If I Had Taken My Mother’s Advice on Marriage
by Norma Ketzis Bernstock

If I had married a more traditional man,
comfortable in suits and ties,
a man who’d shake my father’s hand,
a mensch for my parents’ sake.

I dated Ken dressed in polyester green
who boasted about a medical career.
Smart, handsome, polite and kind,
but not the man for me.

I initially liked the baby-faced guy
except for a slight macho flaw:
He’d ram his car into construction site cones.
Definitely not for me.

I did like Mel who slicked back his hair,
looked like a rock ‘n roll star.
Sexy and built but whined when he spoke.
He wasn’t IT man for me.

I loved the rebellious Rabbi’s son
who lived in a hippy commune.
His kisses were heaven but he wanted more—
I wouldn’t put out for him.

Lenny serenaded with Sinatra tunes,
corny and much too reserved.
He couldn’t be seduced, as much as I tried—
Too much heat for him.

My mother disliked the man I chose
who wore jeans and army fatigues.
He hugged like a bear, squeezed like a vise—
she feared that I couldn’t breathe.

PHOTO: The author at 28 on her Gold Honda in Upstate, New York.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Most of my poetic inspiration comes from my own life, a memory triggered by someone else’s poem, or by a photograph or something I’ve observed. I usually write these memories in a journal before they’re crafted into a poem. By the time the original story has been transformed, many details have changed while hopefully keeping the emotional impact (where it all began). I actually did date all the men described in this poem while enhancing some of the details. I did marry the last man. We stayed together for 30 suffocating years.


Norma Ketzis Bernstock
’s poetry has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Connecticut River Review, Paterson Literary Review, Lips, Stillwater Review, Exit 13, Edison Review and the anthology, Paterson, and the Poets’ City. Her chapbook Don’t Write a Poem About Me After I’m Dead was published in 2011. Her previous achievements include a Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation Scholarship to the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and recognition by the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Awards.