Wednesday, November 25, 2020

 Nov 1, 2020

"Heschel, King, Abernathy” acrylic and newspaper on 6”x 8” canvas, Covid-19 Art Project.

I’ve had this pic on my bulletin board for years. Now it’s on a canvas and part of my Covid-19 Art Project, which I’ll make a blog for at some point. I know these sages are praying for Joe Biden and peace.

 “Lenny,” #24 in my Covid-19 Collage Art Series. Acrylic, photos, Mother’s dressmaking scraps and string on 8x10 canvas. Nov. 2019. Assemblage Collage Artists

 “Loreen Lee and the Lava Never Sleeps,” Women and Their Books Series #1 - Acrylic, newsprint, and photos on 4x4 canvas. I like the idea of doing this series, with all the potential it provides. I'll do Jackie's books and mine. That will take me plenty of time. I like the idea of keeping this subject matter separate from the Covid-19 series, even though I'm creating the pieces during that time. I want a different halo for this topic, and I like starting the series with Loreen's work because the book already seems to have a halo around it.

“Ian and Zalia at Isa’s Wedding, 2000"

“Ian and Zalia at Isa’s Wedding, 2000” #23 in my Covid 19 Collage-Art series. Acrylic, photo, and bottle-cap inserts on 6x8 canvas. Nov. 3, 2020 Assemblage Collage Artists

Saturday, October 05, 2019

A Man Died in My Alley Today

A man died in my alley today, behind the next-door neighbor’s house. 

SmokeyBro had been barking for ten/fifteen minutes and when I finally went downstairs to see what was wrong, there were  police cars, an ambulance and, on the side of the road, the man with the long beard who walked by my house on the way to and from the bus stop.

He was scrunched up against the brick wall. His knees were black and blue, his knuckles scraped to red; his eyes vacant. God, I didn't want him to be dead.

I asked one of the police officers if he would tell me the man’s name but he said he wasn’t allowed to.

He said the man was probably a transient or living in one of the encampments. That had never occurred to me.

He must have had a stroke or heart attack, fallen forward on his hands and knees and pushed himself to the alley's edge to lean against the wall.

Neighbors up the street were waiting for more information. His face was stark white, I tell them, but his eyes looked as if he could have been alive, like maybe he was just scared.

I was sorry I hadn’t stayed to watch them cover him up and lift him into the ambulance - I would have liked to have seen him one more time, even dead; but SmokeyBro was barking non-stop and it felt sacreligious not to get him away from there.

The man was wearing light clothing, a T-shirt, blue sweater and tan Bermuda shorts. It was warm this morning, sunny, about 60 degrees...

Monday, September 16, 2019

Writing and Widowhood

a class with Esther Altshul Helfgott
 November  4, 11, 18, 25    
Greenwood Senior Center - 206-297-0875

 According to the dictionary, a widow is “a woman who has lost her spouse by death and has not remarried.” Another definition refers to a widow as “empty.” Through writing exercises and discussion, we will explore the waves of grief that continue long after a love one’s death (even after remarriage). We will ask ourselves questions: Do I become a new person after my loved-one dies? Must I recreate myself? Can I still have fun? Writing has always helped me come back to myself. I’m hoping this class will help you too. In the meantime, make a list of words associated with the word “widow.” Here’s a start: widow’s peak, widow’s chamber, widow’s hand, and the flower, widow’s frill. 
Widow’s frill
Esther Altshul Helfgott is a nonfiction writer & poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. She is the author of Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s (Yakima, WA: Cave Moon Press, 2014); Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems (Yakima, WA: Cave Moon Press, 2013); The Homeless One: A Poem in Many Voices (Seattle: Kota Press, 2000). Her work appears in Beyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's Disease, American Imago; BlackPast; Blue Lyre Review; Cirque, Floating Bridge Review,; Journal of Poetry Therapy; Raven Chronicles and elsewhere. She is the founder of Seattle's It's About Time Writers Reading Series, now in its 29th year, and is editor with Peggy Sturdivant and Katie Tynan of the forthcoming So, Dear Writer: An It's About Time Writers' Reading Series Anthology… (Yakima: Cave Moon Press, 2019)

