Friday, November 27, 2009

JOY'S COOKING tribute to hal sirowitz

Come on over here I said
You keep typing
and ain't paying
attention to me
Now that you're a poet
you're torturing me
making me wait to be with you

I’m a sensitive
new-age, macho-man
So, I'll be
through very soon
and be free to satisfy you, he said
as soon as I finish this

O.K. I said, I'll get
ready for you
An hour later
he was still revising when
suddenly he yelled out
Perfect, it's perfect now

What is I asked
You and the poem he replied
I'm not perfect, I denied
just the best
I've ever been
and the best
you've ever known

© 1994 Joy Leftow

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Neils great interview experiment

Neil Kramer from Citizen of the Month Blog does this Great Interview experiment which I jokingly agreed to participate in. As usual, the writing took a long time and then the editing of course took time too. In fact I edited my answers without knowing Cissa had already posted!

I thank Cissa Fireheart for thinking up such creative questions and for posting on her blog.

My interview of Alicia D. Beth follows here.

1. Your blog has a great deal of personal writings and photography. Do you primarily share on your blog?

My blog is definitely meant eventually to be a record for my children, both of their mother and of their lives growing up. My father died when I was 11, and I have this sort of nagging worry, always, that they may not know me as adults. I wish I had access to this kind of record about my dad and my childhood.

It’s a constant tension, though. I do want to write things that will interest other people, but I know this isn’t usually the case with the mundane details of life. I read a lot of mothers who are able to strike this balance – always engaging, including when writing about their children – but I don’t feel like I know how to do it yet. I’m not sure I ever will, but I’ll keep trying.

As far as the photography goes... Uf. This is a point of contention right now. We bought a *fantastic* camera when I was pregnant with my first son, and it lasted about seven years. When I went to buy a replacement, I thought an expensive point-and-shoot seven years newer would surely surpass in quality the SLR we were replacing. Not true. I definitely learned my lesson. I hate the piece of shit I’m using right now. I have a long-held interest in amateur photography – I took classes in college and thought about majoring in it – so it’s just not something I’m content to do poorly. I do have my eye on a couple DSLRs, though.

2. You’ve been blogging for 4 years. Has it changed since you began?

My first exposure to blogging was actually in 2000, during my pregnancy with my first son. My husband, Bradley, started what amounted to a “blog,” although I’m not sure we called it that then, at (now defunct), to keep our families updated about the pregnancy and baby. A lot of bloggers start this way, I think, although it was definitely uncommon back then. Brad was a programmer, and he did all the code himself, so the site itself was pretty slick for 2000. :) We kept that site updated for two years or so, less and less frequently, before we let it lapse in 2002 or 2003.

Then, I started reading Allie Scott’s story ( in July 2004, shortly after my daughter was born. I read all the archives and kept reading beyond Allie’s death, Maggie’s birth, and Jenny’s startup of Heroes for Children ( I was so transformed by reading that blog, but it didn’t occur to me to start writing again myself until two years or so after we shut down.

By then, February 2005, everything was a lot easier. I started a blog on blogspot (, now defunct but all content has been integrated into Bethsix at, and I began hearing the word “blog,” both as a noun and verb, more and more frequently. There still wasn’t the sense of community, though. Many of the blogs I read now started around that same time, but I didn’t know about them. I wish I had; I probably would’ve been more consistent and stuck with it if I’d felt less isolated. The one blog I read religiously back then was Dooce ( I thought she was brilliant, but I had no idea that such a community or such a multitude of voices would emerge from blogging the way it has.

I kept up the blogspot blog for a couple years before I fell off the wagon again. I started Bethsix ( shortly after another transformative experience, this time with Matt Logelin’s blog (, in December 2008. It was obvious to me then that I needed not only to engage with writing and stories like that, but that I needed just as much to express my own stories and engage with this community that had formed when I’d looked away.

3. I noted that sometimes you’ll blog as much as a dozen time a month and other times only a couple of times a month. Is there a reason for this, or is it simply a matter of when you have time?

