Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Color Memories

Written by members of the Tuesday Morning Writing Circle on August 30, the first session of the new season, 15 minutes devoted to this theme . . . .


I have almost always worn something black. I don't do it for attention or to make a statement. I started out in elementary school, wearing black at concerts, where I played piano or violin, or where I sang. Black is the color of concert dress, so I wore it. No big deal. In junior high I was playing a lot of music, so I wore a lot of black. I often had to play in school, so I wore black all day long. By high school I was always wearing something black. I was severely depressed and had a full-blown eating disorder. Black suited my lifestyle, my mood, and my body. Even if nothing else, I would wear a black bandana around my neck. My high school boyfriend caught on to my scheme and would beg me to take off the bandana. I wouldn't. (Well, except when we were naked. But my pupils were still black, so ha on him.) In college I was a theatre and dance major. It went without saying that I would always have black on. When people asked me why, I quoted Masha in Chekhov's The Seagull, who said, "I am in mourning for my life." I was kidding, but kind of not, too. Flash forward to now: I wear all black. All the time. It's easy, it's simple, I never have to match anything. It's no big deal. Truly. Trust me when I tell you. Black suits me and I suit it. Simple.
    - Gabrielle Vehar


The blue and green dress my mother wore was my favorite. The fit was perfect for her after she lost a lot of weight after open-heart surgery. Her energy increased and happiness ensued, after the surgery. I loved joking and playing with her, soft games, nothing too physical. I always wondered how she chose the perfect shade of lipstick to go with the blue and green dress. I favor blue and green myself.
    - Grace Celeste

Ballet Pink

If you are a female dancer pink automatically becomes your color. When you are a little beginner, typically the class attire is ballet pink — a light pink, sort of a seashell pink — leotards, tights, and soft ballet slippers. As you progress through the ranks pink remains your friend. Standard class attire is black leotard, pink tights, and if you are proficient enough: pointe shoes. Still seashell pink, but now satiny and shiny. Back in the '70s dancers revolted and started wearing — gasp! — colored leotards. Mine was a sort of watermelon pink. My ballet professor in college called us Easter Eggs. I hope he was referring to our colors and not our shapes. If you were lucky enough to make it to the stage, pink was everywhere. The fairy pink of the Sugar Plum's tutu in Nutcracker. The deep royal pink of Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. The innocent, barely-there-pink of Giselle before she is betrayed by her lover. And yes, there is the pink of your sweaty, exhausted face, at the end of class.
    - Kim Falstick

I live in a teal-colored house — not my choice. Rather, Mrs. Sagan dreamed up the color and had Sherwin Williams create it. But I was attracted to the house on the corner because of its unique color. Teal. Not blue, not green, but a perfect mix of the two. Teal takes me back, back to college days. I'd been making many of my own clothes since I was 12, but the dark teal velvety corduroy jumper was my absolute favorite. With a sophisticated white blouse the teal jumper accented my own colors. My brown hair was deep and dark, my cheeks were rosy. I looked good! And I felt so good every time I wore it. It was so special. But sadly I don't know what happened to it. I'd like to open my closet door and see it hanging there in all its teal glory. 50 years later I still love teal — now it goes well with white hair.
    - Linda Keeler


My early years were filled with the color blue. It was the Virgin Mary's color, after all, and our classrooms and our church were filled with statues and pictures of her. Often she was depicted by the sea, and then there was more blue. Light blue, dark blue. The nuns told us, erroneously of course, that she was blond with blue eyes. Consequently, I was always chosen to portray her in any school pageant or play. Interestingly, Peter LeMay was always tapped to play Joseph, because he had black hair and dark brown eyes. Apparently the nuns had some different image of the masculine that was, or course, never explained. I was always disappointed that they didn't pick E. J. Burke, my first love that lasted from kindergarten until 8th grade, but that's another story entirely. His eyes were green, like grapes. So I would be draped in blue, blue gown, blue headgear, blue rosary beads. Always feeling like an impostor. I knew in my heart that I had thoughts that the Virgin Mary never had, but I didn't dare protest. Funny, I only recently started wearing blue again and I find I like it. Maybe I am more comfortable in myself, or maybe I think of Mary as more human? Anyway, I hope she liked the color.
    - Margaret Dennis


