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My Name Is Miriam
by Michele Hyatt-Blankman

A world of dreams imploded by age
My mirrored face gazes back at me.
Summers of buttercups would soon be over,
The sweet taste of life, too, would wane.
This is the sum of me, I thought.
This is who I am,
But who am I really?

My name is Miriam.

No one calls me that.
Miriam exists no more,
Her story like so many others
Fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers
Their lives in trinkets and candles
and clothes edged in lace,
All that make a house a home
looted and littered with shards of glass,
photos and papers shredded and burned,
nothing left to share
no one left to share it.
Ghosts of children, too.
A one-armed bear matted with drool.
A crinkled Monopoly board, pieces lost.
Stick-figured cats on wrinkled paper.

And Miriam, like so many others,
robbed of strength and spirit,
No way to stand, nowhere to go.
Mired in the mud where life used to be.
Where men toiled
and women cooked
and children giggled
and lovers kissed
and teachers taught
and rabbis chanted

Burning embers are all that remain
where skeletal villages are living graves,
spit on by brown-shirted boys, barely men,
air thick with the stench of the dying, the dead.

A fortunate few able to flee,
Jammed in a barge destined for dreams
In America

Among the chattel, my grandmother,
Miriam’s sister,
Her dress so lovingly stitched,
Now stained and grimy,
Sagging on her four-foot frame
So tiny against this monster war
That had choked her childhood,
And in its wake, sweet Miriam.

In this barge prison, my grandmother
masking pain and loss,
Like so many others on the boat that day,
headed in fear for freedom
hanging onto a frayed rope of hope
through fickle waters,
hearts pounding with each ocean wave.
Like others, she cries and no one hears,
should hear,
but Miriam.

My grandmother,
Packing her pain what little was left
As she headed for the boat that day
Her small carpet pouch filled
With photos, maybe a coin or two
From her beloved Austria.

Dreams of freedom mixed with fear
No family waiting,
to yell, “Here I am!”
No shoulder to cry on.
No aunt or uncle or friend to say,
“Cry on if you want, cry if you must,”
Her tears invisible. No one must know.

My grandmother,
so small and frail at seventeen.
Her high-top shoes,
Scuffed with dirt and wear.
What would her mother say?

She shudders.
Her mother gone. Her father, too.
Nine brothers and sisters left behind.
in distant snaking smoke.

And Miriam
Her sister, her confidante
Her anchor to life itself.
Where was she?
Her dear, sweet Miriam.
Like the rest of them.
Devoured.

Now, generations later,
The smoke long cleared,
I carry her name.

“Miriam.” Hebrew. “Rebellious,”
And yet, how could Miriam rebel?
How would she? How could she?
No voice to scream. No fists to fight.

I am bound to rebel where she could not.
I am bound to remember her,
and all the others who died with her
and all those who would have been born
for generations to follow
if only she had lived.

I am bound to speak for those muted by fear
To show strength for those who cannot.

I am bound to rebel
My name is Miriam.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author’s grandmother Regina (sister of her namesake Great Aunt Miriam Teichman).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “My Name Is Miriam” is written in honor of my Great Aunt Miriam, my namesake and one of many of my relatives slaughtered in the concentration camps of Nazi Germany. It is also my way of paying tribute to my grandmother, Regina, who was one of the fortunate few to escape to America and a new life.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michele Hyatt-Blankman, of Columbia, Maryland, is the wife of Jon Blankman, and the proud mom of two sons, Richard, of Brooklyn, New York, and Joshua, of San Antonio, Texas. After receiving her BA in English at Virginia Wesleyan in Norfolk, Virginia, and pursuing a Journalism degree as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at Marshall University in Huntington, Virginia, she followed careers in both public relations and book editing. Now, she enjoys time at home with her four cats. Her favorite hobbies are making scrapbooks and cards.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTO: At home with two of my four cats, Gizmo (gray and white) and our newest addition, Sheldon, named after my favorite character in The Big Bang Theory.

Deeth 3
Blind
by Sheila Deeth

In the country of the blind, the sighted child,
or one-eyed man or stranger,
cannot be.
In the land of those with sight, the blighted child,
or Sheila or Cecilia
is me.
But watch, for in this country I have smiled;
one-eyed or strange I’ve learned how
to be free.

