Sunday, June 13, 2021

Being Wise Nineteen



Grace with Margaret and baby Dick, 1913, China


Being Wise Nineteen June 13, 2021

I live with boxes and clothes.

No messages have come in

so far. Boxes of books, seeds, 

piles of clothes: gifts, hand-me-downs

for winter and summer. I don’t need

many. I don’t go out much. I sorted

the gardenias Janet brought me, the

fresh white ones from those turning

yellow, dying. I miss old friends.

I still have some. I can’t go back

into the past. But it’s still there

in my mind. Thailanna and that

loving family I won’t forget, nor 

Sam, who let me know in so many 

ways, that he loved me, valued me.

All that work we did on Grace.

He wouldn’t let me stop until I’d

discovered who all these people were:

the missionaries and their children.

A lot of women wanted that book

because Grace had mental illness.

There is plenty to do here. All I

need is the will. My shoes fit now.

I have more energy. Slowly I’ll

summon my will. I’ll tackle the

boxes, the piles of clothes. I’ll

remember to be grateful for all

the loving people I’ve had in my life.

When you’ve been loved, you’re

honor-bound to give love back.

Not brood, not despair. Life’s

riches will come.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

                         Butterfly on pink zinnia summer of 2020

Being Wise Eighteen June 6, 2021

On one Friday so much happened.

I saw my foot doctor for the second

time, and she said I could wear both

shoes now. I wore the sandal going in

and both shoes going out. I was afraid

of surgery. Instead, I could put on my

shoes. She recommended the brand

Altra, more toe room. We drove to

my old shoe store, and they brought

shoes to try on. Size 12, a little larger.

They fit perfectly and didn’t pinch

at all. “Do you want to wear these home?”

“Yes.” Then I needed medicine. Today,

if possible. I got an appointment for

2:15. “What now?” asked Janet. “The

library.” And we picked up the book

that had come in. Last, we went for my

appointment with Dr. Woods and his

nurse Deb. Once I had the prescription, 

we went to CVS Drugstore. Dr. Woods

had already phoned it in. Then we went

home with shoes and pills. My feet

were tired, but I was triumphant.

I would heal now.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Being Wise Seventeen

                                                        Judy age Seven

                Being Wise Seventeen May 30, 2021

This year a lot of people wished me

Happy Birthday. I turned eighty-four.

A significant year. Twelve times seven

At seven I began to write stories. I was

in bed with rheumatic fever. At fourteen,

I began to keep a diary, which has

continued. At twenty-one I had my

great rebellion. I tried to change

everything: my clothes and possessions,

how I thought and behaved, but the

deep self never changed. My mother

thought I’d lost my mind. My father

suggested Ethan Frome and other

humanists, since I was rejecting

Christianity. By 1965, when I was 

twenty-eight, I’d divorced Tom, my

alcoholic husband, had a little girl

Amy, and was studying classics in

Berkeley. By 1972 I’d married Terry

and had a baby boy, Tim, and we’d

moved to North Carolina. I was

co-editor of Hyperion Poetry Magazine,

and we lived in an old farmhouse

in Cedar Grove. By July, I had a

baby girl, Ginia. In 1974 I left Terry

and went to live in Chapel Hill’s

Chase Park apartments, as one of

two white families. And I’d been

president of the small press 

organization 1975-1978. In 1985 I

became an affiliate of the Durham

Arts Council. I had published many

books. By 1981 traveled to England

and Wales and Holland. By 1985 even

to Finland. And the children and I

were living on Barclay Rd. In Chapel

Hill, their favorite house and

neighborhood. By 1993 I’d left Carolina 

Wren Press to others, and I’d been to

Russia twice, and Mikhail had come

to North Carolina once. In 1993 three

Russian writers had visited me for five

weeks, and my first grandchildren 

were born, Megan and Will to Amy in

El Paso. I stayed ten months to care

for them. By 2000, I was living alone

in a small house in Moncure, making

friends here, and working on 

environmental problems. By 2007 I had 

two more grandchildren, Lilly and Bobby, 

born to Ginia, and I helped with  local 

elections in Chatham County.

