GUNS

For Hansell Baugh 1903-1995(?)

He’s eighty-nine.
My cousin Hansell.
Any one of his tribulations
would fill up the pot of troubles
in an ordinary life,
but he doesn’t complain.
Considers himself lucky
to live in a house full of books.

All day long,
in his bathrobe,
he haunts his store of
precious hieroglyphical joys,
knows where every volume lurks.

Last year,
a robber
sneaked in
the back
door
held by a single
bent hook,
and pointed a knife
at my cousin’s middle.
“Gimme your gun” he demanded.
“I don’t want anything but your gun.”

“But I don’t have
a gun” Cousin Hansell said
“I never had a gun,
I don’t want a gun.“
The robber wiggled his knife.
“You got no gun?
You have to have a gun!
How you live?”

“I don’t know,
by fits and starts,
mostly,” my cousin said
“I’m only sorry
things turned out
so bad for you
you have to live this way.”

“Thank you”,
the robber said,
“You really got no gun?”
He put his arm about
cousin Hansell’s shoulder,
patted him on the bathrobe.
“You in big trouble.
Maybe I be seein’ you, I hope”
He put up his knife.

“Allow me to say
I hope not”
cousin Hansell 
replied.
He watched the robber depart,
waved gently and sighed.
Then he sat down to his “meal on
wheels”
opened a book,
and got back to
the rest
of his life’s work.

© 2022, Andrew Glaze Estate, a previously unpublished poem

Hansell was my father’s cousin, and literary soulmate. Seventeen years older, he became a freelance writer, biographer, book reviewer, and editor. Both had the same whimsical sense of humor and imagination. They even shared PR experience, since Hansells very first job involved traveling to Sumatra and Malay rubber plantations to make a film for U.S. Rubber.

Born in Tennessee, and raised outside Atlanta, Hansell graduated from Emory with an award in Latin, and a passion for books. He loved them so much that he eventually became a librarian, in Philadelphia and in New York.

In early 1957, my mother and grandmother set off to New York with me in tow. We were the flagship, sent ahead of my father to scout out the territory. The goal was to anchor in Manhattan, find an apartment and a mid-year 1st grade school for me, and be settled before he arrived in the summer. Initially we found a place in Chelsea, not far from the mid-town Greyhound bus station where we disembarked on arrival. It was a tiny studio apartment that barely fit 3 twin beds in L formation, on the West side near 21st Street.

It was during this time that Hansell first came to visit and delight me. He eventually brought me three gifts that I have cherished all my life.

 One was a beautiful jewel bedazzled wooden counter brush; the type that looks like a giant toothbrush with a short handle. I was thrilled with the gift, and positive that if ever a princess had owned a cleaning brush it would have looked EXACTLY like this one! I pictured myself in satin and lace, complete with crown, blissfully using my jeweled brush to sweep dust away. For many years I hung it on the walls of my room as a decoration. Only when I was past high school, and had left it in my father’s household did it finally get used for cleaning. A few years later, taking pity on it, as it had already lost one of its main gems, and in honor of Hansell, I pulled the rest of the jewels off and placed them in my jewelry box.

A second time Hansell came to visit, he brought me the book, Harold and the Purple Crayon. Newly published at that time, I fell in love with it, still have the copy he gave me, and introduced it to my own daughter when she was growing up.

A third time Hansell came to visit, he quite innocently unlocked the route to a career path that I followed until I was 28 years old. That was the day he took me to see The New York City Ballet perform “The Nutcracker”. One year later I was a student at the school for the company. Two years later I was performing in the same Nutcracker production that Hansell had taken me to see. Eventually, I transferred to the Royal Ballet School and spent nine years in Europe dancing as a member of opera ballet companies.

I never realized that Hansell was a writer until I typed his name into the internet and came up with articles such as, “How Nietzsche’s love for music influenced his philosophy”. He also put together a book of letters written by the Atlanta writer Frances Newman. And, as his name is listed as editor for multiple books with titles like, An Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics, it seems pretty clear that he edited college text books.

Hansell never married, but he did spend many years living together with a fellow librarian friend named Walton Brooks McDaniel II, who died in 1975. The unspoken assumption is that he was either asexual or quietly, and very unassumingly, gay. In any case, he was one of the sweetest and kindest people to come into my life.

In 1992, during a phone call with my father, Hansell discovered I had moved to Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, I received a card from him with every available surface covered in amusing questions, stories about my childhood, memories of his early years living in Philadelphia, and even a small sketch of a Philadelphia One Way street sign pointing heavenward that had once amused him. Stories I have no personal memory of included see-sawing with me in Riverside Drive Park (after we moved to 102nd street on the West side), taking me to the old Metropolitan Opera House to see something (perhaps an opera?), and eating hamburgers at White Castle.

Interestingly, he also revealed that his sister Margaret spent 13 years as the secretary to Atlanta based, Gone With The Wind author, Margaret Mitchell. After Mitchell was killed by a car at the age of 48, his sister worked for the office managing her literary rights for the next 20 years.

Eventually Hansell moved back to his hometown of Albany, 6 miles from Atlanta. In his final years he was taken care of by his great niece, and she kindly wrote me a note in response to a Christmas card I sent to Hansell.

I honestly don’t know exactly what year Hansell died, but I have fondly kept the card he wrote to me in 1992. All I have to do is look at it and immediately feel love and affection for the cousin who was a child at heart and who knew exactly what I’d enjoy at the age of 6. It’s also clear that I inherited some of the same genetics. I have a mind that remembers trivia for decades, and when I once did a career evaluation test, one of the top compatible suggestions was, “Librarian”. He would have enjoyed that.

—–E. Glaze  

Hansell on the left with my mother, father, and infant brother. 1958
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate
Hansell’s handwritten comment on the front of his 1992 card to me:
“A Reader Walks — or Walker Reads?”

GLORIA MUNDI

                                     

The Levinges came to live nearby,
bothering daddy. He was
a poor torment-seeking man who counted himself a liberal,
a socialist, a brother of the brotherly race.
Yet thought every Israelite should pay rent
for arriving late, by serving apprentice time as an Angle-Saxon.
Maybe by being allowed to run a cheap store
in a Black neighborhood.

