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Published on April 25th, 2012 | by Ledger Online


Jewish Poets in Connecticut

In celebration of National Poetry Month, we asked five local poets to share one of their works with Ledger readers.


Norma Bursack

Norma Bursack of Bloomfield finds fulfillment in her retirement years at the keyboard of her personal computer. Her working years were spent at keyboards in executive secretarial positions in Israel and locally. Now, she is pursuing her passion for writing.  She has been published in periodicals, on-line and in anthologies. Bursack refers to “Drowning in Paisley” as her “signature poem and one of my mystery poems.” It is also the title of her recently self-published book of poetry. For more information, contact Bursack at NBursack@aol.com.

Drowning in Paisley
By Norma Bursack

I bought this skirt a dozen years ago.
It’s a paisley print and I love it so.
It’s actually what’s called a culotte
and I’ve really worn it an awful lot.

Originally, falling just below my knees,
it’s now below my calves, if you please.
Never to be blown by a passing breeze,
and unworthy of a Marilyn Monroe tease.

I’ve failed to fathom this great mystery
of how each year it grows longer on me.
I dare not stitch it shorter to maintain its style.
Full length, it might take me again
down the aisle.


Retired from his family business, Joseph Fleischman of New Haven has been an intern chaplain for the past two years.  He is currently a chaplain at Griffin Hospital in Derby and a new member of the National Association of Jewish Chaplains. Fleischman and his wife Reva of 34 years have four children and three grandchildren. “Some poems are about dancing in the rain and some about surviving a storm,” says Fleischman of his poetry.  “This one is about surviving a storm.” 

Sailing On A Windy Sea
By Joseph Fleischman

Sailing on a windy sea, captain at my side
I hear the ocean roar and crash,
I see its mounting tide.
I feel the sheets pull in my grip
and know the consequence
Of  losing sight of distant shores or
of my sailing sense.

All the maps or stars up high won’t help me when it’s rough
I need to hold the rudder tight,
I need to hang in tough.
If we have to throw things overboard,
they’re things we do not need
Extra weight increases risk,
captain would agree.

He’s taught me well,  I do not fear his lessons right and true,
Just my navigations skills to reach a sky of blue.
The sailors are afraid sometimes,
they’d like some leave at shore.
How do I say not yet good men there
likely will be more.

Hang in there boys,  stay with your mates,
stay with your mother ship
She’s gone the route so far,  you know,
she’s made the trying trip.
She’s good for more I know she is
don’t fret her weathered bow,
We’ll make it through these storms I’m sure
I only don’t know how.

All hands on deck,  we need all hands,
pull in the flogging sail.
All eyes at once  horizon scan,
captain said we wouldn’t fail.
Flares out for help that might arrive
and no more words right now.
With water’s spilling on the deck,
I’ll stay right here, I vow.

Let’s sing a tune,  it clears the mind,
with that we can’t be wrong.
It’ll serve to keep our thoughts at work
and keep our spirits strong.
As we drift  toward  treacherous parts
then  together hold our breath,
We’ll make it through let’s hope, let’s pray,  won’t meet untimely death.

Most of all recall our course
and captain’s guiding hand
Discipline, rules and fellow’s prayers
all help us make a stand.
I’ll steer this ship although it’s hard,
there’s others waiting home.
Just think of me and I will you
so we won’t be alone.


Stephen Herz

Stephen Herz is the author of “Whatever You Can Carry: Poems of the Holocaust” (Barnwood Press 2003). The recipient of the New England Poet’s Club Daniel Varoujan Prize, his poems have been widely published and anthologized. The poet Thomas Lux has said about “Whatever You Can Carry,” “Not since Primo Levi’s ‘Survival in Auschwitz’ have I read a book so precise, so powerful, so terrifying.” Herz lives in Westport and New York City.

That Day in Oppenheim
By Stephen Herz

You remember looking for your name,
your German name, Herz, in that book of dead Jews, not finding it, but finding other Herzes,
never realizing your name was so common, thinking: heart, heart, as you heard
the guttural voice of this old Jew saying his name was Katz, Moses Katz: who led you over
old cobblestones to the Jewish cemetery along the Rhine: who cupped his hands under your feet,
boosting you over the locked rusty gate, into heaps of broken overturned gravestones,
the stones scattered, buried in thick weeds, tripping you, scaring a gaggle of geese
that echoed your cry that day in Oppenheim, that day you found the grave of your great-great grandfather, Lazarus:
how strange you felt, to find yourself kneeling, placing a stone on his stone,
placing your fingers on ancient Hebrew letters,running them over the aleph bet, the cold aleph bet.


Gail Ostrow

Teacher, chaplain, Peace Pals ambassador, self-described neighborhood troublemaker, Gail Ostrow has lived and taught in Connecticut since 1983.  An adjunct professor at Fairfield University, she claims to have been reading and writing under the covers since she was five.  “My poems usually find me and come in one big rush — all I have to do is change a word here and there,” she says. “For more ideas and inspiration,” she invites readers to visit her blog at askgail.com.

Kaddish for Mom, March 2007
By Gail Ostrow

Many people call for “mother.”
Mom did once — Dad never stopped,
and both called for me:
“please…help me, help me
it hurts, ice chips, water, please
I’m so thirsty and I’m hungry.”
How could she be hungry?
A mass in her belly
cancer in her liver and brain
and she’s asking for her make-up and
making lists of what I should bring her
2 eyebrow pencils
her walker
Already memory is not to be trusted.
Did she say that?  Did I do that?
What was real and what is now a good story?

Wendy called—no, I called her last night
and asked her to wear the “headlight”
for a while.
After we hung up I went upstairs
and found mine
and put it on…
the gold and diamond sparkling
and I saw us as Mom’s glittering bookends,
each coast reflecting to the other one with
Mom’s jewels at our throat chakras.

My mother died
and I am so surprised
that I am so surprised.
This singular event like no other,
except perhaps my own death
or the death
of my children
or grandchildren.

Mom’s shiva candle will go out tonight.
Seven days since she died.
Where to put her picture?
It doesn’t matter, nothing does,
except that dad died and then mom died
and I am no longer a daughter
of anyone in this world.


Silvia Pasternak

Born in Atlantic City, N.J., Silvia Pasternak raised her family in West Hartford, where she has lived for more than 60 years.  Now retired as manager of her late husband Dr. Herbert Pasternak’s optometry practice, Pasternak, a great-grandmother, began writing poetry in recent years and is the author of hundreds of poems. 

The Kiss of Love
By Silvia Pasternak

He put his arms around her and held her tight
In the evening’s bright moonlight

He whispered her name, you are my love
As overhead flew a white dove

The chill of the night was in the air
As the shine of the moon glistened in her hair

What is the next step for them to take
They went down the steps to the lake

Into a canoe they go
And take the oars to row

But soon stopped to set the scene
It seemed just like a dream

He pulled her close and their lips met
For a kiss they would never forget

Then from the shore came a call
Cut – that’s wrap – that’s all!

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