Archives for posts with tag: childhood

National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY
Hall of Fame
by Steven Deutsch

We were not
a wayfaring
family.

My dad drove
a taxi nights
while mom worked days

at a discount store
downtown.
How is it

no one speaks
of the weariness
of the poor?

A six-block trip
to the local
chop suey joint

after a double
feature
was quite a night.

But the summer
I turned 12
dad announced

a vacation
to Cooperstown
at the Baseball Hall of Fame.

There was not
a boy in all
of Brownsville

that didn’t envy
me that trip.
And, yes I milked it.

The three of us made
a week of it.
meandering through

the back roads
of New England—
admiring all that green,

while my dad
spoke of Ty
and Babe—

Honus and Christy
and Walter as if
speaking of old friends

and my mom
told me of my grandfather—
a man I never got to meet.

And the Museum?
Well that was
wonderful too.

PHOTO: National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, New York by Kenneth C. Zirkel, used by permission.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I read the prompt, I thought immediately of our trip to Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York.  I hope the poem captures the essence of that trip and of my parents. The details of the poem are not historically accurate—they never are in my work.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After a glamorous childhood in Brownsville, Brooklyn, New York, Steve (and his wife, Karen) settled in State College, Pennsylvania. They have one son—the guitarist for the avant-garde group, Gang Gang Dance. Over the last two years, his work has appeared in more than two dozen print and on-line journals. He was twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. He is the current poetry editor for Centered Magazine. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published by Kelsay Press in 2019. His full length poetry book, The Persistence of Memory, has just been published by Kelsay.

deutsch 1
The Lone Ranger
by Steven Deutsch

For his tenth birthday,
my brother got

two cap pistols
a good guy hat

and the Ranger’s
famous black mask.

At six
I was convinced

that my masked brother
was beyond recognition.

I was happy
to be cast as Tonto.

I wore a single chicken feather
held fast by a salvaged hatband,

and carried a tomahawk
made of a hammer handle

and an empty can
of Campbell’s soup,

I said sidekick things.
“Him say horses need water,”

and called my brother
“Kimosabe”
.
But, how I wanted
that mask.

I’d tie it on
and visit the mom and pop

shops up and down Hopkinson Avenue
preserving the peace

to a chorus of
“Who was that masked man?”

And when my brother
discovered baseball in June

I buckled on
his six-shooters

and climbed up
on my magnificent white horse.

What a glorious
summer.

To this day
I can’t watch

the sun go down
without belting out

“Hi Ho Silver
Away.”

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I often write about my brother, though only rarely truthfully.  I had the idea for this poem early on. The original ending was much darker, but I couldn’t get it. This ending popped up instead. I’m happy with less darkness.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Over the past two years, Steve Deutsch’s work has appeared in more than two dozen journals. He was nominated for Pushcart Prizes in 2017 and 2018. His chapbook, Perhaps You Can, was published in 2019 by Kelsay Press. His full-length book, Persistence of Memory, will be published in September 2020, again by Kelsay Press. He takes full responsibility for the blog stevieslaw.com.

girl red hair
Being Blank
by Leslie Sittner

I was born bald. Mother’s joy was chipped. My blue-green eyes and cherubic face would have to do. I was adored anyway. When carroty downy fuzz began to cover my head, then proper baby hair in waves made shampooing and styling necessary, Mother’s joy mended; her plate was full.

Father and Grandmother owned red hair; dark, thick, with frizzy curls. Plus dark red eyebrows. I wore the more common redhead characteristics of pale skin, freckles, white-haired eyebrows and eyelashes. Mother worried throughout my childhood when this didn’t change; my face was blank. Puberty tested Mother’s patience; eyebrows and eyelashes had to match the hair, define my face. She instructed me to mascara the brows with the tiny Maybelline brush; never use an eyebrow pencil on the skin―it looks fake. Spit in the mascara cake, scrub the brush into the pasty color, apply gently, accurately, to the hair only. The eyelashes were easier. My face no longer blank; I did look defined, complete, almost pretty.

