Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas Wishes 2012: Make Your Own Holidays!

Rose of Sunland (inside, red, with a shadow of a stem), by Maja Trochimczyk

The sunlight in California is so different from that of northern areas of Canada, or Poland. There, the light is pale, often grayish, frail. Here, it brings a rainbow of colors to everything it touches. Everything is more vivid, more intense, under the bright rays, in summer or winter...

I came to Los Angeles in 1996 ... I made Sunland my home, with a garden of roses and pomegranates overlooking the magical golden, bronze, purple mountains. I love writing and taking pictures of flowers, leaves and the sky. Like my roses, I’ve flourished in sunlight – there is a lot to be thankful for! First and foremost my three children, Marcin - born in Poland, Ania and Ian - born in Montreal, Canada.

Christmas Decorations by Maja Trochimczyk

With a blended, multicultural family, we had to become creative. We have had a real Christmas every second year, starting on Christmas Eve with the Polish Wigilia dinner of traditional dishes (of beets, mushrooms, and fish). The dinner included best wishes shared by breaking a white square wafer, called oplatek. On Christmas Eve, there was also time for the midnight Mass and carols, but no gifts - that were shared at the Wigilia table back in Poland. We had our pile of gifts on Christmas mornings. In this, we followed North American customs. Instead of a large family brunch and dinner parties (hard to do without family here), we gathered around the Christmas tree, opened our gifts, mostly books and videos, and lounged around in our new pajamas, listening to carols and snacking on chocolate and cakes. We created our own traditions.

Barszcz z uszkami, Wigilia 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

What about the years without Christmas? We did exactly the same thing, but a week earlier. This year, our Christmas will be on December 22!  It was (and is) quite amusing to go out for an afternoon walk, dazed by all the Christmas charm of gifts and affection, to see everyone else rushing around, frazzled and busy, still days before the holidays… For years, we have lived in our own time zone, created our own traditions, our own happiness…

Christmas Tree Decorations - Maja Trochimczyk

A Christmas Engagement
(for Vivien)

The tree has its ornaments
Cinnamon its green apples
Gold paper waits for the gifts

Gingerbread pairs up with chocolate
Dried figs waltz with the pecans
Paper angel spreads yellowed wings

Clementines fill Christmas stockings
The first star peeks in the window
The Wigilia dinner is served

He takes her hand with affection
The holly dances with ivy
She laughs at her sparkling ring

(c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

Christmas in the Bandito Park, Tujunga Canyon Road

Richard Stewart, an artist and community activist, did exactly the same - created his own holidays! For Christmas, he dresses up the rock sculptures in his Bandito Park on Tujunga Canyon Road in Santa Hats.  This year, on December 15, 2012, the sculptures were visited by poets and dancers from Alethea Dance Group and the performances were recorded for a documentary film.  I read one poem and gave the dancers some chocolate-covered gingerbread. My poem, along those by other poets, is to be published in a coffee-table book of photos of the rock sculptures and poetry "Rock of Rancho Tujunga." What a wonderful idea! Thank you, Richard!

Richard Stewart, Maja Trochimczyk, and Dancers at the Bandito Park

The Place of Stones

Here before us
Here around us
Here after us

Stone people

Solid - silent - still

Galaxies collide
Stars explode
Nebulae form

Stellar dust drifts
Swirls across the ocean
Tides rise and recede
Waves spill over the desert
Plankton becomes plants
Shells merge into rocks
Layered - heated - pressed
Hold on! Hold on! Do not go!

Stone people outlive us
Stellar dust and sunshine
We age
Petrified - fractured - stressed
Sink into the earth
Blend with the elements
Grow roots until

We can breathe out free
Serene - silent - still

Stone people

(c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

Maja Trochimczyk reads poetry in Il Bandito Park, December 15, 2012

My poem is not very Christmasy, it is a reflection on our mortality and the fact that rocks, indeed, do outlive us. This does not bother me. Actually, what's really annoying is that our own clothes outlive us. I was struck with this surreal thought, that mere fabric with buttons and sweaty seams has more life in it than we,  the transient dwellers of this planet. Of course, we have the secret of immortal life that our clothes or rocks do not know... 

But today, the thought about not being here, or rather leaving suddenly after a very short visit, is made all the more real by the recent death of Frank Pastore, killed in a motorcycle accident on the 210 freeway. The beloved KKLA religious talk show host did a lot to make each holiday season special...and was, like me, just 55 years old. Rest in peace...

Large White Poinsettia - Maja Trochimczyk

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Poets on Site at Beyond Baroque, December 14 at 7:30 p.m.

On behalf of Kathabela Wilson who is traveling in India, I will host the reading of Poets on Site at

Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center in Venice
(681 Venice Bl. Venice, CA 90291),

on Friday, December 14, 2012 at 7: 30 p.m.

