Tag Archives: relationships

Family Stories

Who can forget some of the times we saw anger expressed as a child? I come from a family that yelled at each other and at times there was brutal physical punishment. My husband comes from a family where, in particular, his mother punished with silence. His father covered everything with cheerful chatter. How people express anger is of interest to me. It is also exciting to me to imagine the the sight of the cake in the poem on it’s journey. See below! And to end with a question: How much do stereotypes of ethnicity influence how we express emotions?

Family Stories                                                                        Dorianne Laux

I had a boyfriend who told me stories about his family,

how an argument once ended when his father

seized a lit birthday cake in both hands

and hurled it out a second-story window. That,

I thought, was what a normal family was like: anger

sent out across the sill, landing like a gift

to decorate the sidewalk below. In mine

it was fists and direct hits to the solar plexus,

and nobody ever forgave anyone. But I believed

the people in his stories really loved one another,

even when they yelled and shoved their feet

through cabinet doors, or held a chair like a bottle

of cheap champagne, christening the wall,

rungs exploding from their holes.

I said it sounded harmless, the pomp and fury

of the passionate. He said it was a curse

being born Italian and Catholic and when he

looked from that window what he saw was the moment

rudely crushed. But all I could see was a gorgeous

three-layer cake gliding like a battered ship

down the sidewalk, the smoking candles broken, sunk

deep in the icing, a few still burning.

 

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Salon

This poem is a powerful tribute to ritual and its meaning in our lives. It has a powerful and tender ending.

Salon                                                                                                  Robin Becker

 

Acolyte at the font, my mother

bends before basin and hose

where Jackie soaps her fine head,

adjusting pressure and temperature.

How many times has she

bared her throat, her clavicle,

beside the other old women?

How many times the regular

cleansing and surrender to the cold chair,

the sink, the detergents, the lights,

the slick of water down the nape?

Turbaned and ready,

she forgoes the tray of sliced bagels

and donuts, a small, private dignity.

 

Vivienne, the manicurist, dispels despair,

takes my mother’s old hands into her swift

hands and soaks them to soften

the cuticles before the rounding and shaping.

As they talk my mother attends

to the lifelong business of revealing

and withholding, careful to frame each story

while Vivienne lacquers each nail

and then inspects each slender finger,

rubbing my mother’s hands

with the fragrant, thin lotion,

each summarizing her week, each

condemning that which must be condemned,

each celebrating the manicure and the tip.

 

Sometimes in pain, sometimes broken

with grief in the parking lot,

my mother keeps her Friday appointment

time protected now by ritual and tradition.

 

The fine cotton of Michael’s white shirt

brushes against her cheek as they stare

into the mirror at one another.

Ennobled by his gaze, she accepts

her diminishment, she who knows herself

his favorite. In their cryptic language

they confide and converse, his hands busy

in her hair, her hands quiet in her lap.

Barrel-chested, Italian, a lover of opera,

he husbands his money and his lover, Ethan;

only with him may she discuss my lover and me,

and in this way intimacy takes the shape

of the afternoon she passes in the salon,

in the domain of perfect affection.

All the Hemispheres

About two weeks ago I met Daniel Ladinsky in Abiquiu, New Mexico where he was one of three poets at a poetry reading.  He’s a translator of the works of  both Rumi and Hafiz and has a remarkable ability to quote passages from both.  He was generous in many ways:  in the words he drew forth and in signing and sharing his books with us, or listening to our stories.  It was a very moving evening. He stayed nearby us at Ghost Ranch, so we saw him at breakfast and lunch the next day.  This Hafiz poem is one of his translations, enjoyed by five of my writing classes this week.  I’d like to note  some of his particular word choices:  watermark, soul, and campfire.  See below, enjoy the details!

All the Hemispheres                                                                                    Hafiz

Leave the familiar for a while. Let your senses

and bodies stretch out

 

like a welcomed season onto the meadows and

shores and hills.

 

Open up to the roof. Make a new watermark

on your excitement and love.

 

Like a blooming night flower, bestow your vital

fragrance of happiness and giving upon our

intimate assembly.

 

Change rooms in your mind for a day. All the

hemispheres in existence lie beside an equator

in your soul.

 

Greet yourself in your thousand other forms as

you mount the hidden tide and travel back home.

 

All the hemispheres in heaven are sitting around

a campfire chatting while

 

stitching themselves together into the great circle

inside of you.

Catherine Parrill’s Memoir

photo

Everyone has a different process when they are writing.  Cathy has been working on a memoir about her connection to Haiti and some of the important relationships & life changing experiences. Her "scroll" otherwise known as a  huge roll  of brown paper holds a visual map and some of the paper or resources that document the story as well.  In class we've been privileged to be part of story -seeing it develop and to meet some of people in it.
Everyone has a different process when they are writing. Cathy has been working on a memoir about  Haiti and her time there, and some of the important relationships she developed, and life changing experiences she lived, and is living. Her “scroll” otherwise known as a huge roll of brown paper holds a visual map of  the story and some of the papers or resources that document the story as well. In class we’ve been privileged and delighted to become part of the  story -seeing it come together and to meet some of people in it.