by Alicia Beckwith


So many lives have been changed, some forever. There are so many reasons why this occurs. It can be through abuse, abandonment, incest, divorce, and so forth. Of course, if this doesn’t occur, the next steps can be avoided. But if it continues, they, for the most part, all lead one on a long metaphoric road that splits in two. The right turn, and the left turn. One takes the walker on to help and recovery. The other leads to pain, desolation and hopelessness. Sometimes this road changes with another choice for the walker.

If the road stays the same, the broken bones never heal completely. Over time, the bones change, trying to heal and return to their normal state. The femur bone is the longest one in the body. Let’s take a look at how this bone is affected in metaphor only. The initial break comes with the earliest negative treatment issued to the person. If that break, remembering it can be through any of several items listed above, is correctly treated fast enough, say through an apology and loving care after, it stands a chance of total or almost total recovery. If not, the bone remains in that broken state. If another, or several more breaks occur, the femur can become shattered, leaving the abused one suffering a long, long time. Sometimes, that bone is so shattered, the body cannot remain standing straight up. Over time, he or she tends to bend or lean one way or the other to find comfort.

All this can, or could have been prevented had the deed described never happened, thereby allowing the person to grow in a normal, acceptable pattern.

The point that’s trying to be made is that: words, threats, beatings, rape, abandonment, even marriages that go sour, can be avoided when we take the time, when we care enough, when we make a decision to stop whatever is starting a person on the road that splits in two.


Yellow like the sun, the color of butter in the warm day sun. Children pick them to surprise their mothers. A bouquet of gold held out in their tiny hands with glad little hearts, and smiles so rich and warm. 

Dandelions don’t last for long before their petals fall leaving a straight stem and a glorious crown that will blow away with the first puff of air floating delicately along searching for a place to land. While we adults do everything we can to eliminate them, we should recall our children’s delight when presenting their gifts to us.


Sometimes things seem to pile up with no end,
leaving us no way for  which to defend.
We strive to hold, we cannot restrain.
They seem to come in quite a rush
trying to push us down, to crush.
It’s hard to see which way’s up when this does occur;
our nose swollen and red, with burning eyes, things blur.
When a real gulley-washer comes on, I have to recall
to pray for God’s help to come through it all.
I remember He sent a rainbow as His promise to us,
and sure enough, sometimes I see one—so gorgeous.
It’s then that I know He’s with me through it all
if only I’d remember upon Him to call.


“Hi!, How are you?”, you ask.
But you don’t wait for an answer
as you rush through your agenda,
pat me on the back, then rush away.

“How are you?”
You really want to know?
I doubt it. It’s just a button you push
when you don’t know what else to say.

Sales clerks, car salesmen and, well, everyone asks this question.
Most without a hesitation of politeness.
Most everyone continues to talk right after asking.
Why do we do this?

Why are we so artificial, not really caring
to talk to the other person for just a real minute?
Why don’t we care anymore--
Don’t we have feelings anymore?

Can’t we stop to really talk?
Really listen, and then speak?
Let them know we’re interested,
so that they know we care?

What has happened to our society
where we give this perfunctory greeting,
then rush on not letting the other person reply?
It just doesn’t mean a thing ---anymore.


Ever viewed nature’s photo of an ice storm?
See all things frozen in stiff crystals of norm;
waiting for the sun to take away their chill
as all around you lies quiet and still?

Even the pond sends off its little hosts
in vapors of steam like whispering ghosts.
They rise slowly, sneaking away
as animals awaken to begin their day.

The sun glints off icy ripples so clear,
and the geese waddle with ducks near.
Rabbits hop about in fluffy snow
as about their business they go.


When I was still single and living with my parents, I befriended the nuns at St. Thomas Church on St. Paul Boulevard and Colebrook. They were the sweetest and kindest group of folks. Once in a while when I’d go, some of the priests came to join in the discussions and fun. After a while, I offered to make spaghetti suppers for them all. We had a lot of fun in the kitchen sharing responsibilities. 

There was one nun in particular I remember. Her name was Sister Roberta. She had a slightly rounded shape with dark brown hair almost fully covered by the hood of her habit. Her dimples would become pronounced with each laugh. I really enjoyed being around her. 

After a while, the man I was dating asked to come along. When I asked the ‘spaghetti crew’ if that would be okay, they turned and looked around at each other before turning back with a resounding, “Sure! That’d would be fun! 

So, the next time we got together in the kitchen, my future husband, Fred, joined us. Fred had the type of personality that got along with everybody. And he was funny. He joined right in with everyone at St. Thomas. The evening and meal were a rocking success.

This went on all spring and summer. Sometimes we’d all go out in the lot next to the church and play baseball. Let me tell you, some of those nuns could hit pretty good. Who’d a dreamed, huh?

One day, Sister Roberta told Fred and me that the school was having a paper drive to raise money, and asked us if we could help. At that time I was working as a legal secretary downtown at the four corners. A very large business area with MANY TELEPHONE BOOKS! 

We made a plan. All the children in the school were going to bring the old phone books, newspapers and magazines to be discarded, since the telephone company had just delivered the new ones. There were signs posted about by teachers and parents in the area asking folks to drop off their old books at the school. Fred was able to secure an old stick-shift flat-bed stake truck from a friend, Carl Brucker in Webster. The nuns were ecstatic when they heard me say where I worked, and that I‘d ask around for old phone books for the drive. 

During my lunch times the next week, I went around to almost every single business in the State Street and Main Street area asking janitors to keep the old books for me to pick up that Saturday. Some of those businesses I approached were the Powers Building, the County Court House, Lincoln Rochester Bank, (now Chase Bank), and many more. I was surprised at how agreeable everyone was. (Looking back, they were probably relieved to have somebody ‘haul all that stuff’ away.) The nuns were ecstatic when they heard me say where I worked, and that I would ask around for old phone books for the drive. 

When that Saturday arrived, Sister Roberta said that, since the drive was for the church school, the powers that be told her she should ride along with us to pick up the phone books downtown. So, we all climbed into the truck, even Sister Roberta with her long black habit and sturdy black shoes, sitting in the middle. 

Let me say that we laughed all the way downtown. Every time Fred had to shift the gears, he was in trouble with Sister Roberta’s habit, what with all that skirt. And the embarrassment that poor Sister Roberta had to sit with her knees apart, due to where the gear shift was! She was a true good sport! 

One by one, we pulled the truck up to every building I had canvased to pick up the phone books. Most of the janitors were waiting for us at the back door. They’d lead us to where the huge piles were waiting for pickup. We all, (Fred, Sister Roberta, the janitor and I), helped ad I haul the tied bundles out of the building and into the truck. 

The final building for pick up from was Lincoln Rochester on State and Main Street. I knew we had to pull up on State Street, and I had to go into the bank to get the janitor. Both Fred and Sister Roberta waited in the truck for the signal to help me after I found out where the books were located.

I went into the bank looking for the janitor. After about ten minutes, I found him in the basement. He showed me the most amazing pile of phone books I’d ever seen in my life! They were all stacked against the wall on a block of wood. 

When I asked him how I could get them up the stairs and around the corner to the truck, he replied, “We’ll use the elevator here.” He hit a button on the wall, and a LOUD SCREAMING ALARM sounded. Scared the heck out of me. It sounded like there was a bank robbery going down. It sounded like I was robbing the bank. I could even imagine cops waiting for us when we emerged out of the sidewalk! He told me it would stop when we got to the top. It was so loud I had to plug my ears. Up we went. The door over our heads opened as we glided up and out of the basement to what I imagined the public around us viewed as “the get-away car!”

Fred and Sister Roberta got down from the truck with their mouths hanging open, looking at the full stack of phone books on the flat bed waiting to be put into the truck. All I could think of was, ‘I sure hope the janitor helps us.’ And he did. He even had two men who came out of the bank to give us a hand.

We three laughed all the way home when I told them of how I felt when the alarm went off, and how it sounded like I was robbing the bank. Needless to say, the priests and nuns were waiting for us, and rushed out to greet us, pointing and laughing, jumping up and down exclaiming their surprise at the bounty we brought back. The paper drive continued that Saturday with all of us us making two trips with the books to Krieger’s Junk Yard.  At the next “Spaghetti Night”, they shared the success of the drive and their appreciation for our help.

I recall that time with joy and the wonder of the hearts of the nuns and priests. They were so open and fun to be with.

Alicia Beckwith is a Rochester poet and author and has been writing for four decades.  Her poems have been published in book collections and magazines.