Lucille Lang Day

 

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

 

Autumn, the Girl

Autumn Rose makes hoopoes whoop in me.
Daughter of my daughter, four years old,
she draws fairies and writes poetry
about the queen of water. She told
us this kind monarch also rules the day.
In cartoons she scorns mean clouds and monsters
who snarl or roar, preferring bears who play
fair with friends and mice who become dancers.

Yet she speaks knowingly of pterodactyls
and getting good jobs with an MBA.
She doesn’t shy away from things like fractals
at the science center high above the bay,
which shines like metal as the sun goes down
and she proclaims, “The queen has on her crown!”

 

First published in Valparaiso Poetry Review

 

 

 

 

Names of the Horses
For Sabine at six

I want to remember the names
you gave the little plastic horses—
the females Sandy and Buttercup,
the males Lightning and Gray—
and how they ran in pairs through
the canyons and mountains of the house,
two in your small hands, your hair
pulled back in a long blonde braid,
two in my own grandmotherly hands,
following close behind on the trails
that led to the alpine meadows
of the upstairs bedrooms, then down
to the valley where they bathed
in a stream rushing through the playroom
in the basement. Back upstairs at the ranch
in the living room, they ate hay, and I
watched as you lovingly bathed them
again and gave them new shoes, each
in his or her turn, before they took off
for another expedition through the wilds
of the house, and when they reached
that stream in the basement again,
I spread a blanket on the sandy shore
and lay back, exhausted, to watch them play.

 

 

 

 

Children at Play

The boy hits his sister, who sits next to him
on the sofa. He’s eight. She’s six.
She hits him back. He pushes her.
She pushes him. They’re both laughing.

Should I put a stop to this? She kicks him,
and he grabs her in a chokehold.
Grandpa says, “Stop! That could hurt her.”
He shoves her face into the sofa. “Stop!”

When he lets go, she stands and he pushes
her into the coffee table. She starts to cry.
Their parents left five minutes ago.
They’re ours for five more hours.

Taking her in my arms, I tell him to apologize.
I should have stopped them after
that first smack. He runs off as I comfort her.
The bedroom door slams, then the back door.

She goes after him. He’s barricaded himself
in the unfinished addition to the house,
won’t speak to anyone. Grandpa says,
“Leave him alone. He feels guilty.”

Will we make it to pizza and the movie?
Yes. Sullen, back inside, he snarls, “Sorry.”
“He always says it like that,” she says.
His hands cover his ears in the car.

At the food court, he’s ready to talk,
asks for pepperoni pizza. Now he’s okay.
My thoughts drift to instincts and caves.
Saber-toothed tigers. He’ll protect me someday.

 

 

 

 

Blue Star and Yellow Moon
For Brandon

A blue star and a smiling yellow moon
dangle over a bassinette. The child
is transfixed. For him the world is new,
not a jigsaw of tectonic plates that quake
and grind, billions of years old. Too quickly
the shore erodes, as the heart falters.

Eventually even the stars will falter,
but for now the happy crescent moon
with a polka dot back turns quickly
when the mother reaches for the child
and bumps the star and moon, heart quaking
as she lifts her child, hungry, new.

The grandmother recalls when she was new,
before her sight began to falter,
before a lifetime lived in earthquake
country, before men walked on the moon.
She remembers the new mother as a child
sleeping in a bassinette. How quickly

she grew into a woman! How quickly
seed coats crack and life begins anew!
Someday the shining eyes of the child
will see suffering. Perhaps he’ll falter
or maybe even travel to the moon
or feel love that makes his being quake.

Let each family member at the table quake
in amazement at the years that quickly
bloom, and smile like the child’s moon
turning above the bassinette, brand new.
Let them catch each other if one falters
and not forget how stars look to a child.

I think the stars beam brightest for the child
too young to know the planet turns and quakes.
Taking his first step, the child will falter,
then pick himself up and try again quickly,
while his mother marvels at this new
thing to do beneath the sun and moon.

For now, the unfaltering little moon
is still, the child asleep beneath his new
star, light quaking as the Earth turns quickly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Writer Lucille Lang Day was born in Oakland, California, and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Lucy received her M.A. in English and M.F.A. in creative writing at San Francisco State University, and her B.A. in biological sciences, M.A. in zoology, and Ph.D. in science and mathematics education at the University of California at Berkeley. She studied poetry with Kathleen Fraser, Daniel Langton, Josephine Miles, Toni Mirosevich, and Stan Rice; and fiction and creative nonfiction with Nona Caspers, Molly Giles, Robert Glück, Leo Litwak, and Frances Mayes.

Lucy’s poetry collections are The Curvature of Blue (Cervena Barva, 2009), Infinities (Cedar Hill, 2002), Wild One (Scarlet Tanager, 2000),Fire in the Garden (Mother’s Hen, 1997), andSelf-Portrait with Hand Microscope (Berkeley Poets’ Workshop and Press, 1982). She has also published a children’s book, Chain Letter (Heyday, 2005), and three poetry chapbooks: God of the Jellyfish (Cervena Barva, 2007), The Book of Answers (Finishing Line, 2006), andLucille Lang Day: Greatest Hits, 1975-2000 (Pudding House, 2001). Her poems, short stories, and creative nonfiction have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies, and her memoir, Married at Fourteen, will appear from Heyday in 2012. She is a co-author of How to Encourage Girls in Math and Science (Dale Seymour, 1982) and the editor of SEEK (Science Exploration, Excitement and Knowledge): A Curriculum in Health and Biomedical Science for Diverse 4th and 5th Grade Students (Children’s Hospital & Research Center Oakland, 2010). Her books are available through Amazon.com and Small Press Distribution.

Most recently a staff scientist at Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute, Lucy previously served for six years as a science writer and administrator at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and for 17 years as the director of the Hall of Health, an interactive children’s museum in Berkeley. She has also worked as a freelance writer, technical writer/editor, school-district math/science specialist, math/science education consultant, and college lecturer. She is the founder and director of a small press, Scarlet Tanager Books.

Rebellious and willful as a teenager, Lucy first married at age 14 and gave birth at 15. Between the ages of 14 and 17, she did not attend school. In addition to mothering during these years, she worked as a sales representative for Beauty Counselor Cosmetics, a phone girl at Chicken Delight, and a gas station attendant. These experiences kindled her enthusiasm for academics.

She is of British, Swiss/German, and Native American descent. Her father, Richard Lang, was a banker and photographer, her mother, Evelyn, a homemaker. Her ancestors include a lecturer in Hebrew at Oxford University in the 16th century, a man who fell off theMayflower during a storm and was hauled back on board with a fish hook, the first person executed in Plymouth Colony (for murder), a woman who was whipped at the post for adultery, a Revolutionary War sergeant who fathered 22 children, a teenager who joined the Union Army and served in a regiment that was decimated by yellow fever, a man who traveled from Massachusetts to California twice during the Gold Rush but did not get rich, a Caucasian housekeeper who bore the illegitimate daughter of a Wampanoag man, and many other people who did wondrous, courageous, or despicable things and did or did not survive.

The mother of two grown daughters and grandmother of four, Lucy currently baby-sits often and lives in Oakland with her husband, writer Richard Michael Levine.

 

Homepage: lucillelangday.com

 

 

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