Judy Light Ayyildiz

Educator, Author, Speaker, Workshop Leader

Selected Works

a NOVEL based on an oral biography of a Turkish woman of the past century placed in a historical frame
This novel is a history of Turkey from 1900 to the present, from the sultanate to the republic, of wars, revolutions and the changes within a nation, of a family and of a woman, a saga, a love story between a man and woman and a woman with her country.
Memoir
Spiritual strength from moving, insightful, yet humorous stories of the people and experiences in Judy's life.
Fiction and Nonfiction, Children Ages 6-12
An American grandson of a Turkish immigrant learns about his Turkish and Ottoman heritage.
Poetry
“Unforced and authentic, which is pretty rare today.”
–-William Packard, NYQ Review
THE BASICS

A brief (or quite lengthy) autobiography can go in the center column of this page. You may want to insert a photo or two in this side column. You can also insert photos in the center column.

If you're inserting a lengthy biography, you should probably do it with several consecutive text boxes. This will make editing easier and will allow you to have occasional bold headers separating the text.

To use several text boxes, simply click the "Add text" box at the top of the center column. (You must be in Edit Mode to see that box.) Insert your first few paragraphs and save. Then click the "Add text" box again for your next block of text.

You can then position the text with the little arrows that appear in the blue boxes directly above the text.

Add headers with the "Add header" box and position them in the same way.

This information also appears in the Help section in the toolbar at the top of the page. Delete this entire entry by clicking the small blue "Delete" box that appears directly above this entry when you're in Edit Mode.

Renaming Sections


If you've already included all the bio you want on your home page, then this page can be used for something else. Simply rename it.

To rename this or any page, click the "Edit menu" box directly above the navigation bar (the navigation bar says "Home, My Works, Biography, etc." on it). You must be in Edit Mode to see the "Edit menu" box. Enter a new name for the section and save it.

While you're editing the menu, you may want to hide sections that you're not yet using.

To complete the renaming of this section, click the "Edit page title" box in the center column of this page.

Weaving this Woman's Life, a Reflection

This essay in WOMEN IN DIALOGUE: (M)USES OF CULTURE
An international Women's Studies anthology of Feminists from 17 countries
published by Cambridge Scholars Press, 2007

Spinning and Weaving This Woman’s Life
A Reflection

Judy Light Ayyildiz
June 2007

I am a story-teller, prone to weaving threads of experience into prosy webs. In assuming this familiar metaphor, I salute this ancient symbol of creativity. In that space where I am able to invent, there seems to be a high energy source that enlightens my ideas and stimulates my desire to produce. Having experienced this, why wouldn’t I believe in the “muses?” In fact, my third book of poetry ends with an address to the muse.
Making Change

I bend down to pick up
a quarter, or a mile,
see your teeth, first-row balcony
shimmer in the puddle at my toes,
urging me to come
on down to earth.

You make me want to do my laundry and all
I’ve got is a dollar and no cents,
have to walk three blocks for change,
in my bare feet no less,
afraid to leave my laundry
all alone in this town
any town, what with all the starving
souls also looking for a dime.

So I sit down in the sun, (NO LINE BREAK)
conjure up a fat man
with a roll of quarters.
Half of fifty’s not enough,
won’t do half a load.
I wrap my skirt
around my hourglass ankle,
smile at why I came here half-
ready in the first place.

I send slow smoke signals
up the Potomac
knowing you can read a donut hole,
grow fat feeding on my light breath,
actually grow fat, not looking for
a profit, but able to make change.




I discovered that writing was my special knack when I was in the second grade and wrote a two-page rhyming Christmas poem. The teacher had me read it in every class of the building. That made the impression on me that perhaps being able to create poems was something special. I’ve been spinning ever since. Children naturally find it easier to open the doors of the mind. They allow the imagination (or muse) to come scurrying in—along with its myriad of possibilities. Adults do well to remember that invention, at its peak, is a fun adventure. I find that I can do my best work when I achieve that environment where I am able to climb inside the subject at hand—be it a character or scene. Readers talk about “getting into” a book. That can usually happen only if the writer has gotten in there first. A weaver at work is a part of the loom.

