Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Our Tree In the Attic

 Little Decorated Christmas Tree photo: Decorated Christmas Wreaths/Ornaments/Stockings 505a5fc9.jpg

Our tree in the attic is
cardboard boxed and labeled
"Memories are Here"
it is waiting once again
to sit by the window
all lit up and smiling.

Some buy
a new tree every year
cut fresh and forest-scented
but this has not been the way for us
and those with pine tree allergies

Our little tree of wire branches
and plastic pine needles
like the Velveteen Rabbit
waiting to become real
becomes our Christmas ritual each year
of love and transformation

The magic happens
as we hang each treasured ornament
and swag the tiny crystal lights
remembering the days
when our children were small
and full of nothing but giggles and fairy dust

The little tree in the attic
our door to the past and all the love
we've gathered through the years

I wouldn't trade it for the world.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Love Me Tomorrow

winterwindow_zps84d44b3f-1_zps97e64bb4 photo winterwindow_zps84d44b3f-1_zps97e64bb4.jpg

I can still smile
and know who you are
my Love

but I feel
the earth giving way
beneath me
more and more

and I'm afraid

afraid the day might
come when I will be
a stranger

lost behind the door
of yesterday, unfamiliar
even to myself

and you, my Love
won't ever find
the key.

Joanne Cucinello

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Eve of All Hallows . . . Happy Halloween!!

halloween vampire art photo: VampireLanternSkullsFlash VampireLanternSkullsFlash.gif
 Eve of All Hallows
walks with the dead
when the gravestone slides
off her sodden bed
of rot and bone
no pillows there
just dried up skin and mottled hair.

The earth is soft and drenched with dew.
This loamy soil from ashes grew
For tranced escape
to make in haste
when the Moon is full
no time to waste.

Night owls screech . . . a creature’s near!
He hides in the crypt
his eyes to peer
as zombies slide through the sunken earth
and rise for the devil
to give them birth.

The howl of wolf cries across the moon
and Eve takes flight
on her ragged broom
while the crypt door opens
and the black-winged creeps
pushing and pulling
till he finally leaps.

Past the graveyard off in flight
He catches up with Eve tonight
“Darling, haven’t seen you since when?
New broom, I see . . . mmmmm . . . very Zen! “

Joanne Cucinello    2007

Thursday, July 30, 2015

I Am Me

  photo 597411d4-5a93-4012-a5d0-b6b002b9b18d_zpsa4db5155.jpg
I often wonder how it would have been
if I hadn't reached this age and instead died like my mother at 44.
I kept dreading that 44th year of my life, and holding my breath
as it finally approached . . .  but then it passed, like the eye of a storm.

Ah! I was safe from the curse I'd fantasized, and my life would go on!
I could cut another thread from my mother's vest, resigned to the
fact that God had sent me a reprieve.

None of us realize how glued we are
and always will be, to the story of our lives
and the narrative we've memorized and regurgitated
time and time again thinking, like the Ten
Commandments, it was carved forever in stone.

But even stones change over time, as the rains pour
and ocean waves pound hard through the years,
smoothing and changing their surfaces once jagged and rough.
And so it goes with the superstitions of my Sicilian upbringing.
They've lost their hold on me; smoothed over and pounded
by my time-healed wounds. 

I am Me, and this life is my own. No one to blame for the roads
I chose to take. My past and its memories are mine alone
and so is my future. Like the marks and spots on my aging skin,
my surface has been altered much since that 44th year.

What's inside this heart and soul though, is a flame still burning,
never changing, since before I was born.  It's fueled by the love
of those I cherish, the Gifts of my life and the God who knows my name.

Joanne Cucinello   2015

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Me . . . No More


The earth is still tonight.
Not a leaf turns outside my window
no mouse scrambles in the hedges,
and the cricket castanets are silent now.
Even the Moon has turned her face
and will not hear my cries.

I am alone in my darkness, wondering
about the end of my days.
I want to sleep and let this wait
until the morning when I see the sun.
But no . . . the time is now
and this night has shaken my soul.

Ancestors whisper and I hold my ears.
“Are you ready?” they ask.
My mouth is shut.
They ask again, "Are you ready?”
"Never" I answer, and pull the sheets around my head.

I have never understood this joke called life.
I never will.
Must it be that this body I have come to know as Me
will turn to dust and ash, unrecognized?
All these thoughts and feelings,
this love that has grown inside me
the joy of my Darling, my children, my friends
all these . . . must I say goodbye to also?

Oh great shining Sun! Rise bright in the morning!
Cast away these ghostly fears of my demise.
Angels of Mercy, touch me with your wings
assure me now and always of God's love.
May I give back this gift, my life and body
gently on that day, without sadness or regret
and receive the eternal promised one.

Joanne Cucinello 2007

Soft All Over

Yours To Live photo IStatue.jpg

I'm obsessed with disappointment lately,
disturbed and angry at the way
time just happened to paint my face. 
I don't like it! "Who are you, damn it?"
I keep asking myself every time I pass a mirror.
My vanity's wearing thin and I can't find that
promise I made, to keep my skin from slipping
down the drain.

