Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Denver Writing Project - Anthology Piece

Last night I finished my first piece for the 2011 Denver Writing Project's anthology.  I felt like a kindergartner who "publishes" their first piece and is met with "oohs" and "ahs," as well as prominent placement on the refrigerator door, cutesy magnets holding the work of art in place. 

The process of writing this piece was both painful and cathartic.  While reading my initial draft out loud I broke down at the end - a wave of emotion rushing over me that I didn't expect.  By the time I finished the piece and sent it through three revision group sessions and my own revision process, I was smiling...remembering the amazing woman my grandmother was and feeling blessed to know firsthand the meaning of unconditional love.  This is also one of my first stabs at poetry, a genre I feared and pushed aside as a writer prior to this project.  It has truly been a summer of learning...and here goes: 

She –
Lessons in Love and Polka Dancing

By: Jessica Cuthbertson

Some people have grandmothers who –
bake cookies,
speak softly,
smell of rose petals or stale toast,
wear sensible shoes and
like cats.

My grandmother hated cats.  Dirty mackas, she’d say.

She –
rolled potica dough thinner than a pastry chef,
shopped impulsively,
watched soap operas,
wore dusters and pantyhose by day,
cocktail attire and costume jewelry by night,
smelled of Chanel and Aquanet.

She –
with lips stained the color of cabernet,
a darkened beauty mark,
teased hair that refused to gray,
could dance all night.
Feet traveling effortlessly between jitterbug and polka –
strappy heels sweeping the ballroom.

She –
daughter of Yugoslavian immigrants,
one of 15 (12 boys, 3 girls),
product of the steel mill,
left the 7th grade to raise siblings,
met a Croatian soldier
who substituted vows for honesty,
while she turned a blind eye to infidelity,
steel in her spine. 

She –
who after raising siblings as a child,
raised 3 daughters of her own,
worked retail, figuring percentages and discounts in her head,
cooked kielbasa and potatoes,
kept a pristine house.

She –
who cradles me – her first born grandchild,
her pride, her joy,
her self-proclaimed “favorite.”
She –
who meant what she said, said what she meant,
a brazen tongue,
showered only murmurings of love and adoration
in my ear.

She –
bigger than life,
would one day
mistake nutmeg for cinnamon,
ruining the potica she spent a lifetime perfecting.

She –
immortal in my eyes,
would one day
not recognize her own reflection in the mirror.
Vacant eyes who no longer knew me –
her firstborn grandchild, her pride, her joy,
her self-proclaimed, “favorite.”
Spirit of steel, slipping away... 

She –
taught me everything I know about
unconditional love,
the beauty of memory,
the importance of polka dancing.