Friday, January 9, 2009

A Home for the Seasons: An Original Poem


After the death of my maternal grandparents, I attempted to write a book-length poem about them. It wasn’t very good—so I never finished it. I decided instead to write a collection of memoir poems entitled A Home for the Seasons about them and their home—a place where I had spent many of my happiest childhood days playing with cousins, celebrating holidays, and picking fruit, vegetables, and flowers in their yard and garden. The poems in the collection take us through one year/four seasons at their house. I’m posting the introductory poem today. I was inspired to post it after reading Tricia’s First Poetry Stretch of 2009 at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

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Here are five more poems from this unpublished collection that I posted previously at Wild Rose Reader:


CROCHETING


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.



SUMMER MUSIC


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.


SUMMER RITUAL


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.



AUTUMN FIRE


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.


10 comments:

jama said...

Oh my, I feel like I've been gifted with such beauty and warmth! What wonderful images of the kitchen and garden -- what reassuring familial love! Your details sing and shine. Thanks so much for sharing these, Elaine!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Jama,

Those childhood memories are indelible--and have remained constant over the years. I'm fortunate to have grown up with lots of family around.

Linda said...

Your poems are always filled with wonderful sensory imagery. What a delightful childhood you must have had!

jenniferknoblock said...

Elaine, your details and affection brought me back to my maternal grandparents' house in south Texas, and the joyful seasons I spent there. Among other similarities, they had a garden and made pickles, and my grandmother taught me to crochet (though I never heard of leaf-burning until I moved to the midwest!). Thanks for sharing your memories and heart.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Linda,

The times of my childhood spent at my grandparents' were delightful. I had two female first cousins who lived on the other side of my grandparents' duplex--one two weeks younger and one a year younger than I. We grew up together and shared many happy experiences together.


Jennifer,

Thanks for your comments. I visited your blog. Let me say that I love your poem "Hiding in the Garden." Wish I had written it!

I'm going to add Ink for Lit to my Blogroll.

Kelly said...

What lovely poems and a wonderful tribute to your grandparents.
I fondly remember visiting mine in the northwoods of Wisconsin.

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Kelly. My mother's parents were wonderful people. They loved having their six granddaughters running around, playing, enjoying the holidays together.

laurasalas said...

What lovely, evocative poems, Elaine. Here's my favorite part:

From a single strand

she creates a lacy island

where we will float

on a sea of soft green grass



The magic of a grandmother! This image is so wonderful!

Elaine Magliaro said...

Thanks, Laura! My daughter, mother, other members of the family, and I still have the afghans my Babci crocheted for us many years ago.

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