Congratulations, Juliette Givhan! Our winner of the Making Magic Poetry Contest and featured writer in “Wondrous World”!
“Call Me Magic” was inspired by Marcus Wicker’s collection Silencer, specifically the poem “When I’m alone in my room sometimes I stare at the wall, & in the back of my mind I hear my conscience call” which uses the title as a through line to the first stanza. While reading Wicker’s poem, I kept returning to one idea: I have been called many things by many people (friend, student, love, menace) but I have rarely claimed a title for myself. “Call Me Magic” is my attempt to change that- a long overdue self-naming that I saw happening in Wicker’s work. My poem is a spill of who I see myself as, and a reminder to give myself more credit for managing the multitudes that come with the different parts of my identity. – Juliette Givhan
Juliette Givhan (she/they received an MFA from Oregon State University and writes predominantly about myths and memes. A lover of thicc cats, overpriced seasonal coffees, and out of vogue video games- she WILL make a scene for a breakfast bagel. Their recent work appears in McSweeny‘s, stellium literary magazine, and DEAR Poetry magazine.
The grandmother to whom I was close to my whole life was a German immigrant named Ida. I called her Oma. She Always held the smell of fresh cheese blintzes in her hands, seemed to tidy every inch of her space by magically moving through the room, and had the word hands of a true artisan. She rarely bought anything other than groceries and supplies for crafts. Her genius started off as a child in war torn Poland learning five languages, in addition to sewing, knitting, cooking German and Polish cuisine while withstanding a world war.
to this country when she was in her early 20s, with a young child (my mother)
and a rather stubborn handsome husband. Standing only 4’ 11” and with a waifish
frame, Oma was the main bread-winner. She would sew her latest trendy outfits
at night, then go to work on Wall Street during the day. She worked for high
powered lawyers and later running the front office of a company making paper
products. During this time her husband went to work learning English and
finding odd jobs as a mechanic or carpenter. Between the two of them, they
could do almost everything, except take care of my mother. She claims to have
been raised by a library in the Bronx.
knew if it was being raised by a library that made my mom absent, or the fact
that she had to start her life over at 40 after the divorce from my father. It
didn’t really matter, because I had Oma. Even in her 70s, Oma could still do everything,
including take care of four rambunctious kids. In her perfect brown slacks creased
down the center and white blouse with pink polka dots, she would soothe our
childish nerves. Opa would be there too, to keep us busy by constantly building
us toys, taking us swimming, and playing games that only Opa could.
have been five when Opa created his version of a Slip’iN Slide. It was a
pleasant surprise for us kids and all the neighbor children. The trash bag/tarp
slide spanned half the large yard down the giant (even to adult standards)
hill. The multiple sprinklers coated the plastic slide with enough water to
drain the Erie Canal. After spending hours sliding down the hill something
happened. I slammed my little tush down with a running start to get the best
splash and speed. But, a quick pain started radiating from my left butt cheek.
tears streamed down my face. I ran inside to Oma who was cooking us dinner in
the Kitchen, making the already un-airconditioned house even hotter. Between
the smells of potatoes and chicken she stood in her pink polka dots. All I
could do was point to my butt. Which could really mean anything, as my Oma
knew. Once I explained what happened, the pain, the disappointment that other
kids could still slide down the hill drenched in water on the hot day, all the
childhood drama a five-year-old could muster up – Oma turned me around. As her
pet parakeets chirped away she started laughing hard. She pulled something off
my butt cheek, immediately fixing the problem. She turned me around as I wiped
my nose on her polka dot sleeve and said in a heavy German accent, “Evy, you
sat on a bee. It stung your butt, silly girl.” Then back outside I ran, not
missing any action. Oma stayed inside, prepping dinner with her pearl necklace
dangling in the summer heat.
polka dot blouse was something she wore throughout my childhood, rarely
changing out of it into her other handmade clothing. After moving out of my
grandparents’ house, we spent our summers there. We looked forward to Oma
teaching us how to French braid, as well as to sweet treats like ginger candy,
and melon for days. Even now, I wish my father hadn’t moved us all the way to
Minnesota, at times. I wish I could be closer to my grandparents. But, I would
never take back the fortune I have of being with my Minneapolis born husband.
I try to
see my grandparents once a year. It’s gotten harder in the past few years as
they have descended into dementia. This year I went out to see Oma over
Memorial Day weekend. She was on a mission to clean out her closet of homemade
clothing. We spent an afternoon going through her closet, I tried on her
clothing, on blouse at a time. I learned that I’m the same size as my Oma. Each
blouse fit perfectly to my curves, as if the pleats and darts were designed for
me. They weren’t; she made them for herself. Then came the button-down white
top with pink polka dots that Oma always wore. She gave it to me without a
blink of the eye. The fabric was still thick, yet soft from use; the shoulder
pads were square, the buttons plain white. The blouse, which was older than me,
seemed to have held up just fine over time. I was happy to wear that beautiful
button down home.
struggles to remember who I am now. I call, and it takes a few minutes for her
to figure out it is me, or she just calls me “honey.” I always love her and my
memory isn’t of her now, it’s of all the times she wore that polka dot blouse.
Some times when I’m longing for the safety and sweetness of childhood I’ll put
on that homemade garment.