Sunday, October 1st – 2-3 pm
Eveline Kanes & MaryLee McNeal
poetry reading

Spindlermühle ((Czechoslovakia), 1930s

So clear that night
and still,
only the sound
of the horse’s hooves
on packed snow
and the sleigh’s bells
broke the silence,
our breaths mingled
with the horse’s steam
as we huddled under
a heavy blanket
my parents and I
alert to the brightness
of moon-lit sky,
so young, so long ago.

— Eveline Kanes

 

Hunger

From beside the house where grandmother was born
my daughter picked a wild rose, then pressed it
in a guidebook before it could dry and crumble.
The abandoned house has crumbled into the pasture,
like grandmother crumbled into arthritic, melancholy ruin
while she tended, like a turf fire, the memory of Cork.

We traveled in a car over a road meant for goats
to find our cousins—the children and grandchildren
of the ones who stayed through the hunger years.
Their welcome is warm, their smiles both shy and sly,
their speech hard for us to grasp and full of wry asides.
The table is set for a feast—good china, their own beef,
potatoes, cheese, breads, salads, wine, tea and sweets.
They mean to serve, to fill us, but not sit down beside us.
Course after course they insist we eat, watching–making sure
hunger is a word we’ll not again associate with them.
The ocean we’ve crossed still roils there, between us.

Now home in California, we keep trying to return
through talk and dreams to that place our ancestors left,
but we can’t get back. The image of ourselves there
flickers like a glimpse of blue sky through stone walls
of a ruined house. Memories of green fields and old rocks
mock us–our cousins’ smiles as they filled our teacups
again and again, urging us to take in more than we could hold.

My daughter glued the small rose, with other wildflowers
from hillsides and meadows there, onto a picture frame.
She put coat after coat of varnish over the once bright flowers.
Now I keep changing the picture in the frame: stone circle,
Bantry Bay, the ocean our grandparents crossed, the house
grandmother left, the landscape grandfather lost.

MaryLee McNeal
Santa Clara Review, 2003