From the time I was a very young girl I liked to climb a tree when I saw a storm coming. Bracing myself against the wind as it grew to gale force was a special treat — I had to hug to a branch very tightly and feel it swaying as it also coped with the situation. Maybe, even more exciting than that, was the great good fortune of seeing a rainbow arch its way over my head after the storm passed. I loved the way the colors melted into each other in a seamless streak of light. From darkest purple all the way through to the fairness of yellow-white. I tried to count how many colors I could pick out of the blend. And, as it faded away, I sent a prayer out to the Rainbow Queen, thanking her for this exquisite encounter with colors.
    - Marty Blue Waters

Navy Blue

This was my favorite color for most of my life — a particular shade of navy, in stripes that alternated with white on a sleeveless sundress I had when I was six. We lived in a house in Liverpool, New York, with a big screened-in porch. In the summer this is where we ate dinner. My mother would set up card tables — the big one for her and my father; the little red one for my sister, brother, and me. The porch was shaded and cool in the summer with rush matting on the floor. No one else I knew had a porch like this, or ate their meals outside the dining room. Late in the day on these summer afternoons my mother would call us in from the yard and tell us it was time to wash up and change for dinner. I'd go up to the room I shared with my sister and pull out the blue and white striped dress from the closet. After I'd washed the dirt off my knees and hands, I'd put on the dress and immediately feel cool and elegant. Soon after, my father would arrive home from work and we'd find our seats at the table. I'd smooth down the navy blue and white striped skirt, sit up straight in my chair, and love every minute of being on the porch, on a warm summer evening, with my parents, sister, and brother.
    - Nancy Osborn


As a teenager, I had a purple boa. Not feather, not a snake, but a sheep-skin boa that I wore, which made me feel exactly like Janis Joplin. It was a shade or two darker than lilac, but not a deep purple. It was lovely. And became somewhat matted. But I loved it as a child loves her teddy bear. It's lost, but not forgotten.
    - Paula Culver


Running out in the field behind our house to break ears of corn off the tall stalks. Pulling back the rough husks and pale green-yellow silk to reveal perfect rows of sunshine yellow corn. Cooking it until it was bright yellow and shiny, and then slathering it with pale yellow creamy butter, while turning it round with the other hand, making sure all sides were covered. Doing the same with salt. And then eating it like you were typing, butter running down your chin.
    - Paula Culver

Black and White

Feeling like everything in our house was black and white and everything outside was in color. Like the Wizard of Oz. Let me out.
    - Paula Culver


The colors in an opal ring I wore — white, pink, beige, sparkle — matched the hand-sewn sequins on the mini dress my mother made me. The bodice sparkled and the rest was a satiny pale, pale pink. I wore white tights and pearl-colored shoes. My lipstick was pink, my perfume Tabu. My boyfriend picked me up in his mother's white car with pale blue leather seats. We drove to a new dance club across town. There was a disco ball which seemed to match my ring and my dress. We danced and danced, fast and slow. Then after dancing for hours we sat in his car and kissed for a long time. He was a gentleman, but I always wanted more. He drove me home at the proper hour and walked me to the front door, where my parents were waiting. We said goodnight with a chaste kiss, my lipstick all gone. He left with my heart. I took off my dress and sparkling ring, etc. I dreamed of his kisses.
    - Sara Robbins


I got married in an old red shirt of my father's, and blue jeans, by a Justice of the Peace. At our reception the next day I wore a long purple dress — loose rayon — to accommodate my 3-month baby belly. I still have that dress in my closet — dusty and faded. I wonder if it still fits.
    - Sara Robbins


Red — On Eastern Long Island, if we were very observant, patient, and lucky, we'd find indian paint pots in plowed fields being readied for the new potato crop. The pots were round bits of red sandstone with an indentation worn in the middle where dampened fingers of Shinnecock Indians had rubbed the stone to pick up color. We spit on our fingers, rubbed, and traced sienna markings on our arms.

Red — The color of zinnias in a street-side garden. We zoomed past on our bikes as we raced to the school playground to play baseball.

Red — The color of the roses Mme. Jeanne grew in her courtyard. It was a small, hidden spot behind her hairdressing studio, sheltered between our protruding bakery wall and the wall of the tiny neighborhood grocery on the other side. It was a bit of her home country, where only French was spoken.

