Midnight Sun Writing from Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library and VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired
Edited By Barbara Cassidy & Alice Clara Gavin Fo r e w o r d B y Suzanne Wise
NY Writers Coalition Press
N Y W RITERS C OALITION PRESS F A L L 32 0 1 5
Copyright © 2015 NY Writers Coalition, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-9964012-2-7 Library of Congress Control Number: 2015953181 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Upon publication, copyright to individual works returns to the authors. Editors: Barbara Cassidy, Alice Gavin, Suzanne Wise Layout: Rose Gorman Title: Janet Seth Cover Images: TextureKing.com The Midnight Sun contains writing by members of NY Writers Coalition’s weekly creative writing workshops for adults at Andrew Heiskell Library and VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired in New York, NY. NY Writers Coalition Press, Inc. 80 Hanson Place, Suite 604 Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 398-2883 firstname.lastname@example.org www.nywriterscoalition.org
CONTENTS Foreword Suzanne Wise
PART I Writing from Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library Introduction Alice Clara Gavin
Original Poetry & Prose by Gary Bell
Corinneâ€™s Brother 15
PART II Writing from VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired Introduction Barbara Cassidy
63 Original Poetry & Prose by
Edith B. Harnik
Elsie Mae Smith
About NY Writers Coalition
For Edith B. Harnik, Evelyn Larson & Shannon McKnight
FOREWARD Some writers type on computers. Some write by hand. Some speak their stories while someone else transcribes by hand or computer. Some tap away at Braille writers. Then voices fill the room. Some read aloud their own work. Some read aloud the writing of their fellow workshop participants. Some run their fingers over raised Braille dots and translate to spoken words. Everyone listens closely. A community of poems and stories emerges over the course of ninety minutes. This book presents some of the gems that were generated as we sat together each week in the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library and at VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. As a volunteer for NY Writers Coalition, I feel lucky to have been entrusted with transcribing, reading aloud, and responding to these new creations. These workshops remind me that writing is diverse, boundless in time and possibility, and charts many pathways from imagination to the world. I am grateful for all that I have learned. SUZANNE WISE NYWC Workshop Leader, 2015
PART I Writing from Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library
I have the privilege of good eyesight. But there are many things that I do not see. Offering my arm to a member of our writing group after workshop one day, I proceeded to guide us slowly along the sidewalk towards the subway station. We carried on a few blocks, shuffling carefully step by step, before he stopped and turned to me. “It’s only my eyes!” he laughed, and it took me a second to understand. Poet Sheila Black says that ‘disability is either silenced or given such importance as to overwhelm the person.’* I am made aware, in moments like these, of my complicity in both directions. And of how profoundly we misunderstand ‘lack’ when we encounter disability. Fears, assumptions, physical spaces designed only for sighted and able-bodied people – these are the ‘impairments’ we need to begin talking about. What does the project of writing together accomplish? I only know, after leading this workshop for over a year, how it feels to imagine being without it. All of us in this group were writers already, and would be writing anyway. But sitting together around a table once a week, week after week, says something different than I am a writer. It is our small and simple act of commitment to some ultimately large and important things: language, voice, the imagination, the collective, listening, each other. I could
*From Bartlett, Jennifer, Sheila Black, and Michael Northen (2011) (eds). Beauty is a Verb: The New Poetry of Disability. El Paso, TX: Cinco17 Puntos Press.
not do without it, any more than I could do without the writing I do alone. Which is all to say nothing of the writing – the stories, poems and essays – in this anthology. An incredible range of voices fills these pages. I began to list what I found to resonate through this collection – vivid language and imagery, authenticity, a searching, questioning quality – only to realize that these are just some of the universal characteristics of good writing. Writing that takes risks, that doesn’t pull the reader into its own conclusions but leaves openings, fractures; that itself fractures, breaks open something in the reader. Writing that helps us see in new ways. In her poem in this anthology, Stars, Janet Seth offers some perspective on our place in the universe: “Man’s puny understanding / tries to map the heavens. In our human fancy we see shapes and animals.” In our human fancy, we seek to understand the world and each other. But, as the poem implies, it is as soon as we stop questioning that understanding, as soon as we lose our humility, that we inevitably fall short. What, in our human fancy, are we not seeing? What follows is writing by the participants of the first year of a NY Writers Coalition workshop at Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library in Manhattan. The voices of writers who have given their time to assist in the workshop — Suzanne Wise, Connie Perry, Stephen Kahn and Julia Hillman Craig — are also in here. My huge thanks to them, to John Fahs and the rest of the library staff, and to NYWC. ALICE CLARA GAVIN NYWC Workshop Leader, 2015 18
Stargardt’s Story These eyes, fatally flawed with bad genes from both egg and sperm. Carried by two parents, caring yet clueless, conception came way before genetic testing. That double helix having been only recently discovered back in ’61. These eyes might have been aborted, along with me, in today’s highly edited, eugenic zeitgeist. These eyes, mutated in the Czarist epoch’s inbred Shtetls. These eyes receded for several generations, lying dormant below decks in steerage, fleeing poverty and pogroms. Did those genes obfuscate their damaged demeanor on purpose to pass through Ellis Island? Did those genes know of the coming holocaust where the trial run for Final Solutions exterminated those more hated than Jews: the crippled, crazy, the deaf and dumb, the blind and broken, the idiots and morons. These eyes snuck in between the ages of the great cullings. The killings of first the born and now the unborn. These malformed Magoo eyes will soon be passé, like
impressionism â€“ Monetâ€™s blurred Venetian denizens. These eyes avert to the coming Lockstep uniformity, Taliban eyes where all see the same.
CONNIE PERRY A Fisherman Like a fisherman I challenge my senses, to search for the prime catch. If only I can let loose sentence scrawl upon blank page and reel in cohesive thoughts. But my gaze to mindâ€™s eye is distracted by vivid imagination floating into view. I hesitate to put down into words what fleeting thoughts and random sentences I try to capture. I am too aware of this collected writers feast. A concentrating group surrounds me, all bent towards plucky release. We are at a banquet of wordplay. Before us is a sumptuous meal of divine expression. I shall try to trawl closer to precise defining of my human state but feel more like I am just treading water. Not sure my catch of the day makes sense. May only follow the urge to throw words back into the waves, the mighty and active waves of my thoughts. I am adrift today, riding and cresting creative expression. I am dog paddling along, hoping to get to the fun part. Hoping to get to the start part. Somehow schools of word twist and swim fast away, even as I try to pin them down to the page. Like a fisherman, I shall troll deep, deeper and deeper for any catch of clever words. 23
Burnt Toast Burnt toast saddens me most because my care was not given. Burnt toast can be the poor host to remind me of how I am living.
