Saturday, May 23, 2020

Prompt #353 – Surface and Deeper Meanings

A poet dares be just so clear and no clearer...
He unzips the veil from beauty, but does not remove it.
A poet utterly clear is a trifle glaring.

E. B. White, from One Man's Meat.

The above quote is one that has always intrigued me. The idea that poetry should contain some element of “challenge” is part of what great poems are about. The gist of it is that poems should function on more than one level—the level of obvious meaning (the literal, surface layer) and then a layer (or layers) of deeper meaning.

Deeper meanings that lie below surface meanings are usually evoked through language that creates connotations. To discover a poem’s deeper levels of meaning, it is necessary to reflect upon and to interpret the poem’s language.

To discover meanings in a poem, consider the following general tips:

Because poetry is condensed language, the title is often a significant clue to the overall meaning.

The basic component of poetry is imagery. Think about all the images in a poem and possible meanings to which they may point.

Look at figures of speech, symbolisms, and other literary devices in a poem. How are they used to convey meaning? What meanings do they suggest?

What does the ending tell you? How a poem comes to closure (or “dismounts”) can give you clues to deeper meanings.

Remember—not every poem “says” what it appears to “speak.”


1. For starters, decide what you want to write about. Is there a particular theme you have in mind? A free write to get you going might help you to establish your theme (main idea).

2. For example, your theme might be loss. You might have a specific loss in mind, perhaps the death of a parent, spouse, partner, or friend. Your obvious meaning is the particular loss. Deeper levels of meaning might be about what you learned from this loss.

3. Try to write this deeper meaning in a single sentence. You sentence might be something like, “Some losses never go away; the intense sense of loss may change over time, but there is always something of it left.” This one sentence may be helpful to you in focusing on the deeper meaning of your theme once you start writing. (The sentence isn’t going to be part of your poem—it’s just to help you get into your poem.)

4. Decide upon the point of view you’d like to take in your poem. Point of view is like a lens through which the poem is seen. You may opt for the first person (I, me) or the third person (he, she, him, her). Writing in the third person is sometimes a more comfortable place from which to work. It’s a little like creating and alter ego for yourself and can give you room to “stand back” and define and clarify the situation.

5. Now, introduce your theme by relating the “story” of a loss. Be sure to work toward a strong emotional center. You can do that through images and technical devices (for example, simile, metaphor, metonymy, repetition, internal rhymes, alliteration, and assonance). Experiment with the devices that work best for you and for your poem.

6. It’s important to convey feeling through images—that is, to show and not tell. As the quote above states, be just so clear and no clearer. In other words, don't tell too much. Trust your readers to discover meanings on their own.  Avoid words that “tell” what an emotion is. Work instead through examples. Often, symbolic (not actual) imagery will give dimension to a poem. In the case of the loss example mentioned earlier, you may use something (road, highway, trajectory of stars) to symbolize the length of time it takes for the intense feeling of loss to subside.

7. As you move away from the literal introduction of your “story,” remember your underlying or deeper meaning. Don’t lose sight of what you’re trying to convey. Using our loss example, your poem will begin with the “story” of a particular loss but must move forward to include your deeper meaning (that some losses never go away completely).

8. When you have a good draft completed, read it carefully, line by line. Ask yourself what details the poem can live without. Have you “told” too much? Have you been (to use E. B. White's term) "a trifle glaring?" Make sure the images and symbolisms you’ve used enhance your meanings. If they detract from your meanings, change or delete them.

9. Finally, let your poem rest for a few days and then come back to it. Read it aloud to yourself. Have you succeeded in conveying the meanings you wanted to express? Now is the time to continue refining and editing. Remember that a poem may go through many drafts before it’s finished.


Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep.

Acknowledgment: Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” from The Poetry of Robert Frost, edited by Edward Connery Lathem. Copyright 1923, © 1969 by Henry Holt and Company, Inc., renewed 1951, by Robert Frost.

