in memory of Forsteen "Tina" Brooks
The Fisher Building still bustles
but in the sixties, we’d walk
into Himelhoch's, which is now only online,
sells Ethiopian coffee. When I was little,
we’d ride Hudson’s elevators, later
have a Maurice salad or go
to Sanders in Royal Oak, which was not
chic yet, for shaved ham sandwiches
and a hot fudge creampuff. We’d sit on stools
at the counter, my mother and I,
we were always served sitting on those stools—
though not too many years before, down south
the woman I loved among the most
couldn’t have sat with us.
I didn’t know why then.
Neither did I know most Jews didn’t eat
ham sandwiches—we didn’t have pork at home—
only crisp bacon, a staple, and never
ever wore a Jewish star around our necks.
Might as well wear an armband
with its yellow-pointed patch.
Those were the days when your pumps
matched your pocketbook,
that’s what we carried—not purses—
and ladies lunched, taking small bites
at others, keeping their lipstick clean.
Detroit, booming (and how I want it now),
youth, here, with options—
knowing every job has meaning, the need
for plumbers, phone operators, all the valued
salesladies, waiters and counter girls,
salesmen, electricians, mounted police
when cops walked their beats.
I salute all you men and women,
who staffed the elevators,
who showed up over and over,
so we could sit under bright lights
at a clean counter, eating shaved ham.
"Serving" is part of Frenkel’s full-length manuscript, which is in progress, and began with her chapbook, presciently titled, The Plague of the Tender-Hearted, recently released in hardcover from Finishing Line Press. ("Coat, House, Watch" appeared here first and also is included in the larger book.)
Frenkel served as a Writer-in-Residence with InsideOut Literary Arts Project (iO), which brings working poets into Detroit public schools; her essay about that time, “Sharing Voices, Acting Crazy,” is in their anthology, To Light a Fire. More from the perspective of her college teaching, Frenkel’s essay "15 lessons from 9 years of teaching" appeared overseas in Writers in Education. Her work can be found in publications from Vanity Fair to WIRED online.
Her poetry is in two new anthologies, Poets Speaking to Poets, Echoes and Tributes, and the international Divining Dante. Frenkel's "Still Above Grass or Going for a walk After Reading Dante" was one of 20 poems chosen from Divining Dante, an anthology to be included in The Poetry Jukebox, a European street art project, with poems for listeners to hear. She just sent in her recording, which will be up and running in the fall of 2022, in time to celebrate the 701st anniversary of the great poet's death.
For more, please visit cindyfrenkel.com.