Winter’s Child

Winter’s Child

By: Heather Nanni

Born as snow fell with winter in his soul

he welcomes her.

As soft flakes fall from charcoal skies

he listens to her whispered messages

carried by winds that rattle frozen branches

and cast their icy coats onto the frozen ground,

playing the sound of tinkling bells.

And he presses his nose against frosted window panes

and peers inside the warm homes

aglow with firelight.

And he understands that too.

But he is winter’s child

and with her he will play on the other side.

Outside where those within splendid homes

understand him.

My Anxious Friend

This morning he came back-pounding

on my chest-frantic

for me to hear him

to let him out

to let him in.

.

He was in earnest,

desperate to tell me something-

dreadful.

.

So much he had to say about the days

past, present

and future.

About mistakes and missteps and things

and how they should have

could have

been.

About what went wrong

all the while

beating that song

with his insistent drum

into my chest.

.

He had to tell me

he had to say

what must be done

today.

Preemptive measures to

preempt any future displeasures

.

His hammering

so persuasive

I thought-

briefly-

I considered letting him in.

Perhaps he could warn me

help me

prevent some distant but impending

disaster.

.

So I sat

by the window

coffee in hand

and thought.

.

Until the little one came

to disrupt my moment

and said,

“The bunnies think the snow is ice cream.”

and asked,

“Can you make turkey pancakes?”

.

There in an instant

all became clear

And I made my decision

.

Taking a deep breath

I sent my friend away.

There is no place for him

in a world of ice cream snow

and turkey pancakes.

The Mad Queen

The Mad Queen

By: Heather Nanni

The mad queen

reigned supreme.

For fifty years they did her bidding.

.

Said the sage,

She will age

and time will be just, not forgiving.”

.

“All will know.

Madness shows

when no longer masked by flawless skin.”

.

What fools they all were

to listen to her.

Mark this-the obedient never win. 

Mid-November Rose

Mid-November Rose

By: Heather Nanni

Mid November 1 Not 9

The hour has almost arrived

when the first snow will fall.

It’s shimmering beauty

will bring you death.

Mid November 2

Even still, you stand tall, regal

among your fallen comrades.

In you I see no fear-

only defiance.

Mid November 3 Alternate

Seized by fallen leaves.

The gray tide of winter engulfing the sky.

You remain-

alone and brave.

Mid November 4

You sprout new life

in the face of impending death.

And we are awed by your courage.

Mid November 5

Do you mourn your fate

that you will perish in your prime

while your sisters withered with old age?

Mid-November 6

In the face of the end

you have never been more beautiful, radiant, alive.

Mid November 3

 

Do you know?

Do you know?

You must-

and yet here we find you.

Mid November 8

Poised-

A final reminder that beauty resides in this place.

Mid-November 1

And as you hold strong

Willing the storm to pass

We too pray

for the courage to do the same.

Heart

We are told to be mindful and still

to sit quiet, listen and just be.

But I do not feel alive until

the fire burns hot within me.

Heart, mind and body compose the self.

Fragmented the self cannot exist.

Banish the heart to the outside shelf

and the true self can never persist.

Of the self’s parts, the heart reigns supreme.

Her delicate visage belies her strength.

Her power, part of the gods’ greater scheme-

but for fear, we keep her at arm’s length.

Well, why be so unflappably cool?

Must our feelings be weighed and measured?

Are we so afraid to play the fool

that we deny the self the heart’s great pleasure?

Why not rage and laugh and cry?

Why not let the pulse of music beat at our hearts until tears fall from our eyes?

Why not gnash our teeth when we hear innocents’ cries?

Why not feel anger so deep we can only scream?

Why not laugh until tears flow in a stream?

It is not the mind’s duty to modulate the heart.

The tyrant mind deceives itself.

Feelings denied and disguised fester beneath the surface of the skin until we break

and the gods laugh.

All Saints’ Day-1985

There is something about this time of year that always gets me thinking about the past, specifically autumn of 1985.  I was entering into the second year of my seven-year exile on prison grounds, and, sadly, I was no happier than I was the year prior.  I was starting a new school for the second time since our relocation, and, despite my protestations, my parents decided it would be best to send me to a Parochial school rather than the local junior high.  So, in September I donned my Catholic school uniform and made the long walk down the hill to the main road where I boarded the bus.  It was a seemingly endless journey to my new school, past prisons and tobacco fields, until we reached the “industrial” side of town where the bus deposited me at the entrance of a very small school.

