A few of you knew him, and some of you may remember that I’ve written about him before. His was a life of great unhappiness and unfulfilled potential, his brilliance dulled by mental illness nearly his whole life.

Roger was born and raised in the Bronx, and spent his life as a New Yorker. He was one of the smartest kids in the neighborhood, reading the Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover while in elementary school. As an adolescent, he was sufficiently gifted at entomology, and accomplished as a butterfly collector, to work (nowadays, he’d have been called an unpaid intern, I suppose; wouldn’t have mattered to him that he wasn’t paid) for the Head of Entomology at the American Museum of Natural History. One of the senior staff gave him what we’d now call a shout-out in what became a landmark book. He went to Cornell at 16, intending to study entomology, but gradually English took over. In his sophomore year, he won the university’s poetry prize, beating out, if I recall correctly, Thomas Pynchon and Richard Farina. By the time he graduated, he had mastered several languages, including Greek, which he had studied for only a year. By the time he died, he had along the way been able to converse and read in more than twenty languages, though in the end English and Yiddish were his favorites. He went to the University of Virginia, where he won the American Academy of Poets prize for producing the best poem among young poets in the country. By the time he finished his PhD, at 25, he was regarded as the leading scholar, for his age, of Anglo-Saxon poetry and oral-formula composition. Unfortunately, Virginia is where he was first hospitalized, though he was clearly psychiatrically impaired before then. Thus began a lifetime in and out of hospitals, in and out of functioning. My own view is that he was initially misdiagnosed and for many years was treated incompetently by a string of professionals; this was, however, in a relatively primitive time in our knowledge and treatment of serious mental illness Brutally, there was a moment when he had a chance at an upward trajectory in life–he interviewed, and was about to be offered a job at, the University of Michigan when his Department Chair at Virginia, with whom Roger had very little to do, called the people at Michigan and warned them off because of his difficulties. We suspect he was an anti-Semite besides. After that, he had trouble getting a job. He was hired at Nassau County Community College, because they needed PhDs in order to gain accreditation; once they got it, they started the process of forcibly retiring him on disability. It was only downhill from there. He did, however, continue to write poetry and picked up a few more MA degrees. He never married. For the last 25 years he was living in a distantly-supervised apartment in Astoria, with another State Hospital refugee, who has been a devoted friend for whom I am forever grateful. For the last 35 years, I have been solely responsible for his well-being and his care, as well as his finances. It has been a burden which I rarely wore lightly, but which I carried nonetheless.

At the end, my brother spent several days at the Jamaica Hospital Hospice, in Queens. I have only the highest praise for the facility, the staff, and the care he received. It’s my first experience as a hospice client, and it was everything I could have wished for, and more.

If you are interested in some of his poetry, you can find it at RogerFogelman.com and at the online poetry site Innisfree Poetry Journal http://www.authorme.com/innisfree.htm

My wife, Marla, wrote an article about him which appeared in the Washington Post Magazine: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/20/ST2009022003192.html

Tomorrow I am going to say the following: My deepest wish is that now, in the world to come, you are granted the peace and happiness you were denied while you were among us.

I’m Happy

“I’m happy,” she says, and means that happiness
Means that she’s married, no more and something less.
Born in the cradle, married out of there,
She chose her husband as she combed her hair.
Ego bred aggression, and aggression spite,
Thus in others humaneness became prerequisite,
And a mask to put on, to force others to don,
While she can take hers off if others keep theirs on.
Her mother programmed her to be clean, to wive,
And keep the world reminded that she was superlative.
The best of everything, the dots on the dotted line,
A self-possessed and persevering Frankenstein.
“But I’m not perfect,” she admits, thus liberating her
To chop the other fellow into hamburger.
Her husband’s personality fled headlong to its lair.
To dominate completely a comfortable chair.
Thus father and mother to her children, she
Provides them with loves in times of adversity;
A kind of three-layer cake, wherein one can infer
That she moulds her children, as her mother her.
Acquaintances are mirrors, emotions a hoard,
And all existence must conform, or be ignored.

Light Thoughts In Easy Words

Light Thoughts In Easy Words

I chained my love within my heart
To daunt him with the gloom
And when he’s spent for nourishment
Why, it will be his tomb.

I furled a smile maliciously
As red and cruel as blood
When that I saw to tatters tore
This banner where I stood.

Oh, cuses on young women whose
Lips assume their task–
Interpreter for humor their
Eyes in noting mask.

So once again reprieve was shown
To the dreadful prisoner
And it was known mercy was shown
Only because of her.

My love with a feathered cap stood there
With scorn light on his face
“–If I should mind being confined
How do you think this place

“–Should blunt my gaze and bound my step
Here in this cell you own?
–Before you still my waking will
I’ll break these red walls down!”



