Category Archives: poetry

a wedding blessing

by Arlene and Larry Dunn, February 28, 2016

In December of 2004 our niece Jodi and her husband-to-be Gary took a creative approach to the Jewish wedding custom of the seven blessings. They asked us, and six other couples who were important to them, to create and present our own unique blessing on a specific topic. They topic they assigned to us was “patience.”

After mulling over a few approaches, we settled on writing and reciting four haiku. It was a wonderful way for us to invest emotionally in their wedding ceremony and to give them a bit of advice in the form of this blessing. Each of the four haiku are anchored in something elemental to our lives at our beloved former home, Acorn Ridge Gardens in northwest Indiana.

After the wedding, our friend Peg Herbst had the inspired idea to memorialize these haiku in a set of painted ceramic plates. To be fair, she not only inspired the idea, but also designed the illustrative drawings and led the painting project. Here they are are.

Love blooms its brightest / Like agaves prize patience / Of the hummingbirds
Oh how love will thrive / When tended as a garden / Plow sow reap repeat
Dance through the garden / Each to your own heart’s rhythm / Love waits at the well
Lives join together / The wedding plants an oak tree / Love gathers acorns

We gave these plates to Jodi and Gary for their first anniversary. But they were in the process of moving from Chicago to New York at the time, and they asked us to hold onto them for awhile. Since then they have graced our walls, first in our guest cottage at Acorn Ridge, and now at our new home in Oberlin. Gary and Jodi later moved to Jerusalem, and just now, back to the New York area. They will find a place to hang the plates when they settle into a new home, in Montclair, New Jersey. We’ll surely have mixed emotions when we pack them up and send them to their forever home.

veni vidi didici

by Arlene Wilgoren Dunn


11 years old, seventh grade,
green book bag slung over right shoulder,
old-fashioned hand-cranked streetcar ride
to Eggleston Station, then
bus to Huntington Avenue, then
sleek automatic streetcar ride.
after an hour
Girls Latin School.

Two years later
GLS moved to Codman Square.
One short bus ride away.
But missed the culture
of the Fenway
and the BLS boys.


So naïve, cosseted in Jewish Dorchester.
GLS unveiled life beyond.
First black girl to be my friend:
Lillie White.

Junior year. 1957.
Confrontation in Little Rock
jumped out of my TV
into my living room.
Girls who looked like me,
but for skin color—
dressed like me,
carried books like me.

Angry white mob
blocking their way
taunting them
hurling filthy slurs at them
spitting on them.
All to bar them from the simple act
of going to school,
something I blithely took for granted.

These images etched into my heart and mind.


Diagramming sentences – ugh!
Yet here I am mincing words, parsing phrases.

“Girls! Girls! Stop this nonsense!
You think I want to be here?
You’ll all be gone soon,
off to college to get your MRS degrees.
Your ship will come in.
Mine never did.
So here I am stuck with you.
Get back to work!”


No physics class?
In the Sputnik era?
Because we’re . . . ‘just girls’?
We organized, pestered, cajoled –
finally, got it in our senior year.


We started with love—
Amo. Amas. Amat.
Swiftly on to war and conflict.
Caesar crossing the Rubicon taught us
sometimes there’s no turning back.
Alea iacta est.
Virgil warned us to be careful who we trust.
Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes.
And a bit of philosophy from Cicero
prepared us to grasp the idea
that a soupcan could be art.
De gustibus non disputandum est!


60 years gone.
The threads we spun together
endure in the tapestry of my life.


Editors note: this poem by Arlene Wilgoren Dunn was first published on Matter: A (somewhat) monthly journal of political poetry and commentary on November 19, 2020.

blue hill avenue

by Arlene Wilgoren Dunn

The bouquet reaches my nose two stores away.
“One loaf of rye bread, please, sliced.”
She grabs a loaf, drops it in the slicer
Which whirrs through the bread.
She comes around the counter
To hand me the bread
And take my money.
The end piece is mine
On my way home

The smell of pickles at the front door
Makes my mouth water.
A large barrel on each side.
Kosher dills in one,
Crispy fermented sauerkraut in the other.

“Don’t touch the merchandise!” the produce man says.
He flips open a paper bag, puts fruit in it, weighs it and,
Grease pencil at the ready, writes the cost on the bag.
Another man marks a bigger bag with the amounts
And adds the total.
He puts the small bags in the big bag
We pay and off we go.

The butcher’s hands are big and scarred.
He wears a bloodied apron and
Glides along the sawdust covered floor
“Who’s next? C’mon ladies, we don’t have all day!”
Chickens hang on the wall with
Heads and feet and feathers.
We pick two – one for soup, one for roasting.
Then off with their heads and feet
Pinfeathers singed with a torch (pee-yoo).

In the rear of the Prime Market
A man filets fish on a big butcher block
Buckets of guts, bones and skin below.
Skanky . . . but flounder will
Taste good later

Zayde sews custom made suits in his tailor shop
Always hard at work
Marking, pinning, basting, sewing, ironing.
Pins in his mouth, chalk in his hand,
He adjusts the jacket on a man or a mannequin.
I bring him half and half coffee
With double sugar
Sometimes he lets me sip.

May 2019