What was your mother’s maiden name?
To answer that, I’d need a keyboard
with a different alphabet.
What was the name of your elementary school?
Before or after I transferred?
(Probably not a good idea
to answer a security question
with a question.)
The name of your first pet?
Maybe Blue Boy, the parakeet,
quickly nuzzled aside in my affections
by Whitey, the stray dog who came to stay.
My dog died when I was 16. Bad timing.
Before Blue Boy, I remember
getting Newberry’s goldfish
and naming them Hansel and Gretel
only to find them floating the next day.
Perhaps I’ll remember the names of the turtles
also from the five-and-dime, always scrabbling
to escape from their plastic pond and palm tree.
I won’t be able to retrieve
my identity based on that question.
Who was your best friend in childhood?
That’s easy – Debby Green.
Anthropologists should study
our long-buried culture, so rich,
starting with ‘Abrahams’,
our first game, spinning pennies
to see whose would dance the longest.
Looking through her parents’ Horizon magazines,
scouring the lush historical battle illustrations
for horses and seeing which side,
black steeds or white, was victorious.
On days fit for playing outside,
we dug insect graveyards.
But she was careless in a game of Abrahams,
knocked over my Eames house of cards,
my most spectacular construction ever.
I couldn’t forgive her that day,
or years later,
when she went on a protest march
the day after she wrapped her car around a light pole
with me in the passenger seat,
and ended up in the arms of a boy
we both wanted.
Forty years later,
a high school classmate
electronically reunited our class.
Debby’s name appeared on the list of the dead.
If the computer asks me
the name of my best childhood friend,
can I be trusted to type ‘Debby’?
Should I include her last name?
Is it case-sensitive?
Where were you when you had your first kiss?
None of your business.
Anyway, it wasn’t very memorable.
There are leaves on the kitchen walls
striving upward in unnatural stripes.
The wallpaper-hanger started to hang them
falling down toward the scary basement.
Good thing the woman in the kitchen
made him start over.
The potted plant thrusts its knife-like leaves
ceilingward, too: mother-in-law’s tongue.
Everyone is growing, moving on up.
The kitchen is a womb, a launching pad.
So much pulsating, silly, burgeoning life
stuffed in a tiny room.
Through the kitchen window,
while washing dishes,
the woman in the apron sees
the weeping willow and the maple.
Branches diving down to earth,
leaves and seed propellers held high.
The beautiful white dog will die,
the children move away before she’s ready.
But the willow and maple remain,
bowing down and lifting up.
An Art Critic Rides the 6A When the Sun Comes Out in November
From the bus it’s enchanting.
The slum’s become a rich kid’s plaything,
a cardboard cutout mock-up
of someone else’s reality.
The ‘empty’ lots are a subtle
blending of weeds and garbage,
a resting place for one’s eyes,
if nothing else.
A visual pun,
at once a daring marriage of opposites
(like the freeway shoes
one sees on one’s travels
and a hard-hitting metaphor
for what can be reserved
for thinking about
on grayer days.
Shadows crisply slice triangles from flat walls,
creating the illusion of deep space.
Negative spaces in old church towers
punch out pieces of the sky –
blue cookies from an antique cutter.
Ghosts of messages
once painted on brick walls
seem to float
over rusted-out automobile husks.
Only that crazy artist, chance,
would dare combine
such colors, textures, patterns
and make it work.
That’s the wonder of it all –
Not for long.
Shadow edges fuzz, disappear.
The weaver of thin, durable,
enduring broadcloth takes over,
and the suburban connoisseur
turns back to his book,
on his way
to the end of the line.
Sheila Sondik, poet and printmaker, lives in Bellingham, Washington. Her poetry has appeared in Calyx, Raven Chronicles, The Floating Bridge Review, Frogpond, and many other journals and anthologies. Egress Studio Press published her chapbook, Fishing a Familiar Pond: Found Poetry from The Yearling, in 2013.
Image credit: Michael Summers