My writing group meets only once a month, but it has been running for six years. It has changed structure, emphasis, and composition, but one person who has been in it from the beginning is the woman with these wonderfully weathered hands. Margie is not quite ninety but getting close to it, and she’s still hiking, still driving her own car, still fiercely independent, and still writing.
Born in the Bronx to a working class Jewish family, she lived in a tenement and summered on fire escapes as a child, watching with fascination the lives of her neighbors as they stomped around in their underwear, argued, loved, and reared their children behind uncurtained windows. She married, had three children, and ended up rearing them as a single mom. She worked her way through college, became a social worker, and packed up her children and moved to San Francisco when the flower children were in their heyday, and she worked in social service in the Bay Area till she was nearly eighty.
That’s when her children persuaded her to slow down, move to Portland, and smell the roses. As soon as she got her boxes unpacked, she started her magnum opus, a novel about a nervy woman from the Bronx named Judith who had a life much like her own. I have had the great pleasure of listening to each emerging chapter of this book that tells the story of a century and must now be about five hundred pages long and still unfolding.
Margie is a few years younger than Naomi Replansky, who comes from Margie’s neighborhood and Margie’s people and is also still writing. Like Replansky, Margie is writing as fast as she can, hoping to have time to tell it all. This poem by Replansky embodies some of the humor and love and moxie that I hear in Margie’s writing.
A Literary Note
Once upon a time
in a country without a written language
a woman sang a song to her child.
In its grandeur
it surpassed all poems ever in books,
even in the nine lost books of Sappho.
Though this cannot be proven,
I swear it happened.