Archives for category: Me as a Child

On May 9, 2015, Alan Walowitz’s poem “The Story of the Milkman” was featured in our ME, AS A CHILD Series. The poem — written specifically for our series — tells the story of Nicholas Lucivero, the Walowitz family’s milkman in Queens, New York, who was killed when his truck was hit by a train on January 31, 1957.  Alan’s poem sparked an incredible series of events that culminated in an article in the New York Times (April 16, 2017). Read this awe-inspiring story below.

thank you
During 2015, the Silver Birch Press blog featured 10 poetry and prose series. Many thanks to all who participated. All told, our 2015 writing prompts generated 965 poems and stories — the vast majority written specifically for our series. Amazing!

IAM WAITING Poetry Series (Dec. 1, 2014 – Jan. 31, 2015): 137 participants

WHERE I LIVE Poetry & Photography Series (Feb. 1 – March 31, 2015): 132 participants

ME, AS A CHILD Poetry Series (April 1 – May 31, 2015): 175 participants

ALL ABOUT MY NAME Poetry Series (June 1 – July 18, 2015): 160 participants

MY PERFECT VACATION Poetry & Prose Series (July 19 – Aug. 21, 2015): 71 participants

MY METAMORPHOSIS Poetry & Prose Series (Aug. 22 – Sept. 15, 2015): 52 participants

MY SWEET WORD Poetry & Prose Series (Sept. 16 – Oct. 31, 2015): 98 participants

WHEN I HEAR THAT SONG Poetry & Prose Series (Nov. 1 – 23, 2015): 47 participants

LOOKS LIKE ME EKPHRASTIC Poetry Series (Nov. 24 – Dec. 4, 2015): 23 participants

ME, DURING THE HOLIDAYS Poetry & Prose Series (Dec. 5, 2015 – Jan. 1, 2016): 70 participants

Holmes
Out Like a Lamb
by Karen Paul Holmes

My mother expected a boy at the end of March,
but nature pulled the wool over

with a daughter born on April first,
a Michigan child, who always wished

March would come in like a lion, that her birthday
might arrive soft and sweet, no need

for heavy fleece. Often windy-wet and sometimes
snow tricked me, upset

like so many children when their big days
don’t turn out as small minds dreamed. And

what about my parents? With three girls already,
they had gladly chosen a boy’s name. Stumped,

they took my big sister’s advice: named me Karen Sue.
I thought them negligent, turning over

my identity to a five-year-old. (And anyway,
couldn’t it at least have been Susan)? Now

living in the south with February daffodils
and dogwood Aprils, I have ditched Sue

for my maiden name, Paul —
a boy’s moniker, after all. My daughter

has a well-thought-out name, carefully
culled. She hates it. The age-old joke,

it seems, got played on me: Mum and Dad
were not the fools I thought them to be.

AUTHOR’S NOTE ON THE PHOTOGRAPH: Happy me with 60th birthday roses, Karen Paul Holmes, April 1, 2014 at home.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem first appeared in Skive Magazine (Australia) in their April Fool’s issue, 2013. “Out Like a Lamb” tells a true story: I was born on April 1, and my parents let my five-year-old sister name me. I always wanted to have nice spring weather on my birthday and rarely did until I moved south. Most of my poems are autobiographical but most are not about my childhood. I try to add elements of humor to my work, even if otherwise serious. This poem is lighter but still has a little gravity because we all do have pretty strong feelings about our names, don’t we? I’m sure that’s why Silver Birch Press chose this theme.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Paul Holmes is the author Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014). She received an Elizabeth George Foundation poetry grant in 2012. Publishing credits include Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Caesura, Town Creek Poetry, The Sow’s Ear Poetry Review, and the Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia (Texas Review Press). She founded and hosts the Side Door Poets in Atlanta and Writers’ Night Out in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

johnson1 Russell
by Keith Russell Johnson

This middle name
given
in a weak moment
to me
by my mother
in a weak marriage
to honor my father’s
father
Russell

I never knew my grandmother
Victoria May
she blew her brains out
in a weak moment
fueled by booze
and sorrow
in a weak marriage
to
Russell

I feel her
know her hopes
sense her presence
when I find a willing vein and slowly
inject
then exhale
and hear the leaves outside
Rustle