AUTHOR’S CAPTION FOR THE PHOTOGRAPH: In the country of the dog, Maggie sees Sheila.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sheila Deeth is the author of Divide by Zero and other novels published by Second Wind Publishing, the Five-Minute Bible Stories Series from Cape Arago Press, Tails of Mystery coming soon from Linkville Press, and other stories and poems. She is an English American, Catholic Protestant, mathematician writer, and her poem “Blind” reflects that balance of unbelonging and freedom born of being a square peg in round holes. The name Sheila comes from Cecilia, which means “blind.”

450px-Bastet,_a_feline_goddess_of_ancient_Egyptian_religion_who_was_worshipped_at_least_since_the_Second_Dynasty,_Neues_Museum,_Berlin_(8176557415)
Resonance
by Mary Bast

Ten years as ex’s Schwab
required a change.
I curled around the sounds
of Ntozake Shange ‒
en-toh-ZAH-kee SHAHN-gay
her name sings itself.
She knew she’d go nowhere
as Williams, Paulette L.,
nor could the noise of Schwab
contain the woman I’d become.

I wished to break completely,
dump the Mary, too, grow into
Maya or Simone, but drifting
without tethers taught desirable –
a life as wife – the lone container
of emerging self kept Mary
for continuance, and for music
searched the names of goddesses,
conceived a yearning for the playful,
fierce cat-goddess Bast.
Intone her name, accenting “buh,” vibrating “ahh,”
now ringing “sss,” then noting “tuh” – Buhahhssstuh.

PHOTOGRAPH: Images of the Egyptian goddess Bastet at the Neues Museum (Berlin, Germany).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I carried my ex’s Schwab for 10 years after our divorce, until my son became comfortable with our having different last names, then spent months thinking about it, not wanting to revert to my father’s Ritter, but rather to find a symbolic female name. With my daughter’s help and a book of goddess names, I settled on Bast, known for delivering believers from evil spirits. This amused me, because my work as coach and consultant to business executives at that time definitely required releasing some evil spirits.

bast

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary Bast writes poetry, found poetry, and creative nonfiction. Her two poetry chapbooks (Eeek Love and Time Warp) and two found poetry chapbook (Unmuzzled, Unfettered and Toward the Riverare available at Amazon.com. She’s also an Enneagram coach, author of seven nonfiction books, and artist.

journey Summer is here and people are hitting the road to enjoy some rest and relaxation — and maybe even some cultural enrichment. What’s your idea of a perfect vacation? If you’ve experienced one — tell us about it in a poem or flash fiction (100 words or fewer). Or if you’re still waiting for your dream sojourn, let us know what you envision — in a poem or flash fiction.

PROMPT: In a poem or flash fiction (100 words or fewer), tell us about your perfect vacation — real or imagined.  Please send a photo of yourself — at any age — to accompany the poem, and provide a caption for the photo (when, where). (If possible, send a vacation photo.)

WHAT: Submissions can be original or previously published poems or flash fiction. You retain all rights to your work and give Silver Birch Press permission to publish on social media and in a potential print edition.

WHEN: We’ll feature the poems/flash fiction and photos during the Silver Birch Press MY PERFECT VACATION Poetry/Flash Fiction Series from July 15th through August 31, 2015.

HOW TO SUBMIT: Email one poem or flash fiction to SBPSUBMISSIONS@gmail.com as an MSWord attachment — and in the same file include your name, contact info (including email address), one-paragraph author’s bio (written in third person), and any notes about your creative process or thoughts about your poem. Please put all this information in one MSWord document and title the file with your last name (and only your last name). Write”Vacation” in subject line of email. Please send a photo of yourself (vacation photo, if available)— at any age — to accompany the poem, and provide a caption for the photo (when, where).

SUBMISSION CHECKLIST
To help everyone understand our submission requirements, we’ve prepared the following checklist.

1. Send ONE MS Word document TITLED WITH YOUR LAST NAME (e.g. Smith.doc or Jones.docx).

2. In the same MS Word document, include your contact information (name, mailing address, email address).

3. In the same MS Word document, include an author’s bio, written in the third person (e.g., Bill Smith has been writing since age seven…”).