Admission: $7.00 adults, $5.00 students.

The reading will include poetry by Kathabela Wilson, Chris Wesley, Just Kibbe, Kathi Stafford, Millicent Borges Accardi, Alice Pero, Susan Rogers, Taoli-Ambika Talwar and Maja Trochimczyk. The presentation will include slides with the work of Susan Rogers and photos from past Poets on Site Events.

The following Poets on Site books will be represented:
1. Tour of the Arlington Gardens
2. Susan Dobay - Awakening
3. Pacific Asia Museum - Two Tours
4. Henry Fukuhara Plein Air Workshops Poetry Tours (Manzanar books)

POETS ON SITE (Notes by Kathabela Wilson)

Poet Kathabela Wilson created Poets on Site five years ago and since then it has grown to produce over 30 anthologies and performances edited and led by her which have included over 200 poets and artists as well as dancers and musicians. Poets on Site created the MUSE award winning audio tour of Pacific Asia Museum, 2010. Poets are inspired by interesting places and events, which include museums, galleries, gardens, concerts and lectures. They return to the sites of inspiration to perform multi-media programs.

Kathabela and Rick Wilson, who accompanies the poets on flutes from his collection of traditional world flutes will be in India for the month of December. It is a pleasure to introduce Poets on Site to Beyond Baroque in their absence. Maja Trochimczyk, who has been a part of Poets on Site from its inception will host the program and several longtime members, along with a few newer members of the group, will give a sampling of their work, accompanied by poet Chris Wesley on guitar. They group has eight new programs in development and is an organizational member of the Pasadena Arts Council. For history and bibliography of Poets on Site see which also includes links to their audio tours of the Pacific Asia Museum and many photos.


 Maja Trochimczyk, Ph.D. is a poet, music historian and photographer, born in Poland and living in California. She has been an active member of Poets on Site since the group's inception and has published and in all 30 anthologies and all performances by Poets on Site. She published four books of music studies, two books of poetry and two anthologies,Chopin with Cherries (2010) and Meditations on Divine Names (2012). Her poems appeared in Ekphrasis Journal, Epiphany Magazine, Quill and Parchment, Loch Raven Review, poeticdiversity, Phantom Seed, Van Gogh's Ear, San Gabriel Valley Poetry Quarterly, as well as many other journals.

 Justin Kibbe is the Associate Publisher and Managing Editor for THE Pasadena Foothills Magazine in Pasadena, California. Justin has been a member of Poets on Site since its conception in 2007. His poetry, essays, short fiction, cartoons and visual art have been published internationally in a plethora of mediums, including many Poets on Site anthologies. He received his MFA from Saint Mary’s College of California, and has taught in California, Colorado and Texas. Justin is a founding board member of Indelible Ink: a literary performance series and one of three founding co-captains of Pirate Pig Press.

Chris Wesley has been a long time participant in Poets On Site. He and 30 other poets contributed to Poets on Site’s MUSE award winning Pacific Asia Museum's Poetry Audio Tour in 2010. Chris Wesley plays guitar, bass and keyboards while writing and records music as the one man rock band, Teragin Mist. He is recipient of a 2012 Global Ebook Award for “Regret In Triptych” and creates multidisciplinary spoken word performances. He will accompany Poets on Site with his sensitive guitar improvisations. Go to 

Susan Rogers has been a longtime Poet on Site and has participated in many of their performances and anthologies. Her work can be found in numerous books, journals and compilations including the San Diego Annual:The Best Poems of San Diego 2011-2012. Her work currently appears online at Saint Julian Press and Pirene’s Fountain. Her poetry is also part of the audio tour for the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, California. She has also been interviewed by Lois P. Jones for KPFK’s Poets Café. She considers poetry a vehicle for light and a tool for the exchange of positive energy.She is a practitioner of Sukyo Mahikari— a spiritual practice that promotes positive thoughts, words and action. 

Alice Pero’s book of poetry, Thawed Stars was praised by Kenneth Koch as having “clarity and surprises.” An accomplished flutist and former dancer, she is also the founder and host of the reading series, “Moonday, ” in Pacific Palisades and La Cañada, CA. Pero has created dialogue poems with over 20 poets and teaches poetry to children in public and private schools. Alice is currently in poetic dialogue with Kathabela. India, Kathabela’s current site (for the month of Dec 2012) has crept into their poems. Alice has performed with Poets on Site several times over the years, especially in our book and performance for the Arlington Garden, an in the 2011 celebration of Pacific Asia Museum’s 40th anniversary.

