Archives for posts with tag: family stories

by Robert Bly

My dear children, do you remember the morning
When we climbed into the old Plymouth
And drove west straight toward the Pacific?
We were all the people there were.
We followed Dylan’s songs all the way west.
It was Seventy; the war was over, almost;
And we were driving to the sea.
We had closed the farm, tucked in
The flap, and were eating the honey
Of distance and the word “there.”
Oh whee, we’re gonna fly
Down into the easy chair. We sang that
Over and over. That’s what the early
Seventies were like. We weren’t afraid.
And a hole had opened in the world.
We laughed at Las Vegas.
There was enough gaiety
For all of us, and ahead of us was
The ocean. Tomorrow’s
The day my bride’s gonna come.
And the war was over, almost.

Note: “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere” is the Bob Dylan song referred to in “Driving West in 1970.” Listen to a 1968 version by the Byrds here. Find it on Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits, Volume II at

By Edward Hirsch

I used to mock my father and his chums
for getting up early on Sunday morning
and drinking coffee at a local spot
but now I’m one of those chumps.
No one cares about my old humiliations
but they go on dragging through my sleep
like a string of empty tin cans rattling
behind an abandoned car.
It’s like this: just when you think
you have forgotten that red-haired girl
who left you stranded in a parking lot
forty years ago, you wake up
early enough to see her disappearing
around the corner of your dream
on someone else’s motorcycle
roaring onto the highway at sunrise.
And so now I’m sitting in a dimly lit
café full of early morning risers
where the windows are covered with soot
and the coffee is warm and bitter. 

SOURCE: “Early Sunday Morning” appears in Edward Hirsch’s collection The Living Fire (Knopf, 2010), available at

IMAGE: “Cup of Blue” by Sebastian Lartiste. Prints available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Edward Hirsch is an American poet and critic who wrote the national best seller How to Read a Poem. He has published eight books of poems, including The Living Fire: New and Selected Poems (2010), which brings together thirty-five years of work. He is president of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation in New York City.

by Lee Ann Roripaugh

My mother carried the chest x-ray
in her lap on the plane, inside
a manila envelope that read
Do Not Bend and, garnished
with leis at the Honolulu Airport,
waited in line—this strange image
of ribcage, chain-link vertebrae,
pearled milk of lung, and the murky
enigmatic chambers of her heart
in hand. Until it was her turn
and the immigration officer held
the black-and-white film up
to sun, light pierced clean through
her, and she was ushered from one
life through the gate of another,
wreathed in the dubious and illusory
perfume of plucked orchids.
“X-Ray” is an excerpt from Lee Ann Roripaugh‘s poem “Transplanting.” Read the poem in its entirety at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: A Wyoming native and second-generation Japanese American, Lee Ann Roripaugh earned an MFA in creative writing from Indiana University, Bloomington. She is the author of Beyond Heart Mountain (1999), selected by Ishmael Reed for the National Poetry Series; Year of the Snake (2004); and On the Cusp of a Dangerous Year (2009). Roripaugh’s awards include a Bush Artist Foundation Individual Fellowship and the 1995 Randall Jarrell International Poetry Prize.

Image: “Orchid X-Ray” by Albert Koestler, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Prints available at

by Lori McGinn

Do you remember?
There was that time
You were all fashion savvy,
With your martini,
your fancy cigarette holder?
Pall Mall cigarette poised.
There was a pool, a party,
Me, at the bottom of the pool
looking up, wondering when to breathe.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lori McGinn is a mom, grandma, baker of cookies, visual artist, and writer of poems. A native of Whittier, California, her work has appeared in several anthologies and her chapbook, Waiting, was published as a part of the Laguna Poets Series.
“Woman with a Green Olive, Floating” and other poetry by Lori McGinn appears in the Silver Birch Press Green Anthology — a collection of poetry and prose from more than 70 authors around the world — available at (free Kindle version until 12/21/13).

Photo: “Classic Martini” by Ken Johnson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

by Lydia Maria Child (1844) 

Over the river, and through the wood,
   to Grandfather’s house we go;
      the horse knows the way
      to carry the sleigh
   through the white and drifted snow.
Over the river, and through the wood,
   to Grandfather’s house away!
      We would not stop
      for doll or top,
   for ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood,
   to have a first-rate play.
      Hear the bells ring,
      “Ting a ling ding!”
   Hurray for Thanskgiving Day!
Over the river, and through the wood,
   trot fast my dapple gray!
      Spring over the ground
      like a hunting-hound!
   For ’tis Thanksgiving Day.
Over the river, and through the wood—
   when Grandmother sees us come,
      she will say, “O, dear,
      the children are here,
   bring pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
   now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
      Hurrah for the fun!
      Is the pudding done?
   Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Note: A longer version of the poem with beautiful illustrations by Christopher Manson is available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Lydia Maria Francis Child (1802–1880) was an American abolitionist, women’s rights activist, Indian rights activist, novelist, and journalist. Her journals, fiction and domestic manuals reached wide audiences from the 1820s through the 1850s. Child was later most remembered for her poem “Over the River and Through the Wood” about Thanksgiving. Her grandfather’s house, restored by Tufts University in 1976, still stands near the Mystic River on South Street in Medford, Massachusetts. (Read more at

