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Betsy R. Rosenthal

Looking for Me

Betsy R. Rosenthal Looking For Me
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Excerpt from book:

Edith of No Special Place

I’m just plain Edith.
I’m number four,
and should anyone care,
I’m eleven years old,
with curly black hair.

Squeezed / between /two / brothers,
Daniel and Ray,
lost in a crowd,
will I ever be more
than just plain Edith,
who’s number four?

In my overcrowded family
I’m just another face.
I’m just plain Edith
of no special place.

Always One More

I saw these wooden nesting dolls in a store,
the kind where you don’t know how many dolls
there are altogether until you start
opening them up,
and there’s always
one more inside,
sort of like
my family.

Family Portrait, Baltimore, 1936

We’re lined up:
girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy, girl boy,

and in the middle of us all, Dad,
who ordered us to smile
right before the Brownie clicked,
standing stiff as a soldier,
no smile on his face,

and Mom’s beside him,
a baby in her arms
and in her rounded belly
another one,

just a trace.

Inspector Bubby

When Mom goes to the hospital
to have this new baby,
us older kids
watch the younger ones
and keep the house clean.

We think we’re doing okay

until Dad’s mother, Bubby Anne,
comes over
and runs her finger across the top
of the china cabinet
that we couldn’t even reach,

just to show us the dust
we’ve left behind.

There Goes That Theory

Nobody asked my opinion
about having another sister or brother.
But if someone had,

I would have asked
for another little sister,
even though I was sure

this new baby
in Mom’s belly
had to be a boy.

How could I be so sure?
Because the last girl she had
was my sister Annette.

Sometime after Annette came along,
Mom collapsed
and Dad rushed her to the hospital,

where they took out one of her ovaries
(part of her baby-making equipment,
Bubby Anne told us).

So my sisters and I thought
it must have been
the girl-making one

because since the surgery
Mom has had nothing but boys —
my brothers Lenny, Melvin, Sol, and Jack.

But now this baby in Mom’s belly
turned out to be Sherry.
And that’s the end

of our ovary theory.

Now We’re Even

Maybe Mom and Dad
wanted one last one
to even things up.
With six boys
and now six girls,
maybe they’re done.

I guess there’s really
no way of knowing,
but I sure hope
our family’s
all done growing.

Some People Don’t Understand
About a Big Family

My friends Connie and Eunice
love coming to my house.
To them it seems like
we’re always having a party.

But I’d rather go to their houses,
where there’s room to move around
without bumping into anybody

and you never
have to stand in line
to use the bathroom.

I Wonder What It Would Be Like

To sleep by myself
in this bed
that holds three
with all of the covers
to cover
just me.

To spread my arms wide
and lie
at a slant
with no other bodies
to say
that I can’t.

To lie
on a pillow,
no feet in my face;
I’d lie awake nights
just feeling the space.

Keeping the Days Straight

Since it’s summertime
and we aren’t back in school yet,
I keep forgetting what day it is.

So my brother Raymond
teaches me the trick
of checking what Mom’s making for dinner.

Mondays are milkhik, Tuesdays, liver;
Wednesdays are macaroni casserole days,
Thursdays are meat,
and Fridays we eat a Shabbos feast
of chicken, chopped liver, a

A poignant and historical novel in verse about a Jewish family of twelve children told from the point of view of “just plain Edith, number four” as she tries to figure out her place in both her family and the world at large. Set in the depression era Baltimore, Looking for Me is filled with the joy, pain, humor, and sadness of a real immigrant family pursuing the American dream.


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