PHOTOGRAPH: The author travelling towards Northern California before dusk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am interested in family history that sometimes is difficult to talk about and how it permeates all areas of our lives through generations.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Keith Russell Johnson teaches contemporary dance at California State University Long Beach and is the Artistic Director of Keith Johnson/Dancers. Keith has danced professionally with Ririe/Woodbury Dance Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Creach/Koester. and Doug Varone and Dancers. He is a 2015 recipient of a Djerassi Artist Residency and was named the 2012/13 Distinguished Alumni from The Department of Dance at the University of Utah.

logo_poetry1 Silver Birch Press extends a heartfelt thank you to the 175 poets from around the world who participated in our ME, AS A CHILD Poetry Series during April and May 2015. Our deepest gratitude for your brave and beautiful work!

Sue A’Hern (Wales)
Tobi Alfier (California)
Sandra Anfang (California)
Maria Luisa Arroyo (Massachusetts)
Stephanie Baird (Massachusetts)
Chloe Balcomb (England)
Danny P. Barbare (South Carolina)
Julie Brooks Barbour (Michigan)
Jim Barron (England)
Renee Bartovics (Connecticut)
Ruth Bavetta (California)
Roberta Beary (Maryland)
Esmeralda Bernal (Arizona)
Rick Blum (Massachusetts)
Greta Bolger (Michigan)
Alina Borger (Iowa)
Anne Born (New York)
Patricia Brooks (U.S.)
Mandy Brown (Texas)
Cynthia Bryant (California)
Kathleen S. Burgess (Ohio)
Laura Byro (New Jersey)
Alexandra Carr-Malcolm (England)
Angela M. Carter (Virginia)
Kevin Casey (Maine)
Barry Charman (England)
Sudasi J. Clement (New México)
Wanda Morrow Clevenger (Illinois)
Joan Colby (Illinois)
Ginny Lowe Connors (Connecticut)
Patrick Connors (Canada)
Beth Copeland (North Carolina)
Jesseca Cornelson (Alabama)
Grace Curtis (Ohio)
Edelma D’Trinidad (California)
Gabrielle Daniels (Wisconsin)
Diana Decker (New York)
Lenny DellaRocca (Florida)
Julian de Wette (South Africa)
Irina Dimitric (Australia)
Marcie Eanes (Wisconsin)
Barbara Eknoian (California)
Teri Elam ( Georgia)
J.C. Elkin (Maryland)
Terri Kirby Erickson (North Carolina)
Jessica Evans (Ohio)
Mike Finley (Minnesota)
Jennifer Fliss (Washington)
Louis Gallo (Virginia)
Frances Garrett (Canada)
Gail Fishman Gerwin (New Jersey)
Phillip Giambri (New York)
Vijaya Gowrisankar (India)
James Graham (Scotland)
Carol Coven Grannick (Illinois)
Lori Gravley (Ohio)
Merrill Elizabeth Gray (Canada)
John Grey (Rhode Island)
S. Eta Grubešić (Croatia)
Joyce Gullickson (Texas)
Sonia Gutiérrez (California)
Deborah Guzzi (Connecticut)
Geosi Gyasi (Ghana)
Stephanie Han (Hong Kong)
Maryanne Hannan (New York)
Barry Harris (Indiana)
Peggy Harter (New Jersey)
Sandra Hartley (England)
Amie Heasley (Michigan)
Steven Hendrix (California)