Red — Always the color of my little sister's sunsuits. Red with small blue doll-like figures one year; red with tiny yellow and blue flowers another. Each wore out in the seat by the end of the summer.
    - Sue Norvell

Pink and Orange

Not my memory, but my mother's excuse for why I got the smallest bedroom in our house. We moved into the house in 1943. I was 9 months old, which is why it's not my memory. My bedroom, until I moved out in 1961, was painted pink. Over the years I hung pictures on the wall, and as a teenager, after seeing a picture in Seventeen magazine, I hung an orange fishnet over two walls of my room. On that orange fishnet I put photos, magazine articles, postcards, and anything else I felt like hanging up. It was under this orange fishnet that I would lie on my bed and listen to Johnny Mathis singing "Wonderful Wonderful" over and over and over again. My mother's excuse for me being in the smallest bedroom was that the painter painted the wrong room pink, and thus it became mine. It wasn't until I was much older, and the house was sold, that it occurred to me that at 9 months old I wouldn't have cared if my room was wallpapered with cowboys. But then again, maybe at two years old my brother would have objected to pink.
    - Sue Perlgut

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Declutter Meditation, by Stacey Murphy

On the inhale, 
I breathe in an open shoe-rack

On the exhale, 

I remove an unhelpful thought

On the inhale,

I make space on a shelf

On the exhale, 

I place an old habit in the trash bag

On the inhale, 

I smell gentle lemony cleaners

On the exhale, 

the old tattered blanket goes to the animal shelter

On the inhale, 

is space and potential

On the exhale, 

comes limitless creation

Saturday, July 9, 2016

In the Kitchen, by Yvonne Fisher

In the kitchen we sat at a small round table eating close together.

In the kitchen I pumped my Bosco chocolate syrup into my milk every morning: one, two, three, four, five, six pumps of chocolate. I grew up on a diet of sugar and potato chips.

In the kitchen we had a half grapefruit as an appetizer for dinner. My mother cut the grapefruit in half and we used little serrated spoons to cut out tiny little grapefruit sections and then we would squeeze the remaining grapefruit juice into the bowl and we would drink it down.

In the kitchen we could look out the window in the early years and actually see the Empire State Building all the way in the distance. Could that possibly be true? The sunsets were incredible in that housing project wasteland where we lived.

In the kitchen we ate goulash all the time. My parents' food from the old country. I spit out the fat from the meat and pushed it under the rim of the plate, hoping my mother wouldn't see it.

In the kitchen my mother would threaten to hit us with a wooden spoon when we were bad or fighting with each other, my brother, Michael, and me.

Every time my mother would open the drawer with the wooden spoon we would scream and beg her and promise to be good.

In the kitchen I never wanted to eat.

In the kitchen the TV would be on blasting in the living room while we ate our meals.

In the kitchen one day my father cut his arm and hit a vein or an artery and blood spurted out everywhere while I watched in horror.

In the kitchen there was a rotary phone with a ringlet cord where we all would talk on the phone. My mother would gossip in Yiddish to her friends for hours.

In the kitchen I sat by that phone and waited and waited for my boyfriend to call.

In the kitchen my parents found a used washing machine and brought it home and when they opened the top a million cockroaches ran out while I watched in horror.

In the kitchen I quietly snuck cookies at night after everyone went to sleep. I couldn't stop eating cookies.

In the kitchen I stayed up all night typing my report for school the night before it was due on an old, rusty typewriter.

In the kitchen I couldn't see the Empire State Building anymore after they built that tall apartment building. I couldn't see sunsets anymore. There was only a little sky left.

In the kitchen I listened to the radio when I came home for lunch while my mother sang along: I love you a bushel and a peck.

In the kitchen I fought with my mother about when I would wash the dishes. I washed them as late as I possibly could.

In the kitchen I danced around while my brother was seriously learning to cook.

In the kitchen I read books because I had no place else to go.

In the kitchen we ate creamed spinach, creamed corn. Everything was creamed.

In the kitchen my father died. He collapsed right there in the kitchen. I called the doctor on the rotary phone. He said he would come over. We waited for the doctor to come. My mother was leaning over my father's body. My brother was playing knock hockey at the community center. I was standing at the door waiting for the doctor. When the doctor came he told my mother to give mouth to mouth resuscitation. They closed the door to the kitchen. I didn't see when my father died.  My mother walked from room to room, keening. I followed her from room to room. My father lay dead in the kitchen. Someone went to get my brother.

A week later we sat in the kitchen. It was Thanksgiving. We had no turkey. We had no Thanksgiving after that.

In the kitchen we sat at the round little table and looked out the window at what was left of the sky.

Friday, July 8, 2016

What's In My Pantry?, by Kim Falstick

What's in my pantry?
cat food — most important!
corn meal
canned beans
canned tuna
baking soda
baking powder
corn starch
kosher salt
black pepper
more spices than I can count
shredded wheat
the makings for s'mores
canned tomato soup
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
red wine vinegar
soy sauce
worcheshire sauce
vanilla extract
almond extract
baking chocolate

did I mention WINE?

