Sunday, July 29, 2007




Stephen Poleskie 


When I asked him, he said he could not remember being born. I told him he should not expect me to write an accurate biography if he could not remember such basic details. He apologized, and volunteered that he did remember things that had happened before he was born, while he was still in his mother’s womb.

            He recalled looking down, through a small opening at the light, and seeing his mothers legs, her high button shoes pacing up and down on patterned rugs or hot sidewalks. His view was blocked by his mother’s thighs when she went up and down stairs or sat down. In winter she wore fur-lined galoshes made of rubber. He told me he watched the snow passing under her feet, and wondered if it would be cold when he finally was born. Then one day, while we were going through an album of his mother’s old photographs, we realized that she had never worn high button shoes. He was born in 1938, and high button shoes had long gone out of fashion by then. She also appeared to be a very modest woman who never would have gone without underwear.

            A year and three months after he was born the German army marched into Poland, in effect beginning the Second World War. He was sure he remembered that too, but I told him he was too young then to remember anything. I explained to him that the idea must have been put into his mind much later, by someone else, and he only thought he remembered it.

            He began to think about what I said. Then it came to him that a woman artist he knew in New York City in the 1960’s, Elaine de Kooning, had told him a similar story about looking out of the womb and seeing her mother’s high button shoes.           

            Then he thought about the high button shoes. He wanted to be a detective once and so researched Elaine’s birthday and the date of the demise of high button shoes. He discovered that it was highly improbable the unborn Elaine looked down and saw her mother wearing high button shoes. Perhaps she had seen some other kind of shoes, but unless her mother was extremely out of fashion she had not seen high button shoes. He wondered if the idea might have been put into her mind by someone else. He knew I had written a history book and asked me if that what was what history was all about.

            He told me about meeting Elaine’s husband, who was a very famous artist. The man was wearing a blue chambray work shirt and bib overalls, sitting at the table drinking a beer. It was the third time had had been to Elaine’s studio, for whom he was working at odd jobs. Elaine’s studio was on Broadway at 12th Street. It was large and well lighted by many windows. He lived in a boarded-over store front on 11th Street between avenues C and D. His studio had no windows.

            Elaine turned to him and said, “Do you know my husband Bill?”

            At first he was confused. He thought her husband’s name was Willem, and that he now lived in East Hampton with a teen-aged girl. He had seen photographs of the famous man who was tall and handsome, and painted large and powerful paintings. However, Willem was now painting on the wooden doors that had been delivered for his new house, much to the delight of the art critics who saw this as a radical idea. This Bill was short and bent over, and smelled of beer. If Bill painted large paintings he would have to stand on a box.

            He had extended his hand. Bill ignored it and took another sip of beer from the can he was holding with the massive mitt of a house painter. Without looking at him Bill asked, in a deep accent, “Did I ever tell you the story of how I came to America from Amsterdam?”

            “No sir you did not,” he replied. He knew now that this really was the famous Willem de Kooning. He had read in an art history book about how the artist had emigrated from Amsterdam.

            Bill told him the story.

            Bill would tell him the story several times after that.

            He could not remember a time when they were together that Bill did not tell him the same story.



STEPHEN POLESKIE is an artist and writer. His artwork is in the collections of numerous museums including the Museum of Modern Art , and the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and the Tate Gallery,  and theVictoria and Albert Museum in London. Currently a professor emeritus at Cornell University, he has also been a visiting artist at twenty-six other colleges and art schools in the United States and abroad. The above piece is from a novel in progress.


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Sidney Grayling, editor.




Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Here is a recording of a radio interview Tish Pearlman did with Stephen Poleskie which aired on her program OUT OF BOUNDS on June 14, of this year. Click on his name to listen to the audio.

Stephen Poleskie

Artist and Writer, Stephen Poleskie

In this fascinating interview, Poleskie discusses his many life adventures as a flyer, an artist, and a writer. He also discusses his book "The Balloonist- The Story of T.S.C. Lowe: Inventor, Scientist, Magician and Father of the US Air Force."

Tish Pearlman


Thank you for logging on. You will need a high speed connection to get the audio. To hear other interviews by Tish Pearlman you can go to her program web site: Interviews are broadcast on WEOS-FM every Thursday at 7:00 pm. The station can be heard on 89.7 & 90.3 Geneva, NY & 88.1 Ithaca, NY, or via stream at

Sidney Grayling, editor


The Balloonist: The Story of T. S. C. Lowe,
Inventor, Scientist, Magician, and Father of the U.S. Air Force

by Stephen Poleskie
Category: Fiction / Historical
Format: Hardcover, 368 pages
On Sale: May 2007
Price: $24.95
ISBN: 978-1-929490-27-1

click on title for more information




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