"Since flesh can't stay, we keep the breath aloft. Since flesh can't stay, we pass the words along." --Erica Jong

Friday, October 27, 2006

EVA PEARL WOLFE ~ 15 October, 1909 - 12 March, 1992

Personal Record of Eva Pearl (Wolfe) Hatton

I was born at home in Leonard, Colorado, October 15, 1909. My nine-year-old sister Josie, and my eight-year-old brother Ray, had been sent away from the house, and my sister said they were sitting outside betting on whether I would be a girl or a boy.

I was very spoiled. My mother had to work outside most of the time, and my sister had to take care of me. I remember once when she wanted to give me a bath in the tubs that we used then, and I wouldn't sit down, and I tore her dress badly, fighting with her to keep from sitting down.

The only bad disease I had that I can remember was scarlet fever. My mother and I were quarantined in a different house from the rest of the family for quite a long time. I think this disease caused me to lose my sense of smell and taste. I can only taste sweet, sour, salty, and bitter things...not flavorings like garlic or vanilla. I can only smell things like eucalyptus oil, mentholatum, etc....not roses, honeysuckle, or skunks. My father was William Ray Wolfe, born in Nebraska someplace. His father was Silas Wolfe. His mother was Matie Elta Eldredge (or Phillips). My mother was Grace Ellen Mow. They were both good looking. My mother had red hair...also my sister and I.

We lived in sawmill camps a lot. My father had to keep track of long lines of figures, and he could add these figures up in his head almost as fast as we can use an adding machine now.

They used to have dances, and we would dress up in homemade costumes, and try to fool everyone about who they were. Once my mother and a friend dressed alike and danced once with their husbands, and then went and changed dressed and fooled everyone.

My brother worked from when he was twelve or thirteen. In the winters we moved to town. Colona was one where I went to school. I had a friend who had a teeter-totter, and we would put our legs in our sweater sleeves, and pull it on to look like pants, and really ride the teeter-totter fast and high.

I was never self-conscious until one time my brother told me I was red-headed, freckle-faced, pug-nosed, knock-kneed, and bow-legged, and I cried and cried, and from then on I was always bashful and self-conscious.

We moved to California (Randsburg) and we lived about two miles out of town in a tunnel for quite a while. I had to walk to elementary school, and I was always afraid I would meet a donkey (some were in those hills), but I never did. I graduated from eighth grade in Randsburg, California, and started to high school in Lancaster, California. I lived in a girls dormatory, and I was the youngest one there. There was one boy who liked me, and he was one who had a car, and he would come up the street, and we always knew he was coming, his car roared so. He used to come at night. Also some other boys did, and the girls would slip out to meet them. I think the others necked a little, but I wouldn't even let him hold hands. If I saw him coming down the hall at school I would turn off so I would miss him. I liked him, but I was too bashful in those days. After a while he got disgusted and got another girl...and I don't blame him (looking back). About my last two years in high school I had a great big football player for a boyfriend, and he never had a decent car.

After I graduated Glen and I were married. Lauree(his sister) and my mother went with us to Los Angeles, and we found a minister who came to our hotel and married us.
(Note* That minister turned out to be Reverend Lloyd C. Douglas, who later became famous for his many novels, some of which were made into movies, ie: The Robe, Magnificent Obsession, The Big Fisherman and many others.) We went to a show that night named "How to Hold Your Husband." At first we rented a nice house. Later we bought a little two-room house, and moved another room on it for a bedroom. Gaylen was born while we lived in this house. We didn't have washers then, and I had to washlothes on the washboard in the kitchen sink. which was made of cement. Glen worked in the mines then, and we didn't have very much money. We played for dances. We didn't have a radio, but my sister did, and we bought a speaker and hooked it up so whenever they had music we did.

