CALIFORNIA LIGHTS

City Lights

. . . the wide open California sky fills the car
with light, while my mother sits beside me,
this her first day out West, and in typical

Brooklyn Flatbush fashion, enthusiastically exclaims:
“It’s so bright!” Sure enough, unfiltered by humidity,
unlike back East; such a stark contrast to Aberdeen,

her mother’s home city on the constantly cool, often
cloudy North Sea coast, while further north, the wild
windy Orkney Islands, origin for our Scottish Skea

ancestors, who set large stones in circles, dug deep
burrows to lure the sun at solstice into earthen caverns,
so celebrate, as a community, the arrow light

shooting through the dark, liquid-like gold pouring
into a primitive chalice, positioned at an angle,
welcoming that warm beam of shimmering hope

during dark chilly days; and now calling me to
wonder whether our subconscious is saturated
with ancestral memories, instinctive links, codes

embedded in DNA, elemental ancient worship,
akin to the Magi following a star along the Silk Road
to Palestine, arriving at an unlikely place, a manger

with a newborn asleep on straw, symbolizing salvation’s
unconditional love, rippling outwards in bands, such
sacred rituals, scriptural stories passed down over

centuries, lingering in voices of a grandmother telling
a childhood tale of her father, a sea-captain for
Cunard Lines, providing passage from Scotland

to New York harbor, Lady of Liberty lighting the way,
. . . remnants scattered, trace memory, my mother
drawn to the Atlantic, swimming with Dad, basking

in the summer sun, my brothers and I diving into sparkling
surf, tip-toeing on hot beach to the boardwalk for cokes
and hot-dogs . . . as with everyone’s childhood,

temporarily lost . . . I entered a convent far from
the sea, though splendid sights from Westchester’s
highest hill overlooking the Hudson; the back east

winter darkness providing hibernation, a slowing down
as our feline pets sleeping silently in shadows till sun-
beams touch their fur, waking to groom for essential

vitamin D; while our family further revitalized by
immigrating to sunny California, fiery gingko trees,
plum blossom orchards, grape vineyards, almond groves,

pines, redwoods, cypresses; glorious unexpected graces,
as my mother telling of her daily practice at day’s end:
walking to the window in Santa Clara’s Valley Village

retirement community, companioning the sun’s golden
crest over the darkening Santa Cruz mountains before
dipping into the Pacific, recalling her mother’s love of

sunsets from her Prospect Park apartment towards
the Brooklyn Bridge and family drives to Fort Greene’s
69th Street pier, facing city skyscrapers shimmering

in Hudson harbor, New Jersey aglow, lighthouse of memory
turning towards times Mom welcomed the eastern sun
over Silicon Valley, offering her warm afternoon walks

to Walgreens or Safeway, till twilight called her home,
as prayer does at dark, casting beams of hope into our hearts,
blessed rays she believed brought her beloved close . . .

Gingko leaves

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QUOTING RON HANSEN

"Carolyn Grassi's 'Heart and Soul' is fascinating in its fluent and affecting blend of memoir and poetry, reminiscence and sheer invention, loss, grief and homage. Adopting a persona at times, or imitating a seminal influence on her writing at other junctures, [Carolyn Grassi] has created a quilt of memories and reflections on a life's education—the journey we all hope to make from becoming to being, or from acting as disciples to representing ourselves and our art as apostles..."
Read the complete foreword by Ron Hansen in 'Heart and Soul' published by Patmos Press, San Francisco, CA.

Ron Hansen, author

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Carolyn Grassi

Ron Hansen and Jim Torrens

Blase Bonpane, Ph.D

Lit Prof at SCU