Emily Jane Henry (Canada)
Lindi-Ann Hewitt-Coleman (South Africa)
Brenda Hines (England)
Kevin M. Holgate (Canada)
Trish Hopkinson (Utah)
Howard Huber (Wisconsin)
Robin Dawn Hudechek (California)
Regina Jamison (New York)
Sonja Johanson (Maine)
Pamela Johnson Parker (Kentucky)
Brent Jones (Japan)
Oonah V Joslin (Northern Ireland)
James Ross Kelly (California)
Adele Kenny (New Jersey)
Marie Kilroy (New York)
Alan King (Maryland)
Miodrag Kojadinović (China)
Olufunke Kolapo (Nigeria)
Laurie Kolp (Texas)
Anja Konig (Switzerland)
Linda Kraus (Florida)
Jennifer Lagier (California)
Paula J. Lambert (Ohio)
Gina Larkin (New Jersey)
Rosalind J. Lee (England)
Mary Leonard (New York)
j.lewis (California)
Sarah Lilius (Virginia)
Elline Lipkin (California)
Joyce Lorenson (Rhode Island)
Susan Mahan (Massachusetts)
Jacqueline Markowski (United States)
Christina Marrocco (Illinois)
Carolyn Martin (Oregon)
David Mathews (Illinois)
Cathy McArthur (New York)
Catfish McDaris (Wisconsin)
Kieran McKiel (Canada)
Tiffany Midge (Idaho)
Roy Moller (Scotland)
Catherine Moore (Tennessee)
Sarah Frances Moran (Texas)
Vicki Morley (England)
Frank Mundo (California)
Lee Nash (France)
Robbi Nester (California)
Suzanne O’Connell (California)
Michael Mackin O’Mara (Florida)
Ashley Parker Owens (Kentucky)
Pattie PalmerBaker (Oregon)
Richard King Perkins II (Illinois)
Puma Perl (New York)
Kenneth Pobo (Pennsylvania)
Mila Podlewski (California)
Steven M Quakenbush (Texas)
Shirani Rajapakse (Sri Lanka)
Anandam Ravi (India)
Jonaki Ray (India)
Patrick T. Reardon (Illinois)
Glenis Redmond (North Carolina)
William Reichard (Minnesota)
Susan Rich (Washington)
Kellie Richardson (Washington)
Robert Rosenbloom (New Jersey)
Roslyn Ross (Malawi)
Christopher Ryan (United States)
Christne Saari (Michigan)
April Salzano (Pennsylvania)
Trish Saunders (Hawaii)
Ira Schaeffer (Rhode Island)
Susan Scheid (Washington, DC)
Marsha Schuh (Canada)
Seni Seneviratne (England)
Shloka Shankar (India)
Katherine Simmons (Indiana)
Ritika Singh (India)
Billie Holladay Skelley (Missouri)
Merna Dyer Skinner (California)
Corinne H. Smith (Pennsylvania)
Joan Jobe Smith (California)
Jen Stein (Virginia)
Paul m. Strohm (Texas)
Shawn Nacona Stroud (Ohio)
Maureen Sudlow (New Zealand)
Susan Beall Summers (Texas)
Eric Torgersen (Michigan)
Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer (Colorado)
Dennis Trujillo (United States)
Bunkong Tuon (New York)
Richard Vargas (New Mexico)
Elizabeth Kirkpatrick Vrenios (California)
Bob Wakulich (Canada)
Alan Walowitz (New York)
Mark Lee Webb (Kentucky)
Mercedes Webb-Pullman (New Zealand)
A. Garnett Weiss (Canada)
Eileen Wesson (California)
Kelley Jean White (New Hampshire)
Lynn White (Wales)
Martin Willitts Jr (United States)
Sarah Ann Winn (Virginia)
Abigail Wyatt (England)
James Wyshynski (Georgia)
Catherine Zickgraf (Georgia)
Anna Ziegler (Canada)

