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  • Mah Jongg

     

    Smooth cool tiles

     

    with Asian symbols

     

    mysterious and alluring

     

    beckoned me when I was eight years old.

     

    I’d stand with my twin sister and

     

    our friend MaryAnne

     

    our eyes barely able to peer over the

     

    oval wooden table.

     
     

    We’d watch and listen while

     

    MaryAnne’s mother Bernadette

     

    and her aunts Jen and Bert

     

    would play for hours

     

    while

     

    laughing, drinking, smoking

     

    and snacking from glass dishes of

     

    candy and nuts at their elbows.

     
     

    The Mah jongg tiles tugged at my curiosity.

     

    I’d stand mesmerized at the clicking sounds

     

    as tiles were slid in trays or traded

     

    creating jubilant cries of “Mah jongg!”

     

    or “Oh no, I needed that!”

     
     

    Finally, fifty-plus years from the time I watched with longing…

     

    last night, it was my turn to sit at a table with three other women

     

    to play this ancient game.

     
     

    At first I watched, listened, and learned

     

    as tiles were turned over one by one.

     

    I heard about dots, bams, and craks

     

    and became acquainted with

     

    flowers, dragons and winds.

     
     

    After watching four games I finally felt

     

    my time had come.

     

    With trepidation and anticipation

     

    I was on my own

     

    ready to take the voyage.

     
     

    After my second real game

     

    I was able to yell that wonderful cry

     

    “Mah jongg!”

     

     

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    Millennium in the Sea of Cortez

    bobbievisualForPoem

     

    On the tip of Baja

     

    while sketching the

     

    anchored ship Millenium

     

    and immediately after

     

    capturing a quick photo

     

    for details for when I

     

    start to watercolor—

     

    I realized the ship was

     

    beginning to turn.

     

    Its seafarers on board

     

    its anchors pulled up

     

    its direction reversing

     

    its white wake becoming

     

    apparent–

     

    off to the Pacific it headed.

     

    Goodbye Millenium Cruise Ship.

     

    Goodbye thousands of seafaring

     

    strangers. I took your picture.

     

    Perhaps you

     

    found me here in

     

    La Ventana sipping

     

    Merlot and sketching

     

    your voyage. Maybe

     

    someday I’ll board your

     

    ship or you will sit in this

     

    chair.  Either way—it’s been

     

    a pleasure.

     

    (And now a man is using my camera

     

    to take a photo of me

     

    sitting here in the Lounge Ventana

     

    with an empty glass of Merlot

     

    while the ship off to my left

     

    is heading for the deep deep waters

     

    of the Pacific.)

     

     

    ♦ ♦ ♦

    Anahit’s Kitchen

     

    Rose hips made into a brew

     

    to induce breast milk

     

    for my daughter-in-law

     

    carried warm in a glass bowl.

     
     

    Three houses up the street

     

    her mother lives and each

     

    night she brings something

     

    wonderful for her daughter’s

     

    family. Mushroom salad,

     

    chicken, walnuts, garlic

     

    lentils and curry–

     

    good for the kidneys

     

    good for the blood

     

    good for lactation

     

    made in her small kitchen

     

    three houses up the street.

     
     

    She uses herbs, spices

     

    from Turkey, Greece,

     

    Armenia, from groves

     

    and gardens.

     

    And keeps them in

     

    jars without labels.

     

    We smell them. Her eyes

     

    drift to far-off places.

     
     

    Together we make dolma

     

    in her kitchen up the street

     

    stuffing grape leaves

     

    peppers and eggplants.

     
     

    I learn so much

     

    from her about herbs

     

    and greens.

     
     

    Like “Babbette’s Feast”

     

    each meal a banquet

     

    always followed with

     

    fruits, nuts, and

     

    dark Armenian coffee.

     
     

    Silt sits at the bottom of the cup

     

    while we remain at the table.

     

     

    About The Author

    BobbiePanek_color-1

    Bobbie Panek

    Bobbie Panek’s prior credits include her book of poetry, Morning Walks zen meditations published by FootHills Publishing; articles published in Birds and Blooms, Reminisce Extra, Many Waters, Father’s Shamon’s book, “The Power of the Rosary,” and poetry published in the anthology, “Common Intuitions,” as well as in online magazines: Moondance, National League of American Pen Women, and aaduna. Bobbie’s done numerous poetry readings around central and western New York and currently write blogs for the Cayuga [County] Tourism Office. Ms. Panek resides in Auburn, NY.