- “Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins
I ask them to take a poem
and hold it up to the light
like a color slide
or press an ear against its hive.
I say drop a mouse into a poem
and watch him probe his way out,
or walk inside the poem’s room
and feel the walls for a light switch.
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem
waving at the author’s name on the shore.
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
- “Breakfast” by Minnie Bruce Pratt
Rush hour, and the short order cook lobs breakfast
sandwiches, silverfoil softballs, up and down the line.
We stand until someone says, Yes? The next person behind
breathes hungrily. The cashier’s hands never stop. He shouts:
Where’s my double double? We help. We eliminate all verbs.
The superfluous want, need, give they already know. Nothing’s left
but stay or go, and a few things like bread. No one can stay long,
not even the stolid man in blue-hooded sweats, head down, eating,
his work boots powdered with cement dust like snow that never melts.
- “Thanks” by W.S. Merwin
with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions
back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you
over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you
with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is
- “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams
so much depends
a red wheel
glazed with rain
beside the white
- “Thing” by Rae Armantrout
We love our cat
for her self
regard is assiduous
for she sits in the small
patch of sun on our rug
and licks her claws
from all angles
and it is far
to “balanced reporting”
through, of course,
it is also
the very same thing.
- “So Much Depends” by Hilary Seserko (Inspired by “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams)
So much depends on
that fuzzy, oversized scarf
to keep me (semi) warm
during the frigid Indiana winter winds.
- Seasonal Voices by Hilary Seserko
I am summer I am winter
I am hot, sunny, and my sky is blue I am cold, snowy, and my sky is gray
I am lemonade on a hammock I am hot chocolate next to the fire-place
Flip-flops and sunglasses, Hats and gloves,
Rays striking the ground Flurries floating to the ground
Life is simple Life is quiet
When I am the When I am the
- “Bed” by Hilary Seserko
relaxing, sleeping, dreaming
My bed is comfort.
- “The Boat” by Hilary Seserko (Inspired by “Thing” by Rae Armantrout)
I love my carfor what it is.
Plentiful of “old”
and lacking “new,”
she sits in the driveway,
always in the right corner,
and patiently waits
for me to leave the house.
And sometimes it
rains on her,
like a boat.
Though, of course,
they look like
the very same thing.
- “Conversation through a Mirror” by Hilary Seserko
Body, and appendages.
Is that what you really look like?
Well, I guess you’re okay.
With all of your jobs and uses
how do you handle that pressure?
Good thing there is
from anywhere else.
No pressure to look a certain way
or be a certain way.
body, and appendages,
I hope that is what you really look like.
Hm. I like what you really look like.
- “Shoes” by Hilary Seserko
How the Pink Ranger Stole Christmas
It was the most wonderful time of the year. Big, fluffy snowflakes were gently floating to the ground as a partly cloudy sky allowed the sun to peak through every so often. The smells of pine, peppermint, and freshly baked pizelles filled the air. Driving through the neighborhood, the line of decorated houses resembled a nighttime sky of lights. Of course, I am talking about the time of the year when the new Power Rangers VHS was released. This was a big day, the most exciting thing that could happen in my carefree kindergarten life. Obviously I was also excited for Santa to come a week later, but I couldn’t get too ahead of myself. First thing first: memorize every single line, movement, and even facial expression of the Pink Ranger in the new movie.
I was a lucky child that I did not have to wait until Christmas to get the new movie. I guess that is a prime example of grandparents spoiling their grandchildren. Notice here how I said children, as in plural. Just a few months earlier, on September 9th to be exact, the Seserko family was blessed with a new member. I was not bitter about my new baby brother getting a lot of attention; I was actually really excited. I couldn’t wait to help take care of Hayden in every way possible, most of the time doing it wrong and waiting for my mom to frantically pull him away to do it right. I knew he was still too young to fully soak in the true greatness of the Power Ranger dynasty, but I was thrilled to at least show him Christmas for the first time.