It’s a function of time. I have four small children, a full-time job for which I travel quite a bit, and another part-time job. Writing frequently gets pushed to the bottom of the stack.

It’s also a function of my attempt to aggregate everything I’d written at different sites in one place. Bethsix ( now includes everything I wrote on blogspot, myspace, facebook, and (before I switched to a self-hosted format). The only thing not included is that first site we had in 2000. There was a non-trivial amount of time that I did not have a “blog,” per se, but I did post sporadically on my personal myspace and facebook accounts. Those months show up in my archives as very lean.

4. What is your motivation for your posts? Does the motivation change, or do you try to keep the blog on a theme of sorts?

I don’t try to keep up with any kind of theme, although I sometimes think my writing would be better if I did. I go through cycles. There are times when I’m so turned inward that all I’m doing is thinking, and those times lend themselves to writing. There are other times when I feel so taxed that all I feel I can do is stay afloat. Writing doesn’t seem to happen then, which may be a good thing, as I’m sure it would be poor and scattered.

That said, parenting is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on a daily basis. I tend to write about my children and my parenting because they challenge me, always.

5. Does parenting inspire you or were you always creative and therefore your blog is a reflection of creative parenting?

Parenting is extremely difficult for me. I assume it’s this way for everyone, but it’s so damn isolating that it’s hard to even know. Conflict and struggle inspire me to think deeply and to reexamine assumptions, so, in this way, parenting inspires me. It forces me to consider difficult questions and to see my world in constant shades of gray. This kind of reflection lends itself to writing, I think.

6. Do you feel your blog will provide a history for your children and family that you can refer back to later?

Absolutely. This is one of my primary aims with my blog. I hope that my children will be able to look back and know me more fully through my words and the feelings I choose to express publicly.

7. What encourages you to continue blogging?

More than anything, it’s the other blogs I read. I have always appreciated excellent writing (this is not to say I’m able to pull it off myself!), and there are some writers in this new medium that have deeply complex stories to tell and profound words and ways to express them. I’m constantly finding blogs that are written by master storytellers, often people who have “real” jobs and lives well beyond their keyboards. Reading these keeps me engaged with the craft. Beyond that, it’s my own need to express. I’ve only recently realized that everyone has stories worth telling, including me.

8. Is your blogging and parenting intertwined?

Not intertwined, exactly, but parenting my children definitely provides fodder for my posts a lot of the time.

9. Has your blog lead to a lot of interaction with other bloggers doing similar things or different or both?

I only became re-engaged with blogging at the beginning of this year. Before Bethsix (, the last time I really wrote in earnest, the community surrounding blogging hadn’t really formed, at least not as cohesively as it has now. I’m trying to engage with other bloggers and the surrounding community, but it seems like it developed just as I turned my head. There are already all these alliances and friendships, and it’s just like real life, in that it’s difficult to insert yourself in already established relationships. These interactions will happen, I’m sure, but I’m kinda a new kid on the block right now.

In general, I tend to read other mothers, simply because that’s a huge area of experience to have in common with someone else, even if you see it and do it vastly differently. There are women I respect immensely, more so than most of the people I know in “real life,” women who *live* the principle of blogging as a radical act (Alice Bradley,, and those are the women from which I most want to learn.

10. What is the most important thing about blogging to you?

Writing, reading, expression, and community. These are the things that come to mind immediately. I’m not sure I can separate or prioritize them. There’s definitely the craft of it, the writing and the reading. But there’s the creative, expressive part, that’s just putting yourself and your thoughts out there, into a public forum to which you remain accountable. And then there’s the community.

In the end, I guess all these things are about relationships: writers and readers interacting via texts, writers and readers negotiating themselves via texts, and communities of individuals developing both online and in meatspace, all throwing stakes into the ground and committing themselves to ideas and dialogue and relationships.

