KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Ekphrastic Poem: 243 words [R]

Ethel Rosenberg Reflecting on Her Trial and Execution for Treason

by Liz Dolan

Photograph by Roger Higgins: Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg (New York, 1951)1


I can hear my spoiled baby brother now 
prattling about my typing of the secrets he stole, 
flaunting the jigsaw pieces of the Jell-O box as evidence. 
I told him to deny everything. Instead, 
the moon-like man of inconstancy, 
loose-lipped and waning, 
		babbled like a waterfall. 
I read Tarkington to him, 
taught him French, 
mailed him cookies at Los Alamos. 
He cut a cushy deal to protect his wife, 
accused me of seducing him, 
Eve-like, with my candy-coated ideology. 
For God’s sake, I was a housewife in a floury apron 
dragging my boys to the littered playground, 
living in subsidized housing on the Lower East Side. 
The capitalists housed me in Sing Sing 
for 801 days @ $38.60 a day, 
more than my Julius made in a week. 

		After he was executed, 
my rabbi begged me to save myself for my sons, 
who clung to me on Valentine’s Day. 
	Don’t you want to make a better world for them? 
			Tell them there wasn’t enough time. 
			Tell them I was innocent. 
I didn’t die easy. 
upset their time table, needed a second jolt, 
spun three minutes into the Sabbath 
on that bloodless June Friday, 
while my brother dissolving like ice 
at Mama’s green enamel table 
dipped rugalah2 she baked into his tea 
before she lit candles 
for the vigil, desecrated, 
as they desecrated me, masking the burns 
on my forehead with a silk scarf. 



—Previously published in Lacuna: A Journal of Historical Fiction (Issue 4, 15 April 2011); appears here with poet’s permission


Publisher’s Notes:

1. The 1951 photograph reproduced above, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, separated by heavy wire screen as they leave U.S. Court House after being found guilty by jury, is by Roger Higgins, photographer from the New York World-Telegram.

Repository: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (Washington, D.C. 20540 USA). New York World-Telegram and the Sun Newspaper Photograph Collection, Digital ID: (b&w film copy neg.) cph 3c17772:

2. Based on its country of origin, this Jewish pastry has various spellings: rogelach, rugalach, rugalah, rugelah, rugelakh, ruggalach, ruggelach, and rugulah.

Liz Dolan’s
Issue 11, Spring 2019

first poetry collection, They Abide (March Street Press, 2009), was nominated for The Robert McGovern Prize, Ashland University. Her second, A Secret of Long Life (Cave Moon Press, 2014), was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her poems, memoirs, and short stories appear in Harp Weaver, Illuminations, Natural Bridge, New Delta Review, On the Mason Dixon Line: An Anthology of Contemporary Delaware Writers, Rattle, The Cortland Review, Tipton Poetry Journal, and others.

A nine-time Pushcart nominee and winner of Web del Sol’s Best of the Web for her work in Mudlark (links included below), Ms. Dolan was also a finalist for Best of the Net 2014. She has won the following prizes: The Nassau Prize for Nonfiction (2011) and for Fiction (2015), The Cobalt Review’s Baseball Poetry Prize (2014), Delaware Beach Life’s First Place Poetry Prize (2012), Trellis Magazine’s First Place in Poetry (2008), and The Gypsy Satchet Award in Letters from Fiction Fix 16. She’s also received fellowships from the Delaware Division of the Arts, The Atlantic Center for the Arts, and Martha’s Vineyard Writers’ Residency; and she was associate artist in residence with Sharon Olds at the Atlantic Center for the Arts.

Ms. Dolan is a retired English teacher, the mother of two, and most grateful for her ten grandchildren, who pepper her life and live on the next block.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Little Murders, a poem by Liz Dolan in Toasted Cheese Literary Journal (Issue 17:1, March 2017); also, scroll down that page for three of her poems posted as Baker’s Picks in Issue 7:4 (December 2007)

Mudlark Posters, No. 62 (2006): Five Poems

Mudlark Posters, No. 92 (2011): Sisters, five poems

Mudlark Flashes, No. 95 (June 2015): Out of the Depths, seven poems

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