Sister of My Heart Many types of love. Your passions are stirred by female curves, the symmetry of breast against breast, mouth seeking the nectar between feminine thighs. You, full figured, older, with knowledge of life, love all types of women. Slim and young, lush and full, and those with life lines around their eyes and snow in their hair. My passion is stirred by the male form, his hard body, and manly contours filling mine. We share our secrets, hopes and fears. We finish each other’s sentences. We can say anything with no fear of reproach. Miles may separate us, but when we’re together, it’s like we’ve never been apart. In times of pain, we seek each other like a baby seeking its mother’s breast. Many types of love. Sister of my heart.
Desire His touch ignites my senses. I yearn for him like flowers for rain. I crave his caress with a power that overwhelms me. His hands explore, excite, invite, ignite my passion. His lips upon my curves trailing circles of rising heat until they reach my female core. I gasp with pleasure so intense itâ€™s painful, seeking to ignite and excite his maleness. Lost in sensation and each other. Lost in the blaze of desire.
His Kiss on My Lips The test was positive, and my heart swelled with joy. I was to be a mother, to bring a child into the world. My belly grew along with my expectations. The time came, and my son entered the world. My hopes and dreams crashed into an abyss of terror and pain as I heard the words muscular dystrophy, developmental delays, lung failure, and a life expectancy of 6 years. My marriage in shreds, husband long gone when he heard the news. My days a constant search for services to meet his needs in a web of bureaucracy, trying to survive one day at a time. Rejoicing in time with him. In the touch of his hand. The smile on his face. His body in my arms. His kiss on my lips. His joy at his last birthday party. Time is our enemy. I would sell my soul to the devil to stop it and freeze today. The smile on his face. His body in my arms. His kiss on my lips.
CORINNE’S BROTHER 15
The Chase Charlie ran down the hallway as his Aunt Corinne yelled out, “The hotdogs are ready!” When he came around the corner to the kitchen, his grandmother was sitting at the table cutting up potatoes for her world-famous potato salad. She said to him, “You are a fast little boy.” Charlie said, “I love hotdogs, Grandma.” She said, “Me too.” His Aunt Corinne said, “I remember another fast little boy,” as she and her mother started to laugh. Charlie’s dad came and sat at the table. As Charlie swallowed the piece of hotdog he had in his mouth, he said, “Who, Grandma?” “Your dad was a fast little boy. Why, I remember the day we were on our way to the meeting — your two aunts, your dad and me. Your dad went dashing out from the elevator to grab the front door and hold it for us.” Charlie’s dad said, “Now, Mom, if you’re going to tell this story, you got to tell it right. I was holding the lobby door
open for the three ladies to come out. I let go of the door and when I turned around, not five feet away, there it sat. Staring right at me. This dog looked me straight into the eyes and, Son, although nobody said they heard this, I’m telling you, that dog looked at me and said: ‘Go!’” Charlie held his hotdog in his hand and, without disputing what his dad just said, over the laughter of his aunt and his grandmother, he yelled, “What happened?” “Grandson, your dad did just that. He was gone! Faster than I’ve ever seen him move before. Before I can say, ‘Don’t run,’ he took off. And that dog was right after him. I began to yell to him: ‘Devin, Devin!’ The dog’s owner went running after the both of them.” “I couldn’t hear your grandmother calling to me at first, Son. Instead I heard the huge claws attached to the paws on this beast. The claws sounded like tiger claws scraping on the concrete. There was a circular courtyard with a playground in the middle. And this ferocious animal was chasing me all around it. And then, I could hear its master calling for it. I think he was saying: ‘Killer — or Crusher —heel!’ And that made me run even faster.” “Now all three of us were yelling: ‘Devin, Devin,’” said Aunt Corinne. “You should’ve saw his little legs moving.” “When I was coming to the end of the courtyard, I could hear the beast behind me barking. But that wasn’t even the worst part. He was also growling like a bear ready to eat a steak. And guess who was going to be that steak — in little penny loafers?! And then I saw her.” “Who?” Charlie said.
“Your grandmother. Standing at the end of the circle, with her arms stretched out. I took three more steps and I jumped. And she caught me right in her arms. She hugged me and spun me around, holding me close to her chest. I held onto her neck just as tight and shut my eyes, waiting for the disastrous impact that was to come. Your grandmother kissed me on the cheek and said: ‘You’re OK. Your heart is beating out your chest, Devin.’ And she rubbed her hand up and down my back. And now the wild animal was circling around your grandma’s legs.” “What do they call those dogs again?” Charlie’s aunt said. The grandmother said, “I think they’re called Chihuahuas.” “No, no, I think they’re called toy poodles.” “I don’t know. But I remember the dog’s owner finally catching up and saying: ‘Candy! Shame on you for chasing this little boy around this circle like that. Bad girl!’” said the grandmother. “As he slipped the little leash out of his pocket and put it on an even smaller dog collar, the dog’s owner said, ‘Sorry ma’am, but that’s a fast little boy you’ve got there,’” said Charlie’s aunt. “Wait a minute,” Charlie’s dad said. “That dog was much bigger than that. Grandma let me down and held my hand tight as we rushed off to Bible class. And me being six and a half years old, how humiliating, walking down the street holding my mom’s hand. I was a big boy, after all.” “Still, Son, you gotta learn to choose your battles when it comes to women,” said Grandma.
“When we got to the bible class, we were right on time, without a moment to spare. Your grandmother passed me a pad and a pencil ‘cause she knew I loved to draw. But I thought she was still a little upset. Then she surprised me and kissed me on the forehead. She rubbed my head and looked into my eyes with a big smile and said: ‘You are a fast little boy.’” Charlie asked to hear the story just one more time. But his dad had told him the story two times already while he lay in bed getting ready to go to sleep. So his dad said to him as he stood: ‘Maybe I will tell you again tomorrow. Why don’t you get some sleep now.’” As he walked to the door to turn off the light, Charlie’s dad thought about the love and the safety that he felt in his mom’s arms. The worry that he heard in her voice that fateful day. How she was calling out to him and how he’ll always be a part of her. When he got to the door, he put his hand on the light switch. Charlie said, “Dad.” As Charlie’s dad turned around and looked at his son, their eyes met. And Charlie said, “Go!” AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’d like to dedicate this story to Barbara Jean Peele, a happy mom, because there’s not one day that can encompass the love that you have given, the love that you are. As your son, and on behalf of your family —your children, your grandchildren, and your husband of 47 years — as well as the other people who you love, babysat, and preached to, I’d like to say thank you, we love you, my cream puff.
