Five Sentence Fiction: Foretold

Sluggish Bumblebee

The morning’s brilliant sunshine belied the cool air, but the bumblebee, sluggish at breakfast on the spent seed head, foretold the change to come. The season had been awaiting the moment and the moment was here, and even as the day warmed and the bees efficiently bumbled on their way, grand and beautiful clouds appeared on the horizon, slowly, quietly parading across the sky, their size and numbers more dense each hour until by afternoon the blue overhead was hung with dreamy cotton and the voice of the wind whispered high in the treetops of what was to come. The day grew darker and more quiet until by early evening all was so still and dim that when the first few whispering patters of rain began their sound was clear, though unintelligible, as if speaking a language, like that of the trees, not of this place.

The rain fell quietly all night, lovingly soaking the hardened earth of late summer until, sated, it slept. As the next morning dawned the rain slowed and stopped, the clouds parted and cleared in a reverse of their arrival the day before, leaving the sun to shine brilliantly in the blue dome of morning, but the heat was gone from the earth, once again, for another season.

~~~

I composed this story for a weekly writing challenge, “Five Sentence Fiction”. The keyword was “Breakfast”. I took “breakfast” as a time, not an event or a food because in the heat of August I was impatiently waiting for the season to change.

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Poem for Saturday: Balloons

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I had no explanation for
the exhilaration of color
floating above the street
undulating through the air
until caught on a utility pole
and identified as a bunch of colored balloons
held together with string
continuing to flutter and wave
against a perfect blue sky
that stopped me as I set out
worried and distracted
on a day of errands I’d rather not be running;
my brain perceived only colors
responded with joy to the distraction
as they moved overhead
and I stopped my car in the middle of the street, watching
as they enveloped the top of the pole, their strings tangled
and I pulled over, parked, left my car,
walked around them, watched them move, took many photos
forgot my worry
and as I drove away
was filled with the joy of colored balloons
against an azure sky.

The day was magic.
Later, they were gone without a trace.

poem copyright 2009 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

This really happened, amid a time of deep worry and sadness for me as I watched my mother’s mental condition deteriorate, knowing she’d soon need skilled care and be lost forever emotionally, then physically.

Though the day was an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in mid-November that felt so normal and even comforting, my errand was to transfer the last of my mother’s money to her bank account so that I could pay her next month’s board in the personal care home. After that her Social Security would not cover the cost. I knew she should be able to stay, regardless, but fighting that battle, after fighting so many other battles for her, seemed daunting. We were waiting for a benefit for her from the VA  which would cover the cost but might never come. And that was all moot because her mental and physical conditions were no longer appropriate for that personal care home anyway. She needed skilled nursing, and there was no money to pay for it.

I took off on my errand focused entirely on the problem, trembling a little and almost nauseated with worry, not at all like me but the escalating events, constant doctor visits and tests and medications to remember and recite to yet other doctors and calls from the personal care home to calm my mother down had totally filled my days and my thoughts. Then I saw the balloons.

I really did exactly as I described, let it take me away into my creative self, then got back into my car happy, laughing, trusting that worrying myself sick would not solve the problem and probably only make it worse. I transferred the money, dropped off the check, visited my mother, took her outside into the beautiful day, then spent several hours just driving around to my favorite spots to look at the landscape, to photograph, to paint, to just be, talked to people I met about other topics, spent a tiny amount of money on a salad in the diner and went home relaxed, exhausted and smiling with a couple hundred photos that I have noted in my folder of photos with the date and only the word “Saturday”. Whenever I scroll past it, I remember the day, the sun, the warmth, the resolution, the balloons.

The next two years were indeed a constant struggle for my mother and her care. Letting go of the worry on that day let me walk the rest of that path without the fear and pain and let me focus on the issue, to be present for my mother regardless of other problems, and still run my business, have my life, and move on to resolve.


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Photo Short Story: When We Courted at Evening

They meet.
He waits.
He waits.

I remember when we courted, when I would sneak down to the tracks by the creek right after dinner, just around the bend from where my parents were settling down for the night, and wait for you.

She arrives.
She arrives.

My heart would skip a beat when I saw you there, waiting for me, I almost flew to your side but thought I should be careful, not knowing you all that well, yet each time I saw your silhouette my love was stronger and I knew you were the one.

They meet.
They meet.

