Lillian Frankel


The man came into our flat
and had to step over me
to sit down near my father.

They talked and talked
about hard times
and President Roosevelt.

And the man kept looking
at me as I lay on the wooden floor,
my ear pressed against it,
listening to Fibber McGee and Molly.

Finally, he said, "Excuse me,
but I'd like to ask you something.
Why is your girl lying on the floor
like that?"

"She's listening to the radio,"
my father said.
"The radio!  Where's a radio?
I don't see no radio."

"Downstairs," my father said,
and tried to continue
their previous conversation.

"You mean you don't have a radio?"
"No," my father said.  "She doesn't mind."

The man said, "Send her over tomorrow.
I have a little radio, an old radio.
You just need to buy a new tube.
"I'll give it to you."

The next day, my father went to the store
and bought a radio on the installment plan.
But when I listened to it,
I lay on the floor.


They called Max the greenhorn.
"He doesn't know how to be
an American," they all said.

I heard his brother say:
"Now, look Max, in America
you put your extra money
in a bank.  Understand?"

I watched Max shake his head.
"Yeah, I understand."
He took his money to the bank,
but put it in a safety deposit box.

"You don't get any money if you
do that," his brother yelled at him.
"Ach, such a greenhorn!"

Max liked to go to the bank,
didn't have to fill out any forms,
didn't have to talk to anyone;
just put the key into the lock,
look at the green bills, and feel rich.

"Oh, what a dummy!
What a greenhorn," they all said.

Then came the Crash.  Heard all over the world.
People rushed to the banks to get their money.
But there was no money.
Swallowed up by the Great Depression!

Max walked to the bank with me,
put his key into the lock,
and emptied out the safety deposit box.

We walked out, past the sad and angry people
waiting in the long, long line,
hoping to retrieve some of their money. 

As we walked past them, Uncle Max
winked at me, his pockets bulging
with the green pieces of paper.
"Come on, Darling," he said.
"Come on, Pussy Cat, the greenhorn
will buy you an ice cream cone."

Lillian Frankel
Lillian Frankel's poetry has appeared in such journals as The Maryland Poetry Review, Poet Lore, and Lip Service, and in anthologies, including Hungry as We Are (Washington Writers' Publishing House) and Cabin Fever, Poets at Joaquin Miller's Cabin (The Word Works). She recently won a Maryland Arts Council grant to write poems about the Great Depression and read them at senior citizen facilities. She has also published 17 books in the juvenile field, edited children's magazines, and published articles in The Washington Post.



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