Archives for posts with tag: childhood

olga tarakanova
Growing Faster Than Swamp Bamboo,
My Mother Liked to Say
by Jackie Craven

August turned our lake into a gloomy puddle
where minnows sank from the weight
of their own bodies and grownup voices
drifted on smoke from sad little charcoal fires
which made me wish for a cigarette—
a cloud of sin I could hold in my lungs
and no one would guess the darkness
inside me—or a secret tattoo
like a dragonfly or a message written in code—
impossible to decipher as I waded into the deepest
green. The water used to reach my chin but now
my legs were so much longer—
Even out by the rusty buoy
my feet touched bottom and mud pushed
between my toes. Above the din of lovelorn frogs
I heard her call and call.

Previously published in Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters by Jackie Craven, Brick Road Poetry Press, 2018.

IMAGE: Bamboo with leaves (watercolor) by Olga Tarakanova.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the summer months, my family used to go camping at Lake Sherando in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Oh, the frogs and minnows, so fat and easy to catch. Oh, the nights lit by campfires and fireflies. As I entered my teens, the enchantment mingled with a desperate need for detachment . . . and a longing to hold on.

PHOTO: The author, age 11, at Lake Sherando (Virginia).

Author Jackie Craven in red turtleneck shirt and dark red glasses.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jackie Craven has recent poems in AGNI, The Massachusetts Review, New Ohio Review, Pleiades, Ploughshares, River Styx, and other journals and anthologies. She’s the author of Secret Formulas & Techniques of the Masters (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2018) and two chapbooks, Cyborg Sister (Headmistress Press, 2022) and  Our Lives Became Unmanageable (Omnidawn, 2016), winner of the Omnidawn Fabulist Fiction Award. After earning a Doctor of Arts in Writing from the University at Albany, New York, she worked for many years as a journalist covering architecture, visual art, and travel. Find her at JackieCraven.com.

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Fabulous Buffet
by Marilyn Zelke Windau

Six drawers and two doors it had.
When I got to be the same height as it,
I went exploring.

The drawers were heavy to pull out.
No real surprises there:
tablecloths folded in thirds,
napkins stacked six high,
thin wooden trays used for appetizers,
or health-providing foods when ailing.

The two top drawers held the service ware.
Forks and knives and spoons—
fish course forks, rounded soup spoons,
small dessert spoons, and tiny ones for tea.
It had all been my Aunt Evie’s—
silverware passed on after she did.

But it was those doors that drew me
to the fabulous buffet.
Empty keyholes lured my skinny fingers to poke.
They opened to the real treasures!

China figurines of a pony, a puppy,
elephant, goldfish, a brown bear—
a zoo silently chatting on a shelf.

Spherical glass balls of color were housed
in a gleaming silver bowl.
I held them each to the light
streaming in from the leaded glass windows.

One was facetted with a daisy,
carved on a squared side.
A spectrum of reds and yellows,
blues and greens flickered the walls.
I knew for sure it was Tinkerbell.

Many were the visits, many the discoveries,
quietly, carefully, secretly made
to the fabulous buffet.

PHOTO: Alice in Wonderland Credenza by Gypsy Queen, available at society6.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I am a second child, a second daughter, not a firstborn and not the boy. I found myself getting into lots of trouble as a child, the proverbial second child syndrome. I ripped pages out of first edition books, jumped out of the bathtub to run down the street naked, picked all the neighbors’ tulips one spring. I loved exploring closets and cupboards secretly. Hence, the prompt for this poem.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Marilyn Zelke Windau  started writing poems at age 13. A former art teacher, she has written four books of poetry, one self-illustrated, published: Adventures in Paradise (Finishing Line Press), Momentary Ordinary (Pebblebrook Press), Owning Shadows (Kelsay Books), Hiccups Haunt Wilson Avenue ((Kelsay Books). An award-winning author, her work may be found in many journals and anthologies. She includes her maiden name to honor her father, who was also a writer.

Gloria and I
Dressed Alike
by Margaret Duda

Gloria resembled me with dark hair,
softly curled on a wig of mohair,
realistic dark glass eyes that blinked,
and a composition head and limbs
made of sawdust, glue and cornstarch
attached to a soft, stuffed cloth torso.

Mama decided we would surprise
Papa for his birthday and sewed
matching dresses of dark gold satin
for Gloria and me on her treadle machine.
Each dress had a wide gathered collar
and puffy short sleeves and we wore
matching patent leather shoes. Mama
called them our go to meeting outfits.

Excitement started as soon as we took
our padded seats on the train
and others passed us in the aisle.
Women stopped to stare at us
and all took time to comment.