After a while, they took the train out of that district, and Glen got railroad ties and built us a really nice place. His uncle helped him. It had walls as thick as the ties, and was stuccoed outside, and was cool in the summer and warm in the winter. It had two bedrooms, a front room, kitchen, shower...and a big screen porch in front. We had no inside toilet in those days. It was a little outhouse in the back, and we had a long clothesline from the house out to it. Joyce came along when Gaylen was about eleven, and he used to hang a string of diapers from the house to the toilet for me every day. This was on the desert, and our water cost us one cent a gallon.

Gaylen went all of his first eight years to school in Red Mountain, California, to the same good teacher and friend. Then je went to high school in Barstow by bus, sixty miles each way, a day. The last two years he boarded down at Barstow with some people, and after he graduated he went to college at BYU in Provo, Utah, and later to the U of U in Salt Lake.

We moved to Inyokern, California in 1944, and had a service station and general store with my brother-in-law. The general store turned out to be with Glen's father and Glen. It was wartime, and the government brought in lots of Indians, and on paydays we would cash their checks for them. There would be a long line of them. Lots of them had long hair in braids and couldn't write or speak English.

I joined the Church on November 1, 1953. I was baptised in the gym on the Naval Base at China Lake, California. I played for the Singing Mothers, and Glen's sister Lauree was chorister for years. WE had, at one time, about 26 in the group. Once we put on an entertainment for the community, and it was a big success. Almost as soon as I joined the Church they made me organist, and I was supposed to play for Stake Conference in Barstow. I had never played the organ so I had to play the piano, and I was so frightened I couldn't keep my legs from jumping and my fingers from trembling.

I worked as a telephone operator for ten years (to date), and still working at it, April 22, 1961.

*More notes: In the picture where Mama stands on the front porch of the house in Colorado, about age 9, those in the photo are her sister Josie, her dad, his half-sister Eva and her husband Louis Courier, and their little boy. Aunt Eva used to save the catalogues for Mama to cut paperdolls out of.

The Girls in the picture are, L to R, Aunt Josie, Bacopickle, Aunt Louise (Ray's wife), her mother, Aunt Eva, and Mama.

Mama's best friend Irma, died in childbirth not long after this photo was taken.

Mama worked for Joe Apple in his store for a long time. WHen Eskimo Pie ice cream bars first came out, he kept Mama in good supply. She loved Eskimo Pies! When Mr. Apple invented his E Z Tire Changer (so easy a woman could do it!) Mama was his model in the booklet-brochere that advertised it.

In the photo of mama hanging clothes in the Cool Hat, the hat I remember best was a big Mexican Sombrero, pink and yellow, with little colored balls hanging from the brim. She always wore this when she'd hang out clothes, "to keep from getting freckles" in the sun.


even though i didn't write this poem, it conveys what i feel in my heart:

there are times in life when one does the right thing
the thing one will not regret,
when the child wakes crying "mama," late
as you are about to close your book and sleep
and she will not be comforted back to her crib,
she points you out of her room, into yours,
you tell her, "I was just reading here in bed,"
she says, "read a book," you explain it's not a children's book
but you sit with her anyway, she lays her head on your breast,
one-handed, you hold your small book, silently read,
resting it on the bed to turn pages
and she, thumb in mouth, closes her eyes, drifts,
not asleep -- when you look down at her, her lids open,
and once you try to carry her back
but she cries, so you return to your bed again and book,
and the way a warmer air will replace a cooler with a slight
shift of wind, or swimming, entering a mild current, you
enter this pleasure, the quiet book, your daughter in your lap,
an articulate person now, able to converse, yet still
her cry is for you, her comfort in you,
it is your breast she lays her head upon,
you are lovers, asking nothing but this bodily presence.
She hovers between sleep, you read your book,
you give yourself this hour, sweet and quiet beyond flowers
beyond lilies of the valley and lilacs even, the smell of her breath,
the warm damp between her head and your breast. Past midnight
she blinks her eyes, wiggles toward a familiar position,
utters one word, "sleeping." You carry her swiftly into her crib,
cover her, close the door halfway, and it is this sense of rightness,
that something has been healed, something
you will never know, will never have to know.