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Writing the Body: a collective list

This list was created on Monday, June 13, 2016, at the start of a workshop held at the Tompkins County Public Library. The theme of the workshop was "Writing the Body / Moving the Body" and making individual lists was our 5-minute warm-up. Here are samples from each list, combined into one larger, collective piece . . . a body mosaic.

My body is beautiful the way it is, it is artistic, natural, magical. My body is part of the universe. It is not perfect, it does not define me, it is not an object. My body is 68 years old, it enjoys gardening and having fun again, it is growing more and more gray hairs. It does not walk the dog anymore, it does not adjust well to changes in altitude (getting out of a chair, going up the stairs).

My body is partially broken, almost hairless, getting stronger. It is supported by at least three mechanical devices. My body is old but it is not ancient. It is not getting weaker, betraying me, preventing me from doing what I want to do. My body is useful, important to me, still telling me things, able to remember things, comfortable. My body is not useless, weak, worn out, too demanding, afraid to communicate.

My body is a fun vessel to inhabit. It is female, ripe, mature, nicely curvaceous. My body is part Native American, part German. My body has been changed by birthing and nursing. My body is appreciated. My body is on the path toward dying. My body is not skinny, male, problematic, irritating, teen-aged, fragile, sad, or small. My body is faithful, familiar, where I live. My body is not young.

My body is alive. It is a miracle. It is an energetic waterway. My body is able to heal itself. It is able to run on solar power. My body is not immortal, immutable, unwise, stationary. My body is not without flaws, but I don't care. My body is mine, it is large, functional, observant, sometimes in pain. My body is aware of all the senses. It is not ugly, it is not petite. It is not yours.

My body is the best gift from my parents. It is the strongest soldier I know. My body is changing every day. It is a canvas, it is what people judge me on first. My body is too demanding. It is betraying me. My body is not always my friend. It is not a dumpster, it is not a quitter, it is not someone else's property. My body is not a toy for you to play with. My body is not like anyone else's.

My body is open, it is an extension of my mind folded inside out, it is a living breathing house. My body is how my heart carries out its wants. My body is not mine alone, it is not private, it is not dead. My body is not fixed or afraid. It is not disconnected from me. My body is comfortable. It is sometimes in my way. It is a thing I like to decorate (with gold). My body is annoying at times. It is the result of the life I've lived for 74 years. My body is not as agile as it used to be. It is not an excuse. My body is not always obedient to my wishes.

My body is my own, my cage, my prison, my enemy. My body is dependent on coffee. My body is all I have. My body is identical to my twin sister's yet completely different. My body is mortal, fragile. It is 22 years old. My body is not yours, it is not made to please you. It is not my ally or your home. My body is not what I see in the mirror. My body is a blessing, my instrument, my nemesis, my enemy. My body is an enigma. It is my question mark. My body is not what it used to be, it is not my dancer's body. My body is not someone I want to take a shower with.

My body is brave, experienced, strong, aging, muscular, sagging, slowing down, wanting too much food too often. My body is growing hair in all the wrong places. It is not as predictable as it used to be, it is not as tall as it used to be, it is not as anxious or as worried as it used to be. My body is most alive early in the morning. It is stronger today than it was last year. It is calm. It is 65 years old. My body is not ever going to run a marathon. It is not a disappointment to me. It is not my mother's or my father's but I recognize bits and pieces of their bodies in my body.

My body is.


Thank you to all these contributors:

Annalisa Raymer
Barbara Kane Lewis
Betsy Herrington
Dianne Ferris
Katherine Grudens
Kim Falstick
Lynn Olcott
Mara Alper
Mary Louise Church
Patricia Grudens
Rainbow Crow
Rosette Epstein
Ruth O'Lill
Victoria Pallard
Zee Zahava

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Memories: Under 20 — a collective list

This week in each of the Writing Circles we did a twenty minute warm-up, recalling memories from our lives before we were twenty years old. Here is a sample of what came up for us:

I remember . . . .