And what silly things did we do but talk about the weather, and what we’d done that day, and what our siblings were doing, and circle around each other and peck at the gravel as if the world hadn’t suddenly stopped turning because we were together.

Talking.
Talking.

Just a few minutes, we never wanted to draw attention, but when I saw the shadows creeping farther and farther across the tracks I knew I had to start back for home to be back by dusk.

Into infinity.
Into infinity.

Who would think, all these years and all these children, and I still carry these memories of you walking to see me in the warm evening light.

Just being together.
Just being together.

~~~

I composed this photo story for a weekly writing challenge, “Five Sentence Fiction”. I took this series of photos walking on Main Street one spring evening recently, where the tracks cross the street and run along the creek where I walk nearly every day, and yet at the right angle they look completely isolated from civilization. I saw the one goose, then a female came to meet him—at a distance I can only tell them from one another by size when male and female are side by side—and they looked and acted so much like a couple of awkward teenagers. I used my 70-300mm zoom lens so I could focus on them and give a little blur to the surroundings; unfortunately in the light it was difficult to see if I was focusing on the geese and in some photos I was focusing on the tracks just in front of them. No matter, I saw a story right away and knew I could even use those photos. The evening light gave the scene an antique look. Then I waited for the keyword that would work for them.

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Poem for Saturday: Before the Change

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Whispering together high overhead
against a cloud-riding sky
the gentle patter of leaves in the wind
of a coming storm
is to be remembered as they are
at the height of their fullness
before the blaze of autumn color
marks the beginning of their end.

poem copyright 2011 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

~~~

A weather front often affects the conditions far above the earth. If you listen you can hear the leaves in the treetops whispering of the change to come long before it will affect us, and sometimes I seem to hear actual words, though I know it’s just my human senses forming the sounds into a familiar pattern. But these trees know it’s an autumn storm to come, and soon their green leaves will turn to gold and red and bronze. We are enchanted by autumn colors, but they find their true identity when they are still green and strong.

There is always more to another’s  life than we know in our experience of them.


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Poem for Saturday: Clouds

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Roiling clouds blown by winds
Before a summer thunderstorm,
Huge constructions in purple and blue
And lurid green tinged with coral.

The delicate lace of a fair summer day,
Puffs and wisps in white and cream
Shaded with lilac and blue
And edged in yellow.

Hazy wisps in autumn
Moving slowly from one horizon to the next,
Never amounting to much.

The heavy purple rainclouds of a late spring afternoon
Looming on the horizon
Shadowing the early wan sun
And promising a rainy night.

The approach of the first storm of winter
As flat gray clouds form in the west,
In their shadow bringing the first reminder
Of the eternal cold of year’s end.

poem copyright 2000 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


I’ve always loved the language of the sky. I grew up on top of a hill where I could see lots of sky in all directions. Though we lived in a suburban development the open sky was freedom from all the congestion below, and I watched them march overhead, across the valley, in all seasons. Watching the sky was like watching the facial expressions of a deity.

When I had my first solo art exhibit, in addition to the artwork, I worked my writing into the exhibit by pairing images with poems or essays or statements to make little flyers that I could print out on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and mount on the wall. Even though no line in the poem describes the painting, I used the poem Clouds with the purple clouds of an autumn rain looming over the bright trees surrounding a waterway in “Autumn”, part of the four seasons series of paintings.

Clouds, poem for display.
Clouds, poem for display.

You can read about the exhibit and the series of paintings as well as my integration of my visual and literary works in The Extraordinary in the Ordinary.


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After the Flood

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Dedicated to the people and places of the Chartiers Valley after the flood of September 17, 2004

After a day of rain
the creek has been rising
and by night it thunders down its channel
writhing around its curves like a medieval dragon,
pulling at its banks and anything overhanging,
carrying whatever it can grasp along the way,
and I have seen this creature before
in the creek’s rise and fall,
now tamed by engineering,
filling its channel to the brim, then receding
each spring and summer
and not felt threatened but fascinated
by its power, power not of humans,
power to change absolutely to a form
unrecognizable from its usual character,
yet always returning to the quiet,
sleepy nature which I had explored from childhood.

But I am remembering another night
when the creek refused to stop at its brim
but spilled over and over and over,
thundering down all the hillsides came its sustenance
tributaries filling their valleys as never before,
rushing to join with the writhing creature,
mixing and turning and thrashing and smashing anything in its path
so drunk with its own power
that it forgot all those who loved it,
who lived on its banks and in its valleys,
listened to its soft murmuring voice in the darkness of a summer night,
but even as I pleaded with the creature to stop, it had gone too far,
my friend, my refuge, how could you betray me,
I knew that the creek would not listen,
it was no creature gone on a rampage
it was simply following its nature, and this one time
it defeated our intelligence with its simple power
and all our homes, possessions, lives
were nothing in its path.

The next day the beast no longer raged,
the sun shone and the air was mild,
and the autumn continued like any autumn before,
but we were changed, all of us,
the long journey ahead, longer than we knew
and our place here will never be the same.

poem copyright © 2008 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

September 17, 2004

On September 17, 2004, Hurricane Ivan stayed a little too long in our valley, dumping torrents of rain on our hillsides, already sodden from the visits of three other hurricane remnants in the month prior.

I’d watched Chartiers Creek flood from the time I was a child, and not only did I go to the Catholic school just blocks from the creek but my father’s family lived in the flood plain and nearly every spring there was water in the basement and in the streets, and we would drive to the bridge over the creek at Carothers Avenue and watch the thundering brown water writhe just below our feet on the walkway of the bridge.

When I was young, I was near enough to a bend in this creek to leave our house on the hill and run down through the old pasture to the valley below, along the road and the railroad tracks and to the creek, walking alongside its rippling path or even in the creek bed in the dryness of midsummer. In the late 70s an engineered solution to control the floods dredged and widened the channel, and for 35 years, there were no floods at all, the pollution in the creek from all the industries along its banks cleared up, and we watched the native flora and fauna return as we canoed the channel. Those ramblings with my friend, the creek, have been the inspiration for much of my creative efforts in landscape painting and photography, my poetry and stories, and became the theme for my series of poetry readings and the title of the very first, as well as the folio of my poetry, Paths I Have Walked.

So this flood was a huge shock. We heard later the flood control plan had protected us up to a “100-year flood”, and many of these had passed with no flooding, but the flood we’d experienced was a “500-year flood”, and indeed in all the memories and records of floods in Carnegie, the water had never been this high, rising in a matter of hours in the afternoon and into the night to fill the first floor of some homes on low ground, and as high as eight feet in some areas of Main Street, wiping out nearly every business along Main Street for up to three months.

The flood changed us all. Many people and businesses took years to recover, and some of them never truly recovered at all. My godparents lived in the family’s fine house that had weathered so many floods but floodwater had never entered the first floor, and at their age they were trapped on the second floor with no power, their portable oxygen running low. Though they were rescued and lived with a daughter for a month while we cleaned up the house for them to move back, it was temporary as they realized the house was difficult for them, and they moved to an apartment a few months later.


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September 11, and September 12, 2001

September 12, 2001
September 12, 2001
September 12, 2001

September 11

Aside from being in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, I am nowhere near New York or Washington DC. I am, however, barely an hour away from Shanksville. On the hot sunny morning of September 11, 2001 I was just finishing early morning work in my garden and yard when the first plane hit the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Thinking it was an unfortunate accident I continued listening to the radio for details and shortly thereafter heard that a second plane had hit the South Tower and knew instinctively, as I’m sure we all did, that it was no accident.

My radar for tragedy was sensitized; just a few months before my mother had unexpectedly nearly died after lung cancer surgery, held on for six weeks then miraculously awakened from a near-coma one day and gone on to recover, rehabilitate and return home. The previous year my brother had suffered a traumatic brain injury in an accident. I was integral to their recoveries and care, and my carefully-planned self-employment was unraveling.

When I heard the news just before 9:00 a.m. that a plane had hit the World Trade Center, I was out on my garden patio by the basement door, putting another coat of paint on some vintage wooden chairs I used on my deck before winter would peel the last of it off. I always worked in my garden and did small projects early in the day to make sure they got done before I hit my computer, and to make sure I didn’t hit the computer as soon as I got up and stayed on it all day long. It was a hot, sticky late summer morning, my verdant garden a green jungle, birds twittering everywhere stocking up for migration and winter, and work waiting for me indoors. The first report was that it was likely an accident, planes had hit buildings in the past. Then the second plane hit the other tower, and even though we had no proof it seems we all knew it was intentional. Everyone in the area was looking at the towers at that point and saw the direction, the turn, the increase in speed prior to hitting the tower, and suddenly a perfect morning had turned unreal.

