Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Eleven Shorties — "Memoirlets" — by Saskya van Nouhuys

Gym class
While playing volleyball in high school I collided with a giant Samoan girl. As I ricocheted off her and landed in the grass outside the court I thought with excitement: Wow, I didn’t know a person’s body could be that solid!

High heels
I winced in pain with each step walking back to the hotel, late, after a grand dinner with the king of Sweden. I stopped in the rain to take off my high-heeled shoes. My companion gallantly took them in hand and strode forward tipsily. I walked barefoot the rest of the way through the city, feeling like a princess.

Andy and I rode a quadracycle, which is a four wheeled tandem bicycle, around Cayuga lake for our honeymoon. That was by far the most married thing we have ever done.

From a distance, it is hard to tell the difference between a baby hummingbird and a bumble bee.

Music lessons
That creepy piano teacher. I had to break my arm twice before my mother gave up on making me go to his house each week for lessons.

Our yard, our neighbor's yard, our other neighbor's yard, all united as the territory of our patrolling cat.

My favorite nightshirt eventually wore out and started to disintegrate. Before it lost all of its integrity Andy used it as a model to sew a new one. I wear that new one, but it isn’t the same.

As time passes we all use paper less and less. Now, as the weather gets cold, I have to plan ahead in order to have enough material to start a fire each day.

Can anyone think of a number 2 pencil without getting anxious?

My grandfather sits in a chair with his pipe in one hand and a can of beer in the other. I sit in his lap, happily, listening inattentively to the conversation of adults.

On the tiny island of Prestö there are three cemeteries filled with the bones of people who died in the process of building the Russian fortress at Bomarsund, in Finland. The fortress was destroyed by the English even before it was finished. They shot cannons up at it from ships in the bay below. The three cemeteries are populated by the Russian Orthodox Christians, the Jews, and the Muslims. The best blueberries grow among the discretely marked graves in the Muslim cemetery.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

At Dinner's End, by Gladys L. Perkins

At dinner’s end
you know I am too polite
to leave before you are done
so you order more tea
that you do not drink
while the restaurant fills
and people wait for tables
while you prattle about TV shows
and avoid raising your cup
while I clutch mine
and concentrate on the warmth
reaching my hands
through the porcelain
and imagine it spreading
up through my arms
calming and softening my heart
with a kind of distraction
from eyes of the hungry
who long for our seats
and also from your many
descriptions of other meals
in other places
and whether the settings
were charming
and if you were sufficiently
and made comfortable

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Memories of the Full Moon, by Saskya van Nouhuys

the full moon
the smell of wet leaves
stepping on snails whose shells break
under my bare feet

the full moon
that doesn't get close
as I drive toward it

the full moon
its reflection on the water
the sound of that lit water, unsettled
bumping against the dock

the full moon
looks too big in the sky
next to those delicate sparkly stars
especially because it is orange

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Bits of Yellow and Orange from a Saturday Morning

These pieces were written in a Writing Circle on Saturday, October 28 — during a 10-minute warm-up period

For inspiration, we chose color swatches from different paint companies. Some pseudonyms have been chosen.

Butter cream frosting, so good — so bad! Please do not color it blue, unless just a flower on the cake. Make it, instead, a yellow that falls between corn silk and honey-gold. That would be best. After all, I'm not marrying, it is not my birthday, and I am not being feted upon retirement. Make this frosting for a humble cake! You do not need to know that I will eat it secretly, alone in my home, while I watch guilty-pleasure TV.
    - Buttercup Buttercup

Hail a yellow cab because the group left in a car without me, for a Big Red / Big Apple event, and I'm snagged by what comforts me, the pain and loss of a woman I love. Snagged in gratitude and anger, sunshine and rage, wanting justice and healing. Intimidated by another story, the narrative of success and failure. I hold both — they seem to be at odds with each other. Power and vulnerability. Will the struggle ever end? Does it have to?
    - Cricket Stone

