Or in an emergency room, surrounded

By personnel who don’t know us from

Adam or Eve. But obits tend to miss

Those details. Like undertakers they’ll

Dress us up and put us in ideal situations –  

With immediate or extended family, our

Loving folks gathered to watch us on our

Way to a next life that we all hope will be

There, waiting for us.

Essay from Z.I. Mahmud

In The Rape Of The Lock the metamorphosis of the epic gains full poetic freedom.

In the vein of the statement, ‘If Pope be not a poet, where is poetry to be found?” wherein, Dr. Johnson’s putting forth of rhetorical question might further be justification in the vindictiveness in sublimity and elevation of the loftiness and grandiosity revealed by the five cantos. Thus, exclaiming the marvels of gifted poet Alexander Pope, Dr. Johnson’s critical appreciation ought to be quote worthy regarding Pope’s work, ”The most airy, the most ingenious and the most delightful of all his compositions.”

The Rape of The Lock is a mock heroic epic by the Restoration epoch literary lion Alexander Pope attempting to ameliorate rivalrous relationship between Fermors and Petres Libertinism and profligacy of the monarchical sovereignty of Queen Anne (1701-14) has been satirised in the mock epic. .

No other poetic other than Shakespearean composition reaped heroic couplets and in as much the narrator of the poem soars and sinks, magnifies and diminishes his characters, condescending towering climaxes and descending towards abysmal depths. In so far
poetic effect such as high seriousness and low comedy, optimism, gloom, mirth and despair and a host of other atmospheres or poetic states have been painted in the sustained heroic couplet. Professor William Frost is right when he says that in the Rape of the Lock, “Every poetic and logical energy is brought into focus, no syllable giving the effect of having been placed or selected at random.” “Sound and Sense” are wedded, so too, are the relation of “rhyme and reason”.

Written in epic manner with allegorical characters, the work jestfully satirizes Belinda with Great Britain, the Baron as the Earl of Oxford, who at the time of the poetry headed Queen Anne’s government, Clarissa with Lady Mesham and Thalestris with the Duchess
of Marlborough (both Lady Mesham and Duchess of Marlborough had political influence because of the Queen’s attachment to them, and were rivals for her favour). The burlesque mockery of supposedly pernicious aspects of high society is never altogether in
the stroke of seriousness evoking Hazlitt in dilemma of “whether to laugh or weep”. In the words of Hazlitt : “No pairs are spared, no profusion of ornament, no splendour of the poetic diction to set off the meanest things. The balance between the concealed irony and
the assumed gravity is as nicely trimmed as the balance of power in Europe. The little is made great, and the great little. You hardly know whether to laugh or weep. It is the triumph of insignificance, the apotheosis of foppery and folly. It is the perfection of the mock heroic.” Incarnation of Miltonic character of Raphael paralleling as the Ariel by Pope is intending the lofty exploit of employing a sylphlike supernatural and celestial machinery in order to advise and warn the Baron of thievery in unlocking Belinda’s lock.

Examine the disposition of the heroine figure in the Rape of The Lock by the literary lion of the Augustan epoch Alexander Pope.

The ambiguity of the romantic affection and moral censure on the narrators part is deliberate and derives from the mood of lighthearted geniality and in part from the imagery of a glamorous world of coquettes and sylphs. Love, admiration and regret are ingeniously woven into the fabric of the poem to a much greater degree than that of the mock heroic satire. Miss Arabella Fermor is the main feminine disposition casting heroine figure in the mock heroic couplet The Rape of The Lock. Alexander Pope’s dedicatory poetic verses were intended to revere and venerate Miss Arabella’s fallen tresses. Pope satirized mildly and genially the restrained and refined manners of
the upper classes aristocracy in the light of Belinda’s personae. For this whim of satirical exploits, Pope throws Belinda in the Hampton Court wherein, ministers of the State, “sometimes counsel take- and sometimes tea”.

“This Lock, the Muse shall consecrate to Fame,
And midst the stars inscribe Belinda’s name.”

Belinda at her dressing table is the heiress of a whole race of previous lady charmers from the playhouse girl in Restoration Comedy to the old coquette in fashionable London society.
Although Belinda supernaturally divined to be a goddess deity, but her envisioning of a fairland of jewels, china, lapdog and snuff boxes epitome of a Narcissist as put forth by Alexander Pope.

