April 13, 2014

Big-Ass Tree

Big-Ass Tree 

Poem by Jill Rosenthal
A tree fell over in front of our house –
Big-ass tree – hit two cars,
Knocked the rear window clean out of one.

The next morning, a group of neighbors stood around
Inspecting the damage.
“Too much water” someone said,
Because enormous trees don’t just give up
And tip over in the night.

My daughter said she’d miss the tree
And asked if she could keep a branch.
I reached down and touched a root
Sticking out from the up-ended trunk
Like a tan carrot God pulled out of the ground,
And watched it come apart in my hand.

Jill Rosenthal is a writer of poetry, fiction personal essays, screenplays and film reviews.  She taught poetry at UC Berkeley and currently works with at-risk teens through a classic poetry and spoken word program called Get Lit. You can find a collection of her humorous essays here: Woman On The Verge, and view her public performance of an essay about trying to explain sex to her daughter, here: Avoiding Penetration.  When Jill is not writing, she practices law in Los Angeles, California. 

  •  Harley Jane Kozak · Beautiful
  • Leatrice Cohen · Charming insightful poem- well done!
  • Nick Taylor · An interesting take on a fairly mundane event in the course of a normal day. I like the rhythm of the piece. Jill has some chops
  • Shelby Wood · As always, brilliantly put together a beautiful poem / story.
  • Megan ·· Love this poem. So accessible, I was taken back by how deep it gets.
  • Barbara Rothstein · A few words, a lot of heart. A short poem, a long lasting effect.  Jill Rosenthal’s ‘big-ass’ poem is the kind of writing that tugs at you all day
  • Blithe · ·Beautiful, the simplicity of this writing is so perfect — and tricky.

Love As Though

Love as Though

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My 8-year-old
Has memorized a poem
From a greeting card.
She recites it
From the back seat of the car:

Dance as though no one is watching, 
Sing as though no can hear, 
Love as though you’ve never been hurt,
Live as though heaven is on earth.
I sing loudly
And dance around in my seat.
She says: “Mom, people are watching!” 
Then grins, real big.
When she gets to:
Love as though you’ve never been hurt 
I say: “I’m trying,”
And my baby girl says:
“I know, it’s hard . . .”

Jill Rosenthal

Jill Rosenthal is a writer of poetry, fiction, personal essays, screenplays, and film reviews whose work has appeared in Columbia: A Journal of Literature and ArtThe Berkeley Voice, and previous issues of Literary Mama. She taught poetry at UC Berkeley and currently works with at-risk teens through a spoken poetry program called Get Lit. You can find a collection of her humorous essays at Woman On The Verge, and view her public performance of an original essay about trying to explain sex to an 8-year-old here: “Avoiding Penetration.” When Jill is not writing, she is practicing law in Los Angeles, California, where she lives with her daughter, Shelby Rose.

As always, pitch perfect.
That is actually one of my favorite poems "love as though..." And you have just managed to make it that much better! Wonderful, thoughtful and amazing, just like you Jill!
Way to go Jill- just fantastic. I am really proud of you. Love, leatrice
And she's only 8!!!! Gorgeous ladies both of you.
LOVE this poem!
Beautiful. Brava!



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Bells tolled this morning
As I drank my coffee
Over the Sunday paper
And my daughter brushed the dog,
Getting him ready for a party in her mind.
Bells tolled from somewhere
Across the din of traffic
Through an open kitchen door,
And we listened,
And after they stopped
We sat in the silence
And listened to the echoes.
Then my daughter looked at me,
And I looked at her,
And she said what we both were thinking:

“I never noticed that before.”

Jill Rosenthal
Jill Rosenthal has been writing poetry, fiction and personal essays for fifteen years, and is the author of numerous published film reviews and Halftime, a feature-length screenplay optioned by two major studios. She has taught poetry classes at UC Berkeley and currently works closely with Get Lit, an educational non-profit recently honored at the White House for its work teaching at-risk teens to perform classic poetry and their own spoken word responses. When she is not writing, Jill practices law in Los Angeles and takes care of her brilliant and profound 11-year-old daughter, Shelby Rose. View her public performance of an original humorous poem about explaining sex to Shelby entitled “Avoiding Penetration.”
Beautiful, yet clear and simple language -- as always. This is an amazing writer.
Wonderful poem Jill- creates a great picture of you and Shelby together.
Beautiful words from a wonderful woman.
I feel the "feeling", and have experienced a similar moment myself, from time to time. This wonderful poem assures me the notion I have felt for so long: we are ALL connected.
Sweet, innocent, yet profound. Always great Jill Rosenthal. What's next ; )
Elegant. Evocative.
Now that is JUST. BEAUTIFUL. Such a poignant reminder to be present & savor the little moments. That's where life happens, after all, but it's so easy to miss!
You are so talented and blessed with the gift to write. I´m so looking forward to read more of your poems.
So touching and full of love!
lovely, Jill!
Now that's a beautiful poem...
touching and funny! this is great!
Gorgeous. You really captured a moment and a feeling here with such well crafted words.
Truth is beautiful and simple, and Jill has captured its wonder with her lovely, simple, profound poetry. Congratulations!

October 29, 2013

Street Cred: A Middle-Aged User's Guide

    In my spare time, I work with at-risk teens, some from pretty tough neighborhoods. They love me because I speak their language. For example, if a teen is feeling insecure about something, I might say: “Snap, dawg, that is wack. You Hundo P cray-cray, so don’t worry about the haters chirping in your grill, just go in H.A.M. and  swag out something sick. YOLO!”

