Tell Us a Story Kicks Off National Poetry Month, Non-fiction Style!

Cangkir Kaleng (Tin Cup)

by Kanita Mote

Photo Credit: Kanita Mote

Photo Credit: Kanita Mote

I.

In her home, tea was a piece of her soul, always served in a tin cup.

80 pounds of luggage, 3 children, 2 tin cups

Dua cangkir kaleng.

16,000 kilometers, from the hot, tropical country of central Indonesia

To frigid, snowy, northeastern America.

Of those 80 pounds, only one was used for her own personal use; to carry her 2 tin cups.

Her dua cangkir kaleng.

She could not bring her bachelor’s degree in psychology from the best university in Indonesia

Nor could she bring her occupation as an esteemed university lecturer.

She sipped from her tin cup, worry etched in her youthful face, as she decided that to survive, the only way was to adapt; become American; assimilate.

She sipped from her tin cup as she came home, eyes nearly closed, weary from a day spent lifting elderly clients as a home health aide.

She sipped from her tin cup, a smile on her face, as she gazed upon a new nursing license, a victor regarding the spoils of war.

She sipped from her tin cup, pride in her heart, as her hair grayed, as her children grew, as her family moved from run-down apartments in inner-city New Haven to a brick house in the suburbs of Hamden, as she claimed her own version of the American Dream she was promised, claimed with the vivacity and aggression of the pioneers in the West.

She could only bring her cangkir kaleng,

but that was enough.

II.

My mother read this smiling slightly

Before chuckling outright

She pointed to the words and said

It’s not true

Not 80 pounds

But 240

And not 2 cups

But 3

They were for each of you, for your milk,

Not for me.

**************************************************************

The Bellwether

by Allyson Wuerth

the author's parents, 1970

The author’s parents, 1970.

If my mother had known of his pancreas

she would not have panned across the room

of their community college class to stop and see

the man whose body would interrupt itself so suddenly

in the cast shadow of a single day.

 

An organ closing itself off to the woman

he hands his grandmother’s rings to.

Could this have been the first sign? The organ

refusing her, refusing my father even the sweetness

off her lips?

Or maybe it became a symbol of his love,

how when we love, our bodies become

so certain of themselves

and starve at the doorstep

of another’s heart.

 

Whatever the cause, my mother once saw god.

Through the dusty moonlight, beside the bed

she shared with her own mother, god

told her she would always feel a glow

through the flesh.

 

And so the organ, unhinged, fell through his body

and through hers it sank into me.

Did she know it would happen this way?

My body so like my father’s figure—

the canoe moving them so slowly at first

to the damaged tree leaned against my heart.

 

If our skin had been stretched transparent,

our skin

caught in the glassy shame of a long sadness,

a brokenness that only she might glean

from her small desk in the back row of the place they met,

why did she not stop herself from crossing over

the yellow light

that fell between them?

*******************************************************************

Legacy

by Carol Smallwood

The author's own legacy. . .

The author’s own legacy. . .

My grandmother pinned hairpin lace bibs

on grandfather’s bathing beauty calendars, crocheted jelly glass holders for Queen Anne’s Lace.

Her flour sack scarves–hemmed to look

like they had no hems, have hourglass patterns echoing her figure unfamiliar

with backs of chairs.

 

As the neighborhood midwife she whispered:

“garcon” for a boy, “jeune fille” if a

girl to keep such delicate things from children.

Aunt Lily said with uplifted chin, “I

never saw her apron dirty or saw her cry;”

my mother with shaking head,

“She looks at the hats in church.”

She died from complications of tight corsets, combs holding her Gibson Girl hair and handkerchiefs folded in fans.

 

About the authors:

Kanita Miyedadi Mote was born in Jakarta, Indonesia. She and her family moved to Ithaca, New York in October 1999 before moving to New Haven, Connecticut in 2002. She is currently a senior at Sacred Heart Academy and will be attending the University of Connecticut in the fall, in the hopes of one day fulfilling her dream of becoming a public defense attorney and immigrant and minority rights activist. 

Allyson Wuerth received her MFA in poetry from the University of Pittsburgh. She has published in numerous journals, including: Connecticut Review, Quarterly West, and Cimarron Review. She teaches literature at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, CT.

Carol Smallwood’s books include Women on Poetry: Writing, Revising, Publishing and Teaching, foreword by Molly Peacock (McFarland, 2012) on Poets & Writers Magazine list of Best Books for Writers; Divining the Prime Meridian (WordTech Editions, 2014); Bringing the Arts into the Library (American Library Association, 2014). Carol has founded, supports humane societies.

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