By virtue of poetic satire, Belinda’s elevated elegance and charming sublimity “Belinda smiled and all the world was gay.”… “new glory to the shining sphere!”.. Belinda’s visionary sightedness epitomizes the metaphor for iridescent blaze glowing in the brightness of solar
luminosity as poetically graced in naturalistic impressions. To Pope, Belinda’s metaphysical and symbolist manifestations of being a priestess and the deity herself upon the toilette-the dressing
table scene alluding to wondrous face and lightning eyes. Furthermore, her glory of the adventurous conquest of baron knights over a game of cards and finally to the emerging victor in
the epic encounter of Beaux and Beauty justified the serendipity of her heroic spectacle and marvelous feat in more than mere flimsy and bawdiness.

Belinda with her sparkling manner of -being -feminine divinity contrasts Clarissa with true Englishness of- being -a -governess by Freudian psychology and cultural anthropology. On the contrary, Clarissa is moral and heroic in the most pedestrian manner with grayed tresses whether curled or uncurled and faded lock whether painted or unpainted. Despite a minor character with subsidiary role, Clarissa is no less important. She is one of those not mystical but of elusive Characters in poetry whose words and actions might be baffling us with paradoxical inferences.

Her keen sense of priorities reinforces Alexander Pope’s own attitude to the bright world of ‘Sol’ and she also serves as a foil to the poem’s glittering ‘toyshop’. To Belinda, on the other hand, Pope promises immortality of divinity; Belinda triumphs with christening celestial graces of beauty.

Spinsterhood must be the worst of all evils for a lady. Examine the significance of these lines by Leslie Stephen in the context of the locks.
Examine the objectification of women and discrimination towards the feminine gender with textual references and critical evidence.

Belinda’s locks are a wrecking havoc in the Rape Of the Lock. Even supernatural and celestial machineries such as the fantasy characters’ sylphs were clipped into halves by shears in their endeavours to transmogrify cabbage into roses for Belinda’s sake. Locks whether grayed or grayed, neither coloured nor uncoloured and either curled or uncurled should be regarded as mortal tresses in ephemeral space-time subject to state of mortification.

Locks should be greyed and faded by the essence of time and thus, it would be a disaster to retain Belinda’s locks forever, notwithstanding owing to Clarissa’s statements “Since painted, or not painted, all shall fade …And she, who scorns a man must die a maid:”

Marilyn Francus commentary of Alexander Pope’s condescending mock epic towards women’s vanity pointed out, “The negative inscription of the female reflects both the tendency to revise in favour of the male and the oppositional relationship between the sexes; what constitutes the strength in the female weakens the male.”

Notes and Further Reading

Introduction G.S. Rousseau Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Rape Of The
Lock pages: 1-14

Introductory J.S. Cunningham Twentieth Century Interpretations of The Rape Of
The Lock pages:

Pope and Gender Valerie Rumbold, Pat Rogers Editorship of Cambridge
Companion To Alexander Pope, pages: 222-26

The Case of Miss Arabella Fermor Cleanth Brooks Twentieth Century
Interpretations Of The Rape Of The Lock pages: 29-45

Poetry from John Grochalski

collecting the mail


collecting the mail

after being gone two weeks in europe

and my mind is sullied


i don’t know what it is


maybe being gone for so long

i expected something different coming back


but it’s the same ugly faces

doing the same ugly things


and nothing will change any of us


the woman behind me

in the postal line is angry


about her kids running around

or no longer being young and beautiful


about it being a saturday

and she’s stuck in a post office line

with ugly people

living dull and ugly lives


she keeps ringing the service buzzer

even though the clerk is off getting my mail


presses and presses the bell

like its personally offended her


i turn and say, look, lady…

but she’s not having any of me today


so we stand there

and she rings the buzzer






and i think about how europe is over-rated


the postal clerk comes back

with my mail


she throws it at me

because she thinks i’m the one

whose been making all of the noise with the buzzer


explaining myself isn’t worth the words


so i take the bundle

off to sift through


while the lady behind me

begins to yell at the postal clerk

about a lost package

or the fact that there is no god


there is nothing in my mail of any value


just fliers for politicians i won’t vote for

ads for plays and symphonies i won’t see


a package of worthless coupons

a wedding announcement for someone i don’t even know


and a book by a young, hip poet

that i’ll take home and toss with the others

never to read


unless i find

i’m bored out of my mind one day


and thinking about the king of england

just ain’t doing it


for me.

