a tribute to hal sirowitz

In POETRY by Stephanie Klein8 Comments

Never bleach your teeth the night before a dinner party, Mother said,
because you won’t get a good nights sleep.
You’ll be afraid of swallowing too much bleach,
so you’ll drool on your pillows,
and in the morning when you should be marinating the lamb,
you’ll instead be stripping your marital bed and applying too much eye concealer.
Your teeth will be too sensitive to taste anything,
leaving your guests to guinea pig it through the meal.
Hardly able to eat, you’ll wince in pain as you sip your soup,
and everyone will think you have an eating disorder.
Or a boyfriend.
Then you’ll go to sleep crying
and have to strip the bed again in the morning.
And I’ll have to hear about it.

A lot of my college Friday nights were spent with Hal Sirowitz, except he didn’t know it. I went to the Lower East side to watch him slam at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. Bob Holman was the master of ceremonies, and as such surveyed the audience for would-be judges. He always picked me; I think because I was a white girl. I never had the guts to perform there, and I still don’t. I’m not really a poet, and a lot of what goes on there isn’t really poetry; it’s comedy. Which brings me back to Hal Sirowitz’s collection of poems about things his mother, father, and therapist said. I could write these for days.

Unlike the poem above that I wrote today, I drafted this next bit a while ago as I was getting ready for the Costume Institute’s Benefit at the MET. I swallowed, but did not taste sushi, as I wrote this, in tribute to Mr. Hal Sirowitz:

Never go to a party hungry, Mother said,
because you’ll eat too much greasy food once you arrive.
And then you’ll be too tired to dance,
and your lips will look too shiny,
like you spent too much time applying Mac products.
Then he’ll be afraid you’re not a natural beauty,
so he won’t ask you to dance.
Then you, with your distended stomach,
will cry and ruin your mascara,
which will drip and damage your dress.
Then I’ll have to pick it up from the cleaners.


  1. uber

    funny, we're the same age, and i went almost every weekend too in college, at least fresh and soph years. must have seen you. um, for a while i had waist length rainbow hair, so you may remember. every heard the english teacher lady read her half hour long poems about gauchos and give teacher glares to the audiences as we shifted uncomfortably?

    bob holman is now, i believe, mcing at the bowery poetry club

  2. Mar

    Thank God – I thought I was the only one in the world with bleaching pain. The dental hygenists told me (lied to me) – no, no sensitivity at all. Are you kidding? You could use White & Brite as part of POW interrogation. I'll just be stained for the future, thank you.

  3. Cheech

    Dude, I love your writing, but please stop making videos that aren't your 'real life.' A great writer, you are. An actress? Not so much. Your success is your openness with who you are…you're open in ways many people don't allow themselves to be and others identify with you. Pretending to be anyone else does not work for you. Please stop making videos.

    FROM SK: Appreciate your point of view and I thank you for the compliments. But I had a lot of fun making those videos, and at the end of the day, that's what it's all about. Do I suddenly hope to be an actress, ah, no. I can't stand to watch myself on screen. But who cares? It was fun! And they are of course imperfect and completely over-acted, and dramatic over the top, but they're supposed to be. It's the way a kid would appear, hamming it up for the camera… at least this kid. And I like being her once in a while, ya know? I don't think I'm trying to be someone I'm not in doing them. I'm enjoying this time in my life, and I'm happy. Darn it, be happy with me!

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