By 2014 the political situation became more

difficult and even worse in 2015, when

the state allowed coal ash to be dumped

in my new community. This finally 

ended in 2020 when we won our court

case. We also had the Covid 19 pandemic

that year. I stayed home mostly. Now,

in 2021, I am eighty-four. I have lived

a good and productive life. I’ve suffered,

and so have my children, but I can’t

complain, nor do I wish to. Today

Ginia, Lilly, and Bobby will come

to have pizza with Tim and me.

I am grateful for these years, my work,

all my friends and loves. Perfection

is not my goal, but learning wisdom.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Being Wise 16

                             Early spring in my garden a few years ago.

Being Wise 16

I had to wait a week to see the doctor.

It hurt to walk, less if I took Tylenol

and soaked my right foot in Epsom Salt

water. I made muffins, less strenuous

than making bread. I missed my homemade

bread. The doctor fitted me with a kind of

shoe. It helped. The next day I made bread.

I was tired but relieved I'd have my own

bread again for toast and sandwiches.

The muffins got me through, but the bread

is cause for celebration. I walk more

easily, balance better. I'm reading a favorite

author. That helps. Soon I may walk outside

again. Dr. Williams knows what she's doing. 

Thank God.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Being Wise Fifteen

            Purple Iris spring 2021 photo by Janet Wyatt

Being Wise Fifteen May 16, 2021

It’s harder to be wise 

when you’re in pain.

I have these twisted toes–

a “hammer toe” it’s called.

I’ll see a doctor in five days.

Meantime I soak my toes,

take Tylenol, read a good 

book, walk as little as

possible, but I do the dishes,

cook the supper, check the

email, make lemon grass 

tea, joke with my son, play

Glenn Gould playing Bach,

try to ignore my Achilles

heel, which, in my case, is 

my toes. Keep my sense

of humor. There are worse

things, and I sleep well.

Janet brings me books from

the library. Tim carries over

the bowl of hot water with

its Epsom Salt to soothe my

wayward foot. I have books

I love. I’ll make muffins

today. We’ll have Rigitoni

and cheese and Vegan rice

from Angelina’s. Only five

days now. Frustrating, but

I can cope.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Being Wise Fourteen

 Our purple iris--gift from Tracey, photo by Janet April 2021

Being Wise Fourteen May 9, 2021

A day for mothers, to thank them.

I’ve mothered three of my own and

a lot of other people’s. Sometimes

it was a problem. They worshiped

me and then they cast me out. Or

they demanded more than I could

give. What helped the most was

learning to read the souls of my

friends and neighbors, not to mention

my children. Some people love to

be understood. Others hate it.

Children are the real test. They let

you know how they come across.

Even animals can do that. Pay

attention to how people respond,

whether they trust you. If you scare

them, they’re probably hiding

something. If they lie, and some

people do, even to themselves, 

they may confess later. Such

defenses can be learned as children.

I myself invented my own archetype

to be and to live out. I wanted to be

Sophia, wise, and a healer. I’d 

serve the Muse, let her live in me

and shape my words. Then Penelope 

to an Odysseus, but Odysseus, too.

An explorer, one who traveled but

always came home. It has surprised

me, the people who remembered

me after years of silence, who 

returned to tell me their stories, 

who helped me when I hadn’t 

cried for help. It means I’m safe.

Some do try to hurt me or control

me, but it never quite works. I’m

going to be myself always, and

that self, that being sees farther

and overlooks what’s not important.

The game in life is to be yourself

and no one else. A challenge

sometimes, but worth the Trouble.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Being Wise Thirteen

 My neighbors back in 1998-9    Demetrius with his father Kenny and his mother Sissy.

Being Wise Thirteen May 2, 2021

Here is this time when I begin 

to feel my age. I’m not getting

stronger but weaker. My doctor

wants me to exercise more, but

I’m not doing it yet. I want to

stay strong, get stronger, stop

losing weight, but I’m finding

that hard to do. I manage my

few chores, my short walks,

my irregular sleep patterns. 

