Archives for posts with tag: grandparents

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How to find your voice
By JC. Sulzenko

It’s not every day your voice forsakes you.

From childhood on, I learned songs by ear—nursery rhymes, carols, Broadway tunes, gospel, folk, and rock.

I sang around campfires, on long car rides, in a mass choir, and later in an a capella group.

Just after my mother died, I dropped out. I got used to humming anthems and pop songs to myself, to whispering lullabies to my grandchildren.

Until the other day, when I had my granddaughter’s attention and remembered that song about wheels on the bus.

I heard the melody in my head and started to sing, but the notes, the words came out with a rasp and off-key.

I drank cold water and tried again. I switched to a simpler rhyme, with the same results. That’s when I had to admit my singing voice was missing. I needed to find it.

I began in the top left hand drawer of my dresser where I keep practical things—nail files, combs, unopened lipsticks and compacts, single buttons, along with an array

of discouraging cloth facemasks. What had I hoped to find there? If not my voice, then a clue as to where it had gone and why.

I rummaged in the back of my closet, behind the silk sheaths that won’t fit until I emerge from this claustrophobic cocoon, my wonky hip is replaced, and I can exercise without

pain. I pulled out my jewelry box—I’d forgotten the crystals I wore to the last party we attended when we could go wherever we wanted. I put them back.

I speculated. Perhaps my singing voice had gone dormant under the fine snow, which fell for a day, a night and sculpted the landscape to its design.

Or perhaps, constricted by lockdowns, my voice escaped and fled into heaven’s blues, icy Blues. Or perhaps it simply lost itself, whatever the reasons.

It needn’t worry that it’s not good enough. The child will recognize her grandmother’s music, even on a small screen.

ART: The Banjo Lesson by Mary Cassatt (1893).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As most of my interaction with everyone outside the home, including our family, has become virtual, I noticed how my own inner and outer dynamics have shifted. Sometimes for the better. Sometimes not. Prolonged isolation has affected my self-discipline, my sense of purpose, and my readiness to write. It also has made me realize how much I miss singing with other people. Instead of shelving poetry ideas as I am wont to do at this point in my life, I felt some urgency to compose “How to find your voice” once I saw Silver Birch Press’s call for “how to’” poems. As an aside, I recently joined an online choir and enjoy the sessions more and more each week.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: JC Sulzenko’s poems appeared on Arc’s Poem of the Year shortlist, Maple Tree Literary Supplement, and Oratorealis, in anthologies and online, either under her name or as A. Garnett Weiss. Silver Birch Press and The Light Ekphrastic publish her. In 2020, her work appeared in Vallum, the Naugatuck River Review, and the Poetry Leaves project. She won the Wind and Water Writing Contest and the WrEN award (Children’s Poetry) and judged poetry for the National Capital Writing Contest in 2019.  Another Dysfunctional Cancer Poem Anthology (Mansfield Press) the Poet’s Pathway, and County CollAboRaTive projects featured her in 2018. Point Petre Publishing released JC’s South Shore Suite…Poems (2017). Her centos took top honours in The Bannister Anthology (2016, 2013). She presented workshops for the Ottawa International Writers Festival, the Canadian Authors Association, the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board, the Ottawa Public Library, and a number of Alzheimer societies, among others. She has published six books for children and co-authored poetry chapbooks Slant of Light and Breathing Mutable Air  with Carol A. Stephen. Based in Ottawa, Canada, JC curates the Glebe Report’s “Poetry Quarter” and serves as a selector for bywords.ca. Visit her at jcsulzenko.com.

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REFUGIO’S HAIR
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).

SOURCE: “Refugio’s Hair” appears in Alberto Rios‘s collection The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (Copper Canyon Press, 2002), available at Amazon.com.

Image ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Alberto Alvaro Ríos was born in Nogales, Arizona, in 1952. He received a BA from the University of Arizona in 1974 and an MFA in Creative Writing from the same institution in 1979. His poetry collections include Dangerous Shirt (Copper Canyon Press, 2009); The Theater of Night (2007); The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body (2002), nominated for the National Book Award; Teodora Luna’s Two Kisses (1990); The Lime Orchard Woman (1988); Five Indiscretions (1985); and Whispering to Fool the Wind (1982), winner of the 1981 Walt Whitman Award. He has been honored with numerous awards, including six Pushcart Prizes, the Arizona Governor’s Arts Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. Since 1994, he has served as Regents Professor of English at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1982. In 2013, Ríos was named the inaugural state poet laureate of Arizona.

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REFUGIO’S HAIR
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)

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QUEEN ANNE’S LACE
by Ruth Moon Kempher

My Gramma knew the names of all the field
flowers, but I didn’t always listen.  The lavender
lilac was French, she said, which I knew was far off
where there was war, which wasn’t fitting.  Peace—
there were Peace roses in her garden, and Ramblers—
that made sense somehow, since everybody went out
somewhere, but could come home.  Three-Star flag
in her window for three boys, one was for my Dad—
Lily-of-the-Valley and Mock Orange by the porch.
Too long in the south now, where it hardly
grows anything without stickers or violent smell
my favorites were Queen Anne’s Lace and
Dutchman’s Breeches, sometimes called, if I
remember rightly, Butter and Eggs, in lots miscalled
“vacant,” where grasses congregate—bugs
and milkweed pods, oozing moths and butterflies—
the moths that drift, white over dry rows of pea vines
like early snow.  Summer was the best time, then.
Carrot smell, vague, of Queen Anne’s lace
embroidered my days, easy.  Looking up under
its umbrella, kaleidoscope curds, white knurls
on green spokes, turned slowly—Summer
was for hiding then, mostly, looking up.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ruth Moon Kempher, an ex-navy brat who was born in Red Bank, New Jersey, has had her poetry and short prose appear in journals and other periodical publications since 1958, and has published many other people’s work since 1994 through her Kings Estate Press in St. Augustine, Florida. She is retired from owning a tavern and from teaching—first for Flagler College while attaining her BA and graduating with the college’s first class; and later, after achieving her MA at Emory University in Atlanta, in the English Department of St. Johns River Community College. The latest of her thirty-three (mostly small) collections is Key West Papers (Casa de Cinco Hermanos Press, Pueblo, Colorado). Her poetry, including “Queen Anne’s Lace,” will appear in the Silver Birch Press SUMMER ANTHOLOGY (June 21, 2013), a collection of poetry and prose written by over 70 authors from the U.S., Canada, U.K., Europe, and Africa.

PHOTO: “Queen Anne’s Lace” by LupenGrainne — prints are available at etsy.com.