Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Black History Month at Phoenix House with Beverly M. Collins

Beverly M. Collins and Maja Trochimczyk at Phoenix House Venice with their books.

On Saturday, February 24, 2018, eminent poet Beverly M. Collins visited Phoenix House Venice residential treatment program for adult men to celebrate Black History Month with poetry.  An accomplished, prize-winning author of two books and hundreds of poems published in a variety of journals, Beverly read her poems and discussed their inspirations. Some of her witty and wise verse has been collected in two books Mud in Magic (Moonrise Press, 2015) and Quiet Observations (2006).

Beverly M. Collins with her 2015 book Mud in Magic

Beverly was joined in the reading by Maja Trochimczyk (poet and Senior Director of Planning at Phoenix House who organized the event) and two patients from the treatment program who read excerpts of their excellent work in progress. The audience of nearly 50 men was very attentive and interested. The afternoon ended with the listeners using one word to describe what they love the most in life: family, sports, art, sunsets, etc... At the end of a poetic afternoon, Beverly and Maja donated books of poetry to Phoenix House.

Here are some poems that were read during the afternoon.

(a poem of 4-letter words)

Beverly M. Collins

Let's hold rust, that pour mess
onto life, away from idea good.

Purr fire! Melt soft upon hard,
like warm love gets kind pass evil.
Stay real! Mend them!
Grow hope-come feel less lost.

Make eyes more wild with song!
Hand held thru hurt felt, that
we'll miss upon this toss, will
pull cold howl from vain wind.

Can't home stay cake-walk-pure?
Will "wary-mind" name each play?
Only time will tell.

Beverly M. Collins

As I wash my face one evening in the bathroom,
Ponder rises from the steam curled within the heat

I am suddenly aware that in 200 years,
my nose could disappear from all my pictures
like some of he statues of Egypt.
Even small statues were not safe.

Historians may say it was caused by
a thousand miniature chisels in the wind.
This "breaking wind" only wants the nose.

Yo-ho, little tiny wind-pirates!
The probably have caves of stolen noses
hidden somewhere in the hills.
Only bats view them.

This is the fly-paper story some historians
are stuck to. It can be found flourishing,
wherever bridges are sold.

In between Beverly's poems, Maja Trochimczyk read from two of her recent poetry books, Into Light: Poems and Incantations (rev. 2017) and The Rainy Bread: Poems from Exile (2016). The first book consists of positive, mostly spiritual poems, some describing experience of nature, some lessons to be learned from it. It was created after several readings at Phoenix House and includes a poem that was written specifically for the Black History Month event in 2016. The second book gathers poems about WWII experiences about the poet's extended family in Poland - some deported to Siberia by the Soviets in 1940, some starving in a village, waiting for the harvest...

No More

Maja Trochimczyk

Slav, Sclave, Slave  —
We are all one —  under  
That thumb of powers that be  
Of powers that do not want us to be,   
To become free, creative, enlightened

Slav, Sclave, Slave  —
We are all one, united  
In the will to connect, all one  
In compassion, in awareness  
Of the ground under our feet,  
The warm soil, trees growing roots,   
Sparkling clean water  
Flowing to fill us.

Made of water and stardust,   
We are all one under the sunrays 
Reaching down to touch our skin, 
Nourish our muscles.

We claim our freedom  
To be wise —to be kind—  
To carry each other’s burdens  
To stand tall, walk forward  
Together —

(c) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light (2016)

NOTE: “Sclave” means “slave” in Latin; the name used by Romans for  the “Barbarians” in the north-east of their empire that is the Slavic nations including those in modern-day Poland.

"Hands in Light" by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light

A Walk in the Canyon

Maja Trochimczyk

We walk on layers of
past lives. Fossilized shells 
skin, bone, membrane. 
Ripples in the sand
on the ocean floor
now frame the mountains. 
The patterns sculpted
by waves linger on
after water disappeared. 
Sand, sandstone, limestone.
Granulated, petrified by time.

falling– sinking – twisting – rising up

Like grains of sand
caught by the cosmic tide 
we rise and fall with
the shifting clouds of light
and darkness. Words 
change us into stone. 
Words melt us in the fire 
of compassion.

Like water, we flow
and disappear, droplets
of rain in the mountain stream

racing down the slopes
to the river, through the valley, 
searching for the ocean.

The beating wings of the dove 
struggle against the wind.

falling– sinking – twisting – rising up

Ciocia Tonia

Maja Trochimczyk

Only a pear tree
between fields of sugar beets and corn.

Ripe pears — that’s all left from the house, 
barn and orchard. The farm where she raised 
her sons, milked her cows, and baked her bread.

