Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Happiness Was a Picnic ( A Memoir)

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Happiness Was a Picnic ( A Memoir)

When I was five, the world was green and anything was possible. The spark of imagination ignited my dreams and life was magic. She, who pumped the air into my balloon, was my very own mother and I embraced the wildness in her. Marian was a pyromaniac of sorts, striking match to stone, calling wind through my brain to push the flames higher. She loved my silliness and my laughter and I found that I had power to change her moods from grey to sunny, at least then, when I was a child. Even though the day would come when I had to stand against her ~ that was not here on Linden Street where Marian’s magic bloomed. That was not today, when I was five and the world was green.

Concrete sidewalks do not fare well for children. Scrapes and bruises and bits of old yellow glass find their way into tiny knees. How I longed for soft green grass! My mother, who always knew my fragile heart, obliged my dreams with a plan to ease that longing, and gave me a gift that day. Three young maple trees stood in a row, donning our city street in Brooklyn. Each one in its own empty sidewalk square filled with soft earth, trees planted perhaps to watch over me . . . or so I thought back then. They were the faithful signs of changing seasons I grew to understand.

In the spring, I watched each day, as green grass grew around their roots and filled each patch of earth with life. It was there that my dream of the country came alive and it was there that I took my little sister on our imaginary picnic. Mom had packed a small wicker basket with peanut butter triangle sandwiches, bunches of grapes, chocolate milk and cookies. Then she draped a checkered cloth across my arm and bade me “Go on now. Take your sister on a picnic . . . the grass is waiting for you.”

The tree nearest our building was the safest. There I could still look back and see our first floor windows, their striped awnings and my mother’s waving hand. That day I claimed for my own and began a lifetime of loving trees. Not a soul could tell me that this shady maple wasn’t mine and no one could convince me that the grass hadn't grown beneath it just for this, our perfect picnic. I spread out the red and white cloth and there we sat silly, smiling from ear to ear, ready to feast on our basket of goodies.

The bark of the tree felt alive and the new green grass a cool silky comfort to my knees. Tiny inchworms and furry caterpillars stumbled along its gnarly roots as we watched, so removed it seemed, from the concrete of our world. Munching on cookies and sitting like little Indians, we looked up with bent necks, viewing the spring canopy of sunlit leaves that covered us that afternoon. I was five and I was happy, safe without a care except to be a child pretending.

Neighbors passed, coming and going, smiling and saying “Having fun, girls?” or whispering “They must be Marian’s kids.” But I paid no mind to their shuffling feet and their squeaky carts . . . or their whispers. I just thought that nobody's Mom was as special as mine!
The world stood still for us that long afternoon and it remains one of my fondest childhood memories, reminding me always that I was loved.

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

I Want A Refund!

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The vines grow deep and twisted
‘round the trees
and mosquitoes have no conscience,
not one speck of mercy
here in this swamp.

The fog is so thick and gray
like old soup
‘never been stirred’
and while my guide is a Creole giant,
he’s no match for that
brown-toothed voodoo woman
bleeding chickens in her hut.

He paddles on, slow as a lazy turtle
while our rotting boat floats way down stream
and I see the eyes of that sneaky gator
peering with his damn tail twitching
as he licks his chops.
Who hired this guy, anyway?!

Slowly he pokes the long stick
into the muddy bottom
to move us on downstream
before the night falls.
I have no nails left from scratching.
Dear God, what was I thinking?
“See the world . . . eat with the natives”
I think the natives have other plans for dinner!
(and I’m one of them)

Something tells me
there’s no Club Med around here.
What the HELL was I thinking?

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Spirit Child

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Spirit Child

She dances sometimes
on my ceiling
in graceful swirls of ivory lace,
brushing by with wistful wings.
Childlike, hushed and innocent
she stirs my heart awake.

Such beauty!
How can this be . . . again?
She bears the face of an angel
a sweet cherub
captured by moonbeams
floating through my window.

I lay here watching
awed and silent
graced by
this gossamer being
caught in my world.
Why does she pass my way?

Stardust falls from her hair
and I am spellbound
as she turns wide-eyed, angelic
searching for something
. . . someone.

In hushed amazement, I watch as she gazes at me
who cannot speak, nor reach to touch.
Can it be that I’m the one she’s looking for,
Me, who is not ready yet . . . to cross the borders of eternity?

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Moving On

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Moving On

This road
is the one
you should take~
he said

And I looked
far down
to its bend
around the trees
not knowing
my eyes would find.

The silent oaks stood
tall and strong
their branches
dropping graceful
leaves along the path
my soft foot
to take a chance
and follow
the unknowing curve
that mirrored
my life.

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Friday, November 9, 2007

O Silent Night, My Prayer

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O Silent Night, My Prayer

O Lord
of the silent night
you have
given me this heart
and soul
to wonder.
You have given me
my life and my breath.
I sit in awe
my darkness illumined
by your majestic gifts.
Light! The brilliance of this night!
Beggars are kings
as they gaze with me.
I sit awake
while the whole world slumbers.
I count the stars
as the angels sleep.
If my heart had wings
it would soar to the treetops
and sing to You
with Nightingales.
This night
I am loved to fullness
This night has redeemed my soul
and lifted me from sadness.
O Lord
of the silent night
my God
this moment in my heart
forever scribed
will be my prayer.

Still Small Voice

Still Small Voice

I should have listened.
There is truth in the small still voice
that whispers to the heart.
It’s not that I wasn’t taught
or that I ignored Jiminy Cricket
sitting on my shoulder
It was just that spiny stubborn part of me
that always has to take the double dare.
Sometimes I win
Sometimes I lose
And sometimes . . .
I even listen and give in.
This time . . . .I should have.

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Can You Believe Me?

What if I were to tell you
that the world could never be the same without you?
What if you believed that you were truly priceless?
And what if all the years you’ve lived
were rolled up in a purple ball
and given to a newborn child
who’d grow one day and say to you . . .
"Teach me . . . "
Do you think your life holds lessons to be learned?
And when you sift through the stones and pebbles
you’ve stumbled on,
do you see the gold dust and the crystals too?
What if I were to tell you that you shine,
that when you enter a room and smile . . . .the lights go on?
Can you believe me . . . that you are loved and forgiven
and that you will always be remembered
for the good you have done,
that which you so easily forget?
Would these things make a difference?
Would they help you to breathe in the moments
one by one
that you . . . like all of us . . . take for granted?
And what is life anyway, but a gift . . . .
a pure gift . . .
We can look up and see the stars,
We can dream . . . . we can love.
We can truly live forever . . .
right now.

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