GREEN LIGHT | Kathi Wolfe - Scene4 Magazine Special Issue - July/August 2015

Kathi Wolfe

As is often true with poets, the hues, weather and emotions of the season stream through my poems.  Below are four of my poems from my collection The Green Light (Finishing Line Press).  The book tells the story of a family from the 1950s to the early 1960s.  The husband Stan, a veterinarian, and his wife Rita, are an interfaith couple.  They have two children, Kate and Josh, and their dog, Sparky


The Mean Reds


So much depends

on breathing

the mean reds.


I know

it makes no sense

to you now,

like when your

Dad and I fight,

but before you’re sixteen,

you’ll have seen

the mean reds

in broad daylight

and in the night.


Not the sweet reds

of candy canes,

toy airplanes,

Santa’s sleigh,

your new Keds,

the jelly beans,

you gave Dad

and me

on Valentine’s Day.


Then, you’ll meet

the mean reds,

the red of rifles,

rotten tomatoes,

rejected love,

persistent flies,

warning skies.


Like Holly Golightly,

smart and sad,

you’ll have to use

all you have

to shake off

the mean reds.


Long ago, on Christmas Eve,

I had the mean reds.

Your Dad and I

were newly weds.

We had barely said “I do”

before your Dad

went to the zoo,

where he fed

the animals at night

after spending the day

at vet school.


Alone in our apartment,

with little heat,

looking out the window,

I saw no holiday cheer

in the night.


only a mangy dog

walked the streets.

You could hear

the stars breathing.


But when your Pop

came home,

we gave the mean reds

a fright,

we shoved them off

into the night.

We found our own



You’ll beat

the mean reds,

it might take weeks

or it could take years.

Your Dad plays poker,

smokes cigars,

I ride bumper cars\

worship movie stars

and sneak my ciggies.

All you have to do

is find your own




Rita’s Prayer


If You have the whole world in Your hands,

where is there room for me?

If I should sleep and die before I wake,


just burn my shoes, the orthopedic pumps.

My gimpy feet will tap and bop in heaven

where amputees fox trot on Your dance floor.


Just once, may Your blood sugar be so low,

that You break into a sweat, get clammy,

feel nauseous, forget Your holy name;


and that after You’ve had quarts of orange juice

poured down Your throat, You don’t know

where You are or were going,


until You remember: It’s Easter Sunday

and you were in the Pontiac, driving the kids,

wearing their new outfits, to church to pray.



The Green Light


If only

you really had eyes in the back of your head

as you told me when I, age 5,

knew those eyes would stop mean giants,

evil queens, even the Wicked Witch herself –

dead in their tracks – with one hit of your X-ray vison.


If only,

you really were 17, as you told me you

were before I knew what any number meant,

instead of 36, immersed in The Great Gatsby,

bridge, housework and actuary tables.

The life expectancy of diabetics, on average,

is limited, you read.  It’s not so bad, you said,

I’ll go out like Keats.  The great writers

leave when they can still think of a good exit line.


If only

on that sultry summer day in the Manhattan

TV studio, palms sweating, heart pounding,

your memory hadn’t failed like an overloaded circuit.

Who wrote the Great Gatsby?  asked the quizmaster.

Hemingway, you murmured.  I’ll think about

that answer for the rest of my life,

you’d say, staring off into the distance,

like Gatsby looking for the green light, that fur coat

I almost won is always draped around my shoulders.




               Yom Kippur, 1950


Stan never wanted God, especially during the High Holy Days.

He craved unholy day pleasures, swapping racing tips

with two-bit hookers at the track, eating traif hot dogs

at the ballpark, schmoozing with ladies of the evening

when their night’s work was done, not lusting after

their forbidden fruits, but thirsting for their juicy tales.


Why would he, American as Bogart or Einstein, need God,

Stan wondered, listening to the lecture on rabies

at veterinary school on the day of Atonement.  Growing up,

he’d listened to Orphan Annie, drunk his Ovaltine, given

to the March of Dimes, and run the farm while his brothers

fought the Nazis.  What did he have to atone for?


Hitler was gone, Harry was giving them hell, Israel

was now a country and Rita, his bride to be, was so

beautiful, everyone said her last name should be Hayworth.


Why miss this chance to learn how to stop dogs

from going mad, to visit the house of a washed-up

Old Country God, Stan thought, until Professor X strolled

from the podium toward him, clamped the meat hooks

down, hard on to his shoulders and hissed, “Jewboy!” 

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Kathi Wolfe's most recent book of poetry is The Green Light (Finishing Line Press).
She is a Senior Writer for Scene4
For more of her commentary, articles and poetry,
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©2015 Kathi Wolfe
©2015 Publication Scene4 Magazine



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