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Two Poems by Marilyn Zelke Windau


Brooklyn Gatherer

I couldn’t see her hair

except for the dark and grey fringes.                                                  

She had on one of those kerchief tie-arounds

to ward off sweat beads.


I saw her pushing her grocery cart

every morning for the three days

we rose from the subway steps, from the R,

panting our way to our new grandson’s.


The first morning she had a huge air conditioner

atop a clear bag of beer cans, pop cans,

water bottles, and tin foil food trays

from local restaurants.


The second morning—she in a different kerchief—

had a wooden chair, a zigzag aluminum car sunshield,

a gathering of plastic receptacles,

the twin bag of aluminum beverage cans.


The third morning was really impressive.

This time she pushed a wooden desk,

a desk that resembled the one from my father’s office.

She had half of it up on the grocery cart.

I couldn’t imagine where she was leading it.


Such a tiny woman: about 5’ 1”,

just a little taller than the grocery cart.

Her arms were much shorter than mine.

Her legs were stronger.


Early, early in the morning,

especially on garbage day, she hunts and gathers.

In Brooklyn that day changes with each street.


She knows where the treasures are.

She is a body of knowledge,

a body of glean, of garner,

a mind of know the streets,

the worth and worthlessness

to make a life, to make a living,

to survive.  



His City

Lifting my weary legs just two more steps up
in ascent  from the NY Metro, R Line,
I saw sunlight above me
and urged my left appendage to climb.

Walking just 3 blocks to Senator Street,
I heard the8am symphony
of jackhammers, those percussive,
insistent drummers of change.

New laterals for a main gas line
for each apartment on the street required 
loud and insistent cacophonous sound.

The workers were courteous,
aiding us entry to our daughter’s home.
Four foot deep holes, two per edifice,
required piles of sand-earth
to be heaped, then buried.

Our grandson, born two weeks earlier,
closed his eyes to the hammering.
He slept soundly, taking in the noise
as he had the music 
of his mother’s heartbeat
all those months before.

We marveled at his ability to raise
his dark, newborn pupils skyward, 
to breathe rhythmically,
to conduct symphonies with his waving arms,
to hiccup in time with street sounds,
to listen to the music of his city.        


              Marilyn Zelke Windau started writing poems at age thirteen. Her work has appeared in many printed and online venues and anthologies. Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press) and Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press) were published in 2014. Owning Shadows was released in 2017 and Hiccups Haunt Wilson Avenue in 2018 by Kelsay Books.

She includes her maiden name to honor her father, who was also a writer.    

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