Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Mama Cass, Forest Park High, Feb. 1960

I'm watching California Dreamin' (The Mamas and the Papas) on Ch. 9 and just had to dig out my Forest Park High School yearbook. Mama Cass is on the Cohen page. I knew her as Ellen. This is what I remember: When she came over to Baltimore from Washington, D.C., I think when we were in the 11th grade, she had been in Sigma Pi Sigma, a high school sorority; now she walks into Upper Park Heights and the girls at Forest Park won't let her join their snotty Baltimore chapter.

The Cohen under Ellen's picture also died young. I think Ellen died first. Marsha was a beauty queen and acrobat and our prom queen. I knew her from 7th grade on. She smiled maybe twice that I can remember (although she made Phi Delta); whereas, Ellen smiled, joked, sang and laughed all she could.

This was the Forest Park High and Baltimore of Barry Levinson's Diner, a much different place for teenage boys than for teenage girls (at least the girls I knew), but not a paradise for any of us.

Ellen Cohen (soon to become Mama Cass) second from top left

....and we all wore pearls.

Trigger Poem, Waldman, Fast Speaking Woman, Women's Writing Groups, Cancer Lifeline, Week of Nov. 28th

from Fast Speaking Woman by Anne Waldman

because i don't have to spit
because I don't have rubbish
because i don't have dust
because i don't have that which is in air
because I am air
let me try you with my magic power:

I'm a shouting woman
I'm a speech woman
I'm an atmosphere woman
I'm an airtight woman
I'm a flesh woman
I'm a flexible woman
I'm a high-heeled woman
I'm a high-style woman
I'm an automobile woman
I'm a mobile woman
I'm an elastic woman
I'm a necklace woman
I'm a silk-scarf woman
I'm a know-nothing woman
I'm a know-it-all woman
I'm a day woman
I'm a doll woman

from Fast Speaking Woman by Anne Waldman, City Lights Books, 1999

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Esther's Healing Arts Writing Space

"In my healing arts writing groups we find a space for confidence- building and community formation, a place where self-esteem and courage blossoms. Here we come to look at our lives and celebrate ourselves and each other.

"My goal is for us to find a place of strength and non-marginality. No one is on the edge here, on the outskirts looking in. We are all, each one of us, smack in the middle of experience and knowledge that we lend to each other -- through non-competitive discussion, writing, and sharing of work, if and when we are ready.

"We use writing, mostly poetry, to trigger imagination, memory, friendship, love, hate, ambiguity, fear, whatever comes along, even secrets we didn't know we had.

"My goal is for us to use writing to discover our authentic voice(s) on and off the page and to develop the confidence to use our voice(s) with determination.

"I am most concerned with writing process and writing as process; and though we work toward making our words clearer for others to understand and to understand ourselves better, worldly (or wordly) success is not an ingredient of the healing arts space, all the while we take pride in our accomplishments and in each other's accomplishments.

"Here in my healing arts writing groups, we listen to each other so we can hear more of ourselves; and we quiet ourselves so we can hear that much more of all those others who share our writing/living spaces with us."

If you are a cancer patient, recovering cancer patient, caregiver, co-worker, relative, friend or acquaintance of someone with cancer and would like to join us, please call Cancer Lifeline at 297-2100 or visit on-line.

Thanks for visiting,

Esther Altshul Helfgott

Monday, November 21, 2005

Trigger Poem, Walcott, Love After Love, Women's Writing Groups, Cancer Lifeline, Week of Nov. 21st

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

- Derek Walcott

from Collected Poems 1948—1984 by Derek Walcott.
Copyright © 1986 by Derek Walcott.

Trigger Poem, Nye, You Have to Be Careful, Women's Writing Groups, Cancer Lifeline, Week of Nov. 14th

You Have to Be Careful

You have to be careful telling things.
Some ears are tunnels.
Your words will go in and get lost in the dark.
Some ears are flat pans like the miners used
looking for gold.
What you say will be washed out with the stones.

You look for a long time til you find the right ears.
Til then, there are birds and lamps to be spoken to,
a patient cloth rubbing shine in circles,
and the slow, gradually growing possibility
that when you find such ears
they already know.

-Naomi Shihab Nye

"You Have to Be Very Careful" from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. Copyright © 1995.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Trigger Poem, Weil, The Paper Bag, Women's Writing Groups, Cancer Lifeline, Week of Nov. 7th

The Paper Bag

Fill up a paper bag with
Spring sounds and
Open it in December
Fill up a paper bag with
Snow flurries and
Use them to decorate your bedroom
Fill up a paper bag with
Ribbons and
Fly them when you want a word with the wind
Fill up a paper bag with
Winter quiet and
Open it when it's time to be alone
Fill up a paper bag with
Your favorite words and
Shake it till a good story comes out
Fill up a paper bag with
Secrets and
Share them with a friend every so often
Fill up a paper bag with
Just to have it

-Zaro Weil

“Paper Bag” from Mud, Moon and Me by Zaro Weil
copyright © 1989 by Zaro Weil

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

After He's Gone

I will dwell
where I am
and use
what is
in me
to remember.


