Little Ways to Heal the Planet


My mother told us—
“If you turn the light on,
then turn the light off.
Learn to love the dark
you will reside there
soon enough.”

She insisted we earn
a shower—
“worked up a sweat, did you,
sitting in your chair reading?”
And reminded us that cold
water cleaned
as well as hot.


Mom told us
It was the little things—
conserve, conserve
conserve and sabotage
a coal refinery.

Dad told us we might
take the car
only If we had a definite place to go—
reminding us that our two legs
were remarkably useful
for locomotion.

He taught us to repair
everything with simple tools
that fit nicely in your hand.
“This was once expensive,”
he often said,
“and doesn’t belong
in a landfill.”

Dad told us
it was the little things.
Do it yourself, do it yourself
do it yourself and short-circuit
the power grid


My grandmother—
a woman of kindness
and depth,
taught us to read
by candlelight—
her mantra—
“better than tv.”

She’d say it was
the little things.
and taught us to
meditate and to make
bombs from leftover
household products.
“All power to the people”
she’d shout from her
rocker—raising her
arthritic fist as high as
she might.

On Silver Birch Press

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In My Next Life

My poem, written as Stevieslaw, is up at The Drabble. Here is the poem:

In My Next Life

I will make
music—

classical
strings

Sunday
afternoons,

rock operas
Saturday night.

My music
so awe inspiring

it will float
like Chinese lanterns

dance like fireflies
in July.

Free—free
as the grass

in your favorite
park.

For in my
next life

the only
currency

will be
smiles.

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Ready, Aim, Sing

My poem—Ready, Aim, Sing—is up at Cactifur. Here is the poem:

Ready, Aim, Sing

My sister, Angie, thought

she’d save the world.

She grew her black hair long

and fancied herself

the next Joan Baez.

Angie was sure song

would silence the guns.

Never shy, she belted out

a steady stream 

of Paxton, Prine and Collins.

It made dad smile to hear

“Farewell Angelina,”

though he couldn’t fathom the lyrics.

He tried to save the world once,

humping an M1 across France and Germany.

I used to make her crazy—

isn’t that what brothers are for,

with a refrain from Lehrer’s spoof—

Folk Song Army.

You must know it—ready, aim, sing.

At sweet 16, my sister played 

the pass-the-hat dives

on Bleeker Street

where drug 

and protest culture collided.

Sure, she would save the world,

but wasn’t it easier if you were high?

She hit the road at 17–

four wannabes in an old Nash Rambler

heading for the summer of love.

They never made it to Haight-Ashbury—

burned so much oil crossing Kansas

it looked like they had chosen the Pope.

Dad drove out to get them—

the car tomb-silent all the way home.

I have her old Gibson 12

and pluck out a Paxton now and again.

My sister, Angie, married money—

she lives in Dallas and voted for both Bushes

while her grandson, Dylan, vows to save the world.

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MS. St. Louis

My poem is up at Schlow Library as part of local response to the traveling exhibition ”Americans and the Holocaust,” at the Penn State University Libraries, January 29th to March 10th. The Schlow exhibition of art work and poetry is up for the month of January.

The poem considers the ”Voyage of the DamnedT” and the imagined response of those on board. From Brittanica:

The MS St. Louis sailed from Hamburg on May 27, 1939 with 931 passengers. Most were Jew trying to escape Nazi Germany. The travelers were denied entry to Cuba (a popular destination while waiting for a US Visa), the United States and Canada. The ship was forced to return to Europe, where the passengers were eventually taken by England, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. 255 were killed during the war—the vast majority in concentration camps.

The incident was chronicled in the book Voyage of the Damned (1974) by Gordon Thomas and Max Morgan and later adapted into a film (1976).

The poem:

MS St. Louis

My brother turned

thirteen this week—

he was to take

to the Bema,

and read from the torah

salvaged

from our synagogue 

in Berlin.

But, he decided

just the day before,

not to.

At ten,

I must start 

studying, 

although my brother

says, “why bother,

since we are sailing 

East again.”

The mood

on board the boat

has changed

since we left 

the lights of Miami

behind—

smiles

are hard to come by

and my dad and mom

are more 

than just seasick.

The Rabbi says

we should forgive

those who have 

forsaken us—

but my brother says

“the rabbi is older 

than Methuselah 

and we will 

bury him at sea

before too long.”

Dad told us

“there is so much

we have been

blamed for, 

that they fear a contagion—

like the Black Death

arriving by ship 

in Messina in 1347.”

My brother shakes

his head to agree.

“To help a Jew

is to become 

a little Jewish,”

he says

“and who would

ever choose to be 

Jewish.”

But, the boat

steams on

and soon, 

we will see

Gibraltar

again.

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In the Wings

Here is the second of the poems just published in The Rush (Mount Saint Mary’s University).

In the Wings

 

Slight and subtle

like a breeze

from the west

that presages

a storm,

it reminds me

of the mortality

of the seasons

with little truths

that confound

the senses.

So, so ordinary

that they are

not.

 

Today, I find

an elm leaf

in my hair—

gray and desiccated

yet once a lively green.

It has been

in the night air

far too long.

 

Breeze stronger

now and the sky

like eggshell—

soon, so soon.

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Nostos

I have two poems in the current issue of The Rush (Mount St. Mary’s University). Here is the first:

Nostos

 

It was on the rise

behind the blueberry bushes,

blue-black with fruit.

 

I don’t know

what drew me there

since my bucket was full,

 

but a small stone

stairway made its

way up the rise.

 

I imagine a homestead

once stood above—

but could find no trace.

 

I took the stairs

up then down

then up again

 

calling out, “honey

I’m home,”

echoes died to stillness—

 

a quiet

that predated man’s

invention of time,

 

as I sat on the top

step in the late

morning sun,

 

feasting on berries

and daydreaming

of home.

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Cadge

Thrilled that my poem, Cadge, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize by Burningword Literary Journal. Here is the poem:

Cadge
JANUARY 2021 | POETRY, PUSHCART NOMINEE
I bet the four flush—
worth next to nothing
but looking to all like the key
to the kingdom of heaven.

You told me once
that poker
was half luck
and half bluff.

They had just
cleaned you out again
at the Friday night game
above the body shop on Sutter Avenue.

You and your six
unemployable friends—
passing a cheap bottle of rye
and shots at each other’s parentage,

in a room
full of reefer
and the sweat
of day labor.

You told me once
you had no luck—
having given it
all to me.

And I pictured a medallion
bestowed upon the younger brother—
no small burden
you’d hung around my neck—

as if the family’s fortune
was riding on my narrow shoulders.
“What fortune?”
anyone who knew us might think to ask.

“But, you’ll never be a bluffer,
you told me,
for that you need a pair—
and in our family, I got them.”

Cold as cobra’s breath
I bet my four spades
and watched
as the better hand folded.

You never were a judge of character—
a lifetime
of confusing
friends and enemies.

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Two New Poems:

I have two poems on the Lothlorien Poetry Journal site today. Here is a link:

https://lothlorienpoetryjournal.blogspot.com/2021/11/two-poems-by-steven-deutsch.html

and the poems. You can get the actual format of the poems on the link. I can’t make the blog behave.

Where I’m Writing From

A library cubicle—

under a flickering 

fluorescent—

watching sleet

cover the trees

through the spattered

window. Tea icy

and ideas 

as stingy as the heat.

But, I swear 
it won’t 

always be that way

In the sun,

with coffee

and croissants 

that replenish 

themselves

like that porridge 

pot in Grimm.

With a view

of the beach,

and children

laughing

like Munchkins

after the Witch

of the East

was squashed.

And, it will

be going well—

my hand barely 

able to keep up

with the words—

like I had

a laureate 

whispering

in my head.

And you’ve written

to say

you’ll join 

me soon—

although the drive

is a long one—

a happily

ever after—

I know,

like the tales

we once cherished

as children.

 Balter

“In the end,

you are left

with just your

memories,”

my cousin Eddie 

murmured.

It was just after

his third cardiac

event, and there

wasn’t much meat

left on his 6’

4” frame.

I wondered why

they called them

events—as if you

might purchase 

a ticket to attend.

We called him

“Too Tall”

and I remembered

that his favorite

expression as a child

was “willya sign

my cast.”

“Too Tall” was always

falling down 

or getting up—

prone to trip 

on sidewalk 

imperfections invisible

to the rest 

of us.

“Remember when 

my parents got

me dancing lessons

for my 12th birthday

and I thought 

I’d die of shame,”

he said in a whisper.

“I was graceless,”

he grinned—

“I never told

them how much 

I loved those lessons.”

I watched his eyes

linger on a photo

of his wife.

He’d met her in class—

all 5’2’ of her.

So shy 

she blushed

when she smiled.

She’d died this winter

leaving her dancing

partner a wall of trophies

and empty arms

I left him

with his memories—

I do believe 

he was humming a waltz.

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Checker Cab

My poem, Checker Cab, is in the Fall Issue of Black Coffee Review. Here it is without the stanza breaks. And what might be a link.

https://www.blackcoffeereview.com/fall-2021?fbclid=IwAR2x42zGUgCfVmqkJeGYH2uFInySueex3tEbKFU5uUOdeHAqsLk3Gw6Z9Sg

Checker Cab

It was the one story

my dad never told

even though his 

greatest pleasure

was holding forth

at the dinner table—

a cigar in one hand,

forked morsel in the other.

Dad drove a Checker cab

the graveyard shift

in New York City.

A fleet car—

he could never afford 

the medallion.

But to hear him tell it

his cab was the hottest property

in the early morning city—

attracting great names

like Vegas attracts high rollers.

Over the years, he’d driven

Spencer Tracy, Rock Hudson,

and all of the Rat Pack.

Marilyn once pecked his cheek

rather than pay her fare,

and he had to help the doorman at the Plaza

extract Mantle and Ford

from the back seat—

“drunk as skunks.”

Sinatra, he told us, never rode 

with the same dame twice,

and Jackie Gleason

would exit with a flourish—

“And away we go.”

He’d tell us of the ordinary 

people that hailed his taxi

at 4 AM

pleading their cases like bookies

hawking tout sheets at Belmont.

And the tips—

from nickels and dimes

to bank-fresh fifties.

We knew he made most

of it up—

but dad was true to a code.

There was a tiny bit of truth

in every tale.

But he never told 

us why he came home that morning

in the middle of his shift,

with blood stains on his work

clothes. He chained smoked

Camels—as he tried to still

the shakes

with a few shots of basement rye

and the longest shower

the man had ever taken.

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Shibboleth

My poem was just published by Hare’s Paw Literary Journal. Here it is:

Shibboleth by Steven Deutsch

“You even changed

the names of the fucking streets,”

Andy told us over beers

a few weeks after he’d come home.

It was not the homecoming

we imagined—

a ticker tape parade perhaps—

the high school marching band,

cheerleaders, and the glee club

when our Most Likely to Succeed,

1992, made his way back home.

Instead, he crept back,

like a dog too often beaten,

nursing a fragile recovery

from the drug of the month club—

living with his mom,

and reporting to a parole officer

he had once dated.

“It’s all changed,”

Andy told us,

as we sat in a bar that hadn’t

changed in thirty years—

same worn booths,

stale peanuts,

bottled Buds.

“And the people,”

he said, followed by a terrific swig

that had his Adam’s apple

dancing—

“it’s as if they’ve forgotten

how to talk—

and communicate

in grunts, grimaces

and shrugs.”

I grunted.

Bobbie burped—

his burps

were legendary.

Not a grimace

in the group.

“I remember that burp,”

Andy said with the laugh

we knew so well.

He shrugged,

added a wink,

and bought the next round.

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