Poet, Ruth Sabath Rosenthal

In Loving Memory of
My Sister, Renée Carol Newstein

  My sister — a perennial
sprung from earth-
enware and grown
under duress. Fast forward:
that inflorescence, once pedicle-heavy
 with dew seeping into roots hungry for nourishment,
now rides the tail end of a brusque breeze carrying the
fly-away bloom far from her deep rooted stem. And I
see her soaring and pray she revels in the winged
glide all birds have known, the drift upward,
uprooted, free of a dark sapping found-
ation, her petals flown, destined to
land whole in an unbroken
stream of consciousness
in an everlasting flow
of harmony and


On November 26th, 2006, in Davis Square, Somerville MA, the Ibbetson Street Magazine Pushcart nominees each read their nominated poems. My good friend and ex-poetry teacher and mentor Sarah Hannah (a nominee herself), read my poem "on yet another birthday" in my absence -- one of the many kindnesses she'd shown me over the years. Just 6 months after that reading, precisely on May 23, 2007, Sarah took her life. I wrote the following poem in her memory:

For Sarah

My friend, mine is a beating heart,
a poem bursting to come forth; yours
has stopped. No writer's block
induced dormancy. Stopped for good.

Oh, that yours would still beat out poems.
No matter how dark, we'd listen,
we'd learn, we'd understand and maybe
you'd be here now. Perhaps

a Sonnet with its turn moving to depths
of utter bleakness, assonance resounding
in the second stanza. No resolution fit
for dreamy eyes to rest upon.

Blank verse of rhyme-absent
syllabic runs, each iambic line
symbolic unto itself, each stanza break
a whip crack, a heart breaking.

A Villanelle, whose repeating end-
rhymed lines bleed their way down
to a finale punctuated by a question
mark and dead silence.

Sestina of razor-sharp repetition
echoing the i in cry — lament that pierces
through stanza upon stanza, until
reaching biblical heights of irony.

Oh, that we'd hear more from you. No
matter how dark the sound, we'd listen,
we'd learn, we'd understand and maybe
you'd be here now.


And yet another tragic death by suicide Dec. 24th, 2009: My very first poetry teacher (at the 92nd Street Y in NYC), an award winning poet and scholar, Rachel Wetzsteon. I'd also studied privately with Rachel for two years. It was Rachel who'd recommended her good friend, Sarah Hannah to me.

For Rachel

dare i say
i'm mad so mad
with grief i
can barely speak

much less write the kind
of words meant
to voice what we've lost—
what you've done

the impossible
the terrible hell thinking
how you must've felt

sinking so low you
saw no where left to go
no poem left
to lift you back

the poems you'll never write
clouds scrawling
across slate sky

a constant class
where you
the consummate teacher
teach no lesson we care to learn

Copyright © 2016 by Ruth Sabath Rosenthal. All rights reserved.



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