There have been many talented writers on my mother’s side of the family. I have several cousins who are very creative with a pen, and aunts and uncles alike who have written beautiful songs, poems, and stories. I’ve often heard that the Loy’s were excellent story tellers, and I guess it’s true because I always did love listening to my uncles spin a tale or two. However, there was one aunt that influenced me more than others to love words, her name was Sophia Alberta, and I wanted to dedicate my Author of the Month of November to her.
Most every year during the summer, my Aunt Sophia and Uncle Warren would come to spend a few days in Kentucky with my family, and it was always a treat. My aunt would always bring me books, but even better than that she would sneak me off to a bedroom, and we would sprawl across the bed, me wide-eyed and excited and her making a more significant impact on my young life than she probably ever realized. She brought tantalizing titles I’d never heard of before, like Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Thing Are, Puff the Magic Dragon,’ and The Cat and the Hat. She read poetry and stories that kept my imagination soaring, and I loved it. I loved her. For a moment every summer I felt very special. I guess it’s no mistake that she was a member of the Friends of the Library committee that worked to build a new Ypsilanti District library. Books continued to be her passion.
Sophia had a love of education and, once her children were grown, entered Washtenaw Community College and went on to Eastern Michigan University where she earned a B.A. in Political Science in 1988 at the age of 54. Sophia was a published poet and wrote a column for The Saline Reporter.
I wanted to share a couple of her poems from a book she wrote called The Remembering Quilt. While reading through the book, it was hard to narrow it down to just a couple of poems because they all are so well written and so full of wisdom. I hope you will enjoy the pieces I have selected.
Beauty is never fast.
Tall, slim, and white
In aspens and birches.
Pointing its green-tipped fingers
Toward the vast blue sky,
It stretches its strong, white arms
Silently, slowly beautifying.
Beauty is never dull.
Red, purple, and gold
In tulips, asters and chrysanthemums.
Soaking up warmth from the sun,
It miraculously colorizes.
Beauty is never shy.
In autumn trees,
Splashing each leaf with a gay hue,
Spilling red, orange, and gold
From its bushel of loveliness.
Beauty is never gone.
In white, silvery snow
Painting lake, land, and roof,
Catching golden shimmers from the sun,
In the dim light I see her flabby mouth.
It sneers at one corner
Revealing her few decayed teeth,
A string of gray dirty hair
Hangs across her dull eyes,
Her colorless face is creased with wrinkles.
On her bent head, sits an old hat
With a hole in the top.
Each time she fills my bowl
She wipes her bony, dirty hands
On her ragged stained apron,
I taste the thin soup;
A sickness rises in my throat.
Just as her sharp cold fingers clutch my arm,
I awaken to the pounding of my heart
And the shadows of the night.
A subdivision sunset
Spills its splendor
Against a lot of square
Where inside a lot of fathers
Read black and white newspapers
And a lot of mothers fix
While a lot of children
Watch square t.v.’s
In square rooms,
Not ever seeing
The round beauty of a
Turning its color channel
Then hanging out the stars.
What is This?
Songs of praise jumping off the stained glass windows,
Spirituality activated by walls.
Is this heaven?
Passive people slumping for inspiration,
Another Sunday dialogue.
Is this guidance?
Hymns such as, “Onward Christian Soldiers,”
Inspire the good people of this Nuclear Age.
Is this peace?
A few crumbs offered to the starving children
Out of the horn of plenty.
Is this compassion?
Judge not, said the peace-loving Christ,
But as long as Americans proclaim the Godhead
And buy the warheads,
There will be few swords beaten into plowshares.
Sophia Alberta (Loy) Wheelock
Born: Sat., Jul. 7, 1934
Died: Sun., Feb. 9, 2014