There’s just nothing like entering a new school in the seventh grade, especially when it’s the kind of school where all the students have been together in the same tiny class since kindergarten.  And this school, situated in the center of an ethnic neighborhood, was not in the type of community that saw many newcomers.  It was a Polish school, and, as I would soon learn, Polish was often spoken, not during instruction but at other times- between teachers, teachers and students, the students themselves.  This would have been  fine…except for the fact that I am not Polish. I just felt tremendously out-of-place.  It was disorienting.

Well, that year I was not the only unfortunate to be starting seventh grade at my new school.  There was a group of families from a neighboring town that also migrated to this school and parish.  They were unique bunch, each family consisting of anywhere between seven to nine children. As it turned out, these families had been banished from their local Catholic church for participating in “cult-like” activities.  Apparently, they believed that the second coming of Jesus Christ was imminent and that he would  be  returning their rural town.  Years later, when, out of curiosity,  I researched this group, I  was horrified to learn of the deviance of some of its members.  But, at the time, that was not common knowledge.  All anyone knew was that they seemed a bit strange.

Anyway, being a new kid is school stinks, especially when you are eleven years old.  And new kids gravitate to other new kids.  So, when the new kids from the neighboring town offered me their friendship, I gratefully accepted.  Of course there was always something different about my new friends, although I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was.  They were just so unlike the kids I hung out with from back home.  My old friends and I all came from similar backgrounds.  We were middle and working class and lived in either tiny 1940’s capes or 1970’s ranches.  We went to school and girl scouts together.  We were silly and had fun. I remember laughing…a lot…about ridiculous things.  We ran through backyards playing hide-and-seek and tag.  We played with Care Bears and Smurfs and Cabbage Patch Kids, and I think, for the most part, we were all relatively happy.  But these new girls were different.  They were dour.  But they offered friendship, and that I would have accepted from anyone.

After about a month, my new friends began inviting me to their homes for sleepovers.  I remember well the long and lonely drive to their houses.  We passed prisons and corn fields, tobacco fields and old colonial houses until we finally reached our destination.  Their homes were so unlike anything to which I was accustomed.  They were large, large enough to accommodate families with eight and nine children.  And they were old and, well, from my standpoint, creepy.  As a matter of fact, one of my friends informed me that her living room was haunted.  I believed her, and, now as an adult thirty years later, I still believe there was something off about that house.  There was a feeling, a flat, sad, heavy, lifeless feeling to her home.  Just like my new friend, the house was somber and cheerless.  It was as if it existed in a dream and its reality was from a time past.  It was eerie.  I remember not being able to sleep when I stayed there.  Insomnia, true insomnia, which plagued me into adulthood, began in my new home on prison grounds and settled in during my stays in that house.

I vividly recall one chilly autumn day when I packed up my overnight bag and headed over to another one of my new friend’s homes.  Again, it was large, large enough to accommodate my friend’s eight other siblings and her parents.  It was the day after Halloween.  What’s funny is that I don’t remember what I had done the night prior.  Did I go trick-or-treating?  Who knows?  I can recall every Halloween I had ever celebrated, except for that one.  Perhaps it’s because the events of the day after overshadowed the festivities of the night before.  What I do remember is sitting down for dinner at the kitchen table with my friend, a handful of her siblings and her parents.  I remember the mother saying in a rather serious tone, “Okay.  Let’s get the saints.”  I recall following my friend and her siblings into their dining room where, on the sideboard, was a vast collection of saint statues.  We carried the statues back into the kitchen and placed them on the table.  Confused, I tried to figure out why we were instructed to place the statues on the table beside the pizza. I sat there in silence.  Probably what was most distressing was that placed directly in front of me was the statue of Saint Michael slaying the devil.  Now even as a child, there was nothing that scared me more than Lucifer.  While other kids were afraid of monsters and burglars, I was afraid of the devil- the one with the tail and horns and pitchfork; the one on the Red Devil Paint cans.  As a matter of fact I remember having one of those cans in my house for some reason and turning it around so I wouldn’t have to see the picture on the front.  And now there he was.  In front of me.  Being slain.  Saint Michael slaying the devil with his scales and horns and tail right in front of me.  During dinner.  Sitting there, I wondered what was going on, but it all became clear when the mother instructed us to bow our heads and began to pray.  Then she thanked God that we were all gathered together, celebrating All Saints’ Day with the saints.  It was just too much.