A musician for the first half of my life, I became a professional writer late, translating everything I knew about music into writing. My first chapbook of poetry was published in 1977; but I continued to be a singer and choral director for about ten years. Music and poetry are attached like leaves to a tree, each painting pictures in tone and mood made out of texture, color, and design. In music, I stitched lyric with notes, whereas in poetry, I assembled with the alphabet. Both genres engender form, assonance, dissonance, cacophony, phrasing, beat, mood, pace. My writing is often dotted with musical terms placed for various connotations.

New Motifs, Old Song

Out of the ashes of yesterday’s Auschwitz
voices sing
six-part syncopated classics and
Folk
it’s the children who sing
phrases
forgotten or lost in the smoke.



Everything I have written has come from musing. A writer works over things that others may ignore or take for granted. Every individual’s answering to life is as unique as his or her DNA. I respond by wording. It is said that a writer must be able to perceive experiences in many dimensions on several levels at once, to make connections in unlike things, and to know that almost everything has a deeper meaning that is waiting to be found. The following poem was completed after years of holding an image left-over from childhood. As a young child, I had crawled beneath a window of a place forbidden to me. There, in muted horror, I witnessed the slaughter of friendly animals. Shocked and afraid of getting in trouble, I never told anyone. I never forgot. As an adult, I began writing out the image. The poem developed, and took its time and many turns until I realized what my unconscious had known all along, that my image was about the rape of childhood’s innocence. Images that hang around in memory like spectres can be worked in between the lines of meter and sound where they find new life and meaning.

Kore

The sun of a sixth summer
braids gold in her hair. She winds
flaxen fields to the gravel road
leading to the slaughterhouse on Twelve pole Creek
where she goes every afternoon to feed
the bawling cows with the wet wide eyes.
She gathers leaves of elm,
purple caps of clover, stuffs them
through the window slats. There are
so many in the shed she scarcely sees
the hooves. She has hidden
when the men in black boots come,
heard the hollow knocking up the planks
where the cows are pushed into a line.
They fall.
Blood’s boiling cherries down the trough,
and if she had a secret finger
to stick into it, would the taste be tart—
She knows the stream cuts to the creek,
thinks she will not swim there anymore.


The writing process is critical thinking scheming. The practice of crafting a poem, short story, book, or article includes bringing the vague, abstract reactions to a subject into an organized, concrete form. My experience shows me that a person is nearest The Creator when he or she joins in the act of inventing worlds strung together in words. It is the highest form of love in its clarity. It makes something of nothing, which is hope. It sustains, which is faith. It allows one to absorb the sun and the moon in a copper cave or the cool rain on a summer’s lash. It is saving life, past and future and all-time present. Spiders are an apt symbol for the craft, although I do not hesitate to admit that the entire metaphor is a wee-bit intimidating even as I type.


Addicted

I’ll get it any way I can:
beat it out of a ribbon,
squeeze it from a machine,
lie with it late at night
dried-out, hoping for resurr-
ection.
I drink at any well,
mix it with almost anything,
can do without it for short periods
as long as I’ve got some
under my nails
to look at
while I screw up in all the traditional positions,
rupture in the sheets
where unblemished is
flaw, and I care less
as long as there’s a hangover
from this week’s dive
into ink.



Hatched out in 1941 in the U. S. of A.’s northern South, I grew up when a woman’s primary place was in the home. A young woman’s goal was to marry well so that she would be taken care of for the rest of her life. My hairy spirit insisted otherwise. During my youth, I witnessed how the patriarchy took advantage of this notion about “a woman’s place.” I saw that society was hypocritical in every facet of home, church, and state concerning the whereabouts of women’s abuse. Granted, equal rights were law; but, they were severely limited by the attitude of the family, the community, and the establishment. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement found its climax when I was still a young mother and a teacher. I became a part of the Women’s Movement. I was aghast when the Equal Rights Amendment could not rally support in enough states, thus failing to pass at the national level. I couldn’t believe it. How could any people think that the ones who had birthed them were unequal to them?

To Helens

Sisters, Troy’s no city now
though they keep putting
you and your kind on the pedestal,
—and you lie
out in some forgotten field
cracking up,
completely detached
from any hand
glazing your brow,
your white butt
hugged in a handful of loam.



