With Head Bowed

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Weighted down by a crown
of heavy pink blossoms,
our neighbor’s cherry tree
bends low over the sidewalk.

Rugged bark
covers a sturdy trunk,
offering the passer by
some confidence
before she bows
to navigate below
the craggy branches.

Oh,
but what a sight
the crouching mortal finds
as taffy colored confetti
lays sprinkled on the ground.

Whether a swift spring breeze
or celestial wedding party
scattered the delicate petals,
matters not
to the lucky witness
inclined underneath our neighbor’s cherry tree.

Aerial View

sweet gum flowers

Rising before dawn,
a sudden thunderstorm
rousing the pups,
we head out into the cool morning air.

Rain drips from sodden branches
as the sidewalk soaks up the moisture
like a thirsty sponge.

Down the street, around the corner
I stop to observe
the sublime form
of a miniature spring blossom
laying on the path.

This sweet gum tree flower
seems to have escaped
from the yard of a dollhouse,
so perfectly is it constructed.

I envision tiny tweezers
in the dollhouse maker’s hand,
carefully placing each blossom
in the lilliputian yard.

Is this how we humans must seem
To birds soaring high above?

Kitchen Window

 

window

When I first stepped into the house
where I now live,
my eyes were drawn to light
streaming through the kitchen window.

Mind you, the house has larger windows —
windows designed to impress,
with white plantation shutters
and broader views.

But, the kitchen window
is the perfect size.
It nestles above a deep ceramic sink
with a ledge just right
for a small potted plant,
some candles, a few trinkets.

First thing in the morning,
I often stand,
coffee cup in hand,
to watch the sun rise just down the street.

Blazing pink and muted orange
dress the day
just outside my kitchen window.

Family Photo, Long Beach Island 1991

blowing grass

Family Photo, Long Beach Island 1991

Dune grass bends behind us
as we line up, arm in arm,
mothers, fathers, cousins and spouses.

Aunt Rita is second from the right,
the master of lobster bakes
and perfect, golden corn on the cob.

My new husband stands on the end,
still not certain where to be.
His blond hair covers one eye
in answer to a long ago breeze.

Mom beams from the middle.
Twin to Barbara, mother of three.
A gentle soul whose eyes already
reflect the battle against
illness that took her this past winter.

But…
just out of view,
over to the left,
see our younger selves
exploring the bay’s sandy bottom,
searching for clams with tender feet.

My great, great grandfather’s duck blind
hovers on stilts offshore.
The small cottage, no longer standing,
glows late into the evening,
packed with too many cousins.

And, if you listen very carefully
You can hear the heartbeats
of grandchildren to come,
traipsing up the beach,
to stand in a photo,
arm in arm.
Inspiration for this poem came from Billy Collins’ poem, “Class Picture, 1954”.

Comfort

bread

Warmth radiates from the oven

as one by one

liquids, solids,

teaspoons and half cups

blend in a worn mixing bowl.

Outside the birds begin to wake,

alerting those sleeping to

dawn breaking on the horizon.

No knowledge of the day ahead,

since uncertain times

make looking forward

seem folly.

Only the stove,

the bread,

the baker

and a bright morning dawning.

For now, it is enough.

 

 

Resilience

Image result for x ray spine image

The human body is a miraculous invention,

thousands of minuscule parts working in harmony

to move, breathe, love and reason.

The wonder of it all

is especially apparent

when one small piece collapses

or wears away —

after all the human body

is flesh, bone and blood.

But,

wrapped within the

protective wall of bone

is an even more extraordinary element, the brain.

For it is the brain that ponders

and experiments

and wakes us in the middle of the night

for a solution to the part that needs repair.

What a true wonder

the human specimen is.

 

Grateful

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For the second year, my friend Sally

arrived at school in February

with a calendar

and two sheets of orange stickers.

“Each time you blog,

place an orange sticker on the calendar.

The goal is 31 stickers for 31 days in March.”

As a sucker for checked boxes

and filled in calendars,

I reveled in the idea of “slicing”.

I had sliced before,

a few posts here and a few posts there.

No accountability and no expectations.

But, as part of a group of slicers,

I made sure I posted and commented every day.

Yes, every day for 31 days

I wrote a slice of my life.

I read slices from writers near and far.

Stepping into the kitchens, backyards

and school hallways of other slicers

opened the doors to a generous community

of honest writers.

I am forever grateful

for the community built around

writing slices of life.

 

 

 

Breakfast Southern Style

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Before I married a Louisiana boy,

grits were not something I ate for breakfast.

Before I married a Louisiana boy,

I would never have added

hot sauce to an egg dish.

Before I married a Louisiana boy,

I would have told you gravy

was for mashed potatoes or stuffing.

Today we ate brunch at a trendy

Brooklyn restaurant with a cajun flair.

What once seemed foreign,

now feels like home.

Mapping Familiar Places

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The Hamilton Avenue exit in Brooklyn

is a sign I am close to my sister’s house.

D’Amico’s coffee lingers in the air

and hip young Brooklynites walk

all manner of dogs.

There’s my favorite dress shop, Lily’s, on Court Street.

The church spire rising at the corner of Hoyt and Sackett

means I am moments from hugging family.

Neighbors on stoops raise a hand or call hello.

The broad, flat leaves of a graceful tree

in front of my sister’s stately brownstone

welcome me

as I climb the wide stone steps.

This visit could be happening today,

ten years ago or tomorrow.

There is something comforting about

a home away from home

filled with family and

the familiar.

“Bethie’s here!”

comes from the kitchen as

feet pound down the sweeping

dark wood staircase.

A deep breath in,

A deep breath out.

At last.

The Hare with Amber Eyes

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Several years ago, world-renowned sculptor/potter Edmund de Waal wrote a book about his family that became a runaway sensation. Word-of-mouth sent books flying off the shelf. The book, which sold more than 1 million copies, received many accolades including the Costa Biography of the Year award.

So why all the acclaim?

I just finished listening to the the story of de Waal’s family as seen through the lens of a hidden inheritance: 264 netsuke, small Japanese carved ivory and wooden ornaments worn as part of a traditional Japanese dress (kimono). Netsuke were carved with care by artisans but these objects were frequently slipped inside a pocket to provide a touchstone for the owner. Today, auction houses like Sotheby’s provide guides to collecting these sought after treasures.

The tale centers on de Waal’s Jewish ancestors who established a grain empire in Odessa, Russia. Dominance in the grain industry led to households established in Paris and Vienna. The family dynasty took root when the family moved into banking. Charles Ephrussi was a patron of Marcel Proust, Renoir and Degas in Paris. It was Charles who built the netsuke collection and sent it as a wedding present to a family member in Vienna.

Author de Waal’s painstaking research led him to cities across Europe and Asia over six years. His storytelling reels the reader in as the netsuke collection is threatened during the Nazi invasion of Vienna.

A wonderful audio book, The Hare with the Amber Eyes is both biography and history book. While listening to the tale, I found myself lingering in the car to discover the fate of de Waal’s relatives. I felt like I knew each character personally.

As I write this post, I imagine de Waal working in his pottery studio or walking the streets of London with a netsuke tiger or tortoise in his pocket.  Telling the heart-rending story of this powerful Jewish family through precious objects is pure genius. The Hare with Amber Eyes is a gorgeous, quiet book that will stay with you.