Roz Levine

An Attachment to Gratitude

After my lumpectomy, I walked around with a sore arm but also with gratitude for my good report. I knew the pain would diminish as I inched my arm up the bedroom wall each morning, gaining strength and mobility. The sky would be the limit. Even though I was one of those one in eight women who receives a breast cancer diagnosis, gratitude was going to be my mantra.
That fresh start boomeranged as my arm became more and more swollen and I discovered I had lymphedema, a chronic condition that became an albatross I carried for over a year.

A 3:00 a.m. Phone Call

When the phone rang at 3:00 a.m., as I reached out my hand to answer it I knew the call was bringing bad news. On the other end of the line, I heard my dad’s croaky, Parkinsonian voice stammer,”Rozzie, I’m so cold. Come here and help me; I can’t reach the blanket to cover myself.” It seemed like forever before he was able to squeeze out the additional information that he’d called the front desk at the assisted-care facility where he lived, but Jose, the night attendant, had said he was alone and couldn’t leave the desk, even for a few minutes. 
I told my dad I’d take care of the problem, dialed the front desk number, and listened to Jose explain that the other night attendant had left for an emergency, and he was under strict orders to never leave the desk unattended.

Blueberry Picking

Roz Levine

We ran from an outbreak of polio
Abandoned the Bronx for a summer hideaway
In the shadow of the Catskill Mountains
Each day we traipsed craggy trails
Stooped low beneath clear skies
Plucked mounds of dark blues
From bushes bursting with ripe fruit
Filled our baskets to overflow

It should have been all this:
Sunshine on eight-year-old skin
Fresh air on innocent girl soil
Thoughts of jam on toast for breakfast
Happy days of laughs with the family

When anxiety overwhelms the mind
Blueberry picking equates to worries
Of prickly thorns and bee stings
Sunburns and infected blisters
Rattlesnake bites and botulism in jelly jars
Everything, a gravediggers’ paradise

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