Tuesday, August 30, 2011


If I Were a Doll

If I were a doll,
my shoes would light up,
and there would be
a button that would play music.
I think everyone should have
a soundtrack to their lives.

Today my personal power song
would be Moon River,
because it feels like it’s 2am
all the time,
and the window ledge is
probably the safest, quietest place
in my house, right now.

If I were a doll,
I would have a twistable scalp,
just like the Tuesday Taylor doll
from the 70’s.
One day I would be blonde –
the next day, brunette.
It’s called hair fashion bi-polar disorder,
but the Mattel toy company
will never admit to that.

If I were a doll,
the downside would be
not being able to taste fried calamari
or cheesy quesadillas with sour cream.
I wouldn’t be able to feel my limbs stretch
and crack
after sleeping in late
under a down comforter.
I wouldn’t even be able
to feel Ken kiss me,
because Ken is just a doll too,
and I would be made of plastic and rubber,
so …
I guess I don’t want to be a doll after all.

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2011

(Beloved "Blue Mommy" doll belonging to the poet many decades ago)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011


Every night before bedtime, I tell my young sons a story. Each story starts the same way - Once Upon a Time, in My Real Life. As you can see, my sons prefer real stories to made up ones. My memory of the past isn’t always quite accurate, so sometimes there is a mixture of what I can remember and creative non-fiction. Last night, as I was recounting the latest chapter from my mommy memoir, I realized that we are doing something very important here – something my own father did for me growing up. We are preserving the Raskopf-Norcross family history through oral tradition. I don’t read the stories off of a computer or from a journal. It all comes from the deep recesses of my mind and the scents, images and touchstone experiences that make me who I am. My family is part of who I am.

Regardless of how independent I felt striking out on my own, that first day of freshman orientation in college, I am still the result of many generations of Hassells, Schreppels, Della Cortes and Raskopfs. My sons will have Norcross family stories to share with their own children, but the generations who came before them offer up a smoke signal of life – of child rearing, careers, voyages, aspirations and family meals.

My greatest memories arise from the meaty, zesty, steamy scents coming from the kitchen. When I was expecting my first child, I embarked on the journey of thumbing through all of my Grandma Josie’s recipe cards, slips of paper stuffed into books and the The Joy of Cooking with little notes scribbled in the side margins. This compilation of recipes and memories became the book, Promise Me Anything … But Give Me Kartoffelklösse, Remembering the Recipes of Josephine Schreppel Raskopf. There are recipes for butter cookies, chocolate cake, fish chowder and of course, Kartoffelklösse (dumplings). I recently dug up my copy of this book (published about six years ago) in a moment of comfort seeking, and realized that the memories came flooding back just from seeing my grandmother’s face and her recipe for almond horn cookies. I was back in my grandparents’ dining room with the mahogany china cabinet where chocolates were secretly stashed away in a crystal bowl at the back. I was looking at the painted pottery along the high shelves near the ceiling. I was feeling the rug fibers beneath my feet. My arms were resting on the big armchair in the corner. I was home.

Last night when sharing another installment of Once Upon a Time in My Real Life, I started off with a memory of buying bagels with my brother at the bakery down the road in Great Neck, and was then transported to my grandmother’s living room again. She was sitting in her chair with the side table lamp. Next to her was a cup of steaming, Tetley tea with lemon only. No milk, no sugar - just lemon in hot tea. My son looked up and said, “that was a nice story mommy.”

Yes, that was a nice story, a nice time, and now he will remember that scene. The family he never knew is sitting beside him, having a cup of tea and watching him grow. I know that my grandparents would have loved seeing my boys grow up, play soccer and practice guitar. I know now that with each bedtime story – they will appear.

Cristina M. R. Norcross

Promise Me Anything ... can be found at the Blurb website (listed under Cristina Raskopf Norcross).

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Be Afraid to be UN-lovely

When we create from the source, not from a place of accepted rules, we are truly being authentic.

Has someone ever told you that your poem or painting is “just lovely,” when clearly you know that, by convention, it is most certainly NOT lovely, or pretty or pleasing? Did you think to yourself, this person just does not understand my creative aesthetic?

I recently shared a poem with friends that was accepted for publication. It was a different kind of journal to be sure, and I chose a poem from my repertoire that I knew would be a good match for the themes they usually publish. After sending out the poem, I received kind words of congratulation, as well as a few neutral comments: “I liked your poem,” and “it was interesting.” Then there was the “it was lovely” comment. This is someone I’ve only been friends with for a couple of years, and she isn’t a writer or an artist. This doesn’t mean that non-creatives are unable to be open-minded. I know plenty of creative engineers. OK, I know one creative engineer who writes music. That’s another blog entry.

I wrote back to this friend, who is truly nice and kind, to tell her that no, my poem was not lovely, but the magazine liked it enough to publish it, and it captured a moment. I think I need to sit down over a cup of coffee with her and explain that writers and artists sometimes capture a moment of intense emotion through art, and then that moment is gone. It doesn’t mean that you live in that moment ~ that anguish is your permanent emotional state. Of course, maybe it is, in some cases. I enjoy exploring human emotion and placing my fictional speakers in different situations to see what happens.

When I start the journey of a poem, I don’t always know where I’m going. I might start with an image, a state of mind, a setting, or a first line that came to me just as I was falling asleep. If I were writing a novel, I would probably map things out a bit with bubble ideas and mind maps, but for my poetry, I like to glide on a thought and ride it out like a wave. I have no surfer training, mind you, and I might get tumbled in the waves, with gritty sand in my bathing suit that itches for days. Nice image, huh? You could write a poem about that!

Do not back away from the uncomfortable. Live with it – breathe in the awkward moment, the painful, the bitter ~ the bittersweet chocolate of life. If you can’t be fearless in your art, where can you be? The path not taken will lead to people who tell you in a rather mild voice, “that poem was lovely,” with a glance to the sky that says they don’t quite know what to say. Brush it off, pull up your sleeves and dig in, because the hard work, the real work of creation, has just begun. You need to go under in order to reach up. Light and dark live side by side, and your angel’s wings poem will have even more VERITAS if you know how to explore shadows as well.

The next time someone says “lovely” in reference to your poem, sculpture, canvas or song lyrics about why grief feels like “a wet, woolen mitten that constricts and pulls you down to empty caverns,” nod your head demurely, say thank you, and then keep creating. Keep them guessing. Keep them thinking. Someone has to wade through otherness with a smile. Let it be you!

Cristina M. R. Norcross
Copyright 2011