Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Storied Visit to Elgin, Illinois

May, 2017




Once upon a time on Randall Road in northern Illinois, there were farms.  Many farms.  Many farms with fields touching, boundaried by oak trees and creeks.  In one field, black and white cows strolled, dropping their faces to nudge the green grass.  In another field, children climbed trees, ran through a forest of wild mustard and white flowers.


In the nearby town, known for many decades as “the city of churches”, the river hills included a synagogue and Mason’s Hall.  In the downtown, two major department stores, locally owned banks and restaurants, two theaters, a YMCA and YWCA, and a public library formed the safe circles of friendship for the town’s adults and younger members.

For those growing up in the town, summer morning music or academic programs at the junior high and high school were followed by afternoons of swimming at a public park pool.  At the same park in the evenings, twice a week, music concerts beckoned families and romancing couples to lie on blankets and study the stars or gather fireflies in glass jars.  Also on summer nights, before air-conditioning would entice them to watch television inside, families ended the evenings with a visit to Dairy Queen or A&W, momentarily freezing their memories.  Winters brought dark days and storms with weekends of ice skating by the white pavilion in the second public park, hot cocoa and marsh mellows served by Methodist ladies in woolen coats and mufflers. On particular occasions, the white pavilion, its stained glass windows gleaming like colored silk, welcomed little girls who pointed their toes on the wooden floor and swirled in pink and blue tutus made of netting.


While the farms flourished, so did the town.  But in the rooms of commerce, engineers planned and later built a widened Randall Road that tore down the farmhouses, barns, and silos and buried the lives of the farmers and their families.  The children grew, partied, kissed and some lost their innocence in the back seat of their parents’ cars.  Others maintained an intricate balance of studiousness and shyness through adolescence to high school graduation.

Upon graduation, the children’s waters parted.  The built road became a commercial corridor dotted with chain stores, soulless centers of merchandise.  Perhaps as a counterbalance, windowless mega churches arose with concrete parking lots and thin borders of bushes.


Time passes....


Fifty years later, a few of those children--now carrying stories of retirement, grandchildren, and spouses’ deaths gather in a backyard that was once a farm field.  Here the ghosts of the Fox and Sauk Tribes linger with the ghosts of white settlers and farmers.  Now, the ghosts rise up in the late afternoon shadows and touch the shoulders of the grown children.  A windmill in the yard twirls in the breeze as a recognition of time turns down the smiles of those who were once entwined like leaves of morning glory vines.




  



SLim's story Part 3.

SLim’s story continues 6.17



In the few months after SLim reunited with George (the boy who partially tamed him), both had been in new adventures, sometimes together, sometimes on separate occasions.

Together, they roamed the desert, settling in on warm afternoons at the corner convenience store and sharing a Thrifty ice cream cone.  George licked the ice cream down to the cone and then SLim chomped on the remains.

“You like the bottom end, don’t you, fella.  Works good for both of us since I like the top.”  George brushed the dust from his over-the-ankles pants he inherited from his older brother, Tom.  “Looks like it’s time for us to head on home since I have homework to do before I can play baseball.”

SLim heard the word “ball” and his ears perked up.  He liked certain kinds of balls: cheese balls scattered across the park grass were his favorite.  He trotted after George, keeping his eyes open for rabbits and birds.  Not very hungry, the glances were mostly just for practice. 

“Life’s pretty cheery right now with George, but I know the happy days can’t be counted on,” SLim reflected as he spotted a young quail under a mesquite bush.  “Huh, that young ‘un ain’t goin’ to last long if he doesn’t know enough to scatter when I come by.”

So that’s how the days often passed as they two hung out together.  On their own was another story.
George tore his paints on barbed wire as he and his best friend, Charlie, chased bats from under the arroyo bridge.  For that he got a few hits on his bottom from his stepdad, Marty.  George didn’t like Marty much and the feeling was mutual.

SLim tore a toenail trying to scrape the dry skin of a tomato off a park bench.  He also was chased by a man on a golf cart and had to hide behind a bush near the zoo.  SLim heard a lion roar and his scrawny legs trembled.  Not much scared SLim, but the sound of a big cat did. Bobcats could be a mean adversary and mountain lions, well, SLim stayed scarce from their territory.


For now, sticking close to George’s regular meals worked pretty well.  As dusk settled in, George came out of the house and squeezed a couple of handfuls of dinner leftovers through the backyard fence.  SLim watched George sit down on the dirt and wait for SLim to come out of the high grasses.  Together, they enjoyed the moonlight and stars and imagined another day of adventures.

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Two poems written at Rincon Market plus one

These are in the format of a "tricube": 3 syllables, 3 lines, 3 stanzas.  Thanks to Writer's Digest 9/2016.



Two Poems written 4.28.17 (while the Sawmill Fire burns SE of Tucson)
1.
The cookie
crumbles is
the saying.

It means life
falls into
parts, not whole.

So live it
in moments
not decades.

2.
The wind blows
ashes from
the valley

Where flames fly
grasses burn
horses run.

