Willawaw Journal, Spring 2019

The Alaska Writer Laureate, Peggy Shumaker, provided the poem prompt for the spring issue of Willawaw. The prompt was Parenthood, Unplanned. I’m honored that two of my poems, Edelweiss, and Nest, appear in this issue.

Check them out here:



Mother was always the oldest of mothers.
The gray chignon, the lace-up Oxfords, the little metal cart she pushed back and forth
to the Blue Goose Market because she never learned to drive.
The other mothers kept their hair short, so practical for playing tennis,
riding in convertibles, quick showers after a swim.

Mother, as the oldest of mothers, was a bath person.
The hard-milled soaps, imported from France, the shrimp-colored girdle dropped
onto the tile floor. Sometimes she’d let me sit, as a little girl, on the edge of the tub,
and I’d stare at the flat crepes of her breasts, the two or three hairs growing on her
shins like thistle. Did I come from that body? I would ask.
Yes, she would say, you were a bloom in the desert.

Mother was always the oldest of mothers.
Not frail exactly, but the old country was in her bones.Something slightly brittle.
Given to fretting: wet socks, drafts, sniffles, prunes. Frugal, too, she was, because
there had been a war. She knew people who had eaten shoe leather, put sawdust
in their bread. She could not bear to watch me toss a half-eaten apple into the trash.
So much waste in America, she would scoff.

Mother, as the oldest of mothers, didn’t like surprises.
The questionable report card, the note from the teacher. It was best to prepare her.
She had already suffered the ultimate shock, the one that turned her auburn hair
the color of ash. Once she told me how she thought the doctor had been joking.
But then you appeared, she said, the edelweiss in my winter.

The Nest

She was the grandmother, after all, so she had little choice. But they were a handful,
those two brothers, sullen as sin, given to the surreptitious pinch, the bully stare.

She had brought them home from out West, two little disruptions to her cozy
retirement. One was eight, with scrawny limbs like a toddler.The other was six,
with cheeks pale as chalk.

Their mother was long gone. Some said a half-way house, she was messed up,
that girl. Others thought Las Vegas, a so-called ranch, the legal kind with doctors.

The grandmother said little, except, perhaps, a prayer under her breath. Neighbors
whispered that she, herself, had once been a nun, or a yogini. Who else would have
such patience?

She must have known that nothing would change overnight. Doors would still be
kicked in from time to time, rocks thrown. The kitten would be tortured, its paws
bound with rubber bands.

First came Cleanliness, a nightly bath, the banishment of lice. Godliness would have
to wait while she cured the scarlet scabs of impetigo and taught them how to wash
their necks.

For afternoon snacks, she insisted on apples, cut into fourths, or whole-wheat cookies
that tasted like dust, but she was not above a little bag of M&M’s for chores well done.

That first summer, she pointed out Venus rising in the evening sky, The Pleiades
falling above their heads, the velvet bats flapping around the street lamps, the
natural rhythms.

All her efforts. They won’t make any difference to those kids, said the neighbors.

In the spring,she took them to see the nest, waking the boys each day at dawn,
showing them how to focus the field glasses on the wisps of straw,the fragile eggs.

One morning two little birds, barely feathered, cracked through the shells. The boys
watched as the mother bird chewed the worms herself before dropping them into
the gaping baby mouths.

In time the boys would understand about hunger and nests and the natural order
of things. For now, all she could give them was the safety of the morning meadow,
and the future hope of flight.

Published by

Gabriella Brand

Gabriella Brand is a writer, adventurer, and educational consultant. She can't stop teaching and learning foreign languages. She would like to walk on all the continents (three more to go!). Her husband is extremely patient and her children are, fortunately, all grown up.

5 thoughts on “Willawaw Journal, Spring 2019”

  1. Beautiful poems, dear Friend! So happy you continue to flourish with your publishing, even in the midst of all the disruptions of life!

    On Tue, Mar 26, 2019 at 12:46 PM Gabriella Brand wrote:

    > Gabriella Brand posted: ” The Alaska Writer Laureate, Peggy Shumaker, > provided the poem prompt for the spring issue of Willawaw. The prompt was > Parenthood, Unplanned. I’m honored that two of my poems, Edelweiss, and > Nest, appear in this issue. Check them out here: http://” >


  2. Gabriella, Thank you for the links to your writing. I especially loved Edelweiss…..found it very touching.




  3. Love these two! For some reason I didn’t get to read them when you originally sent them and thought about it this morning-i’m so glad I did! Wishing you a happy Easter! Julie

    Sent from my iPhone



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