Ed Zahniser

In Memoriam Esther Z. Gillies

Crows banter oddly gently
This my first full day
To have no sister in this world

Raspberry fronds bow street-ward
As though in prayer and not
Anticipation of summer fruit

Dew beads-up on grass blades
Backlit by warm, low-angled morning
Light to sparkle like gemstones

A neighbor’s leashed dog draws
Wary half-circles as he tries
To read what’s left of my mind


White Oleo, Self-Publishing, & Thoreau’s Debt

Ralph Waldo Emerson still wants us to view
Our lives whole as expansive themes large
Like an RCA 78-inch flat screen TV, but I
Got left behind sweating small stuff such
As how when I was a kid it was a crime
To sell oleo margarine—two words then—
Across state lines if it was dyed yellow
Gracias to the outspoken dairy lobby
No doubt more concerned about its sales
Than about cows’ dignity or self-esteem.

Protectionism struts always less imaginative
Than law-dodging entrepreneurism and soon
Oleo margarine was marketed white, packaged
Sealed in flexible plastic bags sized about like
Medium bags of M&Ms and with a pressure-
Sensitive concentrated yellow-colorant dot
Inside that we kids pleaded for massaging rights
To knead the bagged white stuff until it turned
Legal buttery yellow, at which point our mother
Spatula-ed it into a small covered glass dish.

Back then Emerson’s era was “Transcendental”
But has since down-sized as “American Renaissance.”
Fortunately, Ben Franklin had earlier pioneered
Markets for his and others’ writings. Emerson
Upped the ante, self-publishing his public lectures,
Also convincing his acolyte Henry David Thoreau
To self-publish his first book—with disastrous
Result. Thoreau ended up with a large library,
Mostly copies of his self-published book—and
Debt equivalent to a full year’s salary back then.

© Ed Zahniser

Ed Zahniser grew up in Hyattsville, MD and now lives in Shepherdstown, WV, where he is the town poet laureate. He was a founding editor of Some Of Us Press in Washington, D.C. in the early 1970s. He is the author of six books of poetry, including Mall-hopping with the Great I Am,  At the End of the Self-Help Rope, and Confidence in Being and other poems. For 40 years he edited the poetry page of Shepherdstown’s quarterly Good News Paper, which he cofounded in 1979.

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