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Words
by Elline Lipkin

reaching for the typewriter keys,
arms and legs thin bands of want,
pulled by the magic clackety clack,

the something that starts inside the belly,
then rolls out of the mouth. Already,
I know the feeling — a strike

so letters cloud into air, or
streak a ray of glyphs that bite
against the white page’s blank.

Years later, my brother says,
“You always were the light-headed one,”
that mad press was already

scrawling inside my skin, its smooth
surface concealing the roil of
words waiting to tap their way out.

PHOTOGRAPH: “Reaching for Words” (the author as a young writer).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I believe I was two or three years old in this photo, at that time living in New Jersey, before my family relocated to Miami, where I grew up. My brother and I were fascinated by my father’s old manual typewriter — it seemed magical the way words came out of the top. I think we were also just at that age of realizing the power words hold. Recently, I bought an old manual typewriter at an auction. Something about the lack of the intermediary of technology makes striking out words more satisfying and immediate.

EL-012

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Elline Lipkin is currently a Research Scholar with UCLA’s Center for the Study of Women. She also teaches poetry for Writing Workshops Los Angeles. She is the author of the The Errant Thread, selected by Eavan Boland for the Kore Press First Book Award, and Girls’ Studies, published by Seal Press.

libero antiques
Little G minor
by Jessica Evans

a girl
now grown
attending her first
symphony pleated

starched red chiffon
the season’s color,
black bow gathers
fine dark hair into
something
that reminds her
stand up straight
look an adult
in the eye smile

like her mama
always taught her

if you can’t
say something
at least
look the part

IMAGE: “Victorian girl with doll” by Libero Antiques. Prints available at etsy.com.

evans

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Cincinnati native, Jessica Evans grew up in lower Price Hill, a sub-blue-collar neighborhood on the city’s west side. Early on, she began to examine ways in which life is impacted by socioeconomic status. She is a current student at Spalding University’s low-residency MFA program. When she’s not bleeding her fingers on her laptop keys, she’s lifting heavy weights or running. She likes doors and windows, stopping to take a breath and remember that it’s not the load that will break her, it’s the way it’s carried.

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Hold My Hand
by Frances Garrett

I’m three, hold my hand! Walk with me, give me your lap. Brush my hair, make me cookies. Dry my face, wash my hands. I need a Band-Aid. Watch me! Go away! Come back. Tell me a story.

   “Once upon time there were four bears: Mama Bear, Papa Bear,    Brother Bear, and Sister Bear,” Mama began. “Sister is just like you.”

I’m four. Stop the car! Sneezy kitties, scratchy sweater, staticy hair, braids too tight. Go faster! Powdered milk, cinnamon toast, blackberries, tomato soup. Stay at the table, be quiet. Look out the window, read your book, lie down now.

   “Sister stayed at home with Mama until one day the bus came and    she had to go to school. She wouldn’t get on, so Mama took her back    home.”

I’m six. We drive on the highway with all the kitties for seven days until we reach Seattle. My grandma walks me to school down a flight of stairs in the forest. After school we dig potatoes out of the ground and pick beans. I hide in the couch-swing with a pile of National Geographics. The Gilbert Islands, the Ivory Coast. Acid rain, Ethiopia, Jane Goodall. Gypsy moths. Lake Baikal, bearded seals, black-bellied hamsters.

I’m seven. We move to Portland and live in a big white house with a basement room painted all black. I collect old cans and cereal boxes and open a store. On my bed is a quilt made from patches of our old clothes. Before the first day of school I pull the covers to my chin and cry. Hold my hand, dry my face.

   “In the middle of the year they moved again, a nice house on a tree-    lined street near a school and a piano teacher. Sister skipped a grade    so never learned cursive.”

I’m eight. They tell me to use another girl’s workbook, and they say she was black. I play tetherball with Charmaine. We hear that Jenny’s father stays at home and smokes marijuana, but we play with her anyway, sometimes. In the winter there is a big storm. Ice everywhere, trees blocking the street, no school. Be with me!

   “Each night Papa made a fire and Mama lit candles. The house was    very cold but their quilts were heavy and warm.”

When I turn ten, for the first time my age is not a number but a line and a circle. Perfectly straight, perfectly round. Again: top to bottom, all around, sharpened pencil, line them up straight across. After school I can walk home, up the hill, through the trees, open the door, use my own key. Run in the grass, slide down the mud, collect stream water in jam jars.

   “The morning after Mt St Helens erupted the streets were filled with    ash, the cars gray and the air heavy. Sister lined her windowsill with    canning jars filled with steely dust. She cut pictures out of the    newspaper and wrote a school report on volcanoes.”

I’m eleven. Don’t brush my hair, don’t wash my sweatshirt, give me more pie, leave me alone, be with me. Tanja and I sneak into the backyards of unkempt houses and peer into their windows. We are caught by ghostly old ladies and run away laughing.

At fifteen I ride my bike several miles to school, come home early and watch soap operas before boarding a bus to Beaverton for dance class. Dancing every day except Sunday, when I stay in bed and cry. Anne, Emily, and Charlotte Bronte keep me company. I am forced to become a governess. I am isolated in a chilled stone manor house. Seaside winds toss my coattails as I tear across the moors. I follow a strong mustached man who turns violent; I languish in bed, tubercular. Hold my hand, be with me.

I’m seventeen. We visit colleges on the East Coast: Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, Brown, Columbia, Vassar. In the attic bathroom of my uncle’s cold New Jersey house I get my period for the first time but don’t tell anyone. Dry my face. I don’t want to go to college, I just want to dance, and I apply to three schools in New York City, along with all the rest.

