• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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I Still Believe She Was My Twin But I Lost the Ring

I want to be Bob Dylan. I have the boots. I have the Ray Bans. I’m Jewish. I have a terrible voice. I want to be Alan Ginsberg. I’m capacious. I’m ravenous. I’m short and bald and in love with kaddish. When I walk up the subway stairs my heart breaks for the warped heel on a worn shoe, a life of leaning too much this way or that. When I spoke to the kids at Holy Cross I wondered what my life would have been like if I tried, for just one day, to write full time. I took the road well traveled; has it made a fucking difference? I am kidding myself. Once upon a time you looked so fine. A woman lights a long cigarette as if she were a screen actress from the thirties. A man with a mutt carries a bag of dung in his palm as if it were a sack of gold coins. The typewriter is holy the poem is holy the voice is holy the hearers are holy the ecstasy is holy! I think I would have gone under the waves had I not found this work, these writers, these pages, and sentences. I should be more grateful.

What about your twin? Your shadow?

53 Responses

  1. So heavy that my browser opened your blog three times somehow. My computer is much more intuitive than me I think.

  2. I’ve never heard you sing, but you’re every bit as great a poet as Dylan or Ginsberg. And acknowledging how grateful you are for your life is meant for Thanksgiving dinner. The rest of the time, all that matters is that you lift your chin, take a deep breath between waves and keep swimming.

  3. Betsy, I really like this entry.

  4. fuck

    i wish i had written that

    (I want to be Betsy Lerner.)

  5. LOL. I was just on twitter and saw your tweet about this blog and laughed so hard I had to read it. I’m having a very frustrating day trying to live out my dreams and being rejected over and over after a bunch of hard work and begging for chances and I needed to read something like this.

  6. Love this post. As always but especially.

  7. Dont beat yourself up: only a boy from Minneapolis, w the compressed, flat midwestern nasal thing goin on, could make the words “once” sound like “time” sound like “fine”. You’re frm CT, basically the NY metrolpolitain area-Wantz Apon A T-YEM yoooo looked so Fyan…
    –His words are strung together so brilliantly I confess i sometimes think he was playing Mad-Libs w Suze on speed. Or doing Burroughs style cut ups, that really, magically, worked.

    Probably less than 1% who give into the muse full time are able to flourish with it. And even those who most successfully ride the wave of pure creational bliss, eventually, look for a way back in, into the mainstream–often bewildered and frustrated that the pure superb and rare skill set which enabled them to walk on the other side, renders one a square peg while the road most others are warming their fires by, is a round hole.

    yes, it was worth it. you’re a bridge.

  8. She’s still around, my twin, but growing ever more elusive. She never got sick. She still speaks eloquently and recognizes her own body. At times, when she maybe wasn’t so eloquent, she just kicked enough ass to distract her listeners from that point. She fought like bloody hell. She was the culmination of many years’ hard work, and I was proud of her. But, she’s starting to fade.

    She’s definitely still alive, though. I hear her every minute of every day. I should stop pushing her down as a pain-jabbing memory, and see if she can help me out a little more. Because, If I could be anyone in the world right now, I’d be her.

  9. I want to be Zadie Smith. I want to be Nabakov. I want to be Dostoyevsky. I want to be Fitzgerald with the narcissism of Hemingway. I want to be David Foster Wallace without the demons that drove the brilliance into madness.

    I’d settle for being one half of the Wonder Twins.
    “Form of Ice!”

  10. I’ve spent my life wandering the snowy woods, shunning the roads I might have taken: journalist; army officer; politician; R&B singer; molecular biologist; philosophy professor; attorney; small-time drug dealer. Instead, I wander, witnessing and scribbling, along the trail I have cut leading me to a place where I am a middle-aged secretary who can’t get a book deal to save his life but finds his dream the only reality he can hold onto. They say when you freeze to death, you feel warm.

    • Sometimes, at the end of the day, I’m just so weary and blue, but then tomorrow comes; and tomorrow, my darlings, is another day. What shall I find today in the snowy woods? What adventures await?

    • Tetman, you take the road you take, remember? And in the end, understanding that wiil be enough.

      Betsy– the post left me speechless. Pure poetry.

  11. Update from under the waves, clutching the cigarette and the bag of dog shit like tarnished talismans: it’s overrated. Truth.

  12. “People tell me it’s a sin to know and feel too much within…” But feeling “too much” is the core of my being. It’s the shadow or the twin within. It’s all that matters, and without it I would not write, I would not love and I would not exist. I used to want to be Bob Dylan. Now I want to be me.

  13. You call it warped heel? I call it sloping sole.

  14. I always wondered what it would be like to write full time too. So in my mid-thirties I did it. Took a year off and wrote every day.

    I’m glad I did it, but what I learned was: it’s really hard, and it’s lonely, even for someone who loves their own company. I saved for five years to do it, and earned the princely sum of $130 for my efforts (hard to live by poetry alone).

