Follow my sister, Nina, and me as we make a book together: my writing and her gorgeous inks on paper.

4. Cloud Hands

Posted on April 21, 2020

Doing things on the ground used to be natural: somersaulting, crab-walking, scrambling like a centipede. I’d Indian-cross my legs and pop up. Malcolm was amazed. “My legs don’t bend like that,” he’d say. But now if he’s not around to pull me up, I must get on all fours into a supplicant crawl and pray the right, stronger leg works. Staying upright is job one. In the safety of my bathroom, I bend at the knees, lower and raise, with my hand on the bathtub, grunting. Why do sounds of struggle sound ugly? Would yodeling distract my burning thighs?

Susan from down the street teaches Tai Chi. She pays a call on me, a private. On the front hall carpet in sock feet, I mirror her, the subtle shifts of weight in the ankle, knee, hip and lower back. Everything connects if you slow down, breathe. Be quiet! Our arms float like underwater movements as we drive our elbows through the resistance of air.

“Balance” – Nina Z. Temple – http://ninatempleart.com/

Ink on 300 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper

3. Silenzio!

Posted on April 21, 2020

When I see gummy candies at check out, I miss my son. The red cherries on green stems, the peach flavored peaches, blue Smurfs that stain the tongue. Long ago, he dared me to eat sour patch kids. “Just take one taste, Mom.” What an assault on my tender buds. I lean toward Swedish Fish! Are they raspberry? It doesn’t matter. They’re two bites of yum that get stuck in my flipper denture, so I eat them toothless. A few times, I’ve left home without the flipper and didn’t remember until I lisped or smiled. It’s not a bad feeling, to give your mouth more space. “Take care of your teeth,” I tell my son, just so he’ll say “Okay, Mom,” because him calling me Mom never gets old. When he’s home again, we’ll eat worms. 

“Rehearsal” – Nina Z. Temple http://ninatempleart.com/

Ink on 300 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper

11.5 x 30.5 x 1

2. Corka

Posted on April 20, 2020

I keep promising: I’m coming with the chair. But every morning, I wake to fog and my mother’s wheelchair, folded in the front hall, expectant. She’s leaving me voicemails. She needs: the juices, Fiji water, lactose free ice cream, but also, please, (in her kinder voice) Magnum bars, the ones with the caramel. And lactose? She leaves another message: an eyebrow pencil. Someone brought her the face shaver and her graceful arching brows are gone. Will they regrow even into stubble? Until then, she’s drawing them, darkly. I used to watch her “put on her face” as if the face under the makeup wasn’t also her face. She’d be going out for the night with my father, her sharp shoulder blades freed, her décolletage, shocking. A sensuous French word. De – removing. Collet. The collar of the garment. She’d wish Nina and me a goodnight in Polish. Dobranoc, córki. Coeur, cuore, corazon.  In German, the word for heart is herz, a rental car, when the root for mother in many languages sounds like a plea. Mutter. Mamman. Mama. Matka. Mom.

“Rosy” – Nina Z. Temple http://ninatempleart.com/

Ink on 300 lb. cold pressed watercolor paper

23″ x 23″

1. Move Closer

Posted on April 19, 2020

For fifteen years, it was only my first sister and me. Our parents moved often, flying across the ocean, driving us cross country, so Nina and I we were the perpetual new girls, missing what and whom we’d left behind. But we always had each other, and in every house, we slept in twin beds. Nina couldn’t sleep unless I answered her when she told me goodnight.

“Goodnight,” she’d say. “Goodnight,” I’d say. But there’d be one more thing, one more thought – about a clueless boyfriend, a hard teacher, a mean girl, what outfit to wear tomorrow. With each other we felt as secure and successful as billionaires.

“Goodnight,” she’d say. “Goodnight,” I’d say.

“Should I get a pixie cut?” she’d ask. “It’ll grow out,” I’d say.

“Okay. Goodnight,” she’d say.

If I paused to mess with her, she’d plead. “Pia, say goodnight.”

Goodnight, Nina.”

And then silence for a bit, and then, Nina: “Can I borrow your white poet’s blouse?” (It was the 70s. Bellbottoms. Platforms. Love’s Baby soft. Fruity Bonne Bell lip gloss whistles on cords around our necks.)

“Maybe. If you don’t sweat. Now, hush,” I’d say, sleepy. “This is the last goodnight.” Finally, I’d hear her breathing rasp; then so could mine.           

This book is me and my sister back in twin beds; a writer and an artist, me on the right, my sister on the left, or vice versa, in our sixties with aging parents and grown kids and grandchildren, living on opposite sides of the country but sharing a room, with things to say before we sleep.

“Alway Connected” – Nina Z. Temple http://ninatempleart.com/

(ink on cold pressed 300 lb. water color paper)

22″ x 30″

Cover: Now We Are Sixty

Posted on April 19, 2020

Now We Are Sixty is a collaboration between two sisters, one an award-winning writer, the other a renowned and highly collected artist, both in their early sixties. The full-color book  – 9 ½ x 12 and 100 pages – pairs Pia’s short, tender memoir entries with Nina’s intuitive and improvisational inks on paper. Working side by side, the sisters, explore aging, their long marriages, their history growing up in a musical family, their violinist mother’s dementia, and their luck at being sisters. Pia, the eldest, lives with her husband and their dog, Ella, in New Orleans, Louisiana, close to her two stepsons and eight grandchildren, but across the pond from her grown son in London; Nina, the second born, lives in Carmel Valley, California with her husband, near their two children and three grandchildren. This book is the first in a series that navigates this next decade, and narrows the distance between sisters who enjoy any chance to be together.

Quick Links to Essays & Fiction.

Posted on June 5, 2017

Alive and well on the web:

Frederick Barthelme and The 39 Steps – Oxford American

Jesuit Dog – ELJ – Elm Leaves Journal

The Owls of Solomon Place – Oxford American

The Thunder and the Hurricane – Oxford American

Ode to Swimming Naked – Oxford American

The Hillendale House: Moving Out Mother – Virginia Quarterly Review

Crime Watcher – The Morning News

A Man – Spork Press

Stop – The Literary Review

After The Flood -Guernica

Famous Fathers – Narrative Magazine

Tell Me In Italian – Narrative Magazine

When I Lived There – Mississippi Review (2006)

His Hand, Restless On My Leg – Mississippi Review (2005)

Ski-Doo – Mississippi Review (2004)

The Water Laws – Mississippi Review (From 2001)

This Life – Mississippi Review (from 1999)