     Okay, fine, I’ve never said that in my life. But how cool would it be if I had?! My point is if you want to connect with teens, you gotta know their lingo. So if you found the above passage incomprehensible, here is your study guide:
     "Snap" – All-purpose exclamation (disappointment, surprise, joy, etc.);
     "Sick" – Cool beyond words;
     "Haters" – The jealous bastards who criticize you;
     "H.A.M." – To go ballistic (“Hard As a Mother***er”);
     "YOLO!" – “You Only Live Once”;
     "Hundo P" – 100%;
     "Chirp" – To insult or disrespect someone;
     "Cray-Cray" – Taking craziness to a whole new level (usually in a good way);
     "Wack" – Lame, sorry-ass; 
     "Grill" – One’s personal business, and
     "Swag" – The way one carries oneself.
     Swag is my personal favorite, a catch-all word that can be used as an adjective (“Damn, you a swag Muthah-F***ah”), a noun (“I got the swag”), or a verb (“Swag it out, Bitch”). And trust me, you haven’t lived until you’ve seen your daughter’s face when you say: “Swag it out, Bitch!”
     Now go back and decipher the meaning of my original statement, pause to appreciate how straight-up sick I am, then swag it out with your own variations. Go H.A.M. on every teen you know. They’ll think you’re wack, but will secretly love you for trying. Except your own kids, but they’ll be haters no matter what and YOLO, so go Cray-Cray. Hundo P.

October 28, 2013

The Joy of Flogging

     It was recently suggested to me that my inability to identify a "flogger" in a photograph was - well - evidence that I have lived a less than full life.

     Never one to miss an opportunity for fuller living, I jumped on Wikipedia, which defines a "flogger" as "a flexible, many-tailed striking tool" (as opposed to a whip which has but one tail).

A Brief History of Flogging

     Floggers, as one might expect, were originally designed to inflict torture and punishment. That is, until some point in the middle-ages when monks discovered they could turn these weapons on themselves and began to do so in droves. They called it "mortification of the flesh" and said they were doing it to atone for their sins. That's their story anyway, and they're sticking to it.

    But apparently at some point one of these monks decided the whole self-flagellation thing wasn't so bad after all, and on that day a third use for floggers was born...

How Floggers Work

     Yeah, Wikipedia wasn't so helpful on this topic. However, in "Practical Flogging," author "Peter Masters" explains that floggers can generally be divided into two categories, those that deliver a “thud” and those that deliver a “sting.” 

     The general rule of thumb is that the more tails a flogger has, the better "thud" it will deliver, whereas the quality of its “sting” will depend on what kind of hide the tails are made of. Apparently, thick hides like bull and buffalo have a higher "sting," whereas Elk and Deer hide are recommended for people who prefer a lighter touch. I wonder what elks and buffalo use to flog each other, but I digress...


     According to Peter Masters, horizontal strokes are well suited for the buttocks, while vertical strokes are good for the shoulder areas. Where rapid strokes are desired, Dr. Masters recommends the "figure-8" style or spinning the tails around in a circle from your wrist (the "propeller stroke") before bringing the spinning tails up against your partner's shoulder blade or buttock

     Okay, so that's vertical for shoulders, horizontal for the butt, a flick of the wrist for sting, a figure-8 for speed and the propeller when you just want to mix things up a little. You with me so far?

Where To Buy

     By now you are probably wondering where you can get your hands on one of these bad boys and the answer is: Pretty much anywhere. There are thousands of websites with names like “Happy Tails" and “Leather Beaten” (seriously, what is it with porn and bad puns?), offering floggers called: "The Punisher," "The Tease," "The Penitent," "The Red Devil" ("sure to leave a mark") and my personal favorite, "The Thwap." If you keep your eyes open you might even spot a "2-for-1" deal, great double-fisted flogging. 

     If you worry about leaving a cyber-trail of your purchase, you might consider “Pure Romance,” a "family-run" company (hey, the family that flogs together...) offering a premiere line of “relationship enhancement products” sold at little parties held in the privacy of your own home (bondage tupperware parties, if you will).

     The parties are led by Pure Romance's "certified consultants” which -- in my opinion --actually raises more questions than it answers. For example, how does one get certified to sell floggers? Is it customary to frame the certificate? And if so, where is the best place to display it, in your kitchen or is the dungeon a better choice? And by the way, does Pure Romance reward its top sales consultant every year with like -- I don't know -- maybe a blood-red Cadillac?

     Anyway, lest ye judge, keep in mind that Pure Romance's mission is "to ensure that women have access to safe products, as well as to sexual health education and resources in their communities.” It's good to give something back to the community.

Cleaning and Maintaining

     Of course, responsible floggers need to know is how to properly clean and care for their instruments. Generally speaking, manufacturers recommend professional leather cleaners, but dry cleaning may be necessary for those hard-to-remove bloodstains. I can just see my dry cleaner's face as I point to little drops of blood so he can mark them with blue masking tape. And what if he can't get the stains out? Will I get back a pre-printed note with a little frowny face that says "Sorry, we tried and tried but we couldn't get the blood out of your flogger"? 

The Wrap-Up

     So after engaged in this comprehensive review of information allegedly necessary to live a fuller life, what - exactly - have I learned?  I've learned that people seek connection in many different ways, and at the end of the day, who am I to judge the value of that connection, whether it involve gentle kisses or leather tails?   Either way is better than the alternative...