The Oldest Cousin in the Clan


Catherine is the oldest one in our batch of cousins, all first-generation Irish mix. One by one many of us returned to visit Ireland, sent by our parent’s memories. Ireland brewed in our blood, stronger than Barry’s tea, or stronger stuff. Cousin Catherine was the first of us to be born here in the United States, in Cambridge, close to the Sacred Heart Church.

All of us, the cousins, have moved further away from our Boston/Cambridge routes, where, as children, we met on Sunday afternoons at our Nan’s apartment on Fifth Street, the apartment where all our parents lived.  My two aunts, Nora and Maureen, shared a bed in the room with their mom. My uncles shared the other bedroom until they married and moved out. There was also a kitchen and a living room. My cousin Catherine was older by 8 years. When I was 12 she married, and we lost touch. Many years later I found that she had been camping close to where I lived, and we reconnected.  She passed over on Saturday.

At Mount Auburn Hospital, I met her two children for the first time, and of course, they are grown men with their own families now.  When I visited her, I reminded her of stories, like our three great aunties from New York that looked just like crow ladies when they visited us,  dressed all in black, We also talked of the day we picked blueberries. This poem is dedicated to my cousin Catherine.



In Cambridge it’s snowing softly, and Nan

sets the table for Sunday supper. She reaches

into the fridge for butter, cold slices of ham,

a jar of pigs’ feet. We crowd chairs around the

table. I sit on Mum’s lap with a slice of bread,

butter, ham. Not food I’m used to. Mum and I

are quiet. I wonder who was here for dinner,

why we only come for leftovers, late in the day.

My older cousin Catherine shows me how to play games

I don’t know yet, and Nan hands me a rectangular tin

with two handles. She says for you, a lunchbox.

I wonder at it. It’s small, and I have a Roy Roger’s

lunch box at home. She doesn’t know what I have there,

where I live with my Armenian grandmother, where

we speak another language, where dad whispers to me

in Irish, sings lullabies and tells me stories at bedtime.

I’m not used to having extra anything, and I’m doubtful

of this gift. She offers you can use it to pick blueberries.

When summer comes we pile into our car, pick up Nan, cousins

Catherine and Kristeen, and Aunt Maureen to pick berries in Stoughton.

We pick wild berries along the dead-end road, at the edge

of Paul’s sheep field, to Glen Echo Lake. We have purple lips

and tongues. Blueberry heaven, and we’re happy here.

Wild blueberries plonk on the bottom of my special tin.


photo by MC McDougall

Ease of body and spirit, Catherine. Blessed Be.

Posted in Catherine Simmons, Cambridge, Poems, poetry | 4 Comments

Old fashioned Donut Shops

Where I grew up, outside of Boston,  there were a few family-owned donut shops.  Pete’s Donuts was on Ferry Street, and the fragrance wafted out, especially when we walked by after school or church.  We usually didn’t have the coins required to buy the donuts, but when we were older, it was a destination.  My Gram never wanted us to buy donuts, though, and so it was always a secret.  Years later I married and lived right in the back of Pete’s, my kitchen window opened to the early morning smell of breads and yeasts… and I found out that My Aunt met my Uncle Paul at this donut shop.


Pete’s Donut Shop

Mornings at five AM fragrance of rising 

dough ascended through open windows 

express from Pete’s Donuts back door

to my kitchen. A fence separated us

from jelly, honey glazed, and cinnamon.

When we were kids we’d sneak to Pete’s

after school to buy donuts when our parents

weren’t looking. It was dicey, dangerous business,

visiting the donut shop. We knew that’s how

Aunt  Zabel & Uncle Jack met when she went 

to the donut shop, that’s why they married so young. 

Cousin Liz was proof of what came from the donut shop.

baked bakery baking bread

Photo by Adam Kontor on


Posted in Poems | 12 Comments

Winter Sounds



Winter Sounds

We’ve gotten used to sounds 

deep in a winter night, a loud

ping when the woodstove reaches

some cooler temperature, 

muffled tumbles of smoldering logs,

the creak of pine floorboards 

as if someone walked quietly.

Downstairs the refrigerator

hums, the water heater readjusts. 

What is shifting inside this house 

I wonder, content, then roll into sleep.

Wind buffets the roof with 

a grand whoosh that pushes off

off a foot of new snow, louder 

than any wild animal out there.



Posted in environment, nature, poetry | 3 Comments

Christmas from Sutri, Italy


100-0075_IMG.jpegWhen my daughter lived in Sutri, about 20 miles north of Rome, I visited her over the Christmas holiday, before her children, Lina and Ella, were born.  Townspeople dress up and reenact the story of Jesus’s birth. They use the cave-like burial chambers left here by the Etruscans.


When Jenny was younger, each year on Christmas Eve, we’d read this prayer and stories from Tasha Tudor’s Christmas book.