 Millicent Borges Accardi is the author of three poetry books: Injuring Eternity, Woman on a Shaky Bridge andOnly More So (forthcoming). She has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, and Los Angeles Cultural Affairs. She's been a participant in Poets on Site for several years and is inspired newly by each intersection between visual art and the written word.

Kathi Stafford is a new member of Poets on Site whose work was recently included in the anthology, On Awakening, celebrating the paintings and creative imagination of Hungarian painter, Susan Dobay. She is a member of the Westside Women Writers group and a contributor to the Portuguese-American Journal. She has previously acted as poetry editor and senior editor for Southern California Review. Her poetry, interviews, and book reviews have appeared in literary journals such as Rattle, Chiron Review, Nerve Cowboy, Connecticut River Review, Southern California Review, and Hiram Poetry Review. Her poetry has been anthologized in Chopin and Cherries, as well as Sea of Change: Poems for Hitchcock. Born and raised in Texas, Stafford has lived in India and contrasting the memories of her childhood with the exotic impressions from her Indian sojourn is a frequent theme in her poetry.

Taoli-Ambika Talwar is an educator, published author and artist, who has written poetry since her teen years. She has authored Creative Resonance: Poetry—Elegant Play, Elegant Change, 4 Stars & 25 Roses (poems for her father) as well as some chapbooks. Her style is largely ecstatic, making her poetry a “bridge to other worlds.” She is published in Kyoto Journal, Inkwater Ink, vol. 3, Chopin with Cherries, among others. She is also published in VIA, in Poets on Site chapbooks, and several other journals; and has won an award for a short film at a festival in Belgium. As a wellness consultant, she practices IE:Intuition-Energetics™, a fusion of the Yuen Method, goddess studies, sacred geometry and creative/energetic principles for wellness. She has taught English at Cypress College, Cypress, California, for several years. Thus far, she has taught about 6,500 students. Sites:; Twitter: @Luminous Fields.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Exhibit on Immigrants at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga

Photo of Maja Trochimczyk at Exhibition on Immigrants, Bolton Hall Museum, Tujunga

An exhibition about notable immigrants to our corner of California is currently on display at Bolton Hall Museum in Tujunga (10110 Commerce Avenue, Tujunga, CA 91042). The Bolton Hall Museum celebrates its Centennial in 2013, and the exhibition is one of the many that have been held there. Fellow poet and exhibition organizer, Marlene Hitt, invited me to send in a photo and a quote and thus, I found my way to a Museum display!  It has been a wonderful adventure, coming to and settling in Sunland.  I love this place, luxuriating in the sun!

For my reflection, I presented the following mini-essay, ending with a quote from "The Music Box" (published in Rose Always: A Court Love Story, 2nd rev. ed., Moonrise Press, 2011).

Maja Trochimczyk at Art Exhibition by Taoli-Ambika Talwar, 2011

Why California?
The sunlight in California is so different from northern areas of Canada, or Poland. There it is pale, often grayish, frail. Here it brings a rainbow of colors to everything it touches. Everything is more vivid, more intense, under the bright rays, in summer or winter... 

I came to Los Angeles in 1996, with three advanced degrees and three children, for a job at USC that has since ended, with a husband who has since returned to Canada. Two of my children, Marcin and Anna, moved away, but I’m still here with the youngest, Ian. I made Sunland my home, with a garden of roses and pomegranates overlooking the magical grass-covered mountains. I became the Sixth Poet Laureate of Sunland-Tujunga. 

A citizen since 2009, I rode in three 4th of July parades, published four books of poetry, organized countless events… A music historian, poet, and nonprofit director, I love writing and taking pictures of flowers, leaves and the sky. 

Like my roses, I’ve flourished in sunlight – I started a small press that issued five books, I published about 200 poems in various journals. I have also created and  maintained blogs for various organizations, such as Village Poets, Moonrise Press, the Modjeska Art and Culture Club (of which I’m president), and the Polish American Historical Association

As Sr. Director of Planning at Phoenix House, I love helping people in trouble, because I’ve been there, too, overcoming PTSD and depression. Not having an extended family here means that I have time to write a lot, to share with and inspire my readers.
What else? . . . "My music box plays on. I make up the words/just as I made up this love of clay and gold,/the dust of the earth and starlight –/partly fragile and partly eternal."


Maja Trochimczyk with Items from her Music Box, Beyond Baroque Poetry Reading, 2010

The Music Box

What the world needs now
 is love, sweet love…

My china music box plays a song
from your childhood.
Under the lid with one pink rose
I keep my sentimental treasures –
the miniature portrait
in a grey enamel frame echoing
the color of your tank top
worn in defiance 
of my sophistication.

The white tulle ribbon – a memento 
from my wedding gown?
It held the ornament up 
on the bough of the Christmas tree 
after that second, numinous summer.

