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May Poppy
Gail Fishman Gerwin

I bought a red paper poppy.
I bought it from a veteran
who stood outside Trader Joe’s.
I’d been looking for a veteran
all week because this is how
I honor my cousin Adele.
Adele sold red paper poppies every May—
her birthday fell on the original Memorial Day,
not the convenient weekend for appliance
deals and getaways.
Through thick glasses Delly squinted
at those who bought them, smiled her
crooked smile, said thank you in garbled
speech, went home satisfied at her job
well done, told her parents well into
their old age that she’d be back at the
shopping center the next year.
I bought a red paper poppy.
The veteran told me not to let
rain wet it, it would run,
stain my clothing.
From Dear Kinfolk, (ChayaCairn Press, 2012).
Used with the author’s permission.

Gail Fishman Gerwin (1939 - 2016), a “Jersey girl” from birth who claims to have channeled Dorothy Parker and Sylvia Plath on occasion, authored three poetry collections: Crowns (Aldrich Press) was inspired in part by her four grandchildren; Sugar and Sand was a Paterson Poetry Prize finalist, and Dear Kinfolk (ChayaCairn Press) earned a Paterson Award for Literary Excellence. Founder of the writing/editing firm Inedit, Gail was also the associate poetry editor for Tiferet and frequently participated in workshops and panels on the creative process.

Post New Comment:
Beautiful, moving poem. I love it.
Posted 05/27/2013 12:11 PM
Thank you Gail. Thank you Jayne. The reality of war and the prices paid don't touch everyone.
Posted 05/27/2013 11:44 AM
Thank you so much for your poem. I have not seen the Veteran selling popies here in the Bronx for a few years now, and I long to buy one. Yes, I protected the poppy from the weather as long as it lasted entwined by the little wire stem around the strap of my handbag. Now, the popies are protected in my prayers and my heart.
Posted 05/27/2013 11:26 AM
Thank you all so much for your comments. And thank you, Jayne, for giving Adele this visibility. Best to all of you. Gail
Posted 05/27/2013 10:21 AM
I really love the last line about staining your clothing. So much said, so much left to be pondered. Beautiful!
Posted 05/27/2013 08:40 AM
Wonderful tribute. We find ways to honor those we've loved, making personal traditions to blend with public traditions.
Posted 05/27/2013 07:30 AM
Larry Schug:
In the last verse of this poem what is unsaid is incredibly powerful; a poem unto itself. Thank you for remembering.
Posted 05/27/2013 07:25 AM
beautiful tribute to a beautiful person and a day that's sadly lost its meaning for many...thank you...
Posted 05/27/2013 07:08 AM
A very appropriate and moving poem, Gail. Thanks to both you and Jayne!
Posted 05/27/2013 06:39 AM

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