Julie Rochlin

NYC, 1970

It was like your favorite treat in shiny paper
with a razor inside.

                            Holes in its pockets, and a screw loose.

The filth so thick, you couldn’t see what it was meant to be.

                            In parks, needles grew in place of flowers.
Metal swings branded children’s thighs in August heat.

Subway bathrooms were for sex, homeless hangout and drug-deals.
No one dared enter to pee.

It wanted to be cherished, dressed in curly-cue cornices and green copper.
It was a scorned lover blowing black smoke like the best femme fatale.

Everything had a worn or broken edge. A soot-stained window-sill.
                           A pigeon-scatted bench.

The Hudson River was its dump. Brighton Beach hid broken glass.
It thought it was a star but was a has-been.

                             Trees choked on tossed butts and dog shit.
It was that friend who keeps messing up but you still worship.

It was

In 1970,
              we both had potential.


This August day

the sunflower
seems more brilliant
than the day before

Its heavy head nods
in the still air

A flit of goldfinches
feast at its center

Layers of petals
and feathers flutter
like an ancient headdress

Satisfied, the birds
fly off in a lemon streak

leaving the sunflower


but lighter,

the head lifting –

relieved of its perfection

Male Topography                                                                     

My father was born
with a tiny extra nipple —
less than one inch areola
with pinpoint-center
that couldn’t rise.
Early Sunday mornings
into his bed, I’d poke it
with the tip of my finger.
A mini-nurturer,
condensed as our weekend visits.
He said he was born with it —
plain-speak masking discomfit.
My fingers mowed the hairs
of his chest, pat his bristly face,
reached to pinch his nose.
I knew as he spoke,
his nasal voice
would bring on laughter.


When I first undressed
my future husband,
I saw the unusual splay
of his chest-hair,
like an aerial view of uneven lake.
I felt the raised pattern
of his birthmark
underneath tufts of hair.
The purple-pink color
bleeding through
like a permanent bruise.
As he recounted children’s cruel tease,
the years he kept his shirt on,
the ways he hid himself,
I kissed away his shyness,
anointing, with lips
and fingertips.
Mapping his topography.

Julie Rochlin

Julie Rochlin began her artistic life as a performance artist, switching to poetry midstream. Several poems appear in the inaugural issue of 50/50, a Quills Edge Press anthology. She was a finalist for a New Millennium Poetry prize and her poem, “Ice Age”, was published in their journal. Her poem in Chautauqua was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Julie lives in a cohousing community in Cambridge, Massachusetts where she hopes to leave a small carbon footprint.