After the plane hit the Pentagon, I put Moses, my garden cat, inside the basement, much to her consternation, as if she needed to be protected from what might be happening, and as the story grew I thought of my mother and brother and if I should get them and put them somewhere just to make sure they were safe too. Everything seemed suddenly slightly askew.

Jets fly overhead all the time. I have lived in the flight path for Pittsburgh International Airport all my life and close enough to an Air Force base and not only do they fly overhead, they circle and slow down and make noise and fly at crazy angles as they come in for a landing. A noisy plane flying low overhead is something I didn’t even notice. But two planes had just hit the two towers of the World Trade Center and a third had hit the Pentagon. I suddenly noticed that the sky was very quiet for that time of the morning.

Then in the growing quiet, in that empty perfect clear blue September sky, a single plane went overhead and my hackles rose, a cold tingle running to my fingers on that warm morning as I watched it seeming to struggle through the sky overhead. Shortly thereafter we heard about the crash in Shanksville and I imagined the comforting familiarity of perfect green rolling hills of my Western Pennsylvania home bathed in morning sun, now wrenched open and strewn with the wreckage of violence.

I hurried inside, no longer feeling safe under that warm blue sky. I thought of my mother in her home about a mile and a half away, just back from several months in various hospitals after lung cancer surgery that unexpectedly nearly killed her. She was still weak and needed daily assistance for most activities, many prescriptions and home oxygen. If all this was suddenly disrupted, what would I do? Should I go to her house now? Should I try to get her to a more secure place, like a hospital?

And my brother was in a nursing home 30 miles north of me, continuing his recovery from a traumatic brain injury the previous year, also requiring a lot of daily care, medications and supervision. Should I try to move him closer? What if I couldn’t get to him?

And my sister a few miles away with her younger daughter and grandchild? And my niece and her three babies, one of them just six days old, a few miles in the other direction? Should we all find a place to go?

Anyone else would have run for the television, but I didn’t have one then, and I don’t have one now, so I never got to see the very first images that showed up on CNN that morning, heard the fear in the newscasters’ voices. I listened to the familiar voices of the local and NPR reporters describing the events on my radio, feeling calmer listening to their words and being able to move around my house than I would have being trapped in front of a television.

Did any of us know what to do in those first hours and days, even those of us so far from the terrible scenes of death and destruction more horrible than we could imagine?

It wasn’t until the gentle, perfect beauty of September 12 that the effects of what had happened became reality. I live very near Pittsburgh International Airport and at the intersection of two interstates right outside of Pittsburgh, and hear the noises of all this traffic every day, especially in the morning. The next day, with travel restricted on land and in the air, was so eerily quiet. The beauty of the warm sun and clear blue sky, the peaceful twitters of birds and hum of bees we could rarely hear with traffic and daily noises, the clear views of the tree-covered hills made the morning seem like paradise at first but became unnerving as the hours of daylight passed and we had no more of our questions answered, nor know the extent of the damage and death as it was still unfolding in all three areas.

Perhaps those perfect September days were given to calm us before we learned how our lives had changed.

September 12

Today looks no different from yesterday
but forever against the backdrop of a blue September sky
we will now remember the loss of our innocence.

September 11 was a blur of images and fears and unknowns, and for me it wasn’t until September 12 dawned and brightened into another seemingly perfect September day, blue sky and all, that what had happened, and the permanent change it brought, really settled in.

poem September 12 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


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My Own Labor History

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First published in 2013

When I was a senior in high school I began my first full-time job as a cook at a local deli, Isaly’s in Pittsburgh. Working part-time nights and weekends until graduation I trained in the day cook’s position of opening the kitchen at 6:00 am to cook the lunch entrée and heat up the soups, open the doors of the shop at 7:00 am for the first customers wanting coffee and a pastry or a brown bag lunch to go, serve meals and beverages and offer counter help at all the stations as needed, plan the weekly lunch specials and soups and order accordingly, also using leftovers, with as little waste as possible, keeping the kitchen and walk-in freezer clean, and deep frying 50 pounds of fish every Friday for a community that still observed this particular weekly fasting menu. Whew!