-- by Ellen Bass, 1985 from Our Stunning Harvest

It was here, at about age seven, after crawling into bed beside Mama, which I did often, that I would lie with her feeling very safe and loved, and the two of us memorized Saadi (out of an old Relief Society manual): If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft, and of thy slender store, two loaves alone to thee are left--sell one, and with the dole buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

It was here in the bed that the three of us, Mama, Daddy, and I, would kick back and read the Sunday Funnies together. It was here, while Mama was reading Forever Amber, or Knock on Any Door,or another of her favorite books, that I stuck my finger into the empty bed light socket and almost blew my finger off!


Connect The Dots: I AM FROM

I am from light, yes, a spark from the great Intelligent Light that set the universe afire, from Love, both spirit and matter, yes, and from the green living body of the earth, ocean and saltgrass, rain and roots. I am from amoeba, invertebrate to vertebrate, from Lucy. I am from Ephriam, from ancient Celts breathing in haze rising from peat bogs. I am from tassled cornfields in Cornwall, from the fires and peppered spices of Spain, from El Cid. I am of salt miners and salt barges of Cheshire, I am from their empty bellies and of the potatoes and buttermilk that filled them. I am from sailing ships, and steamboats. I am from children walking behind handcarts crossing the vast American prarie, I am from their frozen feet, wrapped in gunnysacks or dancing polkas or Fylde waltzes or Virginia reels. I am from fiddles and string bands and French horns. I am from sego lilies and lumpy dick and bread n'with it, from white salamanders and the three Nephites and funeral potatoes. I am from gold miners and lumberjacks, and red-haired women. I am from pony tails. I am from books. I am Plantagenet, and DeBohun. I am Shearer and Barkdull and Wolfe. I am Hatton, and Mau, the English, the German, the Scot. I am from Eva Pearl and Glen "A", the second of two, the female model. I am white beans and banana peppers, pot roast, macaroni and tomatoes. I am from both pain and pleasure. I do not ask perfection. I only ask for NOW. I am from poetry and a perfect brightness of hope. I am from wings.

(Inspired from January, at Poet Mom's list. Thanks!)

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Small Things

Monday and Me.

Native American Prayer

Dear Father hear and bless
Thy beasts and singing birds
And guard with tenderness
Small things that have no words.


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Minor Problems

I have been close to my mother, but we never talked much about things intimate or personal. I carry her inborn reserve. The minor problems of adolescence, boys, pimples, the first menstruation, the first brassiere -- all great embarrassments to me -- were taken care of quickly and with a minimum of fuss, and I kept my feelings to myself. She was always there if I needed her. She never understood my revulsion at the dresses and pretty clothes she wanted me to wear when I wore faded blue jeans and too-large T-shirts, or why I let my hair go long and wild and stayed by myself, obstinate and sullen and full of unshared fantasies. I never meant to be rude or rebellious, but I was. I never felt unloved.


one of Them....

When my mother was young, when they moved from Colorado to California, and picked cotton along the way, she saved enough money to buy a piano. Not a Grand piano, not a Steinway, but a player piano, with wide, flat pedals you pumped like you were riding a bicycle uphill. There was a window in the front, with sliding doors, that opened onto a roller, where you could load punched paper rolls that would play songs of your choice. You pumped the pedals like a hiker climbing Everest, and piano music poured out without your having to touch a finger to the keys. The keys jumped all by themselves, as if played by a ghost. Oh! You Beautiful Doll, Alexander's Ragtime Band, Put Your Arms Around Me, Honey Hold Me Tight and my favorite, that went: Where do you work, a-John? I push, I push I push! Where do you push, a-John? On the Delaware-Lackawan-awan-awan-awan, the Delaware-Lackawan.

