third eye…

Skinny-Dipping in Vathy
by Barbara Quick

Above the azure inlet of the sea,
the path was steep, carved out between
the thistles, thorns and wind-blown rock.

He left her at the top to find a sheltered place
they wouldn’t be seen descending to the shore.
She waited, fully clothed there,
till, looking down, she saw his gleaming skin
and upturned face above the churning deep,
as if he’d changed from man to seal
and loved this transformation.

She shed her clothes and picked her way
as far down as she could on tender feet—
then took a leap of faith, exchanging rock
for empty air, a rush of cold and bubbles
in her hair. Her toes touched seaweed
as she swam toward her selkie mate.

Two naked, slippery people,
seventy and sixty-five,
feeling so alive and filled with joy,
treading water side by side in the extra-salty,
turquoise blue Aegean Sea, rich in iodine,
with the power to heal
all kinds of wounds.

They tasted salt and kissed,
two shipwrecked sailors
who’d managed to survive.

Barbara Quick, “Skinny-Dipping in Vathy” from The Light on Sifnos. Published by Blue Light Press. © 2021 Barbara Quick.

skinny dipping…

abundance

Skinny-Dipping in Vathy
by Barbara Quick

Above the azure inlet of the sea,
the path was steep, carved out between
the thistles, thorns and wind-blown rock.

He left her at the top to find a sheltered place
they wouldn’t be seen descending to the shore.
She waited, fully clothed there,
till, looking down, she saw his gleaming skin
and upturned face above the churning deep,
as if he’d changed from man to seal
and loved this transformation.

She shed her clothes and picked her way
as far down as she could on tender feet—
then took a leap of faith, exchanging rock
for empty air, a rush of cold and bubbles
in her hair. Her toes touched seaweed
as she swam toward her selkie mate.

Two naked, slippery people,
seventy and sixty-five,
feeling so alive and filled with joy,
treading water side by side in the extra-salty,
turquoise blue Aegean Sea, rich in iodine,
with the power to heal
all kinds of wounds.

They tasted salt and kissed,
two shipwrecked sailors
who’d managed to survive.

Barbara Quick, “Skinny-Dipping in Vathy” from The Light on Sifnos. Published by Blue Light Press. © 2021 Barbara Quick. 

It’s the birthday of the man who said, “Live in the sunshine, swim in the sea, drink the wild air.” That’s Ralph Waldo Emerson (books by this author), born in Boston (1803). His father, who died when Ralph was eight, was a Unitarian minister, as were many of Emerson’s family members before him. He was a quiet and well-behaved young man, not an exceptional student. He graduated in the middle of his class, studied at Harvard Divinity School, and got a job as a ministerial assistant at Boston’s Second Church. Not long after his ordination, he was married. He was happy at home and in his work and soon he was promoted to senior pastor.
Two years after Emerson was married, his wife, Ellen, died of tuberculosis at the age of 19. He was devastated. He began to have doubts about the Church. A year after Ellen’s death, he wrote in his journal, “I have sometimes thought that, in order to be a good minister, it was necessary to leave the ministry. The profession is antiquated. In an altered age, we worship in the dead forms of our forefathers.” He took a leave of absence and went on vacation in the mountains of New Hampshire. By the time he returned he had decided to resign from his position as minister.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

The Poetry Almanac 5/25/21

conjuring nana’s braid…

the chestnut-colored braid 
my mother showed me

Conjuring Nana


by

Barbara Quick

I learned how to make Nana’s chicken soup
 by shadowing her steps in the kitchen,
taking notes on a white paper napkin.
A cauldron of sorts is required, as well as a
 once-animate chicken submerged above
 the stove’s blue flame.
“You put in the onions,” Nana said, 
her Russian accent as fresh as the breeze 
must have felt on her face when she debarked
 at Ellis Island in 1916 or so.
“How much salt?” I wanted to know—
and when she shrugged I could see 
a palimpsest of the girl she was at my age.
The water boiled and the air filled with steam. Not offering an answer in words,
 she poured salt into her upturned palm
 and tipped it out into the pot.
No measuring cups for my Nana.
“A little this, a little that,” she’d say, 
cocking her head, adding a pinch of black pepper
 and copious piles of carrots and celery.
I thought about the chestnut-colored braid
 my mother showed me, wrapped in a piece of sea-green silk.
 Nana was beautiful when she was young.
 Everyone said so.
Cleaning a leek, she told me, “I don’t know
 what it’s called, but it makes the soup good.”
Sixty-four now and all my elders dead, 
I add a parsnip as well, just as I watched Nana do,
and I feel the velvet touch of her hands on my forehead.
All the old people I knew
 spoke English with sounds borrowed 
from Russian and Polish, Yiddish and Romanian.
 I assumed, as a girl, that I would speak like that, too,
when my hair turned gray and the pads of my thumbs
 grew soft and pillowy.
Gathering parsley for the soup from my garden, 
I seem to hear Nana saying my name
 made rich with her guttural R’s and broad A’s.
“Bahbra, dahlink!” the birds are singing today.
I boil Manischewitz noodles, only adding them
 to the bowl when I ladle out Nana’s love.
Golden and gleaming with fat,
as bejeweled as the star-filled sky must have looked
 when, shipboard, she tipped her kerchiefed head back 
and filled her eyes
with all the dazzling possibilities,
and all the dangers, of a new place,
a new language, a new land. Her favorite brother waiting for her with his Romanian wife.
The brother-in-law she’d marry.
Twenty-seven years following the end
 of Nana’s life, her love fills me up 
and restores me. 

Barbara Quick, “Conjuring Nana.”

© 2021 Barbara Quick. Used by permission.

 

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