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E.J. Antonio


Geography of the changing body – Tresses




In the crisp clear air of winter nipping at autumn’s backside, the neighbor’s persimmon tree stands two and a half stories tall. Its canopy naked of leaves, reshaped by the drag of its fruit: tear- and globe-shaped shocks of waxen orange gloss tethered to white branches, frescoed on a blue sky, refusing to fall to the ground as easily as my silver-gray hair cascades into the brush. A shocking sight the thin mat entwined in the dark bristles. Curious about these thin roadmaps of everything I was; I pull; finger a strand; feel the waffling of it; crinkly kink of it; knotted follicle of it; easy snap of it, my aging mane brittle as fallen leaves. It is a struggle to accept this revision from indestructible rich dark-brown widow’s peaks to a slowly fading steel-gray, its fragile texture quickly receding into time. Can I ask god to give me back my 40s mane? Will he deem me ungrateful and lop off a future year? I brave the unknown; boldly speak it to the universe only to hear the wind’s resistance to accept such questions as the words re-root in my mouth; pull me back to the immediate past before I spoke them. Disgruntled, I reluctantly accept this visible badge of survival. Still, in the crisp morning air of autumn's breeze undoing my carefully combed wind-swept do, I stand transfixed on my lawn gazing up at the blood-orange moon-shaped orbs wishing my hair could inherit the fruit’s stubbornness. At least…stop falling as my seasons change. Let me be like the tree: an elegant fresco on the blue sky.



Jillian Austen


Giverny, France




Springtime returns, burdened with poetry.

Tulips nod by the water lily-dotted pool

where layer upon joyous layer of color brightens.

Colors will recede, the sunlight will change.


I have been to Giverny.

Paris to Vernon by train, taxi to Monet’s home,

a young woman’s pilgrimage to the misty blue wisterias

planted by the master’s own hand. A young woman,

married scant three years, crossed over the Japanese footbridge.


Always on the look-out for rare varieties, he bought young plants

at great expense. "All my money goes into my garden," he said.

But also: "I am in raptures." *


A photo exists, perhaps in my ex-husband’s collection-

me cupping one of Monet’s pink tulips in my hand, bending

like the flower’s long, supple stem to admire the gigantic bloom.


Claude Monet did not like organized nor constrained gardens.

He married flowers according to their colors and left them

to grow rather freely. *


It’s the photo shoved into a box at moving time, casualty of divorce,

that ends up with strangers. It’s the photo, never labeled, destined

to inhabit an antique shop bin marked “vintage photos”, colors faded.


*from www.giverny.org/gardens







Fay Chiang      


What I Have Learned 12-08-2015




Mrs. Yip the funeral director called. “Your father must have loved you children so much, because when I touched his body the skin disintegrated in my hands.”


My father’s will to live through his two years of terminal colon cancer never left me. He was fifty years old and I was twenty two when I made the funeral arrangements at Wah Wing Sang on Mulberry Street in New York’s Chinatown. My friend Arlan--- whose grandmother had passed away in the recent past knew what to do having made her arrangements-- had brought me there and instructed me on what to expect. Through the office window I saw him waiting for me across the street.


I had taken care of my father through biweekly blood tests and weekly visits to his surgeon; changed bandages and daily administered a chemo block by attaching a syringe and administered a daily dose of chemo to a medic-port on his stomach.


Twenty years later I came down with breast cancer and through the twenty-two years of living with it, my demise was constantly predicted especially after the removal of the lower lobe of the right lung with a fist-sized tumor in 2004. Within a year tumors reappeared in both lungs and liver. At the time my daughter Xian was fifteen.


I was told I had six months to a year to live and I thought of my father: his will to live, his love

for my mother and his four children.


Xian had lived with the presence of this breast cancer and its ensuing seven surgeries since she was four years old. I had vowed watching her sleeping soundly in her trundle bed, “I will see her graduate elementary, junior high, high schools and college.”


Now at sixty-three years old---two weeks after my eighth surgery, a thoracic laproscopy--- looking at my lovely twenty six year old daughter, I see many journeys together yet to come.




Edward Currelley


Silver




I lay awake

Thoughts of times past

The sound of your footsteps pacing

The sanctuary of hot coffee

Silver of your hair glistening under a single kitchen bulb

Silver the age of restless

Awakened long before dawn

Silver doesn’t need much sleep

I ponder your thoughts, away in the unfamiliar

Surrounded by darkness, praying for sunshine

Fear of the un-known, confused, frustration

My wide eyed doe

In the middle of traffic, stumbling in the rain

Heart pounding

Seeking peace, comfort, freedom

Hoping, praying that the next set of head lights belong to the familiar

And comes to a screeching halt.






Lorraine Currelley


I Use to Love to Go Dancing



When you go dancing 

do persons other than friends

ask you to dance?

Strangling words pierced lips
where love, passion and need once lived.

My gray crown
counting each subtle cruelty.


Long ago in my lover’s arms
I convinced myself
I was loved, beautiful and desirable.
This was love’s magic.

I became Cleopatra and Nefertiti
bold and courageous.

Now, love punished me for aging.


With each passing year
my lover’s desire and lust becoming closeted.
I became the aged woman kept at home
while youthful beauty danced in daylight.
Survival taught me

to kill the love I felt.

Learning to strangle my emotions.
Teaching my body not to want

and my heart not to feel.


Slowly and painfully I rediscovered herself.

Now in the midst of joy and dancing,

life now smiles and spirit need not remind me to laugh.

Gray crown, life and happiness are my reasons
for celebration.





Jacqueline Johnson


Free




In this lingering light     of a late winter      against a coral covered sky.

I have passed forty-two      age my mother was    when she died.


Once so hot headed     I strutted no, left home     tearing

remnants of    my childhood umbilicus to shreds    as I rushed

into life    wearing only the clothes on my back.     Free, finally free!


Multicolored messenger bag    hugging her hips   twice the size of my own.

As I walk out of a movie     a shadowy figure     surges behind me


impatient with my relaxed pace    ear buds blasting    torn up jean wearing.

She is barely polite      as she fidgets behind me      for five floors.


I can feel her desire     to run amongst crowds    in the multiplex.

In this lingering light     of a late winter      against a coral covered sky.


Multicolored messenger bag    hugging her hips   twice the size of my own.

She lunges past      down escalator steps      to bound out the door  free!

That giggling girl    woman in the Indian,  orange cotton top,     watching me from afar.


I finally release her     instead savor  sweetness     enjoy vastness of the view.

I envy her flying feet     cascade of braids      in the evening breeze.






Nella Larsen


A Aha Moment


    Ms. Tillie Belle





If only I could find my glasses I could read the morning paper. Now that I have found my spectacles I am unable to read the fine print. Last week, Dr. Evans said the eye drops for the glaucoma and cataracts would help but they have not. This condition is ravishing my body and good looks. I guess surgery will be eminent. If I do, who will care for me? Prepare my meals? Bathe me and accompany me to my appointments until I heal?

Getting old isn’t for sissies!

I sit at my vanity brushing my long luxurious hair that has now turned gray but it is still lovely none the less. I count the fine lines and wrinkles that are now a part of this honey nut bronze skin. No longer 40 and gorgeous but 72 and aging.

The men no longer “catcall” when I walk down the street. My posture is no longer erect but slightly bent forward. I have become a late in life woman.

I no longer engage in exercise, carnal pleasure, or anything that would be considered “fun”.

The children visit less frequently.



There is no magic pill or number that will reverse what was once a healthy lifestyle.





Carmel Mawle


Unending Potential




When I was young, engulfed in a hazy half-life of drug and alcohol- induced close calls, I never imagined that I would live to see children or grandchildren. I could more readily see my spirit sinking away from an emaciated body in a trash bin than looking back on a jumble of lessons learned through years of completions and failures, the continual unveiling of living.


Morbid teenaged ruminations have long ago dissolved into a reality-based curiosity. Yes, death will eventually come — there’s no guarantee of a next heartbeat — but more interesting are the infinite unimaginable possibilities of life.


It’s easy to recognize unlimited potential in youth, to hold an infant in our arms and feel the weight of his life stretched before him, but what if our potential increases exponentially with age? I think of Diana Nyad who swam the Straights of Florida, walking onto a Cuban beach at 64, or Harry Bernstein who published his first book, a memoir, at 96. At the age of 85, Sister Megan Rice has the oligarchy quaking in its jackboots. Consider that there is more power in the greater perspective and wisdom acquired from accumulated experience than ever there was in our young bodies.


Today I see something of my future in my mother, smaller than I remember her during my childhood, but still contributing, questioning, still brimming with unfulfilled potential. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but the greatest mysteries — a breath, a turning — are inevitably found in this day, this moment. And it’s the reaching, the dreaming, that keeps us young.





Christopha Moreland


Foreign Yet Familiar

                                                                                                      

 

I do not recognize the hand that grasps mine...

Strong, but no flesh-cushion smooths its bony contours.

Brown, but  bluish conduits of life bulge and writhe,

While newly freckled skin sinks 'round visible cords of thick sinew.

 

It seems I do not recognize...

That as my Mother before,

Both I,

And my hands have aged.





