Orange Cough Syrup

In the basement of Woolworth’s 5 & Dime,
my fingers trace the shape of a white glazed horse,
pink feathered mane, rose rhinestones glued
to fuchsia felted pillion, gold rope bridled.
A perfect foal. My rider’s dream
on Sixteenth Street and Champa.

When I was seven the Saturday bus delivered me
from Gus’ Gas Station. Past the Platte River where
industry’s waste was shlepped downstream.
Over a bridge to dodge tracks of trains.
Then ousted me onto the one way streets
of Downtown Denver.

The Paramount Theater, my first stop,
a darkened cavern with closing credits
lighting my way. I always was quick to grab
a left center seat before the next show.

At movie’s end, a stroll past windows dressed,
The Denver Dry’s and Nuesetter’s dolls, all
perfect women in pill box hats and pearls.
Endpoint – my soda fountain finale.

Mother gave me ‘a little extra,’ a treat to buy
the pony enchanted within my dreams.
My choices, each lined up next to the other,
in colors matching dispositions unaltered,
blue was for boys. Yellow too bright.
Purple only given slight consideration.
Orange, the flavor of my winter cough syrup.
And red annoyingly sat on my best friend’s dresser.

I wonder if I, too, am just a category on a Woolworth
shelf? What I do, what I say never altered. One type
to be counted on, always the same without fail?
Am I only understood because I am pink,
never more than a Woolworth tchotcke?

I want to believe God is more creative than that.

I want to believe I am more, not bred to fill one slot
on a five and dime shelf just to be easy for others.

I like to think I can be orange one day,
even if I don’t like orange cough syrup.

I like to think God takes much delight in me
as I hand two dollars and fifty cents plus tax
to the cashier for the red one, the color
of tiny cinnamon dots that stain as they melt
in my fist on summer vacation.

 

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Author’s Note:

Sonnets. Oh.

I was lucky to take a quick class on sonnet writing this past weekend at Lighthouse Writer’s Workshop. It was taught by Kim Addonizio. She was wonderful. I was inspired…again.

Oh, I try and try to work with poetic forms. I know I will grow as a writer if I stay focused and try. I try. And fail miserably. It just does not make sense to me.

My dear friend who attended the workshop with me suggested I steep myself in reading one form for a while and I will begin to understand. This is the plan. A book of contemporary sonnets.

The above poem is NOT a sonnet, or even tries to be. It is, however, inspired from a book gifted to me by my dear friend: The Poet’s Companion – A Guide to the Pleasure of Writing Poetry by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Suburban Solstice

The 9th Day of Christmas

It was the first day of the New Year.

Well, the new year according to most of the Western world. The New Year for Zorya started a few weeks prior at the Winter Solstice. Her friends, at least the long time ones, really didn’t know about this new journey she was on. Her family most certainly didn’t know. They wouldn’t understand, being staunch Roman Catholics. Tiptoeing outside the gilded box was not allowed.

She wasn’t flaky, as some would think. She just wasn’t a follower any longer. Her thinker self was beginning to show.

Zorya sat on the park bench. Snow covered her ankles. She should have thought about it before she left the house. She did wear a coat that zippered her tightly against the chill, but she didn’t like it. Zorya preferred to feel the cold on her skin. As usual her father complained as she was opening the front door for her exit.

She thought she was leaving early enough and was quiet enough not to shake up the household. However, the front door was right next to her father’s bedroom and he was up extra early.

“Where you going?”

“For a walk. Be back in about an hour.”

She always had to give the exact time of her return or else he would worry. Old age does that to you. And being an only child, even though she would be turning sixty soon, she was still seen as his “little girl” through his 94 year-old eyes.

Zorya tried her best to slink out the door without further confrontation.

“Put your coat on.”

“I’ll be fine. This sweatshirt is warm and it has a hood.”

Zorya liked hoods. It made her feel romantic, like those women of the past or in those Celtic pictures of pagan faerie-like goddesses in flowing gowns gliding through forests in sparkling sunlight with wild animals gently looking up at her, smiles on their faces.

Part of Zorya’s journey was taking her down this Celtic path. Confusion reigned. Zorya was a city girl, even though she now nested in the burbs, a choice made in deference to take care of her father. This was the closest she ever got to living in what other’s called nature.

She liked the sidewalks of downtown Denver. The bustle wasn’t crazy like London, her favorite city, or in New York where her other passion lived on stages under hot lights and costumes.

She saw beauty in the rush of traffic, a song some found annoying. Art galleries, restaurants, and the vast array of people gave her much to digest.

She grew up next to the off-ramp of I-70, a highway that split her neighborhood in half when she was five. The Denver Coliseum was nearby and her Januarys always included a visit to the National Western Stock Show, something she did with her dad.

She would ride her bike through the underpasses of I-70 around her Globeville neighborhood. Houses were built by early 20th century Eastern European immigrants. White washed gingerbreads were surrounded by neat sidewalks and fences with gardens now falling into disrepair after the highway fissure and the flight out.

She would pass the Russian Orthodox Church where her mom’s best friend Annie attended. The Polish Catholic Church was a block away from the Slovenian Catholic Church. Each having their own schools, hers being Holy Rosary Slovenian Catholic School, sat along her route, too.

She bounced carefully over bumpy railroad tracks that led car after car with coal and other goods through her neighborhood. Her favorite sound was and still is the far off moans of train warnings in early morning hours.