the time a stray dog came onto the school playground during recess and peed on my little white ankle sock and I cried so hard I had to go home

my first kiss, age 5, on the school bus, with a dark haired boy with pretty brown eyes

my sister and I wearing matching outfits for years and years, until puberty changed everything

daddy's garden where he grew the best tomatoes I've ever eaten; going to junk stores with my mother and loving it

sleeping in my bathing suit so I could  jump into the pool when I woke up in the morning and the summer my hair turned green from too much swimming in chlorinated water

brushing the neighbor's dog every day, until I had enough fur to make a pillow

dancing outside at night by myself under a blanket of stars

my fisherman's sweater that I got at the thrift store, and how I would wash it and then stretch it so it would be super long and comfy

the voice lesson where my father asked me to imitate a recording of an operatic aria, and I did, and my big voice finally popped out

taking off my shoes to walk in the mirrored room with my brother at the Albright Knox Art Gallery

my mother standing and stirring and stirring something on the stove while I picked myself up off the floor from where my father had thrown me

throwing bibles around Sunday School class just to be a pain, and getting kicked out by Mrs. Lazaar

watching a neighbor's house burn and smelling the horrid  smell of complete ruin

watching the TV show, "My Little Margie," with my best friend Sylvia, at her house in Orient Point, Long Island

listening to the tiny stones in the waves on Long Island Sound as I ate my picnic lunch by the foamy sea-walk when the tide was going out

riding the school bus home, without my mother's permission, when I was 5 years old

fifth grade: a film about menstruation, my feeble attempt to talk to my mother, and my vow to never again try to talk to her about anything important

fifth grade: my teacher taking my hand to show me how to write properly and my snatching my hand away, yelling "Don't Touch Me!"

fifth grade: anger big enough to blow up everything and everyone in my house

fifth grade: receiving a guitar for my birthday — all through my adolescence and beyond I played and sang angry songs and tender songs and songs of longing and yearning and songs telling my stories and my passions, my fears, my hopes, my losses, my triumphs

believing that something really bad would happen to me if I pulled that tag off the mattress of my bed

the smell of my father's morning cigarette as the smoke wafted up the stairs from his seat at the kitchen table, making its way to my bedroom — first on the left

standing next to my desk at school, reciting the 5-times table and being so happy I hadn't been asked to do the 7's

my favorite T-shirt in my favorite color, yellow, with the word "yellow" written across the front in red

watching our German shepherd play in the small pool my mother had put up and filled for us; he only went in when he thought we weren't watching

my sister and I taking our dolls for a walk beside the road,  racing, and Kaye passed me and then Mr. Hinman's car hit her doll carriage and knocked her to the ground

three knolls behind the house — it was great fun to walk over them in the summer and to slide down them in the winter

mom and us girls would go into the woods to find hepaticas as soon as the snow was gone; sometimes we found dog's tooth violets

Glen Johnson had the most beautiful blue Chevy and I would wait on the front porch for him to pull into the yard to pick me up for a date — we'd stop somewhere along the way and do a little necking

my favorite place to visit, Nellie Bly, a small amusement park for children — eating pink cotton candy that stuck to my hot hands and to my face

the librarian in our small Brooklyn library who let me rummage through the old Nancy Drew mysteries in the back room, which made me feel pretty special and almost like a librarian myself

the end-of-year kindergarten banquet: I wore a pink dress and white sandals with little heels; my hair was up in a bun — this was the first time I felt like royalty and I didn't want the night to end

the puppy who arrived from the woods when I was three years old, and who stayed for 15 years

the frustration of trying to get roller skate clamps to work on tennis shoes

riding in the back seat, on my knees, backwards, to see where we'd been

biking around the neighborhood to organize a baseball team but avoiding George

the scariest, darkest outhouse in the world, on South Bass Island

having burgers and beer for lunch with my father and brother in local bars, at the age of twelve

listening to my parents giving us "the talk" about the evils of drinking and smoking as they sipped their Rob Roys and puffed on Lucky Strikes

learning my draft status was 1-A and I would soon be going to Vietnam

riding my bike down Rose Drive —  not allowed — too steep — too bad!

taking ballet classes in Rochester, a 45-minute drive each way; I had been the big frog in a little pond in my hometown and now I was just a frog

my ballet teacher, a large woman who wore black chiffon dresses and spiky heels; her hair was an unnatural shade of red and she could yell like a trooper, but she needed to in order to be heard over the noise from the bar below

standing in my crib, diaper in place, eyes wide with wonder and amazement, taking in all the things in my view

playing spin the bottle and no one wanting it to land on me and me, so shy and awkward, praying it would pass me by

shyness so strong it made life almost unbearable

hating my parents so much I couldn't wait to leave and then, after the leaving, being so homesick I had a hard time being alive

feelings of self-loathing, never imagining I could experience anything resembling self-love

the blue and white quilted carpet in grandma's kitchen that felt spongy

my sister hiding in the cupboard after she upset grandpa; then finding my sister and telling my grandpa

learning to play a song with five sharps in it and bragging about it to my friends at school

coloring a triangle green before the pre-school teacher told us to, because I could read the instructions, and getting in trouble for not waiting to be told

