Category Archives: memoir

Sentimental Journey

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The Smell of Curry

Would that sentiment were only
positive and never lonely––
but all emotions of the world
in sentiment are tightly curled.
Every  memory we cherish
is doubly edged with “live” and “perish.”
In every city, country, land––
bad and good go hand in hand.

The blend of cardamom and lentil
always makes me sentimental.
Odors of turmeric and its ilk,
garam masala and coco milk.
Curry spices being roasted,
degree of peppers being boasted,
chickpeas, carrots, potatoes, rice––
stirring in each thing that’s nice.

What do I think of when I smell
and taste that it is going well?
Bombay and wedding saris thin
sliding down my youthful skin.
Visions of a midnight ride
to cages with young girls inside
sold by their parents and then resold
nightly for a bit of gold.

Traffic, sitar music, fingers
scooping curry––all this lingers.
The beauty of that winsome song
that showed me where the world’s gone wrong.
His action, swift, unthinking, curt
of small coins cast into the dirt
to deflect those who beg and bleat,
surrounding us in every street.

Palaces and then the clash
of children in a world of trash,
the refuse of this giant city
the world they lived in–what a pity.
Back when traveling was new,
experiences were so few
that India changed my life forever.
So, will I forget it?  Never.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/sentimental/

TAKING THE LONG WAY HOME

Taking the Long Way Home
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Class Reunion

Since we know where we are going so well,
let’s take the longest route there,
out past England’s Hill and that dip in the road we kids called lover’s leap.
Silly the traditions we tried to pretend––as though our histories weren’t long enough
to have attracted real ones. Now all of those old newnesses
are curling with age, discolored, cracking at the edges––
their roughness catching realities and dreams
and mixing them together so none of us
can remember the difference.

The Prompt: This Is Your Song–Take a line from a song that you love or connect with. Turn that line into the title of your post. (My song was “Long Way Home” by Tom Waits.)

Passing Time

IMG_1162Detra de las Puertas Cerradas (Behind Closed Doors) One’s own living room can become entirely too comfortable. Shutting the drawers to the past may open the doors to the future. (retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown)

Passing Time

The means of our escape from life are numerous and various,
and there is nothing wrong with getting thrills that are vicarious.
Movies, sports and novels are fine for entertainment;
but if you’re only viewing, there is no sense of attainment.

Looking back on your own life, like opening a book,
isn’t really living life, but just having a look
at the life of someone who you no longer are.
You aren’t really living life by viewing from afar.

Escape is necessary and our choices for it vast,
but there’s no satisfaction in living in the past.
Life is to be spent, not to be hoarded and rethought.
Better just to live the rest of the time that you’ve got!

Fond memories are something that I’m sure none of us lack,
but there’s no time of life to which I’m yearning to go back.
The only thing to do with time’s to live it and to love it.
I have no wish to turn back time, I only want more of it!

The Prompt: If you could return to the past to relive a part of your life, either to experience the wonderful bits again, or to do something over, which part of you life would you return to? Why?
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/if-i-could-turn-back-time/

What Vestige Left?

                                                              What Vestige Left?

I think what any of my ancestors would find most surprising if they were to come back is that there is so little of them left.  My paternal grandma would look for her quilts, her embroidery and her China cabinet full of glass and porcelain and would find none of them in my house.  I spent too many years traveling, so my older sister Betty Jo and my cousin Betty Jane wound up with all of grandma’s things. The one good quilt is over Betty Jo’s bed in the managed care facility where she now lives, but she knows nothing of it or of us or of her own children, being the prisoner of Alzheimer’s that she is.

My cousin Betty Jane passed on years ago, so the China cabinet full of Grandma’s dishes is in Idaho in the house of  her second husband. What Grandma would find of herself in my house is:
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one blue bowl filled with jade plant cuttings by my kitchen sink,

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an old pottery canning jar above my kitchen cabinets––

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and remnants of her tatting, a small square cut from a pillowslip she embroidered and part of a quilt square that I used in a retablo entitled “Our Lady of Notions.” (The view above is looking down on the top of the retablo–details not shown because of the shooting angle in the view of the entire retablo below.)

judy 2Amazing that so little remains of her in my house when she had a house stuffed full of things.  Now that I am the one with the house stuffed full, I wonder what of me will remain after fifty years.  Perhaps just this blog or my books or my artwork.  Maybe that is why I am so compulsive about writing and doing art–that need to be remembered.

The Prompt: Modern Families––If one of your late ancestors were to come back from the dead and join you for dinner, what things about your family would this person find the most shocking?
https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/modern-families/

I Used to Eat Red

                                                                  I Used to Eat Red

daily life color108 (1)My sister Patti and I, posed by my older sister Betty.  Those are “the” cherry trees behind us. The fact that we were wearing dresses suggests we were just home from Sunday school and church, our souls bleached as white as our shoes and socks!

 I used to eat red
from backyard cherry trees,
weave yellow dandelions
into cowgirl ropes
to lariat my Cheyenne uncle.

I once watched dull writhing gold
snatched from a haystack by its tail,
held by a work boot
and stilled by the pitchfork of my dad
who cut me rattles while I didn’t watch.

 I felt white muslin bleached into my soul
on Sunday mornings in a hard rear pew,
God in my pinafore pocket
with a picture of Jesus
won from memorizing psalms.