 Take Joy

I salute you! There is nothing
I can give you which you have not;
but there is much that, while I cannot give, you can take.
No heaven can come to us unless our hearts
find rest in it today.
Take Heaven.

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden
in this present instant.
Take Peace.

The gloom of the world is but a shadow;
behind it yet, within our reach, is joy.
Take Joy.

And so…I greet you with the prayer that for you,
now and forever, the day breaks, and the shadows flee away.

Written in a letter to a friend by Fra Giovanni.
Christmas Eve 1513 A.

May you have Joy.

Posted in Lina, Ella Martinez Nocito, seasonal celebrations, Sutri Italy, yule, Christmas | 2 Comments

Christmas & Yule


On this Solstice that opens to Christmas, Hanukkah, and the Yule Season, I wish for you good health and prosperity. May good rest and joy be with you.

As I reflect upon my writing this fall, I’m surprised to find that I’ve had writings in four different publications, as well as my own chapbook, so I feel well blessed. If you are looking for Look behind You locally, it’s now stocked at Dandelions on route 122 in Barre, Petersham Country Store, Route 32 in Petersham Center, Odyssey Bookshop in So. Hadley, and Federal St. Bookshop at 8 Federal Street in Greenfield. In the Boston area,  I’m pleased that this chapbook is available at the Armenian Library and Museum, in Watertown Square. Both The Heart is a Nursery for Hope and  Look Behind You are available on at

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Thank you for supporting poetry, and especially taking time to read and listen to my poetry and to visit my website,  Thanks to Thirsty Lab in Princeton, and the Warwick Public Library,  for inviting me as a featured reader last month, as well.


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Winter Arrives


Yule Blessings to you this Season. May you be renewed, even as the light is restored, more each day.


Winter Sounds

We’ve gotten used to sounds 

deep in a winter night,

sharp ping of the wood stove 

reaching some cooler temperature, 

muffled tumbles of a smoldering log,

creak of floorboards 

as if someone walked quietly.

Downstairs the refrigerator

hums, the water heater readjusts. 

What is shifting inside this house 

I wonder, content, then roll into sleep.

Wind buffets the roof with 

a grand whoosh, louder 

than any wild animal out there.



Blessed Be,


Posted in Poems

The Winter Garden


The last week brought much snow, so carrots and kale are buried. The mushroom logs have stopped bearing, but I have some dried mushrooms saved, and the end of the kale is in the refrigerator.  There’s a very happy inner dance that I do when most of the garden has retreated, but I can still find carrots, kale, and parsley. The sharp cold of riding in tells me soon, like the bear and chipmunk, I’ll be retreating into my own warm burrow. The compost pile is rich, the sky portends winter, and I delight in picking the pine needles out of my last greens.


Gathering Supper

Russian kale picked 

at dusk sprinkled 

with pine needles

miso and wine splash

onto roasted squash

a little tipsy     all of us 

mushroom-filled oak logs 

pop like firecrackers

next to Moss Brook

from forest edge

to skillet      sizzle of 

butter   garlic   shitake

life dances from seed and spore

from fallen trees at forest edge

onto our table tonightIMG_0247

Posted in nature, poetry, seasonal celebrations | 5 Comments

Poetry for Sale

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I’m happy that Look Behind You is now also available at  The Armenian Library and Museum, in Watertown MA, the Warwick Public Library, and  at Federal Street Books in Greenfield MA, 

Look Behind You is also available online here:

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 Cover Artwork by Diane Kremmer


Posted in Poems

December Snow



We continue to clean up after our first two-day winter storm. There’s been no school for two days, and all has been quiet on this dirt road through the state forest.  Even the deer and fox aren’t out and about yet.



Winter Storm  

Branches crack under the weight of snow

cold wind pushes hard against bowing trunks

pine forest sways and moans

diamonds fall as limbs shiver

wind pushes against bowing trunks

a groan sounds deep in heartwood

diamonds fall as limbs shiver

heaped snow rests discarded

like nightclothes in early morning light

a groan sounds deep in heartwood

Winds shift snow weighing branches down

heaped snow rests discarded

like nightclothes in early morning light

silence      aside from a tomcat’s howl

winds shift snow weighing branches down

abiding until light.

silence      aside from a tomcat’s howl

in the stillness a moon sliver appears

fox curls hidden         waits for dawn

pine forest sways and moans

a moon sliver appears

branches crack under the weight of snow


Posted in Poems | 2 Comments

Reading November 26th

Giving thanks for so many blessings this year, and inviting folks in the area ( Central MA) to come to tomorrow night’s reading at the Thirsty Lab Poetry Series, where I’m the evening’s performer. I’d love to see you!

206 Worcester Rd, Princeton, MA 01541


Posted in Poems