Note: My Babci (grandmother) and Dzidzi (grandfather) were born in Poland in the 1890s. They came to America in the early part of the 20th century. They met in Boston, got married, and moved to Peabody, Massachusetts—a city about twenty miles north of our state capital.
A HOME FOR THE SEASONS
My grandparents’ house seems to hug their shady street.
A white duplex, its twin front doors
stand side by side
just three steps up from the sidewalk.
We always enter the house through the side door.
Stepping into the kitchen,
we find Babci sitting at the far end of the table
spooning filling onto circles of homemade dough
and making pierogis, crocheting afghans,
or snipping lacy designs from paper—
a traditional folk art she learned in Poland.
Sometimes we see her painting flowers on the cupboard doors
or hanging starched curtains she embroidered by hand.
The aroma of stuffed cabbage or babka baking in the oven
often greets us at the door.
Most days, Dzidzi spends outdoors tending to his garden
or painting the shutters green
or mending the picket fence
or building a backyard fireplace for summertime barbecues.
My grandparents always busy themselves
making their place a special place
for the family to gather throughout the year,
making it a home for all the seasons.
Here are five more poems from this unpublished collection that I posted previously at Wild Rose Reader:
The crowns of the blossoming fruit trees
are pink and white clouds.
We sit under the apple tree,
petals falling around us like spring snow.
Nearby Babci relaxes in the wide Adirondack chair
crocheting an earth-brown afghan
for our summertime picnics.
Her nimble fingers dance
as she hooks and loops
the dark yarn into intricate designs.
From a single strand
she creates a lacy island
where we will float
on a sea of soft green grass
near Dzidzi’s garden,
eating ham sandwiches,
crunching homemade pickles,
savoring our summer afternoons.
I live on a busy main street.
In summer our open windows
bring us the whoosh and rumble of traffic
we don’t hear during the colder seasons.
I often fall asleep counting cars, not sheep.
I love to spend summer nights
sleeping in my grandparents’ spare room,
with crickets serenading me to sleep
and mourning doves cooing softly
before the sun has kissed the sky awake.
My mother and I arrive at my grandparents’ house
late one Sunday afternoon.
Babci greets us in the kitchen
with cold drinks clinking with ice cubes.
Dzidzi fetches a small wooden basket
from the cellar, takes my hand,
and walks me down the stone path to his garden.
He leans over a tomato plant,
holds a fat red globe in his cupped hand,
and looks at me. I nod approval.
I can almost taste the tomato’s warm, juicy flesh.
We choose a dozen more and place them in the basket.
We pick three green, glossy-skinned peppers,
pull up a bunch of feather-topped carrots,
enough beets for my mother to make a pot of zimny barszcz
thickened with sour cream and floating with cucumber slices.
Every visit to my grandparents’ house
is the same this season—
a small harvest of vegetables—
and when we leave, I take home
a little basket of Dzidzi’s garden.
Two tall maple trees grow
in front of my grandparents’ house.
In late October
they shed their golden crowns.
When the fallen leaves
curl up like little brown bear cubs,
we rake them into a pile
at the side of the street.
As dusk arrives
Dzidzi sets our harvest afire
with a single match.
We sit on wooden crates
at the sidewalk’s edge,
watch the brittle leaves
blossom into golden flames,
smell autumn’s pungent breath.
From the pyre summer rises,
a small gray ghost,
and drifts away
into the darkening sky.
THE CHRISTMAS BABKA
We watch Babci make the Christmas babka.
With plump peasant hands
she kneads sweet dough
on the white porcelain-topped table,
places it in a large sky-blue bowl,
covers it with a damp towel,
and sets it on the kitchen counter
near the hissing radiator.
Swelling with bubbles of air,
the dough rises into a pale yellow cloud
flecked with bits of orange rind.
The baking babka fills the house
with the scent of Christmas.
We eat the bread fresh from the oven,
its insides steaming and golden—
a homemade treasure
rich enough to warm a winter night.
Here’s to happy childhood memories—and to all memories that give us fodder for creative writing!
At Blue Rose Girls, I have a poem by Philip Appleman entitled To the Garbage Collectors in Bloomington, Indiana, the First Pickup of the New Year.
Anastasia Suen has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Picture Book of the Day.