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).
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."
The Music Box
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.
Three brown leaves from the ash tree
that grew by itself and died,
unwelcome. The Cross of Malta
waiting to shine on your chest.
* * *
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.