By the time I was big enough to pump, one of the pedals had broken, and you had to tie your foot to it with a piece of rope, and pull your right foot up before pushing it down again. It was good exercize. I loved the music. Mama gave me piano lessons from age five or six until I was eleven, and got an attitude and refused to practice any more. That was a big mistake.

My attitude had a lot to do with my braces, my bad self-image. I felt fat and ugly. Sometimes I hated myself, my hair, my nose, and made ugly faces in the mirror and threw things. I escaped into books. I rocketed away to far planets. I went to the movies, where it was always cool and dark, and I could fade out of my mediocre existence and be any of those film characters I chose to be. And I was beautiful and funny and smart and rich....

At the movies you could see a double feature, a newsreel, a cartoon(usually Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd, or Daffy Duck, or Porky Pig), and previews
of coming attractions, all for a dime. Sometimes, during the intermission, they would give away prizes. On Saturdays, there were serials, to-be-continued cliff-hangers that carried over to the next Saturday. Our heros were Gene Autrey, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. I changed my name to "Cheyenne," and sang I Come from Montana, I wear a bandana, my spurs are silver, my pony is gray... and I Got Spurs That Jingle Jangle Jingle, as I go ridin' merrily along....I sang, Give me land, lots of land, under starry skies above, Don't Fence Me In! We were surrounded by real Indians, hired to help build the railroad that came through town, also the new Naval Ordinance Test Station at China Lake, a Navy Base just east of town, where they made and tested real rockets.

I discovered comic books, and Science Fiction. I devoured Weird Science Fantasy, and Superman,and Wonder Woman. I loved Tales from the Crypt. Science Fiction became my life, and this was while such greats as Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov were writing for the comic books. I idolized Ray Bradbury. I went from reading The Five Little Peppers and How They Grew and Mr. Popper's Penguins to The Martian Chronicles and I, Robot overnight.

Ray Bradbury wrote of himself: "I was one of Them: the Strange Ones. The Funny People. The Ones who waited through long days and nights, who used other peoples dreams for their lives."

I was one of Them, too. The Strange Ones.


Monday, October 09, 2006

Grace Ellen Mow

10 September, 1882 -- 4 July, 1970

Grace, my grandma, age sixteen. She wrote "We were married...in the section house ay Colona. A preacher came in on the train from Ouray to marry us. I had just turned seventeen years old. There was a big dance that night. We danced all night, until morning."


William Ray Wolfe

December 16, 1899
Wedding picture: William Ray Wolfe and Grace Ellen Mow. She was seventeen, he was twenty-four. It was his birthday.

Friday, October 06, 2006

My Grandpa Who

My Grandpa who (I never saw)

My grandpa who (I never saw)
shot mice behind the bedroom door
or under the pianoforte
blowing hell-holes in the floor
(O.F. Winchester's .44)
the bullets ricocheting
wall to wall. He swore
"Devil take!" and S.O.B!" and
"Plagues upon you!" (he
no catechist, he
no votary of Epicurius),

who, with his
stubborn Scottish jaw
and ranting woodman's fists
cut railroad ties
for Denver and the Rio Grande,
and caused my grandma
grief enough
to shoot herself (left breast,
she missed her heart
by barely half an inch).

And yet,
for all his fierceness
loved my mother
(a tiny red-haired dolly
he dandled on his knee).
I never saw my grandpa
but grandpa gave to me
enough insanity
to keep my devils free.

Everybody has a story. What was her story? What was his? I have no way of knowing, really, why she did this. My mother told me what but not why. Maybe she never knew, herself. Whatever it was that made my grandma, Grace Ellen, my Bocapickle, to want to die, I am sure it changed and shaped the rest of her life. Really, all their lives. Mama said her father was a very possessive and jealous man, given to irrational rages and fits of anger. Grandma wrote that he had "a very bad temper." He did shoot at mice inside the house. One of the ricocheting bullets landed between the pillows on the bed where the babies were sleeping. I wonder, did they cry? Were they too afraid to cry?