Kate Rushin


Watch Night: December 31




I leave the hard liquor and the loud talk,

that special pot of New Years' souse.

I seek the quiet my elders taught:


As the night turned, as the year turned,

bad leg or not, my grandfather knelt before

his sagging armchair, prayed the way a man prays;


down on one knee, leaning on one elbow,

bent forefinger and thumb pressing the bridge

of his nose.  My grandmother, in her plain,


white apron over a flowered shirt-waist dress,

knelt and leaned on the worn leather of a wooden

side chair, head bowed, hands clasped.


As the night turned, as the year turned

they performed their solemn duty.

They prayed us through, they prayed us over.


This night, I slip into a small bathroom,

kneel before the unrenovated sink,

pray the next ones through and over.



December 20, 2015




Alicia Anabel Santos


The History of My Hair



The history of my hair

My curls

These grays….

My canas

Are the maps of my life


Each strand confirms

I’ve lived through some things

I’ve been through some things

I’ve seen some things

My curls scream Africa

Afrolatina

Woman


Choking on messages about hair

That the world wants to force feed me

How it represents my true beauty

“Blow it out! Para que parezca gente!”

“Sécate ese pelo porque pareces una loca!”

“Use this cream it will straighten it!”

“Ven ponte aqui!”

“Come sit between my legs, I’ll do your hair!”

“Tráeme el peine, y las bolitas!

If I moved too much I was sure to get a cepillazo


At five years old I learned that pretty girls wore their hair right

Pretty girls wore their hair straight

Pretty girls got everything

Domestication

Beautification

Objectification

All words I had no idea were the very things forming me

Informing me

They were words i would become if i let them be

Wear my hair straight so i wouldn’t look ethnic

Wear my hair straight so i could pass

Wear my hair straight so to get that man

Wear my hair straight to have those right kids

Wear my hair straight to bring home those white kids

Wear my hair straight to get that job

Wear my hair straight to get that apartment

Wear my hair straight to be one of them


Because to be one of US

Was ugly

To be one of US

Was to be foreigners

To fully assimilate

We needed to change who we were

And WE were NOT wanted!


My hair

THIS crown

I never knew i was of royal blood…


And not just because France and Spain invaded my land

And had their way with my women!

Those crowns brought with them another crown

It's where i got my hips, my lips, this beautiful hair,

To be black for me is found in my crown


The gray that resides in these curls

Hold my story

They are my legacy

They are my history

Each strand a force

Marking my stages of passage

My many hurts and disappointments

People who have come

People now gone

My grays are my ancestors blessings

The stories they tell are my lessons

Gained a new gift

Taken a new step

Collapsed to the ground

And got back up

Failed relationships

Poor choices

Tremendous successes

Greatest loves

Best lovers

A life lived

Each gray holds my history

My mother

My grandmothers

My great grandmothers

My aunts

My great aunts

My sisters

My cousins

My daughter

The woman in my life

These grays

I honor these grays

They are the essence of me

They are my story

I love my grays!







Margie Shaheed


Age Has Found Me




Age has found me with a tube of red lipstick,

a missing front tooth and a partial I had to put

in the lay-a-way cuz it cost too much to buy outright

Got pesky moles removed from my face an early

Christmas present from my friend who told me my skin

would look like the excitement I felt the first day

I went roller skating


Age has found me with a bottle of red nail polish,

books of blank pages and a calligrapher’s pen

My back is sore, my right knee aches

but my strokes are bold and long

penning scripts, exploring landscapes

walking the terrain anticipating what’s next




Julia Stein


Lost Soul

 



My mother loses the tip of her nose to melanoma.

She loses her last sweetheart Art when his daughter forced him to move

      across the country.

She loses her friends one by one as they died.

She loses her swim class when I won’t let her walk on the slippery pool walkway.

She loses reading novels she loved when her left eye goes blind.

She loses her short-term memory to the mini-stroke.

She loses walking unaided to scoliosis.

She loses her house she’s lived in fifty-eight years when she falls and breaks her hip.

At the nursing home she asks everybody to talk her home home home.

She tells everybody I took away her home.

I’m a lost soul she says.

She remembers she wants the war to end.

She remembers to tell me to work half the day when I have a cold.

She remembers to tell me she loves me.







About the Contributors

Lorraine Currelley’s Selections

On Age/Aging


E.J. Antonio    

Jillian Austen    

Fay Chiang   

Edward Currelley

Lorraine Currelley

Jacqueline Johnson    

Nella Larsen    

Carmel Mawle    

Christopha Moreland    

Kate Rushin    

Alicia Anabel Santos    

Margie Shaheed    

Julia Stein