April 15, 2011

Ethel Rosenberg Reflecting on her Trial and Execution for Treason


Ethel Rosenberg Reflecting on her Trial and Execution for Treason
by Liz Dolan

I can hear my spoiled baby brother now
prattling about my typing of the secrets he stole,
flaunting the jigsaw pieces of the Jell-o box as evidence.
I told him to deny everything. Instead,
the moon-like man of inconstancy,
loose-lipped and waning,
                    babbled like a waterfall.
I read Tarkington to him,
taught him French,
mailed him cookies at Los Alamos.
He cut a cushy deal to protect his wife,
accused me of seducing him,
Eve-like, with my candy-coated ideology.
For God’s sake, I was a housewife in a floury apron
dragging my boys to the littered playground,
living in subsidized housing on the Lower East Side.
The capitalists housed me in Sing Sing
for 801 days @ $ 38.60 a day,
more than my Julius made in a week.

                         After he was executed,
my rabbi begged me to save myself for my sons,
who clung to me on Valentine’s Day.
        Don’t you want to make a better world for them?
                                   Tell them there wasn’t enough time.
                                   Tell them I was innocent.
I didn’t die easy.
upset their time table, needed a second jolt,
spun three minutes into the Sabbath
on that bloodless June Friday,
while my brother dissolving like ice
at Mama’s green enamel table
dipped rugala she baked into his tea
before she lit candles
for the vigil, desecrated,
as they desecrated me, masking the burns
on my forehead with a silk scarf.

* * *

Liz Dolan’s second poetry manuscript, A Secret of Long Life, which is seeking a publisher, was nominated for the Robert McGrath Prize and she has been published in On the Mason Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers. A five-time Pushcart nominee, she won a $6,000 established artist fellowship from the Delaware Division of the Arts, 2009. Her first poetry collection, They Abide, was recently published by March Street Press and can be purchased through the press or at Amazon. She is most proud of the offsite school she ran in The Bronx and her nine grand children who live on the next block in Rehoboth.They pepper her life.

Where did you get the idea for your poem?

I wrote quite a few poems about Ethel Rosenberg afer I read a book in 2002 called Brother which told about how her brother's testimony sealed her fate. I can still remember her picture in the newspaper and, as a child, I was horrified for her two little boys who were orphaned.