smoking one of my dad's cigarettes in the bathroom where the bottle of Jean Naté sat on the chrome shelf for twenty years

a small stand of pines on the grassy bit between where we lived and the highway, where once a week every summer the bookmobile came

taking a book down to the riverside and lounging in a tree whose trunk split above the water, sun dappled and happy

doing rain dances in the side yard when a storm was germinating, the smell of ozone and long rumbles

receiving a fat envelope from NASA that had color pictures of the Gemini and Apollo space crafts

finishing "A Separate Peace," by John Knowles, between classes, and being stunned emotionally the rest of the day

being inducted into DeMolay, which was sort of a Masons junior

liking archery because you didn't have to run

building a giant snow igloo fort, almost three feet tall

using my piano lesson dollar to buy an ice cream sundae

Susan made the grass with blue and yellow while I made mine with just green

thinking "Thank goodness for Joanie Quateraro" who occupied the bottom rung on the friends ladder, right below me

trying to be brave and walk to school alone, but the big boys down the street threw rotten potatoes at me and I ran home

hot summers in Illinois, sitting in the living room on the floor, curtains closed against the heat, organizing our marble collections in the gloom

at night, in our bedroom, my younger sister whispering and whispering to me to please, please not fall asleep, she didn't want to be the only one awake in the house

our neighbors always got to drink Kool-Aid in the summer but we never did; it was so unfair

in the summer we would ride for miles into the country near our house — no one noticed us, no one worried about us, no one bothered us — and halfway through our ride we'd stop at the dairy that sold ice cream cones and then sit in the cemetery across the road and eat them

to pass the time on hot summer days I'd flip through Bartlett's Quotations to read what famous people had to say

my sister and I spent every summer afternoon at the pool; she tanned, but I turned into a lobster

my dad reaching down and grabbing a rattlesnake by the tail, snapping it in the air like a bullwhip, cracking its head off and sending it into the next county

putting a wad of gum in the church collection plate one time, causing my mother to see the devil blossoming within me, and that fear compelled her to start looking more closely for other evidence that I might be heading straight for hell on a hijacked Baptist Underground Railroad

sitting under the maple tree in the front yard, soft grass on my legs, searching for 4-leaf clovers

going into the powder room and lining up all the miniature white plastic tubes of lipstick samples from the Avon lady

taping the Sonny and Cher show on my portable cassette player so that my sister and I could act it out until the next week's episode

burning my fingers on my oldest sister's electric curlers

wanting heart-shaped rose-colored glasses like Elton John's for my birthday and not getting them; but I did have plaid platform shoes so at least I got something like Elton John

Cape Cod, age 5, 1957:  the smell of hot sand, warm carpet of pine needles, low tide

walking out through deepening water, waves slapping almost to my mouth, and then the miracle of reaching the sand bar, and the safety of shallow water

going to my family’s favorite restaurant, The Wee Packet — Bob Briggs, owner and chef, was a big man with a big voice and he wore a bright yellow apron and a bright yellow tall chef’s hat;  he was a jokester with both adults and kids, but sometimes I couldn’t tell he was joking and  once he scared me so much I ran crying out of the restaurant

my childhood home in rural New Jersey and the creek that flowed behind it, in the woods, where I collected orange salamanders and put them in a jar with holes punched into the lid

fireflies on a June night, so many that the yard was lit up like a fairytale

reading the "Babar the Elephant" books and feeling that Celeste and Arthur were real, just like people

my beautiful bedroom in our new house, with a flowered bedspread, and Degas prints of ballet dancers on the wall, all of which were chosen by my mother without any question of what I might have wanted, and how that seemed very normal at the time

leaving home for college at 17, not knowing that it was the beginning of a journey that would change me completely and make me not my mother's daughter

planting green beans with my mother and pushing them back into the earth when they began to sprout

reading books while walking to school because I couldn't put them down

the whispered imperatives of the wind while riding my bike  downhill

the sweet/sour crunchy pillowy pancakes, freshly made with buttermilk, and dressed with lemon juice and sugar

the smell of the River Thames by my grandfather's house

the thrill of the cockpit view my first time in plane at 4 years old, sitting on Daddy's lap because he worked for the airline so we could sit with the pilots

my skirts too loose, my socks too wide, all slipping down because I was so small and they were so big, not grown into yet

gum on the end of my nose as punishment for chewing it in class

walking into dark woods lit by moonlight, swallowing the full moon whole

stargazing — wondering, longing, hoping there were others out there looking back at me