A blogger friend of mine, liz, writes, "We have all been on a journey that brings us to this place. Right now. We should be gentle with our own feelings and careful to think about why we are moved to judge another."


Thursday, October 05, 2006

Kern River

John and Bacopickle. Daddy and Mama.

A picnic. Years ago. My grandmother, Bacopickle, is still alive. She is here with her long used-to-be red hair wrapped around her head in circles of braids. John has a bottle of Four Roses whisky to keep him company. He celebrates every holiday with a bottle of Four Roses. He sits apart from the rest of us and hums comfortably to himself. In ten years they will both be gone. But today it is all right, today is fine! Tomorrow we will go our separate ways, but today we are all together again. Daddy cooks hamburgers over an open fire. Blue smoke rises high into the air. Mama helps Bacopickle with the lemonade and potato salad. My big brother climbs out of the river, says he won't go back in, the water's too cold. He lies on a wide, warm rock to dry out, like a lizard in the sun.

Wild blackberries grow all along the river's edge. The water sparkles. I throw little rocks into the water and the circles of ripples widen and run together. I step off the bank and wade out until the cold water is up to my knees. Little silver shivers dance like ripples up my backbone. Mother calls me to come back. I turn toward the shore and step off into a deep hole. The cold water closes over my head. Water is in my eyes, in my nose, in my mouth and ears. The waterweeds cover me, tangling my legs, pulling me down. I can't see or breathe or think. I can't call out. I can only sputter and cough and flail my arms helplessly.

My big brother comes in after me. I gasp and cling to his neck. When we are safely back on shore, he says, "If you'd been in the air instead of in the water, you'd a been flying!"


Tuesday, October 03, 2006

By Gis and By Saint Charity

In this book
there was a picture
of fair mad Ophelia,
floating face up, trailing daisies:
on another page
The Rape of Lucretia,
startled hand to throat,
round breasts fallen over her bodice
like white May pears.
Somewhere, dark Othello
and that poor Jew Shylock
protested in blacker pentametered despair.

The pictures drew me.
The words were only partly
understood, underscored by my
splayed young fingers across the page.

Now I trail ink-stained daisies
of my own, sing mad songs,
demand my pound of flesh,
stare blindly across the spaces
between years, and wait
for whirling obsidian waters
to have me,
to carry this ash-black body
coughing blood
and cut it into stars.

Painting: Echo of Ophelia by Im Elbenwald


It never rains in sunny California
and it never rained where I come from
winter and summer it was the same,
our flat forced grass was coaxed
out of the sand with promises of sun
sun and more sun.
Reality was chapped knees, chapped lips,
too-small oxfords with the toes scuffed out,
Roy Rogers and The Sons of the Pioneers
singing "Happy Trails...."

After the war they shot cats
that ran wild and thrashed in the bamboo stand.
There were sunny California Januaries when wind
rattled layers of loose wallpaper
on bedroom walls, and worn checkered oilcloth
covered the kitched table.

Night was an alien thing.
Snakes climbed dark folds in my windowcurtains
while voices murmured from lit rooms
on the other side of the door: Deuces wild,
they said. Here's another chip
to sweeten the pot.

Grandma Josie, dead from diabetes
at thirty-four stood quietly in the dark
on my side of the door, whispering
with urgent intent.
I could hear the voice but not the words.

Now, no dreaming here
I hear the words unravelling clear
and unmistakable:

Beware the body that betrays.
Beware the body...