I have a few pains in my 

right foot, in my left shoulder.

I receive interesting emails

and letters. People love me.

My neighbor Harold tells

me I’m an icon in our

neighborhood. He was the

first one to welcome me

in the summer of 1998. I

came to a meeting about the

low-level nuclear dump

planned for Moncure. We

stopped it. Now they want

to do another one. Harold

hugged me those twenty-three

years ago. The child next door,

three years old, Demetrius,

also hugged me–what he could

reach–my legs–and died ten

years later in a car crash. I’m

known more now than ever

before, my name in the paper,

pictures of my books. And we

defeated the coal ash dumping,

though seven million tons of it

is left for us forever. You do

what you can. You hope it’s

enough. There are still things

you can do. Be thankful.

Sunday, April 25, 2021

Being Wise Twelve

Katherine Wolfe and Jaki Shelton-Green at Jaki's celebration at Quail Ridge Books, 2018, becoming Poet Laureate

Being Wise Twelve April 25, 2021

For Jaki

My friend Jaki is still there, though

she has a new disguise. It’s in her

smile, her truth, both pointed and

laced with compassion. She opens

the pain of others from slavery

times through her skin, her sorrow.

Her look strikes deep, though I 

miss some words: the mother who

dressed her small son for a trip to

town and never saw him again.

He’d been dressed up to be sold.

The grandfather they wouldn’t

tell her about. She survived as

North Carolina dealt with the

integration of the schools, by

being sent north to a Quaker school

for safety. We came from Illinois

to rent a farmer’s old house. Everyone

we talked to wanted to know where

we stood on the racial question.

When the children of the farmer’s

hands came over to play, the farmer

said, “Don’t do that.” But nobody

knew when Jaki crossed the line

and read me her poems, and I said

we need to publish them. They

weren’t typed. I said I’d type them.

We became friends. My baby Ginia

and her Segun were in the same

daycare in Chapel Hill. Sometimes

I picked up Segun and took him to

Jaki. Brave mother. Her poems

flowed out, defying the rules. 

When i praised T.J. Reddy, in jail

for burning a stable of horses,

which he never did, and called him

a saint, the farmer said we had 

to leave. Terry left, too. The farmer’s

aunt said she’d find me a house,

but, alone with three children, I

didn’t think I could manage. We

moved to Chapel Hill, and so did Jaki

and her young family. In the next issue

of our poetry mag, we had poems by

Jaki and Sherman Shelton. By 1977

I had published her book Dead on

Arrival. Over the years she worked

her way to being known and honored.

Now she’s our state’s poet laureate.

And even when we meet virtually, 

the love of old friends is there. I’m

not forgotten, and she is treasured

by people everywhere. I say, “I’ll

be eighty-four next month, and I’m

still mischievous, and Jaki laughs.

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Being Wise Eleven

                         Garden peas a few years ago in my garden.

Being Wise Eleven April 18, 2021

Green, green, green! The iris

are blooming, white and purple.

I planted them too close together,

but they bloomed anyway, defying

horticulture laws and behavior.

The grass, too, is that brilliant

green, that open rebellion. Don’t

tell me it’s not spring. My cells

know. Who says there aren’t

miracles. It’s April, isn’t it?

Green time.The flowers, the

birds, every leaf, every blade

of grass. The bees foretell it:

pollen and honey have arrived. 

You can’t go back now. Even

your old loves have resurrected

themselves, and the new ones

grown bolder. Green is here 

and there and everywhere.