Mr. Levinge said “crap”.  He was a master builder,
put up rich men’s villas, and wasn’t Jewish.
Mrs. Levinge had gypsy looks. One of the daughters
flaunted red hair, taught tap dancing.
They were like New York City, loud,
with— you’ll understand me, —neither humility nor class.

Gloria, the youngest, was, God knows, his only friend.
“She was born a lady; she doesn’t have to try”,
said Mama. With furious eyes like a bird,
she could pass for a Cherokee child.
Also was fearless, insolent, daring their downhill Running Path.
She climbed hills, told stories–fiercely moved about.
They shared their local slopes and terrible thickets
together, learnt to grasp
anything truly worth the doing
isn’t of any use to this world.

He’d taken all that in, just as
things collapsed, and here came Depression Time.
The world, like a braked locomotive, shrieked to a deadly stop.
Houses weren’t built, people got hungry.
The Levinges moved out.

It began to rain, endlessly.
The trees skimmed black and slick,
the skies streamed down like distressed faces.
Gloria disappeared, the one who’d helped him jimmy open
the crack welded shut like battleship plates
over pandemonium.

In a world generous with gifts,
the one he needed most was washed away
with neither thank you nor goodbye,
leaving only one crack, —that face
like a lonely truth, that dancer’s form and shape.
Which made him a downhill runner
the rest of his days.

© Andrew Glaze 2022. This is a previously unpublished poem.

At a very young age, my father considered Gloria Nell Levinge to be his first girlfriend. She may have actually lived next door and, although one source says she was his age, others indicate she was 26 months older.  Meanwhile, Mr. Levinge’s name was originally Levigne and had been altered by immigration officials when he arrived here from France. He had a degree in Engineering from the Sorbonne, and specialized in tall buildings.

My father studied Latin, and, roughly translated, “Gloria Mundi” means glory of the world.  He once commented that he’d “never met anyone like her”, and I can easily believe that. He’d had a conventional Southern upbringing among the genteel country club set, with girls who were trained to never steal the spotlight.  He once told me about a girl he knew whose mother would periodically reprimand her with, “Burgess, your brain is showing!”  Now he suddenly had neighbors from New York, with seven children who really didn’t care about the nuances of future debutante cotillions.  They had wider interests. Their mother had enrolled them in dancing and acting classes early-on and they all thrived in that arena.

Born in February sometime between 1918-1920, Gloria was the baby of her family.  She and her three sisters soon became known for their performances in theater pageants and plays, often as a group.  As adults, the three older sisters opened dance academies in and around Birmingham.

Gloria had self-confidence from an early age, didn’t care much about what anybody else thought, and when my father would take her for “a date”, they’d get all dressed up, but she would still wear sneakers to be comfortable. He was a shy boy, dress codes for girls in the South were typically de rigueur, and yet she was introducing concepts he’d never considered possible.

I don’t know where Mr. Levinge relocated his family when they moved, but clearly it was still within the city limits. In reality, the departure may have been because he suffered an early death from a burst appendix near the start of the Great Depression. Lacking his income, his wife had to sell her nicest belongings, and their children supported her for the rest of her life.

The Depression began when my father was nine in 1929, and ended when he was thirteen. At some point my father’s family also moved out of the neighborhood, but into a larger Tudor style mansion that overlooked the city. His father was a doctor who deftly managed to sidestep the pitfalls of the Depression by using barter and other options of free trade to keep afloat. I currently own a ladies Elgin watch that he bartered for his dermatologic services and brought home for my grandmother.

As for Gloria, by 1936, she’d been groomed by her entire family to compete in the Miss Birmingham Beauty Pageant and won!  The title qualified her to enter the 10th Miss America Pageant on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City, New Jersey. She competed using her dancing talent and was one of three contestants to win the “Talent Award”.  In the end, she was fourth runner-up for the crown, losing to Miss Philadelphia.  She also managed to become Miss Daytona Beach during this time period.

In 1937, she left for New York City and joined the Ensemble of a Broadway musical titled, “Marching Song”.  It opened in February and closed in April after 61 performances. Next, she decided to head for better weather and a potential movie career in California.  She did indeed dance and act in films. My uncle remembers going to see Best Foot Forward with my grandmother in 1943.  She pointed out, “There’s Gloria”, in a segment where Gloria had a small speaking role. Her niece says she was in at least one Abbott and Costello film.

On July 28th, 1942, she married Gene Lester, a pioneering West Coast news correspondent and photographer for The Saturday Evening Post.  He covered events with celebrities from the Golden Age of Hollywood, but particularly became known for his photos of Marilyn Monroe.  His one regret was that when Cary Grant invited him and his wife to visit for a weekend, he turned him down, because he and Gloria, who were early in their marriage, had just had a major blow-up argument.  Later he learned that Grant had been planning to give him an exclusive for his secret wedding to heiress Betty Hutton that weekend. From that story alone, it seems likely that Gloria had an interesting life and career. They had two daughters. Her husband died in 1993, and she died four years later still living in California.

Gloria never realized it, but by being “the one who’d helped him jimmy open the crack welded shut like battleship plates” she forever addicted my father to a love of surrounding himself with interesting people.  Debutante balls were all fine and dandy, but nothing compared to surrounding himself with artists, dancers, composers, musicians, and other poets and writers. And that is exactly what he proceeded to do, initially in Birmingham, then for 30 years in New York City, later in Miami, and finally back in Birmingham, until he peacefully died, satisfied with his life, at the ripe old age of 95.

—E. Glaze

Gloria Levinge with her mother. Photo courtesy of her family.

Climbing The Sky

for Irene Latham

 

Leaving from Cauterets, up to the South,
after the first traverse
we left the takers of the waters
like trader ants below.
Ascending the causeway
dangling cups like aluminum chains,
up the crystal skies
we passed the toffee folding machines
and up through the bushy slopes
leaving below the running waiters and steaming
chicory blenders retreating behind us and beneath.

Up the thunder-reverberating bowl of the pic de luz,
the whole world behind was shrinking,
like a cupboard tucked in a fringe of grass,
then bent beneath and fell away,
and we were in another world of long green slopes,
world weary yellow fields that fibrillated
in the smoke of the August tingling air.

