Ode to the Ancient Grapefruit Tree
A wide honey stump and
scattered glossy leaves are all that’s left
of the grand grapefruit that kept vigil over
my garden the past fifty years or more.
Gone are winter’s yellow-leathered orbs,
gone their fragrant white blossoms heralding spring.
Gone gone gone the gnarled dark branches that twisted and bent
to hold ruby-red bounty when the year was spent,
and cast lovely shadows on moonlit nights.
Today’s chainsaw blur and thud thud thud of limbs falling
broke my garden-girl heart.
How I’ll miss my old grapefruit tree.
How I’ll miss singing work songs around its trunk in praise!
How the birds will miss swooshing through its branches
to perches over the fence: a neighbor’s avocado tree
or the disconsolate shed.
Planted in curves, legions of peace lilies now lie naked
without overhanging shelter of thorny green bowers
Purple-striped vines encircle the stump.
Trampled by tree guys’ boots, left, like the old tree, to die,
these persistent wanderers will return someday
and in scores welcome new plants.
Remembering generations of Floridians
of kids and lucky guests who breakfasted with delight
on my backyard grapefruit,
thank you, I say, a thousand times thank you!
How I will and do miss you,
beloved grapefruit tree.
Get in the zone
Move slow rest stretch
Breathe feel calm
Breathe more breath slow
Reach for the stars
Reach for your soul
Hear your heart
Lose your head
Breathe rest breathe hold sigh
Stretch feel warm lean tone stretch
Breathe rest stretch weep sigh
Bye thoughts smile
Sink deep in mat
Thread arms bend knees twist reach stretch smile
Breathe reach stretch high rest low hold sigh
Hands near the heart
Last pose rest
Nod pause smile
A Golden-Age Love
Where are those romantic fools for whom there is no end?
Ocean’s serene infinitude,
its celestial hues so perfect.
Is it here? Is it now?
Sunshine shimmers on the long
feathers of a palm
in the desert of age.
Each year lasts a day,
each day is but a minute,
and a minute was yesterday.
There’s victory, eternal life
in the restless palm fronds.
So they believe. So they say.
But the storm is here
a slicing light
a thunder’s roar.
An eerie calm reigns
pierce the air.
The palm wings droop now
kiss the beach.
The melting sand stills.
Let’s not talk of how this may end.
I want to remember the beginning when your face was smooth
And your laugh was strong enough to blow out the candles around the bed, and around the room but never those you placed in my heart
And we plunged and swam in the darkness.
And the journeys we have made together,
Let’s talk of them; or at least let me talk whilst you still can hear my voice.
I’ll remind you of the house in the north where we made blackberry jam,
Seedy and sharp the berries were and they stained our nails
And purpled our lips and we ate jamspread muffins late at night
In an empty room and you said or perhaps it was I who said
“Nothing better than muffins for ragamuffins”.
Because that’s what we were. Back then.
We’ll remember this too.
A cold day in Iceland in the rain, riding over coiled ropes of crinkling lava
To a cascade where the water slid over shining creases of basalt,
And the horses flinched at the sound of the fall of it,
And swivetted themselves away from the edge of the drop,
Twitching their hides, worrying the bridles, sweating through the saddles.
We ate salty cheese, and rough bread and fed them our apples
An atonement I suppose, for causing them such terror.
And a camel ride in the dimming, orange, desert light,
With two young boys, made cynical by life and poverty
Who braved their master’s scolding, shed their veneers of too early manhood
And galloped with us shrieking and ululating through the dunes.
We formed that evening, a quartet of conspirators.
Smirking in the cold, dusty dusk, we returned to the ragged camp
Our rebellion betrayed by the steaming, gasping animals,
The consequences for the boys softened by offerings of foreign money.
And if we are in the nursing home, let’s behave as we have always done,
Let’s hide together beneath the blankets and refuse to play Bingo,
Let’s pick at our food and demand muffins and jam,
And when the end comes let’s hope for the impossible, for the story that reads,
“50 years together: couple die within hours of each other.”
And if not, then let me be content to roam alone through our field of memories
Speak to you as if you were still here.
Let them look on me with fondness, as the fuddled old dear
Who refuses to return to the present.
Because without you here, why should I leave the past?
Back of a motor bike
Mam thinks I’m at Margie’s
Watching the telly.
Back of a motor bike
Arms round his waist,
Chest welded to his jacket.
Skirt riding up
Just a fringe of dun leather,
The skirt my Dad hates.
Says I look like a tart.
That’s the idea, I say
And laugh in his face.
Back of a motor bike
Knees like a nutcracker
Clenching the pillion.
Stilettos slopping off
The back of my heels.
Pink chiffon headscarf
Squashing my beehive.
It’s one in the morning.
Rain drizzling down.
A black empty road
As slick as wet legs.
Booze has worn off,
All of us smoking,
Mouths dry as old cake.
We’re nerving ourselves
For doing the ton.*
*Doing the ton refers to going at 100 mph on a motor bike.
We’ve updated our Events and Resources page and added more recordings of your friends at OLLI reading their own favorite poems. Check it out before you leave. –Editor
“An OLLI member since 2016, I’ve enjoyed being a student after years working for USF. I wrote goodly amounts of poetry as a child growing up in Temple Terrace. It’s gratifying to return to my hometown and to rediscover this art form as a senior!” – Beth Curts
Eduvigia (Junia) Ancaya is a nonfiction writer who has taken creative writing courses at USF and numerous courses at OLLI. She has recently published two nonfiction books honoring her parents’ saga during WW II : Struggle for Freedom: Marta’s Courage—A Memoir and Stefan’s Journey on the Road of Sorrows. A native of Poland, who escaped Communist tyranny in 1946, she immigrated to the U.S. in 1963. She is a retired physician.
Joyce Carpenter studied drama at college in England and has degrees in special education and social work. She joined OLLI-USF in 2010, has taken OLLI courses in literature poetry, history, improv, and reader’s theatre. She has co-taught drama courses for OLLI and is a member of the great books and the poetry groups.