Carol Lipszyc

Boy on Stoop

(from a photograph by Helen Levitt, 1940)


boy on cement stoop leans against bricks

of charcoal grey and mud brown


elbow perched on knee

face in profile exposed

in a flash of white

shadow of dirt on the nape of his neck


sullen resignation in the narrow reach

of his eye

in the dipped line of his jaw

in his monochrome mouth


son of the working poor

he will soon outgrow his britches

brace against the chasm

that looms across a remote sky


for the moment, huddled in the nook

of a street unnamed

(shot in a quizzical slant)

he may empty the pockets

of his oversize jacket, dust off the debris

and cull what remains

in the cupped palm of his hands



Trombone Man

(from a photograph, Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Morris, by Lee Friedlander, 1958)


Mr. Morris, how firmly you pressed your lips

to sound the polished bell


cramped quarters, furniture stacked on high,

sheer curtain in floral print –

your wife appearing through the divide

her hands folded, sealing an oath between you

while you face the camera, unconcealed

skin lined and swelled with wear


sorrow spent in unflinching eyes

you hold your trombone easily, assuredly


sheen of silk satin on your jacket lapel

I watch you slide the trombone with your fingers, your thumb

here wider   there narrowing in:

the have and have-nots of a lifetime


more than the sturdy, sure-footed papa, trombone man

you rollicked and rolled in the tailgate style

of Kid Ory

filling pockets of rhythm as piano and horn sang

soaring over narrow corridors of black and white

as you posed for posterity

Carol Lipszyc’s book of short stories on children and adolescents in the Holocaust, The Saviour Shoes and Other Stories, (2014) and her book of poetry, Singing Me Home, (2010) were published by Inanna. Her edited anthology of eighty poems on the heart, The Heart Is Improvisational, was published by Guernica Editions (2017). Integrating chants and narrative for ESL Literacy students, she authored People Express for Oxford University Press. An arts-based educator with a doctorate in education, Carol has published scholarship in international journals and is a retired Associate Professor in the English Department at a SUNY upstate college. A chapbook of poems, In the Absence of Sons, is slated for 2020 publication by Kelsay Books. Her web site can be found at