To Abraham

This is a poem I created on a triangular form for a fellow student in a poetry class at Los Angeles Valley College. Abraham was a wise mature student taking a course with a bunch of young adults. He teased us and spoke Yiddish in class. He had Holocaust tattoos on his arm that were expanded and dull. He invited the class to his apartment in Van Nuys. Every wall was covered with bookshelves filled with a variety of books. I found a book by William Blake there that day from one of the dusty shelves! I made this to remember Abraham, a simple man of extraordinary insight and purpose! I still have this and it is now sitting on my hearth.

Triangular Poem By Holly D. Cornell
Future…A a ABRAHAM invited a bunch a kids to his apartment to… dayyyy… aroom fulla books and paintings SATURATION… And the helicopter flew overhead, transforming into A a ANGEL.
Abraham’s books in his apartment are filled with magic. I picked one up it told me what I was thinking. What is a mystic, yesterday and today, about life and death, and a soul that lives on… Masters hold on to the books they’ve created I know this to be true. I had a lesson from “Blake” today, he said “inspired seers and prophets-where the imagination is most alive.” He said “To keep the Divine Vision in times of trouble.” Is this who you are Abraham? Is this what you do?
Your home’s like mine- a block from the river- A cottage filled-with many… Books and paintings and images and things most precious to you near the sound of the racing cars. I’m embarrassed to share mine. Linked, yes linked, I know we are linked someplace, where helicopters fly overhead… I have Neptune in mine like yours, I have a mother and a child in mine like yours, I have imagination and the future like yours, and the link that binds is love.

Singed by Abraham Pesah Lenkawicki 3-11-1998

A young lad is thinking, thinking all night
Would it be wrong, he asks, or maybe right,
Should he declare his love, dare he choose,
And would she accept, or will she refuse?
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika,
Tumbala, tumbala, tumbalalaika
tumbalalaika, play Balalaika,
tumbalalaika – let us be merry.
Maiden, maiden tell me again
What can grow, grow without rain,
What can burn for many years,
What can long and cry without tears?
Silly young lad, why ask again?
It’s a stone that can grow, grow without rain,
It’s love that can burn for many long years,
the heart that can yearn and cry without tears.

Cover me with flowers ; Summer solstice greetings

Summer of 1990 growing near parent's home.
Summer of 1990 growing near parent’s home.

Summer is a week away. It is a strange time of pulling, changing and growing. Gravity is intense now. Yet the tendency to expand to the cosmos is a real problem as well.  This pulling down and expanding up is a type of living intensity that we all go through, but regardless we collectively enjoy our summer on this side of the earth; the western hemisphere. This hollyhock watercolor symbolizes what summer represents. The tall stalks and colorful blooms show the glory of summer. This hollyhock worked hard to get there too. I captured this the summer of 1990 when I too was changing and reaching a new phase of my life and ready for something new!! I found this image today while going through some of my things.

I also found some sheet music by Hugo Wolf that I have been looking for such a long time. It was underneath hiding under the watercolor. I enrolled in an opera singing course at Los Angeles Valley College around 1996. I learned to love Hugo Wolf’s compositions and the variety of lyricists that he worked with. Bedeckt mich mit Blumen is a haunting and beautiful song.  It was beyond my talents to sing but I still enjoy it completely.

Bringing these two lost items, a watercolor and some music, is a way to celebrate the coming summer. I do not like summer much because leaving spring is a type of unwilling death to me…so the extramundane and oxymoronic come together once more as gifts of days gone by for the coming summer.

Cover me with flowers by Hugo Wolf Liederabend 15

(Bedeckt mich mit Blumen)

Oh, deck me with roses,
I die: love hath slain me.
Left me softly sighing
zephyr steal from me the breath of my roses,
oh deck me!

For I know not which is sweeter:
Loves pure spirit
or the lush breath of roses
Gather lilies and jasmines,
these shall
be my grave's soft cover
I'm dying

And you ask me, friends
Of what?
I answer:
Of life's sweetest pain,
for I love her,
I love her. (John Bernhoff)

The Treefort apartment.

Living in Van Nuys in the 1990s was difficult because we endured isolation, discrimination, and frustration, but we were a family and had each other and a college community that supported our goals. One call from Los Angeles Valley College’s daycare center changed our lives forever.

Van Nuys California is the place of mothers and their children. Driving by this city you will see lots of mothers pushing their strollers around. It is a busy city and a dirty city. Restaurants, Laundromats and discount stores line the streets. When I was 17 I use to cruise Van Nuys Boulevard with my friends. We listened to music and looked for boys and had lots of fun doing it. It was a teenager ritual that started back in the 1950s.

I never would have believed then, that I would end up living in Van Nuys for seven years on the 2nd floor of a tree fort apartment.  We lived in a Latino community and we felt isolated. Yet, when our son JF started to go to school we made friends and soon blended into the community.

I loved going to the Russian produce store near our apartment where we could buy fresh herbs and vegetables. They had giant buckets of fermented coleslaw, tomatoes and pickles for sale. Each Christmas the owner gave my son a Russian bunt fruit cake covered in dry fruit and as hard as a rock. Next to them was the Italian deli where we purchased feta cheese and olive oil. We lived off of 60 dollars a week for food which was doable in the mid-1990s. Occasionally when my son and I saved our pennies we would go to Jack In The Box for some hamburgers and French fries. The toy from the kid’s meal brought so much joy to my child that life was very sweet.

Out tree fort apartment only faced another apartment on one side, otherwise we had windows all around us. We could look out and over the world below which was mostly asphalt, noisy children and gangsters often rooming around. My son told me that there was a tree he could see from his bedroom window. (We all sleep together in one bedroom)  He enjoyed watching the seasons change while watching the tree over a years’ time. On hot summer days we went on walks through nearby residential neighborhoods. We went looking for sprinklers watering lawns and ran and danced through them.  Magical as it was for my son and I to share, I dreamed of having a home of our own someday. There were many pockets of people with different identities and communities that lived around us that at times seemed foreign and odd to us.

John, my husband,  had a dead-end job working for a furniture restoration business down in Los Angeles. We only had a large old green monster van to get around with. Most of the times my son and I took the bus or I pushed him around in a shopping cart.

Back then in my desperation for finding a job or going back to school, I put my son’s name on a long waiting list for daycare at Los Angeles Valley College’s day care center. It was only a few miles from where we lived.  Out of the blue they called me and it changed our lives forever.  Within a day’s time I had my son signed up for daycare.  I also was signed up for 12 units. I had all the financial aid I needed to attend school. Within a year I talked my husband into going back to school. He majored  in science and then earned a degree in Respiratory Therapy  It was a dream come true for us, and due to the government fanatical aid programs offered to us, John went on to find excellent work, and I went on to continue my education at Cal State University Northridge.