Ten Poems

by Kitty Jospé

Starting the New Year with Perhaps

— for Lynne Feldman

” In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.”

 Perhaps there is magic in each stick,
but the man who holds the staff
with two hands understands

those who must rely on one stick,
the other hand resting on a staff
of a shoulder of the next person… understands

he is the guide, the tapping stick
for the long voyage ahead.  Each staff
is a comfort, a balance each understands

must necessarily happen if using as stick,
the shoulder of the one ahead.  The staff
of life is more than bread; each understands


Note: Lynne was inspired by the Afghan proverb, “In the Valley of the Blind, the one-eyed man is king”.


Sarah, so well-known as actress,
had what it takes to meet the challenge
of the stage 235 years before she re-emerged
to lend her face to an unknown mixed martial artist.[1]

But let us not wander down steps
or up, as we consider a karate hottie posing
for public view outside of the ring, or judge Sarah
for including the maternal mother in Lady Macbeth.

Why the MMA costume? To enhance or foil
expectation? to allow unencumbered violent release? 
How to avoid claims of licentiousness, like the actresses of old?

Or is that as much the game as the actress wearing aristocratic garb? 
These women understand the ever-wanting soul sees only what it wants—[2]
There is far more to each than snapshot outward glimpse— these women
are unafraid to be mothers, to love the real— to portray the drama and fight.

Digital Collage by Marcy B. Freedman (2020)


Don’t be fooled by Battista’s [3] rhetorical hairdo, satin-ribboned tresses,
or the lithe rock climber’s tensed torso—she is as strong as Styx and Tethys.[4]
Look instead at their intense concentration, crowns of red-gold hair.

You may think Battista, gift-wrapped in pearls and lace, fastened by rosettes
has no say as she faces her hook-nosed husband’s portrait in silhouette.[5]
You may say the other is trying to scale the impossible, with her foot in the air.

Make no assumption about the softened sweep of background in Battista’s portrait.
This is not about the diptych of a duke and duchess, her early death.  The mountains
in her realm also had overhangs like the one the modern cragswoman is ascending.

For a moment, we are privy to imagining these two women, breaking out of their frames,
beyond time, telling us how they choose to face the tasks set before them.
They understand the power of facing obstacles so many dismiss, ready for contending!

Battista Sforza (1465-66) by Piero della Francesco transformed into a rock climber

the original diptych by Piero della Francesca of Battista Sforza and her husband, Duke of Milan.

[1] This poem is inspired by Marcy Freedman, juxtaposing an art history portraits with a contemporary figure of a woman of accomplishment.

These portraits are part of an exhibit called “Just Look at us Now” on view at the Hammond Museum, N. Salem, NY performed live on September 26, 2021

[2] Lao Tzu, reputed author of the Tao te Ching

[3] Battista Sforza (1465-66) by Piero della Francesco transformed into a rock climber. (Image on Left) This poem is inspired by Marcy Freedman, juxtaposing an art history portraits with a contemporary figure of a woman of accomplishment.  These portraits are part of an exhibit called “Just Look at us Now” on view at the Hammond Museum, N. Salem, NY performed live on September 26, 2021

[4] Titan Goddesses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tethys_(mythology)

[5] the original diptych by Piero della Francesca of Battista Sforza and her husband, Duke of Milan.

Artist, Marcy B. Freedman https://marcybfreedman.com

by her photocollages at the Hammond Museum, N. Salem, NY
The originals are printed at 11 x 17 and laminated.  Originally called “Women over Time”
the Exhibit’s title is now “Just Look at us Now”

On Finding our Raku-fired Mask in Three Pieces on the Balcony

A break splits the nose, divides the eyes,
and a wobbling line wanders a path that chasms
upper lip, from that closed smile.  They say
raku means happy accidents.  Ask the six crazy
whirlygigs of hair on the left, seven on the right rolling
into a halo to tell the story.

Oh, they could say, it must have been the wind—
or blame bad luck, or just wasn’t securely hung.
Or one might answer like Ramon who says
I must have been distracted not noticing
how the tide pulled back when he dove off the rocks
and snapped his neck. 

Oh my husband of almost half a century
could say, no matter, you can barely
see the fine line where we have fixed
the crack.