Nov. 23 '05

I think the above, Nov. 09, '05 diary-entry, will be my last for awhile on Alzheimer's, at least to publish here. The disease is taking its toll, and I must move my writing and thinking forward into other spaces, all the while I continue caring for my husband (at home) and interacting with this nightmarish disease.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Ativan, a Blessing?

After two weeks
of sleep
for both of us
I give him the Ativan
and get a whole night's sleep.
(Well, almost).
And so does he.
(Well, almost),
but he wobbles in the morning.
(At least).
And getting up from a chair
is har
And in adult care
he sleeps,
so they'll
keep him there.
I pick him up
and night
again, as day

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Spouse as Home

I didn't know he
was my shul
my language
my mother tongue
and prayer
the zeyde I lost,
and bubbies
I never had.
Or that he was my homeland.
And exile.
My nakedness.

I didn’t know
when I met him
twenty five years ago
that I had needed
a place to
Or that knowing
turned less
into more
And more

shall I dwell
when he’s



-Esther Altshul Helfgott

Friday, November 04, 2005

As I Sit In Class

I think of him
to come home,
how I pinned
my business card
to his undershirt.
On the back
I wrote:
You're in Adult Day Care.
I'm going to class.
I'll pick you up
at 1:30 p.m.

He reads the words
with me. I kiss him
give the nurse
a plastic baggie
filled with tylenol
and a just-in-case Ativan.
In class,
Jeanne, Mary
and I
and talk
about writing.
We read Bill Stafford's
What's In My Journal
while my first cell phone
sits unringing
but ready
on the desk by the door.

-Esther Altshul Helfgott

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Analytic Entrapment

The Fall 2005 issue of American Imago came in the mail this weekend. It's an important compendium of essays on various forms of imprisonment. I am pleased to say that my essay, Analytic Entrapment , concerning my psychoanalytic experience is included. I thank Peter L. Rudnytsky, editor of American Imago and Murray M. Schwartz, guest editor, for their important comments while the essay was in progress and for the integrity they demonstrate in printing an essay from the analysand's point of view.

Abstract: This essay examines a four-and-a-half year, five-day-a-week psychoanalysis, with a traditional male analyst, from the point of view of a female analysand. Drawing on diaries she kept during this period, January 1990 – June 1994, as well as on those she wrote before and after the analysis, the author argues that an erotic transference that is not supervised well by the analyst, especially when he does not control his erotic countertransference, can produce feelings of psychological entrapment on the part of the analysand. The analyst’s refusal to deal with the here and now between him and the analysand can damage an otherwise creative analytic relationship and it can threaten psychoanalysis as an art form.

The essays can be accessed through Project Muse at any university library. In Seattle, at Suzzallo, our wonderful librarians (I adore librarians. How would we live without them!)on the periodicals floor will offer you a friendly hand.

American Imago
Volume 62, Number 3, Fall 2005
Special Issue: Experiences of Imprisonment
Guest Editor: Murray M. Schwartz
The Johns Hopkins University Press

Schwartz, Murray M.

Hopkins, Brooke.
Winnicott and Imprisonment

Winnicott, D. W. (Donald Woods), 1896-1971.
Juvenile delinquency -- Psychological aspects.
Imprisonment -- Psychological aspects.
Solitude -- Psychological aspects.

Davis, Walter A. (Walter Albert), 1942-
Between Two Deaths: Life on the Row

Skorczewski, Dawn.
Bergman, Anni
, 1919-
Getting Attica Out of Her Mind: A Psychoanalytic Memoir
Autistic children -- Case studies.

Helfgott, Esther Altshul.
Analytic Entrapment
Helfgott, Esther Altshul.
Women analysands -- Biography.
Psychotherapist and patient.
Transference (Psychology)
Psychoanalysis -- Moral and ethical aspects.

Letter from London
Kahr, Brett.

Why Freud Turned Down $25,000: Mental Health Professionals in the Witness Box
Freud, Sigmund, 1856-1939.
Leopold, Nathan Freudenthal, 1904 or 5-1971 -- Trials, litigation, etc.
Loeb, Richard A., 1905 or 6-1936 -- Trials, litigation, etc.

Book Reviews
Schapiro, Barbara A.
The Death-Ego and the Vital Self: Romances of Desire in Literature and Psychoanalysis (review)

Sharon-Zisser, Shirley, 1962-
The Cambridge Companion to Lacan (review)
as per American Imago