Sunday, April 11, 2021

Being Wise Ten

 Being Wise Ten April 11, 2021

For Marie Hammond

In Memory of Sam Hammond, August 22, 1947–February 25, 2021

Oh, Sam! I miss you! You gave yourself 

so freely. You egged me on to do a book

with my grandmother’s diary, and then

you helped. You made sure I had omitted

no lines of possible research on what their

life was like in the China of 1910, and who

exactly they all were, these people they

mention. You even found some answers

for me. Five different families learned

about Grace, A China Diary: 1910-1916

and wrote to me of their relatives, friends

of Grace and Harvey. Grace had bipolar

disease, not understood well in 1910, but

the missionary doctors were wiser than

those in Oklahoma when they returned

home. I came to understand Grace better

–my goal for doing the book. I remember

how you and Marie celebrated with me.

Other times you were there when we

shared dinner. I loved to make you

laugh. It was so easy. I saved up

outrageous stories out of my own life.

Once you joined a small writing class

I was teaching. I had a young black

student, new to writing. I could tell

you approved of how I worked with

him. I always believed my students

could write well and better. And they

did. You left us in February. But for

me, you’re still here, part of my life

and thought. A model of a loving man 

in an increasingly distraught world.

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Being Wise Nine

The cover of my new Baba Summer Book Two, painting image by Nikolai Smirnov, Kostroma, Russia "The First Snow"

Being Wise Nine Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021

Resurrection! In a cold house.

Resurrection ferns by the Haw River.

I am almost eighty-four and still

alive. The frost killed the hydrangea’s

new leaves, but the daylily leaves

are erect as usual. Did the peach

blossoms survive? I can’t tell through

the kitchen window. The hens are

hunkered down, their feathers

fluffed for warmth. A cold sun

brightens behind the curtains.

The poem begins before I’m fully

awake. I put on my jacket and

spread a blanket over my legs

and feet. Easter morning. I

celebrate with a new poem

while the Earth’s resurrection

continues unabated. Two lamps

in a dark house. One human

being awake and alive. No

telling how much longer I

have to inhabit this body, be

this person, bundle myself up

in wool and my favorite

blanket, drink hot tea, and be

grateful for another day of

life and love.


Sunday, March 28, 2021

Being Wise Eight

 Photo of peach blossoms outside my kitchen window 

                    by Janet Wyatt March 2021

Being Wise Eight March 28, 2021

When I yield, admit it’s time

to wash the dishes, and I

stare out the kitchen window,

peach blossoms cluster

themselves in my view. Drudgery

disappears. Can that many

peaches crowd those slender

stems? Will some fall that

others may be pollinated and

grow fat and pink? Will bugs

gnaw and chew before my

eyes or will some come safe

to the window harbor? Will

the unruly grape vines climb

over the chicken run and feed

the hens below them? Will I

be able to reach up and harvest

the volunteer peach, the impetuous

grapes? Possibly apples and

pears may still bear. Oh, the

work to reclaim my orchard. 

So many broken limbs, unpicked

fruit, vine tangles. And the figs.

Will they survive? We plan a

garden. So far onions and

replanted peas. Next beets.

Later cukes and beans. Tomatoes

and sweet peppers. Meantime

the bees are busy among the

nascent peaches. Oh, please

live. Please make fruit 

we can all eat.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Being Wise Seven

 Janet took this photo of our pink cosmos last summer.


Being Wise Seven March 21, 2021

How does wisdom come into it?

Am I any wiser because I’m older?

I seem to forget more. On a busy

day, I might forget my pill. My

legs get tired and I yearn to sit

down and put my feet up. Enough

work for awhile. I’ll rest now. 

Then the next morning I find

the pill I didn’t take. I do

compensate, write things down

in my appointment book, get

books ready to mail as soon as

I get in the orders. Once I forgot

my class, but the students weren’t

angry. I’ve already chosen books

for my fall classes. I try to walk

every day, but sometimes I

forget that, too.  I do well on the

whole, but what I forget troubles

me. I don’t know, of course,

how much longer I have to be

here, to cook and clean and teach

and learn. And I’m not the only

one in my life who forgets. We

all do. I used to lose things like

car keys and house keys. So I

wear my emergency pair of

keys. I should be able to outwit

myself. I’ll give it a try.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Being Wise Six

        Our rooster, Pauli, supervising his hens. by Janet Wyatt

Being Wise Six March 14, 2021

There are always temptations.