riding in a convertible to Canada with my girlfriends when gasoline was well under $1 a gallon

the Mr. Softee ice cream truck on its daily neighborhood run

sleepovers at friends' houses where I was always the first to fall asleep

eating rose petals

eating ice cream and potato chips for breakfast

tap dance lessons, accordion lessons, piano lessons, drum lessons, Polish language classes

playing "priest" in my bedroom, my bathrobe tied in front in a big double knot, swinging the incense on each of my brothers and sisters seated before me, blessing them and pretending to be reading in Russian from the Curious George book held in my left hand

wishing for a father, to go along with a mother, like all the other kids had

sitting for hours at my little aqua and black metal table, copying library books by hand

the exquisite "thrill of naughty" when the water balloon left my hands, bound for my sister who was far below me

the sharp pain of being pulled by my ear from my seat, on the first day of kindergartner, and then being bullied into compliance by my teacher and the principal, Mother Superior

the sheer joy of hearing the greatest rock and roll song ever recorded for the very first time — 1960: "Quarter to Three," by Gary U. S. Bonds, of course

every Wednesday — Weekly Reader Day! — climbing to my special perch and inhaling each story, cover to cover

delivering newspapers in a hurricane from a sense of duty until a wise customer told me to go home because my safety was more important than their reading the news that day

having a pretend wedding and forcing my family to sit on the couch as I walked down the aisle with a lace curtain on my head as a veil

my mother asking me what i wanted for lunch every day and I always said peanut butter and jelly and I always got it

listening to Barbra Streisand when I was 15 years old and thinking I wanted to be her

always being scared

being surprised at how good I was at jump rope and how proud that made me feel

going from never fighting with my mother to suddenly always fighting with her

my mother always tenderly peeling and cutting an apple for me as we watched TV at night

when the first Burger King opened in our neighborhood and my dad had a huge fight with the manager because he didn't want any ketchup on his burger and the man told dad never to come back again

my mother was very unhappy about the junk drawer in the kitchen, under the sink — it was always too full, too messy, too damn junky

my grandma would come to our apartment early in the morning and make everyone a Guggle Muggle: skim milk, Bosco chocolate syrup, a raw egg, mixed up the Osterizer blender — as soon as you heard the whirrrr of the blender you knew it was time to get out of bed

on rainy days all the kids in our apartment building gathered in the long downstairs hallway to roller skate or ride our bikes back and forth, play jacks, jump rope, and always making lots of noise, and not caring that we drove the grownups crazy

my first lie, in first grade: I told the girl in the seat in front of me that I was really a third grader but I was in her class as a spy

. . . . I remember it all

THANK YOU, dear contributors:

Annie Wexler
Barbara Cartwright

Chris McNamara
Cora Ellen Luke
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace C.
Janie Nusser
Joyce L Stillman
Katherine May
Kim Falstick
Kim Zimmerman
Leslie Howe
Lisa Schwartz
Mara Alper
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Nancy Osborn
Paula Culver
Ray Edwin
Rob Sullivan
Ross Haarstad
Sara Robbins
Susanna Drbal
Teresa Wagner
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Our Own Made-Up Languages Lead Us To Poetry

Here are poems written by some members of the writing circles this week. First we wrote gibberish. Then we called upon our "expertise" in our own made-up languages and translated nonsense syllables into small poems. This was a quick warm-up and lots of fun.

Annie Wexler:

soola toni soola klimish
donish woomino nils
Jashi tuglaki

this is mine, all mine
give it back to me
Jashi, I beg you

Barbara Cartwright:

gleeg ow nombi
ninakabindi ninakabindikae

flat lake much moving food
busy bird so fast
home now
with those who come from here
gathering their heartbeats to her beating heart
all beat as one

Gabrielle Vehar:

schminga schmonga-blah
ichi cummi est

if you are slow to talk
when you open your mouth
others will be slow to listen!

ay-chi wa wa wa-wah
condi schmeary schming —

let's go have a drink
for old times' sake —
it will be good fun!


Grace Celeste:

su nee zuat
qe buba waet stu na
click click do
ce ce
ya goatye aught

hello sweet
the buffalo greets you
the time is now
to each her own


Jayne Demakos:

say la mordid on
il ona on jim
si fomi ish in si nome a shim
if a my in a listo my
kin a line a no-o
say la mordid if a my a go

this morning started wrong
the tiger is in wait
she tears at your heart; she breaks your skin
go in the car and be safe
this morning started wrong; begin again


Kim Falstick:

Atia ma eetog
egraz fo sas
umu elt alpoo

Petunia mama goat
grazing in grass
tummy is lumpy

Liz Burns:

odu iklat emte po
boda ifly jlkwe mo
fleda ikbar nowa ku
emta odu illa su

the hummingbird beat
its wings near
the morning glory and
then flew away

idla upsu gita ly
mobale pumi ina ky
addl opah lima ton
noda ina bede son

the sun set very slowly
purples and pink spreading across
the sky like a field of
lavender and phlox

Margaret Dennis:

Tui Ablia
Musomocha seri
Lablona ar samplioso mo
Su Ma rain-ee

You are all
My beautiful mother
Above land or sea
Or all the rain

Marty Blue Waters:

ba na bipbo dun cha ha
bo booookie wa na
sashimonogagay jute jute baboo

I love to eat noodles
sucked from the plate like long curly straws
schloopy funny bite bite


Nancy Osborn:

Jemel, jemel
Ila ah gorney
Ena gorneyish mala

The sky, the sky
Filled with clouds
Even the sun is cloudy

Nura imal poosha
Tinto imal poosha
Pooshama heela oo-rah

The fog is damp
The mist is damp
Dampness surrounds me

Notingle palam cur-eesh
Zenka kalat
Oo-me salenga bash

The cherry tree blossoms
Are they ready to fall?
Let them fall on me

Paula Culver:

durka bombi essi dorki
makka mukka moorda memmbe
ika oka ponzilla perqoi pantifica
lumkaykay omnowica u lozairna

oh you sweet thing
making much of my swollen heart
i offer you a long gaze
kisses under the waterfall

Rob Sullivan:

ma ya ki
ma ya ki
be bye swin-ka

qui chi lan
tu kal yan
lu shan bun

wa clor pon
lon de fon
gi chla hun

ma ya ki
ma ya ki
be bye swin-ka

night of glory
night of glory
all will be as will

to the heart
for the soul
be true — expand

let go of boundaries
never mind negation
you are free now

night of glory
night of glory
all will be as will

Sara Robbins:

Eee Ya Ki!
Eee Ya Ki!
Ono bolo toptop hehe
Krakka kolo ooh la po
Ono bolo hehe yaii
Ee Ya Ki!

Come and play!
Come and play!
One boy stands alone
Frozen pond, skates in hand
One boy alone cries
Come and play!

Moomie scolo
Yaya plando
Avu! Avu!
Moomie carpo o ploto
Moomie scolo panga

Woman cries
Baby howls
Wah! Wah!
Woman dries her tears
woman cries again

Stacey Murphy:

owsa owsa ow
bolo ee-ya dombobo
da jala eeya

yes yes you
climb in, here, my heart
here we rest

(alternate translation):
shake shake jump
twirl with me in the this dance
there is no dance without you

* * * * * (clicking sounds)
shaaaah plee donda da da
* * plee-ya

sun sun sun sun sun!
butterflies we lift the sky
sun sun . . . lift us

Sue Crowley:

jabe ul omno voyum skl en tabik ummm

given all, to live as the water moves

nimo skl nelinosum faykun un satolaria

now, rest in the tall grass and behold the sky

crunelum omnu dadicat illexelum

come all unto the ruler who declares himself most excellent

Susan Lessser:

gamal ong ha ting derong
mcdoodle nak eks frambik
tak a mern ushk sabrot cloing billintor
faram stamsik — mik, mik, mik

the cat tells tales with swinging tail
no one thinks them true
but he knows much and wants to share
the mouse peeks in — again, again, again

Yvonne Fisher:

ik bluge grooge nikt
imba badeem tevi
bligmu upin drakski

indigo bunting eats dinner on the feeder
at night we watch TV
in bed bright blue iridescent
big moon dark sky

ber bru blik blee bla

brighter than brightest bird indigo bunting behold!

Zee Zahava:

pat taku shi

in garden shadows

pep swool unk dri
wishi aloo
seei o'kum

girl and her frog
water's edge
young love

whim whim whim
toto ha
lamma ta

inhale inhale inhale
this street
so sweet

smee cri otchum
kili ma tomay
deevit olfa

the sun on my face
the way you
kiss my cheek

way hay skillie
mini mini tomay
pin jette

hello cardinal
i was waiting for you
now here you are

opo: k'k'k'k

oh how i miss you: pineapples


This poem was written by Margaret Dennis. She took a group of random words that had been scattered across a piece of paper, and transformed them:

drops   rain   taste   fall   splash   tears   water   heal   wet

taste the drops of rain as they fall
water splashes: wet
tears heal