                        And I recall the haiku
about the moon in the water, broken
and broken again,
not just one night of full moon—
but night after night through its phases,
no matter how broken, still it is there.

after fixing:

What if…

                        a fish sandwich were not
a greasy piece of panko-coated pollock
on buttered brioche, but a slice of this
holding a search for something together
with a slice of that?

and what if time, as weather, as tool to clock,
as philosophy, history… became a blur
without even a single preposition…
no time out… or about time… on time…
over time, and returned the use of the word fish
as indeed, a fish in its natural habitat.

What if the moon decided one night,
it had enough, and wandered off, out of view
and the sun couldn’t paint it the way it does with light…

and what if indeed, one day, all that is left of our Earth
is poisoned water, air and land and no matter what
happened to the moon, our sun…

                                                 but then, what if…

Twisted Carrot Root

Of course, if you don’t see this carrot, you may not believe me,
but an inch below the top, where it should taper into a proper
root, for some reason, it splits, and twists and braids…
slinky, sexy, without a note of sorry—

crosses its orange legs, not once, but twice as if seeking
alternatives to straight down in one piece… changing
its mind, carrying on in tandem parallel fashion…
sneaky subterranean subterfuge…

What’s with this wonky, whacky carrot? 
Do not condemn it for not looking like the photo
on your seed package.  Perhaps it met a rock,
started reckoning with itself,

tried to continue, one part arming out in one direction,
the other growing straight, only to find another
obstacle, and proceeding to grow, finding another
route in the dark—

perhaps both arms were not desperate, but merely
exploring, seeking separate paths — or playing
hide and go seek, only to find they are more entwined
than ever, and never really were, in charge of the game.


rock poised on rock,
on rock
by the sea

                        Say it tenderly,
with amazement — what balance!
Say it cryptically,
shrug — what balance?

It could be an egg,
laid by a speckled hen
or fossilized from the days
of dinosaurs

            or smoothed
granite with a shadow
of a blackbird.

Ask a child, and s/he might see
a heart —

you can bend whatever you have,
like old tin, finagle it like a finicky
shoelace into whatever
you want to see.

After a Drawing by Ben Shahn

one face (eyes closed)—
the other        (hidden)—

large hands
bind tenderly

Matters not
if man or woman,
child or elder,
sighted or blind—
pressed breath first
or last—

who we are, could be, have been
nestled in shouldered slope.

lithograph XVII by Ben Shahn used in his illustration of Rilke’s ‘For the Sake of a Single Verse’. (https://www.vmfa.museum/piction/7898216-96507346/ )


could be response to how are you,
the Italian to mark the end of a repeat,
a series of acronyms or merely 
what is acceptable for the conditions—

like a French bien, with
that little catch of a breath before launching
into what’s next, or an Italian benissimo, giving
the impression that what happened before
has been understood, enjoyed like a good meal—

or an approving adverb for something accomplished
like a delicate piece of lace some lovely German Fraulein
listening to Schubert is making, applied to
her tender yet distinguished qualities
her lover admires as he murmurs, schön

Fine meanwhile, wanders into 18 variations of dialect
casting a cheery fine-dayness wherever
the weather allows, wrapped in multiple meanings
to invite you to travel in 6,500 languages—

Fine… but what I really want to know,
is how you are.

The Gift of Growing Older

I am thinking how some days
I like the idea of shrinking
to thimble-size,

no bigger than a dandelion in seed—
size of a hummingbird nest,
with inside velvet able to stretch;

I’m thinking hints of veils, tufts,
thistledown, threads of spider silk,
wisps of clouds to whisper softness,
weaving silently at sunset.

Imagine nests of days, sized like seeds,
where each moment feels filled
with tufts of silk
tangled in by chance

and it doesn’t matter knowing
nothing is here to stay.

Kitty Jospé loves the possibilities of language! After living and working in Europe, she delighted in teaching French (MA, NYU 1984).  Since 2008, midway in completing an MFA at Pacific University, OR, she has been moderating poetry appreciation discussions at two of the Rochester, NY Libraries.  The sessions she offered at Rundel are open each Wednesday by zoom and by limited attendence by vaccinated participants, due to Covid. Popular reader and speaker, her work appears in many anthologies and publications  such as The Ekphrastic Review, Atlanta Review, The Orchard Journal, Sunlight Review, Blue Pepper.  Her latest book, Sum:1, was published by FootHills in March 2021.  A PDF with images that inspired 27 of the poems is available here: http://www.foothillspublishing.com/2021/jospe.html