Only a pear tree. Alone memento 
standing forlorn in an August field.

They ploughed it over— the village church and bus stops, 
the neighbors’ corrals, where their horses used to neigh.
They ploughed it over — her garden of herbs 
and cosmos, its fragile lace of leaves kissed 
by sunlight, a dream of a flower — 
she used to so love its effervescent beauty 
in the past.

It is not painful now, just surprising, 
her whole life gone, and only one tree left.
No trace of her ancestral village on the maps.

It was the worst to see her neighbors 
running with news, her husband shot 
in the middle of the dusty village road.

No time for grief, she saved her tears for later.
The orders came at once, a day to pack,
a long train ride to an unfamiliar city, 
near a river she never longed to see.

They said, pack wisely — 
take the warmest 
clothes, boots, pillows. 
Bring as much food 
as you can carry. 
Where you are going, 
there is nothing, 
except for freezing breath 
and bitter cold. 

Only a pear tree 
in an empty field of stubble.

Only a pearl tree 
in her golden field of dreams. 

NOTE: Ciocia Tonia is Aunt Antonina Glinska deported from Skarbkowo near Baranowicze by Soviets to Siberia in 1940. She returned in the 1970s to see where her house once stood and found nothing but fields and one pear tree. . .

(c) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, from The Rainy Bread (2016)

Maja Trochimczyk with her book Into Light (2016)

A Perfect Universe

Maja Trochimczyk

We live in a perfect universe
of what is, right next 
to a galaxy of universes
of what could have been —
endlessly fascinating and desirable, 
yet unnecessary.

A myriad of possibilities opens up
with every step, every gesture.

Choosing well —this is
“the narrow path.”

(c) 2016 by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light (2016, rev. 2017)

Lily by Maja Trochimczyk, from Into Light

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018 The Year of the Earth Dog

the year of the dog - 
soft fur of Tibetan spaniel
shines on green grass

After all the upheavals and fires of the Fire Rooster Year (2017), we will be able to catch a break in the homey and comfy Earth Dog Year - according to the Chinese Zodiac, at least...  The Year of Earth Dog will start on February 16, 2018 (Chinese New Year) and end on February 4, 2019. This is the eleventh of 12 zodiac signs and the Dog years have been in this century: 1922, 1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018, 2030, 2042... Since the Dog is an "auspicious" animal, it brings good fortune.

Let's welcome the Dog year with some Dog photos and haiku:

gold-furred dog rests
in my sunlit garden - 
happy, healthy, free

amber spaniel eyes
look at me with affection -
love conquers all

can dogs laugh?
dolphins nod in agreement
swimming in circles

a dog rests at my feet
his gold eyes full of promise - 
"my heart beats for you"

Artist Monique Lehman with her dog, Corcia ("little daughter")

angel in a halo
with her favorite friend -
an artist's spring

Since my Chinese Zodiac sign is Rooster and 2017 was the Fire Rooster year, I was hoping for some sunlight, smiles and a feather-light heart. But, instead, this....

The scorched earth, charcoal branches, and days of thick black smoke...  I got a whole lot of upheavals and dangers in 2017, including two huge fires nearby, one evacuation, a series of burglaries, and so forth. . . I came out of it all smiling, so I guess, all these things served to teach me to live with a "feather-light" heart, without worries, no matter how dangerous the situation seems.  It is funny to look, in retrospect at my last year's haiga card with a orange-red rose and my wishes...  We have to be careful what we wish for, I guess...

I have not written many dog-themed poems, though dogs appear in my love poetry book, Rose Always - A Love Story, as they played an important role in the unfolding of this mystery. Here is a sample of dog-themed poems from that book:

Dog Story

My dog ran away 
to bring me 
the man of my life 

a blond one 
like my first love
with smiley wrinkles  
like my last one 

(scoundrels both,
as the rest of them)

Are you different?

I cannot tell,
oblivious to all
but your beauty –

Be good, be truthful

A Desert Walk

Your dog welcomes me 
with mad displays of affection, 
overturning things
with his wildly swinging tail.

He brings the leash in his teeth,
ready for a walk, jumping with excitement.

We go out after sunset,
with my collie – beautiful and scared
of this boisterous stranger,
distrustful of his sudden attachment
to the lady of the house.

The blonde dog cannot be leashed
as he chases each cat, each squirrel.

Yet, he returns quickly, faithfully,
to stay right by my side.

I marvel at his obedience.