On the surface, this is a poem about a man or a woman who travels home on a snowy evening and stops for few moments by a wooded area. On the surface, this poem is very simple. The speaker stops by some woods on a snowy evening. He or she quietly contemplates the peaceful scene and is tempted to stay longer; however, he or she acknowledges the pull of tasks not yet completed and the large distance still to be traveled before he or she can rest for the night. Ah ... but is that the only meaning? Deeper meanings lie in the lines,

    But I have promises to keep,   
    And miles to go before I sleep,   
    And miles to go before I sleep.

The underlying theme is perhaps that one must concentrate on fulfilling promises and accomplishing duties without being distracted by the pleasures of life and/or the natural world (however pure and simple those pleasures may be). The poem, then, become about commitments and obligations.

Another underlying theme might be that we all have to make choices. The speaker in this poem must choose between staying in the woods and enjoying nature’s peacefulness or returning to his or her duties and obligations.

In addition, it has been suggested that Frost uses the symbolism of miles to suggest that the speaker has to achieve many things and fulfill many responsibilities before he or she enters into eternal sleep (we're talking death here). In other words, before leaving this world, he or she has work and perhaps even relationships (promises to keep) that cannot be abandoned. His or her journey is far from over.

Another interpretation suggests that the speaker in the poem contemplates suicide—the deep, dark woods, perhaps symbolizing death, were inviting and even compelling to him or to her. The speaker, however, recognizes his or her duty and purpose in staying alive.

As you can see, each reader brings his or her personal interpretation to the poem. Frost “unzipped the veil from beauty,” but he didn’t remove it and left it to us, the readers, to enter the poem and to determine for ourselves what the poem’s deeper meanings might be.

Now it’s your turn to write something with both a surface meaning and one or more deeper meanings! 

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Prompt #352 – Writing Prose Poems

Although we’ve explored the subject of prose poems in the past, I thought this might be a good time to revisit the subject as we struggle with a “new normal” (that isn’t limited to any specific geography and applies to all of us). I’ll begin with a reprint of an article I wrote for the most recent issue of Tiferet Journal (Spring/summer 2020). 

For this prompt, imagine that you’re not writing prose, and you’re not writing poetry. You’re writing neither and both at the same time! It's a little like two wings that work together to make a prose poem "fly." So ... relax, let the words flow, and go wherever your prose poem leads you. (If the spirit moves you to write about the current Covid situation then, by all means, "fly" with it.) Once you’ve edited and refined your work, you might even find an online journal, print journal, or anthology for your poem.


Prose Poems: One Foot in Prose, the Other in Poetry
By Adele Kenny

Reprinted by Permission from Tiferet Spring/Summer 2020.
Copyright © 2020 by Tiferet Press. All rights reserved.

In recent years, prose poems have appeared more and more often in mainstream journals, anthologies, and books. There is justifiable fascination with a form that challenges readers with a name that seems contradictory if not downright oxymoronic. How can a piece of writing be both poetry and prose at the same time?

In the first issue of The Prose Poem: An International Journal, editor Peter Johnson explained, “Just as black humor straddles the fine line between comedy and tragedy, so the prose poem plants one foot in prose, the other in poetry, both heels resting precariously on banana peels.” A fusion of poetry and prose, the prose poem commits completely to neither.

While prose poems are not defined by the line breaks (lineation) typically associated with poetry, they maintain a poetic quality and necessarily use techniques common to verse. A standard prose poem is one that resembles prose in structure (paragraph form), but moves away from customary prose techniques in favor of poetry-like imagery and/or emotional effect. Prose poems may vary in length from a single paragraph to more than a page. Their lines break with the margins and, significantly, their margins are justified (left and right whenever possible). Thus, they appear in blocks of language (or as “language in a box”).  