For this I was paid my full-time wage of $3.50 per hour for all the hours I worked and was an apprentice member of the Hotel, Motel, Bar and Club Workers’ Union, a subsidiary of the United Food and Commercial Workers’ Union, which ensured that my employer gave me what he’d promised—a reasonable schedule for a high school student, maintaining the hours and wages agreed upon, full training for the job I would undertake, and the ability to question or file complaint if anything didn’t meet the standards we’d discussed when I was hired. In addition, the union as well as the shop oversaw my performance, that I learned what I needed to and worked as expected. I guess I did because when I graduated in June the day cook could finally retire as I undertook her 40 hours of weekly duties and also became a full union member, and received full health and life insurance benefits, guaranteed raises and vacation, pension, plus all other union benefits of assistance with further training in my field and the ability to file grievance if I felt one was necessary, and my employer could also appeal to the union if they felt my performance wasn’t adequate.

Now that’s job security.

It was 1979, minimum wage in Pennsylvania was $2.90 per hour. Using the US government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics calculator for wages and inflation, my full-time wages of $3.50 per hour today translate to $11.26 per hour. My 1979 annual salary of $7,280.00 translates today to $23,423.95. Out of my wages I paid $20.00 monthly union dues, but all the rest after taxes was mine, and with that amount of income I could have moved out of my parents’ house into my own place and started my life as an adult, purchased my own clothes, food and necessities, bought a car and other commodities, and even managed to save a portion of it for retirement, a house, vacation, or even investment. In other words, I could live independently on the salary from a fairly unskilled job with training right out of high school. There were other, better jobs as well that required more effort and paid better, I had my choice. In my little spot in the world, nearly everyone was a union member, and a choice such as this had begun many a life-long career that raised many families, bought many houses, paid for millions of college educations and built the strongest economy in the world.

My choice

What I decided to do with that money was invest in my college education. At the same time that I’d applied for the job at Isaly’s I’d also applied, very late, to a state college, urged on by my high school guidance counselor, and been accepted; I’m not sure, but I think I took my SATs when I applied and got my results just in time. While there were, and still are, a dozen viable colleges and universities in Pittsburgh as well as dozens more trade schools and even other union apprenticeships where I could have attended while living at home, my guidance counselor gently pointed me to Edinboro State College, close enough to be easy to get to and full of students from Pittsburgh but far enough that I would have to live there, because they had a good art program and I could also have the option of a teaching degree with their long history as one of the state’s oldest teachers’ colleges. I didn’t have terribly good grades or SAT scores and no distinguishing activities at all aside from the fact I’d always been praised by teachers for my art and writing, but the school wanted students, and also had the lowest tuition of all the colleges in the Pennsylvania state college system at the time. It was perfect for me, beginner that I was.

My parents wavered between ignoring the idea and disdain at the idea I wanted to go to college. My father, we learned a few years later, had Parkinson’s disease, never said much and reactions were barely detectable, but my mother laughed and said I could try this but I’d probably come right back home; I was a minor so they signed my application at least. I don’t remember the reaction when I received my acceptance letter, probably because I’d rather not remember, but my mother was further angered when, while I’d dutifully signed over all other income from part-time jobs and even grass-cutting from the age of 14, I went to one of the banks on Main Street in Carnegie and opened a bank account, depositing my paychecks and learning from the teller how to manage the register and write checks. I actually didn’t think about the impact on my mother, it just made sense.

I paid my fees to the college, bought myself a set of luggage, some clothes, a winter coat and boots for life in what I heard was the “snow belt”, and a backpack, which seemed to be de rigueur for all college students and kept all the rest of the money in the bank. My parents filled out my financial aid forms, though after my first semester I declared myself independent of them and completed them myself. My boyfriend drove me up for Initiation Day just before he left for Air Force boot camp, and I told my employer about my change of plans.

Through the rest of the summer I worked and trained my replacement. On the day I left for college my mother stayed in bed while I piled all my stuff into the back seat of my father’s olive-green Impala and he drove me up, dropped me off, gave me the only hug I remember in all my life, and went back home. After attending four years, including summers, working five or six part-time jobs on and off campus the entire time, taking the bus home only for occasional holidays, making a fair number of misguided mistakes as well as good decisions, I graduated with 178 credits out of a necessary 120 to graduate, only $700 in student loan debt and a BA in English, but I learned much more than grammar and a love of Shakespeare.

Coming back

The world had changed dramatically during those four years as the steel industry and most of the economy in Pittsburgh had totally collapsed. Within years jobs like the one I’d had at Isaly’s no longer existed, and unskilled beginning jobs were non-union, often taken up by unemployed adults, and wages stagnated. For nearly a decade all jobs were uncertain, layoffs were common—I was laid off four times in my first three years out of college—and population dropped as people left for jobs elsewhere until Pittsburgh found its feet again, in education, health care, and hi-tech development and manufacturing.