Poor Donald Duck

At ten. Embarrassed by my crooked teeth, afraid to smile. But not yet old enough for this to be a great hinderance to my self-image. I still like to play with dolls, and paper dolls, and read books, although my best girlfriends are beginning to like boys. My animals have become my best friends, my dogs and cats and birds. I am traumatized when some adult decides to shoot and kill all the cats and kittens that live in the bamboo field. My friend Carlita's dad decides to murder her pet duck, Donald, right before our eyes, the bastard. And I have to get braces on my teeth (which I will wear for the next three years). My big brother is away at college most of the time, and I spend a lot of time alone, drawing, trying to read Shakespeare--some sonnets, The Rape of Lucrecia, Hamlet. I have to look up the word rape in the dictionary, and I am intrigued by the concept. The picture of fair, mad Ophelia floating down the river, trailing daisies and singing mad songs stays with me yet. And my own grandmother, my dad's mother, whose name was Josie, and whose photograph at the age of twelve--about my age--was hung on a bedroom wall and used to whisper sibilant riddles to me, her paper lips moving mysteriously, scaring me. My best friend, my dog Lucky, was run over by a car while I was at school, and my dad buried him somewhere out on the desert. I searched tirelessly for his grave (as I had for my brother's dog, Sparky).

The family was still all together. Bacopickle and John lived next door. Uncle Ray and Aunt Louise, my mother's brother and his wife, and their three children lived close by. My cousin Wanda, who we called 'Ginger,' made me costumes out of old bedsheets and curtains. We practiced backbends and frontovers and cartwheels every evening in the front yard. We played hide n' seek until it was too dark to see. We ran until we were salty with sweat. My brother Gaylen, the year before he went away to school at BYU, and our cousin Billy, made gasoline engine model airplanes and flew them in circles out on the desert. My brother had an absolute passion for airplanes, and flying. He wanted to be an aeronautical engineer. Model airplanes were suspended on wires and strings from ceilings all over our house. Billy's nose always told him when Mama or Bacopickle were baking bread, and he was always the first one in line for the first hot-out-of-the-oven slice with butter. (Billy survived Korea, and was killed in a car wreck outside Las Vegas a few months after his discharge. Gaylen went on to the university and majored in music, becoming a composer and a professional musician--but he still loved flying.) Dad's sister Lauree and her family lived nearby and we ate Sunday dinners together after church, either at their house or at ours. Mama's sister (also Josie) and her two beautiful daughters, Donna, and Deana Rae, were just a house away. I loved them all immensely. Still do. The Family.

I still danced with Miss Dee. I had my first role in a Christmas play at school, as the 'Christmas Fairy,' with tinsel sparkling on my fairy wings and costume (made from an old silk petticoat of my mother's -- another great embarrasment to me. I cried, and complained, and carried on over that one for days!) and a sparkling magic wand. I don't remember much about the play, but my role was to help Santa by bringing in animals. My lines were: "Come birds, come! I need you!" and "Come bees, come! I need you!" Well, it wasn't Shakespeare. But, who knew? And actually, it wasn't really the first. The Christmas before, I had a line as one of the Crachit children when we did Dickens A Christmas Carol. "I hear the pudding singing in the basin!" That was it. Our onstage Christmas feast was Spam, hidden behind a paper mache turkey, and red Jell-o.


The Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

There is a curve in the road from Randsburg going into Red Mountain, where a drunken and bloody wild woman with frenzied hair once ran down the hill to the road and flagged down our car. Without invitation, she wrenched open the back door and climbed into the back seat beside me, smelling of whisky, blood dripping from her elbows, and screaming crazily, "He's going to kill me! He's going to kill me!" Alarmed, I almost climbed out the other side. Daddy drove her down to the saloon, where she wanted to get out. --

But that's not my story. My story is the dream I still have repeatedly of going back to Red Mountain, around the curve in the road, trying to find my Nanny's house, my Aunt Mame's house, Bacopickle and John's house, and our house, just below the two rusty water tanks on the hill. It seems I know just where they should be. But they are not there. And Mr. Apple's store, where Vivian Rollins and I used to go for Eskimo Pies and Delaware Punch. She'd say, "Charge it," and they were magically ours, without our having to pay any money. Apple's store is still there, empty but for an old piano, rusty bedsprings, some old Coca Cola posters, and lots of dust. But the rest is all the stuff of dreams.