The prose poem’s allegiance to poetry is unmistakable in sonic impression, compression, internal rhyme, assonance, alliteration, and figures of speech. Although prose poems appear as paragraphs, they lack the narrative structure of prose. Characterized by complete sentences and deliberate fragments, they are often driven by metaphor and imagery, and they sometimes speak the dialect of dreams. Prose poems generally include unexpected juxtapositions and startling twists of language. Based in reality, they often give a nod to the surreal.

Importantly, prose poems should make sense despite the fact that they are often presented through highly poetic language and almost always stretch the boundaries of poetry and prose. A confusing mishmash of words, however, is not a prose poem (at least not what might be termed a good one). By the same token, a prose poem is much more than a narrative story told in a generic way; there is always a strong element of surprise in the language, always something unpredictable. Too often, inexperienced poets assume that a prose poem simply tells a story, and many amateur prose poems read like diary entries or travel journals. Often confused with flash fiction and mini-memoirs, they are distinctively neither.

Historically, the prose poem is not a new concept. There are, arguably, prose poems contained in such ancient texts as the Bible, but prose poetry is most recently related to the haibun, a Japanese literary genre that became popular during the 17thcentury. In most haibun, short poetic prose passages (paragraphs) are followed by haiku. Haibun are not exactly prose poem prototypes, but there is a relationship in the blending of prose and poetry, as well as a similar affective sensibility.

Western prose poetry emerged in the early 19th century as a rebellion against traditional poetic structures. Symbolist poet Louis-Jacques-Napoléon “Aloysius” Bertrand is credited with introducing prose poetry into French literature in 1842 with Gaspard de la Nuit. In 1869, Charles Baudelaire published Petits Poèmes en Prose (Little Poems in Prose) and gave prose poetry its name. The form was firmly established in France by Arthur Rimbaud (Illuminations, 1886) and Stéphane Mallarmé (Divagations, 1897).

Throughout the 19th century, poets continued to experiment with prose poems, which remained popular into the 20th century and enjoyed a mid-century renaissance of interest during the 1950s and 1960s. Several distinguished American poets of that era wrote prose poems, including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, and Robert Bly, to name a few. In 1989, Charles Simic won the Pulitzer Prize for his collection of prose poems, The World Doesn’t End.

Over time, individuals and groups of writers have adapted the form and developed their own rules and restrictions, ultimately widening the parameters of prose poem form.  Other prose poets involved include (among many others) Paul Fort, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Amy Lowell, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Patchen, John Ashbery, and Mark Strand. However, prose poetry was not embraced by all. T.S. Eliot contested the form and argued that it lacked the rhythm and musical patterns of verse; he did, however, write one published prose poem called “Hysteria.”

It may be said that the prose poem is not yet, and likely never will be, defined by a specific “method.” That is, a “prescription” for writing prose poems is elusive at best. Prose poet Russell Edson stated in his essay “The Prose Poem in America” (published by Parnassus in 1976), “… for all the interesting poets who have written them, the prose poem has yet to yield up a method.”

Today, prose poetry is developing a 21st century character. It remains uniquely neither poetry nor prose but is fundamentally a hybrid of the two, and is widely considered its own genre. Because prose poems do not function in a linear, logical manner, some may seem, at first blush, to be rather “odd.” They frequently require considerable thought and, more often than not, they mean much more than the words they contain. For poets who embrace the form, prose poetry is both a challenge and a delight that takes poetic art into a singular area of aesthetic expression.


From the Semi-Annual Cross-Stitch Conference, Savvy Stitch
By Rogan Kelly

The bird died on a Thursday. She held it all night like an egg. Next morning, she packs the car with the bird in a cooler, wedges it in the middle console and drives to a conference in Jersey. Others went to dinner. She returns to the room where the winged body rests by the window: a grey vase of tulips on the sill beside. She pulls strips of lettuce from a turkey sandwich, collects part of the crust from the bread. And when she speaks to the empty room, her voice is the faint rusted creak of a half-hinged storm door before the wind picks up.