Monday, November 23, 2009


It's difficult to circumspect
and or/to hypothesize
that life exists beyond our death
and SO WHAT if it does?
My point is ... sometimes there's ...
a sequel to suicide

Remember Maria
whose luck with MEN ran dry?
Every man she had abused her
verbally and physically
Each relationship left her agonized,
Until she threatened suicide

Maria claimed she had a vicious tongue
She said to me, I just have this special skill
I can do it the way no one else will
and any man who feels my tongue
falls helpless to my prowess
ready for my kill

Since I'm a great BELIEVER in therapy
I said, Please go and get you some
But, Maria wasn't THAT concerned!!
She slit her wrists, took some pills,
said she'd jump off the G.W.Bridge.

But she didn't succeed in getting out of here
And as the years wore on
Maria continued more and more
to threaten to end her misery
And things got worse and worse

Until she met Christina
an amalgamated personality
of masculine and feminine
Maria suddenly changed her tune
a flip-side to suicide,

In her forty second year
life became more gay
and I mean that
literally and figuratively

I called Maria this past Tuesday
Said "Why are you avoiding me?"
She laughed and said,
I've got a crush on my
best friend, Christina
I chase her till she catches me.

And ever since Chrissie said
she would COMMIT -
I felt like that was all it was about anyway -
You know, the BIG C,

So then I gave her my legendary tongue
And Lordy, ... Lordy, ... Umm, Umm, Umm ...
you don't know what that did to ME.
I mean, it was the most exciting
thing I've ever done
Um, Ummm, All that tongue?
Well, ...It just came naturally

Shit Maria, I don't care
if you're a lesbian
For me it's more important
not to worry you've gone
and committed suicide
or homicide, maybe even genocide
Besides, ... Now I've got a new poem:
A sequel to suicide.

© Joy Leftow 1994
edited by JL for the upteenth time 2009

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Heroes and Superstars

February nineteenth, 1991, at 1 a.m. I met him. He’d been singing for thirty years and I would’ve known his face anywhere. The sixties was my era. I caught on as the sixties was running out of steam. Being slow to bloom, I simmered then suddenly sprouted as the seventies began. Bob was my idol, a hero to all of us who wanted to emulate that Rolling Stone and have One More Cup of Coffee with Queen Jane in Mozambique.

I took the plunge, strolled over and said, “Hey Bob, how are ya?” We were at Kennedy waiting for our luggage. He stared at me deadpan. “You are Bob Dylan, aren’t ya?” I said.

Bob narrowed his eyes, and glared. “Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s dangerous to talk to strangers?”

Maybe he was only joking. “Well,” I continued, “that’s the only way to meet anyone!”

He growled, “Strangers could cut out your liver and kidneys.”

“Hum,” I replied, smiling and refusing to be put off, “A bit hungry, Bob? Perhaps we can arrange that.” That almost worked! He fleetingly grinned, (it could’ve been a sneer), then he scowled again.

I only wanted his autograph and a few kind words. I figured I’d start over. “They sure keep this terminal hot!” I said, pulling off my black down coat, exposing the purple with yellow trimmed lining. Bob had on a thick and heavy white cotton hooded sweatshirt with the hood up. On top of this, he sported one of his legendary leather jackets and over this, hanging from his head, hung a heavy gray woolen overcoat that fell to mid-calf. I didn’t quite understand why no one else had noticed him. I would’ve looked twice at anyone with a coat hanging from his head.

“Luggage is taking a long time,” I said. “Something's up.” Sure enough, at that precise moment the announcement came over the loud speakers informing us of a delay in transporting the luggage to the terminal, but not to worry, it was on the way.

Someone from Bob’s entourage brought him a luggage wagon, then left after exchanging some words. Bob stood alone. I peered at him curiously, “You must be sweltering with all those clothes.”

He leaned on a luggage wagon with both arms, stared unwaveringly into my eyes then past to some bleak horizon which only he could see. “I have all my things here in this bag, cause I like to travel light,” I chattered on while he remained unimpassioned and uninterested, “except this one thing,” I held up a finger, “that I found cheaper in England than anywhere else; a decorator’s table.” He wasn’t my captive audience; he could just spin his wagon away at any moment.

