top of page


Updated: Jul 17, 2020

A Poem by Dr. Barry Lubetkin

“It is 7 p.m., and the city is already clapping, a nightly outpouring of support for health care workers that has taken place for weeks.” New York Times, May 1, 2020


Every night she fussed at the grill

Why alone? No husband. No son. No brother.

Her dress (the same one every time), blue

And gauzed by the illegal smoke.

And I, just across the street

Separated by an ocean of unforgiving concrete

But quiet now, the few cars indifferent to our existence

And now she dines, and the smoke is a cloud above her building

The napkin lightly touches her lips

And signals an end to her daily delight,

And, as if we both studied at the Bolshoi,

We together slide to our terrace railings

She waves at me, it’s 6:58

I never waved back at a stranger so hard!

I call out and point to my watch

She nods and I think her mouth curls to a smile

It’s 6:59, and the connection that I feel with her

Embarrasses me

The same awkwardness that engulfs me every night

As blue dress and I prepare

A car siren 16 floors below screams

Somewhere near the avenue a trumpet pierces

Wild yelling from windows I’ll never see

It’s 7:00 p.m.

Blue dress and I clap, and clap, and clap

No health care worker hears us

We clap while locking eyes

And each is deaf to the other’s sounds

We don’t hear our own noise above the din

Will she stop first? Will I? When will the street clamor end?

Each aware of the other’s commitment to the moment

Who is she really? I turn away. Our moment of closeness blends with the smoke.


Barry Lubetkin, Ph.D. is the co-director and co-founder of the Institute for Behavior Therapy in New York City. He is the author of numerous academic and popular articles, as well as two popular self-help books, Bailing Out and Why Do I Need You to Love Me in Order to Like Myself. The Institute for Behavior Therapy is the oldest private cognitive behavior center in the United States.



bottom of page