I didn’t have the chance to go on with the education I’d planned, to teach English and comparative arts at the college level and become an artist and writer in my own right; soon after I’d graduated my father injured himself at his lifetime occupation as a baker in small family bakeries, was diagnosed with lung cancer and Parkinson’s disease and both parents needed assistance of all sorts. I worked any job I could find and began freelancing even then, and by the time my parents’ situation had stabilized with my father in a nursing home and my mother settled in the house but with a car and a drivers’ license, I had some debt to remove and, after a lot of deliberation, decided not to return to school but to try to make a career out of what I could do already. After many twists and turns both in and out of my field, I ended up being a typesetter for nearly 20 years as well as installing ceiling fans for cash and decorating malls and painting signs and all else I could make out of what I’d learned in college and afterward, here I am, self-employed as an artist and writer, and now and then I get to teach something.

My personal labor history

As a young person I was able to begin the course of my adult life by choosing between a skilled job at a living wage or a college education and what that could bring me later. The minimum wage (or even the 1979 server wage of $1.81 per hour plus tips) and slightly higher wage for skilled labor were each living wages and I could either start my career right then or work my way through college because my wages could sustain those choices.

I won’t bemoan the opportunities that are no longer available. The world changes as time passes, and hopefully the changes bring not only different but better opportunities, the things to which we are accustomed are replaced with things that make our lives better and easier, education matches the needs of society and its work force. But the days of working your way through college with a bunch of part-time jobs, or being able to live independently right out of high school, are so far out of reach it must seem to most people that there really are no choices, and no place to go. I was glad for the choice of an unskilled career job that enabled me to learn true independence, save money, and help me set sail, and I’m also glad for the college degree I could afford and without which I would have ended up living in my parents’ basement for the following decades. Today, I would not have the choices I had 34 years ago, and would certainly not have had the courage to make the decision I did to go to a four-year college and see what happened. How can you look forward to your life when your future seems out of reach and unaffordable? What do determined dreamers like me do? I’m not sure, but we need to find a place in the labors of our society for everyone.


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Poem for Saturday: Field of Grass

Summerfield, pastel, 10 x 12 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

A field of grass,
Never still, never silent,
Responding as one being to wind and weather,
Rippling in breezes, dancing in rain,
Changing each moment in its fervent march
To ripened maturity;

In the spring, new bright green velvet
Covers hillsides,
Undulating in capricious spring breezes,
Laying flat to reveal the shining silk beneath,
And cast with shadows of clouds moving quickly
Over hillside and valley;

In June, tall and deep green
With eager pale seed heads
Standing tall and youthful,
Dancing carelessly in storm winds and evening breezes;

In the amber of late summer
Under the relentless faded August sun,
It stands in simple primitive beauty
At the moment of its ripe maturity,
Whispering in anticipation
Of the end of its journey.

poem copyright 2000 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


Growing up on the remains of a recent dairy farm I spent quite a bit of time in the steep hillside pasture, barren of cows, grass growing taller than me in some places. The grasses themselves, like water, had a collective presence that I always felt I was walking among.

When I had my first solo art exhibit, in addition to the artwork, I worked my writing into the exhibit by pairing images with poems or essays or statements to make little flyers that I could print out on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and mount on the wall. I used the poem Field of Grass with the ripened late summer field from Settler’s Cabin Park that I’d stood in the middle of the old park road to sketch on a piece of Canson pastel paper, watching the sun and shadow move across, watching the stalks wave together and whisper like a clique of teenagers .

Poem, "Field of Grass", and painting.
Poem, “Field of Grass”, and painting.

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Poem for Saturday: August 28, 1941

My mother and her friend Martha in the summer of 1941.
My mother and her friend Martha in the summer of 1941.
My mother and her friend Martha in the summer of 1941.

Bits and pieces from The Pittsburgh Press, evening edition, August 28, 1941

1935 Ford sedan for $95.

’33 Auburn Sedan for only $5.68 per month.

Cary Grant’s Mexican jaunt to invest $300,000 in silver mines there.

Fred Astaire is building a private golf course on his San Diego County ranch.

Steelers Make Guard Out of Dan Williams, Texas Tackle.

LifeGuard tires save lives, money, rubber.