4. In the same MS Word document, include a note about your poem or creative process (this is optional).

5. In the same MS Word document, include a caption for your photo (including where, when and/or date taken).

6. Send a photo of yourself at any age as a SEPARATE jpg attachment (not in the MS Word document). Title the photo with your last name (e.g., Jones.jpg). (We’d prefer vacation photos.)

7. Email to SBPSUBMISSIONS@gmail.com — and put VACATION in the subject line. (NOTE: This is a new email address for this series.) 

SUBMISSION DEADLINE: Friday, July 31, 2015

NOTIFICATION: If your poem or flash fiction is selected for the series, you will be notified by August 15, 2015.

Thank you! Happy travels (real or imagined)!

escude
Catalunya
by Alejandro Escudé

There is an entire row of village houses
just outside Barcelona, in the town of Gélida,
inhabited by Escudés—my very distant family
from when my Great Grandfather
sailed to Argentina. So, I am an immigrant
thrice removed: Spain, Argentina, now US.
Across this row of stout, unadorned, village homes
is the sacred Shrine of Montserrat
where the Black Madonna sits, but I recall
my cousin Jordi refusing to speak to me in Spanish,
only Catalan. How proud he was to recite his words to me,
have me repeat them, then repeat them again
in Catalan, the language of that region.
These episodes have been lost to me though,
nothing to anchor them to my forty-year-old self;
I was twenty when I was there last.
Those houses, are they still there? Is anyone?
I did learn long ago the old man I met
who showed me the way a ham was dry-cured
and told me about Cava, the Catalan champagne,
another Escudé, was dead, in that land.
And Jordi? He’s my age now. Is he driving a taxi?
Is he a Barcelona soccer fan? As I am, as my father is,
keeping that little tie through our fandom.
I should’ve gone to see the Black Madonna
but I wasn’t spiritual then. I drank beer
with my distant cousins. I told them, something
of the United States. I was introverted.
But I remember the clean quaintness of their
small homes. The tiny bed they gave me to sleep on,
and the food that was better for being spare.

PHOTOGRAPH: Alejandro Escudé.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alejandro Escudé’s first book of poems, My Earthbound Eye, was published in September 2013. He holds a master’s degree in creative writing from UC Davis and teaches English. Originally from Argentina, Alejandro lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two children. Find more at alejandroescude.com.

fox
My Three Names
by Jackie Fox

Jacqueline was heavy artillery.
Reserved for behavior so awful
Mom hauled out first, middle and last.

Except in fourth grade, when we had
three Jackies in our class and I got stuck
with Jacqueline. I wasn’t quite as unhappy
as that air base boy from the South.
Jack was way too Yankee for his liking.

The rest of the time I was Jackie. Most people
thought I was named for the First Lady
but they were all wrong. Mom’s love
was closer to home. She named me
for a girl she babysat.

Dad was different.
He always called me Jake.
I knew I’d been away from home too long
when he greeted me with Jackie
at the front door.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author as a young girl.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: It’s funny how this call for submissions got me thinking about my three very different names. Even today, Jacqueline is only for driver’s license/travel ID purposes. Although I think it’s a beautiful name, it never really felt like me. And Jake is reserved for those who know me well. It’s the only name my husband uses for me unless he’s introducing me to people we don’t know. He mentioned Jackie one day at work and someone actually said, “Who’s that?” and he said, “My wife.”

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Fox lives in Omaha, Nebraska, with her husband Bruce. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Bellevue Literary Review, Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry, The Untidy Season: An Anthology of Nebraska Women Poets, and Rattle. She was previously published in the Silver Birch Press Celebrity Free Verse series. She has completed one semester toward an MFA in the University of Nebraska creative low-residency writing program.

rl
There Was No One Like Me
by Roz Levine

No one on Bronx streets with the name Rosalind
Whose name screamed a crushing zee sound
With a sledgehammer dee in eight killer letters

School friends and bullies laughed, tossed
Nicknames in my face like Fatso and Four eyes
Names that sent me cocooning into a hole
Where I found refuge in other worlds
In Nancy Drew mysteries and dreams
While neighborhood kids named Carol, Susan
Judy and Linda giggled along Vyse Avenue
Roller skating and tossing Spaulding balls

I lived in a secret sanctum where I reigned
Supreme, the queen, a powerful and strong female
Who could slay dragons, lop heads off errant knights
Survive, where words didn’t land like bayonets

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Here I am a happy four year old, before I wore eyeglasses and became overweight, before taunts and teases entered my life, before I found a refuge in words and books.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The theme for this poetry submission generated many memories of my childhood and how challenging it was to live and survive with an unusual name.