About one week before the main event of this story, we took Hayden to my grandma’s house so that my mom, my dad and I could go to pick the ideal tree for the designated corner of the family room. At that age, the Christmas tree nursery never ceased to amaze me; it was a magical forest that spanned for miles, full of the fattest and tallest evergreens, fraser firs, and blue spruces. In reality, it is just a quaint place that sits on Route 8, but they always seem to have the perfect match for the Seserko family. After an extensive search through the aisles, we found a great tree that I was positive Hayden would love; he was only a few months old, but already had quite an eye for detail. With the tree tightly secured to the roof of our Blazer, my family and I picked up my brother and headed back home to decorate. My mom was really eager to use a set of new bulbs and ornaments that she recently bought. They were so shiny, and really looked wonderful on our brightly lit Christmas tree. With Christmas music playing in the background, Santa hats placed on our heads, and a plate of pizelle cookies in close snacking vicinity, the decorating process commenced.
If you are wondering how any of this relates to the Power Rangers, the plot thickens here. As soon as my grandma bought me the new movie, the VHS immediately became worn and tattered from the in-and-outs of the tape player. It did not take me long (and by that, I mean roughly one day) until I had the movie memorized. Better yet, the family room was arranged in a perfect set-up for Power Ranger action. As the Pink Ranger, I was able to soar off of the couch, climb under the coffee table, and now, use the space behind the Christmas tree as a hiding spot. My imagination was remarkable, and I was the most devoted fan. If the Power Rangers ever needed a Purple Ranger, I was for sure going to be their first-round pick. Although, I would have much preferred to replace the Pink Ranger any day; I was just as good, if not better.
I could mighty-morph for hours on end, and although this was typical, my parents were always impressed with my dedication. I even lost interest in Hayden for a few days (sorry, baby brother).
One day in the early afternoon, my mom was upstairs trying to put Hayden down for a nap. Before this obsession transformed me into an imaginary superhero, I usually liked to join her in these attempts, even though I tended to just make the job harder. But now that I was enthralled in my new action-packed world, I decided to skip the nap attempt for the day, because I had morphing to do. As my VHS was rewinding, I watered the tree like my mom asked me to do, and then plugged in the lights. That tree was beautiful! Click. The tape was ready, and so was I. The Power Rangers theme song was just music to my ears.
Jumping, kicking, karate-chopping, I was in the zone. Usually I was good, but this day, I was GOOD. Multiple times, my mom yelled down at me to settle and keep quiet; she was trying to put my brother to sleep, after all. I would comply for a couple of seconds, but this colorful action crew always got the best of me, and it wasn’t long until I was right back to acting out every scene. My favorite part was coming up: when the Pink Ranger leaps from a hilltop, right into the face of the enemy. This is my moment to shine, I thought, as I climbed to the back of the couch. Timing it perfectly, I soared off the couch just as she soared off the hill. The only difference? When she landed, she struck the enemy with one crisp kick. When I landed, the beautiful Christmas tree that my family loved fell on top of me. Oops.
I quickly jumped up, brushing the pines off of my clothes, and looked down to see dirty water and shiny ornaments spewed everywhere. The tree looked so pathetic lying on the ground, discombobulated.
“WHAT IN THE WORLD WAS THAT?!” I heard my mom scream from upstairs.
My heart was pounding, and I imagine that my face closely resembled one that deer make as a car skids towards them. My mind was racing a mile a minute as my mom rushed into the family room with a crying Hayden in her arms. I could hear the end credits of the movie playing on the T.V. screen in the background.
“Hilary, what happened?! Oh my gosh, the tree!!” my mom frantically shrieked, as she hurried over to the crime scene.
At first I told her I had nothing to do with it. But, I think even Hayden knew better than to believe that. I started to cry and kept apologizing. Even though I didn’t mean to cause such trouble, my mom was still upset. In fact, she was so distraught that my dad had to come home from work early to help clean up the mess and fix the tree. Needless to say, he was not too happy with me either.