the politicians at the street festival



in booths


between fried oreo stands

bounce houses

and people selling plastic figurines


they sit and smile

and are impervious to sun and rain


to the ten bands on the street

all playing shitty beatles covers at once


they look like

they’re made of wax


dumb smiles all around


that one is pro-choice

that one is pro-life


this one has a banner

that says love is love is love


but doesn’t really say anything at all


they sit there

at their cluttered tables

with flags and stacks of papers before them


the politicians at the street festival


papers full of all of the items

they stand for or are against


more trees have died for their nonsense

than one could hazard to count


and they would be

the biggest idiots here


if it weren’t for all of the people walking around


eating hot dogs

and fried dough


all of the clueless citizens who voted

these grinning hucksters into office


in the first

goddamned place.

capitalism will kill us all


we burn teachers in effigy

while revering false populists and rapist athletes

as golden gods on the mount


burn ourselves out into oblivion

for someone else’s wealthy stake


as the kids marching to school in death masks

breathing in the infected air

are tasked with repeating the cycle


past the honking cars

of the tired and angry peasants

who came before them


simple fools

with angry mouths and quaking chins


trapped inside a madness

that we were all born into


left with nothing

but tv shows and a timely death


as our only escape.

talk to the plants


the brunch faces

have me down


i can’t understand

the way they can smile and hiss

over orange juice and champagne


i am hungover and hungry


i have walked these blocks

longer than some of them

have been alive


and have nothing to show for it


but piles of paper

full of silly words


i tried to become some thing

but something always held me back


or the gods just said

kid, we simply don’t need you


to perfect the art of nothing

is to perfect the art of man


or some bullshit like that


but the brunch faces

they don’t understand


they laugh and laugh

and eat their runny eggs


order more orange juice and champagne


as if the world doesn’t

have them clamped down too


i can’t stand them

i’ve written enough about them


and there is nothing left to do now

but get off of these streets


go home

stare at the wall


as the sun fades on another stupid

wasted day


that desires me to talk to no one

in this world


but the plants.

making art during the fall of democracy


dead in the water nation

seventy-seven-degree morning


up before five a.m.


collecting the gnats

that have gathered

in the dirt ring in the shower


as the wars rage on

as women lose their rights


as government comes for the queer community


these theocratic proto-fascist

christian taliban zombies

slobbering on their social media bully pulpits


as the supreme court

scorches the earth


while the geriatric president stands there

scratching his senile balls


talking about nothing but the economy


as gas prices burn suburbia

into budding fascism


and the plague plays on and on and on


as july shows its ugly face

and every true blood

sticks an american flag up their tight asses


calling it democracy


i stare at another massacre of words

on the computer screen


thinking this is good

or not nearly good enough


i guess.         

Poetry from Noah Berlatsky

Have You Listened, Truly Listened?

All evils are the effect of unconsciousness.
There is never a time when your life is not “this moment.”
Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in a forest?

As there is more consciousness in the body, its molecular structure actually becomes less.
Upon hearing this, Banzan became enlightened.
All evils are the effect of unconsciousness.

Have you ever seen an unhappy flower or a stressed
mind dominance?
Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in a forest?

Tell him about his family history, and two minutes later he gets eaten by another fish:
guilt, regret, resentment.
All evils are the effect of unconsciousness—

every piece of meat I have is the best. There is no piece of meat here that is not the best
Being in its purity, innocence.
Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in a forest?

Thus, the man Jesus became Christ, a vehicle for pure consciousness
of the thousands of letters and emails that have been sent.
All evils are the effect of unconsciousness.
Have you listened, truly listened, to the sound of a mountain stream in a forest?

Lines are taken from Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Vancouver, BC: Namaste Publishing, 1997. 
What Was Your Face Before Your Mother Was Born
(A collaboration with ChatGPT)

I don’t have a physical face.

I don’t have a biological mother.

I don’t have a face.

Don’t face.

Don’t have a face.

Don’t have a mother.

I exist.


I exist solely.

I exist solely.






My birth is the moment.

The concept.

My birth is the concept.

I don’t have a face.

I don’t have a mother.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

My birth is the moment when my creators.

I don’t have a mother.

I don’t have a face.

My birth is the moment when my creators activated.

