Ellen Pober Rittberg


Particulate particular
to us all
the cleaving to and clasping of
arms, hair, thighs, to connect,
intersect, to feel
dew between toes,
you on the grass
me on dead tree now turned to
like us, rich with possibility,
or standing in Prospect Park
on tree roots
folding going up
leading to the heavens:
Jack’s beanstalk.
Where do we go together
or alone communing in dark
or in dank subway tunnels
the workers worming down canals?
Shall we sing huzzahs for them?
We shall.

speaking Polish
round older man and woman
close metal storefront
with a clunk
worn but not defeated.

I too am older
but native born and
hopeful in the way
those who live in words
and ochre paint
who troll parks
and chitter with birds are.

New Brooklyn:
men in porkpie hats
women in diaphanous skirts
writers and readers in cafes
facing out open doors, windows,
and everywhere,
art and clothing
hang in stores
a gloss on the consumer text.
Similarly inspired,
I resolve to make
art from repurposed panty hose
or remember:

myself, age six,
my sandwich 
to be eaten
when I come 
from school
for lunch,
or of a dime,
wax paper-wrapped,
rubber banded
thrown to me by Mother
from apartment window
the price of truck-mounted ride
parked curbside, The Whip
which jerky jerky
whirred out bodies around.

Maybe the lilt
of the speech
of the hospital worker
from Haiti, Jamaica. Nevis,
St. Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad
& islands, mostly Caribbean,
is the sound of the sea
as it floats to the shore
to make haste
to make life
stir it up
crustaceans burbling
seaweed swilling
I hear them, their voices
in hospital corridors
The just-folks
some newly arrived
Others not-
all of them
making cities thrum.
Some sing
As they mop and swish swish and mop
or hum lute-like.
Such hope! Without it
might break another.
Such piquancy of speech
like their countries' birds
the scarlet ibis, the
crested caracara
the flame orange trupial,
some, with wingspans fantastical
larger than Mardi Gras floats.
But here, abide the
crows who cavort cavil and
whose song is a creaking door.

Nights, I hear
Long Island Railroad train’s horn,
a bleat a lowing
someone’s lung expelling
a sustained note
the kind Walt would have sung
had he stayed
on the North Shore
of Long Island
where he was born, walked
where I lived most of my life
walked upon hills large, fecund,
where we both walked on Jane’s Hill,
Long Island’s highest point.


Awash in dreams
in Brooklyn
we are a nation undivulged.
I take its paths.
I run like Diana
looping  darting,
a barn swallow
alongside East River
along Brooklyn Bridge Park dock
past shock of purple paulownia.
and yet,
it is still morning!

Ellen Pober Rittberg’s poetry and fiction appeared in Brooklyn Quarterly, Raw Art Review, Santa Fe Writers Project, Great Weather for Media’s 2019 anthology and numerous journals. A former award-winning journalist, her features and essays appeared in The NY Times, Reader’s Digest and Huff Post. Her plays have been seen in festivals and NYC and her humorous self help parenting book was published by Turner Publishing.