Scott My breath is coming in and out very hard now. I haven’t run this fast in a long time. But I gotta run. I gotta run. You only get caught when you turn around when you look back. I’m not looking back. Maybe there’s one maybe there’s two maybe there’s three. But they can’t catch me now. I can see it now. It’s like a mirage. It’s like something shimmering. Can anyone else see it? I can see it now. I’m almost there. I’m almost there. No matter what they put on me now they can’t catch me. If I can just take a few more steps I can run straight through. But then what do I do? I got away. Do I go home? But isn’t that the first place they’ll look for me? Maybe to friends and family? But I’m tired of hearing them telling me that trouble is always following me. Couldn’t I just keep running? Sure, I can keep running. Just running straight. Four, five, however many is behind me I made it through. There ain’t nothing they can do to me. I’m just going to keep running. It seems so natural to me. I’m no longer trying to catch my breath. Because now I am the wind. I’m no longer trying to be free. Because I’m beyond those trifle games of men, I’m everywhere and nowhere. I see things and I’m beyond touch. I’m still
running. I’m not looking back. Will they miss me? Will I hear them ever admit that? I’m running. Now the count behind me is eight. I already made it through. They think the bullets caught me. But I got away. They may have caught my flesh, but for me they were too late.
AUTHOR’S NOTE: This piece was edited by Suzanne Wise. Thank you.
The Saddest, Happiest, Most Romantic Game of Monopoly Ever Played With four more moves to pass GO I realize the way I know the pin hit the shell on a dark-trodden day is the way I know I am the only one in our gathering’s game circle who glimpses Mary daydreaming in the verdigris-flecked mirror, and I am happy to share this lovely fear with no one. Do our friends realize how sweetly serene yet smilingly spiteful she appears?—the inciting, erotic lure of her gleaming sapphire eyes which become the void’s voids— her downcast shadow-mouth stolen off a lifeless waxen-faced schoolchild holding a lighted candle— and all the other token holders counting their fake money and buying hotels on the hair-clotted living room carpet don’t see this graveyard girl’s longing— which lies open as a sarcophagus— for something more, or perhaps for the ever-so conceivable end— are they not one and the same?— hence the lines in her pallid forehead more pronounced than my girlfriend’s shrilly Long Island accent—her hair rising up and down in a crimson tidal wave which I am suddenly riding—inside her reflection—and suddenly the crusted mirror’s background transmutes into a blurred soul garden in which we stretch out our
mud-clustered joints next to a mossy green waterline almost overflowing its lichened grave-marked edges, my joyous tears washing her femur egg-white in the waning half-seconds of a plum-colored twilight— for time runs twice as slow when you’re dead— caressing her cheek like turning the page of an ancient book— there is still a little square of decaying flesh here— before Mary turns to me with a mouthful of dirt and says, like so many girls and boys who utter that most powerful yet weightless word which falls like a leaf on the stillest wine-tinted pond, or like a widow whispering beside her husband’s death-scented pillow, or how my mother told me that the mirror can spy back, Mary turns to me and says, “Move.”
Dark Christmas Everything started on Christmas Day in a hospital bed Where I was laying alone and sad The room was cold and scary I wanted to drink, so I called the nurse The room was still dark She showed up with a cup of water And checked if I felt better Before I drank, I asked her to turn on the light To my shock, she said "The room is bright" "The light is already on" Then I knew what was going on Dear god, I became blind I will stay like this forever No more lights No more pictures No more enjoying the sun I came here in the daylight And now I'm leaving in the dark night I had the beauty, and now, I lost my sight Just yesterday, I was enjoying everything Now I don't have anything I'm nobody without my eyes At least, that's what I was thinking then I drank my water and went back to sleep Perhaps if I close my eyes, the light will come back again And the room will be warmer and brighter
The Clown Sorry kids, today I won't be the funny guy I won't pretend happiness and try No jokes for you this day Because I don't have anything left to say No tricks even to play I will leave it maybe for another day. But Mr. Clown, why you are here today? Why did you bring us here if you don't have anything to do and no tricks to play? I'm not Mr. Clown anymore I will say my few words and leave this door Once in a lifetime, I was happy and cheerful I was satisfied and humble I was loving and naive I had a lot of goals to achieve Making the world a beautiful and safe place A warm hug or maybe a heaven But, what a deception! Who was I kidding? There is no devils in heaven No lies and greediness No judging by looks, bank account, faith, race, or belief No hating each other, Or killing a brother That's scary, isn't it? Well, that's what we are suffering from in this planet So my role ends here I can't promise you a sunny day But I need your generation to promise me to behave in a well mannered way.
Crime Today I committed a crime Today I killed you Sorry but I had to Oh how I feel good about it You were that black point in my life But I got rid of you forever For a long time I was waiting for this moment to happen To see you lying on the floor Now I will throw your body in the garbage And guess what? No one will blame me for your death No one will call the cops on me No one will feel sorry for you I assure you they wish your death too I really enjoyed it when I saw you eating the poison that I prepared for you You know what kind? A rat poison my dear Oh you're wondering why exactly this kind Are you kidding me? Ok I will explain it to you Well my dear it's simply because you are a mouse.
G UMAR WILLIAMS Click! Click! The Court Documents read like this: The police arrived at the home of (DEFENDANT: a black female, 5 feet 5 inches) Jerobail Lively at 3:47 a.m. and saw Jabez Lively dead in a black jean suit, lying on the floor in a pool of blood. Police saw a woman standing over the body with a gun in her hand. Police repeatedly told her to put the weapon down. She did not comply, she stood there weeping profusely, shouting “Put it in my mouth.” Officer Rodney Samuel stated that he saw the DEFENDANT repeatedly pulling the trigger. But there were no bullets extracting from the weapon. Officer Kerswild Smith approached Jerobail’s left side, disarming her. While officer Alexander Profane, assisted police officer Smith wrestling Jerobail to the ground, causing officer Profane’s gun to discharge. (DEFENDANT) Jerobail Lively was rushed to a hospital. (DEFENDANT) Jerobail Lively, found guilty of murder. Jerobail Lively, sentenced to serve time in a state facility. Just look at Jerobail, sitting expressionless on that silver iron chair all alone. The room encompasses her with a glass plated window supported by a tan cement wall that spells out captivity. Across to her right above her head sits a 19 inch TV on a shelf. Jerobail owns pretty brown eyes. They stare timeless, her mind is transparent. Click! Click! Is the sound which stills her thoughts? Murder is written all over Jerobail’s face. The sun shines no more. Love. No, Jerobail’s heart is loveless. She sits still,
her grey and blue silk garment wrapped around her upper body revealing her dark brown thighs, sculptured calves and her pretty toes. Jerobail’s body is perfection, a work of art. Murder. “Put it in my mouth.” Jerobail whispers softly to herself. Her radiant brown eyes shun away their glory. The choir sings. Click! Click! Some say she's crazy, some say she blacked out. Love!!! Now Jerobail just sits there, in this glass plated cell, suspended in time. All Jerobail sings is my baby left me sad and blue. Jerobail was fabulous in Jerusalem. Thus Isaiah tells of the daughters of Zion. ISAIAH CHAPTER 3, VERSE 18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; The nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles; The outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. Nurse Rebecca smiles humbly pushing the food cart,
providing the atmosphere with a sweet savor filled with roasted chicken, string beans and mashed potatoes, plus a glass of orange juice. "Hey miss lively, it's time to eat. Come on honey,” she says joyfully in her West Indian accent. “Lets eat, it's time to eat." She cuts off a piece of chicken and puts it on a fork. "Open, open. That's right." Jerobail opens her mouth slowly. Nurse Rebecca slowly places the chicken in her mouth. Jerobail’s wild long black hair, glassed like silk roars over her forehead, and down the side of her brown face. As she slowly chews the food making the chicken soft in her mouth. "Come on honey," Nurse Rebecca says inserting string beans into her mouth. Jerobail looks across at Nurse Rebecca with her pretty brown eyes that are now filled with tears. "I loved that man. Yes, I loved him,” She says softly. Jerobail humbly grabs Nurse Rebecca’s hand holding the fork that dangles between Nurse Rebecca's fingers. Jerobail sits up straight gently holding Nurse Rebecca’s hand. She leans forward at a ninety degree angle. “Put it in my mouth! The adversary! The Woman on the phone said, to Jabez, my husband.” Jerobail squints her eyes, takes a deep breath and exhales. “You should have heard the adversary in her all so sweet, sexy, divine and seductive voice, traveling at one hundred and twenty feet per second, and the adversary! Purred like a cat. Jabez ignited an insurrection on our foundation. Our house! Our Family Our! Our … He decided! He would engage in fornication and dance the night away to the sound of Miriam’s timbers. He was like; yak, ha … that’s a good combination … Yak, I’m working on it. Yak, we can do that. Ha. Ha. Where are you going to be tomorrow?