by Thomas R. Thomas 

I remember the Brethren church in LA
where my Mom and Grandma grew up.
It was one of those old wooden
churches with back stairs and
an attic to hide in.
It was before I started
school, and once a week
Mommy would go to the WMC
and I would sit at her feet,
playing all day with the
same toy. I would explore
those back stairs, and
crawl through the attic.
On Sundays Grandma would stand
at the front of the church and
sing solos like an angel, and
I would lay with my head
on Mommy’s breast.
I wonder how those beautiful
songs of peace and joy could
come out of her mouth when
inside she was so cold and dark.
My mother was captured by
that cold darkness like she
was captured by the cigarettes
that sat in her drawer, and we
never once saw them in her mouth,
years later telling the Doctor in front
of my sister that she never smoked.
Now I hold their hands, and walk
Those stairs, open the attic doors.
We feel the cold rush of air,
And gaze into the shadows.


“Back Stairs” appears in Thomas R. Thomas‘s new collection Five Lines (World Parade Books, October 2013), available at

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Thomas R. Thomas was born in Los Angeles and grew up in the San Gabriel Valley west of LA. Currently, he lives in Long Beach, California. For his day job, he is a software QA Analyst. He volunteers for Tebot Bach, a community poetry organization, in Huntington Beach. Thomas has been published in Don’t Blame the Ugly Mug: 10 Years of 2 Idiots Peddling Poetry, Creepy Gnome, Carnival, Pipe Dream, Bank Heavy Press, Conceit Magazine, Electric Windmill & Marco Polo, and the Silver Birch Press Summer Anthology. In November 2012, Carnival released his eChapbook, Scorpio, and Washing Machine Press released a chapbooklette called Tanka. In October 2013, World Parade Books published a book of his poetry, Five Lines. Visit the author’s website at

Photo: “A Staircase in Silhouette Against a Yellow Stained Glass Window” by David Evans. Prints available at

by Alberto Rios

In the old days of our family,
My grandmother was a young woman
Whose hair was as long as the river.
She lived with her sisters on the ranch
La Calera–The Land of the Lime–
And her days were happy.
But her uncle Carlos lived there too,
Carlos whose soul had the edge of a knife.
One day, to teach her to ride a horse,
He made her climb on the fastest one,
Bareback, and sit there
As he held its long face in his arms.
And then he did the unspeakable deed
For which he would always be remembered:
He called for the handsome baby Pirrín
And he placed the child in her arms.
With that picture of a Madonna on horseback
He slapped the shank of the horse’s rear leg.
The horse did what a horse must,
Racing full toward the bright horizon.
But first he ran under the álamo trees
To rid his back of this unfair weight:
This woman full of tears
And this baby full of love.
When they reached the trees and went under,
Her hair, which had trailed her,
Equal in its magnificence to the tail of the horse,
That hair rose up and flew into the branches
As if it were a thousand arms,
All of them trying to save her.
The horse ran off and left her,
The baby still in her arms,
The two of them hanging from her hair.
The baby looked only at her
And did not cry, so steady was her cradle.
Her sisters came running to save them.
But the hair would not let go.
From its fear it held on and had to be cut,
All of it, from her head.
From that day on, my grandmother
Wore her hair short like a scream,
But it was long like a river in her sleep. 

PAINTING: “Woman Combing Her Hair” by Edgar Degas (1894)


DOG STORY (Excerpt)

by Adam Gopnik

…where we are creatures of past and future, she lives in the minute’s joy: a little wolf, racing and snorting and scaring; and the small ingratiating spirit, doing anything to please. At times, I think that I can see her turn her head and look back at the ghost of the wolf mother she parted from long ago, saying, “See, it was a good bet after all; they’re nice to me, mostly.” Then she waits by the door for the next member of the circle she has insinuated herself into to come back to the hearth and seal the basic social contract common to all things that breathe and feel and gaze: love given for promises kept. How does anyone live without a dog? I can’t imagine.
Excerpted from The New Yorker, August 8, 2011. Find the complete story here. In “Dog Story,” Adam Gopnik describes how his family came to adopt and fall in love with a Havanese puppy Gopnik named Butterscotch.

Photo: ”Havanese puppy” by Martin Taylor



by Sam Shepard

…We stopped on the prairie at a place with huge white plaster dinosaurs standing around in a circle. There was no town. Just these dinosaurs with lights shining up at them from the ground.

My mother carried my around in a brown Army blanket humming a slow tune. I think it was “Peg a’ My Heart.” She hummed it very softly to herself. Like her thoughts were far away.

We weaved slowly in and out through the dinosaurs. Through their legs. Under their bellies. Circling the Brontosaurus. Staring up at the teeth of Tyrannosaurus Rex. They all had these little blue lights for eyes.

There were no people around. Just us and the dinosaurs.

PHOTO: Dinosaur Park, Rapid City, South Dakota, 1945 (April K. Hanson, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED)

Poem by Theodore Roethke

The wind billowing out the seat of my britches,
My feet crackling splinters of glass and dried putty,
The half-grown chrysanthemums staring up like accusers,
Up through the streaked glass, flashing with sunlight,
A few white clouds all rushing eastward,
A line of elms plunging and tossing like horses,
And everyone, everyone pointing up and shouting! 

Photo: Christopher Michael Hough, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED