Nancy Shiffrin

One Poem – Nancy Shiffrin

Nancy Shiffrin earned her MA studying with Anais Nin, her PhD studying Jewish American women authors. She has earned awards and/or honorable mention from The Academy of American Poets, The Poetry Society of America, the Alice Jackson Foundations and the Dora Teitelbaum Foundation. She has written about poetry and literature for the Los Angeles Times, The Advocate, The Canadian Jewish Outlook, Women and Judaism, and Her most recent collections of poems are The Vast Unknowing (Infinity Publishing, 2013) and Game With Variations (, 2008). Nancy lives in Santa Monica, California and teaches in the Greater Los Angeles area.


Where Are You? 9/11/2011 Ten Years After

sucker punch shock air suddenly toxic
the Dear Friend emerging from his office
did you hear? New York has been hit
calling home phone lines jammed finally
the classmate the Sister asking
can you write some poems?
we’re distributing food consoling families
across the Atlantic a critic disparages my “Lamentation”
chicken soup banal last line gratuitous
how can it be true the poet wasn’t there
I am 6 years old in my lavender birthday dress
lined up for inspection
no handkerchief poor penmanship
no gold star

and I am here in my office
counseling a student who has not turned in work
“I was raped” Amanda whispers
she remembers the taste was it pee or that other thing
some got on her shirt
she knows to keep the evidence
she watches crime shows on TV
she’s so sorry she should have called the police right away
she can’t afford another failing semester
next door jazz rhythms thump on an out-of-tune piano

Amanda claims she hasn’t received my eminders
she doesn’t dare go home
her parents will put her in a burkha
they’ll never let her out again
she shows me her new computer
she wants me to appreciate her graffiti
she’s been busted for tagging
she feels ripped apart inside
should she just go away?
what can she do to pass my class?
she loves Shakespeare
may she write what it does for her
when the sonnet turns around?
I take Amanda outside
we marvel at Canada Geese whose path has changed

somewhere–on film–
a girl runs through the streets blue tunic aflame
a man follows dousing kerosene
children with seared eyeballs roam the streets
a boy answers questions is beaten when correct
and the first-grader in the lavender dress
has never been to Mumbai so she
cannot comprehend the joyous ballet
when the million dollars is finally won

breathing here with the other writers
fog over the Pacific sun breaking through
ocean swelling to meet the highway
I pray for Amanda
she will weep and accept consolation
she will make her police report
she will complete her essay
she will earn her degree
I will not hug her
I will not shoot the man I suspect
though he’s been reported before

was it rape?
I don’t know I wasn’t there
I am here
in this gray room where the doctor
won’t yet take my vestigial girlhood
grieving the Dear Friend
always the 6 year old in the lavender dress
no handkerchief dreadful penmanship
laboring to find fresh images for terror
confused about the assignment