What! Oh!!! Nurse Rebecca I was so enraged!” Jerobail is talking with such energy she waves her hands in the air like she is in a Trance. “Did I blackout?” “What! I would never transgress! And travel from the Far East to hear the Songs of Solomon! To heap! Brimstone and fire upon my foundation!” Jerobail says, just loud enough for Nurse Rebecca to hear her. “Let me tell you Nurse Rebecca. I slammed! And I mean I slammed! Slammed! Smash! I dashed to pieces the phone. Ecstasy! Yak!” Jerobail tells Nurse Rebecca. “You should have seen how I united the phone with the bedroom floor. I swiftly walked over to the closet. Door now opens. And Chrome! Lightening flashed through the air! You figure it out,” Jerobail says like a wild cowboy. “I ragingly thrust myself into the kitchen. ‘You son of a Blup! How could you do this to me?’ I shouted. ‘I cook for you and I’m helping you write your term paper! Damn you! Fool! I am exhausted! And I wrote through the night until the palms of my hands get sweaty!’ I shouted savagely.” Jerobail’s brown eyes are now a vicious legion. “I stood in the kitchen. My beige stove firmly erected in back of me. My brick walls encompass my kitchen and my walls are implanted with brown cedar cabinets from Lebanon. Jabez stood in front of the door next to the kitchen.” “‘You! Heard wrong Jerobail!’ Jabez said dramatically. ‘She wasn’t talking all that!’ ‘Yak! I shouted sinisterly. Put it in my mouth! Why are you talking to the adversary! Kiss! My! Mother Blup in Blup!’ I shouted in disgust. Flash! Again! Chrome lightening shot
through the air! ‘You still ain’t figured it out! Well!’ In remembrance of that night, Jabez stood nervously. He was wearing a black jean suit with matching black chucker Timberlands.” “Click. Click. The East wind violently blows across the sea!!!! Vomiting out a terrific bullet to Jabez’s stomach. ‘You shot me!” Jabez said, gasping for air. “Again! The East wind violently blows across the sea!!!! Tossing the waves to and from!!!! Spiraling out of her another terrific bullet invading his stomach. Blood continued to gush out of his mouth merging with his black tank top. Blood falls. Drip. Drip. His blood tanned the rust colored floor burgundy.” ‘I love you’ I said, hysterically shaking and crying. Click. Click. “I pulled the trigger once and I could not stop. Well, I only shot him twice." Jerobail continues to explain to Nurse Rebecca. “‘Put it in my mouth.’ Why would he say that? Why did he listen to that woman like that? The other woman. The adversary. “My baby left me sad and blue." The choir sings. Click! Click! Some say she's crazy, some say she blacked out. Love!!! Now Jerobail just sits there, in this glass plated cell, suspended in time. All Jerobail sings is my baby left me sad and blue. Jerobail was fabulous in Jerusalem. Thus Isaiah tells of the daughter of Zion. 42
ISAIAH CHAPTER 3, VERSE 18 In that day the Lord will take away the finery: The jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; The pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; The headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; The perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; The nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles; The outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; The fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. “That night I wept and I cried the flood that Noah’s Ark sailed upon.” Jerobail uses a white napkin to blow her nose and wipe the tears flowing from her brown eyes. Her eyes are priceless as the Topaz of Ethiopia. “A charcoal smoke grey like cloud consumed the atmosphere,” Jerobail says, whispering to Nurse Rebecca, while leaning her head down. “Blind. I became. Blind. I was. That terrible cloud.” She looks Nurse Rebecca in her face. Jerobail pauses before continuing to speak. She observes Nurse Rebecca’s tan complexion and her auburn hair. “No! NO! Don’t! Wait! The sergeant blew the trumpet. Moses was away. Some of the people said he took too long; they the police got weary and made themselves a molten image. That’s when the Police Officer’s gun discharged. “Oh Ms. Lively” Nurse Rebecca shouts. “‘Ahhhh!!!!!’ I heard the sergeant holler, one thousand one hundred and eighty-six miles per second! The speed of
light, spiraling! Down! Swish! … Now silence,” Jerobail whispers. “… My … body … dropped to the depths of the sea.” “‘OH! For the love! Of the Almighty!’” The sergeant hollered, so loud sweat raced off his forehead and temples waxing his beige complexion. “She’s … she’s …” the sergeant, yelled pointing his finger at my belly. “No … No…” Nurse Rebecca says. She covers her mouth, while shaking her head. Tears fall from her almond eyes. “Again that terrible cloud that blinded me,” Jerobail says shaking. ““She’s … she’s …” The sergeant blew the trumpet. She’s … pregnant!!!’” Jerobail starts crying louder and louder and Nurse Rebecca tries to calm her but can’t. I am so scared for Jerobail. I do not want the Correction Officers to strap her up with that madman garment. I charge past the nurse station. The Correction Officers attempt to stop me, but Nurse Rebecca is so quick on her feet, she swiftly stops the Officers from hindering me. I charge through the half opened door, right into this glass plated forsaken place. Quickly moving toward “My Mother.” I dramatically say to her, “Its … It’s me … ma! MA! … It’s your daughter … Jiris.” I hug my mother relentlessly. My arms are sewed around her shoulders, then stroll down to embrace her waist. Jerobail looks me directly in my face, and her Niagara tears start to evaporate. “Jabez … Oh Jabez.” She says, now searching my face in curiosity, Jerobail smiles a little. “Brown,” she sighs. “Dark brown, your eyes are brown, but not dark brown like mine. They are light brown like your fathers. My eyes are flaming brown.” Jerobail continues to smile. The correction officers move toward us, but Nurse Rebecca prevents them. “Gwan 44
… let them be,” she shouts, raising her hands and pointing her finger in protest for them to leave this forsaken cell. Jerobail runs her fingers through my hair. She now smiles from cheek to cheek. “You have my roaring black hair like silk,” she says. “Jerobail your flowers … stemming from Jabez’s issue … produced life … a new creation,” I say to my mother. “I am the fruit of your womb. Here I stand, Jiris Lively, eighteen years later embracing you! In this glass plated forsaken cell.” “Wow” I think to myself. EPILOGUE It was … me … Jiris … in her belly … the night Jerobail killed my father. It took for me a long time to forgive Jerobail. Growing up looking at my mother living out her existence in this glass plated forsaken place. Yes I did … come to terms with what happened. She spent eighteen years in this glass plated forsaken cell. We did the eighteen years together. I take a deep breath and exhale. Well … Jerobail served her time. Now its time for us to finally … have our lives together … here in the free world. She’s finally coming home now. The choir sings. There Jerobail sits, quiet with her black hair … beautiful like Mary’s hair and her ointment. Jerobail’s hair roars down the side of her cheeks the landscape of her head. The sun begins to shine through that terrible cloud; a new day is dawning for Jerobail, now she embraces a heart full of love. The sun has risen from the east onto the West! Now, the sun shines on The Life of Jerobail Lively, and her foundation.
L ALLI AGUILAR
Mine Like torn down scaffolding My love for you runs deep. Like a dried out river There’s nothing more to say. Whatever was yours, isn’t mine. Yet I come to you as the crow flies. And I sit and wait To find you here Worn and dry. Whatever was yours, isn’t mine. You’ll always be mine.
Mother The warm bus fumes caressed her face, rolling up towards her arms then swirling down each slender ankle. It’s been an hour now. Waiting. She sat down on her suitcase and watched as other families hugged and kissed. Lots of chatter pouring out of parked cars. Faces popping out of barely opened windows so as to not let the cool air from the air conditioning escape with each smile. “Goodbye, Farewell, See you soon” they said. But all she could think of was “Five more minutes,” pulling at her shawl and pressing down her shirt. Mother will be so proud. She worked so hard to get this scholarship. She worked so hard to make it beyond Montana. Beyond the secret, sticky nights inside passed down Chevys. Beyond the steam that burned her cheeks as she scrubbed the never-ending pile of dinner forks at June D’s Coffee Shop. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a screeching near the lot. Jesus. Who could ignore the gray and blue sedan that bumped and rumbled down the gravel. Coming to a brazen halt it flicked rocks like fireworks straight into the air. Alice remembered how this rusty metal corpse used to take them down the shore. Speeding down the highway, letting her hair float outside the window and mirror the bouncing waves along the shoreline. It would take them to Saturday farmers markets and Sunday bible study. Now the car just clinked and clamored and looked sad. It looked like her insides. “It’s waiting to be put down,” she thought. A door swung open and chocolate leather soles hit the ground. A mountain of velvet green swaying towards her. She could feel herself rise off the suitcase as sweat ran
down her back. Little salty beads hanging off each brow. She should have powdered her face more. No time now. Her mother wore an apron as usual. Just simple, plain but not white. Stains following the poorly stitched pockets. A bit of crusted cream adorning each end. When she was a little girl, her mother wore a yellow one with tiny marigolds along the chest. Huddling close, she watched as her mother measured tiny things in tiny, shiny cups. Sticky things. Syrupy things. Things that molded and folded. Things that made her giggle and laugh as these things dripped and found their way to her nose. She would count the marigolds one by one. Little bursts of never-ending yellow she felt safe in. But now she longed to say “I love you.” Longed to stay there and let the other kids with other scholarships and other families climb the buses and leave Montana. Alice reached out a hand. Her mother sighed and turned away, a lump of skin and bones that watched each pair of shiny loafers eager to board. She smiled and stepped onto the bus. Pressing her forehead on the window, she pictured her mother there. With tiny metal cups and delicate fingers. With sweet, tender words and sugary plum dressing. With banana pudding mixed bedtime stories, bouncing baby sisters and boiling hot tea. With shiny gray and blue sedans that didn’t leave. She let herself stay there as long as she wanted. And didn’t let herself believe that sometimes, mothers don’t wear marigold aprons anymore.
C AROLINA V OLLO
The Sunlight Every morning as I wake up I look for the sunlight. In the morning, once I see the beauty of the daylight, I find myself with energy. I look for the sunlight and give thanks to God for another day. Hearing the sound of the birds singing and the feeling of the fresh air from the morning are more than enough to start my day. Days like these I enjoy looking up to the sky, especially in the morning I smile as my eyes look into the sun. The sun is a big orange fruit bright and warm. It makes me appreciate life every day. I always look forward to seeing and feeling the sunlight. Thank you sun for appearing every day in my world. You make my days bright and special.
A Friendly Conversation Today I met a beautiful and hard-working lady. Her name was Sharon. She has been working for Access-A-Ride for eleven years. She was my driver in the morning. It took us one hour from Valley Stream to Manhattan. She started saying that her first customer before she picked me up was complaining through the entire ride. It wasn’t a good start for her this day. She was very pleasant and friendly, so I couldn’t think of any reason why a person could have complained about her. She is married to a good and hardworking man. They have three wonderful children. They are a son, 25, a girl, 21, and her youngest, 16 years old. She and her husband bought a house in Pennsylvania for their family. She and her husband work out here in the city and go to see their kids on the weekend. She doesn’t mind working long and extra hours. They both feel that it was the right thing to do for their family. Working with people has given her strength and appreciation for everything she has in life. The kids are always happy to see them, and look forward to her cooking. Eleven years ago she was a lady living in Brooklyn with not much money for her children. They were living day by day on public assistance. She was sad for her kids and her situation at that time. One day her sister came to visit and encouraged her to get a driver’s license so they could find jobs. The two sisters began to look for information and soon they went to driving school to obtain a driver’s license. Once they completed all the requirements Sharon applied for jobs.
She found herself working for two different companies. Now she works for Access-A-Ride and feels that God gave her this job and a chance to learn more about other people with other problems. The experience has helped her understand and be aware of others. She realizes that many people have situations that they cannot deal with. This job has taught her a lot, so she has faith and believes things happen for a reason and they get better at the end. She gives some advice and words of hope and strength to others.
Alaska Doesnâ€™t Like Me I yearned for Alaska: land of mountains, rivers, tundra and a murderous gold rush. My daughter booked a cruise for us from Anchorage down the Prince William Sound to Vancouver. Our flight was New York City to Minneapolis/St. Paul. We changed planes and went on to Anchorage. We had one day before the cruise. Kiran had found a great recommendation for a restaurant. I had real Alaska King Crab drenched in butter with baked potato and salad. We expected to see seals and shore animals. Glaciers calving would be spectacular from the ship. I had been feeling a little sick so we stopped at the emergency room. I expected to get some medicine and go on my way. When they examined me they said no! My blood sugar level was 700. They gave me IV insulin. When my blood sugar dropped they admitted me. I continued to get IV insulin. It was almost the summer solstice. I saw the midnight sun from my hospital room. I was eating Jello and rubber chicken. Experiencing hospital indignities. I had multiple IVs for blood work and drip bags. I feared permanent bruises on elbows and hands. They measured my urine; woke me then told me to sleep again. I had a wound specialist bandaging and caring for a foot ulcer. I escaped after four days, with meter and pills.
Of course we missed our cruise. I was very upset. At least we bought trip insurance for the cruise so we were reimbursed that expense. Trying to change our triangular trip to a round trip proved impossible. We thought to rent a car and drive to Vancouver; that plan was quashed-there were no highways and the distance was much longer than we realized. We finally bought new tickets to return from Anchorage and got a refund for our original tickets. Physically Anchorage reminded me of Idaho. People in casual dress, many pickups, and small low profile stores. We did rent a car. We drove to a nature preserve where we saw young salmon swimming in clear creeks. We saw big horn sheep on the mountain above the road. We visited a sanctuary for musk oxen and walked around the pens. We bought a crocheted scarf of quivet, the very warm, soft under hair of the animal. We also saw a village originally settled by Russians. I don't remember too much about that, except the mosquitoes were trying to eat me alive. We stayed one night at a ski lodge. We rode a gondola lift up one of the steepest mountains I've ever seen. The lodge was nestled in fir trees. We had a lovely candle lit dinner and stayed in a plush room. I would love to go back and see more but I fear Alaska doesn't like me.
Stars Cosmic energy engine, hard edged reality. Stars beyond number, stars beyond counting. Man's puny understanding tries to map the heavens. Man's eye on a clear night sees three thousand stars in a universe of billions of galaxies. Each galaxy billions of stars. In our human fancy we see shapes and animals: a ram, a bull, a crab, a pair of fish, a virgin, twins, a scorpion, a scale. Twelve images from the zodiac pouring cosmic curses or blessings on people born under that sign. We note the changes in the stars in the course of the year. Star symbols represent good luck or bad. Power is associated with star position; cosmic energy engine. Scientific knowledge grows, reality overwhelms artistic description. Souls of dead babies turned to flowers cannot compete with flaming gases and ultraviolet radiation or X-rays. Heat and light, cosmic energy engine.
147-R In those old days before the iPod-phone-pad before the pink touch tone princess before the rotary dial there was a plain black Western Electric desk model sitting on the table. Picking up the receiver, a disembodied female voice would say, "Number please?" My proud baby sister, Karen intoned, "232-J." She was calling Grandma. Later she learned 147-R, our home number. Fifty-five years later ten years into dementia Karen mentioned the operator and numbers to our youngest brother Doug. He asked me if those were real numbers. She could barely talk; didnâ€™t seem to know us. I knew we shared the bond of the numbers.
Look, a Ladybug! The first time I noticed it I was in a field it had landed on my tiny hand I ran to my mom and dad And exclaimed "Look a ladybug!" He hardly noticed me Except to say ladybug Mimicking what I'd just said "Ladybug" emphasis on bug Like what I must have sounded to him Dammit he'd just missed another chance to engage me into learning about science, nature or biology. What an asshole!
The White Corsage Mom will wear a white rose corsage for the viewing service. My husband came home with muddy boots after plowing the field. It's been raining nonstop for two days. I can see the parachute dangling on the power line. I cannot stand to look at it.
JULIA H ILLMAN-C RAIG
An Economy of Grace: Kehinde Wiley, Brooklyn Museum (2015) She is lush. The painting is lush Paint slides like mercury behind the glass. Colors of life form art and, yes, fashion, Refashioned from past to the now on this canvas. Long braids hang down her back in rivers of glamour and flow of fabric. Who knew a turned back could be so rapturous? He, Kehinde, captures her. Traps her essence. Her phenomenal femininity. And the gloss rubs off on us, as we view, marvel, and leave shiny with her.
PART II Writing from VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired
Since working with the writers at VISIONS, I think about the act of writing a bit differently. What is writing but getting oneâ€™s thoughts on a page? The methods to get oneâ€™s thoughts on a page vary, depending on the person, however, all these methods of thinking, organizing and outputting of words are, in essence, writing. Writing is not an elite act. Writing can be revolutionary. My revolutionaries at VISIONS rock and rocked my world. To Evelyn Larson: I shall not forget your sheer power and the stories you told of falling off subway platforms. To Shannon McKnight: I shall not forget your sweet beautiful voice and way of being and that you always asked after my kids. To Edith Harnik: I shall not forget your interest in everything, your attentive listening, your enthusiasm for living and your wisdom. BARBARA CASSIDY NYWC Workshop Leader, 2015
D EBORAH H AYNES
I Can’t See I can’t see, But I can feel and touch. I can’t see, But I can do so much. I can’t see, But I can think and sink into joyful bliss, While listening to my favorite music. I can’t see, But I can scheme and dream. I can’t see, But I can smell and taste, Not allowing any day to go to waste. I can’t see, But I could feel the pains of life. The joys and tears of life. I can’t see, But I’m glad and proud to be me. I’m proud to be who I want to be. That’s it.
Thank You Thank you for being human Thank you for showing me your human spirit Thank you for being human Thank you for chastising me Thank you for criticizing me Thank you for being human Thank you for treating me like the crumbs under your shoe Thank you for disregarding my feelings too Thank you for unleashing all hostility on my soul Thank you for showing me a heart thatâ€™s cold Thank you for berating me, degrading me Thank you for making me feel small Like Iâ€™m nothing at all Thank you for being human
A Story about When I Was a Little Girl When I was a little girl every morning, before I go to school, My mom would do the back of my hair in ponytails And then she would do The front of my hair in a bang And I loved when my mom did my hair in ponytails, And let them hang down, But I hated when my mom would make bangs, Because the hair would get in my face And sometimes my mom would straighten my hair And I hated that too because I am afraid of hot things And when my mom used to wash my hair in the tub, I hated that too because the shampoo would get in my eyes, And it would burn. So I am now ending this story to say That even now I go to the beauty parlor, Because it makes it easier on everyone, let them deal with my hair.
EDITH B. H ARNIK
Inside Out I am a polio patient at Columbia Neurological Institute on 135th Street and Broadway. My eyesight is twenty forty. We are five young mothers on the tenth floor. Four large windows look out to the west side and the view is toward the Hudson River, but there are two or three avenues between us and the river, so it is possible to see downstairs onto the street. My son is eighteen months old and a lovely middle-aged Irish woman is taking care of him, and in a way, my husband. My husband, Hans, goes to work every day on his regular schedule and when he comes home, he gives me a ring on the phone, and tells me how Peter and his caregiver are getting through this crisis. I am happy to hear every evening they are doing well. One day, Florence has the idea that they can take a walk to the hospital garden downstairs and I could possibly take a look at them. I am overjoyed, and we make a three pm date for this event. An aide rolls me to the window in my bed, and my feelings are in a tumult. Am I going to burst into tears when I see my Peter, or will I be overjoyed? I don't know. I have a few minutes to prepare myself because they are not here yet. Ha, here they are coming! All I can see at first is the stroller and Florrie, but as my emotions go from my beating heart to my critical brain I see a baby looking
like any other baby, and apparently involved in a conversation with his nanny. What is he saying? Can he talk? Will he be able to see me? Of course not. The window has to remain closed. I try to picture him, his light blue hat â€” a gift knitted by Grandma â€” and his light beige suit. Oh now I can see his little hands. Am I seeing or am I imagining? Everything is somehow unreal. But, a million emotions spin around in my head. I feel tears. I feel happiness, and I feel reality. Will I ever be able to push him around in this stroller? Will I be in an adult size stroller, and someone will push me around? How long until I can leave this room? And suddenly there is a big commotion among the other four patients, three of them mothers-one young and single and me. The young woman sits up in her bed, pushes her legs out from under the blanket and stands up. This can't be real. I've gone a little gaga. No she truly stands there holding onto a nearby chair, walks timidly a few steps and after a few more steps, tries to reach the door. We all know that she is a dancer and are paralyzed by this performance unable to really believe that it's true. What happened? She is going to dance again! Am I going to return to a normal life like she? I am afraid to hope so. I will.
MICHAEL L OGUE
Bacon and Eggs It is almost a staple in every American household. The smell of bacon and eggs in the morning lets you know that a new day has dawned. The sound of bacon as it’s crackling in the skillet as soon as you hear it, there’s an automatic reflex. Time to get up. It’s the one smell that can wake you no matter how tired you are. It’s like you have to know where it’s coming from. When I sit at the table, I can have it with fried eggs, scrambled, poached, an omelet... I prefer it soft. Scramble the eggs, soft bacon. You can take up to half an hour as you talk with your mother, brother, father or sister. The smell permeates the kitchen, the apartment, the living room. Wherever you’re sitting. Even when you walk past a restaurant, you can smell it through the door. It’s the grease smell that drives us crazy. Have it with a cup of coffee, like a shot of adrenaline. It’s not always necessarily healthy for you, but it’s like we’ve been programmed from the time we’re little kids. In my experience, the first thing I remember my great grandmother saying was, “Would you like some
breakfast?” in her old Yiddish voice. And she would get up and make me eggs. When they show you a balanced breakfast, they show you bacon and eggs. Sausage and eggs. Ham and eggs. They’re all pork products. We eat it as children, and it’s good for us. It helps us grow. But as adults it’s killing us, because it’s clogging our arteries. You can get it at any restaurant, on a biscuit, on an English muffin, or a poppy seed bagel. I can eat bacon and eggs maybe three times a week, but then give me pancakes. But who has time to make bacon and eggs now, because everyone’s in a rush? No one makes the time to make breakfast. Everything is either instant or microwaveable. Have you ever had bacon and eggs from a microwave? There’s a big difference between food made on the stove and food made in a microwave, because the food relies on moisture to cook it. Bacon and eggs is a staple for Americans. Other countries will take 2-3 hours for breakfast, but it seems all we have in America now is fifteen minutes. Bacon and eggs. Love it or leave it.
An Unusual Person The person’s name is Nerva. Her original name was Nerva Ortiz, and her married name was Ramos, but she changed both when her identity was stolen. She dropped her maiden name and her married name, and became Nerva Bells. She was about five feet, one hundred pounds, Latina, and she was into Doctor Who. I met her in 1990, something or other, she was wheeling her daughter Ebony in a stroller, and she was pregnant with her son, but she was still full of energy. She went gaga over Tom Baker, who played the fourth Doctor Who. The best way to describe her personality is not all there, not running on all cylinders. She was into science fiction and a chatterbox, holding her own with any sci-fi geek. She was a friend of one of the neighbors in my building. Doris said she was bringing a friend over from school. She had earrings that were clocks’ faces. I didn’t expect a Latina Jehovah’s Witness to be into sci-fi, fantasy, and horror. If she lived in the Sixties, she would have been a hippie. We were characters together. She would come over every couple of weeks and sit and talk from nine a.m. to nine p.m. She loved to dance and sometimes she would just move. She had an abusive husband and a domineering father, and she wanted to rebel. In the backyard, we talked about everything from Star 72
Trek to Doctor Who. Even theme songs of The Monkeys. We went to comic book conventions together. I think she helped corrupt my morals. I was one of the few people that was on her side. I wouldn’t get on her case. Not like those two males. She was very flirtatious. She was fun to be around. She was easy going. She was easy on the eyes too. Her children’s father converted to Islam and changed his name from Eugene to Ali. The kids were kind of screwed up. Her youngest daughter is of mixed heritage — Jewish/Puerto Rican — and looks like her mother, only bigger. The last time I saw her, she was not herself. She was much quieter. The stress that I didn’t know enough about was getting to her. The stuff she had to deal with — kids, husband, boyfriend, parents. The only thing I recognized about her was her giggle. She wasn’t bouncing around. No flirting this day. No bouncing off walls. Then she disappeared. She was dealing with her daughter’s drug addiction, a whole other story. All I know now is that she lives in Pennsylvania, she works at Checkers, and is a bilingual translator. She broke off contact with most of her friends in New York City.
Momâ€™s Neighbor When I first met Hazel she was in her seventies. She and her husband George had a farm in Grace. He was ready to retire. They moved into a new brick house just north of my parents on Fourth East in Preston. She was a white-haired dynamo, a complete busybody. She styled her short white hair with pin curls. My high school friends had back-combed bouffants styled with big rollers. She wore flowered housedresses protected by a bib apron. I admired her ability to turn flour, water, and lard into tender flakey pie crust. I have always found pie crust temperamental; a little too much water or rolling and it becomes tough. It seemed she never stopped moving. She would run out her back door and across the back yard; knock at the patio door and slide it open. She'd poke her head inside and tell my mother hello. Mom rarely left the house; she'd be sitting in her recliner, the television blaring. After Hazel visited a bit she would go back to her projects. George was quiet and never said too much. Hazel loved to quilt. A frame usually dominated her living room. She would work from a kitchen chair with her
thimble, needle and spool of thread. When some of her cronies could get away they would join her, their tongues flashing as fast as their needles. The unbound quilt would be thumbtacked to the frame every couple of inches all along the sides. The frame boards were about two inches by one half inch. They were clamped at the corners and rested on stands. When a few inches had been sewed all along the side, the clamps would be loosened and the board turned. The quilt would be stretched and the clamps tightened. The hand quilting held the quilt top, the synthetic bat and the bottom securely in place. The top might be pieced patchwork, embroidered or painted fabric. The project was very labor intensive. Sometimes the quilts would be sold at a church bazaar. They are beautiful works of art. Her son worked for United Airlines. She was very proud that he arranged a trip to the holy land for her. At the time, she was in her eighties. My mother groused that an eighty-year-old woman had no business traveling that far away. She had incredible energy and zest for life. She knew everyone's business and had a comment on it but always stood ready to help.
Basement Bedroom Every morning I open my eyes to the lavender walls in my basement bedroom. The windows are high and small with short sheer curtains. My room is in the back of the house. I have my own private bathroom. There is a large room that had been a living room/kitchen when the space was a basement apartment. When we bought the two-bedroom house, we were a family of four. There was a basement laundry room where my mother did laundry in her Maytag wringer washer. It was a square-ish white tub on four legs with little black wheels. The tub had an agitator with the wringer above the tub. There were suds saver tubs to keep and reuse soapy water. After clothes had been washed and put through the wringer, then rinsed and put through the wringer again, Mother would carry the basket upstairs to hang the laundry on the back yard clothes line. If it was too cold we set up some wooden drying racks in the basement. We had a coal furnace. I loved sitting on the floor in front of the hot air vents. I listened to the Morning Milkman on KSL Radio as I finished organizing school work. We would get a coal delivery every few weeks. There was a twelveinch by eighteen-inch metal door in the concrete foundation. A truck would pull into the driveway and slide a metal chute into the coal door. The coal skittered into the coal room. Dad would clean the ash and clinkers out of the furnace and put them into a clean five gallon metal paint can. He might use ashes to keep walks from getting slippery with snow and ice. My sister and baby brother are eight and ten years
younger than I am. When they were born the basement rental got converted to bedrooms. Mom got a new automatic washer and dryer. The furnace was changed to oil. My younger brother Phil and Dad paneled the coal room and that became Phil's room. I had the bedroom from the apartment. It was quiet and private. I could leave the light on and read my books almost all night. My youngest brother Doug loved breakfast. When Mom told him he could call me to breakfast on Saturday morning, he came running down the stairs calling me. I had been up most of the night reading and growled at him. He was upset that I didn't want to jump out of bed for pancake breakfast. The living room became a play area. My grandmother's cousin had a bar in Franklin. He gave us an old handcranked 78 RPM phonograph. I remember playing "Clancy Lowered the Boom." We cranked and listened and cranked. It had a heavy arm and thick needle. After Clancy we had a floor model Magnavox stereo LP player. I listened to Frankie Laine sing “Rawhide” and “Wild Goose.” I must have memorized "Officer Krupke" from West Side Story. We lived in that house at 168 West First North until the end of my sophomore year in high school. It is filled with memories. There are friend stories and family stories, vivid scenes locked inside its walls.
ELSIE MAE SMITH
Sunflower I feel the sunshine in my face. It is a beautiful thing. A sunful glow on my face. That’s how I know that the day will be hot and fine. To take a walk to the beach is a good thing. You can tell the days are a fun day. Feeling the sun on my body, I also like the cool water in the pool. Going swimming is a day of fun times with friends and family. Sun time fun can give you a day of love. This is a good thing about feeling the sunshine today. It’s okay to play outside. I love the sun because it feels good. To make a long story short, I love a sunny day. I hope you love the sun like me. It is my best friend but I wish I could take a sun bath like the birds in the trees. Or fly high in the sky like the bees on a sunflower. Being a sunflower, like on the tree, I can fly high. A sunflower cannot fly like a bird. I’m just playing around, but I can feel the sunlight.
As a small, grassroots organization, NY Writers Coalition relies on the generous support of those dedicated to getting the voices of those who have been silenced heard. Many thanks go to our foundation, government, and corporate supporters, without whom this writing community and publication would not exist: Allianz GI, Amazon.com, the Kalliopeia Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, New York City Council Member Corey Johnson, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, and the Two West Foundation. NYWC programming is also made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. We rely heavily on the support of individual NYWC members and attendees of our annual Write-A-Thon. In addition, members of our Board of Directors have kept this vital, rewarding work going year after year: Louise Crawford, Marian Fontana, Matthew Krejcarek, Lisa Smith, Jonathan Tasini, and NYWC Founder and Executive Director Aaron Zimmerman. Weâ€™d also like NYWC Workshop Leaders Barbara Cassidy, Alice Gavin, Julia Hillman-Craig, and Suzanne Wise and the volunteer assistants who were instrumental in making this publication possible. Finally, we congratulate the contributors to this book and the dedicated workshop members at Andrew Heiskell Library and VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Thank you for sharing your stories week after week. 81
ABOUT NY WRITERS C OALITION
NY Writers Coalition (NYWC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that creates opportunities for formerly voiceless members of society to be heard through the art of writing. One of the largest community-based writing organizations in the country, we provide free, unique, and powerful creative writing workshops throughout New York City for people from groups that have been historically deprived of voice in our society, including at-risk, disconnected, and LGBTQ youth, homeless and formerly homeless people, those who are incarcerated and have been incarcerated, war veterans, people living with disabilities, cancer, and other major illnesses, immigrants, seniors, and many others. For more information about NYWC programs and NY Writers Coalition Press publications visit WWW.NYWRITERSCOALITION.ORG
Midnight Sun Writing from Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library and VISIONS Services for the Blind & Visually Impaired NY Writers Coalition Press is proud to present The Midnight Sun, a collection of poetry and prose from NYWC creative writing workshops at Andrew Heiskell Braille & Talking Book Library and VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Featuring original writing by Lalli Aguilar, Gary Bell, Corinneâ€™s Brother 15, Tameka Cooper, Edith B. Harnik, Deborah Haynes, Julia Hillman-Craig, Stephen Kahn, Michael Logue, Nihal Naji, Genoveva Pena, Connie Perry, Janet Seth, Elsie Mae Smith, Carolina Vollo, Paula Wolff & Gumar Williams. Edited by NYWC Workshop Leaders Barbara Cassidy and Alice Clara Gavin. Foreward by Suzanne Wise. For more information about NYWC writing programs and NYWC Press publications, visit WWW.NYWRITERSCOALITION.ORG.