    It made me a better writer, but I don’t think it made me a great writer. I realised (and this wasn’t easy to admit) that I wasn’t prepared to work that hard for as long as it took to be good enough to make an income when even that income would probably only earn me in a year what I could earn in a month doing something else. It just didn’t stack up. Maybe it would if you did it when you were 22 and didn’t know any different, but once you’ve pursued a different career, it’s hard to go back to square one.

    So now I just wonder – will I ever finish a novel, and will I ever get it published? I think it’ll still happen, even if I’m 80 by the time it does.That’s fine by me.

    • Hastings,
      As unromantic as it is, I think the five years worth of savings was worth it for the lessons you learned in that year.
      That was a year well spent.

  15. My twin is at peace with the world and I should follow her.

  16. Well said.

  17. Well said.

  18. Fuck Dylan, I want to be Leonard Cohen.

  19. Beautiful. My favourite post yet.

  20. ‘Everything that lives is holy!’ – William Blake

  21. And I don’t want to be Cohen – I just want to be near him

  22. What spectacular gems of poetry in your post — and then in the comments it inspired. I read quickly in the minutes I have to spare before becoming my hard-working, good-girl twin off to the day job — also inspired. Thank you!

  23. My twin and I, we’re estranged. She’s off prancing about town with her feather boa and spotlight trying to keep her name on the tip of everyone’s tongue and I’m just happy to turn in at 9. I’ll always love her. She’s blood, after all, but we’re no longer joined at the hip.

  24. Betsy, this is the best post yet.
    My twin? St.Teresa.

  25. Brava, Betsy!

  26. I want to be Arthur Miller. No wait—he’s dead.

  27. I know we’re supposed the answer the question about the twin but I’m so consumed with “the warped heel on the worn shoe” and “a bag of dung in his palm as if it were a sack of gold coins” I have to go out and live the poetry so I can write it down. Thanks Betsy…

  28. My twin was my late friend Eddie Snake. We smoked dope and golfed together, had long conversations about the state of the world. We argued and laughed. He was a good, kind soul in a world gone mad and I miss that part of me every day.

  29. Your poetry-exquisite. Not going under the waves-even better.

  30. “the warped heel on a worn shoe, a life of leaning too much this way or that” —

    she walks in beauty …

  31. My shadow didn’t make it. She got swallowed by the Undertoad and then tossed against a sheer cliff face.

    Every so often, she comes back to haunt me.

  32. Beautiful – the shift between “…if I tried, just for one day, to write full time…” and “A man with a mutt carries a bag of dung in his palm as if it were a sack of gold coins.”

  33. My shadow never finished that first novel.

    My twin is a psychoanalyst.

  34. Janis Joplin—and take it take another little piece of my heart now Betsy.

  35. Waking to a foggy morning, the only shadows around me are bittersweet memories clinging to my worn shoe heels. They compliment that recent nightmare – the one where a shapeless black void, with red eyes, tries to pull me backwards into the open, dark earth – and focus my thoughts on departed friends, scars that still ache and concerns best left undocumented.

    The Bad Dog snores next to my chair, untroubled, while my newest little canine companion warms my lap. I have indulged enough in introspection. That parallel universe, where the Day Job beckons, awaits.

  36. Grateful shmateful. I’ve spent years trying to convince myself how lucky I am. It’s blasphemous to expect more. What I am is a failed granola head talking shit. The wanting is what keeps life interesting. The worrying should start if it’s gone.

    And btw, your words are music.

  37. I want to be Nigella Lawson. I’ve got the passion, the hunger, the tendency to flaunt invented adverbs and become lyrical over a pot of stickily bubbling caramel. I’ve got the curves, coming and going, and my teeth are not straight. I can twitch an eyebrow over a dribbling peach, straddle my husband at midnight and feed him long, tangled strands of spaghetti carbonara while I’m wearing his shirt. (Careful, baby, the pancetta is hot.) I’m barefoot in the kitchen, surrounded by fairy lights in July. I’ll stuff your pork chops with duxelles on a work night; I’m crazy that way. I’ve got this. I only need the girdle.

    OR, I could sit here and wrangle paper clips. There’s only one Nigella. But Dylan’s got nothing on you.

  38. I think about my twin often and am currently taking some small steps to meet up with her….but even if the right opportunity presents itself, I’m not sure I’ll have the guts to try being her for a while.

  39. Nice stuff, Betsy Lerner.

    My shadow wrote a book and then disappeared.

  40. Buster Keaton is my twin.

    ‘Cause when we fall down, people think it’s funny.

  41. for some reason, this post made me think of 12-year-old me rocking a pair of green plaid pants and not giving a shit about anything, laughing until i cry. just having fun.

  42. Betsy–This post was fantastic poetry. I’m so jealous of your abilities.

  43. My twin just published a book of formal poetry, got her eyebrows waxed, and curled her hair. I’m living her real life.

  44. We should all be more grateful. But I am Jewish and it does not come with the territory.

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