Life Poetry: 11

Southie: the protector, the defender and the neighborhood that wasn’t mine

I look out onto the street from my second floor window. I’m not quite sure what I’m looking for, but I know it’s different from what I see.

Silver Street is dirty and filled with jagged memories. There are the stairs I sit on longingly waiting for my dad to drive by. I watch the corner with an eagle eye hoping the tough girls don’t come around. The gym where the nasty boys hang out and where Atilla and Finegan (two very large and scary dogs) reign sends shivers through me. I’ve spent more time running into this house and away from the world than living in it. I’ve confronted meanness and aggression too many times, I’ve had to stand up to protect a friend only to bawl my eyes out from fear the minute I’m alone.

Yet I sit here watching – remembering the laughter, the singing, games of kickball, and the old man who comes by every day to give Rags bologna. I think about the flames breaking out from behind painted wood windows during a warehouse fire across the street that fascinated and terrified me. I’m reminded of the many special 4-leggers who have come and gone; my beautiful Vicious who wandered into our lives introducing us to love bites – gentle nibbles of gratitude on the cheek, our handsome Bruno – a stunning tramp of a Shepherd who let us adopt him for a couple of months then moved on, Medford Tom downstairs who’s wild stories of his harrowing  life scared the pants off us and his rottie Eric who stole my heart, Buffie my best friend whose belly was my pillow, and Rags – the most well lived dog I’ll ever meet- he knew more of Southie and its secrets than the many humans who live here.

I picture how beautifully Silver St. lives up to its name in a thick snowfall. The light sparkles over the uninterrupted drifts of snow covering the grittiness. There is a quiet sadness in my observations. This place is my foundation. My parents are from here, it’s in my blood. I am so different than this world. I don’t belong and I want nothing more than to leave; to run far and fast from the hardness of it. I am a stranger here and yet, it is a part of me.

People in Their Environments 056

People in Their Environments 056 – South Boston 1983 by, Sage Sohier

In my search for an old photo of my hometown, I came across this picture and was immediately awed. I reached out to the photographer to tell her how much the photo moved me and reminded me of my childhood. I asked her if she knew the girls in the photo, she did not. As an artist and photographer myself, I wanted her to know she had captured something visceral for me. In the poem above I mention the “tough” girls. While this isn’t all of them, it is some of them…the actual girls! That is the corner of the street I grew up on, straight down  across from that car was my house and the fire I mention was in the warehouse the car is parked in front of. I have personally destroyed a bike and my nose on that very pole these girls are sitting behind. 

I  want to share how much a simple photo by a stranger can unexpectedly move someone even years after it is taken. I am nostalgic of the location itself, but also by the girls. These girls terrified me as a child. They were hard, mean and often cruel. Looking at them now as an adult knowing so much more about life and considering those around me,  I see their pain their longing and their dreams of escape. I see now that their anger was not at me, I just happened to be the easy target. 

I love this photo. I wish I could afford it. Its only available through a gallery for quite a hefty fee, so I will simply admire it from afar. I highly suggest looking up the artist. I am grateful to her. This photo allows me to look back at where I came from. To see the pain of my past in a new light, to see and forgive that hardness of life and to remind me of how fortunate I now am.


Life Poems 10


Bar counters and Shirley temples. Beer can deposits that pay for cookies & cream ice cream with extra jimmies and whipped cream at Brigham’s with Doris. Long days waiting for phone calls that never come and sitting on the steps hoping for a drive by kiss; this is not who I want him to be but it is who he is.

He lives just up the street and once promised me $5 for every A; an easily avoidable mistake if he’d paid attention. At Grandpas store (known as Elite to grown ups who don’t know any better) he’s the chef and manager, you’ll find no mac-n-cheese better than his. People come from all over for is food and his smile. He has the charm of a movie star, as his 2 ex-wives regretfully know.

Steve, the man with the mustache who owns and breaks my heart simultaneously. I know he loves me but I’m not quite good enough for him. If I were he’d spend more time with me and not his next wife’s kids.