Far away to north, the blunt hills were reduced by space
into rhythmic demi-bubbles of France.
The sun buzzed from the South,
great too, in its own right,
and North and South the feral sisters tramped away
one next to another like great
brown bears of the Pyrenees.
We walked the tightrope of a col, and there we were,
arrived at last–in the pockets of vastness
anchored to the earth only by air.

© 2015 Andrew Glaze, from his book Overheard In A Drugstore

At the end of WW2, U.S. military servicemen were being shipped back home in the same order they arrived in Europe. Since my father had been a late recruit, he knew he had a long wait ahead of him. He decided to make the most of it and head to the mountainous French town of Grenoble. There he found beauty and inspiration. His parents had always been frankophiles, he’d had private French lessons growing up, and the University offered him the chance to be a student and assistant teacher.

 During the winter, he learned to ski along with friends and military buddies. In the summer he biked and hiked with youth hostel members.  This poem is about one of those group adventures. Cauterets is a town in the Hautes-Pyrénées in the region of Occitanie in south-western France. It has been a Spa town since pre-Roman days, and has health giving mineral springs from 11 different sources. (Hence the phrase, “we left the takers of the waters like trader ants below”).  A valley town surrounded by mountains, it has one particular 16.5 mile trail that goes from Cauterets to Luz St-Sauveur. It features a river and is rated difficult. As the poem mentions “pic de luz”, I do wonder if the poem is about that trail.  In any case, my father documented his journey up the mountain with photos.

He dedicated the poem to fellow poet and writer Irene Latham, in gratitude, after she nominated him for Poet Laureate of Alabama.

 —-E. Glaze

Hike from Cauterets: Andrew Glaze, fourth from left, wearing a striped shirt.  




Climbing the Sky again, this time in Villars, Switzerland, along with Army buddies.

(photos by Andrew Glaze, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate)

Cauterets in a post card from the late 1800’s.  Photographer unknown.

The Ballad of Being Gone

— In honor of suicide awareness month

Where’s the old brown Victor AM box
with half a sandwich of what there was for dinner
and half a sandwich of peanut butter.
Going to visit myself again, and in that place,
Jack Benny’s scratching at his violin for Love In Bloom,
Ethel Waters piling up clouds of Stormy Weather,—alas—
as lost as a puff of wind in the grass.

And, Daddy, chewing his pipe in the northwest chair,
and Mama, who’s played a Brahms Waltz on the baby grand.
Then the lawn in the side yard, its badminton net
and the primal fig tree by the back porch,
and the glorious night of the Night Blooming Cereus.
Where’s that gone?

And that midnight ringing of the phone, 
wet and hot, to soothe the dolors of the skin,
near which Emily Dickinson
first made a vast hole in the air and drew me through
and shut the wind behind us.
And where’s that brave stony porch against storms,
and the port cochere, and my lonely sand-pile,
where’s what I was,
and our beautiful house of green?

and daddy hurrying down deadly, the last hateful night,
going to headlong ruin by anger destroyed,
his harsh forty-five chucked beside him on the seat,
all ready to kill the girl who dared disgrace him,
and bringing the end of all that we knew
of our house and our city and being young,
as lost as a puff of wind in the grass.

By Andrew Glaze, © 2002, from his book Remembering Thunder

In 2005, my father wrote an email to a friend:

“Dear Marilyn: re the last verse of the “Ballad of Being Gone”.
When I was 24 and in the air force, overseas in Wales, I received a telegram that my father had died, which was puzzling enough, since he had always been in good health. It was only after the war was over and I got home that I learned my father, (who was a doctor) had been involved in a love affair with his secretary and had shot her and himself.  My mother had to sell the house and go and live with her sister in Fort Worth.  Our house, which sat on 2 and a half acres over looking Birmingham from Red Mountain, went for a give away price, and all my things, including my record collection and books, went for little or nothing, so when I came home after the war, there was not much to come home to. Gone without remedy indeed!  Good thing I have always been a resilient soul. I got over it. But to this day my brother won’t talk about those days.”

As for my father, he eased his mind through his poems. There are three specific poems that wrestle with the repercussions of his father’s self-implosion.  Each one goes to a greater depth than the last.  First came his 1978 poem, “My Father Invented The Submarine” from his book The Trash Dragon of Shensi , followed by 1981’s “The Ballad of Being Gone” in Remembering Thunder.  The third poem is called “Loblolly” and is not yet published.

My brother and I grew up with the knowledge that our grandfather had killed himself before we were born.  However, it wasn’t until I read “The Ballad of Being Gone” that I learned it had been as part of a murder-suicide.  I still remember my father’s comment when I asked him about it; “It was just like daddy to bite his own nose off to spite his own face”.

Our grandfather was a highly successful dermatologist at the time, greatly respected, and well known for his gregarious personality, many talents, published medical research papers, and a high level of intelligence.  He and my grandmother were popular members of Birmingham society and the country club world.  They had a steady housekeeper, a beautiful mansion surrounded by other lovely mansions, and, before the war began, when my father wasn’t playing golf, or tennis, he was dating debutantes.  

As a result, when my grandfather abruptly left this world in tragic and dramatic fashion, it was the scandal of the decade, equal to the OJ Simpson trial.  My poor grandmother fled to Texas with my 14-year-old uncle in tow.  They stayed there for a year until the people of Birmingham had forgotten the headlines and moved onto other news, and then quietly moved back. 

Eventually, I learned that my grandfather snapped when the young woman he was having an affair with “tried to break it off, take the car he’d given her, and leave with another man.”  A few years ago, my brother tracked down a 1945 newspaper article explaining the sequence of events.  Apparently, after speaking with the girl on the phone, he furiously drove to her house in his car and shot her when she opened her door. From there he drove to his medical office downtown, called my grandmother on the phone to tell her what he’d done and explain what he was about to do, and then killed himself.

The one cherished memory that my father held close for the rest of his life arrived in the form of a letter, written by my grandfather a few months before he died.  It said, “Everybody else has seen it before I did, forgive me for not recognizing that you are a first-rate poet.”  My father later wrote, “I memorized this letter. To me it meant, ‘After all this time, you’re free.  It’s okay to be you.’  So, I decided to go back home after the war, study medicine, and, when he retired, take over his practice.”  “Years later, Mama was able to say ‘The only good thing about Daddy’s death is that it let you do what you wanted to do.’ At last, I was free.”

