—Janet L. Pantoja
Decade of twists and turns of caregiving that
Encompassed senior citizens and grandchildren,
one plus twins . . .
Tremendous loss of loved
Ones . . . parents, aunts, cousin, poet-in-law,
son-in-law, pets too:
Unusually sad, yet happy my life—on hold then—now
Returns to a new normal, whatever that is.
I never really knew an aunt I once had from Germany
who married my uncle in about 1967 when he was in the Air Force
No he didn't get to fly
as he originally intended when he dropped out of high school to join
But fortunate for him he wasn't ever stationed in Vietnam
he got to be with the security at the Iron Curtain border
where, among other things, he learned quickly how to speak German and Russian
as well as the fine points of bribing Soviet soldiers
who exchanged information for liquor or Pall Malls from "the free world"
I have no ideas or sentiments about how Uncle Jim and "Elka" met
Yet he proudly sent photos home of being with his new "trophy" wife
traveling around Europe with whom he thought was the love of his life
But apparently she wasn't who he thought
After his service was over he went to work for the Pepsi Corporation
In the photos in the family's album dated around '72 or '73
when they came to visit my parents home in L.A.
I was still a baby being held in my mother's arms
so maybe it’s a "blessing" that I don't remember her at all
and have only known my uncle's American second wife as "Auntie"
(whom my uncle had somehow known before he married Elka)
It happened on one day as my mom babysat their adopted four-year-old son, Jeffery;
she didn't know Elka was getting a divorce
When Mom found out
Elka just simply said she never actually loved her brother
Apparently her German friends and she had already planned to do this:
they'd hook up with American servicemen
so as to get into the U.S. to live and earn some money
and when they were tired of it they'd just file for divorce and leave
My own parents and family of course were furious
they'd never before conceived of such an "absurdity"
(though indeed it was a sign that, after all, this was the ‘70s)
Before my uncle could plead for shared custody rights
she took their son back to her native country
and therefore out of U.S. jurisdiction
being the first woman who truly broke his heart
Yet Jeffery got to work with the airline industry
and chooses to live today in the U.S.
Apparently his mother went on to have many different men as he grew up
but he still calls my Uncle the only real Dad he ever knew
—Michelle Kunert, Sacramento
—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento
The wounded soldier’s young, limp body
was put on a gurney and whisked
from the top spot on the leader board.
This hole, a par 3, will be his toughest challenge
his family got the news they always dreaded,
leaving them staggering in their
over striking out on a pitch
he normally would have
the urn of ashes at sea,
every second, every little particle triggering a
gain on the surprise quarterback sneak.
That was a true team
to preserve memories that should have
been allowed to get much, much
weather systems have died out,
leaving us with a bright, sunny day
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
Little Ken, grown up now,
went fishing with friends
and caught a humongous,
that he brought home and
presented with a shout,
“Look, Mama, we are blessed with food!”
His mother quickly replied,
The last time you said that,
it was left entirely to me
to handle the blessed chore
of cleaning the fish,
cooking the fish,
and watching you eat it
while I did the dishes.
This time I will let you enjoy
those blessings yourself, Ken.
You’ve certainly earned it!
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
Dad’s dad changed his name and
left the country to avoid being drafted…
…into the German army, circa WWI.
Dad’s mom was born and raised in America,
but after marrying Granddad, had to
petition the government under the
Repatriotization Act in order to restore her
full rights and privileges of citizenship.
Dad served as a signalman in the Seabees
in WWII, waving flags on the deck of a ship
that was involved in the D-Day events at
Normandy. He returned with a keen disfavor
for anything French and, would not, could not
discuss the war, only to say that he wanted
his sons to experience war no closer than
Mom, whose ancestors hailed from Poland and
Russia, wrote poetry in the years between
the War to End All Wars and the next of several
more wars. The theme of her poetry was later
echoed by Rodney King of the Watts Riots era:
“Why can’t we all just get along?”
THE INDIAN KILLER’S WIFE
—Patricia Hickerson, Davis
I’ll tell her story again
though you may not believe it,
the story of Christina, my grandmother
she lived more than two centuries ago
during the Revolutionary War…
in 1780 she and her children
were captured at Martin’s Station
a log fort on the Ohio River
captured by the British and native Wyandottes
while her husband Charles,
a dedicated Indian-killer
was in the forest hunting for food
Christina was taken to a Wyandotte village;
she and her children were kept there
for three and a half years
her oldest son Speed was somehow lost
in the war for the wilderness;
surviving were Christina,
her sons James, Cornelius, and Reese
her daughter, a baby girl known as “Sis”
conceived with a Wyandotte brave
Christina and her children
traveled to Staunton Virginia
where they met up with Charles—
he took one look at the Indian baby
seized her, dashed her head against a tree
until she was dead
—D.R. Wagner, Elk Grove
We too are sailors who seize
Upon the idea of the unknown.
It comes to us as a naming,
As siren songs in the willowy depths.
We think the salt spray our tears,
The shoreline, the edge that keeps
Us from loving the rise and fall
Of swell after swell, the shift
The stars take along the twinkling path
Here we can truly be alone.
Touched by the wind, the slash
Rain makes upon us, lining
Our faces with season upon
Season, the circling of morning
After morning, the way we embrace
These great seas we can only
Live upon and never dwell within.
UNDER A STONE MOUNTAIN
—Taylor Graham, Placerville
This abandoned place
where she lives longing to be
somewhere else—on a path of wind
and stars to where she came from.
A six-prong buck gazes as she
walks, very much alone
along the lake-edge. Water reflecting
trees upside-down. Oak trees,
not the trees of home. This
abandoned place all upside-down,
in spite of the egret—tall,
thin S-curve on the opposite shore—
and then it lifts, unfurling its white
silk sleeves, to fly away
as she would, from this place
abandoned. So far from her harbor
of home. Evenings, she hears
remembered voices more than music.
But if she follows, she finds
it’s bullfrogs in the green-scum pond,
or bats chirping from the eaves
at almost-sundown. Lilacs with
their hanging hearts of leaves, and
something waiting in the dark.
—Janet L. Pantoja
Allie rides alone this time.
We watch him roll peacefully away . . .
on a journey only he can take
to parts unknown to humankind.
This is Allie’s last ride.
We wish him Godspeed . . .
with tears, hugs and goodbyes.
In the dust of memories, all are left behind.
No mortal suffering remains.
Allie freewheels in eternity . . .
our love fills his saddle bag,
companions him . . . wipes away all pain.
Allie rides alone now.
—Carl Bernard Schwartz
The patient looked anxious and perplexed
“I’ve got your back” said the young nurse.
“That explains this missing material on my gown,”
piped the patient, suspecting a conspiracy.
—Medusa (with thanks to today's many contributors, including D.R. Wagner, who sends us this article defending the use of upper case at the beginning of every line: www.public.asu.edu/~aarios/resourcebank/capitalizing )