If only I had the courage to call my parents and ask them to get me the hell out of there.  Instead, I stayed.  Insomnia kicked in, but I made it to morning.  And I think, although I don’t remember, that when my mother picked me up, I probably enjoyed the ride home, past the old colonial houses and barren trees, past corn fields and tobacco fields until I was nice and safe, back home…on prison grounds.

This is a re-edited version of a piece I posted last year.

Sacrifice

Sacrifice

By: Heather Nanni

Sacrifice- a noble act

Giving of oneself for another

Then how is it that sacrifice is such an ugly word

when uttered from the tongue of a mother?

                                                                                                                                           Sacrifice-what a strange word to use

when speaking of those who did not choose

this.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Do I expect you to apologize

for everything I had to compromise?

To shoulder the heavy burden of guilt

because I gave up all I might have built?

Gave up all-for you.

                                                                                                                                               Rest you minds dear ones

For you I sacrificed nothing

                                                                                                                               There is nothing that I have given up

your existence hasn’t repaid tenfold

With you I drank from life’s golden cup

and, my children, I learned what must be told:

                                                                                                                                             There is no sacrifice where love exists

                                                                                                                                                    Life will move along and you will grow

and there will be time for trips and clothes and luxuries supposed

to fill the void of your absence

and I will long for the days when I had only you.

                                                                                                                                                From when I held you in my arms

until you lay me down to rest

there is never, was never sacrifice

only blissful, sorrowful joy.

The Season of Death and Dreams

AutumnDeath&Dreams

It astonishes me how one season can be both profoundly beautiful and profoundly sad.  When I was ten years old my family moved from a small industrial city to prison housing in a rural farming community.  At the time, my father was the assistant warden of a maximum security prison, and high level staff and their families were expected to live on the grounds.  Although we made the move in late August, for me, my seven years there are frozen in autumn.  Our home, one of four, was set upon a hill.  In back of our house-forest. In front of our house-fields. And if you looked past those fields, you could see a medium security prison looming on the horizon.  It was an isolating and lonely existence, and, no matter how beautiful the landscape was, for a child used to a neighborhood and city kids, it was, well, sad.  In my memory the sky was always gray, the trees always bare and the ground always covered in a blanket of the decomposing remains of what was once vibrant foliage.  What strikes me most, however, is the perennial sound of honking geese.  Prior to our move, I think it is possible that I had never before heard geese much less seen them flying overhead in V formation.  But there, in that place, geese were omnipresent, honking, flying overhead, reminding me that I was a stranger trapped in a place that they were escaping from, if not forever, at least for the impending winter.

As I have grown older, I have learned to truly appreciate and, in many ways, love the fall.  Fall is now a time of beautiful traditions-apple and pumpkin picking, hiking and collecting leaves while watching beams of sunlight shoot through tree branches, already majestic and adorned in gold.  I look to my children to teach me lessons in optimism.  They jump for joy into piles of dead leaves while happily awaiting the first snow to arrive and cover naked branches in crystal that shimmers in the light of the winter moon.

I guess it’s a matter of age and perspective.  It is so easy to allow deep sorrow born from past experience to rob us of the happiness that comes from enjoying the beauty of the life we now lead.  For me, I prefer to march on through dead leaves and enjoy hearing them crunch underfoot as I move on ahead.

Silence

Silence

By: Heather Nanni

All is fine; I know.

Silence tells me so.

She is the gatekeeper of the fragile mind-

an appointed servant whose cruel betrayals

made peace impossible to find.

Once a traitor guard

who gave darkness entry to sacred ground,

she grew weary of unrest

and wished tranquility to be found.

So she is still.

No bribe does she take.

Perhaps she repents

for her past mistakes-

plagued with remorse

that her transgressions

were turmoil’s source.

Now a friend

No longer foe

All is well.

Silence tells me so.