Explore O:JA&L’s Buttonhook Press offerings on Amazon.
Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.

Lori Rottenberg

What Handsome Harry Carried in His Wallet
for 70 Years

(for my grandfather, Harry Aronson, 1912-2005)


He flashes his welterweight wealth one summer day in the middle of the Depression, a fancy two-tone belt, cinched tight, the earnings of what a good night at the pool hall might bring. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn’s weedy Tree of Heaven spreads in the background like his family did in Yonkers, American-born brothers and sisters stacked at home like the Jewish seven-layer cakes he loved. His parents and two oldest siblings hid in a secret hole in a chimney during a pogrom, fled Cossacks so he could spend his days lifting weights, shooting pool, telling jokes, dancing with dolls. Trapezius like a shield, lats and deltoids like mountains to be scaled, living marble, a dare to the Italian or Irish toughs on the next blocks who might try to beat him up if he crossed into their territory. He shows this picture to anyone he meets for the next seven decades: his biography, his credit card.


About the writer:
Lori Rottenberg is a writer who lives in Arlington, Virginia. She has published poetry in such journals as UCityReview, WWPH Writes, Burningword, Moving Force, The Dewdrop, Artemis, Potomac Review, and Poetica, and in anthologies by Paycock Press, Telling Our Stories Press, and Chuffed Buff Books. She has a non-fiction essay upcoming in The Vincent Brothers Review and has published additional poems and essays through the Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness website. One of her poems was picked for the 2021 Arlington Moving Words competition and appeared on county buses, and she has served as a visiting poet in the Arlington Public Schools Pick-a-Poet program since 2007. She is currently a writing instructor for international students at George Mason University and is in her third year of studies at the George Mason University MFA Poetry program.

Image: Courtesy of Lori Rottenberg.

OJAL Art Incorporated, publishing since 2017 as OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L) and its imprint Buttonhook Press, is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation supporting writers and artists worldwide.

Become an O:JA&L Member through Patreon.