Wisdom in a Crayon

By Gary Szelc

                    (for Eleanor)

          My daughter, my daughter, did you leave me a page in my notebook?

At last, I find an empty sheet, and begin to write. But then, when I turn the page on my written thoughts, a childish scrawl reveals indigo streaks of a magic universe where the curve of an angel’s wing unfurls to one side and flutters in a breeze. On the page before my discourse, a rainbow horse swirls over a fuchsia tinted sea. Elsewhere, a purple forest and orange fruit surround a curious red spider (or octopus) or perhaps a swinging orangutan. There is marvel after marvel in this museum-quality exhibit of imagination—so much wisdom in crayon. So much that I tear out the page with my once pithy words.

By Ray Cicetti

I watch it fly across the yard, carrying sunrise on its back, then land upside down on the sugar maple, wings tucked in like a teaching, only to disappear into the dark woods, like a small blue god's visitation. How I want to follow it, praise it, cup its soft fierceness in my hands.
I step into the moment, arms outstretched, and secretly become a bird. I breathe in autumn's fullness and turn in the crisp air.
The morning lifts me like wings over charcoal roofs. I warm my lined face with my hands, far away from the poverty of knowing. Awake as I will ever be.

Where He Hangs My Hat
By Bob Rosenbloom

If I begin to wear a hat, it could mean that an old Jew—not just any old Jew, but my father, a sweet, old Jew—has gained ground and overtaken my body. He’s begun to enter my soul. His hand has entered my hand through a gaping hole at the wrist and begun to write the rough draft of this poem under another title. We had so many heated arguments across the kitchen table. Only the food cooled off. I defended Al Sharpton. Dad kept the right wing flapping. We were pig-headed, stubborn. Mom refereed and sent us to our rooms when she had enough. Maybe my father has forgiven everything: dropping out of school, smoking pot, being named in a Brooklyn College lawsuit against SDS members. I did nothing wrong. It’s been decades. All the witnesses are gone.

Waiting for Ed McMahon
By Laura Boss

Ed McMahon, today is January 24th and I am sitting here waiting for you.  I am waiting for you to bring me ten million dollars. You sent me a letter two months ago with my name on the envelope in two-inch letters saying I was a winner—or at least that's the way it looked until I read it a second time. But then it seemed that I still had a really good chance of your giving me ten million dollars if I would just get my envelope back to you on time—especially if I affixed the gold sticker with the number 10 million correctly though it was hidden among all the magazine subscription stickers and to even further my chances I took a subscription to a magazine I didn't especially want, and Ed McMahon, I stuck that sticker on so carefully and even checked that I wanted my payment in one lump sum rather than monthly installments, and yes, I checked that I'm willing to be televised when you hand me that check for ten million dollars.  And because I was getting my letter back to you so fast, Ed McMahon, I stuck the bonus Jaguar sticker on its special card in my choice of green though I hesitated for a few seconds over the red one. And I left my calendar free for today—no free lance workshops (not that I have them everyday though I wish I did so I wouldn't be waiting so desperately for you today, Ed McMahon). Ed McMahon, I am sitting here waiting for you. I am waiting for you to bring me my ten million dollars.