But it was black I heard at midnight from my upstairs window––
the low of cattle from the stock pens

on the other side of town––
the long and lonely whine of diesels on the road
to the furthest countries of my mind.

Where I would walk
burnt sienna pathways
to hear green birds sing a jungle song,
gray gulls call an ocean song,
peacocks cry the moon

until I woke to shade-sliced yellow,
mourning doves still crooning midnight songs of Persia
as I heard morning
whistled from a meadowlark
half a block away.

And then,
my white soul in my shorts pocket,
plunging down the stairs to my backyard,
I used to eat red,
pick dandelions yellow.

 (This is a reworking of a poem from my book Prairie Moths.) The prompt today was to talk about our earliest childhood memories.  https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/childhood-revisited/

Uncornered

                                                                         Uncornered

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Corners are the great equalizer, for it is a fact that no matter how large or small the house, every corner is exactly the same size. I remember being so small that I could fit all the way into a corner, right up to where it bent. If I was facing the wall, I could hold my head straight and fit my tongue into the crack that spread out in an L to form the two sides of the corner. If I faced outwards, I felt less punished and more ready to branch out from the corner into the kitchen, perhaps, with the refrigerator to be visited and a cherry popsicle to be collected on my way out into the world of my house.

Lying on my back on the purple living room rug––a floor that, although it extended to each corner of the room, had no actual corners itself. No chance of punishment. Facing downwards on the rug was entertainment: playing jacks or putting together a picture puzzle, moving paper dolls around their world of Kleenex box furniture, pot and pan swimming pools and matchbox coffee tables. In this paper universe were treasures purloined from the jewelry boxes of our mothers. Rhinestone bracelets became flapper necklaces and ruby-colored rings bangle bracelets. A folding fan stretched from side-to-side of the corner became the dressing room where Debra Paget donned her dressing gown, slipping out of her red paper high heels.

In the corner of my sister’s closet was the little cave I’d carved out of the shoe boxes and cardboard boxes of cast-off toys. There I’d wait for her to arrive home with friends in tow, to eavesdrop on their conversations in hopes of finding out who the boy was who had called her on the phone and hung up without identifying himself when he asked if she was there and I’d said no, she was out on a date. I might discover what she was going to give me for my birthday or hear any of the interesting secrets shared by girls four years my senior. But instead, it was the corner I fell asleep in, to wake up hours later when my mother called us down to supper.

“Where’s Judy?” I heard her ask my sister from the bottom of the stairs.

“She’s not up here,” I heard my sister answer as she went hop skipping down the stairs, two at a time. Even after I heard the door close at the bottom of the stairs, I stayed quietly where I was, barely breathing.

Five minutes later, I heard my sister clomping up the stairs again—looking in every room, the bathroom, under beds, in every closet except her own—I guess because she knew I couldn’t be there since she’d been in her own room for the hour before supper. I stayed quiet, giggling inside.

After my sister went downstairs,  I sneaked quietly out into the hall and down the stairs in my stocking feet, then creaked open the door and went running around the corner into the kitchen and dinette to take my usual place at the table—on the bench against the wall.

“Where were you?” my sister asked, “You weren’t anywhere!”

“It’s a secret!” I answered, and to this day, my whereabouts that day are an unsolved family mystery.

“Where was she?” They ask each other. Then, “Where were you?” they ask me again, but try as they may, no one has ever cornered me to give an answer.

Didn’t follow the daily prompt today as I’ve written about this one a couple of times, but here it is: https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/strike-a-chord/

 

How To Keep Warm in an Avalanche

How to Keep Warm in an Avalanche

To be buried while I’m still alive? One of my greatest fears—
tons of snow muffling my screams and freezing all my tears.
If I knew rescue was coming and had sufficient air,
how would I keep from panicking in this wintry lair?

Perhaps I’d think of old loves, from sixth grade up to now.
Every silent signal. Every declared vow.
The first boy who “chose” me—the pleasure that was new
of knowing I’d been noticed by a boy or two.

Unsure and not quite ready, those crushes quickly passed
as they moved on to other girls that I considered fast.
I lived up to the adage “sweet sixteen and never been kissed”
and started to be sorry for what I knew I’d missed.

By seventeen, I found out and luckily my first
was all that I had hoped for—like slaking a long thirst.
I remember all of that initial long embrace.
His heartbeat next to mine, his fingers on my face.

The dizziness, the giddiness. I couldn’t walk quite straight.
All that was wrong with that first kiss was that it came too late.
Though there have been other lovers, I must admit to this.
Never did another compete with that first kiss.

Then I’d think back to others, up to the present day,
making mental lists and then remembering what I may.
Cowboy, lawyer, carpenter, railroad man and teacher,
but no accountant, coach or doctor, bank robber or preacher.

Bartenders, salesmen, bass players and once a Green Bay Packer
would join this list of loves, but ne’er a lazy man or slacker.
I’d think and think, remembering names without the written word.
A tourist guide, two salesmen and a computer nerd.

And after a long night of this, kept warm by memories,
they’d find me curled up in a ball, my arms around my knees,
covered in a blanket of fine-sifted powdery snow,
caught fast in dreams of those who kept me warm so long ago.

(Yes, a reprint from almost exactly a year ago, but there is stuffing to make and a turkey to bake so give me a break for Thanksgiving’s sake!)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/teach-your-bloggers-well/