Sunday, September 08, 2019

Writing to Heal

5 Wednesdays in Oct.
6:30-8:30 pm
$125. email me if interested 
Writing helps to heal from life’s surprises and also helps to celebrate them. Writing elicits insight. It fosters self-understanding & personal Bring a notebook, a pencil or pen. Take a seat at the table. I’ll give you a prompt – a poem, say. Or a piece of conversation—and begin writing. In any form or style that comes to mind. Don’t worry about commas, semicolons, question marks or spaces. Just write - scribble, ramble - until I tell you to stop.  Then, if you want, you’ll read, or talk about, what you’ve written. growth.Writing helps us remember ourselves in the past. It uncovers silences & secrets & helps us confront suffering & loss.
Esther Altshul Helfgott is a non-fiction writer & poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. She is the editor with Peggy Sturdivant and Katie Tynan of the forthcoming anthology So, Dear Writer… An It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series Anthology (Cave Moon Press, 2019). She is the author of Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s (Yakima, WA: Cave Moon Press, 2014; Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems (Yakima, WA: Cave Moon Press, 2013); The Homeless One: A Poem in Many Voices (Seattle: Kota Press, 2000). Her work appears in American Imago: Psychoanalysis and the Human SciencesBeyond Forgetting: Poetry and Prose about Alzheimer's DiseaseBlackPast: Remembered and Reclaimed; Blue Lyre ReviewCirque: A Literary Journal for Alaska and the Pacific NorthwestFloating Bridge Review; HistoryLink; Journal of Poetry Therapy;  Literary Mama;  Pontoon;  Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy ReviewRaven Chronicles, Ribbons; Seattle Star; & others. She is the founder of Seattle's It's About Time Writers’ Reading Series, now in its 29th year; and she, especially, loves the poetry pole her kids built her for Mothers’ Day.  From 2008 to 2015, Esther wrote the blog, Witnessing Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's View, for the Seattle P.I., her best example of writing to heal. Her most recent poem appears in Strange Fruit: Poems on the Death Penalty, Sarah Zale and Terry Persun, eds. 

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Ann Teplick & Esther Altshul Helfgott read for Word Chase @ Ravenna Third Place Books

Wed., August 21st, 7 PM

For just this one month of Aug., Julene T. Weaver's Word Chase Reading, usually held at Cafe Racer, will be at Ravenna Books

with Bryan Lineberry on Saxophone   

Open Mic (up to 4 min)

 6504 21st Ave N.E.  Seattle, WA 98115

Ann Teplick & Esther Altshul Helfgott  

Ann Teplick is a Seattle poet, playwright, prose writer, and teaching artist. She writes with youth at Seattle Children’s Hospital, through Seattle Arts and Lectures’ Writers in the Schools program; at Child Study Treatment Center (state psychiatric hospital), through Pongo Teen Writing; and Coyote Central.  She’s received support for creative work from Artist Trust, Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, 4Culture, and The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is a Jack Straw and Hedgebrook alumna. Her poems have been published in Tahoma Literary Review, Raven Chronicles, The Louisville Review, Crab Creek Review, Hunger Mountain, 4Culture’s Poetry on the Bus, and others. She is currently working on a young-adult novel in poems about a family that falls apart and comes together again after a suicide of one of their own. 
Esther Altshul Helfgott is a non-fiction writer & poet with a Ph.D. in history from the University of Washington. She is the editor, with Peggy Sturdivant and Katie Tynan, of the forthcoming anthology So, Dear Writers…An It’s About Time Writers’ Reading Series Anthology (Yakima, WA: Cave Moon Press, 2019). She is the author of Listening to Mozart: Poems of Alzheimer’s (Cave Moon Press, 2014; Dear Alzheimer’s: A Caregiver’s Diary & Poems (Cave Moon Press, 2013); The Homeless One: A Poem in Many Voices (Seattle: Kota Press, 2000). Her work appears in American Imago; Beyond Forgetting; BlackPast; Blue Lyre ReviewCirqueFloating Bridge Review; HistoryLink; Journal of Poetry Therapy; Raven Chronicles, Ribbons & others. She is the founder of Seattle's It's About Time Writers’ Reading Series, now in its 29th year. 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Spring on the Poetry Pole