Over time the daily process became easier with mascara wands, more natural color choices, waterproof for water wear. I’ve done this for 65 years. It’s second nature. It’s automatic. I never leave home blank-faced. Recently, while wearing the required protective COVID mask in public, it occurred to me that I’ve been wearing a vanity mask since I was 10 years old. Revelation! At first I continued to color the brows and lashes, because after all, that’s what you see above the mask. Yesterday, sweaty, grungy, and tired from gardening in the afternoon sun, I said “what the heck” and walked the dog in public with the mask over my blank face. Neighbors knew me. No one made a “what the?” face or snarky comment.

I may finally be free of one of my masks.

PAINTING: “Young Girl Reading”  by Federico Zandomeneghi (1841-1917).

Sittner_1

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As I’ve aged, I’ve managed to fracture all the rules I said I’d never break when I retired. Never wear sweat pants in public. Never grocery shop during lunch hour because seniors prefer that time and take forever, preventing getting back to work on time. Always wear earrings and eye make-up, etc., etc. Sadly, sweatpants (or worse), midday shopping, and, now, blankface are normal. Earrings are annoying to wear with a face mask…

Sittner_2

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner’s print works are available in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press (2016 -17-18-19-21), Adirondack Life Magazine, BraVa anthology, and read on NPR. Online poems and prose reside at unearthed, Silver Birch Press, 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, 50 Word Stories, Epic Protest Poems, and Adirondack Center for Writing. A collection of essays about European travels with her ex-husband in the late 1960s awaits publishing. Leslie is currently editing the memoir written by her ancient dog and compiling her own book of haiku with photographs.

barbie-1986_warhol
Princess Barbie
by Lindsey Martin-Bowen

Yes, that’s me, masquerading
once more as Barbie.
Running fingers over a velvet,
cobalt-blue bodice, I’m the Prom
Queen I never was in high school.
My mask appears invisible—
not silk or cotton—yet it covers
skin less than creamy,
blushed & smooth.

I arch my back & balance a tiara
on thick, blonde hair, complements
of Clairol. Revlon & Estee Lauder
now masque my face & make mirrors
reflect Barbie. They send my mind
to Au Petit Marché, where I bite
into a Napoleon, sip café au lait.

Sometimes, I wear Ralph Lauren,
fly first class, and imagine
I’m some undiscovered celeb.
Shedding pain that slides away
like scales, I’m free to wander
along a French shoreline
& watch a fading red sun glide
across a calm sea.

PAINTING: “Barbie” by Andy Warhol (1986). Prints available at allposters.com.

Lindsey as Princess Barbi Oct 2013 Neon Gallery copy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR:  For the “Wearing a Mask” Series, I first tried to write about my struggles finding a mask that allowed me to breathe. (Allergies forced me to use a variety of scarves.) Yet the editor’s suggestion about the various masks we don urged me to write about one of my metaphysical (ontology) masks: Barbie. As young girls, we bought and sewed wardrobes for this fashion model whose figure (were she a live human) would likely cause her to fall on her face. Nevertheless, Barbie’s large blue eyes and broad smile haunted me as an image of beauty during my early years — and indeed, influenced my makeup mask. This is a photo of me as Princess Barbie, when I gave a poetry reading at Kansas City’s Neon Gallery on Halloween.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lindsey Martin-Bowen’s fourth poetry collection, Where Water Meets the Rock (39 West Press 2017), contains a poem named an Honorable Mention in Writer’s Digest’s 85th Contest. Her third, CROSSING KANSAS with Jim Morrison, won Kansas Authors Club’s 2017 “Looks Like a Million” Contest, and was a finalist in the QuillsEdge Press 2015-2016 Contest. Her Inside Virgil’s Garage (Chatter House) was a runner-up in the 2015 Nelson Poetry Book Award. McClatchy Newspapers named her Standing on the Edge of the World  (Woodley Press) one of Ten Top Poetry Books of 2008. Her poems have appeared in New LettersI-70 ReviewThorny LocustFlint Hills ReviewSilver Birch Press, Amethyst ArsenicCoal City ReviewPhantom DriftEkphrastic Review (Egyptian Challenge), The Same, Tittynope ZineBare Root Review Rockhurst Review, 12 anthologies, and other lit zines. Three of her seven novels have been published. Poetry is her way of singing. She taught writing and literature at UMKC for 18 years, MCC-Longview, and teaches Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, and other criminal justice classes for Blue Mountain Community College, Pendleton, Oregon. Visit her on Facebook.

glasses Joe1958-59
Mask of Glass
by Joe Cottonwood

I wore a mask of glass
bottle bottoms
at age eleven,
clear not black
but feeling disguised,
akin to Lone Ranger.
Later, protective
safety plastic
darkening in sunlight
always separating
out there
from in here.