My broken ring, bent not to be worn again,
 with a deep scar from your blunt saw, 
a shape marked by the strength of your fingers. 

It was a moment of liberation –
I don’t have to – anything – any more.

The three little diamonds – 
faith, hope and love – embedded 
in the scratched gold, still shine,
though not as brightly as the forty three 
specks of light surrounding your face.

The missing ring piece hit the ceiling
when it broke off with the pent-up energy 
of unwanted love – the marriage that wasn’t.  
It is still somewhere in the corner
of the coldest room in my house.

What else? 
Three brown leaves from the ash tree 
that grew by itself and died, 
unwelcome.  The Cross of Malta 
waiting to shine on your chest.

*  *  * 

What the world needs now
is light, God’s light. . . 

My music box plays on. I make up the words
just as I made up this love of clay and gold, 
the dust of the earth and starlight –
partly fragile and partly eternal.

Cover of Maja Trochimczyk's "Rose Always: A Court Love Story" Poetry Volume, 2011

Sunday, November 4, 2012

On Virtues and Gratitude in Time for Thanksgiving

Liquit Amber Leaf in Sunlight, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

For my class on Ethics and Values in the Arts that I taught at the Pitchess Detention Center in Castaic, I tried to simplify the centuries of moral teaching into a clear scheme that's easy to visualize and remember. I came up with an idea of focusing on virtues, and selected Four Cardinal Virtues as the core. I enriched this framework with what I called the Four Moral Actions. Below are fragments of my introduction that outline some of these fruitful ideas. I end with a couple of poems on gratitude, that I'm gradually learning every day.

On Cardinal Virtues and Moral Actions

What is a Virtue? Virtues are character traits that help individuals orient their lives towards a greater good. Virtues help people act properly, morally. The word “virtue” stems from a Latin root, “virtus” – which, in turn, comes from the word “vir” – “man.” The dictionary definition brings together several related meanings:

  • 1. Moral excellence; goodness; righteousness.
  • 2. Conformity of one's life and conduct to moral/ethical principles; uprightness; rectitude.
  • 3. A particular moral excellence, like cardinal virtues
  • 4. A good or admirable quality or property: the virtue of knowing one's weaknesses.

A traditional list is that of the Seven Contrary Virtues which are opposites of the Seven Deadly Sins:
  • Humility – the opposite of Pride
  • Kindness – the opposite of Envy
  • Abstinence – the opposite of Gluttony
  • Chastity – the opposite of Lust
  • Patience – the opposite of Anger
  • Liberality – the opposite of Greed
  • Diligence – the opposite of Sloth
Its focus on the negative, the deadly sins merely mirrored in the positive attributes, has underscored centuries of moral education that centered on avoidance of evil and fear of punishment, instead of pursuit of the greater good for good’s sake. The purpose of virtues is to act more human, to help create and strengthen societal bonds based on love (trust, honesty, fairness) and to help each individual succeed in his or her pursuit of personal happiness.

In the 20th century, a French philosopher, Andre Comte-Sponville wrote a treatise about 18 different virtues, which included all the above Spiritual/Cardinal Virtues and more. This set of virtues appears in the context of his atheistic and humanistic philosophy: Politeness, Fidelity, Prudence, Temperance, Courage, Justice, Generosity, Compassion, Mercy, Gratitude, Humility, Simplicity, Tolerance, Purity, Gentleness, Good Faith, Humor, Love.

 The unusual list includes the “pre-virtue” of politeness with a surprising and the novel virtue of humor. The discussion of these virtues will be focused on their links to underlying values – physical, psychological or spiritual, and their expressions from the values of being useful, through being pleasurable, to being, to being spiritual.

Pomegranates, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

What about the Cardinal Virtues?

They were outlined in the classic antiquity by Aristotle and Plato:
  •  Courage (Fortitude), 
  • Wisdom (Prudence), 
  • Justice, and 
  • Moderation (Restraint, Temperance).
These “four cornerstones of the soul” have been taught to generations to create a moral framework for individual lives and create a balance between the excesses of each of these virtues appearing by itself, in isolation. In the four-part ethical framework presented here, the severity of Justice is balanced by the gentleness of Wisdom (Prudence), which, without the urgent sense of fairness could devolve into fear and inaction. The bravado of Courage (Fortitude) is balanced by the meekness of Moderation (Temperance, Restraint), which, without the passion of courage, may result in withdrawal and passivity.

The image of the “cardinal” virtues is related to the “cardinal points” on a map (North-East-South-West), as a compass for moral life. In a graphic representation, the virtues are located at 0, 90, 180, and 270 degrees on the circle, with the heart of an individual in its center. In another image, they form a circle around a central point and connect to one another; thus surrounding and protecting the core of one’s being.
The balancing act of practicing the cardinal virtues requires a focus on the present, on this infinitely small point in time in which we live, constantly moving from the past to the future. It is by paying attention to present actions, thoughts, and emotions, and by seeking the proper balance of justice with wisdom, and courage with moderation, that an individual may act in a virtuous way and may set a course of his/her life towards real happiness.

The four cardinal virtues, practiced in a way that they balance each other and help the individual remain in the center: courage will be tempered by moderation, wisdom will inform justice. The virtues will change the invisible attitude but will be visibly expressed in moral actions. The direction for the cardinal virtues, the “needle of the compass” are the three spiritual virtues: faith (in one’s own goodness and potential on the one hand and in the goodness of the world on the other), hope (in one’s ability to accomplish one’s goals in the future and in the benevolence of others who will be helpful and will share one’s successes and help on the spiritual path) and love (for oneself and others, spreading from within in concentric circles from the nearest kin and closest friends, to all people).


Justice: Do what's right, what's fair.
Fortitude:  Keep smiling. Grin and bear.
Temperance: Don't take more than your share.
Prudence: Choose wisely. Think and care.
Find yourself deep within your heart
               In a circle of cardinal virtues
                                  The points of your compass
                                                    YOUR CORNERSTONE.
Once you've mastered the steps, new ones appear:
Faith:   You are not alone . . .
Hope:  And all shall be well . . .
Love:    The very air we breathe
                          WHERE WE ARE. . .
The poem may be recited by a group of at least three participants -  the colors indicate individual voices and the text in black font and caps is said by the whole group. Try it!

Liquit Amber Tree, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

Virtues in Practice: Moral Actions

In order to be fully effective and surround the individual with a protective circle that will ensure selecting the best option from thousands of possible choices, the Cardinal Virtues should be associated with a mirror framework of four Moral Actions that both modify and express them.
  • Compassion (Justice) – I am compassionate, I share pain
  • Forgiveness (Courage) – I am forgiving, I let go of pain
  • Generosity (Moderation) – I am generous, I share joy
  • Gratitude (Wisdom) – I am grateful, I thank for joy
I selected these four Moral Actions from a multitude of possibilities as echoes or reflections of emotions with which they are bound; these are the opposite of such actions that would result from fully giving in to negative emotions.Compassion or co-suffering is an antidote for anger and grief; it helps break the isolation and alienation caused by the negativity of violence (anger) or withdrawal (grief). Forgiveness breaks apart the toxic shame and fear that again, prevent us from integrating ourselves into whole and healthy individuals and connecting to others in a healthy, well-adjusted way. It is, by far, the hardest of all Moral Actions, as it is based on overcoming the consequences of profound traumas, seared in the memory of pain. Generosity reaches out to the others, while Gratitude permeates the person and all the individual actions with a spirit of thankfulness that lights it all up with joy from within.

The Moral Actions, when taken and practiced together, unify a person’s core being around positive, healing attitude that extend from self to others, from an individual self-definition, to the self-in-the-world. Compassion and Generosity breaks the isolation and create communities. Forgiveness and Gratitude have the greatest healing impact internally, when applied to oneself. Practicing these Moral Actions, based within Cardinal Virtues is a transformative act that results in the healing of an individual person while simultaneously healing the world. Through the practice of Virtue, the present moment is permeated with positive Moral Actions.

Justice is truly “fair” when it is based on compassion, defined as shared suffering, “feeling for/with the other,” or “I know your pain.” Courage to forgive is far more powerful than courage to fight, it is far more liberating than courage to merely endure and survive. Forgiveness gives rise to courage, courage to forgiveness. The generosity of sharing joy may be the one difference between a true saint and an ordinary moral person. For the ordinary person, lacking the convictions or the endurance of a saint, generosity is to be tempered by Moderation, all actions made within reason. True Wisdom arises from gratitude: we are deeply thankful for every opportunity to feel, live and share, grateful for every day, every breath. Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) expressed the feeling of universal gratitude in a beautiful maxim: “Two things awe me the most: the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.”

Intertwined with the Cardinal Virtues, the four Moral Actions form yet another protective circle of goodness. Compassion and Generosity are primarily directed outside the circle, towards others whose suffering we understand and with whom we share our gifts. Forgiveness and Gratitude are primarily directed inwardly. We heal ourselves first; we learn to be thankful for our own gifts first. Then we can turn towards the others. The image of oxygen masks falling down on the plane is appropriate here: the adult passengers have to put on, adjust and fasten their own masks first, and only later, while already able to breathe, they should turn to take care of others. We heal ourselves by forgiving ourselves first and by learning to be thankful for the little things in life. Then, we can go on and find a place, mission, or purpose for our future Moral Actions concerning others.


