Journalism in Verse – EST. 2016


The Gift

in Culture by

On our first date, she gave me a gift.
It was Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and Seymour: An Introduction.
She had, she told me, discovered two copies in her apartment
And she wanted me to have one of them.
I accepted gratefully.

The next day, I stayed home to read my new book
And I saw that one passage was underlined.
It was on page 76, where Buddy is sitting on the edge of the bathtub
Reading Seymour’s diary,
And it read:
I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.

I felt that if I could just understand the significance of that beguiling passage
I would have a chance at successfully wooing
This strange and wonderful woman.

On our second date, I jumped right in.
“Do you suspect people of plotting to make you happy?” I asked.
“What are you talking about?” she replied.
“That sentence you underlined in the book,” I explained. “‘I’m a kind of paranoiac in reverse. I suspect people of plotting to make me happy.’”
“Oh, I got that book used at the Strand,” she informed me. “The original owner must have underlined it.”
“Oh, I see,” I said.

That happened in January 1985.
We got married in September.
I have spent the last thirty-three years plotting to make her happy.
Occasionally, I succeed.




Pesach Rotem was born and raised in New York and now lives in the village of Yodfat in northern Israel. He received his B.A. from Princeton University and his J.D. from St. John’s University. His poems have been published in more than a dozen literary journals including Chiron Review, Natural Bridge, and Voices Israel.


Fred Bass, Who Made the Strand Bookstore a Mecca, Dies at  89
[The New York Times]

The King is Dead
[Poets Reading the News]

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