Three Poems by Sheila Sondik

Timed Out


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.



Tiny Kitchen


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.


Bricked-up windows!

A visual pun,

at once a daring marriage of opposites

(like the freeway shoes

one sees on one’s travels

in California)

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 –

it works!


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

2 thoughts on “Three Poems by Sheila Sondik

  1. These poems are very thought provoking. The range of emotions is great
    Sheila Sondik is a gifted poet and artist.

  2. “Timed Out” makes me think of the security questions I’m asked online–how simple the answers are supposed to be! As always, such beautiful and fresh imagery in Sheila’s poems 🙂

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