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Writing from CenterLight Adult Day Health Care Program

FALL 2011 - SPRING 2012

THE UPSIDE OF SURVIVAL Writing from CenterLight Adult Day Health Care Program FALL 2011 - SPRING 2012


Copryright Š 2012 NY Writers Coalition Inc. Upon publication, copyright to individual works returns to the authors. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Editor: Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko, Rose Gorman Layout: Serena Maszak, Rose Gorman, Lauren Hudson Title: Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko Cover Image: Zach Shelby-Szyszko The Upside of Survival contains writing by the Fall 2011 and Spring 2012 members of the NY Writers Coalition creative writing workshops conducted at the Center of Nursing and Rehabilitation. About CenterLight Health System Everything we do is focused on one goal— improving our patients' quality of life. For over 90 years, CenterLight Health System, formerly Beth Abraham Family of Health Services, has been caring for New Yorkers in need from all backgrounds and walks of life. As one of the largest comprehensive, not-for-profit healthcare organizations in the country, CenterLight cares for more than 10,000 people each day in the New York metropolitan area. NY Writers Coalition Inc. 80 Hanson Place, #603 Brooklyn, NY 11217 (718) 398-2883


INTRODUCTION This seems like the kind of section in which one might find words such as “courageous,” “inspirational,” “overcome,” “healing,” “life affirming,” etc., amid a description of this book’s authors and their work. Certainly, they’d not be misplaced, these terms, but what springs most swiftly to mind (or what “stands out,” as we often say in our workshop) is that the many-gifted people I meet with each week at CenterLight’s Adult Day Health Care Program are interesting writers. I don’t say that lightly. Their choices, palettes, rhythms, and perspectives continually startle and charm and baffle (my favorite). And I find I am always somehow lighter when I leave our workshops while at the same time feeling I have that much more to give as I go on about my day. Perhaps you’ll have a similar experience upon reading further. Thank you to NY Writers Coalition, all the CenterLight writers, and anyone who’s ever so much as brought us an extra pencil over the past seventeen months. Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko Fall 2012 4


Three Things She Told Me Never to Do Urita Arthur

My stepmother always taught me to do what’s right and I always wanted to know what she was talking about. One: She always told me I must be truthful, never to tell lies. Two: Never to be a critic, meaning don’t criticize another. If you don’t know that person too well, don’t ever say anything. Three: Always show your love to others, no matter who and what they are.

Eternal Love Urita Arthur

Eternal love, it comes from above, and if you have love within, it’s the most beautiful thing you can have because eternal love is everlasting. We are all human, and love is something we all should share. It should be as I said, Everlasting. That’s the way I feel about Eternal Love. 5

What the Christmas Holiday Means to Us Urita Arthur

This holiday, which is the Christmas Holiday, what it means to me: It brings back so many memories of the joys of families being together and enjoying the beautiful times of sharing gifts and cooking. Turkey was one of the main dishes—getting up early and putting it in the oven, which my husband usually did. There was pepper pot and lots of dishes, with the kids around. We made garlic pork, roast beef, roast pork, stuffing, vegetables, champagne, cider, and lots of other dishes for the family and friends that were invited. Thanking God for that. Precious times I shared with the family. I will always remember.


We Found Her Hidden Just behind Those Screens Urita Arthur

The little girl was laughing so loudly that no one had known where the sound of laughter was coming from. Everyone came searching, but no one had seen her. She was so tiny, and dressed in black, and trying to scare anyone who came into that room because of her laughter and crying like a cat. The screen also was black, so she said, “I will hide behind the screen to scare people away.” So she began crying like a cat and laughing so loud that she did scare who came into that room. It was so much fun for her. When her mother asked her where she was, she said, “Mom, I was the one that scared you away. I changed my voice because I was behind that screen with that loud laughter and crying like a cat.”


Thank You That Was Not Spoken Urita Arthur

You should always say thanks to anyone who did something for you. But sometimes things are done in such a rush or hurry. I’d say that you’d have to move on any way you can. Call that person or write a thank-you note that says: “I am sorry for the haste. I want to thank you. We will make that up over dinner one evening, and this is love from my heart.”


The Face of Survival Urita Arthur


A Tropical Island Called Grenada Joan Bascombe

Grenada is a tiny volcanic island in the Eastern Caribbean, which drains into the Atlantic Ocean from the Caribbean Sea. It is hilly, beautiful, and the inhabitants are friendly. English is the main language spoken, but some of the very old folk are able to speak broken French. This is in the country areas like Sauteurs. Sauteurs is a parish, and Sauteurs comes from the French language. It means “to jump.� There are the following parishes, namely: St. George (the capital and the place where I come from), St. David, St. Mark, and St. Andrew, and Gouyave (Gouyave is the capital of St. John). There are quaint-like streets and fruits and vegetables (used to be) sold in the market square in St. George. The Rastafarians have taken over the market square and the areas where the buses from the country parishes were to be parked. St. George used to be a hub of activity, lots of shops and stores. All this has changed. The business area is in the 10

southern part of St. George near Marie Rouge Beach area. The prices of things in Grenada are expensive in Eastern Caribbean currency (Eastern Caribbean currency, that is). There is an American School of Medicine where young medical students male and female are being trained. They come from all over the world. They come from America (many parts) and other parts of the world, places like Spain, France, Germany, Italy, India, Pakistan, England, the West Indies, to mention a few, and other countries. They also research tropical medicine because it is vitally important, like other subjects of the medical curriculum. We still have sporadic outbreaks of malaria and typhoid fever (these diseases are almost extinct because of the advent of modern drugs like quinine and antibiotics and other drugs). They have brought Grenada into the “limelight.� They have renovated the hospital. There are Grenadian doctors who are held in high esteem. I admire them very much for wanting to serve their island. I was trained in Grenada as a registered nurse and midwife. I later went to London, 11

England. Although I was experienced and had worked for about seven years as a nurse, and was born in Grenada, was from a British colony, I had to do my training all over. I worked in Germany, different parts of England, and then went back home for personal reasons. I worked in the hospital and lived with my father before migrating to the United States (New York) for political reasons. I have lived here for the past 34 years this year, 2012.


Richard Remkus When an elephant gets hurt When a dog gets hurt When a cat gets injured When a man gets injured in the car


The Vacation Out of Town Richard Remkus

The road is closed. The person is waiting for the person at home. The person is going to the movies at night. The person is going to the restaurant, too. The person is coming home from vacation. The vacation was very good.

The Face of Survival Richard Remkus



By Lawrence Bruce I see in the hole in the floor: baby toys, kid’s toys, a blanket, baby crib, wine bottles, gold, baby walker, a radio, a bike, a baby bike, toy cars. A man called me last night, asked, “May I speak to Lisa?” I said, “No one by that name is here, so don’t call this phone number again or I will call the cops on you, and you will go to jail.” Be good to the one you love. Do all the things they would like you to do. Take good care of the one you love very much. Make them happy to be with you.


The Dog

Diane Coaxum i love to walk my dog. Fruit can fit in a basket. Smooth, good lips. Food tastes good. Basket of fruit. i like ice cream. birds make noise. i like to eat cake. Coral is my favorite color.

Dirty Windows Diane Coaxum The windows are dirty in the program. The windows are very dirty. You can’t not look out the dirty windows. You must keep your dirty window clean.

About Food

By Diane Coaxum I can’t cook food because I might burn it up in the kitchen, and I can’t not clean.


The Kitchen Diane Coaxum

The man, he was in the kitchen looking around, and then he got up off the floor. Then the little girl came out, calling for the man, and the children went out in the backyard. And the little girl came out with a mask on her face.

The Door Diane Coaxum But I know that the door will open slowly, and I shall see what there is behind the door. I am afraid. If I open the door, something may jump out. The door. I am afraid to call for help because something may grab me. And I start screaming. I may call for someone.


Windows to Wash, Windows to Look Out Diane Coaxum

I like to put leaves on my window. I like to keep my window clean. And I sit by my window And watch the people pass by my window. And the plants. And the trees And the cars Outside my window And shades. Curtains.

The Face of Survival Diane Coaxum


My Life Story Ann Lander

The holidays meant so much to me as a child. I can remember watching my mom stripping the house and making curtains, cleaning the windows, polishing the floors and furniture, and painting‌the smell of bread, cakes, ham and all the other goodies. She always made a little cake for me to taste. I was the only child in the house. Christmas was very nice for me. After all this was done we would go shopping, for toys, new dresses and shoes for church. I could not wait to get up in the morning. People would go singing carols in the neighborhood, and the house used to look and smell so good. It was a joyous time. I wish those days would come back. Things are different now than when I was a little girl. I wish I could visit one moment in my life. When I was a little girl, I had my parents and nothing to worry about. Everything was done for me, and all the new clothes, toys and going to the beach on the holidays, and when my uncle came to visit, the gifts he would bring for me. I would just sit and play for hours. Getting older, life is very hard. 18

My stepmother was a beautiful woman. As a child growing up, I used to admire her, wearing those high-heeled shoes and tight dresses with her long black hair, and wish I could be like her when I grew up. When I got a chance, when she was not around, I used to wear her shoes, big as they were. I used to flop them around. She never looked old. She always looked the same, looking forever young. Now that I am older, I can remember it’s not what you do, it is how you do it. Good living and healthy mind? You will not age. My mom told me three things never to do. They were: never leave dirty dishes in the sink, garbage in the bin, and put the pots in the refrigerator at night. But did I listen? No, that was her way. I’d do some of it, but not all. The dishes and the garbage, yes, but the pots, no. Mom had a way about her. She’d pretend she was sleeping, and when you’d think you could get away, she’d go looking and then get you out of bed to do what you should have done in the first place. Do the right thing and everything would be O.K. *** This moment is about my father. He was a very nice person but very serious, and I was 19

very scared of him, growing up. I had to walk a straight line with him. He was a policeman. After school, I had to go to the station before going home for him to inspect my clothes and books because he was not always home. Now that I am an adult, before he left this Earth, I told him what he did to me was not very nice, but I understand, and I thanked him. He prepared me for the future, to be able to take care of my kids and grandkids, but I am not as strong as he was. I am doing it in a softer and gentler way. Is it because I am a woman? A mother, so to speak, soft, quiet, tender as my mother. She was such a loving person, but firm. Not as serious as my father was. She took care of me, as I was her only child. I could always go to her with anything, and she made it alright. I am trying to be like her, but it is hard work. There is an old saying: you make children, but you don’t make their minds. They are like magic. You don’t know when they will pop up with all kinds of things, good as well as bad. You always have to look out for them. Surprise is always around the corner, things that will drive you nuts as well as make you laugh, so we try not to make ourselves go crazy. Sometimes I will wonder, “How did I 20

get here, the position I am in today?” With all that’s going on in my life, did my parents have all these worries? Could someone answer that question? It’s like children today are space aliens, you have to wonder, “Is this child mine? Or he came from space?” I don’t think I was like that.

The Face of Survival Ann Lander


My Self

Ivy Morris I am a Jamaican. And I am over 25 years old. I love to travel. I came to this country, and I Love it here, So I make it my home, So this is where I make a living. I am not afraid to go anywhere in New York Like when I was in Jamaica So I would say, God bless America, the land I love.


Strange Relationship Ivy Morris

Relationships can be bad, and they can be good. This man has a nice wife, and nothing she does ever pleases him. I call that a bad relationship. My daughter and I live like two sisters. She tells me anything and I tell her anything. That I call a good relationship.

Open Door Ivy Morris We love to do art because it is something you can always keep for years and years, so it is like a door in you can keep it The time we always keep it open at times



Richard Remkus I love to have Joy every day. And we have Joy in the church. And I love to have Joy in the church. And we have a Joy in the church. And we Joy in the church. And we have a good time in church Every day. We wear a red shirt, and we love the Lord.

A December Day Richard Remkus It was very cold. And it gets very cold in the daytime and nighttime. And it snows, too. And it gets very cold all day And I don’t like the cold Day And it snows, too.


Review of a Tricky Situation Joan Bascombe

My mind is never on vacation, but my mouth does overtime when I get angry. The psychologist “Dr.C.” has told me to try to control my mouth, as what you say can really cause you to get into trouble. In my case, it may make me lose my place at 839 St. Marks Residence, until I am good and ready. Ideally, I would like to live in a senior citizen’s building, which is described on this card on the table: “Brooklyn Properties.” Frankie wants to marry me, and although he is not yet a senior citizen, if we get married, he will be eligible to live in such a building with me. Brooklyn Properties( Sounds ideal. I am going to investigate the pros and cons. I look forward to being finally settled in permanent accommodations.


The Face of Survival Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko


The Embrace

Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko When her head is spinning, just the given of glimpsing, the cliff of another day, walking is swimming, and the grip of the carrot water is distant, fleshly or bloodily speaking, I will hold a thought that soon smells like her name and absorb its contents, taking on her vision, waving on, through cords flaccid and morphing, her soul, some semblance of it, anyway. 27

The Rescue or the Book I Read Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko

That book? Oh, yes, yes, of course, I read that. Paper, right? One after the other, with a lot of ink smatterings, systematic. Sure, I do remember because the front cover was different from the back. Angel brought it by that time I was hiding in the tunnel. After I ran from Dario, who’d wanted me to sell eggs forever. A person can only do that for so long. They break more easily as time goes on, before they form fully, actually, they shrivel up and become something else. Toxic? I wouldn’t know, as I knew it had to stop before then, but the light—that was the problem—of day, yes. Because of the chlorophyll, the reaction, the growth is incredible, unstoppable. They popped up, down and crowded all around me. And if Dario knew, he’d insist I sell them, so maybe I just didn’t want to. So I went down the hill behind the main strip, swam the creek’s length, swung from the papaya tree and slung myself into that hole I’d always seen in the light of the fading moon shining yet through so many rusty men’s splotchy car windows, and down there I found no light with which to read. But it was good to feel that paper again. I’m glad she brought that book. Before it flew away. Are we going now? 28


Richard Remkus I went to the clinic today. The medical researcher is in the hospital. I went to my appointment on time. I went to an island on time on a boat. The homeless cat is in the street. The man was a thief in the home. I love traveling in the city every day by train, to come to the center.

Do More

Richard Remkus I want to read more books. I want to sing in the church. I want to do more in the church and I want to read the Bible more. I am going to the church on Friday for the pastor and I want to do more in the center. I have a good time coming to the center. I love the center. I love going on trips in the center. 29

Red, Red Wine Myra Roman

Such a fine night for a glass of red wine. After a hard day’s work, I have to look out my window and gaze into the calmness of the city, look forward to coming home, and especially, drinking my red glass of wine.

What Matters Myra Roman

When I think about the line of work that I am in, I think about bringing smiles to people’s faces. I always try to see the best in people and would hope that they can see me the best in me. People matter, and that’s what matters to me the most.



Josephine Smith Yes! One can see life’s experiences on this face. The eyes look somewhat defeated, but still there is hope in the puckered forehead. The thoughts are seen in the whimsical half smile. The firm lips bespeak character and wisdom. The grey beard tells of the years of living-maybe a few wasted ones, just by looking at the lines on the forehead. Nevertheless this is a face that has seen it all, that has laughed and cried, and worried, and shows it.


Josephine Smith The thoughts elude my mind The thoughts condemn my way The thoughts confuse my instincts The thoughts propel my actions The thoughts confine my movements The thoughts negate my confidence The thoughts dim my capabilities The thoughts destroy clarity The thoughts warn of disaster That may destroy me! 31

Responsibility Josephine Smith When the topic of government control over certain things comes up, the debate is very interesting. For instance, the monitoring of violent shows as far as children are concerned. In my opinion, so much is put on the shoulders of others as far as being responsible for the discipline of children. But parents are ultimately responsible for the way their children are brought up. Teachers should not be held responsible for the bad behavior of students; training should start at home. Social workers and children services can do so much and no more. Government mandated laws affecting children have to be carefully monitored and maintained so that a child can benefit without being scarred.



Josephine Smith I am from wide open spaces. I am from silver moonlight on the leaves. I am from sturdy trees filled with fruit. I am from sugar cane and black cake. I am from vespers and church bells. I am from hand me downs and clothes stiff with starch. I am from daily food for the brain. I am from familial comfort. I am from positive thoughts planted on fertile soil, the happiness of kindred spirits with one ambition to rise and be great, remembering the root from which sprang the Family Tree.



Josephine Smith My thoughts brought me to this place. I walked slowly then I stopped. I move, but it is hard. I am apprehensive. I see the door. I should walk through. After all, this is my future. Why has my confidence deserted me? I will move, I must move. This is what I have been waiting for. “Take the first step,” I tell myself. “Go on in,” my mind insists. Okay, this is it. One step, two steps—open the door. The light seems so brilliant, but wait, it is the usual sets of lights. “Be calm,” I whisper to myself. “Raise your chin, behold, look.” Ah, there was the professor and the board. I stand still and then I hear words. “Congratulations, counsel, you have passed the bar.” And then I was surrounded, and was shaking hands and hugging.



Josephine Smith The display was so colorful. There were pyramids of green, red, yellow, purple and even deep blue. I had never seen such a variety of fruits. But one particular fruit stood out. At first, I thought it was a breadfruit because of its shape, but then the color was all wrong, a sort of greenish yellow combination. It was cut open, and I marveled at the yellow flesh and all the seeds. I had never seen this fruit before in my life. I asked for the name, and I was told “cantaloupe.� I took a slice, and I found that it was so sweet and juicy. I have loved that fruit ever since.


Think Positively Josephine Smith

These are the rules to maintain a successful life. Always begin by know what your goals are. Then begin a system that will guide you towards it. Be consistent in your attitude and firm in your decisions. When you make a mistake, recognize it, and if you can, correct it; if not, move on. Patience might be tedious, but in the end you can achieve a lot, if you take time to explore possibilities. Always research your ideas before implementing. Think positively about outcomes to these ideas. It does not matter how simple or complicated a vision might be. Try working towards that goal. Success is not always guaranteed, so with hard work and faith, you can accomplish anything.


Acknowledgements NY Writers Coalition would like to thank the following supporters, without whom this writing workshop and anthology would not exist:, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Kalliopeia Foundation, the Meringoff Family Foundation, the NYC Department of Cultural Affairs, Two West Foundation, the Nora Roberts Foundation, the Valentine Perry Snyder Foundation, the office of New York City Council Member Letitia James, and all our individual donors, attendees of our annual Write-A-Thon, and NY Writers Coalition members Mulan Ashwin, Charles LaFollette, Jeffrey Posnick, and Diana Son & Family.




THE UPSIDE OF SURVIVAL An anthology of poetry, prose, and art from NY Writers Coalition’s creative writing workshops at CenterLight Adult Day Health Care Program. Urita Arthur Joan Bascombe Lawrence Bruce Diane Coaxum Ann Lander Ivy Morris Richard Remkus Myra Roman Kimberly Shelby-Szyszko Josephine Smith



Upside of survival bookstore update  

Writing from the CenterLight adult day health care program. Fall 2011-Spring 2012

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