My Mother Walked to John Story Jenks School by Lois Perch Villemaire

My Mother Walked to John Story Jenks School

I could be stepping in her footprints
as I navigate the crooked sidewalks
on the same route to school
my mother skipped along in her
charming hometown where
I have chosen to spend the weekend
celebrating my birthday.

I gaze into the August sky
at the building constructed in 1923,
the same year my mother was born,
this Late Gothic Revival,
three-story yellow brick façade, with
cement steps, stonewalls, and
unique architectural features
hidden by towering trees.

She would be delighted to find me here
admiring the nearby historic water tower.
My mother— running late even as a child,
dashing through the neighborhood,
carrying a book bag, a sweater,
curly hair tangled by the wind,
her footprints can be found all over town.

*

Lois Perch Villemaire, originally from the Philadelphia area, is a longtime resident of Annapolis, MD where she is inspired by the charm of a colonial town and the glorious Chesapeake Bay. After retirement from a career in local government, she concentrated on her love of writing. Dabbling in family research has inspired poetry, memoir, and creative nonfiction. Her work has appeared in a number of journals such as Ekphrastic Review, Flora Fiction, and One Art: A Journal of Poetry, and has been included in several anthologies. Lois was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry. She enjoys yoga practice, amateur photography, and raising African violets.

Three Poems by Lois Perch Villemaire

Because You’re a Leo
           After Donika Kelly

You’re supposed to be confident,
happy to be the center of attention.
Not that you are that creature
knowing all too well
those waves of uneasiness
starting in your stomach
expanding to your shoulders and arms
worries over the crush of failure
moments of rejection
not being good enough
Are you a fraud?
Pretending to be something?

Don’t be so hard on yourself,
It’s a brand new season
relish those victories
those validations
summon up every shred
of positivity you can,
shape it into a mountain
of atomic strength,
acceptance of yourself
build on those affirmations
embrace the credit you deserve.

*

Dad Collected Penguins

Because he was a collector
of all sorts of things
from art to zebras
at one time he fell in love
with penguins
*
He told us penguins fly
through the water not the sky
diving deep into the world
of dreams— huddled together
—no wonder he held us close
calling us his chicks
*
we searched for penguin gifts
on holidays and his birthday:
mugs
pottery
framed artwork
sculpture
books
sweaters
*
until the day came when
Dad requested we stop
giving him penguins
we wondered why
but he laughed and said
his collection was complete
*
although he asked us
to cease gifting them
I will always associate
flightless seabirds with him
displaying mine like lucky stars
because at one time
he fell in love with penguins.

*

Who Lived on South 5th Street?

I’m done ruining my eyes
trying to read a spreadsheet
originated in 1910
to see who lived on South 5th Street,

After spending years
on family research,
spitting into a tube
sending it off to have
my DNA analyzed,

I’m done responding to
third cousins who may be related
but don’t have a family tree
or any helpful information,

I’m done paying Ancestry
several hundred dollars a year
to allow me to keep my research
in their data base,

I’m done running
into roadblocks each time
I try to figure out if Aunt Minnie
really had a son, James
who no one in the family recalls,

I’m done combing through
death notices on Newspapers dot com,
visiting rundown cemeteries
searching for gravestones
that may provide hints
to identify unknown ancestors,

And I’m really done
trying to figure out how
to pass along this information
because no one in my family
seems the least bit interested.

*

Lois Perch Villemaire resides in Annapolis, MD. Her stories, memoir flash, and poetry have been published in such places as Six Sentences, Ekphrastic Review, The RavensPerch, Trouvaille Review, FewerThan500, The Drabble, Pen In Hand, and Flora Fiction. Her poems have been included in anthologies published by Truth Serum Press, Global Insides – the Vaccine, American Writers Review 2021, and Love & the Pandemic by Moonstone Arts Center. She was a finalist in the 2021 Prime Number Magazine Award for Poetry.