"We were taking a walk
And what did we find
But a poetry pole
With Ma's poem inside."

Tulips outside my front door.
Lilies in my neighbor’s yard.
Pink and white rhododendrons
emerging from their buds.
Crocuses lined up like purple soldiers
waiting for a drill.
New brides yawning,
stretching toward the sun.
                                  - Esther Altshul Helfgott
       from Tree Walk Book, Summer 2005

"Yay, Ma! 
Woof to you."

Thank you Kelly E Sweet

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Trip to the doctor

January 1, 2019 
(copied from my journal)

One wonders:
               Has the meningioma
caused the pulling back
              from human contact
                      the dislike of social interactions
the need to stay home
                     not go out into society
                           not to parties
not even the grocery store?

 "The risk of meningioma can be reduced by maintaining a normal body weight, and by avoiding unnecessary dental x-rays," says Wikipedia (Not the greatest source, but interesting).

The neurosurgeon's visit did not tell me this. But let's face it, I was too immersed in the guy's good looks to remember the questions I wanted to ask .... Will I never grow too old for this kind of silliness?

He said I probably had the tumor since the year 2000. It's not cancerous but if it presses more on the lobe (which one?) my right side may start to drag: a foot, a leg, a shoulder.

(Shall I begin recording this on my blog? Will it be helpful to anyone? Will it help me stay focused on my writing, on getting as much done as I can, while I'm able?)

... My right side may start to drag: a foot, a leg, a shoulder ...

Surgery could be worse than leaving it alone. "Surgery can cause a stroke," he says. I'll have another MRI in September. "All we have to do is watch it for now."

The doctor said nothing about dental x-rays and nothing about my weight. Nor did I know to ask him about these two possibilities. But I've had plenty of dental x-rays in the past and am due for a cleaning this month.

The first thing the dentist will tell me is we have to take more x-rays and I will tell him "No thank you, just a cleaning will be fine this time." He and the technician will argue with me, no doubt. I'll let them argue but will stand firm.

The last time I was in the dentist's chair and mentioned that my tooth hurt, he took x-rays and said I needed a root canal. (I had a root canal on the tooth next door to that one already). I go get the root canal - another out-of-pocket $1000+ - and my tooth is still hurting.

But I will not get anymore x-rays and will live with the annoyance. As for weight gain - I will do my best not to eat the raspberry-filled sugar donuts my daughter just brought me, along with those beautiful flowers.

Should I start blogging again? At least I wouldn't be hiding from myself. Why does "being seen" mean doing something with the self? And not being seen, not doing anything with the self?

I like not being public, not expanding on who I am and isn't that what writing outside the self does? But if you're a writer you have to write and share what you've written? I have six file cabinets filled with my writings. Should I throw them out? What to do with forty-five years of journals?

Does being public change the self?
How to keep the self intact when interacting with others?
How to remember oneself when in a public space?

I'm reading Saadi Youssef.

                            "As for me, I say: I have no actual life outside poetry."
                                     (Saadi Youssef, Nostalgia, My Enemy, p. 4)

Did I crawl back into myself after the Alzheimer books? I didn't like being so public, writing and talking about Abe without him here... without his telling of his own story ... using his material ...

Yet, I seem to be coming out of my "blues," if that's what's been happening for the last few years. Or, maybe it's the brain tumor. Who knows. Either way, I have to live with it and work around it.