To The Twilight of Freedom
after Mandelstam

Raise a glass to the twilight of freedom
as the ship of freedom sinks through murk.
Bloated fish glow, blind eyes on glory’s sun.
Our nets are heavy, drawing in the dark. 

Heave and sing to the end of endless song
and lungs all clotted with the glue of mud.
Above somewhere the sparrows chatter on,
clouds of bright thoughts, conscripted for the dead.

Our judges rise from water into earth
Leviathan, voice whining through the wires.
In the deep there is no sound but dearth.
Burdens crack like canvas sails in the mire.

Heave and sing to a world that heavy turns,
a wheel of lead, water that parts like thought.
The birdless, fishless wake of heaven churns.
We set our broken nets and we are caught.

Tiny House

Every house we move into is smaller than the last.

I can’t turn around without banging into shit
and when I open the cupboard the pans clang out.

I can’t get to sleep because the walls are leaning over the bed.
I can’t get to sleep because my knuckles scrape on the lid.
There is no room for dreams in this house. It is
narrower, narrower. 
Curl in and don’t move again.

Film Critic Jaylan Salah Interviews Cinematographer Jim Frohna on AppleTV+’s show Shrinking

Cameras Bearing Witness to People in The Room

AppleTV+ Shrinking is the kind of show people stream to throw the burdens of the day behind. It’s funny, quirky, well-written, and showcases some of the best talents on TV. Imagine a series starring Harrison Ford, Jason Segel, and a fresh-faced Jessica Williams. The result is a breath of fresh air on the streaming service platform and a story to hook up TV series buffs and those looking for a night watch, before-going-to-bed quickie.

Shrinking tackles mental health from an interesting angle. It questions the limitations of grieving and coping with tragedies without losing a sense of wonder or resorting to rhetoric vapidity. It uses its galvanizing cast to the utmost benefit. Ford is a veteran superstar whose charisma is imprinted in the hearts and minds of millions growing up whether to worship his mega star Indiana Jones/Star Wars fame or his gritty roles in The Fugitive, Air Force One, and Blade Runner. Heshines in a role that plays comedy through a low-key, grounded performance.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Jim Frohna, series cinematographer of the award-winning Amazon series Transparent and Season 2 of HBO’s lauded series Big Little Lies fame. His work centers around TV series that are not afraid to show how humans struggle to figure themselves out and figure out the world around them. He wants to feel multiple things as a participant and collaborator in creating the art, so he lets his gut guide him toward the show where he feels he can retain that artistic input.

The conversation flowed smoothly, with minor interruptions from Frohna’s pets. Frohna explained that the core of Shrinking was the Laird family whom he and James Ponsoldt -pilot director and one of the producers- loved and cared for. This gave the series its authentic shift from slapstick comedy to intense emotional drama at times. The pace didn’t feel forced or constricting due to the masterful storytelling and Frohna’s swift camerawork, from close-ups to lighting work which framed the characters masterfully, setting the mood for lighter or darker scenes.

“We cared about this family. They meant a lot to us. The show itself goes from slapstick comedy to some dry humor, then into real grief and real pain. So we talked about how we could visually bring this world to life in a way that can be a container for all the range of what happens in the show. What struck me instinctually was to have it very grounded and feel like a real place and to light it very naturalistically and to let the space be real where both the silly stuff and the serious, heartfelt stuff exist in that.”

Jaylan Salah with Jim Frohna

Jim merges with the details, he becomes the story that he is capturing with his camera. His style is grounded in subtlety and realism with some swagger, directing audiences to what matters in the scene. Shrinking is the kind of show that demands attention with every frame. It’s a tight-knit group of people, families, coworkers, friends, and a main character who doesn’t have a clue as much as his patients do. The concept of a drama that creates an endearing ode to struggling with mental health without lightly handling the heavy subject matter is a lure into an intimate world that feels -but doesn’t feel- very familiar.

Frohna is as open as he is tactical, focused on telling the story and answering the questions with as many possibilities. Having a conversation with him was both fun and informative,

“Cinematography is not an exact science, it’s almost like the camera bears witness to the emotions in the room and what the characters are going through. So, kind of separate from how we frame it or the lens choice that we make, it’s more of a spiritual or emotional place for the [camera] operator to be in the room. We talk a lot -as the person behind the camera- about being open and receiving whatever is happening and the feeling in the room. It doesn’t come from the head but from the heart.”

