Five (of many) Poems by our daughter, Liesl:

Prodigal Daughter



April 6, 1999 -- The Day Heaven Opened for Nana!

The Modigliani Girl

        Copyright © 1997 --  Liesl Arensmeier

But the Bible doesn't tell us if the good brother
and the Prodigal Son ever bridged the
chasm of hurt to be close again
As a Prodigal Daughter this bothers me

For the sisters that never strayed but ached
for me and the hurt I caused everyone
Anger burns near the surface
every time I come home

The son came home once after years of
hard living and that's the end of the story
This daughter has built a revolving door
has never stayed home long after the celebration

But, still hurting, leaves again
Can't bear the hurt of the sisters that stayed
Keeps thinking that maybe next time
the reunion will be sweet and genuine

I keep hoping for a penance that will be real
Strong enough and harsh enough to prove
how I long for the fellowship of family
But each horrid downfall widens the gap

Oh to be young again, to build forts
and climb trees with my sisters
to laugh and wrestle with dad and cozy down
to listen to the melodic voice of mom reading

What made me want to leave this happy home
I'll never know - but the road back keeps getting longer
The sisters get farther shrouded in the mist
I don't know the magic words to bring them closer

Too many years and too many hurts
I've lost track of all there is to apologize for
"Sorry" has lost its meaning, but I am
Lost without them - the three who stayed

A double-edged sword, a Catch-22
I can't stay unless I know they want me
They can't trust to want me unless
they know I mean to stay

I see now there can be no compromise
It was I who broke the bridge of trust
and it will be I who must restore it
Why must it be a bridge which may take years to build?

If I had only damaged a step on the front porch
think how quickly I could mend it
and run inside for dinner - I would
hardly be missed

They have been missing me for years, though
And the bridge is ornate - a thing of beauty once repaired
I am overwhelmed at the task before me - the skills I must learn
But I'm told there is a Master Craftsman who will teach me

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(For Andrea - Mother's Day 1994 - when we were both waiting tables and her son was in Hawaii)

Copyright © 1994 -- Liesl Arensmeier

Sunday - blazing sun
Tall, cool teas at Brunch
Flowers on the tables
Moms with their clans
Cards and presents litter the aisles
Waiters dodge baby strollers

But what of the other mothers?
The ones whose love pierces them today
Sharp pains tug at arms and hearts
Arms ache to hold the little one
Hearts break to see a face, hear a word
Baby is with Daddy today
or Grandma or a family who was
ready for a child when she was not

Mothers - almost more so for the yearning
for the chores they're unable to perform
for the tears they miss wiping
for the lullabies someone else gets to sing

Happy Mother's Day Sweetheart!
Shed a tear or sing a song
But know that you are loved -
The title of Mother - earned by
battle scars on the heart - is yours!

Say a prayer for other mothers
whose love makes them lonely
who serve brunch to big families
and smile - but sadly - because
Baby is with Daddy

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Copyright © 1997 --  Liesl Arensmeier

Johnny with the bodacious burgundy hair
is making pizzas at Golden Boys in North Beach
Talk of poetry and politics fills the air
Literature captures our imaginations
We drink Red Tail Ale and debate and flirt

In walks a street woman to wash in the bathroom
An odor surrounds her as she moves past
I catch a glimpse of rows and rows of yellow teeth
We feel superior because it hurts to empathize
We're all young and strong and have jobs and dreams still

Chatter stops when she comes back through the room
She's invading the comfort of our intellectually elite mood
She comes toward me asking for a cigarette
She leans against the stool, so close I can feel her breath
I hurriedly reach for a smoke, I just want her to leave

She stops - she's standing so close
She starts to sway - she starts to croon
I'm frightened
Aretha Franklin sings Pink Cadillac on the jukebox
The woman at my side is harmonizing
In a powerful, robust, aching voice she sings
and I am mesmerized

I tentatively sing the melody
and she reaches for my hand
Her tiny, gnarled hand holds my polished and manicured fingers
and there's no one else around -
We're making music and she calls me "Sister"

She's no longer scary and ugly and scarred
She's a woman I want to know more about
I listen as she tells me stories

Her name is Lila Fae Hancock and I tell her
she's Sassy, Saucy, Smart... and Soulful, she adds
Her life is very hard, she's a tiny old woman
She's been abused and used on the street when she
was only seeking shelter from the cold

We sing some more, arms around each other
When the chairs are being stacked on the tables
I walk her to the door - she reaches up with one hand
on each side of my face and kisses my cheek
She says, "You're the first person that's shown me any love"
My eyes sting and I feel I've been touched by an angel

I've never seen her again, though I've looked
I sink into quiet memories when self-righteous talk
moves to the homeless
Somewhere out there is a woman with a beautiful voice
Who called me "Sister" and kissed me
and for a moment I loved her
I wonder if she remembers

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April 6, 1999 -- The Day Heaven Opened for Nana!