Liquit Amber Turning Colors, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk


Love’s gift cannot be given, It waits to be accepted
~ Rabindranath Tagore, “Fireflies”

I’m filled with gratitude. It makes me sleepy.
I’m ready to purr with contentment
like a stray cat that found its pillow.

The warmth of satiation shines
a smile plays in the corner of my mouth,
full of your kisses - the softest kind.

My lungs expand with fresh afternoon breeze
bearing a hint of orange blossoms
Too early for jasmine. I close my eyes.

I live in the moment when our togetherness
slipped from my fingers. I listen
to the monotone chant of the mourning dove.

I watch the ruckus of house sparrows
fighting for a crumb on a cement path
overgrown with weeds, sprouting through crevices.

Life is stronger than stone.

I’m grateful for each breath
filled with loving you. I rest
in this knowledge, this air...

The Good One, the All-Knowing Wisdom
will not deny my prayers. Shameless, insistent,
I’m the dove that refuses to be silent.

This is my song. This is my melody,
My thankfulness, my Amen.

Let it be, God, let him be. 

(c) 2009 by Maja Trochimczyk

Liquit Amber Leaves, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk


A Box of Peaches

You locked your Wisdom in a gilded box
Placed dainty flowers where metal bars
Cross to hold them

You made a window for Compassion
To look out from onto the world
Glowing with the unseen

Would the talisman of the Smiling One
In your pocket save you? Draw luck
To your game of cards?

Let it be, let the ancient words fall
On a carpet of bronze petals on your path
Dappled with tree shadows 

Walk slowly through the magic
Orchard filled with an avalanche of peaches
Ripening in the sunset

Stoop down to pick one, feel its warmth
In your hand, taste the mellow richness
beneath the fuzzy, wrinkled skin

Say to no one in particular
The sun maybe, or the tree, or this late hour – 
Thank you, yes, thank you very much

(c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

Pomegranates, Photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk


NOTE: Photos of pomegranates and Liquid Amber trees in Sunland, November 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk.  The peaches were too early. We ate them in July.

Friday, October 5, 2012

October is a Funny Month...of Timelessness and Lilies

Clouds in California - Eaton Canyon, Pasadena, September 2012

In Canada, October is the month for Thanksgiving, but in China, Cyprus, Croatia, Germany, Nigeria, Portugal, Taiwan it is the time to celebrate national holidays. In America we have the Columbus Day and a whole month to come up with the most outreageous, bloody or scary Halloween costumes...

Global October celebrations also include the birthday of Mahatma Ghandi, Free Thought Day, World Food Day, Apple Day, Spirit Day, Halloween, and All Souls Day, among many others. There is something different to celebrate in each country in this month of harvests and remembrances of death and dying. 

One of my favorite, nostalgic and melancholy celebrations of October is the annual visit to a cemetery. Families visit the graves of their loved ones, bring candles and prayers. Thousands of candles flicker in the rain, wet leaves shuffle under the feet, the air is scented with smoke and memories of days past... people gone... happiness subdued by absence... I must say that I rather liked it, these dark evenings among the ancient crooked tombstones of Poland...

Cemeteries are different under the brilliant California sun that banishes melancholy. But it is good to remember our place in the stream of time, a raging torrent that becomes more violent every day. Death and life, farewells and welcomes. New babies are being born and cherished. Life goes on...  For October, I selected a poem on cosmic time and timelessness as it is reflected in the transience and beauty of our lives. Someone said that the best way to walk it is to keep one feet in time and the other in timelessness...

© 2008 by Maja Trochimczyk

Yes, there is time
Yes, there is weight
of the rocks on the skin
of the earth making
It harder to breathe
for the beast of eons

Yes, there are clouds
Yes, there is air
cut with wispy stripes
of whiteness wishing,
willing itself into being,
into solid forms that
dissolve in the merest
breeze, flee into nothing

Yes, there we are
Yes, matter stays
atoms, prions, electrons
dance in an endless cycle 
of DNA spirals, molecules,
blades of grass and gravel

Yes, there is time
to watch, to catch
the transient beauty
of living in red harmony
blood circling in our veins,
rock dust changing into stars



My most recent publications include "The Rite of Passage" that appears in the Epiphany Magazine, Issue 16 (October 2012), accompanied by three photographs of mountains, clouds and roses. The poem celebrated my 2011 vacations in the High Sierras of Calfiornia. I love the clarity and jewel colors of montain lakes!