Sometimes briefly
the mask I strip
for a delicious
skinny-dip,
naked eye blinking fresh
in a murky river of air
where voices vibrate
from vague faces.

Without the mask
me you see.
You I don’t.

PHOTO: The author at age 11.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I still remember the first word out of my mouth after putting on my first pair of prescription eyeglasses: “Wow!” Suddenly the world was sharply defined. Sadly, though, I soon felt strangely hidden behind that same glass.

Joe shades hat

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joe Cottonwood has built or repaired hundreds of houses as carpenter/ contractor in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. His latest book is Foggy Dog. Visit him at joecottonwood.com.

mccarthy m
The Outside Face
by Mary C. McCarthy

My first mask was automatic
weightless, one I barely felt
but my mother saw it
saying, “Oh, you have your
Outside Face on.”
A face I must have carefully designed
somewhere behind my waking mind,
something I must have needed
to keep me safe
in the open spaces
outside our rooms and windows,
something bland and inoffensive,
tempting no intrusion,
giving nothing up
to anyone who might come looking
for a chink in my armor,
a key to the gate,
a bridge across the dark moat
around my fragile castle,
built of glass and moonlight,
fairytales and dreams.

All the while I waited there
behind my Outside Face
for the good godmother
I hoped would come
to grant my three best wishes
and make me safe forever
a girl too hard to see
too small to find
too fast to catch.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Sometimes the masks we most frequently wear aren’t made of anything but the expression we hide behind. Mothers, of course, can always see through them.

mary mccarthy copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Mary C. McCarthy studied art and literature, and has always been a writer, though she spent most of her working life as a Registered Nurse. Her work has appeared in many electronic and print journals and anthologies, and she has an electronic chapbook, Things I Was Told Not to Think About, available as a free download from Praxis Magazine.

candy heart mask
Candy
by Shontay Luna

The Shy Girl could not believe her luck,
the popular kids were suddenly nice to her
on Valentine’s Day.
After trading cards among themselves,
one of them approached her.
All smiles, pigtails, and bangs.
Shy girl thought the universe had
somehow reversed its axis,
causing everything to be the
opposite of what it normally
was.
And that the bully had a change
of heart and was human,
after all.
Popular girl handed Shy Girl
candy hearts.
The multi pastels like springtime
in her happy hands.
Gleefully, she tasted one.
Savoring the sweetness,
happy that things would
finally change,
until it turned bitter.
Confused, she took it out
to look at the blank
side.
And saw the marks where
it was scraped across
the floor.

Photo found at thefacemaskstore.

luna s

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shontay Luna, a lifelong Chicagoan, is on a personal mission to enlighten others that her city consists of much more than deep dish pizza and Al Capone stories. Not that there is anything wrong with those things. Her poetry has appeared in AnthologyofChicago.com, Black Book Press, and, most recently, The Literary Nest and The Daily Drunk.

front door

Our Red Front Door
by Linda McKenney

My mother’s choice, our red front door was unique on our block. This solid, wood sentinel served as our blockade for any strangers wishing to gain entry into our home. We’d surreptitiously raise one of the Venetian blind slats to see who was ringing the doorbell. If it was an unwanted caller, we’d pretend we weren’t home.

These types of visitors were an anomaly in our quiet town, where everyone was a trusted neighbor, watching out for one another. We felt safe. Until . . .

It was late afternoon, when my mother would be home preparing dinner. But, not feeling well, my father had taken her to the doctor.

The intruders kicked in our crimson bulwark and lay siege to our home. Upstairs, they found my father’s antique handguns. Shots were fired into one of the pillows in my parents’ bed. In each of the bedrooms, a fire trap was set. A book of matches on the bed, one bent up and lit. It burned down to ignite its fellow matches and all of the bedding. Flames then hungrily consumed the rest of the room. We knew this, because for some reason, this technique failed in one of the bedrooms.

The first thing my brother noticed, when he returned from delivering newspapers, was the large boot print on the destroyed front door. Heading to the back door, the upstairs window exploded with glass shrapnel, barely missing him. He saw flames shooting out and licking the roof. He ran inside, calling our mother’s name. When he verified she wasn’t there, he grabbed the small amount of cash downstairs and his sister’s parakeet.

We lost personal, irreplaceable possessions. But even more, we lost trust, that feeling of safety and my mother’s red front door.

Photo found on Pinterest.

our house

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This fire happened in 1973. The photo of the house is our house today. It has new owners. You can see how close it is to the one next door. That is the alley my brother started down when the window exploded. The red door photo is not our original door.  We don’t have one.

Linda-McKenney

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Linda McKenney is a storyteller, writer and actor, bringing historical women to life. Her most recent work is published in Silver Birch Press, 101 Word Short Stories, The Survivor’s Review, The Rush, and Helen: A Literary Magazine. She has an alter ego at  Susanbanthony.live.

screen door
Screen Door
by Robbi Nester

To Leslie

Chipped green door, old grass losing its spring under the foot.
Heavy, too heavy for the frame. Banging each time it closed.
We were 5, two little girls, Play-Doh underneath our fingernails.
The screen door was awkward for a child, not flimsy like the others
on the block—stodgy, dodgy, opening with a shriek. It matched
the green door in its forbidding stiffness. Hard wind lashed, smashing
the screen door, slap, out of your palms, sent it spinning across the lawn,
shards of glass and twisted metal. Cyclone, my father touching down,
sweeping everything away. He grabbed your arm, another person’s
child, no barriers, and whipped you while I watched and wept,
at once grieving and relieved that someone else
could share the burden of his rage.

PHOTO: Mid-century screen door found at etsy.com.

Robbi portrait in brown suit, 2019 copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester stays mostly behind her door in Orange County CA. She is the author of four books of poetry, the most recent Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag,2019). She is the editor of two anthologies, The Liberal Media Made Me Do it! (Nine Toes, 2014) and an ekphrastic e-book, Over the Moon: Birds, Beasts, and Trees– celebrating the photography of Beth Moon, which was published as a special issue of Poemeleon Poetry Journal. Her poetry, reviews, articles, and essays have appeared widely in journals and anthologies and on websites.

HEIGHTS_TN_PICT00171 copy
Regret
by Judy Kronenfeld

It’s 3:30 on a gray afternoon
late in November.
Winter is homicidal in the air,
a knife-blade at my cheek.
At the apartment door I reach
for the key-string on my neck
and know at once it’s gone.
I frisk my school-books, my gym clothes,
my shoes, imagining luck
tricky as an acrobat’s timing.
My memory interrogates the day
like a white light in an empty
white room, but won’t surprise me
with the key, asleep
in a forgotten pocket. What I recall,
like pictures of the dead,
is the knot,
only double-tied.

There is nothing to do
but sit in the dingy hall, lost
in reverie over the key. It lay
like a talisman on my chest bone,
where I am hollow now. I would give
anything for its good weight.
There is nothing to do but think
of past joy. Cannily
it slipped into the lock,
and was made for the lock;
beautifully the tumblers turned,
the bolt obeyed.

Originally published in Riverside Quarterly 8, No. 3 July, 1990.

Photo credit: Heightsre.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem came out of remembering the experience of arriving at my family’s apartment door after school (probably junior high), and discovering I had somehow lost the key that hung on a string around my neck. I was left out in the fifth floor hall of my fairly sad apartment building, separated from my warm little home just on the other side of the door until my mother came home from work, and I was filled with longing to be inside, and a little guilt about my presumed carelessness. The difference between outside and inside was enormous and painful. I was delighted when, in the process of developing the poem, the situation became a metaphor for something even more than being locked out.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Judy Kronenfeld is the author of four books of poetry and two chapbooks. Her most recent full-length collections are Bird Flying through the Banquet (FutureCycle, 2017) and Shimmer (WordTech, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Cimarron Review, New Ohio Review, Natural Bridge, One (Jacar Press), Rattle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, and other journals, and in two dozen anthologies. She is Lecturer Emerita, Creative Writing Department, University of California, Riverside, and an Associate Editor of Poemeleon.