Cosmopolitan Confessions


Robert Pinsky

Taking her stand against God and government
She bought her eight-year-old a BLT
On toast at Newberry’s counter, for all to see—
So I could become a sophisticated person,

She told me. Maybe she wanted me to know
That the great ordinary gentile world
Could offer something better than Blood and Soil.
She was ten years older than Allen Ginsberg
Of Newark, author of Cosmopolitan Greetings.
Defy the holy. Notice what you notice.

Gauge the norms of provinces and metropoles:
“Cosmopolitan” for a magazine, a drink.
Could Sylvia know the word as Allen did,
A scholarly slur for a rootless Jewy Jew?

The sandwich was heaven. But in her kosher house
The unclean take-out pizza had to be eaten
From off the piano bench, with paper plates.
She wouldn’t touch it even if it was veggie.

Newberry’s, never Woolworth’s. For the same reason
You buy a Plymouth and never, ever, a Ford.

Like Whitman she knew to contradict herself.
She savored consonants and spoke the worldly
Vowels of truth. Her brother Julie was in
The Battle of the Bulge the one same night
She and their mother separately saw him appear
Ghostlike and asking for coffee. In their kitchens
A mile apart the bonded enemies, mother
And daughter, both woke to make that soldier a cup,
Which maybe let him survive. The universe,
Shapely and subjective. Mussolini died
In a newsreel. Hitler vanished. A sentient pig
Should not have died for my illumination,
And yet I thank my mother and I taste it again.