At eighteen I dislocate my kneecap in a ballet class weeks before school starts and board the plane to New York City with a full leg cast. My roommate’s parents pick me up and bring me to the dormitory. She is Jewish. Next door to us there are two boys, Ben and Dave. I wait in registration lines for days and select my courses. A contact lens falls out in a dirty hallway and I call home, crying. I take the subway downtown for classes alongside professional dancers, and I rehearse for a performance in a Barnard studio without sprung floors; my shins feel like splintering and I fracture my metatarsal. I languish in bed, tubercular. Don’t leave, Ben. Be with me.

He held my hand until he died. Walk with me, give me your lap. Tell me a story.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age seven on the beach in the Pacific Northwest.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Frances Garrett, a professor of Buddhist Studies at the University of Toronto, is the author of articles and books on Tibetan religious and medical history. She grew up in Oregon and moved to Canada in 2003.

The Patsy Pictures
by Patricia Brooks

Patsy till 5
Bright hair, bright smile — howl
of delight beaming through that cell:
Brooks child
Hello, Life, what a scream you are!
Just one delight after another,
my umbilical cord to you
plugged in solid, open
to every voice, and always
a winning word to say.
Hello, Life, what a scream
you are!

Patsy after 5
Never enough light
for the lens to find me.
brooks older
Under the table,
hanging behind
that chair,
that stare
of a small animal
who knows
approach
means danger
and touch
means death.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: “The Patsy Pictures” was written years ago, prompted by the author’s observation of the striking difference in the photos of herself taken by her amateur photographer father during her first five years, contrasted with those taken thereafter.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patricia Brooks is the author of five novels. Falling from Grace and But for the Grace were published by Dell and can still be found through amazon.com. Her contemporary novel titled And Whose Little Girl Are You? is about the fallout from rape, especially for a young woman; it is now seeking a publisher. And after 11 years of research and site journeys, her ambitious historical novel Eagle and Child is also ready for a publisher. Meanwhile, the Mandala Journal, the literary journal out of the African American studies program at the University of Georgia, has published a key chapter, and hopes to publish another next winter, while the long work finds its way to the most suitable publisher. Patricia’s poetry has appeared most recently in Whirlwind, New Verse News, Blast Furnace, and The Great American Literary Magazine.

Cornelson - TBT
In Bed with Sleeping Parents
by Jesseca Cornelson

They are a they, but we are a we.
I see it as a picture inside a picture inside a picture.
The bed frames the two of them
on either side of me. We are a landscape of drifting

sheets rolled about us in hills and valleys.
We are in a bedroom in a bed that lies parallel to the street.
Our bodies lie parallel to the street.
The bright morning sun angles over us from our right.

I know now that our feet, true needles, point north.
I squint and can see my own eye lashes.
My dark hair curls around a shoulder I can peek.
Some other day I will be screaming, mother

bending me backwards over the footboard
at toothbrush point, my face salt-wet with a shrieking
fear of toothpaste, a poison that will eat me.
There are so many things inside so many things.

I will find a lost shoe in a hole that opens
when the hurricane that brings my brother
takes a tree and with it my swing set.
The space where its roots were becomes a sinkhole

that could eat a dog or a bike.
We will never find the swallowed penny.
I find a collection of newspaper rubber bands
and all at once try them on like necklaces.

It takes big-handled scissors to cut
them from my swelling head.
I wash a doll in a toilet because it is doll-sized.
I see myself beside a window wishing on a star

that is just a streetlight.
There are so many things inside so many things
you can never get the proportions right.
In the chain of small, I am bigger than a doll.

I am bigger than the baby.
In third grade I will write, I weigh forty ponds.
But before the brother, I am the baby
in my parents’ bed while they sleep,

and it is the first time I have ever been alone.

PHOTOGRAPH: The author at age two (Chickasaw, Alabama, 1977).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: One of my fears about going to grad school and studying literary theory was that it would suck the life out of my poetry, that I’d become all brain and no heart. And yet studying Lacan and Winnicot and others’ descriptions of early childhood subjectification helped me remember — or reinvent — my own perceptions about my earliest memories of self, both independent and intersubjective. “In Bed with Sleeping Parents” attempts to capture the sense of isolation at the moment of realization that je est un autre.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jesseca Cornelson, an assistant professor of English at Alabama State University, is working on a collection of documentary poems based on Alabama history. Her poetry has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Footnote: A Literary Journal of History, Platte Valley Review, and Salamander. She has been an artist-in-residence at the Platte Clove Preserve.