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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




    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



    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




    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

    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.