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!



Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Staying Still

You promised yourself that you would remain calm today.
You told yourself that when the clock hit its middle hours,
a span when you cannot seem to stay focused,
a time when you aren’t sure what to do with yourself,
you would just stop.
You would focus on
your breath
coming
in and out.
You would sit with the uncertainty, as if it were a rambunctious puppy.
You would feel the weight of the puppy and watch it squirm.
There now, see how easy it is just to
STOP
and
breathe
in
and
out
and
stay
put?
If you do anything,
go into the Sounds True app on your phone
and listen to spritual teacher Eckert Tolle talk about the
the “Power of Now,” or listen to
Buddhist nun Pema Chodron discuss
“Learning to Stay Present.”
Or tune in to teacher Jack Kornfield lecture on
“The Power of Meditation.”
In the end, they are all talking
about doing the same thing: holding steady
in the only moment we ever have,
this one,
when the sun is eclipsed by milky grey
clouds and flowers are looking slightly wilted
and the lawn is burned in places to a brown crisp.
That moment is gone and now a new one is
Here: that puppy is now five years old and she is
lying so comfortably on the carpet at your feet.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

WHEN DID LIFE GET SO HARD RICHARD?


In the dark my father lies in his recliner chair ALL DAY ALL NIGHT
FRIGHTENED ANGRY SAD.
He lies there and he lies there
and he stares and stares and moans AND GROANS
“HOW DO I END MY LIFE?”
My sister sends the text message to me:
“…last night Dad was up between 4:00 and 5:00 a.m. and he kept saying:
‘oh I want this to end, how do I end my life?’”
DEAR GOD I BEG YOU FOR HELP AS WE, DAD AND HIS LOVED ONES, ARE TRYING TO ENDURE THIS MISERY OF HIS.
HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF FROM THE ENERGY THAT FUELS
MY DAD AS HE IS DENYING DECRYING FULMINATING AGAINST LIFE?
ART ART ART I AM SO GRATEFUL for
ART SAVES ME EVERY DAY
Poetry painting music photography
And flower gardens and dogs and babies and sweet birds chirping too.
Mary says I can tell him this:
“Dad I AM GOING TO LIVE FOR YOU AND FOR ME!”
And so I feel it, the life force, I feel it
in my chest rising with my breath, in my arms tingling, energy sliding up and down.
I OFFER UP MY POETRY ON
THIS ALTAR OF GR-ART-ITUDE
I AM SO SO GRATEFUL FOR
POETRY AS IT HELPS ME FEEL ALIVE ALIVE ALIVE!
Writing  a poem 
HELPS ME ERASE
THE SOUND OF HIS DEADLY WORDS.
INSTEAD, I WRAP MYSELF AROUND AND AROUND
In the sound of my own words of gratitude,
Thanking God for the blue sky and clean air and sunshine and every bit of nature --
right there outside my window is a chipmunk flittering across the same white limestone rocks where yesterday I saw a woodchuck. A few minutes later, a deer dances across the thick green meadow.
ART HELPS FILL YOUR HEAD WITH BEAUTY MAKES YOU FEEL
the miracles all around.
DAD, once upon a time, did art when he built things out of wood, for  years he could magically produce 
wonderful furniture and toys and knickknacks he designed.
He even built the first house I grew up in.
And then three or four years ago when he couldn’t see well enough to cut wood anymore
He made dozens of clever things out of layers of cardboard, glued tightly together.
WHEN EXACTLY DID LIFE GET SO HARRRRRD FOR YOU RICHARD?
I humbly pray that there may be a miracle for him, and for us all,
that Dad may find peace as he ends his days.
If I could, I would show you Dad that there is a divine majesty and mystery
in this moment and this one and now this one and that and that.
STAY IN THE PRESENT MOMENT, BE GRATEFUL FOR ALL YOUR BLESSINGS
LET ALL YOUR SENSES STAY TUNED TO LIFE.
Focus on your breath and your heart beating, realize the magical and miraculous and extraordinary in ordinary everyday life.
It’s time now, Dad, I’m about to go do my exercises and go for a walk, I will carry you with me today, I will hold you in my heart while I sit here and stand there and lie there and be here, praying all day!
July 18, 2019, one week exactly before my dad turns 93 years old on July 25th.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Thank You Uni-verse

How do you write a poem when you feel like a totally blank page?
What do you do when your emotions have been swallowed up by the wind?
You dip into the memory bin and recall a single red clover. Twice
last week while you were jogging, you saw that flower sitting
alone in a shaft of sunlight. It stopped you. It brought a smile.
And on another run, you saw that bright red and black bird.
You think it was a scarlet tanager - exciting because it’s rare for this area.
And then this morning, while you were doing your exercises
beside the meadow,
you saw a coyote streak after a tiny fawn just a few feet away
from where you lay doing leg lifts.
At top speed the animals dashed into the thick underbrush.
You screamed, fearing for the fawn.
But a few moments later, the tiny deer
emerged, unscathed. A few moment
after that, a doe sauntered into the meadow, and headed
in the direction where the fawn had gone.
You like to think that mother and baby were reunited quickly.
You like to think too that you can write whenever you want to.
But you can’t count on it. All you can do is sit here, staring out
the window into the forest. All you can do is stare at the orange lilies and
the red bee balm and the purple cone flower. All you can do is write
what you see and hope to be inspired by it.
At least, by writing it down, you’re creating a record.
It is something like sending a thank you note to the
universe, for sending life your way. 

Friday, July 05, 2019

Two Drops of Ink publishes my poem, "Out Loud"

Two Drops of Ink, an on-line literary blog, has published my poem, "Out Loud," which begins this way:

There stands a fat robin
on the limestone rocks
outside the window.
And on the tip of the 
highest branch of
the peach tree
sits a hummingbird
that rises to do
a sky dance and then
settles back down again. 
There now is
a rusty red fox so casually
trotting down the
driveway into the 
forest of words on my page.

To read more, go to Two Drops of Ink.



Thursday, June 13, 2019

Bear Sighting


Yesterday afternoon, a large black bear lumbered up my driveway. I had just come in from a walk with my dog. Now I was headed to town. As soon as I saw the bear I shut the car off and fumbled for my camera. He (or she) gamboled toward me, its furry body looking rubbery as it ran. The bear veered into the woods and my photo was a small black blob far off in the thick greenery.
I remember a bear sighting that was a lot more frightening. It was the summer of 1996 and my literary agent (who was representing my first novel) had come up from Manhattan to visit me in the country.
She was afraid to leave the porch all weekend because she said she didn’t want to encounter any frogs or bugs or snakes.
But on Sunday morning, she made this rather odd request: she wanted to go for a walk in the woods. So two of my children (one on a bike) and Ellie and I drove to a trailhead nearby. We headed into the forest. We had walked about a quarter of a mile down a fire road when suddenly I saw a very large black head poking out from between the trees. I stopped.
“Ellie,” I whispered, “I don’t want you to panic, but there is a bear over there.”
Did she squeal? I don’t recall. All I remember is that everything turned slow motion. Oddly, a car came driving up the fire road right at that moment. How improbable that a car would appear when it did.
I waved down the driver and told her we had just seen a bear and could she drive us back to our car. Ellie and my children piled into the back seat.
And then I did something that I’ve never been able to explain: I got on my daughter’s bike and pedaled down the fire road after the car. It wasn’t like I was feeling particularly brave. I just did it.
The bear of course had long since disappeared into the woods.
When we got back to the house, Ellie collapsed on the sofa and didn’t move for the rest of the day.
Later, when the rejections on the novel started coming in from the big New York publishers, and Ellie and I were so frustrated and disappointed, I thought back to the bear encounter. It occurred to me that maybe the bear sighting had been a sign of what was to come.
Selling my book was truly a bear of an experience.
Here I am so many years later, facing some difficult family problems – my aging father is on the decline, my sister is struggling to recover from a very serious stroke.
This week has been particularly challenging. Yes. It’s been a bear of a week.
And so that creature appeared again. When I frame the experience this way, it helps. The events don’t weigh quite so heavily. Bears help us to know first hand the power of the natural world. They help define events that are bigger than we are. They show us circumstances we are powerless to control.
When I think about the bear in this way, and when I picture the animal lurking in the dark green forest, it puts me in touch with the raw fear that I’ve been feeling about my dad and my sister.
That’s good because I’ve been reluctant to get in touch with the fear. Or the vast sadness that accompanies the fear.
Framed this way, the bear sighting is a gift. Getting scared is OK. Better to feel it than to run away. Better to accept the fact that bears come. And then they go away.
At least for today, I stare into the forest and force myself to stay there, feeling the dark power of the bear.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Where I Come From, Where I'm Going

By Camincha

a patio of red tiles, cages of colored birds, bushes of aromatic
herbs, volcanoes of eternal white  peaks. Extending through slopes,
valleys hills and chacras, picanterias full of chicha de jora.

Dressed in black, white, red, magenta, orange. Coming from Sunday
ferias with chicha morada, kamsha, papas a la huancaina. And where
all these turn into flat streets rolling to the ocean.

From its white foam, beach stones embracing the heat of its sun,
the tears of its garua.  Coming from the corner of la picaronera.
The callejon next door. Coming from the little European chalet.
 
From gardens at La Diagonal. The ice-cream at D'onofrio’s
The benches of Central Park. Lined up trees guarding Alameda Pardol
The Church across the Park, Sunday walks. The British-Peruvian school.
The blue uniform, tunic, hat, white shirt, red tie, belt, ferocious exams.
Coming from the long awaited puberty The fright of the first kiss
Holding hands. Matinees at the Excelsior: the cowboy and the girl.
 
Death in the family. Chaos and pain. and life continues and poetry is
born, bursts out, multiplies, constant companion. Reminds me where I
               come from and clears my way to where I’m going.

Camincha is a poet living in the San Francisco Bay Area.