Rochelle Jewel Shapiro
In a slot of Grandma Ada’s rolltop,
I found a hand-colored photo
of Uncle D. in his Marine uniform, smiling,
eyes bluer than the overbright sky
of the hand-tinted tropical backdrop.
I tried to imagine my gentle uncle,
who taught me how to whistle and to jitterbug,
peering out of foxholes that could be blown up
at any moment by a tossed grenade, or crawling
in slippery sand under gunfire, or searching
for the enemy whose uniform was the color of sand,
my uncle on that volcanic island that stank of sulfur,
blood, decaying bodies, the flamethrowers’ smoke. I tried
to imagine him wielding a Ka-Bar knife to slit a throat,
or swearing to slit his own throat to avoid capture,
but I could only see him with his shining eyes, soft smile.
Decades later, after Uncle D. died, my aunt sent me
a Xerox of his war diary that just detailed
in his chicken scrawl what he ate
and the New York Yankees’ scores.
How I knew what he’d gone through
was that I heard after he’d been home
a month, my mother, his middle sister, irked him,
and he flew at her, knocked her to the floor,
began to choke her.
My grandparents had to pull him off.
Rochelle’s novel, Miriam the Medium (Simon & Schuster, 2004), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. I’ve published essays in NYT (Lives) and Newsweek. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in many literary magazines such as After the Pause, BoomerLitMag, Brief Wilderness, Brushfire, The Courtship of Winds, Figure 1, La Presa, The Midwest Quarterly, Mudfish, Mudlark, Neologism Poetry Journal, Packingtown Review, Typehouse Literary Magazine, Westview, The Iowa Review, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, Stone Path Review, Frontier Poetry, Santa Fe Literary Review, Stand, Carbon Culture Review, Cider Press Review, Cutbank Literary Journal, Doubly Mad, Edison Literary Review, Evening Street Review, Euphony Journal, Inkwell Magazine, Amarillo Bay, Bayou Magazine, Poet Lore, Crack the Spine, Compass Rose, Controlled Burn, Cumberland River Review, Flights,The Furious Gazelle, Glint Literary Journal, The Griffin, Grub Street, Hey, I’m Alive, I-70 Review, Isacoustic, Los Angeles Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, East Jasmine Review, El Portal, Litbreak Magazine, The Virginia Normal, Chantwood Magazine, The MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, The Moth, The Nonconformist, Rougarou, Negative Capability, Penumbra, The Louisville Review, Amoskeag, Organs of Vision and Speech Magazine, Pennsylvania English, Entropy Magazine, Rio Grande Review, riverSedge, Rogue Agent, The Seattle Star, Seven Circle Press: A Literary Micropress, Sierra Nevada Review, Steam Ticket, Streetlight Magazine, Swamp Ape Review, Licking River Review, Whistling Shade, Peregrine, Gulf Coast, Existere, Passager, Midway Journal, Moria Literary Magazine, Empty Mirror, Sanskrit Magazine, Typishly, The Literary Nest, Underwood Press, Willow Review, Sweet: A Literary Confection, Waxing & Waning, and Wrath-Bearing Tree. Rochelle’s poetry has been nominated twice for the Pushcart Prize, and she won the Branden Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Spry Magazine nominated her poem for the Best of the Net. Rochelle currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension.