A Clean Slate

For years,

I bought a fresh white tee shirt

and a pair of white keds

each summer.

Unboxing those sneakers

released summer scents,

sand from beach combing,

and the smoke from a campfire.

Members of my family can tell you,

white was not a good idea

for a messy girl like me.

So why the choice?

Truth is…

those fresh tees

and stiff sneakers

were a clean slate,

an act of hope.

I charged into the warm months

armed with the belief

that a few spills,

a few tears,

would not inflict irreparable harm

on my spirit.

Clean slates are a good thing…

We all need second chances.

Companions

I did not notice

I was speaking out loud in the store

until a woman piped up nearby,

“I am so glad to know

I am not the only one.”

For two years,

I confided in the teapot,

whispered to the night light,

told tales to the turntable.

Isolation offers quiet companions —

steadfast, listening,

welcoming.

A poem inspired by lines from Richard Jones’ poem White Towels

telling the story of my life

to the clean white towels taken warm from the dryer.”

A Visit to Kyiv

In 1985,

I visited the Soviet Union.

The Cold War nation possessed

most of the traits you read about —

strange clicks when picking up a phone,

tour guides employed by government agencies,

limited ability to explore,

regular searches of bags, and

randomized interviews during travel between cities.

A couple in our group went off one afternoon

to visit an old synagogue without permission.

When boarding the flight to leave the USSR,

the couple was pulled and interviewed for hours

while the rest of us waited and worried on the plane.

My family lost loved ones

in both Kyiv and Minsk

during World War II.

Visiting these cities felt sacred.

But, what I remember most was the people.

Warm, curious, kind.

I left Kyiv in awe

of the men, women and children.

Today I remain in awe

of the citizens of Ukraine

whose battle started centuries ago.

It is time the rest of us

stood up with them.

Sense Memory

A light breeze

lifts the scent of wood smoke

on a gray December morning.

No one is out early

in the post-holiday winter.

The tendrils of smoke linger,

they have traveled far —

across years,

from the deep, soot-stained

fireplace of a lodge

by a glacial lake.

Snow drifted down that day

as we read in chairs by the hearth.

A steady supply of split logs

ensured a long respite.

When the warmth of the flames

overwhelmed,

we retired to a small balcony

with two chairs perched

above the frozen lake.

As my present-day heart squeezes,

this cherished memory

unfurls

on this quiet winter street,

blooming bright and warm.

A Golden Circle

Small lines cover the surface

of my sun-drenched hands.

A white chicken pox scar

has survived for fifty years.

Nails – short, neat, unadorned.

My hands have lived.

On my left hand,

on the second finger from the left,

rests a narrow, inexpensive golden band.

I love this circle of gold —

delicate beading so fine

it shimmers,

rings the edges of the band.

In my youth,

the simple golden ring

had companions —

an engagement ring

with three large, sparkling diamonds,

an anniversary band from Tiffanys,

wrapped round with diamonds.

But today,

on a warm afternoon

it is the slight gold band

that remains.

Love endures.

It does not need to be showy

or loud or possessive.

Love is best

when it is pure heart.

Love shines in the small moments,

in the gentle reminder

resting on the warm brown

of my strong hand.

Ode to Crocuses

No other flower

is quite the harbinger of spring

as the mighty crocus.

Standing just six inches tall,

these floral pioneers first appear

when the ground is still cold.

The brave buds open in vivid hues —

royal blue, lavender,

lemon yellow and

crisp white.

No sight is lovelier

than a hillside carpeted in crocuses,

an army of spring tiding.

While passersby don scarves and hats,

the jovial crocus

offers hope for warm days ahead.

Cadillac Mountain

A warm August morning

greeted us

as we set off for a 4.5 mile hike

up Mount Desert Island’s Cadillac Mountain.

Forged millennia ago

by massive volcanic activity,

the granite mount

offers forest and ledges

before opening

to a smooth top with views

of Somes Sound and the ocean beyond.

At fourteen,

I could not wait for our sunrise start.

Mother was too slow for my liking…

packing iced tea and offering to make sandwiches.

Sister hated early starts.

Little brother and father prepared cameras

and spyglasses as we set off.

After 1.5 hours,

the pines and ledges gave way

to an expanse as wide as

the universe.

How did I not know

this sort of openness

existed alongside my every day life?

My young mind stretched

with each breath of crisp mountain air.

I was thankful for my mother’s sandwiches,

the chance to bath in summer light,

and a family

I did not know would eventually fracture.

Scientists say

our minds discard memories too similar,

to avoid a competition for attention.

Cadillac Mountain does not fade for me.

Though my mother is no longer here,

and I have a family of my own,

the bright coastal afternoon

is available anytime.

Packing List

Four days and four nights,

I was packing for a long weekend.

But, coming out of the pandemic

the trip felt monumental —

a black one piece bathing suit,

linen pants in two colors,

two Roller Rabbit tunics,

a light blue embroidered sun dress,

tan leather sandals,

olive green shorts and

a leaf print tee,

plenty of underwear,

face lotion and sunscreen,

and three books to read.

But, layered among the tangible

artifacts of travel,

I packed brimming optimism,

and a very tired psyche.

Watching the bag round the carousel

at the Key West airport,

I smiled,

knowing I had packed just right.

*inspired by Isolation Journal prompt #180 with Joan Didion’s packing list

Dystopia

Next week, our students begin

a dystopian book unit —

tales of a world gone awry,

government control,

and teen protagonists challenging power.

Today, Russia violently invades Ukraine,

Australian towns are underwater,

fire ravages the west,

cities in Africa thirst for drinking water,

books are banned and burned,

some young people destroy

school property

at the command of a social media platform.

There is hope,

students calling on everyone

to wear yellow and blue for Ukraine,

Greta Thunberg and others

speaking up for the planet,

voices of children

crying out against gun violence.

I wonder if my student’s new book unit

should instead be called non-fiction?

Offering

When my grandmother died,

we marveled to find notes

tucked in jewelry boxes,

coat pockets,

beaded handbags and books.

Dorothy Evert carefully recorded

bits of family history

for us to find like Easter eggs.

The porcelain dove figurine

nurses a broken wing.

Shaped to hold calling cards or

perhaps small treats

on a dining table,

the gentle vessel reveals

a folded note in my grandmother’s hand…

“My mother’s mother (Kate Faber Remine)

was paralyzed for 10 years —

she died when I was 6 weeks old.

The minister (Reverend Stryker I think)

gave her communion in this one Whitsunday.”

I did not know the good reverend

or my great, great grandmother Kate.

But, history floats down

on the wings of my grandmother’s offering.