“Add four thousand to your

credit line.” I had trouble with

the web option and was put on

hold with the phone option. Not

worth it. I have enough credit.

I’ve stayed out of debt. “Find

out when your stimulus check

will arrive.” I got lost in that

web search, too. It’s in the works

and will come. No worries. Best

to focus on finishing my taxes

and helping these women who

trust me to edit their writing.

Do more cleaning. Walk longer.

Do the work in front of you.

Your body is healing if slowly.

You have some good years

still to come. A day at a time,

as they say. Your body is quiet.

Your soul is peaceful. People

love you. No worries.

  supervising his hens.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Being Wise Five

Christmas 2016

Being Wise Five March 7, 2021

Aging interferes with memory.

People used to admire mine.

Now I need reminding. I keep

two records, when I only need

one. If a book slips out of sight,

I can’t find it. I search my piles

of folders for class notes, student

work, miscellaneous papers I

don’t want to lose track of. But

where are they? Yet the lines

of new poems rise to the surface

My words are still there and

many memories, even if not

the ones I’m looking for. I do

pretty well on grocery lists and

remembering meal plans. My

life is simple: writing, publishing

what I’ve written; teaching, 

nudging my students to keep

after their goals, pointing out

awkward phrasing, celebrating

the completion of a book. 

Amazing that I still have

students. Once I forgot my 

class, but they were not angry.

They called to remind me. Can

love compensate for memory

loss? Sometimes, Muse Mother.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Being Wise Four

Being Wise Four February 28, 2021

Some days aren’t so cold. We leave

the back door open in the afternoon

for the sun to beat on the storm door.

The volunteer peach tree has buds.

Daffodils rise in the front and in the

flower garden. Inside, my small orchid

thrusts out its tiny bloom stalks.

Tomorrow March arrives. I look at

the corner where my friend sat amid

a chaotic bunching up of clothes.

The fuscia in the window keeps

throwing up its red petals. She

brought us so many sad stories

of children in despair, lost and

maybe never found. I’ve lived here

quietly, at peace, glad for what I’ve

done in my life, for the obstacles

I’ve outwitted, the miles I’ve

traveled, the people I’ve loved and

been loved by. I wouldn’t change a thing.


Sunday, February 21, 2021

Being Wise Three

Photo of Three Cliffs Baby on Gower, Wales by John Ewiing.

 Being Wise Three February 21, 2021

What is life without problems? I have mine,

and then some. I have my helpers, but

sometimes they fail, too. It’s why we like

to hear about other people’s, what makes

them stumble, protest, even despair. My 

old friend used to say: “If human beings

are involved, there is always something

you can do.” Welford Wilson comforted

me when I was down-hearted, and we’d

pick ourselves up and try again. I lost

my website for a day. Then today, to my

surprise, it returned. The email is blocking

eleven messages in my outbox. My mind

doesn’t do well on this level of technical

competence. From long practice, I’ve

learned to hang on, try new things, ask

help, give it a rest. Read a book. True,

life without problems would be dull. 

So what if the dog pees? Clean it up.

If the package is delayed, be patient.

If the order is incomplete, call and

complain. Don’t expect a perfect

life. You already knew there’s no such

thing. If people fall in love with you,

remember they can also fall out of love.

Human beings change. Rare are the

ones who accept you, foibles and all,

errors and all. Things don’t exactly

solve themselves, but sometimes

you catch a glimpse of a possible

solution. Go for it.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Being Wise Two