The Beef Epitaph
Michael Benedikt

This is what it was: Sometime in the recent but until now unrecorded past, it was decided by certain ingenious and commercially forward-looking cattle-ranchers in a certain large, modern Western nation which prides itself on being nutritionally forward-looking, that since people are increasingly nutrition-conscious, and increasingly insistent that “you are what you eat,” all cattle on the way to market were to be marked with brief descriptive tags noting the favorite food of each animal; and also stating approximately how much each ate of it. This, it was felt, would both delight the diner and comfort the nutrition-conscious consumer: people would be able to tell exactly what kind of flavor and texture of beef they were purchasing beforehand, and always be able to secure exactly the kind of product most likely to delight their taste, since they would know a whole lot more than ever before about the quality and kind of nourishment which the animal had received (it was a little like our own, well-established, present-day modern American system of catering to preferences for light and dark meat in chicken—by supplying each part shrink-wrapped in a separate bag in the supermarkets). The system set up by those ingenious and commercially forward-looking cattle-ranchers was remarkably efficient; and seemed—at least at first—to be destined for success. This is how it worked: First, on each animal’s last day on the ranch, they attached the main, or so-called “parent” tag—made out according to information provided by each rancher, or their hired hands, or even (in some cases) their immediate family—to each head of livestock. The information contained on each tag would be of course be definitive, since it was compiled just before the two or three days required for shipment of the animal to the slaughterhouse—during which travel time, of course, the animal customarily doesn’t eat anything, anyway.... Once at the slaughterhouse, they carefully removed the “parent tags”; and during the slaughtering, mechanically duplicated them numerous times, preparing perhaps hundreds of tiny labels for each animal. Immediately afterwards, at the packing plant, these miniature, or “baby” tags were affixed, respectively to the proper bodily parts—each section of each animal being separately and appropriately tagged, each as if with an epitaph. But then something went wrong with this means of delighting the diner, and of comforting the nutrition-conscious consumer. At first, quite predictably, the tags came out reading things like “Much grass, a little moss, medium grain” and “Much grass, much grain, generally ate a lot.” And this, as one might expect, proved (at least at first), a great pleasure to purchasers! But then tags began coming through reading things like “A little grass, a little grain, many diverse scraps from our table”; and “She was our favorite pet—gave her all we had to give”; and there was even one (featured at dinnertime one evening on network television news) which was tear-stained and which said, in a child’s handwriting, “Good-bye, Little Blackie Lamb, sorry you had to grow up—I’ll sure miss you!” And so, gradually, despite its efficiency, this system somehow ceased to delight the diner, and comfort the nutrition-conscious consumer. And this is how the practise of The Beef Epitaph became generally neglected over the course of time; and how the members of a large, nutrition-conscious, and otherwise generally quite sophisticated modern nation very much like our own, came to eat their beef—as indeed they still do today—partially or even totally blindfolded.

From Night Cries, published by Wesleyan University Press, 1976. 
Copyright ©1976 and Copyright © 1999 by Michael Benedikt. All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission of Laura Boss, Executor of Michael Benedikt’s literary estate.

Writing Prose Poems

First Try:

1. Go for a walk or find a quiet place to think and ponder some memories or experiences. Free-write for a couple of pages. Follow leaps of thought that catch your attention.

2. Read through what you wrote and highlight a few phrases that have special meaning for you (not too many).

3. Think about the emotional center of what you’ve written—this will become the emotional center of your poem.

4. Use selected portions of your free-write as the basis for a one-paragraph prose poem (be sure to vary your sentence length and structure).

5. Incorporate at least two striking images.

6. Include internal rhymes and slant rhymes, alliteration, or other poetry devices. Be sure to work on these as you write, or during the early stages of revision.

7. Cut out anything that is not essential. Do this increasingly strongly as your revision progresses.

8. When you feel you’re close to a final draft, read your prose poem aloud to yourself. What do you hear? Is there a definite “sound quality” to your poem? Does your imagery strike and stun? Have you nodded to the surreal? Have you incorporated both complete sentences and deliberate fragments?

Second Try:

1. For starters, think in terms of a single paragraph as your goal for this prose poem. Approach your subject knowing that you won’t be concerned with meter, stanzas, or line breaks. Your prose poem will take the shape of a paragraph (think “box,” and be sure to justify both the left and right margins when you type your poem). Remember to include complete sentences and sentence fragments.

2. For content: think about a particular image that remains clear in your memory.

3. Now think about how that image entered your memory. Where were you?  Was anyone with you? What happened? How did you feel?