America’s snapshots better than ever…most of them made on Kodak Verichrome film—to those in Service, send the news of your new life in the Nation’s service with the portable form of snapshots.

New York Central System, Travel in comfort, every Sunday to Cleveland $2.50.

Mt. Lebanon, New, 6 rooms, 2-1/2 baths, brick, large wooded lot, $9,600.

I can give you my word that Roosevelt, the man, has a deep personal hatred for war. Roosevelt, the president, has the task of carrying American Democracy forward under God against any resistance.~Rear Admiral Richard E. Byrd.

Pirates Run Over Phillies, 12-2.

College days are with us again as students across the nation start cutting rugs and classes.

At the “New Carnegie Theater”, Carnegie, PA, Cary Grant, James Stewart in “Philadelphia Story”, also Cartoons and News.

Hitler’s Broken Promises Occupy Nearly 1,000 pages in his own words—“My New Order” from Reynal and Hitchcock.

Ten Homewood children, between the ages of 7 and 12, held a lawn fete last Friday afternoon at the corner of Gettysburg and Edgerton Streets for the benefit of the Milk and Ice Fund. Today The Press received the proceeds, $3.57.

Among the novelty high shoes this season is one of black patent leather having bowknot patterns showing an underlay of white kid.

And when we witness the downfall of dictatorship—what then? A world union of self-governing peoples to guarantee and enforce peace.~Associate Justice Owen Roberts, U.S. Supreme court.

Today’s newspaper boy, tomorrow’s leader—When Robert S. Bogda, son of Mr. and Mrs. S. H. Bogda of McKees Rocks, finishes high school, he intends to go into the steel mill with his father. He is the junior merchant who delivers The Pittsburgh Press daily and Sunday to subscribers around Ridge Avenue. Bob likes to travel and also runs errands for neighbors to augment his fund for travel.

A program that is heralded as the world’s first all-Negro opera will be previewed on KDKA at 8:30 tonight as Negro performers from all over America perform selections from “Celeste Aida”.

Bellevue couple welcomes twin girls.

But did anyone see the storm darkening the horizon?

poem copyright 2008 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


Several years ago I pulled several things from a pile of trash at a house that was about to go up for sale. I have no qualms and no embarrassment about this because I often find not only useful items, but also things that in their own way are deeply inspiring and have been the subject of poems and short stories.

One of the items I found in this particular pile was a large oval wicker basket with handles, darkened with age. I’d call it a laundry basket, and that is what I used it for, except that it was padded in the bottom with a hand-stitched muslin “cushion” that was filled with newspapers, and this cushion was in turn hand-stitched to the reeds of which the basket was woven. A testament to the durability of things made years ago, the fabric was still sound, though dirty, and not a thread was broken on the heavy “shoemaker thread” that held it together.

The newspapers were just folded and torn pages of the Pittsburgh Press from August 28, 1941, ripped into large squares and folded to fit the makeshift cushion. I pictured a large dog who loved his bed.

I of course began to read the newspaper pages, and was intrigued at the mix of items included from news, features, shorts, ads and classifieds. Noting the date, just a few months before the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and our official entry into WWII, I wondered what had happened to all those mentioned in the stories. Behind a sunny image of the back porch of a white Victorian house with a woman in a 1941 house dress covered by an apron leaning down to feed a big happy dog I saw a dark cloud rising over the hill of houses behind. Instead of a painting, I wrote a poem from the strength of the image I visualized, and have since written a short story, not quite ready for publication.

In 1941 my father was 22 years old, my mother was 16, and the war molded their lives as it did all Americans and the country itself. My father volunteered early the next spring, and I shared this poem and posted a portion of the group photo including him at boot camp at Camp Lee, VA in June 1942on Pearl Harbor Day.

Today, so close to the actual date, I’m sharing a photo I found of my mother from the summer of 1941; she’s the one on the right. The lives of both her and her friend Martha were about to change dramatically as they finished high school during the first year of the war, said goodbye to so many childhood friends who went off to war and came back dramatically changed or not at all, they scrimped and saved and recycled and conserved for the war effort immediately following the deprivations of the Great Depression, and their futures changed forever with the tide in the following four years.

And looking at the social and political climate of today, I wonder if there is a cloud on our horizon to darken our days in the coming months..


Read more:   Essays   ♦  Short Stories  ♦  Poetry

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

SUPPORT MY WRITING

Visit my PATREON page.

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