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Sample Poems by Ellen Steinbaum

Snowdrops in January

A few mild days and they are pushing up,
white petals drooped in modest triumph,
open to the gift.

"Rushing the season," my mother called it,
shook her head at someone's shed coat
or short sleeves.

"We won't have snowdrops in the spring,"
I worry. "But," he says,
"we have them now."


The second thing is this: to have.
We arrive and close our fists on
stone and feather
this, not that
in passion or
in casual reaching out
and pocketing.

This is our history: a line from
first picked-up twig through
painted curling lemon rind to
heaped-up things lost into drawers
still stiff with the fading
shine of our attention.

What can we know as well as
a bowl presented for our
polished gaze beyond
its temporary owner and
the painter skilled with
curve and light?

Only Connecting

I log on and see two friends announce their marriage.
They've been together decades, share a grandchild:
I have made assumptions I must now revise-
together all these years unwed? I cheer their
non-convention, wonder why they've married now.
And then I see her at the gym, offer congrats and she,
embarrassed, says she was filling in her profile and
it turned, somehow, into news. Updates from him
seem to reflect a new sanctity, a new appreciation
for what they had done years before. So I send him
congratulations and am prompted, "send a gift" and
where it's usually the Starbucks card, now, inexplicably,
I'm urged to send him collar stays, something I wouldn't
have thought of on my own, thank you, because,
though I am fond of him, I've never thought to send him
gifts and collars stays would hardly be my choice
since I've seen him only wearing open-collared shirts
(and now it sounds as if I've noticed too much and
that's a little awkward, him with that newly-married status)
and does anyone buy collar stays as gifts these days?
I see they're sold at Tiffany "for the man of distinction,"
in silver, monogrammed, but "this item is no longer available"
and so it seems that even Tiffany has seen the writing on the wall
which is sometimes news and sometimes just a statement
that things continue as they are.

for KA and RH

Recorded History

Rising out of the bath water
the familiar knees
show two faint scars
from the bicycle errand
when I was eight or maybe ten,
and, from the same fall, scars
inside left elbow, on heel of right hand,
now so faint no one else would notice
but I know where to search,
remember sitting, shaky,
at the drugstore counter,
patting small blood with napkin,
sipping water, saying yes,
I was all right, then peddling home
slowly, milk and bread intact
and though I know our cells replace themselves,
replicate and reproduce until we're new,
the scars remain all these years later,
visible as cave paintings
if you know where to look.

Good Day Sir or Madam

Mrs. Caro Hu says Hello,
I know I have never met you,
but my mind instincts me to
do this. I believe everything
happens for a reason. People
change so you can learn to let go.
Things go wrong so you can
appreciate them when they're right.

I am a dying woman
who has decided to donate
what I have to you.
For charitable goals.

Kindly contact my lawyer
through this email or on
his private line if you are
interested in carrying out this
task. I will not be available.
He can arrange the release
of funds to you ($10,500,000.00)
Thank you and God bless you.
Keep this confidential because
of the 7.01% tax on the funds.

I have no children. Please forget
about my family members. It is a
long story.