In a Flemish stained glass window based on a biblical story of Tobias and his unlucky wife Sarah (demons killed seven of her husbands on their wedding night!). Tobias found a fish, burned some of it in the fireplace and sent the demons packing, so the young married couple could rest happily, finally asleep, with their dog at their feet...

Light Centuries 

 by Maja Trochimczyk
                                             “Where are the days of Tobias?”
                                                             ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Second Duino Elegy

                                              “Let us grow old both together in health.”
                                                            ~ Sarah in The Book of Tobias, 8: 10

They are asleep
in a Flemish window,
their stained-glass bed
sheltered by curtains
of cerulean and crimson.

Like two doves
in white nightcaps,
Tobias and Sarah
rest on soft, white pillows,
after the nightmare,
dreaming alabaster dreams.

Yes, that was an angel
walking with you
through desert landscape.
Yes, there was a river,
demons, fire, and a fish.
The dog ran along, panting.

He rests with them now,
curled at their feet,
among the riches
of verdant foliage
painted on translucent silk.
The dog – their only witness.

Flames danced at night.
The demon fled the stench
of burning liver.
You did not see Raphael
bind him in upper Egypt.
You did not feel
the rainbow wings.

They found a refuge
in the domesticity
of an ordered life:
candle extinguished
on the nightstand,
slippers waiting
for the step of the master.

Above the bed,
the womb-shaped
knot of a red velvet
curtain foretells
Sarah’s future, the wealth
of children to come.

Listen: Cold wind
carries the echoes
of crying, wailing
through desert fog
outside. Demons
mourn their happiness.

They are asleep.
Fluted columns
twirl up to a ceiling
of gold-flowered
sprites guarding
their glass dreams.


 (c) 2010 by Maja Trochimczyk

NOTE: This ekphrastic poem is based on a 15-th century Flemish stained-glass window.

Dogs become parts of human families and are missed when they are gone. Here's a tribute to a tiny dog named Hazelnut:


Somewhere a ballerina was born on Friday,

a trapeze artist, a clown or a juggler with a circle of balls
lined up in the air above her curly head.
A new life began, a life ended.

Somewhere, sometime. We are left with memories
of Orzeszek, Miss Hazelnut of Boston.
She practiced controlled skidding
across lacquered hardwood floors to accelerate
reaching her ball she never tired of bringing back
to be thrown again – delighted with the game
on instant replay. She’d step out for a dinner on town
in her fancy haircut and a red bowtie.

She’d gallop across the vastness of a meadow,
ears flapping in the wind, a picture of freedom.
She’d rest in her favorite hiding spot
under an arch of antique pink roses.

Ever cheerful, she could sleep
on Marcin’s head, on his chest,
tucked under his armpit, full of warmth and comfort.
Courageous, she’d walk across his face
if it were in her way, or lick his nose
in a fit of affection.

Hazelnut, oh, Hazelnut, too curious for new scents,
with oversized paws too fast across the pavement,
in front of the car that did not even break.

Your heart beat quickly; stopped beating too soon.
We are sorry you had to go. We wish you could stay longer.
You left us behind to play in dog heaven.
Farewell, Hazelnut. Don’t forget your ball!

(c) 2014 by Maja Trochimczyk

And here's an eulogy by Just Kibbe for his favorite companion, Loki:

Just Kibbe with Loki in Los Angeles

Thank you Loki for teaching me so many of the magic words. You were many things as the Norse God of Mischief: a hunter, a trickster, a hardcore cuddler, a teacher. I think of you often, and you are running and leaping and licking my face and alive in my heart as you always will be!
                                                                                                                                 ~ Just Kibbe

Just Kibbe's dog, Loki

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.

~ From Puck Monologue in Mid-Summer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

As the official PR dept of Ravendaisy Farm, Loki touched many hearts and went on so many adventures in his 15 years.  On to the next, my love. We love you and miss you and can't wait to meet again.                                              
                                                                                                                        ~ Just Kibbe

Just Kibbe with his dog Loki and a horse

Happy Earth Dog Year 2018! 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

The Music of Paderewski and Gorecki in Washington, D.C.

Photo by Marcin Szerle.

In early January 2018, I was honored by an invitation to present two Polish composers at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Polish American Historical Association. At the Awards Ceremony held on January 6, 2018 at the Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Piotr Wilczek, I discussed "Poland 1918-2018: Remembering Ignacy Jan Paderewski" and quoted many poems written for the great pianist composer. The full text of this speech is reproduced on my Chopin with Cherries blog, so there is no reason to reproduce the whole here.

Vintage postcard of "Improwizacya" - Paderewski playing Chopin. early 1900s.

