Counting Sheep by Beth Hoeckel

by Emily Wallis Hughes

Antonie my grandmother was a seamstress in Germany
She came to America on a large ship
She lived in a boarding house in a tiny room
She sold her zither to a man who could not play it
Took care of children who were not her children
Bought a Brooklyn deli ran the deli with two other women
Met a man who was once a chimney sweep in Nuremberg
They married, they had children
Five children
Late at night she made clothes for them
A strawberry dress for my mother
A generous hem
Always generous hems always!
At school my mother couldn’t see the chalkboard
In the one room schoolhouse
She needed glasses
Antonie said no you need to be like the other children
My mother pretended to see what she wanted to learn
Yes that’s what she would tell me when we were inside
Of our house in the Sonoma Valley yes like how
She pretended to like the taste of powdered
Milk in the Pennsylvania winters

Counting Sheep
Beth Hoeckel

Beth Hoeckel is a multidisciplinary artist from Baltimore. After graduating from Carver Center for Arts, she earned a merit scholarship to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she studied painting, photography, and printmaking and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. Beth is currently a full-time freelance artist creating collage and mixed media works.

Emily Wallis Hughes is a California-born poet currently pursuing an MFA at New York University, where she is a Writers in the Public Schools Fellow. Her poems have been published in Gigantic Magazine and Sacramento News & Review, and anthologized in Burning the Little Candle (Ad Lumen Press).

This poem originally appeared in the Mothers & Grandmothers issue. For more inspiring stories about dealing with mothers and grandmothers, check out Thank you for being a friend: What we learned from “The Golden Girls” and My Legacy as a Moroccan Woman.