Florence Miller

Florence Miller arrived in Berkeley, California from Newark, New Jersey just in time for the Sixties. She taught creative writing at McClymonds High School in Oakland. Can You Hear Me, the Emmy award-winning documentary by Allen Willis, was based on her students’ poems. She is the author of Upriver: New and Selected Poems, and co-author of My Dreaming Waking Life, and the renga trilogy, Eleven Renga, Yes, and A String of Monarchs. She also co-edited the peace anthologies, Dreaming of Wings, and State of Peace: The Women Speak. Miller is a Pushcart nominee and a founding member of the collective, Shakespeare’s Sisters.

 

Forebears

“How she hollers, “Grandpa said, his hideaway the cellar with its brass bed.  The cellar smelling of wine, barrels of pickles and sour tomatoes, angled shelves filled with jams and jellies, and those asbestos pipes that moved in my dreams slow as drops of oil. “Grandpa looks like a senator.” Aunt Florence said.  “How she hollers,” he said. his pleasure his garden-snowballs, phlox, arched trail of roses making a bower for the swing. Four poles with pineapple tops for clotheslines, hedges through which we could see the neighbor kids.  Well behaved, I got to stay overnight, to sleep on the chaise lounge in Aunt Ruth’s room ,wetting it half the time, walking down to breakfast early where Grandma sat reading the paper. “First on her block to have a bathtub, first to know about vitamins, first to wear  bloomers,” according to my mother. “Don’t make no blots on my name,”Grandpa said on his deathbed in the twin bedded room on 15th Street, a two family house now smelling of sweat and decay. He’d been at our house two weeks before.  My father said it wouldn’t be right for him to die at his daughter’s with Grandma at the shore. She was a bridge player. “Fourflushers,” Grandpa called her friends, with nail polish and cigarettes, bragging of  doctor sons.  First to come to America, knowing the rules, she was a queen.  The house was female, yolky with matriarchy. You could smell it.   

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