Archives for posts with tag: postaday

hernandez
Valediction
by Jennifer Hernandez

When the day came for Mom
to sell the terra cotta ranch house
built under the watchful eye
of my engineer father
(long before he moved out),
I drove on highway & gravel roads
the twenty minutes
from my college apartment
to say goodbye.

My bedroom — lime green shag &
lavender walls – was already empty,
the furniture having moved with me
into town. I stared out the window
into the backyard flood plain
down to the river where a neighbor boy
had drowned our first November
in the house, after sledding down the hill
onto too-thin ice.

I stepped out through the patio door,
drawn as always by the river,
the thin band of trees hugging its banks —
our forest — where we went to escape the adults.
I stopped at the river’s edge, watched currents swirl,
threw in a stick, watched it float downstream.
Then I walked to the base of my tree, two-by-fours
nailed like vertebrae
up the trunk.

I began to climb, anticipated the wiggle
of the second step, knew it would hold.
I pulled myself up until I reached
the round, thin sheet of plywood
fitted into the Y of the branches above.
My treehouse. I sat cross-legged —
nineteen years old — gazed out
across the river to another state,
comforted by the shush of wind,
green leaf canopy, birdsong, insect
chirps. Tears on my cheeks as I said
goodbye to my home, my childhood.

PHOTO: The author — and terrier/spaniel puppy Tacuache — with her Geo Spectrum loaded for a move from Culiacan, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas (1997).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I grew up in North Dakota, just across the Red River from Minnesota. During my twenties, I moved around a lot, including stints in England, Japan, and Mexico. Yet, when I sat down to write about a move, this is the one that swam to the surface. Curious, as I didn’t even technically live in the house any more, at least not full time. A couple of years ago, the house itself moved to a new location, as houses in my old neighborhood on the Red River became part of a flood buy-out program after too many epic floods in too few years.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Jennifer Hernandez lives in the Minneapolis area where she teaches, writes, and dreams of open water. Her recent work has appeared in Mothers Always Write, Rose Red Review, and Silver Birch Press, as well as anthologies Bird Float, Tree Song (Silverton Books) and A Prince Tribute (Yellow Chair Press). She has performed her poetry at a nonprofit garage, a bike shop filled with taxidermy, and in the kitchen for her toughest audience – her children.

Sittner_1a
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
by Leslie Sittner

Memories sustain me in my grief,
our time together, oh-so brief.
I wander the empty echoing rooms alone
in our huge retirement-together-home.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Gardens. Beach. Woods. All.
Always working side-by-side
in winter, spring, summer, fall.
Me the designer, he the labor
always dual caretakers.
Joint creators of landscape,
always partners, homemakers.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Downsize. Purge. Divest.
I know I must but my widow-judgment
I cannot trust.
Two years more I persevere.
Home maintained, groomed, fueled
until exhaustion, isolation, sadness
scream in my ear
Downsize. Purge. Divest.

I Should Go

Bestow, bequeath, donate, toss
the stuff of memories. Of love loss.
Leave enough to stage the place
And make the move so hard to face.

I Go

With considered belief that moving is right
I pray for relief from my grief each night.
The new village home, tiny, neat.
A perfect size for the dog and me.

I Go Back

Stalking the old house each season,
I drive by, park, linger, watch
trying to recapture, within reason,
the essence of my memories.
I want to shout
but those memories are ageing-out.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Our prior home (left) compared to my current one (right). The “new” house is a Lustron Home from 1949. It’s porcelain enameled steel panels inside and out (like a car), small, efficient, and easy care. Unlike the huge log home…

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prompt is painfully timely. It’s been exactly seven years since I’ve been widowed and five since the “move.”I tried this piece in prose but I couldn’t capture the struggle. I really do drive the 30 miles to the old place to sigh.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Leslie Sittner has been turning to the written word as a form of self-expression and reflection. She began this journey two years ago and is just finding her voice in different formats. Two of her stories are now available in print in The Apple Tree by Third Age Press, and on-line prose at 101Words, 50 Word Challenge, and 50 Word Stories. A variety of other prose and poetry can also be seen on-line at Silver Birch Press. She is finishing a book about travels with her ex-husband and hopes a publisher will find it as humorous as she and her friends do.

Reardon.....with none of my own
None of my own
by Patrick T. Reardon

I packed books in boxes
and notes in boxes
and pens and rulers
and pads of paper
and photos in frames
and maps and small things
without any category
that reminded me of a
person I’d met or a
story I’d written or a
place I’d been on the
job.