Being Wise Two February 14, 2021

Day after day I see the same things:
photos of my twin grandchildren when
toddlers. And my son Tim at age ten.
A sprawling orchid blooms in my
window. Finnish islands carved by
glaciers on one wall. Books and boxes
of books are everywhere. Paintings
and pictures on the walls. A few
plants here and there. The dining
table with its odds and ends, address
labels, planner, medicine, placemats,
and silverware. We eat supper 
together. Last night, soup. He had
chicken noodle, and I had vegan–braised
vegetables. A CD player lives under
the lively orchid, and a long-stemmed,
vibrant plant throws itself around the
computer table seeking light and
recognition. The email today brought
me another order of Baba Summer Two,
newly arrived in one big box and two
small boxes. Because of the window,
this corner is cold. But I wear many
layers, and a blanket over my legs.
Clutter dominates my household,
and too many books. Tim builds a
fire with wood Janet brought. She’s
always a step ahead of me. She
worries I’ll get cold. Lately we have
rain, wind, and low thirties, but sun
will return. Out the back window
I can see my hens and their guard
dog rooster running to the orchard
and back. Under my desk, a chaotic
pile of receipts saved for filing with
my taxes. My body still lives and
thrives. I sleep when I don’t want
to sleep, and stay awake when I
want to sleep. My dreams are
coming true, despite setbacks and
delays. I suffer patience and humility.<

Sunday, February 7, 2021

Being Wise One

Being Wise One February 7, 2021 These days, these years are like no others. The virus confines us, yet we flourish. I make lasagna, pizza, spaghetti and tacos, fresh bread, lemon ginger tea. Janet and I plan a vegetable garden. We already have the seeds, and the onion sets are in the ground. We have the vaccine, too, now. I get my second shot in fifteen days. I still teach by Skype and publish books. One shipment in and one to wait for. Another already in the works. We have a new, sane president, but the last one left poison behind, still unresolved. Good and evil remain at war. Good will win but slowly. We’re told relief is coming, and more vaccine. Meantime, millions are without work or rent or food money. The numbers stay high of the sick and the dead. It’s time to throw away the bouquet that lived two weeks, to work harder to walk better. In my own way to tell the story of this year, its joys and sorrows, its newly learned patience and acceptance.

Monday, February 1, 2021

Talking to Myself Sixty

Talking to Myself Sixty January31, 2021 At this age--eighty-three--I think about the rest of my life. How many more years? I'll never know, but is it important? Probably not.Good things keep happening.. I woke up shivering, but I managed to cocoon myself and sleep another hour Taking off my covers feels risky, but I take the risk, add my serape to my costume for keeping warm, then my blanket. Toast and tea help. Outside snow is falling, the weather page tells me, and it won't get above 34. I'll make bread today and read a favorite author,heat the left over pizza, and Tim will start the woodstove earlier than ususal. Today matters. Each day brings a new surprise. My seventh grade boyfriend calls me up. His wife has dementia and he's depresed., but we laugh. My therapist' of the 80s to whom I dedicated my obook about teeens, writes to thank me and signs her letter "fondly." We're starting a vegetable garden. Janet has already planted onions and garlic and is readying rows for sugae snap peas. It will stay cold today, but we have wood and fire-starters, plenty of lemon grass tea.By suppertine we'll have fresh bread. I'll read the author I love best., walk indoors, make notes in my diary,laugh at Tim's Southern accent drink more hot tea and remember to enjoy each day's new surprises in a warm home.

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Nine

Talking to Myself Fifty-Nine January 24, 2021 Once I held a songfest with a blue grosbeak at six in the morning. I sang, “Where are you?” and he sang, “I’m over here.” “I see you,” I’d call, and he’d reply, “I see you, too,” then fly away before my eyes with his mate. We were at the dam, No one else around. Now he is my screen-saver. I meet him every morning when I wake at three, four, five. His head and body are bright blue, his wings black, white, gold, even red. Imagine a bird singing to me. Out of the wide universe, a little bird. He doesn’t care if I forget what I’ve just said or lost an order I forgot to finish. All the limits of old age are upon me, one after the other. But people help me, and my spirits are generally good. I forgive myself and other people, too. No point in holding grudges. Best to have a clear conscience, achieve what I can, and then let go. I escaped our plague and get my shot tomorrow. Hallelujah, ***************************************************

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Eight

Early Spring Garden several years ago.