Interestingly, it wasn’t until my grandmother died, in 1981, at the age of 93, that my father visited the cemetery in Birmingham and viewed his father’s grave for the first time.  He returned to Manhattan afterwards and confided in me that, at some level, because the burial took place while he was abroad, he’d never really accepted that his father was dead until that moment of finality. I guess he’d never had the courage to face it before then. 

Thirty-six years after the drama unfolded, he finally had a form of closure to work with.

Andrew L. Glaze Senior. Photo taken by Andrew L. Glaze Junior in 1938.
Property of the Andrew Glaze (Jr.) estate

— E. Glaze

Something, –Or Perhaps, Nothing

for Linda Allardt Gallasch 1926 – 2021

At Bread Loaf once, on the battering grand,
busily trashing a tall forest of Bach,
his memory ran out,
and eternal actor,
he leapt up and slammed the cover with a bang.
Because he’d a listener.

Someone who sat there nursing a tin ear,
a slight stranger with long blond locks, trim,
with hands folded, who wanted to talk.

That’s how it began. A sort of strange, decorous,
sumptuous half-mad week. “Are we engaged? she asked,
and his abashed humility, ready for any gift,
said yes, of course.
He’d a stern agreement with himself
to stay poor, to stay defiant,
but this cost nothing they could collect upon.

Besides, she walked through the dining hall with long tresses,
chin like a duchess, had a degree in physics,
a promised job, a writer’s gift,
was beautiful, full of spendthrift, brainy talk.
She wanted kids, kitchen curtains,
but was seductive enough
to wrench his wits crabwise off their stubborn footing.
What did he have to offer?
Nothing but dreamer’s backlash!

After the two weeks,
as a sort of epitome of foolishness,
she hitchhiked with him West
down the Hudson to Albany.
As though in a way she approved how he
put the buckle in swash.
Be bold, be brave, and all that, beyond reason.

As for the rest–as for what was
going to happen,
Heavens! Wasn’t this enough?
Weren’t they in their way prepared?
There’s an epiphany in saying as they did,
“How on earth do you know?”

© 2021 by the Andrew Glaze Estate, previously unpublished.

Linda was my father’s first love; I’ve mentioned her before as part of the background story for his poem titled, “Love”.  They met at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference of 1948, when she was straight out of college, and he’d recently returned to the States from WW2.  Briefly engaged for 4 months, the geographic logistics were not in their favor.  She returned to New England, while he headed to Stanford University for a semester, and then home to Alabama where he got a job as a newspaper reporter.

They lost touch, only to reconnect in 1968 when they both had poems published in the same journal.  Both had married, gone on to have children and day jobs, and worked endlessly to tweak their poems until they were polished for publication. To that end they began to exchange poems, supportive critiques, and maintain a pen pal friendship until my father died in 2016. I was the one who broke the news of the loss to Linda.

Shortly before his death, Linda dedicated her most recent booklet of poems Under Construction, with the words, “For Andy, for half a lifetime of friendship and poetry shared.” In 1981, he’d already dedicated his book I Am The Jefferson County Courthouse to both Linda and Norman Rosten. 

He wrote his poem about her, went through several versions and titles, finished it in 1999, and then never published it.  She only learned of its existence after he died when I sent it to her in an email.   She later wrote a poem about him and also never published it. (You can read her poem under the main menu “Friends” category.) Theirs was an enduring love and friendship based on a mutual passion for writing, memories of youth, and decades of shared encouragement.

Clearly their lives were destined to be intertwined. At some point in more recent decades Linda met up with a neighbor for their regular fitness walk and the neighbor brought along a visiting friend. Upon learning that the visitor was from Birmingham, Alabama, Linda asked if she happened to know “Andrew Glaze, the poet and writer”. The reply was, “Yes, he’s my brother-in-law”.
This particular social network was how I ended up learning Linda had passed.

I’ve thought about Linda a lot since she died. I have visions of my father greeting her on the other side, standing a bit apart from members of her family who are also there.  Eventually they hug and chat, and, after she’s fully settled in to life in her new world, agree to sit down with pen and paper where they immediately launch into literary discussions as though they’d never stopped.
—–E. Glaze

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is img_20161231_0005.jpg

Photo by Andrew Glaze, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.
Linda Allardt in 1948, wading a nearby creek during the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. After he died she wrote me to say, “there was one small snapshot that Andy took of me wading in a creek at Bread Loaf, wearing shorts and with my hair up in a pony tail—very Greek, somehow. ”  She’d lost her copy and I scanned it for her.

God’s Various Enterprises

                                    For Bessie Blevins

A divine visitation came to our house
that year.
In a dream, God sent Bessie a business gift,
a radical formula for straightening hair.
Rinsing the long black mop in grease,
you run a hot iron through it,
to the sweet reek of blue smoke!
“Brother, she asked, “lend me eleven dollars.
Then I can go into business.”

In 1932, that was more than a cook’s wages for two weeks.
Three times what his father gave him a week
for the savings bank against college.
Where to find it?
But he finagled, somehow,
and gave the dollars to her by the kitchen door.
Later she unveiled an epiphany.
Row on row
of grey‑black cans of petroleum grease, like a factory–
like Henry Ford’s flivvers
stuttering through the factory door.

She was born in Demopolis, once a failed vine and olive colony.
At Renault House
she wrung chicken necks on the back porch.
Her Papa’d gone blind
staring in the fierce bagasse fire,
boiling molasses down out of sugar cane.
She never went to school.
Children she nursed taught her to write a little,
mumble through the bible verse by verse,
and the man of six foot four she married,
used to get drunk and beat her,
giving her two kids. Her favorite songs
were “Precious Love”, and
“The Waltz You Saved for Me.”

Lay any guilt?  To her, life don’t argue.
And for the eleven dollars– bless him,
that little boy did the best he knew.
She was right. Life is what it is,
and we can only climb the barricades it rears,
against all thoughtless, ill-regarded, acts of love.

© 2021 by Andrew Glaze, from his unpublished book Sideways Tales.