I said good-
bye, hugged and
was hugged,
saw tears in
other eyes but
shed none of my own,
and walked out the door,
laid off.

PHOTO: The author at the Chicago Tribune in 1987.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The challenge here was to compress into a few words a moment in my life that was filled with myriad strong emotions. My aim was to use short lines of discrete facts, piled one on top of the other, to give a sense of how everything that had gone before and everything that was to come had been telescoped into the action of packing and leaving. My hope is that the reader feels this compression and intensity before getting to the final two words that explain it all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Patrick T. Reardon, who has written five books and published essays and poetry widely, worked as a reporter for the Chicago Tribune until April 2009, when he was laid off.

fam painting1
Content(s)
by Larry D. Thacker

Emptying multiple junk drawers while packing up house for move.

Kitchen drawer #1: 15 receipts, medicine bag stuffed full of check stubs, rusty bread knife, two butter knives, two forks, mostly empty crushed box of plastic forks, spoons, and knives (probably from an annual 4th of July family reunion), 6 batteries of varying sizes (unknown remaining battery lives), one red flip phone, small handful of miscellaneous junk mail, partial used bag of napkins, plastic-wrapped Sponge Bob figurine (unopened) (assumed a prize from a cereal box).

     Prize. Noun. Something given to reward the winner of a competition.

We live in a culture when, as a child, eating your way to the bottom of a box of sugar-coated carb pops deserves recognition by means of a toy in visage of a cultural cartoon icon.

I liked the little statue and put it in my pocket. I’ve always liked Sponge Bob. It’s sitting on my writing desk now, waving at me with a big congratulatory smile. Some time later I looked up the little trinket and found someone selling one like it for fifty dollars. Damn, I thought. And I had opened the plastic cover and ruined its value.

Next: At least twenty similar drawers to rifle through in the house before move day.

     Serial. Adj. Repeating the same predictable behavior.

My father is out at the burn barrel torching ephemera. We’ve learned not to be too hasty in our emptying of junk drawers. The day before, my mother, him, and I were working through a few drawers in the dining room when my mother happened over an old letter. At a glance it could have been an old bill or a receipt. But this one was a letter from my father to her, 1970, from South Korea. My mother was pregnant with my sister at the time. My mother was living two doors down from the house they’re in now, with my grandfather. She’s taking care of me, barely a year old and my ailing grandmother. She will have my sister without my father by her side, the army decides. He will not be granted leave. He reads the letter out loud. It’s about the normal things you would want to say and know in such an arrangement. How is she? How am I? He quotes how much money they have in the bank, which, he says, is pretty good for their age. He asks if she’s yet received the money he sent. He tells her — I love you, I love you, I love you. Maybe this was for all three of us. Maybe it was just for my mother. Maybe, standing there, enlightened by this intimate moment so many decades later, it’s still just none of my business.

AUTHOR’S IMAGE CAPTION: My father painted this family portrait not long after the letters in the poem were written and after my sister was born.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This is a recent poem on my mother and father’s difficult move (in fact the entire block is moving after two blocks have been gobbled up by a store that’s expanding). This is only one of what feels like a hundred moments a day in the process of abandoning a home that will be razed and paved over soon.

wvw pic of me

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Larry D. Thacker is a writer and artist from Tennessee. His poetry can be found in journals and magazines such as The Still Journal, The Southern Poetry Anthology: Tennessee, Mojave River Review, Broad River Review, Harpoon Review, Rappahannock Review, and Appalachian Heritage. He is the author of Mountain Mysteries: The Mystic Traditions of Appalachia and the poetry chapbooks, Voice Hunting and Memory Train. He is presently taking his MFA in poetry and fiction at West Virginia Wesleyan College. Visit him at larrydthacker.com.

A8  John in Camo Jumper sown by mother from parachute silk
Refugees After the War
by John Guzlowski

We came with heavy suitcases
made from wooden boards by brothers
we left behind, came from Buchenwald
and Katowice and before that
Lwow, our mother’s true home,

came with our tongues
in tatters, our teeth in our pockets,
hugging only ourselves, our bodies
stiff like frightened ostriches.

We were the children in ragged wool
who shuffled in line to eat or pray
or beg anyone for charity.

Remembering the air and the trees,
the sky above the Polish fields,
we dreamt only of the lives waiting
for us in Chicago and St. Louis
and Superior, Wisconsin

like pennies
in our mouths.

PHOTO: The author at age two in a jumper his mother fashioned from parachute silk.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: For the last 36 years, I’ve been writing about the experiences of my parents and other victims of Nazism. I hope to give voice to those who could not talk about their experiences.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: John Guzlowski’s writing appears in Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac, Ontario Review, North American Review, Salon.Com, Rattle, Atticus Review, and many other print and online journals around the world.  His poems and personal essays about his parents’ experiences as slave laborers in Nazi Germany and refugees making a life for themselves in Chicago appear in his memoir in prose and poetry, Echoes of Tattered Tongues  (Aquila Polonica Press). Of Guzlowski’s writing, Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz said, “He has an astonishing ability for grasping reality.”

Karen Paul Holmes with dog

My Perfect House on the Market
by Karen Paul Holmes

The doggie door is too small for one couple’s mastiff, a retired man’s two old golden retrievers have bad knees and can’t do stairs, a woman with bad knees can’t afford an elevator but loves the ambiance. Though most think the kitchen large, an entertaining wife says it’s smallish. A designer feels the foyer looks out of proportion. One person would paint the oak raised-panel family room white but doesn’t make an offer. The offer of a New Orleans litigator is abhorrently low. He won’t budge. My husband decided the rooms of our marriage, which suited us for decades, no longer fit.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: This is me in the townhome that appears in the poem. My dog, Watson, did fit through the doggie door and was able to climb the stairs to all three levels.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This prose poem appears in my book, Untying the Knot. I wrote the poem out of frustration when my townhome sat on the market for several months, not allowing me to move into a new home after my divorce. All the potential buyers were nitpicking the heck out of the house, and all I could think of was “Well, I loved it all these years, why doesn’t anyone see what I saw?” All the complaints in the poem were real.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Karen Paul Holmes has a poetry collection Untying the Knot (Aldrich Press, 2014), and her work was chosen by Stay Thirsty Media for their Best Emerging Poets 2016. Poems have appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Poetry East, Atlanta Review, Slipstream, Lascaux Review, and The Southern Poetry Anthology Vol 5: Georgia (Texas Review Press). Karen hosts an open mic night and a monthly critique group.

North Avenue beach Chicago
Chicago Beach at the End of Season
by David Mathews

“And if I do, perhaps I am myself again.”
from Frank O’Hara’s “Mayakovsky”

At first, I was happy it wasn’t packed or hot.
I pulled out a beach towel and opened up
my used bookstore find of Frank O’Hara.

I lifted up from my book to look around.
None of us are beach types. We make up
the land of beer bellies and love handles.
We are the ones who always go to a party
that ended when all the right people left.

Soon Chicago’s Michigan sea was blowing
chilling wet sloppy kisses right at me,
like a gross grandmother or ancient aunt
with too much cheap makeup.
Having the street-smarts of stray cats,
no one goes in the water.

I couldn’t write anything down
inspired by “Mayakovsky” like I planned.
It’s hard to focus or relax
when your world seems to be the world
at the end of the world, with a few
everyday survivors scattered like litter,
moving sideways like hermit crabs,
not knowing where to go next.

SOURCE: Previously published in After Hours: A Journal of Writing and Art (Summer 2015 Issue No. 31).

PHOTO: “North Avenue Beach, Chicago” by Helgidinson, used by permission.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Mathews earned his MA in Writing and Publishing at DePaul University. His work has appeared in Eclectica Magazine, After Hours, CHEAP POP, One Sentence Poems, OMNI Reboot, Word Riot, Silver Birch Press, and Midwestern Gothic. His poetry was nominated for The Best of The Net and received awards from the Illinois Women’s Press and the National Federation of Press Women. He is a life-long Chicagoan that currently teaches where he teaches and writes.

harsham
Twenty Minutes at Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts
by Brenda Davis Harsham

My daughter chants
Beach, beach, beach!
in her wobbling soprano.
Bluebell skies,
wavy-air heat, a
parking lot half-eaten
by sand dunes.
Stiff winds smell
salty-clamy-fishy.
We add our coconut
sunscreen scent.
My husband and I unload
one picnic blanket,
two beach chairs,
three pails,
four shovels,
one cooler,
one giant towel tote,
two beach umbrellas,
one beach cart,
one song-girl
and two grumbling boys,
looking slightly green
from wrong turns and
illegal U-turns when our
GPS failed us.
We push, shove, pull and carry
our gear past cars
pumping Brazilian rhythms
and weaving a
welter of languages,
Spanish, Hindi, Portugese,
French, American English,
Australian English, German,
Korean and your-guess.
15 minutes of donkey labor
over feet-sinking soft sand,
we reach the solid threshold
of packed damp sand.
Waves tease and retreat.
My daughter sinks her shovel
and beams as if she’s
circled the sun and
buzzed the moon.
Her brothers build
towers and dig moats.
Black clouds mass,
roil and spill toward us.
Lightning spits. Thunder rolls.
The beach closes.
We haul, lug, trip over,
drag and torture
our gear back to the
parking lot.
Twenty minutes
at Horseneck Beach that
they don’t remember.
But I do.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Photo of my daughter taken July 2012 at Horseneck Beach, Massachusetts.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: This poem is the shortest trip to the beach I ever took, but maybe because of that, it always unfolds in my mind like a poem. When I wrote it, I had to first use prose and then reduce it to poetry by boiling off the staid, boring and commonplace phrases.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:  Brenda Davis Harsham lives in New England. She’s been a McDonald’s cashier, graphic artist, editor, lawyer, and writing teacher. At the day’s beginning and end, she’s a poet. When she isn’t writing, she snaps photographs, makes art, invents recipes, and reads to her kids. Her poetry and prose have been published in on-line literary journals.

brendan macevilly
The Divers
by Wilma Kenny

Perched
on amethyst rocks
townies entranced
with bodies made supple,
by manoeuvres performed
in the perspex water.

We gawped,
as the local children
  dived
    and
                  dived,
with elegant ease,
avoiding the sharp
peaks of black diamonds
which surrounded the sea layer.

PHOTO: Children leap from the jetty at Derrynane, County Kerry, Ireland. Photograph by Brendan Mac Evilly, from his book At Swim: A Book About the Sea. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Wilma Kenny is a published poet from Belfast, Northern Ireland and works as a freelance journalist. Wilma enjoys all aspects of the arts. She has read her poetry on RTE and UCB radio and has been a part of an event at the Edinburgh festival. Wilma is excited by the vibrancy of the arts scene in Northern Ireland.

Sandunes_at_Sunset
Famous
by Bruce Sager

Here is the little guy
standing at the top of a dune
so that if you look up at him
all you see is a cut-out against the sky
and all the blue of his eyes
lost in the curtains of that sky.

Here is the band of his swimsuit
grinding against his waist,
here a wet red belt of planets
girdling his middle.

Here is his bucket.
Here are sand crabs scratching.
Here is the thin half-moon
of the handle, the metal settled
into the creases where his palm
flowers into his fingers joyfully,
artfully, mathematically,

flexibly, dependably,
and here is joy, for here
is the little guy standing atop
the light dune of memory
looking down at the woman
rejoicing in the sight of him
now, no longer alarmed
but yet repining, the woman
who has just made his name
bong like a bell through the dunes.

IMAGE: “Sand dunes at sunset, Atlantic City, New Jersey,” painting by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1885).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was just a little guy, three or four, I wandered off into a series of dunes cropping up from what was then an almost deserted Atlantic City beach – this was decades before the jingling of slot machines that so transformed that sleepy burg. My mother looked up on that faraway afternoon to see just an empty bucket and the washed out remains of a sand castle, and took off screaming my name across the sands and into the empty dunes, where – according to her narrative, since this is her recollection, not mine – she found me sitting quietly, safely, in complete solitude. She had, in fact, made my name “famous” as it rolled from the sides of the dunes into the little solitary valley I’d found for myself. My name had become the proverbial tree falling in the forest. It was famous only to an audience of sand. I have always thought that this was a pretty good metaphor for poetry itself – or at least for the act of its composition.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bruce Sager, a recent winner of the William Matthews Poetry Prize, lives in Westminster, Maryland. His work has won publication through competitions judged by Billy Collins, Dick Allen, and William Stafford. Currently available through Amazon: Famous, winner of the 2010 Harriss Poetry Prize. Forthcoming from Hyperborea Publishing, Ontario: TAU (poetry) and Hoby Blue Banks in Exactly 1,000 Words, More or Less (short stories). Forthcoming from BrickHouse Books, Baltimore: What Language Would Please Its Ear? and Swale (both poetry).