Oh, look, she is dressed like her doll.
I love the matching dresses.
You are a very lucky little girl
to have such a clever Mama.
You and your doll are so pretty.

Matching. Lucky. Clever.
I soaked up the new words,
asking Mama the meaning of each,
as I slowly learned more English
every weekend on the hissing train,
bucking us forward on rapid stops.

When we arrived, Papa was waiting
on the platform. The door opened,
and Gloria and I ran into his arms.
“You both look beautiful,” Papa said.
“I have a clever Mama,” I told him,
showing off new linguistic skills
“Yes, you do, Mancika,” Papa agreed,
smiling at Mama with appreciation.

PHOTO: The author with her beloved doll and traveling companion, Gloria.

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: In 1946, when we lived in Watertown, New York, my father took a better job in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Since I was in kindergarten, my mother said we could join him when I finished the school year. My father took the train to see us every other weekend and on alternate weekends, we took the train to Bridgeport. Since my parents immigrated from Hungary in the 1920s, we spoke Hungarian at home as we lived near Hungarian friends and relatives. My mother taught me English six months before I started school, and by the second half of the year, I spoke and read it well for a five-year-old, but learned new words every other week on the train. I always took Gloria, my favorite doll, with me, and my mother made us matching dresses to surprise my father on his birthday and gave him a photo of me in the dress. Seventy-five years later, I found Gloria tucked away safely in one of my closets. Her curls were gone from all the brushing and small cracks could be seen on her composition face and limbs, but she still wore the go-to-meeting dress and reminded me of the English words I’d learned on the train. I learned to love traveling on those trips and traveled to more than 40 countries as a travel photographer and studied six languages later in life. I had to smile when the American Girl doll with matching clothes for a little girl came out and bought a doll and a matching dress for the four granddaughters I had then.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is a photo of me and four of my six granddaughters (two were yet to be born) with the American Girl dolls I bought, as I remembered how much I’d loved the matching dresses my mother had made. To show how long ago this photo was taken, the granddaughter to my left just graduated from law school and the one on the right is in her second year of dental school, the one on the lower left is doing an MFA in creative writing at Columbia, and the one on the lower right is studying cognitive science in college.  How time does fly!

Mancika 1 in dress

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is the “go to meeting dress” that my mother made. She gave my father this photo of me — I was then known as Mancika — to keep while he was working in Connecticut. I don’t have a photo of myself and Gloria in the matching dresses.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: As a poet, Margaret Duda has had numerous poems published during the past year in Silver Birch Press, THE  POET (UK) anthology entitled Friends and Friendships (Vol. 1), the anthology Around the World: Landscapes and Cityscapes, A Love Letter (or Poem) to... anthology, several poems on Connections and Creativity in Challenging Times, and three poems in Viral Imaginations: Covid-19. As a short story writer, she has had her work published in The Kansas Quarterly, the University Review, the Michigan Quarterly Review, the South Carolina Review, Fine Arts Discovery, Crosscurrents, Venture, Green River Review, and other journals. One of her short stories made the Distinctive List of Best American Short Stories. She has written five books of nonfiction, the latest are Four Centuries of Silver and Traditional Chinese Toggles: Counterweights and Charms. Listed in Who’s Who of Emerging Writers 2021, she is currently working on the final draft of an immigrant family saga novel set in a steel mill town from 1910 to 1920.

benjamin haas circus
The Circus
by Lorraine Caputo

Late summer one year
a circus came to the field near our house.
The large trucks filled with animals drove up,
painted like old-time circus wagons,
the forgotten name emblazoned on the sides.
Tents were thrown up in the din of shouting and laughter.
The excitement built as their temporary settlement built.

We’d walk down to the edge of that field,
not daring to step from gravel to grass,
sit and watch these strangers.

The first night, the first performance
we were there
watching the tightrope walkers,
wondering if they really did have holes cut
in the bottoms of their buckets.
The lions and tigers were paraded out,
horseback riders
and tricycle clowns.
We laughed and smiled.

For a week
we’d wander to the field,
walk about the tents,
watch the man make sky blue
and magenta cotton candy.
Barefoot, watching for elephant shit,
cautiously reach our hand out
to touch that dry, wrinkled skin.

Our mother scolded us for going down so often.
But that didn’t stop us
from peeking beneath the tents,
slipping into the secret slits
to watch for just one more time
the ringmaster lead the people
into his world of circus wonders.