Going to Jackie's now. She's painting a wall and wants my opinion: Silver or champagne? I'm going for the warmer shade, champagne.

Happy New Year, with thanks to poets who help me to write and remember who I am. To Ann Hursey, Loreen Lee and Trish Honig. To my grandson, Hunter, who listens to me talk while he's driving home from college; and to Smokey-Bro, who is no trouble at all, sometimes.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Death Penalty: A Poem  
      - for Abe Schweid (1928 - 2010)
by Esther Altshul Helfgott

Ted Bundy was walking his last walk,
and Abe had his ear glued to the radio.

I walked passed him in a huff
that he cared so much about the life
of that killer
of women.
My stomach turns remembering the news
of Bundy biting off women’s nipples
before killing them.
In 1974, I’m walking 
to the parking lot
after school lets out. 
It’s dark and Bundy's 
said to be in Bellingham, 
where I’m a student at Western.
I’m afraid to walk to my car.
I ask another woman if she'd watch me 
and then I’d watch her. But she scoffs, says:
Bundy’s not here. He won’t get you.

And another woman is killed.
And still another.

The woman had laughed,
and I wondered how she lived
without the fear of men
mutilating women:

A teenage girl bludgeoned to death in Patterson Park,
my neighborhood, East Baltimore, 1946.
Is this a screen memory?

I’m five years old. An eleven-year-old, Marsha Brill,
is knifed to death, July 6, 1948. I’m seven.
This is not a screen memory. The event is captured
in newspapers across the country, 
including the Baltimore Sun. The man was executed. 

Aeleven-year-old girl is hammered to death
in the basement of a tropical fish store.
Again, my neighborhood, Northwest Baltimore,
September 29, 1969. Her name was Esther.
This man was not executed. 
He was white.

How do women grow up unafraid?

When Bundy is finally dead,
January 24, 1989, I breathe a sigh of relief,
go back to our bedroom.
and sit down next to Abe
who is crying.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Aunt Miriam Gluskin Helfgott Sax (c 1897 - 2000)

This is my Aunt Miriam Gluskin Helfgott Sax, who came to the US in 1922 with my father, Isidore, and their parents, Jacob and Kaila Helfgott, pronounced Gelfgott in Russian. I was always afraid of Aunt Miriam. She was big and imposing and had a punitive voice, or so it seemed. She gave me a pair of green gloves once, with a matching hat beside. I was five. We were living on East Baltimore Street.  When I was ten she gave me a doll. By then we were living on Pall Mall Road. The presents she gave me didn't make up for my fear of her. I didn't like to hear her voice, though I craved it. I wished she would have put her arm around me, just once, to take the fear away. But look how pretty she was when she came to this country, how sweet her face. I wish I could have touched her face then. I would have liked her touch rather than her presents, though I liked them too. I wonder if living as an immigrant in the United States took her sweetness away. I know it took my father's, though he tried; and maybe she did too.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Cirque:A Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim Vol. 9, No. 2

Image may contain: flower and text

I wrote the poem "Marriage," which appears below, and in this issue of Cirque, years ago. I found it in a pile of work stacked in one of my cubbie holes. It was written when Abe was still home, already diagnosed with Alzheimer's I think, but still functioning relatively okay. He didn't go into a facility until 2006 so I must have written this in the early 2000's when we were both still hoping he would get better. That was such a long time ago, but I remember it as if it were yesterday. I especially liked the kiss at the end of the poem. I will look for more of these stashed-away jottings, and thank Cirque for publishing this one.


She has been taking him
to doctors
every day for a month
and once this last week
he hollered at her.
He was tired too
and was sorry afterwards.
When they came home
she went to bed
and didn’t get up for hours.
When she did,
he was in the kitchen
making dinner.
He turned to look at her.
She smiled and said:
I’m better now.
He put Mozart’s
Divertimento 563
into the CD slot.
They sat down
and ate dinner,
but first
he kissed her.
       -Esther Altshul Helfgott