  • Epiphany Magazine, monthly poetry and photography magazine, October 2012 issue - "The Rite of Passage"  
Then, my poem "The Unseen" inspired by teaching arts and ethics in a Los Angeles County Jail, was selected by the online site and print yearbook, Van Gogh's Ear:
The first two poems of the cycle "Among the Lilies" - "Water Lily I" and "Water Lily II" (inspired by Claude Monet's paintings at L'Orangerie) were selected by Marie Lecrivain for her section in the annual mammoth Lummox Journal. The next two "Water Lilies" are a fitting follow up and are reprinted below. These poems are my souvenirs from my trip to Paris in October 2011.

  • Lummox  Magazine, a poetry anthology published by Lummox Press, ISBN 978-1-929878-38-3
    Perfect bound, Trade Paper, 230 + pages; $30, $25 (includes shipping from the publisher)

Fragment of Water Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris, 2011 photo by Maja Trochimczyk
                   Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris

Water Lily III
(c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

He keeps the colors royal
Vermillion and scarlet
The breeze shifts, scattering the patterns
Cleansing the air
From distant traces of mustard gas 

The breath and the brushstroke are one
He is the wind, moving through the garden
Made to be painted

Fragment of Water Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris, 2011 photo by Maja Trochimczyk
                       Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris

Water Lily IV
(c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk

Lily pads float up into indigo
Gathering like birds before winter
Pulled by the gravity of belonging
They fall into the night

Blossoms and cicadas
A nightingale’s song swirls above their sleep
A cricket counts the brushstrokes

Stiff fingers ache
It is good he had the ponds dug out
Life is good

Fragment of Water Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris, 2011 photo by Maja Trochimczyk
                         Lilies by Claude Monet, L'Orangerie, Paris


Photo Credits:
Photo of clouds at Eaton Canyon, Pasadena, CA, September 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk
Photos of fragments of Claude Monet's Water Lilies at L'Orangerie in Paris, October 2011, by Maja Trochimczyk

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Three Postcards from Paris of Ron Libbrecht

Maja Trochimczyk Reads "Three Postcards" at Bolton Hall Museum, 2012
Last October I went to Paris for a week as a guest of the Polish Institute and one of the speakers at the International Conference on Maria Szymanowska.

After coming back I saw Ron Libbrecht's watercolor from Paris and a series of ekphrastic poems was born. Hilda Weiss of Poetry LA recorded them and posted on the site and on YouTube. The poems and the inspirational paintings were also published in a monthly online journal, Quill and Parchment, vol. 100, July 2012.


~ inspired by Ron Libbrecht's watercolors and a trip to Paris

Pont Neuf, Paris by Ron Libbrecht
 1. A New View of Pont Neuf, Paris

It is not that I do not want to rest here
On this greenest of grasses
In the shadow of massive branches
Of London plane trees, platane commun,
Maple leaf planes, Platanus hispanica,
It is just that my geography is as confused
As that of the tree – Polish, Canadian
Californian – everything I see
Carries multiple shadows of things remembered
Doppelgänger of memories
Like that park with a sandbox and benches
By the Zoo in Warsaw where we ate white clouds
Of candy-floss under the poplars
Discussing the shape of spots on the neck
Of the giraffe and hippopotamus’s awful teeth

2. The Tower and the Crane

After I filled my eyes with the splendor
Of stained glass rainbows at La Sainte Chapelle
An orgy of royal fleur-de-lis
With cranes and ravens carved into the floor
Medieval creatures waiting for a sign
To spread their wings in flight

Exhausted by history
I looked for a bench not smelling of urine
Under the sky’s pure crystal
Watercolor birds from the pages of Audubon
Stopped me at a bouquiniste’s stand
Near Quai Voltaire

Should I get the crane for a blessing of long life?
Or a kingfisher? Hopkins said they “catch fire,
Dragonflies draw flame”

To each their own – I choose a poster
With the flags and balloons
Of the 1889 World Fair
They billow and float around the edifice
Of stainless steel, Eiffel's glory

I know, I know – the stone carvings
Of beaks, claws, and beady eyes
Will outlive me and my paper Tower

Paris, Watercolor by Ron Liebbrecht
3. Paris, October
On the way back
To the Institute Polonais
Not far from the twisted flames
Where Princess Diana died
In the tunnels under Pont d’Alma
I walk by a maple and a young oak
Encircled by wrought-iron fence
An oasis of gold and bronze
Among the streets, cars, metal rivers
Of the 16-eme Arrondissement

Sales are brisk at Chanel and Versace
During the Paris Fashion Week
Charcoal and diamonds are in style
The black-clad models look indifferent
Not one of them dressed
In the splendor of lilies
The richness of autumn leaves

I wonder

Sheltered by sunlight,
We find refuge from cosmic wind
And the gnashing of teeth
In the darkness outside