And now I had finally gotten his attention! Weird. Why would he be interested in my talk of a decorating table? His steely eyes scathingly pierced mine. “Don’t think twice Bob, it’s all right.

“Whaddaya you need to know?” Bob said.

I wondered if this was this a trick question, or could I ask him for his autograph?’ I began slowly, “Aren’t ya Bob Dylan?”

He squinted his eyes.

“I’m not planning to advertise,” I added reassuringly.

“Ask me something else!”

I was thinking, Get that autograph, but I hesitated. As I opened my mouth to speak, Bob reached out with his black leather-gloved hand, grabbed my chin and shoved my face in the opposite direction.
“Stop doing that!” he said.

I moved a few feet away and gave up the autograph idea. What had just gone down? I surmised he’d been uncomfortable with my eye contact and friendly overtures. The man lacked social skills. Guess Bob has no appreciation for the high regard in which his admirers hold him as hero and stupid star, oops, I mean, superstar. But that’s o.k. Bob isn’t known for his graciousness, he’s known for his songs.

Ten minutes later I caught him staring at me. I stared back but no change registered. I wondered why now he’ was staring at me. I averted my eyes after several moments. If he had gotten what he needed by my withdrawal why was he now provoking me beckoning me, challenging me, with his stare?

I was tempted to tell him off, to say, This is a hell of a way to treat the people you make a living on.

A man to my right stood nearby, watching. “That’s Bob Dylan,” I said, thinking it likely he had observed the entire encounter.

“Big deal!” he said. “The world doesn’t shake for him anymore. Who cares? You could sue him for pushing your face!”

Later that day, totally jet lagged after so much traveling, I fell into a deep Bob Dylan sleep. My lover and I were attending a meditation retreat in the countryside. A sea breeze caressed me and the foliage was green and full. We walked, holding hands, through the French Doors of the beautiful palatial home where the retreat was being held. Bob Dylan lay awake, stretched out on a sofa.

I said, “Hi, Remember me?”

He answered, “How could I forget?” I thought he was being romantic because his posture and voice were seductive. Then I realized he meant how could he forget someone so crazy.

I said, “I’m so glad to see you again. I didn’t know you were into this,” meaning into meditation. I felt happy he was behaving so personably.

My lover and I retired to the bedroom to sleep, but the bed was very lumpy so we decided to try the big bed in the living room. It was very comfortable. I couldn’t take off my clothes because I was afraid someone would see me and there wasn’t a big enough blanket to cover myself. I wanted to get up and go to the bedroom to retrieve my bag, which I’d forgotten. I was afraid someone would steal my comfortable sleeping spot but I also needed my bag. I walked down the long hallway and suddenly there was Bob, holding something out to me.

“You forgot something”, he said and I’m like, “Oh did you find my bag in the other bedroom?” He held up a plastic see-through baggie and I saw my liver and kidneys inside.

another true short story © Joy Leftow, 1991
published previously 2005 by author - publisherPatrick Dent
currently published NYC Jewish Currents fall issue 2009 (get your free issue by clicking here)

Friday, November 13, 2009


Crisis is either way you lose
different from win some lose some
Gotta keep plugging along
light at the end of the tunnel
a new moon wilderness
my heart, a song of desire

my psyche is brimful desire
momentarily mine, a life lost
new spring & full moon wilderness
Just a little more, more time some
times life is like winding tunnels
gotta keep plugging - moving along

I don’t follow others, I move along
to my own beat, why admit what I desire
Is it there at the end of this tunnel
If I can’t see I’ll surely get lost
again even if sometimes I win some
This city is just like a wilderness

wild flowers, blue birds, mosquito wilderness
and danger lurks so best choice all along
not always clearly heard say some
Pretend to have or not have desire
There are only painful losses
hidden away in underground tunnels

skin deep vicissitudes tunneling
to surface; a wild card in a missing wilderness
of light, Ye of little faith, you can’t lose
I’ve known it my entire life, all along
Finally, the truth! My heart’s desire
I’ve come into my own; I’ve come into some