Let go! Let go! My bones keep crying!
This is what's supposed to happen,
maybe not today, maybe not this year,
but one day when you'll come around that sneaky bend
you're going to take a deep breath and exhale!
Even if your pants don't fall around your ankles
you'll finally feel a little lighter, less inclined to fret.

Smooth skin, bright eyes, lush lips . . .
there was a time they cost you nothing.
Firm breasts, tight buttocks . . . these were tokens
easily won when the race was just beginning.
Now you're soft all over.  Learn to love it!
After all, the young will never seek their comfort
from a stiff old crone.  Smile more, sing more,
dance your dance of softness and let yourself be Love.

Joanne Cucinello  2012

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trees of My Life

I look out my window and see you standing there, bending to the wind, Great Wise Trees  . . . enduring all, protecting all.  They tell me, at my birth, my mother laid me in a cradle made of wood.  You gave your life for me.
I learned to crawl on wooden floors, my tiny hands and knees frolicking on your body.  I grew to sit on a chair and eat from a table, both made of wood.  My fingers touched the grooves in your flesh and from early on, I wanted you near me, comforting and connecting me to earth.  At that table I ate berries and fruit that grew on your branches.  I ate pancakes too, and poured your golden maple sap . . . learning that you could feed me too.  You gave your life for me.
I went to school and there you were . . . all over . . . everywhere.  The floors, the walls, and desk I sat at . . . the words I learned to read were printed on the thinnest slivers of your flesh, papers written on with wooden pencils.  All the words we humans think in our minds are written on your flesh . . . Dear Trees, you must know our every thought by now.

When winter comes and days are cold and dark, we burn you to warm our bodies and our food and you become an offering.  Your smoke fills the air and rises to the heavens, calling out to the Great Spirit who created us both.  You give your life for me. 
I live inside your walls.  You are my shelter from the storms you bear and must
endure; my shelter from the sun and its scorching rays.  Your leaves of green refresh
my heart in spring and cool my brow in summer and your brilliance thrills my soul in

Now it is winter and your branches are barren..  Even the birds, who call you their
home, abandon you for lower bushes and warmer winds.  You stand stark and bare
and I can see now where you’ve been broken, your limbs that have fallen, and your
bark that is torn.  Some of you, Great Trees, have fallen; some have given your lives
and been chopped down to make once again, some comfort for me and my kind.
You give your life for me and I learn from all your changes and forms and seasons . . .
about my own life and my own seasons and how that calls for sacrifice too.

Man crossed the waters and the oceans in your body . . . boats and ships and oars.  We
have come to know our brothers on the other side because of you.  You gave your
life for us.I wonder as I look at your branches touching one another in the woods behind my home, do you feel each other, sending messages, vibrations, stories of the birds you love and the wind that tests you?  Do you talk about me and my children?  Have you seen the suffering of man and breathed it into your immense compassion, so much so that you agree to die for us, even to the point of being buried in the ground with us, cradling us, wrapping us in your arms when our days are over?  You are the cradle at our birth and the cradle in our death.  And you and I will decompose together in the womb of Mother Earth only to be born again in other forms, in other times, in other lives . . .

                                                            Joanne Cucinello

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

How Can This Be

 photo atonement.jpg
I am a wanderer
longing, searching
just like you

trying to find
the reason for
my being

here on earth
this planet floating

filled with light
and color
dreams and visions
music of the stars

How can this be
a grain of sand
a molecule . . .
stardust flitting
through the dark
night sky

I am all these things
and more
a particle of the

a song that
only I can sing

How glorious
this gift of presence
this moment
my life!

Joanne Cucinello © 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


In my Easter bonnet and brand new dress
I walked hand in hand with my Mom.
We were walking to church together
for the first time since Christmas Eve.

I often wondered in my little mind
why we only went to church
together on Christmas and Easter.
Every other Sunday
I went to the Children’s Mass and sat
with my classmates and Sister Mary Genuflect.

One day I asked Mom why she never came
except for those two days. 
I told her what Sister Mary Genuflect said
about Mom not going to be in heaven with me
because she didn’t go to Mass every week
and Mom just shook her head and kissed me.

One day, when I was just thirteen, my Mother left
and my parents got divorced.
When I tearfully told Sister Mary Genuflect what happened,
she gave me her words of wisdom and comfort:
“Well now . . . it’s up to you, dear, to get your parents
back together or they will spend eternity in hell . . .
apart from you forever.”

And then I knew why Mom only went to Church
on those two days and I marveled
that she even went at all.

Joanne Cucinello   2007

** That was many years ago.  
Words are very powerful when spoken down at children by authority figures,
especially those who claim to know the love and mercy of Christ,
but haven't got a clue.  They don't brush off the shoulders or fly away in the wind.
They etch their way into the heart and soul of a child and stain their innocence . . . so beware.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

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   

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