Paintings by Ron Libbrecht, copied by permission.
YouTube Reading by Poetry LA: Maja Trochimczyk at Bolton Hall, February 2012

Publication: Quill and Parchment, vol. 100, July 2012

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Midsummer Lessons from Mars and Lascaux

Water Droplets on a Leaf, San Francisco, (c) by Maja Trochimczyk

 It is never too late to learn something new. Two bits of scientific knowledge have recently captured my attention. First, a new method of dating ancient artifacts with radioactive isotopes resulted in rewriting the chronology of Paleolithic art: apparently, the astounding frescoes of bisons and horses in the caves of Lascaux, France, were not painted 20,000 years ago by our direct ancestors, homo sapiens, but, instead, were created over 43,000 years ago when Europe was inhabited by the Neanderthals. Therefore, we have to change our preconceived notion of the hairy Neanderthals as ape-like primitive brutes. What a discovery!

Second, the inventive laboratory-on-wheels Curiosity landed on Mars without a glitch and began sending back to Earth photographs of its rocky surroundings. I had seen a life-size model of the probe during the annual open house at JPL: with legs taller than me and two wheels on each leg, this futuristic vehicle was able to drive in any direction, over piles of rocks under one leg and smooth sand under another. On a Sunday night in August I was a guest at JPL’s California control station watching the Curiosity landing – or, rather, watching rows of engineers in blue shirts doing something important and intently staring at their screens. We enjoyed lectured lectures by JPL staff between computer animations of Martian landscapes traversed by the spacecraft, while waiting for the numbers on a small screen on the side to confirm that all engines fired, the silicone parachute deployed, all temperature sensors reported normal data, etc. Not only was it a “blind” landing on instruments alone: the landing was actually operated by the machines pre-programmed to follow a certain course of action.

The radio signal, traveling at the speed of light, takes nearly 15 minutes to come to Earth from Mars. Our screens reported each stage of the action 15 minutes after it already happened! What a feat of human ingenuity! But this 15-minute delay also tells us how important it is to live in the present, here on Earth (Memento Vitae). We are stuck here, for now. It is really too far to go somewhere else.


A poem of mine, "Memento Vitae" was published in Serbian translation in the largest daily paper; French, Spanish and Chinese versions are in the works… Thanks to my friend Dr. Mira Mataric, who translated five of my poems for a Serbian literary journal, I now have a publication in the same alphabet (though not language) than my Belorussian grandparents used. The publication in the daily paper was quite a surprise. I hope we all cherish our lives 43,000 years after the Neanderthals first decorated their caves. How? Read my poem "A Lesson for my Daughter!" But first comes a reflection from the beach...

Desert Rocks (Mars Lookalike) (c) 2011 by Maja Trochimczyk
Walking on Seashells

broken pieces of fish bones
lie scattered by the tide
where sandpipers feed

hermit crabs move into empty shells
whose former inmates
lost their future, devoured

the ocean of death surrounds us

ants troop in and out of the eye
of the beetle that lies
in the middle of my path

crushed sea shells paint the beach
bone-white – prickly sand
slowly changes into rock

fossils capture cruel snapshots
of transient past

unperturbed, we march on,
treading on traces of old tragedies

insects die first, yet outlive us
we do not mind their deaths
with a gaze fixed above,
we ignore countless incidents
of random murders, as we walk into
the gaping mouth of the Behemoth

Green Leaf (Fingerprints) photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk

 Memento Vitae 

Let's talk about dying.
The gasp of last breath.
The end. Or maybe not,
We don't know.
Let's talk about the last day.
What would you do
if you knew?
Whom would you love?
Would you find your dearest,
most mysterious love?
Or would you just stay
in the circle of your own?
Would you rob, steal
or insult anyone?
Would you cry?
Burn your papers?
If the fabric of your future
shrank to one day,
or maybe just an hour?

Let's talk about living, then.
The next breath,
that will take you
to the next minute,
the next heartbeat.

Just about – now.

© 2008 by Maja Trochimczyk

Flower Bud in the Spring, photo (c) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk
A Lesson for My Daughter 

After a ruby-colored glass of Merlot
I told my daughter the secret of the Universe.
I solved it at noon, by the river.

Questions do not matter.
The right answer to life is: "Yes."
If you build a circle of "Yes" around you,
Affirming the essence of beauty,
You'll be safe.

If you say "I love you" to everyone
(Very quietly so they can't hear, but you know),
You'll walk in a sphere of gladness
No insult or curse may pierce.

You'll be whole and holy:
Living deeply where love blossoms,
Laughter bubbles, and joy overflows.

© 2006 by Maja Trochimczyk 

NOTE: Photos from San Francisco and Los Angeles, (C) 2012 by Maja Trochimczyk