In 2010, my father e-mailed his friend Irene Latham to compliment a book she was writing for young readers. Leaving Gees Bend is about a young girl in an Alabama town known for Black women who are skilled quilt makers.

“Irene,
The whole heartedness with which you tackle a sad, and practically helpless society and people, breaks my heart. I can’t read more than a few pages at a time because I start crying. I know these people, because I grew up with them. I can’t help thinking of my friend and our maid, Bessie, and the time she asked me to lend her $11 to start a business (hair grease). I took money out of my college savings to help her—thank God.
–Andy ”

Bessie worked for my father’s family for many years, both as a maid, and as a nanny to him and his siblings. At the time she had her dream, my father was eleven or twelve and she’d been with the family since he was three.

Her birth-town of Demopolis was founded by French exiles from Napoleons empire and is one of the oldest continuous settlements in the US. It’s likely that her ancestors were slaves to those residents. Her daughter’s name was “Belle”, with the French spelling that translates to “Beautiful”. According to my mother she also had a son.

Her 6’4” husband lost his life at a relatively young age when someone broke into the Dry Cleaners where he worked as a night watchman, and shot him. My grandparents attended the funeral with all three kids in tow.

Like all Black members of her generation in Alabama and the South, Bessie had to follow extremely specific, mostly unwritten, racial guidelines.  And yet, she was more fortunate than most. My grandparents were modern thinkers at the edge of Civil Rights awareness and they treated her well. Derogatory names for African Americans were banned from their household. “Colored people” was the socially acceptable term used by both Blacks and Whites in those days..

Bessie took the public bus to and from their house each day, which required walking up and then back down a hill. At times they drove her or picked her up from her home just outside the center of town (my uncle describes it as a “shack”). Truth is, the majority of “colored people” lived in very small rectangular cabin shacks in neighborhoods they were relegated to. Segregation laws kept it that way. Only occasionally did she stay overnight in a room above the detached garage that was designed for the hired help, but mainly used by my grandfather to store his fishing equipment.

My uncle says she was a natural, self-taught musician. It began when she would try to pick tunes out by ear on my grandparents’ baby grand piano. She enjoyed it so much that my grandmother supplemented the cost of a secondhand upright piano of her own. It sat in her “shack”, where she taught herself to play, and was her most cherished possession.

However, Bessie’s major advantage turned out to be my M.D. grandfather’s medical connections. At a time when Birmingham was becoming a major medical center in the South, she was diagnosed with Pernicious Anemia; normally considered a fatal disease. So, my grandfather took her to see Dr. Thomas Spies. He was the Director of the Hillman Hospital Nutritional Clinic and soon to become the USA’s foremost expert in nutritional diseases. Bessie became part of a major study that involved treatment using an unappetizing substance made from liver. The medication was expensive, but my grandparents footed the bill and Bessie recovered. Spies went on to publish his study and the report mentions a female participant identified as “B.B”. He went on to find nutritional cures for Pellagra and Tropical Sprue and by 1938 he was Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year, in comprehensive science”. According to my uncle, when she had other health issues and needed a mastectomy later in life, Spies’ Clinic took care of her. Nowadays, Pernicious Anemia is easily treated with Vitamin B12. Capsules or coated tablets disguise the taste.

A different perspective of Bessie’s life comes from a memoir my late mother wrote. It describes what was an everyday occurrence for Blacks in the South.

“In 1949, I was 18 years old and full of youthful idealism about race relations.  Yet, somehow segregation was far from my mind when I invited Bessie, a longtime servant in my future husband’s family, to the wedding.  Racism in the context of religion had never truly penetrated my mind. Yet at the same time, I knew very well that Blacks and Whites had separate Methodist churches.

I was waiting in the vestibule for the traditional music cue when Bessie arrived.  The groom’s brother, who was one of the ushers, came to me with Bessie on his arm and said, “Where do you want Bessie to sit?”  “In the pew with your family,” said I. The only thought in my mind was that Bessie would be the most comfortable with them, and that she was, in a sense, family.

Bobby, my future brother-in-law, escorted Bessie through the doors and on up the aisle.  After a couple of minutes, back again they came through those doors, Bessie still holding Bobby’s arm and closely followed by an unfamiliar man of middle age.  Bobby said, “This man says that he’s a church official, and he wants to talk to you.”  The church official informed me very courteously that it was against church policy for Bessie to sit in the main auditorium.  She would have to sit with the black church employees in the corner of the balcony.

I was amazed.  I knew that my world was racist, but I never thought my church would be this petty, to embarrass a gentle, elderly woman like Bessie on what, I thought, was a personal occasion. I said to the church official, “Bessie has been working for my fiancé’s family since he was a little child.  She should be with the family.”  He politely disagreed.  A tornado of righteousness rose up in me. I was an 18-year-old struck with shock that my religion wasn’t what I had thought it was, and I was going to set it straight.

“You know that my family has been going to church here since I was six years old.  My brothers and I went to Sunday School all those years.  My mother taught Sunday School here.  My grandmother goes to church here; my uncles and aunts went to church here.  We went to Vacation Bible School and revival meetings and everything”.

He said very quietly, “Yes, I know that.”

I said, “Well, what about ‘Red and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight’, that we used to sing in Sunday School?  What about ‘The Brotherhood of Man?’  This doesn’t seem like Christianity to me.”

Quietly, he said, “There are several of us Church Stewards here.  Would you like to speak with the others?”  He gestured toward the auditorium. “Yes, I would,” I said, and started toward the auditorium door.

Bessie touched my arm.  “Please, Miss Dorothy, I don’t want no trouble.  I’ll just sit in the balcony.”  As she walked toward the balcony stairs, I said to her, “I’m so sorry, Bessie.  I never dreamed this would happen”.  And that was that.  We all went to our appointed places and proceeded with the wedding.

A few years later, in 1958, Bobby got married in New York City and Bessie came from Birmingham to attend his wedding with the respect she deserved.”
—Dorothy Elliott (Glaze) Shari

It’s notable that my mother never returned to her childhood church again, and completely rejected all organized religion from that day on.

By the 1950’s, my aging grandmother was widowed and living in a condo apartment. Bessie or her daughter still came once a week to polish the silver, dust, and vacuum. My father stayed in touch with Bessie for the rest of her life, and although she could not write back, her daughter was able to. When I was a child, and we still lived in Birmingham, I remember driving to her home to drop off Christmas gifts.  After we moved to New York City in 1957, we sent a Christmas card with cash tucked inside.

Sadly, one day a phone call notified us that Bessie had died. However, it wasn’t from natural causes. It turned out that as she grew older, she began to develop cataracts. Eventually she tried to cross a street and was hit by a car.  The consensus was that she hadn’t seen it coming.

Nonetheless, she still lives her simple life within my father’s poem, and in our memories, and now you know her story as well. Sometimes a legacy is measured in the love you leave behind when you’re gone. Sometimes it’s by swallowing a truly awful tasting liver compound to help find a cure for a fatal disease. And on rare occasions, if our stars are aligned correctly, even if we don’t realize it at the time, some of us are able to do both.

—E. Glaze


Although there may be other photos of Bessie, this is the only one in my possession.  The baby in the wicker carriage is my aunt Martha, the toddler in the foreground is my father Andrew, and Bessie is the “Hidden Figure” in the upper right corner.
Photo property of the Andrew Glaze estate.

A Little Han Horse

 

Tail in a rainbow curve,
his mouth ruffling the air like a golden flute,
his hooves glittering in rapture,
with cocked ears, he’s off,
to what improbable sapphire mountain?
Above the thick reek below of rage and grief,
of fire-blasted cities, starving children, skewed old men
proffering grey worn-out eyes
and great bellies, he skims.

Where he goes, also,
is afflicted with wild armies,
furious combustion and loss.
So, he flies as part of it,
through, between, beneath,
hooves flickering sparks, nostrils flaring,
his heart knows it all.
He skips a little dance of joy.

© Andrew Glaze, from Remembering Thunder, 2002

 

My father’s love affair with Asian art, poetry, and culture, was particularly passionate in the 1970’s.  At that time, he read and experimented with writing Haiku poetry, enjoyed taking us to an authentic Japanese restaurant in our neighborhood, and purchased a variety of books on Asian Art.  I think of it as his “Asian Period”. It was during this time that he wrote “The Trash Dragon of Shensi”, ” A Little Han Horse”, and began writing a poem titled “Issa” which is about the Japanese poet and Buddhist monk named Kobayashi Issa.  The latter is included in his 2015 book Overheard In a Drugstore.

The little Han horse that inspired the poem is actually a statuette that sat on a shelf above my father’s desk in Manhattan. Of humble origin, it arrived at our home when he subscribed to a Sculpture of the Month Club that was probably affiliated with the Time-Life publishing company.  It is based on “The Flying Horse of Gansu”, a statue from the Chinese Han Dynasty that was unearthed from a tomb in 1969 and which captured the public’s imagination.  The horse is said to be standing lightly on a flying swallow or hawk.

I remember my father telling me how much he loved looking at it. At some time in later years it was accidentally knocked over and the tail separated from the body. Then, during the move from Miami to Birmingham, it went missing among my parents packed belongings and they thought it was lost entirely for a long time. At that point a kind relative presented him with a replacement that was very similar and my father was literally moved to tears.

I currently own the original along with its detached tail. At some point I’ll find someone to reattach it.  In the meantime, tail or not, he continues to flare his nostrils, skip his dance of joy, and bring me inspiration from a well placed shelf in my living room.

E. Glaze


My father’s little Han dynasty horse statuette.  At the time he wrote the poem, it sat on a shelf above his desk in our Manhattan apartment.

 

Sometimes One Man Can Make A Difference

Mr. Legrand

Whatever there is that shucks down upon us fortune,
out of a cloud bank,
a sort of seed-com, –let’s give it thanks.
Nothing ordained
it would pluck Mr. Legrand out of life’s vicious lottery
to be his pit-boss
in the tin mine at which they toiled.

Still, it happened.
It’s what’s called a mysterious choice.
They’d have laughed at such a cringing
after dumbbell destiny.
Neither believe there was anyone
watching from above, to harmonize it all.

It was spooky, though,
to catch Mr. Legrand’s eye
roving about that clattering newsroom
somehow on guard for them all.
A monitor or self appointed sentinel making sure
that what went hobbling past,
wrong-headed, hateful, murderous, pitiful, grim–
should receive a minute gentle prod
in a sort of hopeful direction–
–that what was going to happen anyway,
might be snookered off, perhaps hurried back,–
before it could drag anyone
under their times’ vicious, Kali-like wheels.

That decade, the South
was shooting craps for its soul.

Safer to live in quiet corners,
shape and spell what happened,
plumb that asshole of sentiment called politics,
and roost out the daily quotas of hunger, misery, loss,
–human nature growling at its bone–,
But through it all,
there sat Mr. Legrand, handsome, kind,
cross-grained,
like all of them, a little mad, displaying the talisman,
the shining conceit, called decency.

As though in the midst of killing, bombing, beating,
burning, whatever fiercely tried bitterly
to force them all to swallow death,
might somehow be forced to lighten up,
if shamed by a single decent, civil, face.

© 2020 by Andrew Glaze, previously unpublished.

I’m not sure when my father first began working on this poem. It is possible that Duard Legrand’s death in 1978, at the age of 63, got him started. It may have come sometime after 2002 when my father re-established residence in Birmingham, or it may have been inspired by the final edition of the Birmingham Post Herald on September 23rd, in 2005..

The staff at the Birmingham Post Herald must have been a singularly idealistic bunch. Most of them were young and hungry to out-scoop stories from their larger competitor the Birmingham News. They doggedly shone a light on the early 1950’s protests of the Civil Rights Movement, and came in direct conflict with Bull Connor, the cities brutal Police Commissioner, as well as the Klu Klux Klan and MOB members.  In the mid-50’s, my father happened to witness police beating a Black demonstrator and testified in court about it. Afterwards, due to safety concerns, he was transferred from his beat at the Birmingham courthouse to the Arts and Entertainment department of the newspaper. His testimony was later mentioned in the book, Speak Truth to Power: the story of Charles Patrick, a Civil Rights Pioneer.  Years later, my father’s two year assignment as the reporter for the Birmingham Courthouse beat became the basis for the poem, “I Am The Jefferson County Courthouse”.

Clark Stallworth was one of my father’s coworkers and a friend. When the  Birmingham Post Herald had its final edition in 2005, Stallworth was invited to reminisce along with other recent and former staff members. He described a moment in the early 1940’s, when “Two Klansmen attacked me, and I remember the sound of the hammer as it whistled past my head. But I boarded a handy Greyhound bus and got away.  Later, at a night Klan meeting in Warrior, I remember the bitter taste of fear as I was surrounded by hooded men with rifles and shotguns.  One of them was Robert Chambliss, who later blew up Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, killing four little girls. I got out of that one, too.”  By 1954 Stallworth was busy following leads on gangsters who killed an aspiring attorney general

But the biggest news story came in May of 1961. That was the year a staff photographer named Tommy Langston captured a single photo of unmasked Klu Klux Klan members beating up a Freedom Rider who had just arrived on a Trailways bus. As soon as the camera flash went off, the crowd turned on him as well. He later said, “I had a Minolta around my neck, and they grabbed the strap and nearly choked me to death. I just hit the ground and tried to cover my face. I think one of them was swinging a chain, because it caught me right across the face and broke my glasses. Then they started kicking me in the ribs. I don’t know if they thought I was dead, but finally they stopped.”  In the melee they also broke the lens for his main Rolleiflex camera, but the film in it remained undamaged. His single photo was quickly shared by newspapers and TV stations around the world. Not only did it help the FBI identify members of the assault group, including one who turned out to be a secret informant, but it embarrassed the hell out of several Birmingham businessman visiting Japan for a Rotary Convention.  A few months after they arrived home, Bull Connor’s reign of terror ended when he was fired.

The Birmingham Post Herald also became known for hiring young reporters just out of college and serving as a launching pad. My father’s colleague Larry Fiquette went on to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Howell Raines ran The New York Times for a while as Senior Editor, and Martin Waldron, became the Southern correspondent for The New York Times. One of the Black reporters that Legrand hired was Harold Jackson. Straight out of college, “I went to the Birmingham News and they told me I wasn’t ready. I went to the Birmingham Post-Herald and (then-editor) Duard LeGrand said “l’ll give you a chance,'” In 1991 Jackson won a Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

In 2005, when the newspaper finally ended its 84-year run, former reporters wrote loving paragraphs about their time there for the final issue:
“Inspired by Editor Duard LeGrand, the Post-Herald became a consistent advocate for civil rights”. 
“We were always the fun paper; we were never the paper of record. We were the paper that would take chances and take courageous stands.”

In 1978, when Duard Legrand died at the age of 63, the Birmingham Public Library actually sponsored a full book biographical tribute to him titled, A Singular Presence, Duard Legrand Newspaperman, by Ruth Bradbury Lamonte.

About Legrand, Clark Stallworth later wrote, “Duard was the best boss anyone ever had”. After reading my father’s poem, I’m pretty sure you’ll agree that my father must have felt the same way.

—E. Glaze. 

To learn more about Tommy Langston’s confrontation with the KKK and see his famous photo visit:
https://www.al.com/living/2013/11/photographer_was_man_of_a_thou.html


Birmingham Post Herald Press Photo of Andrew Glaze during his days as a  reporter for the paper.  Circa early 1950’s, by a staff photographer.
Photo property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Goddam Pretty

When we were leaving that life,
we were so goddam pretty, so wildly young,—
two rumpled children, parked in a scratched
blue-light mini-bus just in time for collapsing dusk–
amid popcorn and coffee,
ransacking our kid’s diapers under the murky dome-light.

You were brown in corduroy, shimmery with blond locks,
climbing to the wheel and weaving the car
thoughtlessly, pelting in and out among the beetling trucks.
The memory pleads remember me
Though now the car is locked so tight,
its door ground shut with a set brace,
that I’m not allowed even a thank-you, anymore.
That’s a given.

To look twice in that uncurtained window
would be too much–
something like death, and I will not,
if it is going to smatter of goodbyes,
or anything like that, well, no, damn it!

Yet the fiercely demanding memory
shifts the years once more however they grind and scrape,
to wherever you are,
and once again you are calming the kids as only you know how,
shaking out your shimmering hair,
taking the driver’s seat,
and turning the wheel faithlessly,
moving us away like long ago messengers to the North.

© 2015 by Andrew Glaze, from Overheard In A Drugstore

When my mother died in 2007, my sisters and I discovered a copy of this poem in her purse. It was in a zip-lock bag with other personal documents she seemed to feel were important to carry around on a daily basis. The only reason I can think of for this is that it reminded her that someone besides her children cared about her.  And the only way she could have had a copy was because my father wanted her to read it and sent it to her.

Ten years apart in age, I realized early on that theirs was a sort of Pygmalion/ My Fair Lady relationship. 

Extremely immature and desperate to escape the suffocating sheltered life she had at home, my mother had started off wanting to be a classical pianist until she was told she had the skills but not the gift. At that point she switched to acting.  She attended Birmingham Southern College and met my father in a campus choir.  They married, moved into an apartment, and she missed graduating by a single semester when she became pregnant with me. According to my father they’d originally agreed to wait a couple of years. According to her she had morning sickness every day.

Thus began a periodic pattern in my mother’s life, of blissfully unaware self-sabotage. She craved independence, but struggled more with her fear of it. Much later, in her 50’s, she decided to go back to school and finish her degree.  She got all the way up to one final course paper at Columbia University and even got an extension from the Professor.  In the end, she just couldn’t get past her own perfectionist demands and never submitted it.

My father once commented that he’d married her partly out of fear of what she might do in her desperation for freedom from her parents.  She later told me that she’d left parents, who constantly covered every mud puddle in her path to keep her safe, only to marry a man who did exactly the same thing.  She craved the freedom to make her own mistakes.

By the time I was 36, I’d already guessed that she divorced my father out of a need to establish her own identity.  The two of us had a deep conversation that summer and I asked if I was right?  She replied, “You are very perceptive” and revealed that when I was a baby. “I’d take you for walks and say we were walking all the way to New York City”.  She eventually got there with my father; it was the courage to do it on her own that she lacked. She said she felt at home the moment our Greyhound bus crossed over a bridge and she saw the Manhattan skyline.  My father said something similar many years later.

