julie eger | rendezvous | kitchen secrets | things my grandmother told me

17 11 2011

POETRY DISPATCH No. 359 | November 17, 2011

Julie Eger

Editor’s Note: I began as a teacher of English on the high school level in 1957. Because inside this teacher of grammar and literature lived a young writer trying to break out, no matter what I taught in the beginning or where, when, and what lower/higher levels of teaching I eventually reached (junior high, junior college, college, graduate school…workshops) my major focus was always writing. Words on paper. Essays, stories, poems. My be all and end all. Tell me about it.

I don’t know how many students (all ages, types, abilities) I touched base with in my brief, 10-year career as a certified teacher in the Chicago and suburban area, or my life beyond that as a writer (with a track record of publications and books) who loved to talk and work with others who wanted to write (in particular, over thirty years at my favorite setting ‘to get things done”, my annual workshop at the Clearing, here in Ellison Bay, WI), but certainly over hundreds of people wanting and needing to get their own words down…put their own lives on the line.

The more determined, intense, passionate—those were/are my people. NOT the hobby writers, not the people who talk about writing, not the folks who wish to write bestsellers, not the people who are afraid to write what they know because of hurting somebody’s feelings, and definitely NOT the people who think there is money to be made at this. Give me the people who need to write and know not why. Give me a classroom, a table, a desk, a counter, a bar, a bench in the park. Let’s talk writing. Where we are at the moment. Where you may need to go. How I might suggest you get there. What to read. Ways to write. Now do it.

My most frustrating writing student: the one who CAN do it, with little or some or no help from me. But, for whatever reason, doesn’t. ‘Doesn’t at least do it in the way I feel a writer must work reasonably. Unreasonably, steadily…to do IT before anything else. (Or almost anything else). I grow upset, tired, frustrated when someone whose work I admire is not publishing in literary magazines, not receiving the recognition they deserve…not publishing a first, second, third book of his or her work.

What does this have to do with Julie Eger? Well, a little. Or maybe a lot. I hate to use her as an example, especially since this piece will be news to her—though I’ve known her as a student/friend for quite a few years, and she knows where I’m coming from–as a potential publisher who has been trying to get a complete manuscript out of her for at least the last three maybe five years. But…nothing…still.

What’s frustrating for other writers out there who are persistently publishing in literary magazines, persistently approaching publishers like me to take a look at their book manuscript, but won’t, because I do not have the time or energy to take on unsolicited manuscripts by the car-load, beginners especially but others as well, yet here I go on my own ‘seek-and-find’ mission to get a writer, a manuscript I WANT—and come up empty. In this case, someone with perfectly legitimate explanations, such as those found in a recent note from Julie:

“I keep trying to piece stuff together but it seems that I’m busier helping other people piece their lives together and that is just taking over. I think I’m at an in between spot in my life where my mom needs me to help with Dad, my kids need me to help with grandkids, and then there is my own stuff. Too many which ways. I’ll keep writing and one of these days I hope to ‘get ‘er done! I’m not giving up, just taking longer than I originally anticipated. Damn economy threw a wrench in all my play time!”

Maybe, too, there’s a lesson here I need to learn and accept, as hard as it may be for a writer like me who lives and dies every day to get the word out, one way or another. Maybe some writers don’t want or need to see their work in print. Maybe some are satisfied enough in the act itself. In all my years of working with writers, I have known only a handful content to exist alone. Julie may be another one. “Nobody needs to read this but me.”

But I hope not. —Norbert Blei


My poem strolls in at midnight
like Humphrey Bogart,
tosses his coat and hat on my bed.
I pull back the curtain,
glance out at the lighted drive.
He’s backed in – front end
aimed at the highway.
His plan – a quick get-away.

But for now I lie
down beside him,
and because I am
a methodical woman
and alluring –
I undress him slowly,
one layer at a time
to reveal his hidden intent
and he stays,
this time better than the last –

His tie is on the floor now.
He’s gone – down the highway
I suppose
I am satisfied
he came at all.

Julie Eger © 2011

Kitchen Secrets

The first time I heard Elvis
I was five-years-old.
Papa was gone
and I was peeking
around the corner
while Mama was
in the kitchen
with the radio on.
Come supper time
I danced to the table
with swaying hips
and bendy knees.
I used my spoon
as a microphone.

Papa gave me the look
and Mama said,
“That’s enough child.”
And I said, “No,
that’s alright now Mama,
That’s alright by me.”

Julie Eger © 2011

Things My Grandmother Told Me

Wash the walls with hot soapy water but rinse with cool and clear.
Don’t rub so hard the paint comes off or the paper peels up.
Wear a hat when you’re out in the sun.
Don’t look directly into the sun
or you’ll burn your corneas and go blind.
Add this much salt to the soup.
Turn away when a man looks at you.
If he bothers you, kick him in the knee.
If he keeps bothering you, kick higher.
Mind your manners at school, especially Sunday school.
Sing your song loud even if you’re off key.
Don’t mind the ones who are always on key,
they don’t know other things.
Pull weeds, not carrots.
This is the way to use a hoe.
This is the way to use a rake.
This is the way to stack wood.
This is the way to use a broom.
This is the way to carry bricks.
This is the way to wash a dish.
This is the way to a fold a towel.
This is the way to fold fitted sheets.
This is the way to make a bed.
This is the way to carry buckets of water.
This is the way to flip a pancake.
This is the way to make beef stew.
This is the way to open a jar.
This is the way to pin your blouse
in the middle where it gaps.
This is the way to pull back your hair
when you are working hard.
This is the way to pull back your hair
when you are working hard to attract a man.
This is the way a whore wears her hair.
This is the way a whore makes a bed.
This is the way to wear your hair
when you want to keep a man.
This is the way to mark your calendar.
This is the rhythm to follow when you don’t want a baby.
This is the rhythm to follow when you want a baby to come.
This is the way to make your bed,
especially when you are expected to lie in it.

And if I don’t want to lie in it?

Then you haven’t been listening.
We all have to lie in it.

Julie Eger © 2011


julie eger | friends

15 10 2007


Poetry Dispatch No. 60 | March 4, 2006

Friends by Julie Eger

How many years has the
stone lain beneath the wave?
Are they friends
this stone
this wave?
one waits
one hurries
my grandmother and I.

from HUMMINGBIRD*, Magazine of the Short Poem, (Phyllis Walsh, Editor, PO Box 96, Richland Center, WI 53581, $4 per issue, $15 annual, Vol. XVI, No. 2, December 2005

* One of THE best little mags celebrating the short poem (each issue, a tiny, beautiful production) published anywhere in the United States…or the world, for that matter. A must for poetry readers and writers. Norbert Blei