Levine

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Roz Levine is a Los Angeles poet who has been writing since the age of eight. When she retired 10 years ago, she decided to follow her passion, which is writing. She writes daily and has written thousands of poems. Roz is a member of the Los Angeles Poet and Writers’ Collective. She has published several chapbooks and has had her work printed in several books, magazines, and on-line sites including The Sun, On The Bus, Deliver Me, MO+TH, Forever in Love, FRE&D, The Juice Bar, Poetry Super Highway, Silver Birch Press anthologies, and Cultural Weekly.

Johnson
Baby Girl
by Nina Johnson

Barely a hair on my baby head,
my eyebrows so brown and thick,
the nurses at the Navy Base in Naples, Italy,
accused my mother of drawing them with Maybelline.
She pulled me close, called them ninnies,
carried me through the exit of the Ospedale.

Father wore navy whites, Mother gogo boots,
to the basilica where they baptized me Kathleen
after one of Father’s sisters. Years later, Mother admitted
she agreed to the name, the same as a childhood friend
killed by a speeding car, back home in England.
But they don’t remember ever calling me Kathleen.

Mother says the views from our government apartment
balcony were so beautiful, she didn’t need a honeymoon.
Local men with splattered caps arrived, brushing
white paint over grayed walls, our balcony door
open wide for fresh air. I toddled through in my diaper,
passing paint cans, rattled the balcony rail yelling dada.

The men chuckled, called out, “Bambino! Bambino!”
“No, no,” Mother corrected, “Bambina. Baby girl.”
They pointed to my empty earlobes, “Orecchini?”
No. Earrings, she said, are not the British way.
The foreman bowed down, patted my wispy head
and cooed, “Bambina, nina. Nana, nina.”

She pulled me close, called me Nina.
And I don’t remember ever being called Kathleen.

PHOTOGRAPH: Meeting a Cardboard Queen: the author at A Corner Cottage, Noblesville, Indiana, February 2015.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Kathleen is the name written on my birth certificate, but my parents have never called me by that name. It lives on paper in honor of a beloved, deceased aunt and in memory of a little girl who never got to live a full life. My mother was an English nanny who met my American father while he was serving in the Navy, stationed in Naples, Italy. To put it delicately, I am both the reason for their marriage and a souvenir of their youthful years in Europe. I think, at times, that my nickname served as a reminder of their young love and their romantic hopes for their marriage as they started a new family.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Nina Johnson is a writer based in the Indianapolis, Indiana, area. Her poetry has appeared in The Lighter and her photography in So It Goes: the Literary Journal of Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. She was most recently an Education Reporter for a local publication. Her husband and three daughters are patiently waiting for her to finish editing her first novel.

smith
Being Corinne
by Corinne H. Smith

Most people mispronounce it —
At least, at first —
Because the double Ns should shorten the I
And make the name rhyme with “begin.”

Or they look at the letters too quickly
And reply to my messages with, “Dear Connie –”
Ick.

I’ve learned to cope by just answering correctly,
Spelling it with one R and two Ns;
Pronouncing it as though
I’m coming too fast around a corner,
And I “careen” toward you.

Why?
Because “Aunt Corinne” says it this way.
She was one of my mother’s roommates
Back at Penn, in nursing school,
Where they had the kind of adventures
Young women could have in the big city
In the post-war ‘40s and ‘50s.

Then they moved apart for the Real Life ones:
Corinne, to a nursing career in Buffalo;
My future Mom, to a marriage in the outer suburbs.
Two years later, I showed up.
My parents both liked the name.
Now the world had two of us.

In the 1960s, our families visited;
And we once posed
With two of Corinne’s three boys
In front of Niagara Falls.
Our mothers caught up again at Penn reunions.
And we would call Corinne on cold winter nights
Whenever we heard it was snowing big in Buffalo.