But, why should I have been surprised? I had been a skinny-legged thing by grace alone left dangling alive by the lord of the hill. How could I think I had personal choice for what I would do with my life? Having grown up under a patriarch who fished in muddy waters, I would not come to a full realization of feminism until I was in my mid-thirties.

Mud River

On Saturdays and summer days I followed you
rodnreel in one fist, in the other, bait
buried in a coffee can,
trailed you to the murky bank
where you taught me how to twist
resisting earthworms onto hooks,
their stringy blood glued to my hands.
All afternoon I’d shift on a rock,
the cold creeping up my back.
Hope I get a big one I’d say
lathering up to your smile.
You never seemed to care
if there were any fish. You lit one
Camel on another, leaned arms on knees
and watched the water slide on by.
And I’d stand back on the edge of your voice:
They always bite when it’s raining.

Years after I’ve left the bank, you
insist on staying,
standing like a minor god on a muddy shore,
tossing that weighted line
out to a stream where there’s no fish.
That sinker clops too many times.
Waves wallop, plop-wallop,
muddy river where no fish bite.
Sometimes on an offguard afternoon
I smell the bloodslime on my hands,
hear that hollow cadence
and the rainclops’
dark cadenza
counterpoint Mud River’s
deep continuo.



My mother’s mother, who had died when I was thirteen, has always been an “angel on my shoulder.” She represents love and compassion given unselfishly. Be that as it may, the era for women to be content with raising twelve kids on a farm while the father brings home the living wages is gone for most. I have asked myself what would have happened to one like me in that situation. I wondered if my grandmother ever wanted anything more than to serve. In my third book of poetry, Mud River, I came to peace with this question by writing about my grandmother in a poem where I extolled Granny’s life and her closeness and importance to me, and how she lived-on within me.


Gracie

I was born fast on time in that cold
farm house where they waited out the winter.
I was coming. Mother thought I was
a roll of gas, Saturday’s beans and corn. I was
a head of hair headed for the chamber pot.
And then she screamed,

My God! My grandma came,
and in her tracks, old Aunt Mag, a midwife
hungry for the touch of something
innocent and warm.
My grandma laughed in life,
pointed to the earth as reason,
heaven as the hope. Her twelve
all stayed through the frost and famine
of the Appalachian chain, circled
around the coalfire in the hearths (NO LINE BREAK)
on back creeks wedged in
hollows of the West Virginia crags.

Grace, my Granny, said I made it in too easy.
I would find it hard to go away, but
I would go away.

Gracie smoked a corncob pipe. She’d sit
on the back porch, shaded from the afternoon sun,
her bonnet like a drooping violet
hung on the nail by the door.
I sat on the steps to watch
how she’d puff and look out over
tomatoes and cabbage, sweet Williams an dahlias.
I knew she was a three-hundred pound saint,
soft and smelling like cucumbers on the vine.

She had hair like an Iroquois, kneaded
into a biscuit at the nape of her neck.
Through rings of smoke she said,
Now, nobody’s all ugly, though
Some are purt-neer. Look again and find
something somewhere on ever body God’s made
that’s neer-well nice.

That last Mother’s Day reunion
she got up and friend three chickens
put on a pot of green beans, made two
custard pies, a chocolate and coconut cream
before she took to bed.

She died in a hospital where she didn’t
want to be, because her husband
was suspicious of doctors
messing with the private parts of women.
I was thirteen, embarrassed how she held
my hand, shy to squeeze back
in front of my mother and aunts.

I breathed, I love you, Granny.
Child, you always did. —and finally let me go.

I’m coming up next month, school’s out.
She only smiled that deep smile.
Do that. I’ll be there.

I found her
in the sweet peas,
and again
on the swing.



My mother found her first independence in thirty years when she was left widowed. She had been forced to quit school after the tenth grade to help support her siblings during the Great Depression. Unlike my saintly grandfather, my father’s drinking bouts and harsh temper made him an unstable provider and a difficult partner. However, when mother was raising children, divorce (for a woman) was not a viable option. For a single mother and her children, there was almost no social help from the government. A divorced woman was frowned upon by society and the church. My mother chose to stay with her husband in order to keep her family together. In my mother, I witnessed a heroine who would sacrifice for the good of others at her own expense, as well as a bright and capable human being who was limited because of her sex and education. I vowed to find ways where I would not to fall into negative entrapments simply because I was a female. Education would show me how. I have saved my mother’s life by capturing bits and pieces of her and folding them in my nets. The following was spun out of the journal that I kept during the seven months when I nursed my mother in my home while she slowly died of cancer.

