Sunday, October 23, 2011

As Far Away from Home as Possible by DeAnn Louise Daigle

When I think of home
I think of warm and fuzzy.
Why would I want to leave it?

Home is where I was nurtured
And made to feel secure.
Home was fine. The Beauty of
The Woods, the Sound of Birds
Chirping. Mom and Dad downstairs.

The cats in the shed. Jackie,
My bird, in the cage. And
Eventually the dog I’d always
Longed for, Chillie – all living
Elements of my warm and fuzzy.

Mom reading fairy tales to me
And Dad reading me the funny
Papers on Saturdays. Warm
And fuzzy. Why would I want
To leave home? I didn’t.
I wanted home to remain
Like this safe place forever.

Home wasn’t all safe and secure.
There were awful edges, sharp edges.
Dad’s drinking, Mom’s having
Awful bouts of worry. Their
Fighting left me feeling nothing
Was safe; the world could
Come crashing at any moment.

There was unspoken tension
I never knew was there.
I felt it without knowing
What it was.

Dad didn’t drink, Mom told me.
He wasn’t like the other men
Who sat around and drank beer
When they weren’t working in
The fields or potato houses.

Dad didn’t sit around and
Drink with them, he hid his
Drinking from me, from Mom.
Only, she knew. She suspected.

She also suspected, when he disappeared
For two weeks at a time, that he
Was bedding down other women.
She hinted at this only once –
Implying that he’d slept with
Her brother’s wife. How did I
Understand this? I’m sure I

Didn’t. I may have been 5 years
Old at the time. He’d been gone
And she was upset. So much is
Feelingly blacked out for me.

Only years later as I reflected on my
Attraction to a particular boy cousin
Did I begin to think that maybe
He’s Dad’s son. My aunt had eight
Children and her husband, Mom’s
Brother, could have easily just
Counted this one as another of his own.

But, did he suspect? He was in a beer
Stupor most of the time.

Did all of these people live a
Closed harmony in suspicion
Of one another?

If not consciously in my mind,
Then, feelingly in my heart, I
Took in all of these tensions and
Suspicions, lost hope, lost
Affections, lost warmth and feelings of
Distance inside.

I took them in, gathered them up –
All of these surmises and speculations
And bits and pieces of gossip gathered
Here and there, of overhearing. I
Took them in and tried, tried very
Hard to piece together the story of
My life, because their story was

So much my story.

Of course, there was then my
Mother and me and how maybe
My cousin, Dad’s nephew,
Might be my real father. That
Too was tucked away in my
Eleven year old mind. Such
Quietly explosive stuff borders

On the mystical.

The church was
At the center of all of our lives.
It taught us right from wrong,
Good from bad. The priest was
Passionate at the lectern and
Told us these Beautiful sad stories
About Mary, the Mother of God.




We all heard the stories and I
Wept right along with the
Priest, and the men, who came
To the store after Mass would
Poke fun at the crying priest.

But, people came from all the
Surrounding villages when during
The month of May, the month
Of Mary, we gathered in cars
Reciting the rosary. Cars filled
The church’s parking lot at the
Shrines he had built,

The first one to our Lady of Lourdes –
A grotto with the statue of Mary and
A statue of the kneeling St. Bernadette on
Beautiful white rocks with running
Water the priest had had piped in from
The brook that ran behind the
Grotto. People came from miles

Around to see what the priest
Had done. He enlisted the very people
Who laughed at him to build all
Of the shrines that would follow.
St. Joseph, the Sacred Heart of Jesus,
St. Therese of Lisieux.

In the summertime, there were
Processions on Sunday Evenings and
We walked around the large
Illuminated rosary at the edge
Of the water, where there was
Open ground and the grass was
Very green.

Ave, ave, ave, Maria, ave, ave
Ave Maria.

I have demons. I battle demons
In the night, and it’s all quite
Mystical.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A DIFFERENT VERSION by Edna Schneider

Jim -- a different version of the man that I usually love. He wore white cotton shirts with short sleeves rolled up: a pack of Lucky Strikes could fit right in. We met on the plane, sitting next to each other. My divorce was just finalized and his wife had recently died. We both upgraded to first class. He was seated at the window. I, with my pearl earrings punctuating my smile, sat down next to him. The flight left Newark airport on a clear late winter morning, a smooth glide into the sky. Jim said, “Do you want to see my house?” I leaned across the space surrounding his chest to see the dot through the window. We talked and laughed and then he asked me to join him for dinner that night .

“I'm traveling with my sister and brother-in-law, so I'd like to include them.”

“Fine, wherever you want to go.” I didn't know...I had never been to this island in the Bahamas. I thought a safe bet would be to meet at the hotel where my family and I were staying.

