See photos and news about all the celebration! Start here: 2016 National Pen Women Biennial Convention
The new national board members, left to right, Jane Maclean, fifth vice president; Sheila Byrnes, second vice president; Ronnie Miller, fourth vice president; Virginia Franklin Campbell, president; Lorna Jean Hagstrom, first vice president; Maureen Sappéy, third vice president; Evelyn Wofford, treasurer.
The NLAPW business meeting took place Friday morning. The U.S. Army Military District of Washington Armed Forces Color Guard presented and retired the colors at the beginning of the event.
Brenda Layman, Central Ohio Branch
Bright morning balcony sun
Me, arranging flowers in the old green vase
That was my mother’s
Kept in a cabinet over the refrigerator
Where curious child hands
(mine) could not reach
Once filled with roses, an ardent tribute
Conquest token treasured
Lipstick-red as roses
Faded into something soft,
Nearly forgotten, out of focus and wrinkled
Like linen dresses in summer long ago
I fill the green vase with bright blossoms
Freesia, carnations, daisy mums and
Wildflowers from my garden
Red, purple, white, golden yellow
A bit of lavender for scent
I place into the vase which was a gift
From a long-forgotten man who
Had he more than roses to offer
Might have been
Father to some other daughter
Who may have had something of me in her soul
Would she have been standing here this morning
With fresh-cut flowers in her hands?
Cleo Griffith, Modesto, CA Branch
The pest control man came today,
the first encounter,
and I wanted to hug him, cry on his shoulder,
pat his back, say I love you,
not, not for the freedom of spiders and pests,
but because he is a large black man
with a kind demeanor and it is
July 8, 2016 and the week has been
one of horror.
I wanted to say I’m sorry although I am not to blame,
I wanted to say I know you are not to blame,
I wanted to ask how do you bear it
and how can I?
But instead I gave him the check
and said thank you and I’ll see you in three months.
Perhaps the world will have changed for all of us
Mary Joan Meagher, Minnesota Branch
Once there was a light –
But it was hidden.
Sometimes a gleam showed,
But hardly anyone knew it was there.
The light was in a small dark room.
It was the only light there.
It liked the room, but it felt
there must be more room outside.
Someone had locked it in!
One day the light felt
especially cramped and lonely.
It thought, “I’ll gleam brighter
and give off some heat.
Maybe my owner will let me out.”
So the light pulled its energy together
and concentrated hard and flared up
high and red and burned
the heart it was in.
The heart hurt and broke open
The owner of the light in the heart
cried and then opened wide
Suddenly there flashed up and out
It glowed with joy and sang to its owner,
“Now I am free. Let us speak to each other.
I will return to your heart.
Just leave the door open, please.”
Anne Marie Vale, Ph. D., Sarasota Branch
My mom, Rita, was born in 1920.
Money was scarce and troubles were plenty.
But her faith was strong and her spirit was stoic.
In fact, I’d say she was heroic.
You’d be hard pressed to find
Someone who loved mankind
More than my beloved mother
Whose motto was “to love one another.”
She was generous and beneficent,
Yet reserved and somewhat reticent.
You’d sense she wanted to express a bit more,
But was rather hesitant to open the door.
The Depression Era left its mark.
Her youthful days were sometimes dark.
But in those days you’d never reveal
Pain or heartache- you learned to conceal.
Mom was very bright and witty
Extremely dignified and really pretty.
Yes, Rita stood so proud and tall,
Possessing a memory that stunned us all!
Around the age of eighty-five
Mom’s spirit was amazingly alive!
But her exceptional memory that was one-of-a-kind
Was showing some traces of lagging behind.
And yet there appeared a silver lining,
Defying description or even defining!
Suddenly, my reserved and often shy mother
Took on the ebullient nature of another!
Rita just lifted her protective mask
And it seemed to be an effortless task!
Her nature was no longer shy and coy.
It transformed overnight into boundless joy!
Though dementia can dissolve into sadness and tears,
And episodes, too, of stress and fear.
I choose to remember how out-going and free
My mom became- free to “be me!”
But Rita’s carefree state would end
When she lost her husband and very best friend.
Yes, George, my beloved dad, was the true love of her life,
And his passing last December caused deep grief and strife.
Mom’s eyes now closed – no facial expression.
The doctor called it a terminal depression.
Those once bright eyes might glimmer for a time,
But they now reflected no reason or rhyme.
