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Three poems


Honestly, 6’4” Abe would have been a superstar center

in Dale, Indiana, which is what that little town

is named now, but was Elizabeth

when Abe worked on a farm outside there

and was 16 and sowed instead of shot

because there were no courts or hoops,

no Hoosiers or Boilermakers,

no NBA early entry,

instead became one of the most honored

All-Star presidents in our history.

No basketball then,

but gangly Abe could horseshoe with the best of them,

long arms stretch toward the stake,

long legs bullet the kickball at the goal,

big thumbs snap a marble true,

kids terrified when they called Red Rover.

No, had Doc Naismith

invented the leather ball

and peach baskets game back then,

Young Abe would have dunked

instead of speechified,

dribbled instead of traveled,

buck boarded to other little towns,

crushed opponents with his height

not his tongue.

Abe didn’t win on the court,

but in the courtroom.

In the Capitol

dead from a bullet

shot because Booth

couldn’t stand his team

to lose.


When your mother and I made love, having two sons,

we coveted a daughter, did not think of your nose.

We did not pay attention when you went to high school

and your nose went with you defining you in that Gentile culture

as different, strange, not pretty.

Did not understand those tears heard behind your door

were not just strains of young womanhood but pain from remarks

about your nose.

You flew through life, nicknamed Nightingale,

a horseback rider, a figure skater,

a musician with your own band,

successful at every endeavor,

we did not think of your nose.

After you moved away,

we read the autobiography of your nose

when you shouted on Facebook the beauty of your nose—

that you declined a nose job—

rallied all those other women to celebrate their profiles.

Your nose a badge of honor,

a face on which to stand your ground

to tell the world who you truly are.



My Stepmother worshipped movie magazines.

She wanted to be a star,

almost auditioned for Gene Autry

with her country band,

The Apple Blossom Trio,

but a member got pneumonia

and the cowboy never saw her.

She married my Father,

under the safe umbrella of his adultery,

shading her eyes from what was obvious to all,

Hollywood dreams, the slick pages of those mags

muting her pain.

She left those glossies lying around.

A curious teen ,

I took them to my bedroom

and fantasized over and over like all boys do

eyeing the ingenue Debbie Reynolds

as The One.

There was an actual diminutive girlfriend Bonnie,

heart trysts with Margaret O' Brien and Shirley Temple,

later Sandra Dee,

but sparkling Debbie sang and danced

her way into my heart and libido

more than any of them.

She was Tammy and I was in love.

I grew up, went to college.

Dad and Stepmother divorced.

The VietNam War started.

I got radical, marched and protested,

read the Guardian instead of the Hollywood Star.

One day flipping through that Leftist rag

beautiful Debbie's picture danced off the page.

My heart remembered her,

my teen angst throbbed.

I knew vaguely of her bad marriage to Eddie,

how Liz Taylor cleopatraed her,

America's sweetheart trashed like my Step-Mother.

The caption skewered Debbie, complained

she owned 2,000 pairs of shoes and buying more.

Said she wanted to own the world’s largest collection.

2,000 pairs—pumps, espadrilles, kitten heels,

winklepickers, ankle straps—etc., etc.

Silver, mauve, yellows, turquoise, reds,

a rainbow of shoe colors,

a display of wanton, uncaring wealth,

shoes of clay.

Ms. Reynolds was still attractive in that photo,

the dazzling, dimpled smile faintly there.

I remembered my crush.

But the web of the Tender Trap was rent.

My heroes now Che and Fidel,

she the enemy, the ruling class.

A child of poverty,

did Debbie forget that no one dated her

because she didn’t know how to dress,

wore ratty jeans, a country shirt and tennies?

Is that what made her feet crave

the feel of slipping on shoes,

one after the other

while children starved?

Debbie is gone now,

stroked out the day after her beloved daughter died.

What kind of shoes did she wear in her coffin?

I fell out of love and into reality.

I fell in love with my wife,

marches and protests,


beside my own worn down boots.


Vern Fein is a retired teacher, who has published over sixty poems and short pieces on a variety of sites, a few being: *82 Review, The Literary Nest, Bindweed Magazine, Gyroscope Review, VietNam War Poetry, Ibis Head Review, Spindrift, Former People, 500 Miles, and The Write Launch, and has non-fiction pieces in Quail Bell, The Write Place at the Write Time, and Adelaide, plus a short story in the the online magazine Duende from Goddard College. Fein can be reached at

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