During, the reading, I was accompanied by Paderewski himself, from a CD of piano roll recordings, played on a modern Steinway, and professionally recorded. The Minuet, Melodie, Legende, and Nocturne written by Paderewski were followed by two Rhapsodies by Franz Liszt, and provided the shifting moods for the recitation of lofty and ardent poems (though a bit old-fashioned to modern ears) written by luminaries of  American culture.

To decorate the stage for my Paderewski and Poland's presentation, I unrolled two piano rolls by Paderewski, one with his portrait and a copy of his signature - and fixed them in place with a box of vintage Paderewski postcards, chocolate gold coins, and some jewels. This was to symbolize the multiple types of "gold" associated with the pianist of "gold-red" hair... and riches collected through his music and given away to charitable and patriotic causes... The piano rolls are very original stage decoration... and you can find lots of them on eBay!

Paderewski piano rolls and vintage postcards- stage setting for the poetry presentation.

 How Paderewski Plays 
by Richard Watson Gilder (1906)

If words were perfume, color, wild desire;
If poet's song were fire
That burned to blood in purple-pulsing veins;
If with a bird-like trill the moments throbbed to hours;
If summer's rains
Turned drop by drop to shy, sweet, maiden flowers;
If God made flowers with light and music in them,
And saddened hearts could win them;
If loosened petals touched the ground
With a caressing sound;
If love's eyes uttered word
No listening lover e'er before had heard;
If silent thoughts spake with a bugle's voice;
If flame passed into song and cried, "Rejoice, rejoice!"
If words could picture life's hopes, heaven's eclipse
When the last kiss has fallen on dying eyes and lips;
If all of mortal woe
Struck on one heart with breathless blow by blow;
If melody were tears and tears were starry gleams
That shone in evening's amethystine dreams;
Ah, yes, if notes were stars, each star a different hue,
Trembling to earth in dew;
Or, of the boreal pulsings, rose and white,
Made majestic music in the night;
If all the orbs lost in the light of day
In the deep silent blue began their harps to play;
And when, in frightening skies the lightnings flashed
And storm-clouds crashed,
If every stroke of light and sound were excess of beauty;
If human syllables could e'er refashion
that fierce electric passion;
If ever art could image (as were the poet's duty)
The grieving, and the rapture, and the thunder
Of that keen hour of wonder, -
That light as if of heaven, that blackness as of hell, -
How Paderewski Plays than might I dare to tell.

How the great master played! And was it he
Or some disembodied spirit which had rushed
From silence into singing; and had crushed
Into one startled hour a life's felicity,
And highest bliss of knowledge—that all life, grief, wrong,
Turn at the last to beauty and to song!
Paderewski's contacts with Richard Watson Gilder (1844-1909) resulted from the latter's long-lasting friendship with the Polish actress Helena Modrzejewska. Gilder, the editor of the Century Magazine, published numerous volumes of poetry and that many of his poems dealt with other arts, painting, acting, and music.  The Polish pianist became a good friend of the poet, considering Gilder's house to be his "real home during those first years in America." There, Paderewski had the opportunity to meet Mark Twain and Andrew Carnegie, among other members of American societyGilder was also among the first Americans creating the myth of the Archangel Paderewski, a spiritual genius.

For some reason, I have not been able to write anything about Paderewski. I think I have been angry with him for destroying his compositional talent and career to serve a political cause, of restoring Poland's sovereignty. Finally, urged by my colleagues at PAHA, I penned a short ditty:

Maja Trochimczyk recites Paderewski-themed poetry, Photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of the Ambassador of Poland, Prof. Wilczek, January 6, 2018.

Paderewski in Gold
 by Maja Trochimczyk (2018)

Gold halo of curls on his portraits
Gold crowns of Polish kings above his keyboard
Gold riches in his bank account
Gold heart beneath it all
The gleam of a gold ring on his finger
The gleam of brilliance in his eyes
The gleam of fame bright around him
Gold heart beneath it all

The dream of making music in his youth 
The dream of happiness at his prime
The dream of free Poland on concert stages
Gold heart beneath it all

Made of gold, making gold, pure gold
of  kindness - Paderewski  the immortal 
asks us to love music, love Poland 
and to always follow his noble path of gold
January 6, 2018
(c) 2018 by Maja Trochimczyk

Maja Trochimczyk reciting Paderewski-themed poems, photo by Marcin Szerle.
Residence of Poland's Ambassador, Prof. Wilczek, Washington, D.C. January 6, 2018.

My second presentation was a paper on "The Myth of the Third Symphony: Gorecki in California" presented on January 5, 2018 during a PAHA session on Americans on Poland. I I discuss this presentation and my "Gorecki in Context" book on the Moonrise Press Blog.