Monday, October 02, 2006


The night the Arcade burned the air turned red
as blood, a midnight mummy-shroud of smoke
wound up the sky, an ash and cherry cloak
that so lit up the glass, the house, the shed
containing all the Gypsy's magic strings
that moved her wooden hands, her ruby rings.
Oh, fire! Fire! forever in my head!
She should have known, that lady in the box,
and played a lucky card to break the locks.
She should have felt the lick of doom, have known
the itch of ghostly flame that was her own
undoing. I watched for a penny card,
some remnant of the cindered holocaust
that showed the Gypsy's fingerprint, unmarred
and pointing where the Exit sign was lost.

One night, after dinner was over and the dishes had been washed and dried, while the grown-ups were in the kitchen playing Poker at the table, I went to the front room and entertained myself with the piano bench. I turned it over and climbed into the little box the upside down seat made. I had a tea-strainer and a few red, white, and blue poker chips they gave me to play with. When I shook the round white chips in the tea-strainer they made a sound like eggs boiling in a pan. So, the piano bench turned upside down became my "boat" and I began "cooking eggs" for my picnic. I had hardly begun when I happened to glance up at the window in the front door. It was RED. I climbed out of my boat and went to look out the door. To my horror, the PENNY ARCADE across the street, where my friend Nancy and I often spent our afternoons buying trading cards with pictures of bubble dancers and movie stars, where we sometimes had our fortunes told by the gypsy lady in a glass box, where my brother once won a metal army tank by guiding a mechanical claw toward his prize, was ON FIRE! I ran to tell the adults, "It's burning! The Arcade is burning!" And nobody listened. No one paid attention to my excited rantings. So the Arcade went up in flames, and in the process, sent sparks over to the house next door to it, which was Nancy's house, and burned it up as well. For days afterward, she and I sifted through the charred remains looking for her dolls, Donnie and Tony.
Sadly, we never found them. (Years later, she would name her first son Tony). Nancy and her father and mother would live with us at our house until they moved away to Blue Diamond, Nevada, where her dad had a job in another mine. We were seven.

My dad was a volunteer Fireman after that. When the fire siren would go off in the middle of the night, he'd leap into his pants and shoes, and we'd chase the fire engine. I remember one night mother had forgotten to fill up the gas tank and we ran out of gas, and the fire engine sped off, leaving us behind in a cloud of dust. Daddy almost never swore. This was the first time I heard him swear.

The Pentecostals, 1948

Week after week
they climbed their six splintered
pentecostal stairs to dance
like wonderful trained
bears, climbing, falling,
singing, their hands that ordinarily
held books or washed babies
or sometimes counted out money
to pay the milkman,

clapping joy
as if they held tambourines,
laughing, their eyes lit
with some inner glory like a fire:

Oh holy, holy, they sang
and tossed their heads to a strong
upbeat rhythm. Oh brother, oh sister,
Oh holy, their housekeys jangling
in their pockets, their coins jingling
as the plate was passed.

What would I have dropped
that summer night--absolved--into their plate
as they danced, howling their songs
holy, and more holy, like a circus troupe,
but my ignorance, an offering of
my two dazed eyes,
my pious, stunned tongue,
my baseball,
my cap pistol and a red roll of caps,
a white Life Saver, and
four glass black marbles still warm
from my hand?

under the glass-black sky and looking in
at their window, it was awesome,
and I wished I knew the words.

Daddy loved boxing, and baseball. I remember listening with him to the radio broadcast of the fight for the Heavyweight Championship when Rocky Marciano beat the World's champion Jersey Joe Wolcott. We listened to a lot of boxing matches and a lot of baseball games on the radio. In the summers, both my dad and my brother played baseball with our local team. Both of them pitched. And sometimes my dad was umpire. The whole town turned out for the games, except on the nights when the Pentecostal's held their church meetings. Then, a few friends and I would sneak away from the game and look in the windows at the people inside singing and praying and sometimes speaking in tongues.