4. Write a paragraph based on the image and about the experience. Bear in mind that your poem’s “muscle” will lie in the strength of your sentences. You will need to express thoughts and subtleties in ways that might be hampered by line breaks.

5. Pay particular attention to poetic devices (simile, metaphor, alliteration, assonance, internal rhyme, repetition, onomatopoeia, symbolism). Focus on describing the images and your feelings.

6. You may tell a story, but remember that the storyline is second to the language you use to tell it. There are two caveats.

     A. Your prose poem shouldn’t read like a diary entry.
     B. Be careful not to go over the top with poetic devices and poetic language.


Stay safe and well, my dear blog friends!

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Exit 13 Magazine

Exit 13 Magazine is well-established, internationally recognized, and annual poetry journal founded by poet and newspaper reporter Tom Plante thirty-two years ago in 1988. Based in Fanwood, New Jersey, the journal began as a “homespun magazine patched together on Plante’s kitchen table.” 




A geography major (UC Berkley), Tom’s vision for the journal has been to create a travelogue in poetry, a reflection of the world we see and a chronicle of the people and places we encounter on our individual journeys. Exit 13 focuses on contemporary poetry that celebrates exploration, discovery and testament—all with a geographic slant.


With an eye toward creating community and bringing people together during this time of distancing, Tom is generously offering a special gift to anyone interested. Right now, the recently published 2020 issue of Exit 13 Magazine (#25) will be mailed free of charge (while supplies last—after that a recent back issue will be sent). That's right: both the magazine and mailing costs will be Tom's gift to you! 


To receive your free copy, please mail a note to Tom at Exit 13 Magazine, PO Box 423, Fanwood, New Jersey 07023 USA and include your proper mailing address with your request. Tom notes, “If you have other issues of Exit 13 Magazine, please tell me which one(s) you have and I won't mail a duplicate.”



Samples from Issue #25


Asbury Park in Winter

By Edwin Romond


We would return in winter

sometimes on 20-degree February Sundays,

the beach a frozen emptiness,

the ocean roaring alone without

lifeguard whistles and squeals of swimmers.


We would return in winter

to watch Disney films in lavish

movie palaces with sky high balconies,

ankle deep carpeting, ushers in velvet blazers

and cinemascope screens as wide as the sea.


We would return in winter

in thick hooded coats and scarves, the wind

a razor across our faces as we walked the boards

to the warmth of the Criterion where we dines

behind windows steaming against salty ice air.


We would return in winter

to shiver in front of locked food stands and rides

their signs announcing See You Next Summer!

a promise that good ties come back

like heat from an August sunrise.



The Imbros Gorge

By Nancy Lubarsky


As I approach the rocky path, Crete’s

Imbros Gorge greets me. The cliff walls

rise up. The trail is wide, uneven, slippery.


I need to step carefully. Gradually, the gorge

tightens her embrace. The path narrows, I

am mindful of distractions: dead end paths,


the shadows, uneven terrain. Just ahead, the

poisonous snake dragon flower (long, red, dagger-like).

A warning? Stone arches ascend above, as I


squeeze through tighter passageways. A lost

goat grazes, a donkey (tied to a post), just there

for emergencies. No water flows through the


riverbed. Once voices filled the gorge, as she

guided thousands of troops (Aussies, Kiwis,

Brits), allies against Hitler, who escaped


to Egypt. Only half made it to ships. But,

on this day, I am alone. The trail levels

off, then widens again into the sunlight.



Christmas Eve at the Lagan Palace

By Tom Plante


We knew that Little O’s Pizzeria

was open, as was the Lagan Palace—

a Chinese take-away

on the Lower Ormeau road.

No, we didn’t eat at either.


Instead we chose to walk

along the River Lagan before

early Midnight Mass

at a largely Polish Parish

in South Belfast.


The setting sun wrapped

clouds with pink ribbons,

and stop lights at the bridge

twinkled like tinsel

on Christmas Day.