Its ok. For now I’ll cherish the fancy birthday lunches and afternoons at one of his friends’ bars playing Pac Man while he talks. I’ll settle for some rather than none at all. I’ll keep my heart safely guarded between here and my day dreams of a loving dad who lights up when he sees me, tells me he’s proud and that Im the most beautiful girl in the world.



Life Poems 9

The Girl Upstairs

“Hi I’m Nickie”, were my first words to the girl moving in upstairs on Silver St. Back then I’d say hello to anyone. Inviting as I was, we were playing in my room by the end of the day. She was tall with dark hair, pale skin and big brown eyes; very pretty in an unconventional way. We became like glue, sisters against the mean outside world of Southie boys and angry dogs. We played Barbies, dressed up our pets and reenacted Grease over and over (I had seen the movie 27 times). I exposed her to Michael Jackson and she exposed me to ABBA;  try as I did my enthusiasm never grew for the group with the exception of our mantra song, Hasta Manana. She loved to sing and I loved laughing with her so it all worked out.  We sang patriotic songs on the stairs and danced in the street.  I saw an innocence that no one else did, a pain I wanted to disappear. She became the hot one and me her “shadow”, the protector, the one the boys wanted to ditch to be alone with her.  Like mother like daughter, I did not bend.  She was my first true friend, the first to expose my maternal nature.



Life Poems 8


She was beautiful! Her dark soulful eyes shared a tenderness that melted away any pain. Tears would be gone in seconds replaced by laughter and games of tag around the house; she was always it. We sat together at meals and often fell asleep side by side. There’s no denying she was my best friend. She’d been there since before memories took hold. Walking side by side, leaning in in that tender way friends do. I loved how warm she was, soft too. Her silky long hair would swish as she walked, the kaleidoscope of browns, whites and grays. She was old and yet full of life. But today she’s gone. Its my 8th birthday and time is quickly teaching me that pain comes with age. I’ve been lying here in the corner on her blanket by the closet, where she died in my arms, trying to hold on to her. I don’t want to celebrate today. The one wish I have is impossible.


Life Poems 7


There are no walls to hide behind in school. I dread the walk of shame to my desk each day. Their voices crush me. They yell, “Earthquake!!!” then in tandem as they skillfully shake there bodies out of their chairs and to the ground laughing wholeheartedly at their cruelty. I sink down. My desk isn’t big enough. I fight back tears; its a losing game. Inside I’m screaming, “Stop!” but I’m weak. I want to disappear, be invisible, be alone. My reflection reveals a void; I see nothing, no one. I am a reject in a sea of monsters, food to be fed on bite by bite until there’s nothing left.


Life Poems 6


A quiet haze fills the room. Mom’s voice is soft, her face dim. Goosebumps cover my arms as she walks me through the deafening silence to the big leather chair and draws me in. It’s cold and I don’t want to look at her. It’s all wrong. I stare at the floor watching the roach scurry across the painted wood like it has no care in the world. Her breath burns the back of my neck as the painful words enter my head, “Grandma’s gone”. A rush of heat climbs my spine from my belly to my eyes as the tears fall forth….So this is death?


Life Poems 5

The Wizard of Oz and the Monumental Mission of a Five Year Old

Each year near easter the giant console in the living room became a gathering place. It was the only time the family came to our house. We had the color tv and I believed with all my heart that deep down I was Dorothy on a monumental mission to save the world, so I had the biggest pull.

The adults would get the black leather couch and chairs as all us kids gathered on the floor with pillows waiting for the magic to begin. My heart would pound as the music began and Kansas, in whimsical black and white, filled our eyes. It was my favorite time of year. The spectacle drew me in and my mind overflowed with phantasm of it.

I regularly convince my cousin to play Wizard of Oz with me having the explicit agreement that, next time she get to be Dorothy. It was never a long journey since I never reciprocated and always insisted she be Toto. I’d convincingly plead, “Whats Dorothy without Toto?!?”.