O.K. I’m content it’s this much, then some
Found there while digging an underground tunnel
solidified in old accomplished signs of desire
on the sun’s desert moon of the wilderness
scent of bergamot trailing along
Nostalgic gazes fazing ambitious loss

loss doesn’t mean I don’t have some
left like our lives tumble along a tunnel
of love and encompass a wilderness of desire

© 2007 Joy Leftow

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Graffiti tag

I received my National Association of Social Work renewal and put it to good use.
Wouldn't you agree? Artistically?
Apropo too.
I called them some time ago, said I'm a retiree now and have been for some time so I want to pay the retiree fee.
They replied to me: pay the retiree fee after you pay the regular fee for one year since you're a lapsed member.
Don't quite see the logic in that.
I'll probably try again this year to speak to them otherwise I'll have to continue on being a lapsed member with lapsed membership.
I want to pay the retiree fee.
Pity we can't have what we need for free.
Have to pay for it all on call, pay it all
again and again everyday.
As you see I need income and being a natural whore, my skills are available for sale as most of you ascertained from a pre-ordained sale of ads aimed at higher ed.

Saturday, November 07, 2009


My painting invested
with four months of life
oil colors on canvas three feet wide
interpreting the artists’ studio

The room burnished
with earthen colors
the ceiling high and wide
represented as a clear blue sky
with clouds of varying shades
from white to grey

Using colors to reveal my feelings
inspired by my master
investigating my strengths through
his wisdom, usurping his vision

How do you get this effect or that
Make a cloud look billowy and soft
Train your hand to make an image
and still relay your feelings with
training, craft and skill?

While I shyly bowed my head, the master
declared my work showed great strides,
my growth in perspective was a triumph for him
He was astonished how I used
colors to accomplish these effects

Four months, three hours a day,
two days a week I slaved

to nurture my untrained abilities
to complete my still life

My lover was fascinated by the color,
the depth, the room where the ceiling
became a sky with no limit,
the inner space that stretched
to meet the cosmos of time

Please, my lover begged me
Give me that work that is so fine
that piece of you, your mind,
that inner space that I can claim is mine

Please give me that work that is so fine
in which you invested great
quantities of self and time
I gave him my work of art
because I believed he loved me

There came the day I stood outside his door
found that he had gone away
I stood pondering and saw nothing amiss
Then suddenly I looked up and saw

Atop the lamp post that stood outside
his door, my cherished work of art,
its insides crushed and torn,
the lamp post protruding through my blue sky,
my grey white clouds, my heart

Alas, another sad true story by Joy © 1998

Friday, November 06, 2009

more props!

Written up in the neighborhood paper, a little over 2 weeks ago and I just learned about it yesterday when 2 friends saved the blurb for me. Taken from Cala Zanoni's weekly column Neighborhood Blogwatch . She took the included quote from


Dreamcatcher is a corner of the Internet where writers, poets and dreamers explore the universe. In this posting we find Joy Leftow, the writer whose partner coined her Washington Height’s poet laureate (which gets me thinking individual neighborhoods should have poet laureates, but I digress), musing on Washington Heights as her home, comfort and place of constant change. “I still live in the area where I was born in Washington Heights,” she writes. “I wonder if it's like at the end of the galaxy where the further away you live from where you were born, the more chaos you create in the universe.”

Thanks for the love Carla. I'm loving it and you.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

recognition -

Wonderful to have recognition for doing what you love...

This blog was listed by online colleges under 100 Great Web Sites For Poetry Lovers. I'm proud and honored, especially since they only listed 20 blogs!

Today for the first time I noticed listed this blog and dubblex's on their blog roll. This is also a very entertaining blog. The editor first discovered DubbleX's flyer and wrote about it here.

Another surprise, found Joy's Poetry Blog on litkicks through my statcounter this instant and am dancing in my chair!

Also got an email yesterday from an online adult learning resources site that wanted to post an add in my archives under a short post titled Changes and paid me $200 for it. This particularly suits me as I am a great believer in the power of education.

This is heaven!