For the next nine weeks, Rita barely spoke a word.
Though her eyes were shut, I’m sure that she heard
The love I’d express and the music I’d play;
But that mask of grief stayed day after day.
Yes, Rita so wanted to be with her George
And I prayed that God would quickly forge
A happy reunion between Mom and Dad.
To see Mom like this was just too sad!
Finally, one dark February night
Mom apparently saw the light!
All of a sudden, her eyes opened wide
While I expressed to her all I felt inside.
The mask had vanished as did her sorrow.
She now anticipated her new tomorrow.
We looked into each other’s eyes ‘til morn.
Rita knew she would soon be reborn.
And sure enough at 3:15,
With eyes wide open and totally serene,
Rita peacefully entered eternity,
Joining George in blissful unity.
Mom and Dad are in the presence of the Lord
With the angels and saints in one accord.
No more earthly mask and nothing left to hide,
And though I miss seeing them, they’re forever by my side.
Martha Steger, Lifetime Member-at-Large, Richmond, Virginia
Imagine an unattended baby-seat strapped
to a tree for thrush-eggs’ nourishment but
sabotaged by cowbirds’ sinister deposits in
this tiny home held together by spiders’ webs
along the new cut in the woods. Surreal is
the circling brown-headed parasite in my
view on this path bulldozed for human
habitation, with cribs and swing-sets to
replace fledgling thrushes that are not to be,
as the dealer wins at the house table while
the song of life goes on like Darwin’s finches
and the wildly flapping albatross flailing across
marshlands looking to plummet but uncaring
as it takes off for heights unknown. How hard
the search for my true self in Calvin or Confucius’
blades of grass and bittersweet experience,
while monks must hear the flute-like songs and
see threads of ongoing rebuilding, silken flux.
After reading “After” by Octavio Paz
Diane McDonough, Cape Cod Branch
After telling myself
no day after day,
the way mother did when asked if
I could do something …
after the nos stacked on top of one another
like bricks in a wall
that kept me safe —
I mean safe as defined by mother,
meaning out of the water, off the street,
away from germs, prepared for Holy Communion.
But after today,
longest day of light,
I want to chisel out the mortar,
remove the bricks that say no,
you can’t, you aren’t capable
or, isn’t it going to rain, snow, be too hot,
dark, bright….I want to kneel here
after the rain, in the mud, amidst the strewn
bricks and create a runway that leads
into a garden of wildflowers
and accidental blooming,
and then out
to one rowdy, unpredictable life.
Editor’s note: Octavio Paz won The Nobel Prize for Literature in 1990
A proactive member of the human community, each day for me is testimony to renewal, commitment and recovery. As the fertile earth awaits new growth, my journey anticipates bright hours of hope and mindfulness.
My mission is open-ended. I will welcome new friends, cherishing the old. I will stimulate my spirit to fresh vistas and refresh my ongoing creativity, embracing my enduring values. In this changing world, I will nurture vitality and vitalize the lives I touch.
I will seek to thrive in peace and harmony and will my Self to Be all I have been and all I am.
Anna Di Bella
Past National President, NLAPW
All Cities Branch, NY
From Treanor Baring, Past Website Content Editor:
It has been my pleasure to work with many talented, competent and thoughtful women at NLAPW at the National Level. Thank you to all of the poets, writers, artists and members in music who have shared your talent with others through this blog. It has been a great honor to serve as the website editor for the NLAPW and to expand the audience for your work through the website and Pen Women Press.
I do expect that the new editors will continue to care as much about our mission and getting YOUR work out there as I have. I look forward to their contributions with the anticipation that they will maintain the quality, integrity and professionalism that we’ve initiated.
My mother stands in the kitchen
pouring cream over sliced bananas,
cream skimmed from the top of
a milk bottle delivered that morning,
her flowered housedress
hangs loose on her frame.
On holidays she hand-whips cream
laced with powdered sugar and
vanilla into white mounds— her apron
catches stray spatters. She scoops
thick clouds onto pumpkin pie,
as light splays silver on her hair.
Years later she chooses cream puffs
from a bakery. I see her sitting at
the table late afternoon with tea and
the newspaper, a wrinkled hand
lifting a fork to thin lips with a smile,
her glasses tipped on her nose.
Behind her, a window opens to farmland
where once the clink of glass bottles
left on the step could be heard and
cream always rose to the top.
Lorraine Walker Williams
SW Florida Branch