Back at the house after Mass

we called in an order

to the Palace and waited

fifteen minutes to collect

our rice, cashews and chicken.


It was just us and the kids

taking a break from our jobs,

sharing the gift of our time

and stories by the fire,

reaching for another log.



A Dream of Oisín
By Adele Kenny

In Irish legend, after living three hundred years of eternal youth in Tír Na nÓg (teer-na-nogue) with the beautiful Niamh (neeve), Oisín (ush-een) longed to see Ireland again. Niamh allowed him a brief visit with one condition: if his feet touched the ground he would lose her forever and would instantly grow old. In Ireland, Oisín came across some old men who were struggling to move a huge rock. He leaned down from his horse to help them but lost his balance and fell. The moment he touched Irish soil, he immediately aged three hundred years.

How strange that tonight I dream of Oisín—tonight,
when the moon is nearly full and the autumn wind is
white in the trees. He could have lived forever,
eternally young and in love, but he longed for Ireland,

that other geography (earthly shadow, earthly light).
He knew the terms but didn’t expect to find his
people gone, the family castle fallen into itself as if
the world’s unslayable dragons had taken them all.

Above him, the Irish sky, wind-heeled and high, had
no edge and no end. Deep in the grief of so much
change, he didn’t plan for the bridle’s sudden slip,
the rapid descent into age. He had lived outside of

time and knew great love, but there is never love
without loss, and even paradise was not enough—
the terms too much to trade for the door that opens
inward—what matters most—not love but home.

Burying Jokes in the Deposition
By Bob Rosenbloom

                        —Tums spelled backwards is Smut

I tell the stenographers I want my jokes kept
in the transcript. What if the transcript ends up
on appeal? Before lawyer, I was a comedian.  
One day I said I’m going to take the LSAT. I thought
I’d give the legal profession a shot after philosophy
and creative writing, my majors, didn’t pan out
and before I ended up in the post office. As a comedian,
my show stopper was a fashion show where
I dressed up plastic bottles with material from local stores,
places like Rag Shop and Fabricland: an outfit for Janitor in the Drum
(Janitor in a Jumpsuit made from denim), a floor length banana
yellow evening gown for a half gallon very red bottle of Wisk,
pinstripe suits for Vito and Michael Corleone, using two half-gallon
bottles of Clorox, and a bottle of Dawn in ribbed t-shirt material
marked up by red Sharpie polka dots for all the bullets James Caan ate
at the Long Beach tollbooths. My gullible mother seriously thought
this might work out for me. Her neighbor, Sally Schwartz,
thought I was a little nuts. Nevertheless, I took my show
to the Gil Hodges bowling alley on talent night in the heart of Canarsie—
and the audience  howled. The emcee said he thought I was very creative
but rough around the edges. He had one hit song in 1929 and that’s
what he ended up doing, that and family medicine.

As for the depositions, there were standard questions:
When your car began to skid, what was your speed?
What was the distance between your car and
the back of my client’s Corolla when the skid started?
I was more interested in the jokes and didn’t mind
if some were left buried somewhere in the transcript,
something for the next reader, possibly an appellate judge.
Did you grow up in a poor neighborhood like me?
In the summer, I slept outside on the fire escape.
That wasn’t so bad. What was really bad was that
the guy above me was a bed wetter. Sometimes, he
came home drunk and threw up.* My sister had
quite a reputation in high school for being a tramp.
She was so loose, she used a Frisbee for a diaphragm.**
These vegetarians, what’s their beef?***
I’m 70. What can the ethics panel do to me now?

   *Sent to Rodney Dangerfield, not bought
 **Sold to Joan Rivers for $10
***I’ve heard worse.




Submissions to Exit 13 are welcome!


For submission guidelines, click here. 




Watch a slideshow of the Exit 13 Magazine 25th anniversary celebration 

at the Kuran Arts Center (Carriage House) in Fanwood, NJ.