She went on to explain that when she met my stepfather it gave her a bridge that made it easier to break up with my father although her original goal was to strike out on her own.  “But then I got pregnant, and every time I got pregnant my brain went into a fog and I became helpless.” In reality, it wasn’t quite that simple. In 2004 I discovered another factor in her psyche. It was the day after a major family event when my father, mother, and siblings, were all sitting together in a garden.  My father suddenly turned to me and quietly said, “You know, I just remembered something.  When I first got together with your mother she said she wanted to have five children.  It just dawned on me that she did.”

Despite the hurt of her asking for a divorce, my father and mother maintained a good relationship and deep bond for the sake of my brother and I. Both parents attended major events and my half-siblings joined me for occasional sleepovers at my father’s place. My mother had a well-placed sense of trust in him. When her mother passed away, she called my father to tell him (he’d continued to maintain a good relationship with her parents), and he and my stepmom loaned her the money to travel South for the funeral.  Years later, in her 70’s, she decided to invest in dentures. “I wanted to be sure I looked like myself, and tried to think of who I could take with me that would remember what I originally looked like.  And then I suddenly thought of your father. So I called him and he agreed to meet me for the fitting.”  Truth be told, he was flattered she’d asked.

Her relationship with my stepfather was ill-matched, tempered by a shared interest in the theater-world, world travel, and their children. When his theater troupe permanently returned to the US, they grew distant. Although, as she explained on the night we had our in-depth conversation, “Being married gave me a sense of security, but the fact that he was never there meant I was forced to do everything for myself and made me learn to become independent.  It was by being married to someone with a totally different value system that I finally learned what my own value system was”.

By the time she was 55, all five of her children had gown and she was an empty-nester.  After four years of looking after her aging father in Alabama, she longed to return “home” and would call to see how my wedding plans were going.  One night after we hung up, it occurred to me that she could live with me for free until then, look for a job, save some money, and take over my inexpensive Manhattan apartment when I joined my future husband in Denver. She arrived on a Saturday night three weeks later, went for a walk, noticed a “Help Wanted” sign at a Thrift Shop 3 blocks away, and was hired on Monday.

She was the happiest I had ever seen her. With some amount of shock I remember realizing, “My mother, at the age of 55, is now reaching a level of maturity, self-confidence, and independence that I attained in my late 20’s.” I suddenly felt like a wise scholar observing a student. That was the moment when I forgave any resentment I’d had about the divorce. Given her freedom, she became a patient and non-judgmental sounding board for the five of us. She also went on to become a wonderful grandmother to her six grandchildren.

The ironic thing is, by the time she died, she’d become interested in writing, was taking courses for it, and was writing a book – although she struggled to find a satisfactory ending for the plot. An avid reader, her apartment living room resembled a library, and she loved attending theater performances.  She even had a small record player and the last album she listened to was the same “Little Abner” original Broadway cast musical that she’d played over and over again when I was 8 years old.  She’d come full circle back to the interests that she shared with my father.  The difference was, this time it was on her own terms.

—-E. Glaze

Photos were taken by Peggy Avadon. I was told she was a cousin of Richard. One of the summer stock actors knew her
Photo by Peggy Avadon, 1960.

1951
Dorothy Elliott (Glaze) Shari, in 1951, with Elizabeth Glaze. Photo by Andrew Glaze.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.


With her three daughters on a rooftop in Manhattan in 1976.
Photo © by Marcia Caro,

To Betsy

Be rash and alive in your heart.
The worst fate is not having to die,
it’s to be rolled—like sweat–
between the palms of somebody’s weasly god.

There’s a life’s work
under the accountability of so many wonders,
coming to accept the simple truth
exploded all around us by the joy
of our skin and eyes.

Live at the Finisterre of feeling
if you want to think this world
is better than stone.

See, how it’s your breath
puts the breath in the rock?
That you yourself
are the heat of the spring and the fatal sun?
The more of you shows,
the less there is of you for them to hurt.

Soon, you will stir
as though something had broken
will awaken,
your own kiss will at last accept itself.
It will bruise your mouth
with the hateful miraculous passion.
It’s our one gift.

© Andrew Glaze 1991 from his book, Reality Street

I was alone with my parents for 8 years until my brother was born.  It was long enough to bond with both of them, but when they divorced in 1961 I chose my father’s less transient household as my primary address and we grew even closer. 

I first discovered I was the subject of a poem when an early version appeared in a 1963 Alabama Festival of the Arts booklet called The Token.  One year later, an untitled and improved version appeared in an artisan folio book (Lines/Poems) that combined my father’s poems with etchings by the Colombian artist Umaña. 

For one of the etchings, Umaña came to our apartment to draw a portrait of me. At the time I had goals of looking like a mid-60’s British fashion model. That image shattered when he held up a drawing that reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, — not the Disney version, but the original with a two foot long neck.  At the time I was horrified and fled to my bedroom mirror for reassurance, but my appreciation for the drawing has matured over the years.  The sketch now hangs in my home. 

The poem was written as I transitioned from child to pre-teen to teenager.  However, it wasn’t until I dated a former English Major and he pointed out the gentle allusion to Sleeping Beauty/Snow White’s spell being broken by a first kiss from someone of the male persuasion that I finally understood it.  

It has always surprised me that it took until 1991 for the poem to appear in its final version in the book Reality Street.  The lesson from that would have to be, never rush a perfectionist, particularly when his daughter is involved

—-E. Glaze

age1
With me as a baby, 1951.
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Andy and me at Birmingham Post Herald party Cropped
Birmingham Post Herald party group photo. 1954?
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

photo3
Photo by Peggy Avadon. Summer 1961
Property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Andy visited from Miami
Visiting me in Bryn Mawr, PA.  1990
Photo property of Elizabeth Glaze.

Glaze 2
In 2013, he became the Poet Laureate of Alabama. In 2015, he was inducted into the inaugural class of the Alabama Writer’s Hall of Fame and presented with a medal.
Photo by Adriana Glaze, property of the Andrew Glaze Estate.

Umana's portrait of Betsy
Drawing by Umaña of Elizabeth (“Betsy”) Glaze, daughter of Andrew Glaze. 1964.
Property of Elizabeth Glaze.

%d bloggers like this: