By Lynne Heiser
Acrylic on board, 15″X20″
Painted using Joanne Lozar Glenn’s poem (below) as inspiration
By Joanne Lozar Glenn
Maybe you knew her as “Paula”—
her language our only heirloom, the one inheritance
we could claim. I called her grandma.
She called me puella punce—good girl—
as we picked chamomile from her garden,
and my mother canned peaches in the upstairs kitchen.
Finding the tiny daisies became a game.
She held her apron out from her waist
like an upside down parachute.
I laid the stems onto the white cotton.
When we’d snatched them all,
Grandma gathered the corners of her apron in one hand.
The other she laid on my shoulder,
guiding me under the shade trees toward her kitchen,
my Mary Janes soft on the slate sidewalk,
her black lace-ups softer still, like an old nun’s.
As she poured boiling water to steep the tea
I dragged a chair to the refrigerator,
climbed up, up, up, toes pressing, fingers pulling.
Stretched all the way through my armpits,
I tipped and rolled a button box heavy with copper pennies
toward me, mine to spend as I pleased.
Today I am older than my mother was then.
Grandchildren, none of them mine, bring her kisses,
dandelions, tears. In the evenings, when it is quiet,
I sip chamomile tea at my kitchen table,
study news photos of women from Grandma’s homeland.
The photographer offers no words, only faces—
hair wrapped in babushkas, eyes dark and unflinching,
like Grandma’s on the holy card, like my mother’s in the Communion photo.
One woman pulls a shawl around her shoulders. Another holds a child.
Yesterday, dear niece, you cuddled next to me, my body a pillow
for your heart. I remembered Grandma, the plane of my face
against her aproned belly, the scent of her wooden pantry shelves
piled high with Mason jars, coffee tins, sacks of flour, nutmeg, cloves.
I craved first words, the crooning of ancestors—
dober dan [good day], luka nuce [good night]—
the sound of my name riding the currents of your breath.
By Lynn Elizabeth Heiser
Mixed media collage on paper, 24″X18″
Inspiration Piece provided to Joanne Lozar Glenn
By Joanne Lozar Glenn
She is in Palermo. There is a boy. They exchange rings beside the frescoed retaining wall.
Be my princess bride, he teases when they tour the castle. They kiss. For a moment their foreheads touch, then shyness overtakes them and they tilt away, eyes downcast. She imagines their children—three boys, sturdy like the arches in the piazza. She imagines gardens full of poppies, celebrations staged on ivy-covered stone terraces surrounded by family and by tables laden with bowls of risotto and platters piled high with eggplant, peppers, tomatoes, bread.
They wander toward the Vucirria market, where old men sell olives and drink homemade artichoke wine. She wants a photograph but her camera is broken. Later, at the trattoria, she spills her glass on the damask tablecloth, her stomach somersaulting at her sudden recall of last night’s ride on the boy’s Vespa, her arms around his waist, the wind pushing the sea air into her eyes until they begin to water.
She practices conjuring his face from memory. The image emerges as from a mist, his features lazily rearranging themselves the way clouds come together into knights and dragons, the way she always sees patterns in the crazing of ancient castle ruins. The sky darkens, the red sun slips to earth, the wind shifts—or does she imagine that, too?
She opens her eyes, remembers the tree looming between where they’d sat in the trattoria and the piazza’s three arches. The three have become a group of one and two. She takes the tree’s single barren branch as a metaphor or an omen—she’s not sure which. Her lips part, then come together. She decides she is determined to try more flavors of gelato. The market has closed, the streets hold only empty boxes and discarded fruit rinds. She leaves tomorrow, alone, for Rome, where bougainvilleas spill from balconies.
II. 20 years later
Ahh, so this is the one. Italy. I remember now. Where you and that boy exchanged rings. He showed you the poppies in Palermo, you prepared a feast of bread and olive oil, pesce and pasta. One night under a balmy, star-filled sky, the waves a soft susurra on the stony coast, the cliffs fortresses illumined by moonlight, you decided your life was like those three arches in the piazza, a simple metaphor: live in past, present, or future. You had to choose. You couldn’t let that tree of memory, that tree of forgetting, come between you and what you wanted then. That seductive, sturdy trunk—its white bark glistening in the fading light, its singular limb offering a metaphor you could live with. No leaves, no progeny from this branch. You’d be no one’s ancestor, just a pilgrim passing through. You didn’t count on changing your mind. You didn’t count on Time torquing the muscles in your back, tightening the sinews in your leg, stiffening the joints in your fingers and toes. Now carpe diem sounds like mockery. What are you to do with this day anyway, the hours already lost, the archways already dark, lovers tilting away like windmills in the breeze? And the one you denied, you never even imagined its face. You didn’t want to love something that you thought could only cause regrets, remind you of dreams deferred, make you hungry for things you could not control. You are like the fleur de lis, born in one country, but finding some sense of home in others. You must have a thousand more like this one—Greece, Australia, Mexico, coves and beaches, markets and harbors, groves and forests. What now, here in middle age where past and future converge? You always traveled light, ever since those gypsies scared you on the boat to Santorini. What, then, these abandoned possibilities, like so much chopped wood, corded, seasoned, but not allowed to burn?