week of March 14 - 20, 2005
Judith Kerman and Linda Benninghoff
BECOME A POET OF THE WEEK
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Judith Kerman was born in Bayside, NY in 1945. She received a B.A. with Honors in History from the University of Rochester (1967), and M.A. (1972) and Ph.D. (1977) degrees in English from SUNY at Buffalo. She has held previous administrative and faculty positions at SUNY at Buffalo, University of Michigan, Henry Ford Community College, Kent State University, and Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. For the past four years she has called Bay City, Michigan her home. She is a Professor of English at Saginaw Valley State University in Michigan and a founding member of the Communication and Multimedia faculty.
Kerman has published seven books or chapbooks of poetry; most recently the bilingual collection, Plane Surfaces/Plano de Incidencia (Santo Domingo: CCLEH, 2002). Her book of translations, A Woman in Her Garden: Selected Poems of Dulce María Loynaz (Cuban; Cervantes Prize laureate, 1992) was published by White Pine Press in 2002. She was a Fulbright Senior Scholar to the Dominican Republic in 2002, translating the poetry and fiction of contemporary Dominican women.
The following work is Copyright © 2005, and owned by Judith Kerman and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Driving for Yellow Cab
it pretends to be a place:
a yellow carapace
the price of money
keeps going up
"I've been waiting half an hour.
the Hell with her!
I'm going to finish my beer!
But then, I thought you might
leave without me."
the gentleman who doesn't tip, the lady
hurrying, the gambler who pays extra
if I catch his bus
to the track
the gogo dancer, fringed on Sunday
the woman with the seven kids
and six bags of laundry
I sit in front of the Greyhound station
with three Independents ahead of me
cruise the supermarket pickup lanes, hungry
high-flagging when I can
pretends to be a home, a place, sitting
waiting for the dispatcher
number different every day
car different, the same black grit
on my hands, slamming and opening doors
counting out change
"Every driver an escort."
sometimes so busy I can't
raise the dispatcher, ducking in
between other drivers' transmissions
"25." "25." until the dispatcher yells
shut up so he can give an order
or waiting at the stands to move
watch ticking, meter silent
sometimes for hours
trying to read, distracted
by the lost time
"Hey 38, you asleep?"
the meter clicks minutes, miles
a pleasant hour in the snow
taking an old man shopping
$7 looking for wedding shoes
on Sunday afternoon in Spring
the airline pilot asks me where the action is
I don't mind waiting
with the meter running
I can't back up a oneway street
I smile at old ladies who assure me
they're only going a little way
when I've waited half an hour for the call
now I'm 7th on the list again
five old ladies, five one-dollar fares
for church on Easter morning
but Easter's a good day
no one's on the street
the price of everything
"Is that clear, 17?"
drunk men who always want to sit
up front, always make time
the pretty woman, drunk and sad
her fiftieth birthday, she says
as I help her around to her back door
bad brakes, ice under the wheels
a man shouts
"I ain't going with no
it pretends to be a time machine
a species, a yellow family
Humboldt, Guilford Street
the Chippewa red-light district, the far West Side
the guy in the bar stage-whispers
"She doesn't wanna go wit you,
cause she's a Lezzie."
Hari Krishnas, ten in the back seat
singing out the windows
try to hustle me for the fare
it's my yoga; sit in the sun
at the cabstand, enjoy the day
forget you're losing money
a practice of love
with a knocking engine and no seatbelt
to stop resenting
a buck-fifty fare with no tip
how long I have been
moving, looking for the street
the number, the street
check the sheet: 5 minutes
gluing the corners of the town together
"You're number 5 at the loop, 41."
the price of nothing, my time
Previously appeared in the chapbook "Driving the Yellow Cab"
and the journals "Earth's Daughters" and "Aurora".
I lived most of my life on Long Island except for five years during which I lived in Baltimore. In college I was an English major, and I have a MA in English. I am interested in animal rights. I volunteered in a no-kill cat shelter. I write letters on behalf of the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society about animals. I also am interested in environmentalism and write letters on behalf of the National Resources Defence Council. When I am not writing poetry, I am relaxing taking photographs of wildlife--usually of sparrows and geese.
I write a lot about my father, and my childhood, and about animals. My chapbooks are "The Street Where I Was A Child" and "Departures."
The following work is Copyright © 2005, and owned by Linda Benninghoff and may not be distributed or reprinted in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
I still see my father
holding me on his shoulders
as he walked through puddles.
Forty years later
how much he has changed,
sitting in the other room,
saying to me
"I will not help you anymore
Youre on your own now."
Like he was alone inside himself
in the small town in rural Indiana
where he grew up,
his father an alcoholic,
his mother doting, devoted,
came down with Alzheimers.
And I in my forties
stare at his face
and can hardly remember
him holding me
as we pushed to see the President
emerging from a church in Hyannisport
the warm sidewalk clotted with people
my father carrying the burden of me almost lightly,
part of that crowd.