The Last Walk with My Mother,February 12, 1995, from Part I

This tiredness I feel—it’s hard to tell whether it’s low blood, menopause syndromes, or depression come from watching Mother wither day by day. She stays alive because of the feeding tube. Now her intake is almost what she can swallow as a liquid. Over the intercom, I can hear her sigh like a hot breeze intermittently over a sea shore. Her machine clicks in a steady rhythm like heartbeats, one drop of liquid nourishment almost every second. I was feeding her baby cereal the other morning and she chuckled, saying, “I was just remembering when I did this for you years ago when you were a baby. Time passes so soon.” My grandson is not yet eating such cereal but one day in the future I will be doing the same for him. Our passage is brief, and there is a chain in our being—links of life to life; and we pass on our genes, personality characteristics, even our likes and dislikes. Today, Joni Beth told me her son Matthew is left-handed like Mother, like my son Kamal, and Mother’s father, Grandpa Perry. My brother Jon is left-handed. Since September, I have been caught up in the idea of Mother’s sickness, and several times watched her so near death that I was ready to give her up, and she revived. She wants to live and does not go to dying easily. I have watched her in the stages of denial and anger; and she is now in rationalization. She is ready to live on in a weakened state using the walker she once did not accept. She permits the catheter. She still hates the shots but says she realizes she must have them. She is glad she has the tube and understands our insisting for it. I have no doubts that our judgement has been correct all along in having no surgery. She might have survived it but her condition would have been unbearable for her. I only pray to stay well.


In 1985, I was paralyzed with an autoimmune disorder from which I eventually unravelled. Throughout the entire episode, I was journaling. A basic trait of this life as a poet is that I have to understand and make meaning of all that happens to me or around me. Sometimes we have to spin and weave and take it apart and begin again until we understand what we are trying to engineer. I wrote seven versions of my memoir Nothing But Time before I realized that I could not communicate my spiritual triumph without demonstrating how I found healing strength within the stories that I knew. Nothing But Time travels on the vine of the illness and the learning to walk again. Stories and tales of those in my life who have given me courage and other needed tools by their example hang like clusters off this vine. Not until I had completed the book did I clearly see my mother’s impact on my life. Writing is one way to discover truth. In Nothing But Time, Mother brings practical applications, wisdom, love, and humor. My readers like her. They tell me they can relate to the part that she played in the overall drama of my illness, and in my life as a whole. Working out the eighth and final version of Nothing But Time was like an awakening, a gift. I remained in a creative mode with my muses for six energetic and driven weeks. I never doubted that I had finally “tuned-in” to what wanted to be said. I was receiving, at times, faster than I could knit the words together. By stitching my past stories to present story, the book demonstrates that healing power can be gleaned from the real-life narratives that we have within. There is a saying, “Nothing succeeds like success.” If you are failing, you can find courage in one of the achievement stories that you know. In other words, you can be your own muse and inspire yourself.

The balmy sun and the bit from the wild fields of my childhood, dangling from my fingers like a frowzy wig, here at the Farmer’s Market, takes me across a damp meadow where I looked for creasy greens with the fervour of Easter egg hunting: My Momma's rich red hair glows in the spring sun. She is off a ways from me. Both of us fill paper pokes. In rhythm, we stoop. She has taught me how to cut off the tender doily greens just above the roots. We are harvesting together. Momma and I will later wash our greens, tops and bottoms, until all the dirt and beads of mud are gone; and then, for supper, she'll boil them down with bacon. There, in the meadow, I mimic how she methodically clutches, pulls and collects. Momma's hands are waitress' hands. Her fingers splayed, they are trays that can tote three glasses at once. On this afternoon, her freckled fingers have shown me how to carry a sharp tool. I'm careful to hold the point away from me as I work. Momma told me, "Act like you have the sense you were born with, and you can learn." Anyway, I'm too used to rocks and holes in the ground to trip. She has entrusted me with one of her good paring knives. She is not worried that I can't handle this task.



My husband is a naturalized American citizen from Turkey. Being married for so long to someone that blew into my world from a different continent has deepened my thoughts considerably. The desire to navigate off through my husband’s culture enhanced my craft. My stories and poems about Turkey have demanded even more intricate patterns. An equal rights loyalist, Vedii encourages my habit. It often surprises Westerners when I say that my husband was the first feminist that I ever met; but, they understand it better when I explain the progressive visions and creative innovations of Kemal Ataturk—under whose philosophy my husband was raised. The following was told to me by my husband’s mother and comes from my novel Never Forever.

It had been widely rumoured that Ataturk was ill. Adalet had been more shocked than surprised with his death. She had already received a dream a few nights before in which she opened the door at strong and persistent knocking to discover her president and Pasha standing on her threshold.
"Can I come in?" Ataturk asked.
Overwhelmed and overjoyed by such a guest, she brought him in and gave him the best seat in the parlour. He sat there in his nice suit with the tie and handkerchief in its pocket, his fine hair slicked back. There was not even a speck of dust on him anywhere. He gazed at her as if he could pierce her heart. Adalet picked up a small box wrapped in gold paper and handed him a present of her special cheese, since he had liked it so much. He held it on his lap and smiled at her. "Adalet Hanim," he said, "I am very tired. Would you give me a drink of water?" Naturally, she gave him the best glass in the house, filled with cool water from the spring. He drank it down and told her, "Thank you for everything." And then he vanished into her hearth fire.
To those who asked Adalet for the meaning of her dream, she told them, “Kemal Pasha has left us; but it is up to those of us, his students, whom he has enlightened, to carry forth his creative ideas, and to see that they never die. In that way, we feed the thirst of the nation. And his ideas will always be the fire in the center part of our lives.”
Adalet had memorized what Pasha had said in a speech back in 1923: “If our nation now needs sciences and knowledge, men and women must share them equally. Obviously, society creates a division of labour, and in this division women should carry out their own duties as well as contribute to the general effort to improve the happiness and well-being of our society.” Sometimes, it was almost easier to be a partner to the ideals of building a new society that did not necessarily conform to the standards of the past than to be a wife to a man who could not adhere to the basic loyalties of marriage.


My novel Never Forever is historically driven and based on the oral memoirs of my mother-in-law. This remarkable woman not only was my friend but a gifted muse from a different time and place whose gift to me came in a foreign tongue. Adalet was a gentle earth mother like my grandmother and a humorous, loyal, hard-working advocate like my mother. All three were story-tellers from a previous generation who reached out to me from their different lives and experience. They augmented my spirit, the various aspects of my life, and enhanced the narratives I penned. I am very rich to have three such different heroines. Their voices, their songs, their tales and wisdom are within and around me and always at my disposal even though they’ve gone to another realm.

Adalet asked me to come spend the summer with her when she was ninety-one years old. She died the next year, but I had recorded her voice, telling her life as she remembered it: detailed and well. We worked with a translator three days a week. Never Forever is the saga of ten years of constant wars, the birth of a new nation and democracy, and a cultural revolution—all filtered through the eyes of an enlightened and strong woman. Adalet’s character had always motivated me. Without that inspiration, I probably would not have taken on the historical research required to write the book. We loved each other. She was humorous, yet quiet. She loved parties and guests, and yet she was not given to display. She was a mother of seven children, one of which disappeared and another who died. She was a marvellous cook. And still, she wrote poems, played the lute, and (because there was none) started a grade school and taught in an eastern town of Anatolia. During the long and lonely hours of the days and nights of writing her story, I truly felt Adalet’s spirit bouncing over my shoulder saying, “Now, this is how it Was.” She had given me the bone structure of her life. I had to put the meat on it. Because of the enormous research, the novel took ten years to write.


Ritual

for Adalet

After your death at age ninety-two, I return
to Istanbul, where you spent your final years.
I dust your treasures: red gone
to ochre silk flowers, chipped vase on oak chair
split at the back, a Russian swan
with marble head caught preening a wing,
a crumpled prayer book, a plastic turtle
balanced on the Kredi Bank candy dish.

I wash your fingerprints from corners
where you made your way to bedroom to bath
to kitchen, dark smudges at knee-level
where your hands steadied against walls.
You were determined to walk alone
long after time had warped your spine,
twisting you down. You pulled back
with a strength that had carried you
past broken Ottoman relics into fires
like an abduction, a national revolution,
deaths of two of your eight children, divorce .

You said your prayers five times a day,
chuckling at aggravations in between
and often weeping at the ironies and inadequacies (NO BREAK)
of a third-world system and second-rate love.
Yet, you believed in the magic of things
such as fat ripe figs in hand again, and the rituals
of making coffee, telling good fortunes, fal, of the dregs
and feeding seagulls come in from the shores at night
-- seagulls sidling near to get the stale bread
you would not throw away, for bread is sacred.
Always, there were hungry, orphaned spirits
of some kind waiting at your moonlit ledge.

I squeeze water from the rag, see your mornings and evenings
clarify in streams below the drain. I think you pleased,
knowing how you loved to make things clean.
The traces of your pain are gone, stains that your Anatolian eyes
would not see on the walls that you scrubbed so hard.


My daughter Karen was the designer of my first children’s book, Some of my Ancestors are Ottomans and Turks. My husband painted the water color illustrations for it. The book spun out from inspiration and need. I wanted to buy a book in English that would explain to my grandson about his ancestors in Turkey. There was none to be found. Ancestors contains educational and wholesome connective material for Turkish-American children, and also serves foreign children that come to Turkey. Adults read it as a crash course in Turkish history. The following is an excerpt from it:
“But why did the family tribes decide to leave the steppes and go to Turkey? Was it because they were already Turks who wanted to live in Turkey?” Jim asked.
“Twelve-hundred years ago, as they migrated out of the Asian Steppes,” Buyukbaba began, “the big body of land where they went was called Anatolia. The Turks called it ‘Anadolu”—a word that means ‘land full of mothers’ because so many different nations had originated from there. All sorts of tribes and people lived in Anatolia at that time: Armenians, Selçuk (Seljuk), Kurds, Jews, Byzantine Greeks. Little by little, Turkish tribes in greater number left the steppes for the adventure, work, new friends, and trade that they found in Anatolia. Many from the tribes even began to settle down in villages.”
Jim wondered about the people who lived in Anatolia twelve-hundred years ago. Maybe Anatolia was like the United States—different kinds of people, very crowded, and large. “Who were the Byzantines?” Jim asked.


The four supplementary creative writing and critical-thinking textbooks that I have co-written with fellow writer and teacher Rebekah Woodie sprang from the need to teach our methods. As we wrote, we more or less demanded attention from the muses. We just took up the pen and believed that it would happen; and like magic, it did. I have to admit that we inspired each other. We were teaching the creative writing process to students and teachers. We were showing them how to find fresh language by observing and analyzing with the senses. The muses came through for us. One just cannot teach how to be inventive unless invention is in the teaching.

The young adult novel that Karen and I are completing with the working title of The Family Project is about a thirteen-year-old Turkish-American girl who, as a result of a school assignment, discovers Kemal Ataturk and the part he played in her great-grandmother’s life, and thus, the impact on her. There is a also lot of information thrown into the scenes such as the women’s movement in both the U. S. and in Turkey; but it’s been a fun story.

“When I went to Turkey last summer. Remember?”
“Oh yeah, you sent me a postcard of a beach.”
“From a place called Cesme (Chesh-may) that's like an island,” I told her. “Near Izmir. That bead’s called an ‘evil eye.’ It keeps evil away from you.”
“Oh, Izmir.” I could tell the way she said the name “Izmir” that she had no clue where it might be. That didn’t matter anyway. But, it was hard and just a tad awkward to try to bring back to my American friends my experiences with my other world of Turkey. It was so different, and even now it seemed almost a lifetime away. I wished sometimes that I could take Gen there with me so that she would picture it in her head when I mentioned it. Anyway, I’m not even from Turkey, anyway. I mean, I’m totally American like my classmates. But, there’s this other part of me that’s connected to a foreign country that nobody here knows much about. Maria might understand how it is. But, Mexico isn’t three thousand miles away, and Americans have been pretty used to the Mexican culture for a long time. It’s not so unusual to go on a holiday there.
Geena rubbed the white bead with the blue eye between her thumb and forefinger. “Like—I’m supposed to believe in something weird like that?”
“Actually,” I said, “An evil eye bead is no goofier than a four-leaf clover or a lucky rabbit’s foot.”

from The Family Project 2007


My three volumes of poetry are largely biographical narrative laced into lyrical imagery. Mud River plays on the theme that life is a river. But, each river has a bed of mud, silt carried from one place, deposited in another. Mud River is, again, a woman’s confrontation with herself and others, and the finding of peace or compromise with situation. Smuggled Seeds grew from a journal that I kept when I went to Poland with the National Alliance of Arts Educators. When something stimulated me, I jotted it down. In the next year, I cut and trimmed. The entries became poetry. Writers save life and lives. This book captures various places and people of Poland in a year when that country was still living under the rule of communism. My trip to Auschwitz had a major impact on me. In the following poem, I drew on my experience of having sung the great requiem mass for the dead as written by great composers. By putting to use this extended metaphor, I was able to release the horror, place a blessing, and at the same time, stress that funerals for the massacred are yet an on-going ritual that we are compelled to repeat. Nature, objects, relics, and memory take on personified haunting spirits that cannot rest—because similar gruesomeness continues. The ending makes it an open poem, and provokes the question of why do we continue to permit such ghastly possibilities. Although the subject matter is gristly, the tone is lyrical, controlled with assonance and soft-stumbling rhythm to enable the atmosphere of respect and grief.


Requiem Auschwitz 1985

Forty years of winds have not cleared the air
laden with unfinished chains, minor modes
that steel against the grain of brick
and mortar made as sanctum for the massive freight.
“Arbeit macht frei”, words
in the gate. Requiem aeternam dona eis Domine.

An iron slab rolls back in the crematorium,
the host is heaved upon it. Three million
candles cannot rekindle even one
bright eye gone ash out that furious
tunnel into night.
Hair spins into blankets, tons of twisted
threads genuflect. All sorts, sizes of unpaired
shoes pile empty against the wall,
strings tied upon the tongues.
Kyrie eleison, Lord, have mercy, boxcar
loads.—Sanctus. Sanctus
freezing flesh huddled in the courtyard.
In the guts of a gray building,
a three-foot cubicle confined three. One
etched an eagle in the corner
with a nail, a final litany. Amen.

Forty years of rains have not cleansed
the firing block. Fresh flowers laid
against the boards burn
their incense. Sun cuts through
the gallows noose. The horseless cart
stands steady on the hard earth.



When I was forming the poetry of my first chapbook, I still believed that a writer should wait for the muse to visit at odd hours before a piece would come. I have long since learned that a writer must create the space where the muse can light. When I am not hanging out words in webs, I long to be there. As I’ve written, it’s like a mostly harmless addiction. Once the work has been published, it takes on its own life. There is a separation from it, much like one’s grown children gone from the nest.
Flicker

We sang and we sang
‘til the lights went out,
then we talked of old times in the dark
when along came the watchman
with torch in his hand,
and he ushered us out of the park.



The girl in me has been kept so busy by elaborating on her designs that she was surprised to find that she had happily turned into a granny overnight. How quickly the life comes out of us and flies back into those winds of time. Most of us work from a point of view that we believe to be true. There remains the ultimate truth that we may never know, the truth of any moment or situation, or the truth that might be found in any tangle. Sometimes, the hardest part is when the mind is following one truth about a piece and the heart darn-well knows another. It is possible to open your heart and mind to that which speaks to you from any experience. All is meaningful metaphor of being human. The trick with any piece is to keep spinning until inspiration (or your muses) enlighten and lighten you. Suddenly, you may begin to tie all the knots in the right places if you just hang in there.


When the flood washes over both at dusk and dawn,
float on the dank waters, let go at the falls
where dragonflies dart in the arms of the sun.
Open to the gossiping wet tongues of the hills
—such tales of brick roads, primroses, and shale,
warm rain in the cool limbs of iridescent trees,
fans of white butterflies dusting a footbridge, or
drunken gnats serenading the wide-rimmed sombrero
of a lamp they once knew.




--eND

Moooove along to an indie bookstore!

Find Authors Find Authors