The home you grew up in. Childhood memories. The ability to think about those long passed times. These are all ingredients of the poem Pictures of home by Julie Hill Alger.
About the poet
What if Julie Hill Alger would have been able to stay with us longer? What if she did not die at the age of 67? She would probably have left us with more work. But she wasn’t able to do this. Alger died of breast cancer on December 29 1994.
Alger was born as the daughter of Marjorie Hill Alger and James Albert Alger. Her father served as a rear admiral in the US Navy. When she was born (March 13 1927), her father was stationed in Norfolk. They moved to Palo Alto in California, where Alger was raised. Later on, the family moved back east. Here she became a freelance writer and editor. She was responsible for the publication of many (short) stories, poems, Haikus and started working on a novel.
She followed her education at Simmons College and the University of Massachusetts.
In her later life, she moved to Amherst. The same place where Emily Dickinson lived. She got involved with the Steering Committee of the Western Massachusetts chapter of the National Writers Union. She also was one of the board members of the University Staff Association of the University of Massachusetts.
In 1992, she got ill and it turned out to be breast cancer. In 1994, this metastasized to her bones. It was clear that she would not recover her illness. She died on December 29 1994.
Pictures of home
In the red-roofed stucco house
of my childhood, the dining room
was screened off by folding doors
with small glass panes. Our neighbors
the Bertins, who barely escaped Hitler,
often joined us at table. One night
their daughter said, In Vienna
our dining room had doors like these.
For a moment, we all sat quite still.
And when Nath Nong, who has to live
in Massachusetts now, saw a picture
of green Cambodian fields she said,
My father have animal like this,
name krebey English? I told her,
Water buffalo. She said, Very very
good animal. She put her finger
on the picture of the water buffalo
and spoke its Khmer name once more.
So today, when someone (my ex-
husband) sends me a shiny picture
of a church in Santa Cruz that lost
its steeple in the recent earthquake
there’s no reason at all
for my throat to ache at the sight
of a Pacific-blue sky and an old church
three thousand miles away, because
if I can only save enough money
I can go back there any time
and stay as long as I want.