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." Orange, red, and yellow. Blood and sunshine. Dying, but not dead. Fading, but not gone. Like the passing of years for a Hollywood starlet. Moving into new life stages, transitions. Silence to talking. Talking to silence. Always changing. And the mischievous faces on Jack O'Lanterns — smiling at the darkness. Like little Buddhas, their laugh is enlightenment.
    - JLL

Autumn moon
rattling your gold like a pirate in the sky
stealing my heart from summer's love
holding me hostage to sail with you through a colder milky way
and fill a spinnaker with afterglow to drift me into winter
    - Kimberly Zajac

Now the days are becoming shorter and darker and I make an effort to focus on things I like to see and do — buying season tickets to the theatre, making apple butter, planning for Thanksgiving, raking leaves — so as not to become enveloped in a dark, cold cloud. The mist that rises from snow in winter is so different than the steam from a scented bath, or the aerated water that floats above a hot tub. In the evening I look across the city at dark shadowy hills, and riding above them like a stream of ribbons, there is yellow and cream, aqua and violet — brightened by a hidden sunset.
    - Liz Ashford

When he was away one spring break I painted my son's room — in the old house — orange. So cheerful, rich, and warmed by the afternoon sun. Will I ever have an orange room again?
    - Sheila Dean

This morning, drinking a glass of Emergen-C Super Orange, with the fizzy scent of 100 oranges traveling right up my nose, I am transported out of a chilly October day and plunked down into a long-ago August. It is city-hot and all the kids on my block are lined up at the Good Humor Truck. Somehow it happens that I end up with a Creamsicle Pop. Orange ice wrapped around vanilla ice cream. Wow. Everything changes for me on this day. I will never go back to vanilla Dixie cups. Dixie cups are for babies. I'm a big girl now. 10 years old. I can manage a Creamsicle. Long lingering licks of deliciousness. And there is a bit of danger, too. A chunk of Creamsicle can slither down my hand and wind up on the sidewalk. But that doesn't happen. No mishaps, no tears. It's a miracle.
    - Zee Zahava

Saturday, October 28, 2017

5 Poems, by Heather Boob

Inspired by fragments-of-fragments of Sappho's poetry

Let me tell you this —
When your hand touches my face
a burst of electricity
is transmitted
from solar plexus
expanding upward
and out
through to my heart
like a sun dog
catching rays
behind cirrus compilation
refracting and shining
suspended diamond dust
back down to earth —
A gift to the iris of daylight.

= = =

Love shakes my heart . . .

In kindness —
from a stranger’s smile
passing on a littered street

In gratitude —
of generosity giving
with no expectation of receipt

In warmth —
from worn hands
opening to every embrace

In words —
over hot coffee
steam rising

= = =

Do you remember
the smell of summer
as autumn leaves fall?
When you were still
just a child
and the moment
was all that you had —
The feeling of innocence
when you didn’t know
what innocence was?

Do you remember
falling from your bicycle
for the first time
then getting back on
and riding further and faster
because the feeling of freedom
topped the fear of falling
a second time around?

Do your remember
when time seemed to
stand still —
when the second hand
on the turning dial
almost seemed to hesitate
and you, sitting there
willing it to stay
or wishing it to leap forward
into the future?

= = =

I confess

I do not know what to do.
At my age,
If you are squeamish
Day in, day out
Picking flowers
May be the only remedy

= = =

The most devoted of friends
Don’t ask me what to wear
A purple ribbon . . . a purple kerchief
A fish basket and oar
Together we live in
Silliness and sorrow
No complaint

Friday, October 13, 2017

6 Odes, by Rob Sullivan

Ode To Odes

Let us sing a song of praise
for all the kind words
the many warm memories
observations of nobility
that have been written
before we sat
and took the time
this very hour
this very day

Ode To Coffee

Most legal of drugs
most essential of jump starts
you bring about speech
overflowing with rabid rapids
cascading down roaring rivers
of thoughts that ricochet and rebound