I am a passenger in the shipwreck of time
And a bizarre symptomology
Has alit
Upon my understaffed body
As a vulture on a long awaited meal

And if you think this mode of expression
Rules out poetry, I assent.


And I invite you to supply a wretch
Of your own
With as impressive a salvo of symptoms
To salute the world with
And snatch despair from the imaginary
Jaws of hope
But for me, hope is a defective
In a Stygian darkness

So please all your good pleaders
Roll upward prayers on my

That I might have some remission
Somewhat somehow

And if not, then remember me while
This my poem
Is eminently forgettable
And at this, this work declares
Its end.
August 30, 2009

Nonsense Verses For My Children

When the frost is on the pumpkin
and in blossom’s the pawpaw,
Then a mighty herd of yoghurt comes
thundering through the draw,
And all the birds in cages get out
their aerosol
To spray the passing yoghurt, and
catch them as they fall.

When the clams are wet with ardor,
and all card-carrying krill
Dance at their union gala in
tuxedoes, as they will,
On vacation hard-worked pinnipeds
try their best to get away,
And the whales come up like
thunder on the trams to Baffin Bay.

When the schools are closed forever
and education’s rife,
Then you, my child, my soul, I hope,
will graduate to life;
When the gloaming gleams with
wonder and awake the day dreams love,
As your father loved Sharonah,
and the hand longs for the glove.


On the Wild Hawk

On the Wild Hawk

For you is not the cap of fancy–
The soft, the sheer, the somber tones.
Rapacious form that deigns to clasp
A foothold on the jagged stones.

Brindled priest of precipice
An eyrie altar for your prey–
Where shadow in a wind-etched niche
Resolves the mountainside to grey.

The fire-course in the wild-blown eye
On swift wings rides aloft–
Obsidian beak on a blood-stained breast
Where the white-cream down is soft.

Beside the ice-eye lurks no soul–
The bird is soul incarnate, fiercely free–
Oh Lord, what heights aspired
To keep a raptore company.


A bowstring taut with afternoon
The cricket cello deep within the walk
Where russet refuse frosts before the musing moon
Where waving weed surrenders shrill the strident stalk
And rustling reed reverberates with locust-talk

Goldenrod is squired in beggar’s splendor
And races through the tree-boles in a tippling rime
Heavy is the hickory and easy is provender
And gentian’s pensive cups resound with rhyme
When, in their depths, they space the cricket’s chime.


Note: This poem was written under the pseudonym Harry Charles ( Harry was Roger’s grandfather, Charles is his brother).

Portrait of Self-Analysis


In the darkness, in unfathomed depths,
Silent, self-absorbed does the cicada lie
Awaiting its brief moment to emerge, and whirr and die
And so do I.

High on a thistle the gaudy swallowtail—
The collector’s apogee—sits ready to take flight,
Not to be caught; while on the week
The wingless aphis, causative of blight
Looks upward, like me,
In self-scorn and delight.

All about me mate and whirr, taking delight
In the brief moment that this their summer’s noon
While I live along by reflected light
In the midst of midnight an unnoticed moon
Whose day has flown too soon, too soon.


Neanderthals were awful knaves
That had their domiciles in caves
And slew their prey with barrel-staves
To gulp it red and raw
They most resented rude intrusion
By big bears with malocclusion
And not a few effected fusion
With the ursine chaw.

Howe’er this state of things, I ween
Thought rather rugged, harsh and mean
Prevailed throughout the Pliestocene
And one can only muse
That ‘twas through this did fate contrive
Their end—there’s not a one alive,
But only broken bones survive
As Neolithic clues.

Purple Yawn

Upon a time prison bars
Went clank! Together—a hundred stars
Alarmed, lifted to sail in flight
Tilting toward more distant coils of night
To regroup noiselessly in braids of light.
Well, all the rest were gone, but I
With perseverance
And uncommon skill in one so young
Held in my hand
A phosphorescent firefly.

The evening was growing in a purple yawn.
The bats had other business
So the lawn
Had darkened faster than I thought
The time allowed—Perhaps I ought
To be inside away from all this strangeness
When lo!
The indignant glow
Wrestling in earnest enmity against its jailer
Reminded me of what I had brought plummeting
Down from where the winds are delicate scarves
That are half jewel and song half
And that didn’t want to come
Getting along nicely just a flicker above the grass tops.

How does one dare
To pinion the wings of thought?
So I was confronted
With my hand again
The sharp points of the star scalding my hand
And sticking out through my fingers
Disturbed me. There were no more constellations
Diving between the knees of the apple tree.
I let the firefly go and went inside
And I think the stars returned.