Photo by Marcin Szerle

The presentation focused on the performance history of the Third Symphony Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (composed in 1976, world-famous since the Nonesuch recording of 1992, and conducted by Gorecki himself in Los Angeles).  The author organized his visit and ensured that the composer, who was not thrilled about metropolitan performances, but rather interested in small-town ambience of "ordinary people" was comfortable and able to express his unique musical vision.  Among other aspects of the Third Symphony, its use of the lullaby as an expressive and melodic model was pointed out and illustrated by singing the Polish lullabies. 

The lullabies are characterized with limited melodic outlines, reduced to three or two notes, slow repeated motion, that may be associated with rocking a baby to sleep. The step-wise semitonal motion in Bzi-bzi-bzibziana is cited in the strings in the opening of the Third Movement of the Third Symphony. It is the same rocking motion that underlies the movement of trauma victims, calming themselves by rocking back and forth, to recover from shock by returning to the state of ultimate comfort, being held in the mother's arms. The same slow, steady motion is of walking in a funeral procession - these associations co-exist in a unique way drawing from universal human archetypes, to form a music that appeals to everyone, everywhere... 

Photo by Marcin Szerle

Friday, December 22, 2017

After the Solstice - Happy Holidays and Best Wishes

shadows and light-rays
intertwined in a lace 
of togetherness

Sometimes we have to pass through the nadir of darkness to emerge into light, on the other side... We had our share of stressful events here in Southern California this year,  the Year of Total Eclipse, especially recently, with the La Tuna Fire in September and the Creek Fire in December. Both fires devastated our open spaces, hillside habitat, and destroyed quite a few houses, too.  Sadly, lots of animals died in both fires, and some animals moved: sighting of bobcats increased in our neighborhood since La Tuna Fire, probably because they lived in Verdugo Hills, covered with green bushes and trees even in the driest of summers, with lots of water and shade and food for the beautiful and dangerous cats...

through ash, through dead leaves
in search of a new home 
a bobcat walks

But then, there is light that casts no shadow, and shines straight in us, through us. I wish all of us, poets, and poetry lovers, to revel in such unique, clear, uplifting light on the holy days and through the next year. Let it be the Year of Light, the Year of peace and beauty.  I wish you all happiness and blessings. I wish...

a new world -
petals open and fade
my rose blossoms

Words have a lot of power and we know that what we say makes an imprint on reality, not only on the internal life, but also the reality around. How many people remember a harsh word, a label, a slur, from their childhood? How many words did we utter we'd rather not, in hindsight?  How many people curse others only have that curse reflected by the mirror of the Universe and came down upon them in unexpected and unexplained calamity? Or, the opposite, how many times do we say something sweet and nice, and a couple of hours later hear these lovely worlds reflected back to us, from someone different?
With Susan Rogers, the giver of Light, November 11, 2017

The Spiritual Quartet in an Easter Garden (Susan Rogers, Lois P. Jones, Ambika Talwar)

Someone sent me the following "decree" of St. Germain - from a fascinating collection of life-changing, and inspirational texts that are more orders, telling the world what it should be like, than prayers, begging for help... I like them a lot, and this one, in particular is a good choice to start, given the Polish background - in Poland, complaining is a national sport! 

“BELOVED MIGHTY I AM PRESENCE”! You stand guard over my tongue, and never let me speak words of criticism, condemnation, judgment, or blame of any person, place, condition, or thing! Reach down Your Hand and withdraw all substance of criticism, condemnation, judgment, blame, or other human qualities with which I have charged into my being and world! Consume it all in The Cosmic Violet Consuming Flame and Saint Germain’s Spiral Blue Flame; then Stand Guard and see that I do not requalify any more of Your Pure Energy flowing through my being and world. "ALMIGHTY I AM”! (3)

Let us, then, use our words wisely, to the benefit of our own en-Light-enment and for the illumination of the world around us. Let us be the candles in the windows, the stars that shine bright up high. Let us radiate pure joy, peace, and tranquility. Let us fill our  hearts with the love that forgives all and understands all, and does not need to say anything, for it is, just is, always is and will be, as it never dies and never changes. And So Be It and So It Is...

Here are my Christmas and New Year Wishes for 2018:

Scarlet - for loving heart
Emerald - for peaceful mind
Diamond - for clear insight
Here are the rose jewels for
Happy Holidays and New Year! 

I spent some time with my poetry books this year, updating two books, and working on things that are still unfinished. For those who would like to see what  I have written, here are the links and covers: