Archives for posts with tag: childhood

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Christmas, 1955
by Patrick T. Reardon

David Michael smiles wide
under a jungle explorer helmet.
So do I. Our smiles toothy and
without restraint, as if there
will be no future.

We wear fake buckskin
with regimented fake leather fringe
that came with the fake coonskin caps
we wore like the TV star.
We could not believe our luck.

The Davy Crockett outfits and — there
must have been a sale — the jungle
explorer get-ups, simpler, just a
jungle explorer helmet and
a jungle explorer rifle
to kill big game.
We mixed and
matched.

Not knowing
the helmets
were called
pith helmets.

Not knowing
the small
explosion
that would
come sixty
years later
when the
hammer
struck
the
firing
pin.

SOURCE: This poem will appear in the author’s 110-page collection Requiem for David (Silver Birch Press, February 2017).

PHOTO: David Michael Reardon, who was nearly 5, and Patrick T. Reardon, who had just turned 6, on Christmas Day, 1955.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: There are several photographs that were taken that Christmas of David Michael and me in our Davy Crockett stuff and our jungle explorer stuff. When I looked at them, the image that was most evocative was the one in which we’d mixed and matched the two outfits.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon is a Chicagoan, born and bred. He is the author of seven books, including Faith Stripped to Its Essence: A Discordant Pilgrimage through Shusaku Endo’s ‘Silence.’ His collection of poems Requiem for David will be published by Silver Birch Press in February 2017. Reardon worked for 32 years as a reporter with the Chicago Tribune, specializing in urban affairs, and is now writing a book about the untold story of the impact of the elevated railroad Loop on the stability and development of Chicago. His essays have appeared frequently in American and European publications, including the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun-Times, Crain’s Chicago Business, National Catholic Reporter, Illinois Heritage, Reality, and U.S. Catholic. His book reviews have twice won the Peter Lisagor Award for arts criticism. He has lectured on Chicago history at the Chicago History Museum.

rose-in-a-hat
December Nineteen Forty-One
by Rose Mary Boehm

Me in a pink woolly hat with patchwork.
The blue snow crunches. Small, dark,
laced-up boots. I look down. Holding my brother’s
hand. See the end of my coat move in step
with my legs, my knees. Knitted, scratchy stockings.

The church has colored windows
and a lot of dark-red velvet. One women
sings too high. Too loud. The pastor
has a cold. Who’s this sweet little Jesus?
My legs don’t reach the ground.
Father’s voice is deep.
My brother’s voice is breaking.

The church windows are lit up
from the inside. There are shepherds
on one, a man with a red cape on the other.
Many boots trample down the snow.

The door opens to warm. The smell
of pine needles. Candle wax.
A shimmer hovers over the tree.
Fathers reads the Christmas story,
his voice halts before saying “with child.”
Then, one day, we stopped meeting there.

PHOTO: The author in a hat in (1941).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In Germany, when I was about three and a half,  during the first years of WWII, my mother took my brother and me to live in a small village in rural Germany where she’d been born, hoping to escape the war of whose dimensions we as yet had no idea. My father tried to be there for every Christmas—until he wasn’t.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A German-born U.K. national, Rose Mary Boehm lives and works in Lima, Peru. Author of TANGENTS, a poetry collection published in the U.K. (2011/2012), her work has been widely published in U.S. poetry journals (online and print).  Twice winner of the Goodreads monthly competition, her new poetry collection (From the Ruhr to Somewhere Near Dresden 1939-1949) was published by Aldrich Press in May 2016, and another new collection will be published by Kelsay Books in the middle of 2017.

PHOTO: The author in Lima, Peru (2016).

du Toit beach
Kogelbaai
by Marike du Toit

We discovered our younger selves
Amidst the jellyfish and sand;
We tickled our noses with ocean air
And held the bare sun in our hands.
We threw up an orange ball
Of laughter; we played tag
With silver streaks of mullets
And stuffed the clouds into a bag.
We strung stories into necklaces
And wore them on display:
We met our younger selves at the beach
And they taught us how to play.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My two friends playing with our orange ball at Kogelbaai beach, Cape Town, South Africa (October 2015).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem was written (whilst shivering in a wet bikini) upon return to my gray dorm room after a day spent on the nearby beach. We left campus tired and study-depressed, returning vibrant and positive. In the midst of our childlike frolics, I thought that a beach is surely the only place where you can pass time and return younger.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marike du Toit is a South African civil engineering student. Cape St. Francis, the small coastal town she grew up in, gave her an immense love for the ocean and a passion for water sports. Marike made up for the lack of peers and entertainment with a large imagination and many creative hobbies. She started writing at a young age and still has her first poem, written at age nine, which is also about the beach.

AUTHOR’S BIO PHOTO CAPTION: My happy self at Kogelbaai beach, Cape Town, in October 2015.

kellyredinger
A Short Dive from the Low Board
by John Lambremont, Sr.

That summer, the sun beat down on us
like it was the Devil himself;
we scampered for shade
into the thickest woods,
and drank a lot of hot water
from the garden hose.

The neighborhood pool was our savior,
our clear crystal blue oasis.
As soon as our summer membership began,
Mom started taking us to the pool
nearly every morning in June,
and we would often return again
with Dad late in the day.

On one sunny sojourn,
the Lackie twins and I
had the diving board
to ourselves; we performed
cannonballs and can openers,
jack-knives and swan dives
to our collective hearts’ content;
then we noticed that the lifeguard
had left temporarily his nearby post,
so we quickly concocted a plan.

We decided that the thing to do
was to all jump off the board
in rapid succession, taking
care not to land on each other,
so we prepared for the leap,
John in front, me in the middle,
and Jim taking up the rear.

John ran off the board,
and as I started to follow him,
I saw the lifeguard emerge
from the snack shop,
looking directly at me,
his face contorted with anger,
and about to shout, blow
his whistle, or both.
Busted, I stopped at mid-
board, and tried to turn around,
but in so doing, I ran into Jim,
lost my balance, and fell off
to the side like a poul-doux
being shot from the sky.

Time slowed to a crawl
as I rapidly descended;
I had no time to extend
my arms, and I landed
face-first on the concrete.
Stunned and numb, I drew
myself to my knees, checked
my face for blood, and found none.
My vision was awash in waves
as I staggered to my feet
and wobbled over to my mother
in her pool-side recliner.
She comforted me as I cried,
for once not scolding me
for doing a bad thing.

Jim got off the board gingerly,
and went to the spot where I fell.
He found there a small piece
of chipped tooth, picked it up,
and brought it to my mom.
She wrapped it up in a damp napkin,
summoned my little sister,
and took us home.

Dr. Lorio gave her concussion instructions,
and held me out of two baseball games.
The dentist said there was no way
to re-attach the chip, but that a cap
on the tooth was a viable alternative.
I declined, and to this day, one
can still see the chip in my upper incisor,
a permanent reminder of my
short dive from the low board.

PHOTO: “Boy jumping off diving board” by Kelly Redinger. Prints available at fineartamerica.com.

1-John Lambremont, Sr. by Nhu-Y lambremont

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Lambremont, Sr., is a poet and writer from Baton Rouge, Louisiana. John has a B.A. in Creative Writing and a J.D. from Louisiana State University. His poems have been published internationally in many reviews and anthologies, including Clarion, The Minetta Review, The Chaffin Journal, Picayune, and Words and Images, and he has been nominated for The Pushcart Prize. John’s last full-length poetry volume is Dispelling the Indigo Dream (Local Gems Poetry Press 2013), and his latest chapbook is What It Means To Be A Man (And Other Poems Of Life And Death) (Finishing Line Press 2015). John’s new full-length poetry collection, The Moment Of Capture, will be published in June 2017 by Lit Fest Press.

Peipins- The Pool at the Temple
Diving into the Abyss
by Terez Peipins

It was big news when our new middle school installed a swimming pool. We all speculated about how it would look, what bathing suits we would wear, and what would happen if someone peed in it. Although I grew up next to a pond, I never learned to swim. So, in seventh grade the day finally came when our class went swimming. Our bathing suits were navy blue and baggy. I had to take off my glasses which meant I was in a chlorine fog. I joined the nerds in the shallow end and learned a strange frog-like backstroke. We had six weeks of a shallow pool experience where I could stand up at any time if my stroke wasn’t working.

The following year when our class’s turn came, I was sick with a cold for the first two weeks which kept me away from the pool. At the end of my first day back, the class lined up to dive. That was not something I could manage so I went to shower and change. The gym teacher pulled me out of the shower and made me get into line. I protested to no avail. I jumped off the diving board into the deep end. Sputtering I came up and had to be rescued by a pole.

All was not lost. The following year, understanding my fears, the new gym teacher (who, by the way, was hot) held my hand as I floated in the deep end. I’m still not a great swimmer but I can swim in the deep end of a pool with a minimum of anxiety.

PHOTO: The author in the pool at Baps Indian Temple (Atlanta, Georgia).

PEIPINS

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: The  poetry, fiction, and essays of Terez Peipins have appeared in publications both in the United States and abroad, including Anak Sastra, Barcelona Ink, The Barcelona Review, The Buffalo News,Conte, Creeping Bent,Hawai’ Pacific Review, Melusine, and Pedestal, among many others.  Her newest chapbook, Dance the Truth is published by Saddle Road Press. Her novel, The Shadow of Silver Birch is published by Black Rose Writing.