Poetry Monday and Family Secrets


Don’t fret, the title seems more scandalous than it really is. In last week’s Poetry Monday I mentioned my great-grandmother who died of Alzheimer’s. Although she died of this disease when I was young, I vividly remember walking down the long gravel drive with my younger sister to her house to share cookies and visit. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned more about the wonderful woman who would offer us cookies, and constantly push my sister’s growing bangs out of her child-face.

Some of what I’ve learned about her resulted from doing research for the family cookbook I mentioned in my About page. In assembling my cookbook, I wanted to keep an equal amount of recipes from all sides of my family, so I asked my grandmother for the recipes her mother used when she was a child. My grandmother laughed and claimed my great-grandmother, we’ll call her Grandma Hazdovac, despised working in the kitchen. Instead, she focused her creative juices on painting and writing poetry. Although I could not include any recipes from Grandma Hazdovac, I still wanted to commemorate her, and I did so by using her paintings throughout the cookbook.


Along with her paintings, my grandmother discovered copies of poetry Grandma Hazdovac had written, published, and received awards for. Not only was I surprised about Grandma Hazdovac’s creative side, I was even more astonished that she earned money for her poetry. Her poetry is a contrast to Jane Kenyon’s simple, yet powerful poetry from last week. Instead, Hazdovac’s poetry achieves boldness through a different means.

The Spirit That Was, Still Is

There is a rumble in the land
As of a giant awakening
After long years of slumber.
The land became languid
Nearly lost her freedoms
And relinquished her rights
To those who rule.
She found herself void
Of all her dreams and values
Power became her god
And the land was steeped in greed
It was ripe for ruin.

The spirit of the past bestirs
The voice of concern is heard
And shakes the foundations of her apathy,
The giant awakes- –
The land again becomes the people.

Anna Hazdovac

Perhaps one of my favorite poems we found of Grandma Hazdovac’s is the following which refers to wanderers or drifters when she was growing up in a Slovakian immigrant family in Monterey, California.

The Mark On The Gate

He came to gate
Stopped, lifted the latch
Shuffled through the garden
Up the back steps
Knocked on the door.
I remember his dusty shoes
The old crushed hat
Red handkerchief around his neck.
He sat on the steps
Mama gave him some food and milk.
“Where did he come from Mama?”
“The railroad tracks,” she answered.
Oh, I remembered–
Papa told me about them
They left a mark on the gate
If people were kind to them.
He finished his lunch
Shuffled back to the gate
Put the latch in place–was gone.
“Mama, can little girls be hobos?”

Anna Hazdovac

If you’re a Mad Men fanatic like me, this will remind you of something. If not, watch it; it’s great. Not only do I like this because it provided me with a childhood story of my great-grandmother I probably would have never heard, but I love the question at the end. The answer to the child’s question is obvious. Women could not be hobos, instead they would likely be prostitutes, or some other form of the fallen woman. It’s a simple question, yet it got the women’s and gender studies side of my brain working.

What do you think about these poems? How do you respond to them in comparison to Kenyon’s poetry?


One thought on “Poetry Monday and Family Secrets

  1. Thank you Jess for such a wonderful tribute and honor to mom. It made me cry.
    You have such a gift for writing. I have always known you were creative especially the day at the river and you put on a one women (girl) play for me. Your are awesome. Love you

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