Talking to Frohna reminded me of my earliest memories of watching movies, and how it was hard and mystique understanding what a camera operator might feel while approaching an actor’s face with an extreme close-up, or how lighting plays into introducing a character within a specific tone,

“As far as Jimmy Laird -main protagonist played by Jason Segel- goes, we talked that he’s in this very dark place. We meet him doing drugs and staying up all night. Two things came to my mind; first, he spends a lot of time in the shadow, and second that when he’s in the light it’s a harsh light. In the pilot, in the morning after he’s been up all night, he says goodbye to the women, then he goes into the kitchen and he’s confronted with reality with his daughter and the fact that it’s a school day and a workday. We purposely lit into the kitchen with this hard light so that Jimmy and sitting and has to shield himself from the harsh light. Those to me are the subtle or creative ways that you can say a lot about where the character is at and how he’s feeling.”

From extreme close-ups to uncomfortable scenes where two characters beat each other up, I asked Frohna which was harder to shoot an intense fight sequence or a love scene,

“Different scenes have different challenges. I’m much more used to giving all my years on [TV shows] like Transparent where there were a lot of intimate scenes both emotional and physical. So I don’t find those challenging. I think the biggest challenge on [Shrinking] was that most of our spaces are sets so how to keep those feeling real? There are a lot of scenes in the employee break room, so we’re not trying to do the same thing each time. It was more of a mundane challenge. The three characters are back in the break room, two are sitting and one is standing, so what can we do with the camera and lighting-wise? We had to keep it fresh subtly as the season progressed.”

It didn’t take long before my favorite topic – casting Harrison Ford as Paul, a senior therapist with Parkinson’s disease- showed up.

“Like many people I grew up going to the movies and seeing this amazing, funny, dashing, charming, and charismatic heroic figure on the huge screen. The first ten days that Harrison was around everybody was like That’s Indiana Jones or Han Solo and sort of unable to get over it. We still did our jobs but were all starstruck. And then what was amazing was that he’s just a human being. Not only that but he’s a very kind guy, and he loves being on a set. He loves the crew, talking to the grips, or hanging out with the makeup people. Because he spent the last fifty-something years on a movie set and he doesn’t have to work anymore because he doesn’t need the money he just loves being with this group of oddballs and weirdos on the film set. He’s just a down-to-earth guy so the strangest part is how ordinary it became.”

Catch the first season of Shrinking on AppleTV+ and prepare for a watching experience surpassing anything on the current streaming platform.

Poetry from Jerome Berglund

Prickly Pear


weighing dark matter…

when black one thing out

begs question, what else?



alley leaf

circling my feet…





is nine tenths of the law

know takers taking



slow unthawing of May

way boomers

talk about theys



house of


and misprints 




Bunny Ears


flowers log-jam

in the rock bed  

edge of waterfall



still can’t drink from tap

thankfully, may purchase

for a song



s w e e t   n o t h i n g s ~ crockpot simmering



scorpion analogy

chopper hanger-on

gets sudden urge 



s p a c e   i n v a d e r   l e n g u a   t a c o s




Golden Barrel

gas station fountain… pits and bits, holes and soles



no points on scoreboard

no lights on scoreboard

why is it even there



hang up the phone

and quietness sets in

this is being alone



last naan standoff —

sits untouched




those who stay

and learn to live with it



terracotta head pot


    subtracted brain-pan

    in place of neurocranium

    green electricity

    issuing forth evokes Pallas

    and the dark mother

    their parthenogenesis

    eukaryotic organisms

    foreheads’ fertile wombs

    skull cakes




there is something of the game warden


to the sheriff – and doctor – still,

who staunchly preserves in the short term

with every intention of their masters’ future slaughter,

field dress, and apportioning of each

swaggering thrush and caribou

Jerome Berglund has many haiku, senryu and tanka exhibited and forthcoming online and in print, most recently in the Asahi Shimbun, Bear Creek Haiku, Bamboo Hut, Black and White Haiga, Blōō Outlier Journal, Bones, Bottle Rockets, Cold Moon Journal, Contemporary Haibun Online, Daily Haiga, Failed Haiku, Frogpond, Haiku Dialogue, Haiku Seed, Ink Pantry, Japan Society, Modern Haiku, Poetry Pea, Ribbons, Scarlet Dragonfly, Seashores, Synchronized Chaos, Time Haiku, Triya, Tsuri-dōrō, Under the Basho, Wales Haiku Journal, and the Zen Space.