Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Dani's Naming Ceremony

By Jocelyn Guggenheim

Dani Marcella is named for grandparents, Dena and Melvin.

Dena was my grandmother. Her full name was Clementina Dena but everyone called her Dena or Dee. She was a warm and funny woman who spent her adult life taking care of her children, grandchildren and her husband Rick. Her first language was Italian but after years of speaking English in school she forgot most of it, save some often quipy, poignant or wise phrases we often called “Deeisms.”

Whenever I called she would say “Ah Jocelina che successe?” meaning Jocelyn what's up? She called me Jocelina Bella Girl so often when I was a child I thought that was my full name and introduced myself accordingly.  Her best “Deeisms” were more punchy with choice phrases about boys interested in her daughters or granddaughters or a favorite “inamore li chiege” when you told her she looked nice. “All the blind men love me,” she quipped. 

Dena loved her family, she loved babies, she was an incredible cook and baker, and she was soft and warm, creating a safe glow in her home and any home she entered. She was also strong, never one to back down when her family needed her support and resolve.

Dani means “God is my judge.” Dena was Catholic but when my mother, Claudia, told her that she was converting to Judaism and raising her children as Jews, Dena’s response was “there are many paths to God.” She wasn’t worried about what others thought of her or of my mother’s choice.

Our hope is that Dani inherits Dena’s warmth and humor, and that she always feels surrounded by the glow of love that Dena brought with her and bestowed on all of those around her.



By Evan Guggenheim

Melvin was my grandfather. He went by Mel, but to us he was “Poppy”. I remember taking long walks with Poppy and his walking sticks, chatting about life, literature, or whatever idea popped into his mind. He never treated us like little kids, except when he was smooshing our faces with scratchy beard kisses.

Poppy was as fearless as he was unconventional. He filled every room a booming opera of love and laughter. Poppy was a pacifist who fought in WWII, and a middle-aged Jew who helped start up an African-American studies program at the University of Hartford. Poppy was never afraid to buck trends and stereotypes to follow his passions.

When his colleagues refused to stop smoking at meetings he showed up with his WWII gas mask and wore it throughout the meeting. He wasn’t afraid to tell anyone what he thought.

It was frustratingly difficult to find a female name with a meaning that wasn’t submissive or docile. Marcella means “Little Warrior” and was the name of Jocelyn’s great aunt, who was also an educator like Papi. We look forward to watching Dani, like her gregarious bearded namesake, tear down convention and make the world a better place.  


Monday, August 12, 2019

Noticing the Miracles

On a morning when I wake up                                                           
wanting some kind of miracle
to happen and nothing
in particular 
happens
that's when I try just
to watch that desire
and breathe it away. 

And then this
thought occurs to me:
Maybe you are asking
for the wrong sort.
Maybe you don’t need the
flashy miracles where some
glowing angel appears or
you suddenly can fly or
you can speak to the dead
or predict the future
with or without tea leaves.

No.

Maybe the point is
that miracles
are right here in these
fingers creating meaning
out of little black squiggles
tapped onto a white screen.

Or in a sunflower bigger
than a dinner plate.
Or in a smiling baby DANI
with toes like tiny pink pearls.
Feel the gentle air
expanding your lungs.
Smell the pine trees on a mountain –
just because I write the words.

All of it, every single thing
is miraculous

if you take the time to notice.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

LETTER TO MY BRAND NEW GRANDDAUGHTER, DANI MARCELLA


Dearest Dani,
you are only
two days
old and yet
the wheel
of time has
come loose
inside your grandmother’s
spinning mind
and suddenly
everything has
kind of come
unhinged, 
fast and past
have moved forward
and backward 
and stopped.
Dani, in my head
I see you
as the sweet
little human
pearl of flesh you are,
but also, quite suddenly,
at the same time,
I'm seeing you as a 
grande dame, a great
grandmother
yourself,
you
even older than me,
you becoming
someone akin
to my dad
who is 93, a great grandfather
living out the twilight of his life.
Such a darling little
divine face you
have today, you are a miracle and a
heavenly blessing and a gem
and honestly
words don’t begin
to capture the
magical mystery
that has brought your
arrival.
I sit here on an
August day
in 2019.
The sun drifts
In and out
between
the clouds.
The air after
the rain is
cool and clean
and breezy.
And I pray
that this poetry may
help me to find
the courage to do
what I need to
do for my dear
father, who is not
having an easy time
of living or dying these days,
it’s so sad and heartbreaking.
He says over and over
that he would like to
die. But I would
rather think
of him living
if only just to meet you.
I would rather
eradicate death
from this moment
from this poem
and do what TS Eliot
did in his famous
poem “The Four Quartets,”
that is, find the “still point” of time:
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

I am
thinking of
you meeting
Dad when time is conquered,
when both of
you are 93, both of you are great
grandparents.
There is something
comforting in
thinking about
that meeting.
It takes life
and death
and tumbles
them together
so that they
come out calm.
It takes the sting
out of thinking
about my father’s death.
Instead, you two
would be sitting
on a wooden bench
in a late summer
garden, the bee balm
past but the roses and
bleeding heart and lilies
and black eyed Susans
still in bloom.
“Hello Ric,” you would say
as you put your cane aside
and sat down beside him.
And he would smile and
reach for your
delicately veined hand
and he would say,
“My darling Dani, did
you know that you
were named for
my beloved
wife, DINA?
Next month, on
September 17, 2019,
we would have been
married seventy, yes, 70
years. Oh that
used to seem
like so much time,
such a long long
ago but now that
I’m 93 and you are too
it isn’t much
time at all.”
And he would set one
hand gently on your head
and recall all the cascading
rolls of black shiny hair
that Dina had back on her wedding day.
And Dani, reaching
into a satin handbag,
you would say,
“Ric, do you remember
the poet T.S. Eliot?
That man would understand
the two of us meeting
like this today, so perhaps
I need to read you just a little from his
famous poem, “Burnt Norton,” the first of
the "Four Quartets."
Ric would smile and lean close to Dani
and he would be able to hear.
“Here is how it begins," she’d say:
"Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Other echoes
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
Quick, said the bird, find them, find them,
Round the corner. Through the first gate,
Into our first world, shall we follow
The deception of the thrush? Into our first world.
There they were, dignified, invisible,
Moving without pressure, over the dead leaves,
In the autumn heat, through the vibrant air,
And the bird called, in response to
The unheard music hidden in the shrubbery,
And the unseen eyebeam crossed, for the roses
Had the look of flowers that are looked at.”
Then Dani would smile, and move
a stray gray hair from her forehead
and Ric would reach for her hand again,
just the way my sister Karen has
been doing of late whenever she
visits my father. 

And in those hands grasping,
the generations would
connect and collapse into
one time one place one
space of Infinite LOVE. 
Indeed time would be
conquered as we all
sat in the present moment
reveling in the garden and each other
and wondering
but not worrying where time went without us.

Saturday, August 03, 2019

THIS POEM IS A RAIN DANCE!

Because the lawn is burnt to a crisp.
And I can’t seem to water the plants enough.
Just now I had the hose spraying the
oval garden
when suddenly big fat raindrops
splashed my neck and arms.
Ah, but will they continue?
Lately, it seems like the sky teases us
more and more often.
There it goes turning a mighty gray
and the wind comes up and the trees
start to bend and sway and not far away

mighty thunder rumbles

and a few bold drops come swizzling to the parched earth.
But see now how the drops are already drying up
on the bluestone patio.
And that sizzling sun is squeezing out between the clouds.
Heaven’s faucet has closed.
Perhaps if I pick up that hose again
and skip and twirl and bow and shuffle and howl,
the rain will start falling once more.

HURRAH, a few hours later the dance worked wonders!

What a blessing the fresh wet air is,

What a thoroughly delightful dousing we are getting!