July, Independence, and Monica Hand


Independence.The word for the beginning of July. I’ve been reflecting on who became independent,and how that differed for various groups of people. Recently I served on a MA jury, and was surprised to find women did not have the ‘right’ to sit on a jury in MA until the 1950’s.  Wow!

Years ago, during Clinton’s first run for president, my teen age daughter joined a group of young people to travel across the country, going to some places you weren’t happy to have your child go. The trip was about signing up folks to vote, and it was called “The Third Wave”.  She met many people with hard stories.  In some places, it was pretty difficult to register to vote. You had to sign up with a deputy, use a particular color pen, and use cursive, for example. In one town the group became deputies for the day, so they could register people.   In walk-up apartments in Detroit people felt, ‘What’s the use!… and yet, there was such beauty mixed in with the danger. In Montgomery Alabama they were guests at a church. You may remember the church that was bombed in l963, with four girls killed. I was my daughter’s age when that act of terrorism happened. The church was finally reopened and repaired when ‘The third wave’ bus group traveled, and they were invited as guests to the potluck.

There is so much goodness in this country.  I’m an immigrant child grown old here. I know so many who struggled to come to this country. My family walked across deserts and some starved and died along the way. The USA was an oasis of safety. I knew people who swam to our shores, who married strangers, who were leaders of the Hungarian Revolution, and were brought here to safety. 

Recently I’ve had the privilege of reading primary documents written by the man who lived on the same land where I reside,  in the late 1700’s. The town voted him to represent this town to vote YES, let’s have the Boston Tea Party.  Amazing, right?  He drove into Boston, I guess on a cart, with a friend, and they voted for the Tea Party. As you know, it happened, and kind of took off! 

And this musing brings me to a woman who has passed on, as we spent a week together in July, at the Fine Arts Work Center, in Provincetown. I think she touched anyone who spent time with her. Look for Monica Hand’s book of poetry, Me & Nina, published by Alice James. This is my personal eulogy for Monica Hand, a poet that can reach into your innards and stir you.

Monica Hand

Monica lived life like 

nobody’s business, no 

second-guessing life.

She crooned Nina Simon

then returned to school.

Columbia, a PhD.

Sometimes her body pained her.

It was hard to climb stairs,

but Monica still boogied.

She stepped right up to life,

looked it over real careful

then started in. 

Monica, patient, taught how to sew 

books by hand, how to push that 

needle through layers of thick paper.

How to unwrap juicy oranges on 

an unmade bed, never mind that 

car honking outside.

Hot nights we sipped sweet drinks.

Monica unwrapped her Black 

Angel deck and shuffled in the magic

as she drew the cards. 


Monica loved Nina Simon.


May all beings be safe from harm

May all beings  be healthy

May all beings have freedom


This photo taken from a Fine Arts Work Center, Provincetown, writers workshop. We literally open and unfold the book on the beach, so we can read, page by page.


About elainereardon

Poet, writer, gardener, herbalist, pottery, painting—bumping into magic, peeking around new corners.
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