Even now it seems as if I remember the words that begin this book: I know a village where you would like to live. I would like to live there, too. The streets run up hill and down hill...and there are flowers in every garden." That may not be exactly right, but it's very close. The book recounted the adventures of Alice and Jerry. I think there was an old man named Ned. One chapter toward the end of the book told of blueberries growing by the sea. The boy actually gathered blueberries. I dreamed of blueberries, I longed forblueberries, I lusted afterblueberries. Many many years later, when I finally did taste a blueberry, it was a big disappointment. There is a lesson to be learned here. If you find it, you win -- a box of -- you guessed it -- blueberries!


I can see them standing politely on the wide pages
that I was still learning to turn,
Jane in a blue jumper, Dick with his crayon-brown hair,
playing with a ball or exploring the cosmos
of the backyard, unaware they are the first characters,
the boy and girl who begin fiction.

Beyond the simple illustration of their neighborhood
the other protagonists were waiting in a huddle:
frightening Heathcliff, frightened Pip, Nick Adams
carrying a fishing rod. Emma Bovary riding into Rouen.

But I would read about the perfect boy amd his sister
even before I would read about Adam and Eve, garden and gate,
and before I heard the name Gutenberg, the type
of their simple talk was moving into my focusing eyes.

It was always Saturday and he and she
were always pointing at something and shouting, "Look!"
pointing at the dog, the bicycle, or at their father
as he pushed a hand mower over the lawn,
waving at aproned mother framed in the kitchen doorway,
pointing toward the sky, pointing at each other.

They wanted us to look but we had looked already
and seen the shaded lawn, the wagon, the postman.
We had seen the dog, walked, watered and fed the animal,
and now it was time to discover the infinite, clicking
permutations of the alphabet's small and capital letters.
Alphabetical ourselves in the rows of classroom desks,
we were forgetting how to look, learning how to read.

--Billy Collins, "Questions About Angels"


June Allyson & Me

America's Sweetheart, June Allyson, has died at 88. I feel I must say something about her death, since I fell deeply and irrevocably and eternally (as much as a person can, at the age of seven) in love with her. I had just seen Little Women, in which she played the role of Jo. I was totally charmed. In all, she made 25 movies for MGM. Her "perky wholesomeness," her husky voice, her cheerful smile, her eyes, made her famous. Those eyes. How they glistened when she wept. How they sparkled and crinkled when she laughed! I wrote her a letter, detailing my love for her, and she sent me an autographed photo of herself. (One of thousands, I'm sure, but I didn't know that then.) I returned the favor by sending her a picture of me, this one. I found out that her birthday was on October 7th, and I sent her a necklace paid for from my own stash of money. (This gift went unacknowledged, but my love never waivered.) I haven't seen or heard of her in ages, I had almost forgotten her. Now she has died. RIP, June. You were one-of-a-kind!

About Me

My photo
1. In dreams I am often young and thin with long blond hair. 2. In real life I am no longer young, or thin, or blonde. 3. My back hurts. 4. I hate to sleep alone. (Fortunately I don't have to!) 5. My great grandfather had 2 wives at once. 6. I wish I had more self-discipline. (I was once fired from a teaching position in a private school because they said I was "too unstructured and undisciplined." --Who, me??? Naaaahhh....) 7. I do not blame my parents for this. Once, at a parent-teacher conference, the teacher told me my little boy was "spacey." We ALL are, I told her. The whole fan damily is spacey. She thought I was kidding. I wasn't. 8. I used to travel with a theater reperatory company. My parents weren't happy about this. 9. My mother was afraid that I would run off and paint flowers on my cheeks and live in a commune, and grow vegetables. I once smoked pot. ONE TIME. 10. I don't drink or smoke. (Or swear, much. Well, I drink milk, and water, and orange juice, and stuff. Cocoa. I love Pepsi.) 11. Most of my friends are invisible. 12. I am a poet and a writer. All of my writing on these pages is copyrighted. Borrowing (without acknowledgment) is a sin.