I quickly swallowed a Nexium in the lobby shortly before I escorted him into the hotel restaurant. Susan, my sister, and Jay were seated at the table surrounded by perfectly-manicured palm trees. Jim asked me to order for him. I ordered shrimp not knowing it would be a different version. There were little shrimp still in their shells, not like the jumbo pink and white meat he loved to bathe in cocktail sauce at Ruth's Chris. After dinner, Jim and I went for a walk along the water on a wooden bridge over the man-made canal with domesticated baby sharks swimming beneath us. He took out a cigarette, “I hope you don't mind.”

“Well...” I spoke in a pitch that signaled disdain.

He said he would blow the smoke in a different direction -- whatever the hell that means! Jim walked me to my hotel room and we said goodnight. Then Jim went to the casino and met Jay, my brother-in-law. They became quick Blackjack buds. Jim won big! He called and invited all of us to have dinner with him at a restaurant that was featured on the TV food show as one of the food wonders of the world. We dressed in our Bahamian whites. A limo drove up to our hotel to drive us to the restaurant. As Jim climbed in, he held the side handle with his left arm and grimaced: a pain shot up to his chest. He dismissed it and we drove on. We arrived at the small white and blue stucco building and were escorted to the red velvet dining room. Seated on the tall black cushioned chairs, we ordered Champagne, caviar, conch fritters and steak. We toasted to a lasting friendship. After baked Alaska and cognac we went to the casino and Jim taught me how to shoot craps. After rolling the dice a few times, Jim asked me to join him the next day on a Catamaran cruise on the Caribbean Sea.

The next day came. Jay left early to go fishing. Susan and I were about to go to breakfast when the phone rang. “This is the Queen Anne Hospital, can I talk to Edna?” My head became light, my stomach quivered and my first thought was that something happened to my daughter; even though, Jackie was in New York City. Then the nurse said, “ Jim asked me to call you. He's in the hospital.”

“What happened?”

“I can't tell you but he wanted you to know that he cannot meet you today.” I grabbed the white pen and memo pad left by telephone and below the word “Atlantis” I wrote the name and address of the hospital. We waited for Jay to return from fishing. His netted cap with the Yankee insignia led his way into the room. “Let's go to the hospital.”

When we arrived at the emergency room, we found Jim lying on brown paper covering the metal gurney. He looked so vulnerable: a 6'2” man exposed, hurting, tearful. We stayed with him for awhile then offered to call his nephew in Miami and wished him well. I cried. I knew this man only a few days and yet he touched my heart. He was a different version of the men I usually loved, the ones whom I loved more than they loved me.

Jim fell in love with me; he longed for me and embraced my whole life. After we started dating, he told anyone who asked how we met that I gave him a heart attack. The story would annoy me, mostly because he'd go into all the details of his health and hospital stay. Jim was born and raised in Kentucky; a country boy and I, a native of New York City. Even our love of horses was different. I would cheer the Quarter horses as they jumped over the cavaletti and he would root for the Thoroughbreds to win the trifecta. We traveled to many places after our time in the Bahamas. My favorite was our trip to the Derby in Kentucky. While in Kentucky, Jim showed us the apartment where he lived, above the store in Eatontown; the cannon ball sticking out of the stone wall which is a landmark from the Civil War and the huge green field with Fort Knox in the distance, where he played with his friends and became infected with a terrible rash from poison oak. He missed school for 3 months.

Jim was the kind of man who kept 1-800-Flowers in business. On our first date, and on many others, he knocked on my door with a fragrant bouquet. He sent flowers on Mother's Day, on my birthday, when I was promoted at work. All of my colleagues rushed into my office to find out who sent me a dozen red roses. Now that Jim has passed away, our differences have faded and I miss holding his hand, listening to his deep resonant voice. Forever, I am grateful that I welcomed into my life a different version of the man I usually love.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

UNDEFINED TIME by Rosalyn Z. Clark

I remember as a young girl sharing fruit with my Poppa.
He would peel the apple carefully in one neat swirl.
Next he would slice the apple neatly and share the slices of apple with me.
I quietly spitting out the apple seeds, but Poppa he would eat apple seeds and all.
The pomegranate, Poppa called Chinese apple, he also sliced oh so carefully.
While Poppa and I are eating this fruit we are laughing as we see each other with juice running down our chins.
Now with the grapefruits, Poppa also slices them oh so neatly, so their juices do not escape.
Now he shares the slices of the grapefruit equally.
Soon only the skins of the grapefruit are left.

Undefined time has passed.
I am a grandmother now and I am sharing an apple with my granddaughter.
First, I peel the apple carefully in one complete swirl and while I am slicing the apple, my granddaughter is eating the peel and laughing. So unexpected.
Next we sit companionably and eat the slices of apple and I tell her about my Poppa who taught me how to peel the apple in one complete swirl.

Once again time and years go by, my granddaughter is now a mother of her own girl.
She is now sharing an apple with her daughter, but this time she is not peeling the apple, but only slices the apple very carefully and shares them with her.
I ask my granddaughter why doesn’t she peel the fruit?
Oh Grandma, don’t you know there are vitamins in the peel?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

IN A CROWD by Gina Crehan

I lived on St. Marks Place in the East Village in the late 60’s. People lived on the street, crowded the streets, the cafes, the stoops….everything, everywhere, everyone was happening! It was a foreign, exotic bazaar and one of the nuclear spots for the worldwide youth revolution…drugs, free sex, free thoughts, new ideas, new religions, message and music. It was as viral as the internet of today and as momentous. It was like passing through a door to a somewhere else where you could never go back the other way again.

We were called Hippies but that seems too conventional, too limiting to this movement of rampant self expression which exploded at this time. It was our time! If you were 16 or younger, you still had parents. If you were over 28, you were too ingrained in the “old ways.” Whatever it was -- the music, the drugs, the Eastern religion -- the message was infectious and it was our fantastic kingdom…a mythological place where people dressed as they never had before, trusted easily, spoke a new language and tore down conventional social norms, in the snap of a finger.

It wasn’t all great, however. Some people OD’d, never came back from magic-kingdom thinking and some radicalized this “good vibe” and morphed things into anarchy and violence.

For me, it was about the clothes! Every day was a chance to be a new fairy princess dressed in a fantastic confection of whimsy and wonder, at court in this new mystical world I was now living in.

I started college in upstate NY at a well regarded all girls school. (Women were called “girls” then.) I wore Villager skirts, Shetland sweaters, round collared oxford shirts with circle pins. My curly hair was always a problem as I could never quite get it straight enough to fit into a “waspy” stereotype. On the weekends, my roommate would iron it. If it was humid or I was at a sweaty frat party, I might as well have called it a night, as Cinderella might soon turn into a version of the ugly “stepsister.”

I was a sophomore when I decided to transfer to NYU downtown. Either the upstate girls college was too small for me or I was too big for it…besides, I was a bohemian and a whole world was happening that I just had to be a part of. Because I applied too late, I was denied dorm space but that was quite ok with me. I wound up sharing an apartment with another student I met at a party one evening. Someone I had just met on the street invited me to the party in a crowded walk-up apartment. It was the first time I dropped acid and the first time I really heard the Beatles and boy, I really heard the Beatles. It was a religious experience and as an initiate into a new religious order, I knew I had to shed the old duds.

I was poor, living on my own, with minimal help from my divorced parents….but I knew all about couture clothing. My mother had been a model and both my grandfathers made my clothing from an early age which my mother had designed for me….and so, I hit the thrift shops. In those years, one could find a tattered Chanel jacket, dresses from the ‘40’s and maybe a Mainbocher coat, even though it only had one sleeve. I didn’t exactly have a concept of a “good working wardrobe” and didn’t read Glamour magazine. I bought as much as I could of great loot, as cheap as possible and hauled it home in large garbage bags. Our aptartment only had one bedroom -- a tiny one -- and I had it and arranged my clothing in bags by color, fabric, or mood so I could get at what I wanted more easily.

So it started….my love affair with visual fantasy. In a short time, I became really good at it, layering layers over layers, cutting out patches, making slits and strategically inserting other wisps of whimsy, chiffons, prints, you name it!....pins, buttons, feathers, threads, changing everything as I went along. I never wore the same outfit twice. How could I? I didn’t stop at just the body. There were headdresses
with veils, hats with jewels and plumes; everything had something, somewhere to look at, dangling, jiggling, and shining. I was a moving piece of art!

When the tour buses came to the East Village they always pointed me out. I was told I looked like Stevie Nicks…but I was more a Lady Gaga and then some. I became known as a “visual artist” and clothing was my m├ętier. I got into all the clubs and was invited everywhere…a regal denizen of an illusionary world.

After I graduated college, I got a serious job as a writer for a small business journal. I had to tone my wardrobe down and decided a small gold head band and bright purple maxi coat on which I had sewn yellow stars were suitable conservative work clothes. Whoever I interviewed would initially stare at me in disbelief but once I started asking the questions for my story, my curious intelligence compelled them to answer and we started a dialogue. I always got a byline.

My family never quite adjusted to my eccentricity. When I went home to visit them in suburban NJ, in what I thought was appropriate “garb” -- a long black man’s tailcoat with 100 rhinestone pins and a feather skirt and polka dot hat -- they would open the door and then sometimes slam it in despair. My mother would weep. How was I ever to find a suitable husband looking like that?

Years later, when I became a successful fashion designer, it was she who always rushed up with a huge congratulatory bouquet at the end of my runway show. Tears in her eyes, she would say, “You’re perfect, you’re brilliant…You had us all fooled.”