The decades slipped by.
We fell off to Christmas cards.

Until a few years ago, when I stopped in Buffalo,
And Corinne and I met for the first time as adults.

We had thirty years between us
And we were very different people.
But we still found common ground
And much to talk about,
As we shared our professional successes
Made good, in spite of personal challenges.

We could smile and look at each other
As new old friends;
And know without saying it
That we were proud of each other,
And that we had both done our best with the name.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: June 1960, Niagara Falls. My mother stands on the left, and Corinne is on the right, with David and me in front and baby Bobby in Corinne’s arms. This is the only photo I have with both Corinnes in it. I was two and a half years old. I hope to get a current one this summer.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Having an uncommon name means never finding personalized key fobs or notepads on any gift shop kiosk. Or emitting squeals of surprise and delight, if you do.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Corinne H. Smith is a writer and a poet who worked as a librarian for more than 30 years. She is the author of Westward I Go Free: Tracing Thoreau’s Last Journey, the first book to follow American author Henry David Thoreau’s 1861 trip from Massachusetts to Minnesota. Her forthcoming book for middle schoolers, Henry David Thoreau for Kids: His Life and Ideas, With 21 Activities, will be published by Chicago Review Press in 2016. She writes memoir and nature pieces as well as book and music reviews for a variety of outlets. She has participated in public poetry readings in both Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. She currently lives in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. You can catch up with her at www.corinnehsmith.com.

Author photo © 2014 Rob DePaolo.

gatsby cover June 2015

The month of June marks the 4th anniversary of Silver Birch Press — and the 3rd anniversary of our blog. Our first post on June 24, 2012 featured F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel The Great Gatsby — so it seems fitting to celebrate these milestones with our latest release: The Great Gatsby Anthology, a collection of poetry and prose inspired by The Great Gatsby. This is a unique collection of material that has NOT appeared on our blog. 

We issued a call for submissions on March 15, 2014 and received submissions of poetry and prose from people around the world. Over a year in the making, the collection features writing from 80 established and up-and-coming authors :

Katie Aliferis
E. Kristin Anderson
M. Ivana Trevisani Bach
Johannes S.H. Bjerg
Julie E. Bloemeke
Karen Boissonneault-Gauthier
Ed Bremson
Tanya Bryan
Ana Maria Caballero
Sam Cha
Jan Chronister
Maryann Corbett
Anthony Costello
Tasha Cotter
Helen Dallas
Tracy Davidson
Susan de Sola
Andrea Janelle Dickens
Michelle Donfrio
Jennifer Finstrom
Ashley Ford
Jeannine Hall Gailey
Shivapriya Ganapathy
Marielle Gauthier
Trina Gaynon
Gary Glauber
Douglas Goetsch
Lois Marie Harrod
Senna Heyatawin
Joanie Hieger Fritz Zosike
Shawn P. Hosking
Veronica Hosking
Mathias Jansson
Jen Cullerton Johnson
David M. Katz
Becca Klaver
Laurie Kolp
Linda Kraus
Jean L. Kreiling
Kathryn Kulpa
David W. Landrum
Samantha LeVan
Stefanie Lipsey
Caolan Madden
Shahé Mankerian
Marjorie Manwaring
John McCarthy
Catfish McDaris
George McKim
Sarah Fawn Montgomery
Christina Murphy
Leslie Nichols
Lewis Oakwood
Alysson B. Parker
Martha Patterson
James Penha,
David S. Pointer,
Christina M. Rau
Suzanne Rawlinson
Patrick T. Reardon
Marybeth Rua-Larsen
Shloka Shankar
Sheikha A.
Edward W.L. Smith
Matthew Oldham Smith
Sherry Steiner
Christine Stroud
Marianne Titiriga
Sally Toner
Lee Upton
Sylvia Riojas Vaughn
Melanie Villines
Rachel Voss
Alan Walowitz
Amy Schreibman Walter
Susannah White
Lin Whitehouse
Neal Whitman
Scott Wiggerman
Matthew Wilson
Theodora Ziolkowski

The Great Gatsby Anthology is available in paperback at Amazon.com — with a Kindle version coming soon.

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