Susan Margulies Kalish, author

About The Cerebral Jukebox

Susan Margulies Kalish, author I owe it to the measles, the chicken pox and my lousy tonsils.

When I replay mental movies of my early years, I always find myself sick with fever in bed, trying to keep up with homework assignments, cutting out paper bunnies from Humpty Dumpty Magazine. There were days of recuperation from a tonsillectomy, days upon end with spots and bumps. I was moved into my parents' room so that I wouldn't infect my sister who was six years younger, and so that her infant sleep patterns wouldn't affect me.

Bedridden with childhood illnesses, (the grippe, assorted other ailments) I was never alone; I had a babysitter. It sat on a table and kept me company through those times in the 1950s when I lay in bed. My "nanny" was made of blond wood. It had horizontal slats, was bow-bellied and chunky, with a heart of glowing tubes; it had brown Bakelite knobs; it was my parents' radio and my father left it tuned to a pop music station.

"Twenty-six miles across the sea, Santa Catalina is a-waiting for me, Santa Catalina, the island of romance, romance, romance, romance..."

The notion of "romance" was a big deal in the 1950s, a throwback to Hollywood's big dramatic productions. During my pre-teen years, I was mesmerized by the notion. Then, love and its complications were revealed to me in a song: "I was a big man yesterday, but boy you oughta see me now..." Music reinforced this; broken love and the trials of relationships were some of the most memorable- and miserable- of life's passages. Pop music taught me some far-out notions but I'd rather have the pain and angst than the itchy pox and my drippy nose. Music was defining me. I wanted to be inducted into the world of the teenager. Pat Boone became my idol; I just knew he wrote April Love for me. If April Love was for the very young," I was in- and bringing my doll along for company.

I actually learned that men ogle women on street corners and that there were places beyond those corners- like Constantinople. The radio expanded my view of the world- and I was still in bed.

So that's how it started, the music and its associations with time and place. There's a soundtrack; a tune takes me to a movie, I watch a clip and I add lyrics. A story or a poem evolves. "If you are a writer you locate yourself behind a wall of silence and no matter what you are doing, driving a car or walking or doing housework you can still be writing, because you have that space," Joyce Carol Oates said; she is one of my favorite authors.

And that is the way it has been; turn on the music and here comes the poem.

The old wooden radio is warming up. We are travelling through the fifties, sixties, seventies, and beyond. To the present, only to find ourselves back where we started, asking the same questions we asked as children.

The words are coming together in my Cerebral Jukebox. Please open the book.

Susan Margulies Kalish
October, 2010

volume  What I am hearing:

The Four Preps:

"Twenty-six Miles"

"Big Man"

The Four Lads:

"Standing on the Corner"


Pat Boone:

"April Love"