‘The Blue Address Book’, a Poem by Jane Shore


E. Dorset, VT: Night-blooming Cereus 7/14/12

On a late afternoon bus ride, I’m catching up on The Writer’s Almanac, the wonderful daily poem and notes on writing and writers from Garrison Keillor          

In last Friday’s edition (Aug. 31) I found this poem by Jane Shore.

 The Blue Address Book

Like the other useless
things I can’t bear
to get rid of — her
nylon nightgowns,

his gold-plated
cufflinks, his wooden
shoetrees, in a size
no one I know can use —

I’m stuck with their blue
pleather address book,
its twenty-six chapters
printed in ballpoint pen,

X’d out, penciled in,
and after she passed away,
amended in his hand,
recording, as in a family

Bible, those generations
born, married, and since
relocated to their graves:
Abramowitz to Zimmerman.

Great-uncles, aunts,
cousins once removed,
whose cheeks I kissed,
whose food I ate,

are in this book still
alive, immortal, each
name accompanied
by a face:

Fogel (Rose and Murray),
47413th St., Brooklyn,
moved to a condo
in Boca Raton; Stein

(Minnie, sister of Rose),
left her Jerome Ave.
walk-up for the Yonkers
Jewish Nursing Home.

The baby-blue cover
has a patina of grease,
the pages steeped
in the cigarette smoke

of years spent in my
parents’ junk drawer.
Though scattered
in different graveyards,

here they’re all
accounted for.
Their souls disperse,
dust motes in the air

that I inhale.


“The Blue Address Book” by Jane Shore, from A Yes-or-No Answer. © Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2008. (buy now)