That world was unlike anything I knew; brilliant colors, fabulous voices and terrifying flying monkeys. I was fueled, enchanted, driven to find my yellow brick road and wondrous friends. To be in a place so different from where I lived where evil monkeys equaled mean boys, the wicked witch was my Nana, and sirens where the whirl of the tornado outside my window.


Life Poems 4

Stella Doro S Cookies, Wise Onion & Garlic chips, a Maxwell House Can with Bacon Fat and Hellmann’s Mayonnaise

The smell of bacon fills me with excitement as I run to the kitchen. Grandma is standing at the stove cooking her daily lunch of Wonder Bread, Hellmann’s mayo and bacon fat. I beg for a bite. Disgusted yet again at the horrible texture I spit it out. My brain refusing to connect that something that smells so good can taste so bad.

After she eats I sit on her lap admiring the hard earned lines in her face. Every day she wears a nurses uniform blue and white, it never changes. I like to think she loves and misses being nurse in the war. But her eyes are sad, and though cloudy, they share so much. Her lack of English limited our conversation, but her heart and touch fill me with love.

I start to bounce as the familiar sound fills my ears and she sings “oom pa oom pa oom papa, oom pa oom pa oom papaaaa….”. I fall between her legs to be swiftly saved and pulled back up again and again.  This is a highly anticipated time in my day. We share Wise onion and garlic chips, the bright green bag that religiously sits on the top of the fridge. Happily we crunch as the sweet and tangy flavors rush across our tongues.

Soon she will head for her afternoon walk. She leaves for hours walking from South Boston to Cambridge and back; our ragamuffin dog following the whole way faithfully at her side. She carries an American flag tapping the houses she passes with the stick. Her collar always adorned with an embroidered four leaf clover sticker. I think she feels lucky to be in America, and each tap is a thank you to the country and god. On her return she makes tea and grabs the Stella D’oro S cookies as a treat. I don’t like them much but I love her and the love they represent.

For me, Grandma is a collection of fascinating objects and broken memories. She fills my heart and helps me understand what a smile is for.

She is the faded virgin mother poster with broken glass that sits behind a washing machine that never works.

She is a green rabbit’s foot that sits on the window sill next to a faded black and white photo of my grandfather in his coffin; the back covered with writing in Lithuanian.

She is laughter and love without language.

She is an old long navy blue coat in the closet with the tiniest waist I’ve ever seen.

She is the one who makes me eat with my right hand and never with my left.

She is an adventurous traveler and a lover of lost pets.

She is Stella D’or0 S cookiesWise Onion & Garlic chips, a Maxwell House can filled with with bacon fat, and Hellmann’s mayonnaise.

She is my creative internal compass for understanding love.





Life Poems 3

What I learned from Mommy, Daddy and Baby Mouse

There is security in a stuffed mouse. I tell the truth, nothing can beat a conversation only they and you can understand. Secrets shared and compassion given in times of need. Mommy mouse never failed to show up. Her plump gray body and yellow plaid belly held nothing but comfort.

One day Daddy mouse came into our circle, I’m not sure why. His eyes were so stark they scared me. He wasn’t as plump and soft either. Suddenly one morning his eyes had turned into sunshines, two beautiful blue and gold buttons with the rays of the sun shining back. He could never be mommy mouse but he calmed me now, finding a way to help me accept his uniqueness. I learned to love his eyes.

Baby mouse seemed to come from nowhere too. He was the last. I remember is his big ears that were fun to twist until terrifyingly they fell away from his head. He too became part of our strange little family, always smiling. Though deaf, he seemed quite content.

These friends slept on my bed each night quietly observing, quietly teaching me to love and accept the strangeness of my heart.



Life Poems 2


Is This Death?

I awake in the dark, strange plastic surrounds me, bars keep me in. My body aches, confusion and fear flow through my veins. I’m lost, alone, trapped in a cell filled with strange sounds.

Suddenly I see the light spilling through the door like the sun, blanketing a woman asleep in a chair. It’s my mother. A calmness seeps in. I turn, watching her until I fall asleep.