Tuesday, January 28, 2020

A Strange Time

We live in a strange time when even a puppy receives death threats,[1] and corrupt leaders are shielded from justice. There are shining exceptions, but for the most part, honor and truthfulness seem quaint concepts from a long-ago era. It is easy to be swept into the current cynicism. It is easy to feel disheartened.

I will never understand trophy hunters or white supremacists.  I no longer try. No matter how many photos and videos of adorable toddlers, puppies, kittens, beautiful landscapes, and seascapes appear on social media, the posts of killers and those who apparently long to kill are also there.

And yes, Secretary of State Pompeo, I do “care about Ukraine.”[2] For years, Ukrainians (and Russians) have read my blog and my poetry. Certainly, if some people in Ukraine are thoughtful enough to read the poems of an unknown poet, I can care about their safety. And would, if the only thing I ever wrote was a grocery list. There is a geography of the heart where compassion has no boundaries, and fairness is understood.

Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. Robert Kennedy was assassinated. But what
could not be killed is the reality of their personal courage, truthfulness, and honor.

I am disheartened but I refuse to despair.

[1] Narwhal, the “unicorn puppy” with a small tail on his forehead, received online death threats.
[2] “You think Americans care about Ukraine?” – Mike Pompeo

Sunday, December 8, 2019

My Childhood Christmas

I remember the lace tablecloth used only on special occasions, the good china, silver, crystal glassware, and the Christmas candles in the center of the table. Dinner will be turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, yams, and cranberry sauce, with a side dish of cucumber salad and an assortment of pies for dessert. Near the dining table, a bridge table is set for the children. My grandparents and aunts and uncles arrive in the afternoon carrying shopping bags bulging with presents. The Christmas tree is a great triangle of light, tinsel, and color. Everything smells of pine needles, pies, and wrapping paper.

I imagine the manger, before the magi visit, two chubby cows, an old donkey, and one lamb circling Mary and Joseph and little Lord Jesus. All warmed by the breath of the animals and the love within.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! 

This post was originally published in December of 2013.

Illustration: "Nativity in Stained Glass " © Ewa Mazur/Dreamstime.com

Saturday, October 26, 2019

Happy Halloween

The following is an excerpt from my memoir Mirror Talk.

I am remembering that long ago Halloween party at my best friend Mary Sue’s home in Douglaston, Long Island. Second grade giggly girls, loved like candy. My mother bought my plastic costume in a Woolworth’s store. The whole shebang – cowgirl costume, including cowgirl hat and lasso, cost several dollars. I was thrilled until I arrived at Mary Sue’s. The door opened and I found myself surrounded by gusts of gossamer - petticoated princesses and bubbly ballerinas in creamy pastel gowns and child-size tiaras. I was the only cowgirl at the ball.
            What happened to the Halloween party, like the great Halloween parties my mother put together every year – skeleton and ghost costumes, my brothers and I biting floating apples in a tub of water or blindfolded, spun around and paper tail in hand, hesitating toward the big donkey picture on the wall. Where was the orange candy corn at Mary Sue’s party? Where were the candy apples on a stick? Even the candies at this party were the soft, muted colors the wealthy are so fond of. What do pastel colored candies have to do with witches, ghouls and goblins? At the party, a classmate named Peggy, asked me how much my father paid for our house and when told (yes, very young children overhear these things) reported gleefully her father paid five times that amount for their home in Douglaston. I didn’t care. I did remember being impressed at a sleepover at Peggy’s that her bedroom was the exactly same chartreuse as the Wicked Witch’s face in “The Wizard of Oz.”
            I loved our little ranch house in Little Neck, Long Island.  It was the first time I had my “very own” room and my mother said I kept it so nice we could charge people to see it. My brother Bob and I especially loved that our family moved into the house before landscaping for the whole area was completed.  We could play “King of the Mountain” on big hills of unleveled dirt. We could shout straight out and our voices would echo back. Before the lawns were laid down, I was the princess of play – without a gossamer gown.

Happy Halloween!

Image: © Ssylenko/Dreamstime.com

Note: This blog post was first published on October 31, 2016

Friday, October 18, 2019

Taking It on the Chin

“Poetry is nearer to vital truth than history.”

Writers and actors are no strangers to rejection. If writers submit their work for publication fairly often, chances are they receive rejection letters "fairly often." But bless our literate hearts, we just keep writing. In a general audition, actors are given three minutes to stand on a bare stage and perform a monolog that will prove they are brilliantly talented. But actors have a ready excuse when not accepted for a role. They can tell themselves they chose the wrong monolog, the wrong playwright’s work, the wrong material. Writers don’t have a fall guy - we are the material. A material that has to be resilient, able to take it on the chin.

When I was very young, twenty something, I scheduled a first date with a man I’d met at a party. He must have made an impression on me because I spent my whole paycheck on a new outfit for our date. We were to meet at a restaurant. I sat at a table for two for two hours in that restaurant knowing the waiter probably felt somewhat sorry for me. Anyone who has been stood up knows some of what I felt as I walked home alone. Yet, that sort of rejection is a piece of cake compared to that of an editor or a director.

The courage of writers who write fearlessly certainly isn’t the same as a firefighter rushing into a burning building. We enter another edifice - the one marked truthfulness. Whether disguised in novels or apparent in non-fiction, genuineness is easily recognizable, and almost always appreciated. A poet I respect and admire told me a new poem of mine is “brave.” How good to hear that. I want to write brave poems – and silly ones because most of us are often brave and sometimes, thankfully, silly.

I have a refrigerator pin that says, “Work Hard ~ Stay Humble.” I intend to.