Talking to Myself Fifty-Eight January 17, 2021

The woods are full of gun-shots

on a Saturday afternoon. Two helpers

come to clear the garden for planting.

They bring dry wood treated to start

fires. I give them a loaf of bread and

some frozen collards. Tim goes out

to help them. The local Trump

supporters still have their signs out.

Most of us are Democrats, with a

few exceptions. We watched the attack

on the Capitol building. We hear

they’ve put up a fence around it, and 

National Guard troops brought in

to defend it and our elected president.

Where is our peacefulness? Where

is our living, breathing democracy?

Why are they shooting in the woods?

The first shipment of seeds is here.

Sugar Ann Sugar Snap peas, Early

Wonder beets, General Lee Slicing

cukes, Cajun Jewel okra, and Gold

Metal Mix zinnias, Sensation Mix

Cosmos. A brave man and a brave

woman will travel to the capitol

in three days to be inaugurated. We

Americans elected them. Why now

are we afraid for their lives

and our own?


Sunday, January 10, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Seven

The village post office.


Talking to Myself Fifty-Seven January 10, 2021

I live in a democracy, which some

discount, including our president.

We want him gone. He still has

ten days, but how much damage

can he do? Too much, we fear. 

The one we want is waiting in the

wings, waiting his turn. He was

elected. Some cried that our votes

didn’t count. So many absentee

votes made a difference. It was

the lawless crowd we worried

about. No respect for other people,

no respect for our democratic

traditions. An old man in the

post office leered at me, came 

close. “How you doin’, honey.”

I kept going. I had packages 

to mail. This was not the Capitol

building in D.C. This was in the

village post office. When I’d

mailed my packages, he was

gone. The signs said to stand

six feet apart. He was not even

one foot from me. Gone when

I came out, yet, in reality,

how far away?


Sunday, January 3, 2021

Talking to Myself Fifty-Six

"First Snow" by Nikolai Smirnov. A Kostroma Region village farmhouse.

Talking to Myself Fifty-Six January 3, 2021

All around me: photos and paintings,

and a Finnish poster. My loved ones

take up wall space. I’ve been in this

room most of the time in most of last

year, staying safe from the virus that

kills. The poster over my desk is of

glacier-cut Finnish islands, a jigsaw

of forests in an impossibly blue sea

over my desk where reside printer,

fax, and scanner, and my Bach records.

To the right the wall holds Rumyantsev

forests, an abandoned village against

a golden fall. To the left, Nikolai Smirnov’s

roads, his mother’s village and her

small figure. Also Lyuba’s image of

her sister Vera emerging from the

forest like a modern Demeter. Then

that sister’s painting of the Krukov

Canal. Above the computer table, 

the face of Esenin--such sad eyes.. He

was forced to kill himself, his last

poem written in blood. Beside him

Vera’s flowers, and below Nikolai’s

rendering of the Kostroma city

center, and still lower, the Ipatievsky

Monastery from across the Kostroma

River. Behind the computer on a 

shelf, the Virgin’s Annunciation by

Lyuba, and my twin grandchildren,

and my friend Jaki and me. The back

wall has a long one of a village field

of dandelions, the coming of spring

with cranes flying. I thought it was

fall before I had my cataract surgery.

Aleksei’s forests and Nadya’s pink

landscapes, the ruins of Goncharov’s

home, and the enlarged flower by Doc

Ellen–all above the chest freezer where

I store my bread flours and keep all 

my published books on top, and 

a photo of me in my father’s arms

at age two. The back door holds old

Christmas cards, and the wall beside

it, two paintings by Roman Smirnov

of water and trees. Behind me, Smirnov’s 

village farmhouse, the Golden Autumn

giving way to the First Snow. Farther away

my son Tim’s memories of New Mexico,

and Julia’s colors, which I chose that go with

Tim’s. Also, from a magazine, Botticelli’s

 Arrival of Spring after Winter’s Deadlock.

May it arrive soon.