It turns out that not only did I morph so hard that I knocked the tree over, but I also broke the tree stand. While I was secretly proud of my how powerful my action moves proved to be, I was embarrassed at what happened. I was also sad that the perfect tree we decorated with my mom’s new ornaments was ruined. A lot of them broke, while others got dented or scratched. We were able to salvage the tree, but my dad did have to go out and buy a new tree stand. To add to my embarrassment, he made it a point to buy one of the most extreme, hard-core, and expensive stands he could find. He did not want to take any other chances, considering clearly nobody could stop me from putting my heart and soul into pretending to be a part of that superhero crew.
“The Power Rangers caused this mess, maybe they should come and clean it up!” my dad would say.
“Could they really?!” I would eagerly gasp. But no, it turns out he just liked being sarcastic.
This gem of a story seems to resurface every year around that time when big, fluffy snowflakes gently float to the ground, the smells of pine, peppermint, and freshly baked pizelles fill the air, and the neighborhood lights up like a nighttime sky. This time, I am actually talking about Christmas. Shockingly enough, I grew out of my Power Ranger phase. That doesn’t matter, though, because the story of how the Pink Ranger stole Christmas of ’96 never fails to be told at the table of our big Christmas family dinner.
The Power of Words
Words are powerful.
I believe that. I feel it from my fingertips to my heart.
Well, not all words. How many words do you hear in a day? How many do you say? How many do you think?
Powerful words have their moments.
Powerful words have their powerful moments.
Words were powerful when I said goodbye to my Pappy, forever.
He was sick for a long time. I will never forgive Parkinson’s disease for what it did to him. It controlled his life, and then took his life. Even though we knew it was going to happen, it wasn’t easy to let it happen.
His last years were the worst – his last summer, the most horrible. He wasn’t eating. He couldn’t say anything and he could barely open his eyes. But he knew I was there.
I went home for my brother’s homecoming on October 14, 2012. I made sure to visit my Pap in the nursing home. When I went to say goodbye before leaving, I took his hand. He squeezed. He wouldn’t let go.
I got the call from my dad on October 20, 2012, four days after my weekend at home. He told me he would pick me up at 6:00 am the next morning, and he told me to pack clothes for a funeral – just in case.
We all made it there in time. With a family of twenty-one, with three of us living away from home, we were lucky.
The day was long, emotional, tiresome, exhausting. We were just…waiting.
Everyone wanted to be there. There was so much to say, but upon entering the room, those words just turned into silence. Silence and tears.
I was in and out of the room a few times, but there came a point when I couldn’t handle it anymore. I couldn’t watch him lay helpless, suffering, fighting to take every breath. With as much composure as I could gather, I walked into room 213 one more time to see my Pappy. My grandfather, my own personal airplane as a child, my biggest fan at my sporting events, the most valiant and hard-working man I’ve ever known.
I walked into room 213 one last time to see my Pappy.
Like it happened before, my speech turned to tears – lots and lots of tears. I took his hand, and it felt cold and rough. Not like the last time.
My heart was beating a mile a minute. I wanted nothing more than to send him some of my heartbeats through our hands.
With mom, dad, and brother at my side, I found the strength to finally speak. My words never felt so deep and real. And powerful.
I told him it was okay. I told him I would never forget him, our memories. I told him he was the strongest person I’d ever known. I told him I would continue to make him proud. I told him I would stay healthy, strong, and smart. I told him I loved him.
He told me nothing.
But his cold, rough grip tightened, every so slightly. It was not like he did before, but I felt it.
I knew he heard me. I knew he loved me. I knew my words were powerful.
I gave him one last kiss, and his cheek felt like his hand. He forced out a groan. It was short and soft.
Sometimes, even words that aren’t words are powerful too.