She would see the field and bleachers where softballs flew through the air on hot summer nights and of course, there was the swimming pool. Oh, the outdoor swimming pool where she spent her summer mornings in classes and afternoons in floating bliss.

This was Zorya’s nature. The smelter down the road and up the hill belched smoke. The packinghouses whose waste flowed into the river were beginning to shut down, another flight for more modern digs. The Pespi plant bottling brew that her mother would eventually learn to guzzle instead of Coors.

And the number 16 bus that would stop on the corner near her house next to the bar and gas station and lodge dancehall just outside her bedroom window. She would take the bus by herself on Saturday mornings to walk up and down 16th street gazing in department store windows, The Denver, May D & F, Neusteter’s, and when she was a teen, Fashion Bar.

Then she would go to the Paramount to see a cartoon and a movie, sometimes she would stay for the second feature, too. Finally, there was the root-beer float stop at the Woolworth lunch counter and back home again without anyone ever having to worry about her safety.

She’d watch the factories spewing air-born chemicals and the grey-green Platte River flowing by her bus window on the way home as the sun began to set behind the Rocky Mountains.

Zorya’s nature came to her on bone-chilling mornings when her dad got up through the night to flood the tiny back yard making an ice skating rink for her and her friends. Her mom bought ice skates in all sizes at the Goodwill store to share with any who needed them.

She knew nature’s roar when the Platte River flooded and the police walked up and down Washington Street shouting through their bull-horns to evacuate as the water overflowed its once placid and feculent home.

There was beauty in all of her city-born images. Not everyone could understand this, but poetry and spirit lived there, too.

Presently Zorya made her home next to houses painted and formed much like one another except for a few twists and slants here and there. She appreciated the open space a few blocks away even though it was lit up by lights from the adjoining elementary school at night and recently glowered upon by the new teacher training building placed on the vista on top of the hill that was barren when they first moved in.

“Alllll right, but you’ll get sick,” her father droned and sighed hoping to guilt her into compliance.

So without arguing and to save time she slipped on her fluffily padded, ankle length winter coat, specifically purchased to remind her of the flowing robes of the Celtic saints.

She needed to work on this image.

Zorya knew she was way off in her perception, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it yet. It could be her Slavic soul. Her mother once told her that were from gypsy stock in Poland. She needed clarification, some new understanding. And that was what part of her mission on this first day of the Suburban New Year.

Zorya changed her mind about telling her father the exact time of return.

“I’ll be back later,” she replied curtly as she shut the door, not with a slam. The seal wouldn’t allow a slam. But she closed it tightly with a definite, “I’m taking a stance.”

On the bench, Zorya stared at her feet. The snow was packed inside her shoes. She should have worn socks. Her hands were nestled inside her coat pockets, but the hoodie and fluffy coat hoods rested on her back.

She looked up as the horizon sky beckoned turning a magical shade of gold. Usually, this time of year the sunrise brought reds bleeding into dark blues and then fading into purple that melts into a bright Colorado azure. Today there were no clouds to paint.

Today the sky was golden.

As she looked around her, the grasses, now tan and crisp, held tiny cups of snow balanced on top of their heads. The weeds deepened to a courtly gold. The snowfield sent diamond sparks and her breath was smoky rising into the air.

Here Zorya began to feel again.

The cold hurt.

That was okay because she was able to take the other hurts and mix them together, finally able to release them. She took a breath filling her lungs as deeply as she was trained. An actress, if practiced, breathes from the bottom of her lungs giving her voice resonance and strength.

Zorya imagined her weaknesses, guilt trips, disappointments, and pain flowing into the cold that turned water into ice. They mixed together forming a crystal. With a quick puff from one more inhale, she blew the cancer away. She imagined it pushing high into the morning air blazing backlit in the golden rays. Then all at once she stopped her breath and it plummeted to the ground, shattering into millions of icelets scattered over the snowfield ready to melt as the afternoon warmed.

But Zorya didn’t stop there. Releasing the negative was just the start. Now came time for gratitude. She needed to remember the good and give thanks. She remembered and was grateful for wisdom from the priest who recognized the bard in her and gives her room to share. The joy from the songbird who lifts her spirits, a soul sister who outshines the morning rise. The healing hands of the shaman sister whose energy flows through and heals. The smiles and the laughter of her students. The love and tenderness of her husband. The wagging tail of her dog.

The words of the Word and the new vision of Sophia entering her life.

And, of course, the concern and love of her dad.

These and more she released one by one in a chant through the morning air. This time they did not fall and shatter. Each rose higher and higher into the ether until, like the spark of stars bowing to morning glow, flashed and disappeared.

She was ready. Zorya had room once more. And the New Year began.

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Author’s Note:

Sometimes, no, most times, I never know what is going to come out. Instead of a poem, a story on this 9th Day of Christmas. And two posts in one day, my apologies.

Today our writing group was planning on meeting. But for the icy streets and snow, we decided to be safe. We tried Skyping but my old computer and lack of tech skills made us settle on e-mail.

Our prompt was garnered from Bonnie Neubauer’s Story Spinner:

Setting: Inside your head

Starting phrase: The sky turned a magical shade of gold.

Words you must include:  romantic, zipper, flaky and drone

And that’s how my story was spawned. Peace.