It is Spring:
white poppies
bend, break, burn.


Poem written 8.21.16 (late summer in Tucson)

The grey stone
rolled over
the mountain.

Silver clouds
trailing the
gentle winds

A monarch
flutters as
rain ripples.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Reckoning

This poem was written in response to the March/April Writer's Digest Poetic Asides description by Robert Lee Brewer for the poetic form:  dizain.  The form requires 10 lines, with 8-10 syllables the rhyme scheme of ababbccdcd.  This was fun for me to do and I was surprised by the message that emerged, as indicated in the title of the poem.



It was Easter morning at my house
Neighbors bringing berries and wine,
Our gray cat sleeping like a mouse.
He is imagining the first time
He tries to catch one on a day so fine
As this--when the sun shines, church bells ring.
I put aside what tomorrow will bring:
More of the same or a fanfare of fear?
When will the rocks begin to sing?
When will the mad crowds begin to cheer?

Thursday, April 13, 2017

The Brandy Still Flows...

this is an "original" erasure story by Anita C. Fonte based on the original written by Corey Kilgannon, New York Times, 4/8/2017 "The Brandy Still Flows at His Fountain of Youth". The "erasure story" is a concept developed by Austin Kleon in his book, Steal Like An Artist.


photo by Anita C. Fonte at Ralph P. Fonte's birthday, Tucson, Arizona, February, 2013

******

"The problem with turning 107 is that you can't work no more."

Until a few years ago, he tended Mario's parking lot, while working as a waiter of sorts.  Besides Mario's on Wednesdays, he goes on Saturday nights to Pasquale's Rigoletto restaurant down the block, where he dances with his girlfriend and performs burlesque songs.

He is Jewish and was raised by Yiddish speaking parents in Brooklyn, but now is more conversant in Italian.  He jokes that he was born Jewish but will die Italian.  Regarding his health, he said that more or less, "everything works."

"People plan, God laughs," he said.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

Early Spring in the Sonoran Desert




Creosote bushes frame the edges on Sunrise Drive.
Mulberry feathers open from 
bottom branches of trees in the plaza.
Pink flowers are dampened by fountain spray
where St. Philip stands,
cross in hand 
as Lenten Bells ring:
It’s time for penance.

I give up nothing.

Instead,
I open to the season 
teasing me to trust,
to wander a bit off the well-worn path
considering--
how it would feel to fly like the red-tailed hawk 
searching for prey, 
finding it--
outside the shadows.

(from Poets & Writers Prompt, March/April 2017)



Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two more scenes from Vanessa's story


It was in Gallery 244, for European Painting and Sculpture: The Girl by the Window by the Window by Edvard MunchMama had not liked it, saying “Oh, Vivi, she looks so alone in the picture.  Let’s go see Monet with his yellows and orange haystacks”.
But I liked the colors of blues and grey and the girl…what was she seeing in the shadows, what was she feeling?
Now, as I gaze at it, I know she is me at twelve years old.  I am looking out my bedroom window in our neighborhood of Little Italy, seeing the man in the street.  He wears a dark suit and fedora and his watch and cigarette shine in the street light. I knew him then, and now, as Mr. E.  He is there to protect me from Papa’s enemies.  I didn’t understand what Papa did that makes men angry at him, but I do now.  Papa manages millions of accounts for businesses all over the world, especially in Chicago, New York, and these days, Russia.  


Back then, when I was twelve, I knew only this—Papa was downstairs as Mama lay in her bed they rolled in from the ambulance yesterday.  I could hear Papa weeping, but my tears were roped tight in my throat, my neck still bandaged. 
A few weeks before, I was in the car with Mama as it crashed into a wall, glass shattering into my neck.  They say the car brakes were not working, even though it was a new car Papa had bought for her in the late spring. Mama was driving me home from a symphony concert and she was happy; I was happy.  But all that changed with the crash.  Mama’s head slammed into the car door.  The doctors at the hospital said her brain was bleeding and they couldn’t stop it.  So she came home to die.

“Amazingly evocative, don’t you think?”
A voice startled me. I turned and saw a man with glasses, hands drawn across his back, revealing a blue and grey striped tie.  I noticed it was knotted European-style, like Papa’s with the skinny end of the tie hanging longer than the front-facing wider side.  For years, I would watch Papa make his tie before going to work, before going to Mass, and I often tie my scarves in a similar fashion.  I look at the man’s face: blue eyes, dark brown hair with reddish natural highlights, slightly tussled under a blue knit cap.  His face is still flushed from the outside cold.  It is a nice face with a smile that turns down a bit at the edges, as if he is practicing it. 
I nod, but remain silent.
“Yes.  I like this one by Munch very much,” he continues.
“Well, maybe ‘like’ is too strong a word for it.  But it’s one of my favorites in this wing.  I also like Monet,” I add, as if to bring Mama into the room.
“Sure.  Monet’s good.  But Munch goes deeper, finds a way to suggest a feeling, usually with shadows.  I get that.”
I am surprised he does.