Ode To Playtime

Thank you for time and space
to be more than myself
thank you for allowing
for whimsy, heroics, and happy endings
Thank you for the eternal chance
to re-write and pre-write history
Thank you for laughter
Thank you for wonder
Thank you for imagination
Thank you for the fun of it all

Ode To Things That Go Bump in the Night

Dear daklings
stealth and silence
inform your travels
until the sound
that cries to be ignored
at last can not be denied
and our fears of mortality
of being vulnerable and powerless
have their night
and yet somehow
we endure to dread once more

Ode To Death

Greatest appointment
written in our life planner
though we may not know when
or how or where
we do know who and why

You invented planned obsolesence
expiration dates and dead lines
you are the omega
for even the most alpha
of dogs, cats, goldfish
grandmas and movie stars
can not delay their end times

Ode To Zee

You knew where it was at
before we knew where it wasn't
you found strength in words
wonder in phrases turned
beauty in an "ah-ha" moment
humor in the voice
and girl's-eye-view
of your younger self

Love was seen wherever
cruelty, fear, and bigotry
were unwelcome guests
honor was felt whenever
people stood up for others
and their right to a heart path
all their own

Great giver of gifts
cherished champion of the shy
welcome warrior of words
all those about to write
we salute you


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Memory, by Nina Miller

All of my contemporaries are worried about their memory.

It begins with the elusive noun — what is that guy's name? We had this wonderful dinner at ______?  It moves on to dates — when was it we went to Russia? to Yosemite?

We all complain of household lapses. I walked down the hall to get something but I couldn't remember why I was there. And we sometimes let things we should do slip by: appointments we should keep, performances for which we have tickets. We tease each other as a way of minimizing the anxiety, but it hovers over our shoulders, threatening what is supposed to be the serenity of the later years.

Some of us take preventive steps, like courses in memory retention. I do jigsaw and crossword puzzles and play Scrabble, having read that the brain-hand connection is useful. Recently a group of students came to the house to include me in a study of seniors living with chronic pain. The study seemed flawed to me in its design, but there was one element that I loved, which involved some mathematical memory activity forward and backward. I knocked it out of the park, and for weeks I comforted myself with that success as I searched for lost glasses, keys, a dental bridge.

I like to think that the decline in memory is not due to cells that are dying, or knots deep in the interior of my brain, but rather on an overload of information. The reason I can't remember the last novel I read is because I've read so many novels. My friend's name, a friend I've known for years? Well, I have so many friends; how could I possibly remember all their names? The video I just put on seems vaguely familiar. Ten minutes in and I realize I've already seen it. But then, I've seen thousands of movies.

Nice rationalizations, but really of no comfort. Mnemonic devices, notes to myself, younger friends who tactfully whisper missing information into my ear — those things help. As does letting go of the struggle to retrieve a name or event from the foggy forest of my mind. Somehow, when I'm not struggling, the missing piece of data pops into consciousness, and I want to kiss it, out of gratitude. It may happen moments after I've given up the struggle to extract it, or even  weeks later.

I would like to know more about the physiology of the aging brain. Did my smoking (given up almost 50 years ago) leave blank holes? And what is the impact of my daily Scotch? Wait, no, I don't want to know about that one because it's a behavior I'm unwilling to change.

I've watched several friends travel the terrifying road of Alzheimer's. That, or dementia, is the fear that lies beneath our anxiety over lost names and missing keys. Mostly these friends have descended quietly into that dark and lonely place, though a few gentle, sweet people have become aggressive and even violent. It is the survivors who suffer most, I think, as they watch someone beloved, someone who was an anchor of strength, fade away. 

I cannot, will not, do that to my children. I don't want to leave them with a memory of me lost to them, lost to myself. And so I formulate a plan to obtain what is needed and try to work out the legalities, the  alternatives. Most of all, I hope I can remember the plan in all of its details when the time comes.