For six years they came
to fill those last waning days of warmth.
Then one summer they did not come.
The field lay barren of the brightly colored tents,
the air was still in the absence of elephant trumpeting.
I’d walk through the grass,
feel it rub against my thighs,
feel the earth ooze between my toes.
I’d gaze longingly across that field
wishing that the circus would come back.

Photo by Benjamin Haas.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: We lived in a nature reserve when I was a child. Our neighbors were one other family and the rangers. There was a large field down the hill from out houses. This memory plays like an old movie, over and over, the same summer scenes (year after year) … until the film breaks, and the circus comes no more …

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ABOUT THE  AUTHOR: Lorraine Caputo is a wandering troubadour whose poetry appears in over 300 journals on six continents, and 20 collections of poetry – including Notes from the Patagonia (dancing girl press, 2017), On Galápagos Shores (dancing girl press, 2019) and Caribbean Interludes (Origami Poems Project, 2022). She also authors travel narratives, articles, and guidebooks. Her writing has been honored by the Parliamentary Poet Laureate of Canada (2011) and nominated for the Best of the Net. Caputo has done literary readings from Alaska to the Patagonia. She journeys through Latin America with her faithful knapsack Rocinante, listening to the voices of the pueblos and Earth. Follow her adventures at on Facebook and latinamericawanderer.wordpress.com.

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Bombay Fish Market
by Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Here the entire sea
Comes in with the fish
Wet, Wet, Wet,
Everything is wet
The stench, indescribable!
Bell-bottoms and flip-flops
Not appropriate apparel
In a Bombay fish market.
Mother scolds me for making
Poor dress choices.

The fisherwomen loaded with gold ornaments
Jasmine flowers in their hair
Call out in raucous voices,
The fish wear sad expressions
Lying on stone slabs
In salt sea-water.

Mother bargains with her usual style
The fisherwoman says
“I’ll sell you the fish cheap
if you give your daughter’s hand in marriage to my son.’’
That was the last time
I went to the fish market with mother.
Fish curry at home erases
The fish market experience.
Still the enjoyment of the curry
Comes tinged with a bit of guilt
Sadness for the fish
On the stone slabs, their eyes follow me.

Father takes me to the Aquarium
A once-in-a-while treat.
A better place to admire fish.

Still my preference is to go down to the sea with him
Where I dream of writing a poem
like John Masefield’s Sea Fever.

The fish are at home in the ocean
That travels the shores of my city.
I wish for everything Masefield desires
Unlike him, I am afraid of the sea.

First published in Verse-Virtual, August 2021.

IMAGE: Fish fairytale by CDD20.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is based on my memory of going to a fish market in Bombay with my mother, as a young girl. It was interesting and unnerving experience at the same time, especially in the company of my mother. The poem also refers to the memorable experience of going to the Bombay Aquarium with my poet father, and for walks to the seashore with him, both of which were always fun and enjoyable. John Masefield’s poem “Sea Fever,” has remained one of my favorite poems to this day.

Kavita reading poetry copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca has been a teacher of English, French, and Spanish for over four decades in colleges in India and private schools overseas. She is a widely published poet, with poems featured in various journals and anthologies, including the Yearbook of Indian Poetry in English, the Journal of Indian Poetry in English by Sahitya Akademi, SETU magazine, Harbinger Asylum, and Verse-Virtual. Her debut collection Family Sunday and other Poems was published in 1989. Her chapbook Light of the Sabbath was published in September 2021. Kavita is the daughter of the late poet Nissim Ezekiel. Visit her on her author site and on Facebook.

cinnamon toast resnick
Cinnamon Toast, Winter 1954
by Lynne Kemen

Norma cooked cinnamon toast
the first time I tasted it.
It in my hands, me in the wooden chair
at the kitchen table.

A blend of familiar and not.
Toast with zing, cut diagonally
sugar and cinnamon-candy
for breakfast.

With milk: warm, buttery, sparkly, cinnamon
tasted better than the red
and blue wooden sticks chewed from
my tinker toys.
Woody, a Christmas cookie sparkle,
slightly bitter.

Reddish-brown, the crayon
my dad called brick.
Toast didn’t taste like crayon.
Sugar on my face,
stung when Norma struck it off.

Cold milk. Good toast. Bubbles blown,
Norma laughed instead of getting mad
at me.

PHOTO: Cinnamon Toast by Joshua Resnick.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Senses can be strong reminders. In this case, my Aunt Norma gave me my first taste of cinnamon toast. She is now 91, and we both share this happy memory of a perfect after-nap experience.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lynne Kemen lives in Upstate New York. Her chapbook, More Than a Handful, was published in 2020. Her work is anthologized in Seeing Things (2020) and What We See on Our Journeys (2021). She is published in Silver Birch Press, The Ravens Perch, Fresh Words Magazine, Spillwords, Topical Poetry, Lothlorien Poetry Journal, and Blue Mountain Review. Lynne stands on the Board of Bright Hill Press. She is an Editor for the Blue Mountain Review and a lifetime member of The Southern Collective Experience. Her second chapbook, Crows Fly at Midnight, will be published in 2023. Visit her at lynnekemen.com and on Twitter.

woodlouse on a twig mojo maniac
First Encounter
by Melody Wilson

Bored of squeezing snapdragons’ cheeks,
impersonating my sister through their ruffled
lips, I sift petals in the soil, yellow, pink. A bean
wobbles toward me, domed creature marching
through chips. I press my finger
against the ground, up it crawls.
Eyelash feet, butterfly kisses,
up my finger and into my palm.
I draw my folded hands close
to my face, open: “Peek a boo!”

Its antennae wonder.
“Don’t be afraid” I poke
its shiny shell. Smooth,
cool as orange peel, familiar as fingernail.
I blow into my palm. The creature rolls up,
tight as a pea. I am wonderstruck,
test it with a tap. It rolls over once,
rocks back, Still, mute. A magic trick? A disaster?

I drop it into the leaves and stand,
brush dirt from my dress, glance
toward the house. My mother is working
in the den, my sisters playing records. The sprinkler
chides: chhh chhh, chhh, ch, ch, ch, ch, ch ch.
I tower in the flower bed, in my guilt,
step toward the sidewalk, look again
into the mulch. The bug ambles
toward the tomatoes, my tricycle’s streamers
glitter in the breeze.

PHOTO: Woodlouse on a twig by Mojo Maniac.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I spent much of 2020 writing a collection of poetry about my mother, at the end of which I felt pretty exhausted. So I decided to write a series of poems about bugs. The only reason I decided to do this was that they provided a way for me to do a little research, which I love, and focus on something that has few if any emotional resonances. Well, bugs turned out to have a lot of emotional weight and became a chapbook that will come out in August 2023. This is one of my favorites of that group. The bug in the poem is unnamed for two reasons. Because the narrator is a child and it’s her first encounter, and because the name of the “bug” is regional and a topic of conversation.  So, to me it’s a curly bug, but to some people it’s a pill bug, or a rolly polly. Sometimes it’s a sow bug.  It’s actually not even a bug but a crustacean.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The woodlouse has 176 nicknames and seven pair of lungs, according to Country Life. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melody Wilson’s recent work appears in Quartet, Re Dactions, Sky Island Review, and on VerseDaily. New work will appear in Sugar House Review, Minnow, and Nimrod. She received the 2021 Kay Snow Award and recognition for the Oberon, Dobler, and Pablo Neruda Awards. Her first chapbook, Spineless: Memoir in Invertebrates, was a finalist for the New Women’s Voices competition. It will be published by Finishing Line Press in 2023. Find her work at melodywilson.com.

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Under the Ironing Machine
by Robbi Nester

All morning, my mother sits
before this rectangular monstrosity,
feeding it sheets damp from the washer.
I squat underneath, skinny knees
hugging my sides. The warm cotton
billows, becomes a tent where I sit
with my books and sketch pad,
singing to myself. The sun finds me,
and I feel all this will last forever,
even after the smooth sheets lie folded
into squares in the basket, and my mother
stands at the counter, kneading raw egg
into hamburger, offering me a bit
on the tip of one finger. Even after
the sun sags beneath the sill and
the moon opens her round silver eye.

This poem appears in the author’s collection Narrow Bridge (Main Street Rag, 2019).

PAINTING: Woman Ironing by Edgar Degas (1869).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Most people have probably never seen the kind of enormous industrial pressing machine I am describing here. To my knowledge, they weren’t even that common, at the time, in the late 50s/early 60s, but this machine took up a sizable portion of the kitchen in the Philadelphia rowhouse where I grew up. My mother used it to iron large objects, like sheets, as well as shirts and slacks. It made an ideal playhouse.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Robbi Nester was born and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and moved to Southern California in 1980 for graduate school. She has been here ever since. The author of four published books of poetry and as many as-yet-unpublished ones, she is an elected member of the Academy of American Poets, editor of three anthologies, and curator of two poetry series. Her poetry and reviews have appeared widely.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This photo, taken by my friend Jane Rosenberg LaForge, records a summer memory from last year–eating Italian ice in Southern California, a rare finding.

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Inga Stinkfinger
by Julie Standig

He told the child that was its name,
and the girl looked at him
with ginormous disappointment.

It was a far cry from what she wanted,
plus it smelled, a musty, moldy—plastic
odor that invaded her nostrils.

Inga was a first edition troll doll,
another Dam doll from Denmark,
a 60s thing. The original original troll.

The child didn’t care—wanted a baby doll,
cuddly and soft with pink rosy cheeks,
pouty-mouthed, maybe a touch of blonde hair.

This doll, not only stunk, she was seriously
ugly—all 7 inches of her—with wild, black
untamed, pigtailed hair

tied up with a Kelly green felt fabric
that matched her skirt, and suspenders.
Even the buttons were made of felt.

The eyes were bulging brown, with laugh
wrinkles, that matched the deep lines
surrounding a broad smile and puffed cheeks.

Her feet were squat, fat moveable legs,
hands large and fingers outspread
all four of them, to match the four fat toes.

The gifter looked hard at his daughter:
no one wanted to take her since she is so ugly,
but I knew you would love her in spite of that.

And the girl was never one to disappoint.

PHOTO: DAM Troll Doll, circa 1960s, available at etsy.com.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: Recently I had come across a photograph of an original DAM troll doll and it struck a chord. I had kept one my father gave me for many, many years and during one of my last moves decided to toss it because it was moldy and it seemed time. But I was wrong. Nothing I could do to get it back and buying an old expensive replacement wouldn’t help. So I wrote this poem and for me that did the trick.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A lifetime New Yorker, Julie Standig now writes with two amazing poetry groups, Marie Kane’s KT and the Stalwart Poets. She has been published in Alehouse Press, Sadie Girl Press, After Happy Hour Review, Schuylkill Journal Review, US1 Poets/Del Val, Gyroscope Review, as well as online journals. Her first chapbook, Memsahib Memoir, was released by Plan B Press in 2017, and an upcoming collection, The Forsaken Little Black Book, will be released Fall 2022 by Kelsay Books. She lives in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, with her husband and their springer spaniel.

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I Am Still Waiting for My Heart to Catch Up
by Cristina M.R. Norcross

After celebrating our youngest son’s
15th year on this earth,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with the hurried footsteps
of time.

I am still waiting for my arms to realize
that my sons don’t need me to lift them
into a car seat anymore.
Our oldest can now drive
the car himself.
My prayerful thoughts
can still guide them,
willing them to arrive safely in our driveway.
My steadfast words
of faith in their gifts can uphold them,
like scaffolding offering support
at vital pressure points,
or the red training wheels from bikes
now gathering dust in the garage.

I am still waiting for my invisible shield
to go unnoticed,
but this will never be.
They see the candle of concern in my eyes.
They notice the way my attention hovers,
the laser-like focus of my mother brain,
as I listen to their needs
and remember those they never even thought of.

The time of stepping on Legos and wiping
tomato sauce from chins has ended,
but the tiny hands
that once held my finger in sleep
will know that reaching out
always results in finding me.

Like music from another room that lingers
and dances me into the next chapter,
I am still waiting for my heart
to catch up with time.
So I keep looking down at my watch,
then up at the sky,
where the robin’s egg blue of tomorrow
promises to cradle my sons’ hopes,
even when I can’t be there
to open the door.

PAINTING: Motherhood by Pablo Picasso (1901).

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NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The blink of an eye that was 2020 caused time to race like a swift runner. Try not to close your eyes, I thought. You just might think we skipped a year and leapt into the next one. Time passes quickly enough for parents, while watching their children grow up. Our lives become busy, spinning wheels of school, activities, and chores. The pandemic caused time to both stand still and flow rapidly, like a river. Our teenaged sons grew by leaps and bounds this year, while we were looking out the window at the world, with longing. I hope that we can all slow down and take a breath. I am still waiting for my heart to catch up with time’s arrow.

PHOTO: The author’s sons in younger years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cristina M. R. Norcross is the author of eight poetry collections, and is the founding editor of Blue Heron Review (2013-2021). Her most recent book is Beauty in the Broken Places (Kelsay Books, 2019). Her forthcoming poetry collection, The Sound of a Collective Pulse, is due to be published by Kelsay Books in Fall 2021. Cristina’s poems have  been published in Visual VerseYour Daily PoemPoetry HallRight Hand PointingVerse-VirtualThe Ekphrastic Review, and Pirene’s Fountain, among others. Her work also appears in numerous print anthologies. She has helped organize community art and poetry projects, has led workshops, and has also hosted many open mic readings. She is the co-founder of Random Acts of Poetry and Art Day.  Visit her at cristinanorcross.com.