Copyright © 1999 by Liesl Arensmeier (Brat #2)

Oh Nana!  With your cherubic face and twinkling eyes
I'm holding a picture of you in my mind that makes my eyes sting
that makes me want to dance with all the joy of heaven.
The angels are singing for you - their welcome song
the one you've dreamed of for so long,
the one so many of your friends have heard before you - and
I'm picturing the party they're throwing for you now -
and the way your face is glowing.
You who have loved angels all your life - who had pictures and statues
adorning every inch of your walls, I'm imagining the overwhelming
shock when you see the warrior angels, the ones with swords to protect,
and then the ones around the throne - the glory and splendor we cannot comprehend, and your breathless awe when you meet your Lord - that one
moment that a lifetime of love cannot possibly prepare anyone for,
you down on your knees that no longer hurt you, the hosannas
and holy, holy, holy's that slip from your tongue - and the next moment
when Jesus reaches for your very hand, and raises you to your feet,
embraces you as His sister, and with a voice
too blessed for mortal ears declares you a good and faithful servant.
Oh, what a moment, Nana!

How you've always loved the Lord.  He was your constant companion
especially when life began to get quiet for you here on earth,
when your fellow followers had already joined Him, you would sit for hours
reading your Bible and your many books of praise, your little crystal
verse holder by your breakfast setting.  You always had a psalm
on your lips - I envy the songs you are learning now - with your
glorified voice and strong lungs, your hands in the air.

And how you always loved beautiful things.  The mansion Christ prepared
for you is beyond your wildest dreams, I'm sure.
Every possible consideration has been taken care of -
but who will have time to enjoy all the appointments,
you will certainly never walk the hallways alone,
carrying your little tray of dinner things to the kitchen
to wash out and set in the drainer.
No, because you'll be dining with all the saints.  I'm imagining you seated
next to Moses or Joseph or Joseph of Arimathea, or with your beautiful
sisters, Aunt Lou or Aunt Dolly - what conversations you three will have
with the patriarchs of the faith, I cannot even begin to speculate!

I can't begin to understand infinity or the timing of heaven.
Wouldn't the moment at the throne be enough entertainment for all time?
And yet, He says He's set up mansions for us.
I don't know when you'll ever find time to linger
in your heavenly bedroom or lounge on your satin fainting sofa,
reclining in your new silk pajamas and delicate slippers.
You were such a classy lady, Nana!
I just know that Jesus has some French Provincial furniture for you
and gold embroidered draperies.
But more than anything, He'll have Himself for you
and every beautiful decoration, every pearly gate, and golden cobble stoned
street will pale by comparison to the richness and splendor of seeing Him
and finally knowing Him as you've yearned to all your life, to never be apart
from Him, to never be in pain, to never be sad or lonely ever again.

I'll miss you, Nana - but oh, I'm so happy for all you are enjoying right now!
I have a picture in my head - your twinkling eyes as you are joined
by your loved ones and welcomed into heaven!

Web Posted on April 12, 1999, after being read on April 9, 1999, at her Grandmother Alice E. Carver's Memorial Service, by Liesl Arensmeier.

    (A delightful shot of Alice and great grandson, Tyler.)




Copyright © Nov. 3, 2010


Modigliani’s $68.9 Million Woman Auctioned At Sotheby’s – creates a record-breaking sale to start off the Fall Art Auction season.



When this hit the news just last week, the first person that flashed across my mind was a homeless man in San Rafael. He could have been a Shakespearean Actor; he had such bearing and poise. He was extremely focused on ritual. He moved in set patterns around Marin County, just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco. He would stand on a street corner across from the building where I worked in downtown San Rafael, and hold court.


He would go shirtless in the summers and display a well-honed and crafted ebony physique. He wore a rag on his head. He spoke like an itinerant preacher, belligerent orator, and professor-at-large, eloquent and unintelligible at the same time. He clearly had cycles of delirium, or medication, where on every third day, he would be lucid and be able to form clear sentences. The other days he would rant and rave, arms flailing, impassioned speech, just without any real point per se. Sometimes he would gather a crowd of onlookers, trying to decipher his speech. At other times, he looked like a dangerous crazy person, and passersby would creep to the other side of the street to avoid him.


On the occasional days when he was in his right mind, he would join me on the stone benches in the shade at the Bank of America building where I would have my lunch and read. At first, he frightened me a little. But I came to know him as harmless to me, and interesting. Fragments of conversations were all I was ever able to have with him. I never could get his name, I would ask, and he would get distracted by something and go off on a tangent. He wasn’t even on his best days completely cogent.


However, he complimented me, and what girl in her early twenties doesn’t want to hear something lovely spoken of her? In my early twenties, all my best physical features were more prominent than perhaps they are in my forties. I had long legs, a long neck and my red hair was much more vibrant in those days. He would call out to me, mid-rant from across the street even, and refer to me as “Legs.” That, alone, could be seen as objectifying, but remember, I was twenty and was rather proud of my long legs. But he also called me a Modigliani Girl. He would draw attention to me, as if the people wandering by quickly trying to get past him were his actual audience, glued to his every word, and he would tell them about me, that I was exactly the type of woman Modigliani loved to paint.


I had to look the painter up, and back then, I don’t think the internet was quite what it is today. I had to go to a Library to look up what kind of woman this made me. From what I could gather, Modigliani was one of those brooding, alcoholic artists, who squandered his talents and tortured his creativity with self-medication and drug induced deliriums. He died a pauper and his wife jumped out the window killing herself and her unborn child at the news of his death. It didn’t sound like a compliment by any means to be associated with this dark artist. But, I also saw that he painted elongated forms, long necks, long torsos, and ballerina-like long legs. Whether his models looked like this or not, he seemed to always see long, elegant shapes.


This fascinated me. I wondered about this homeless man and his knowledge of the art-world. I wondered if he himself was some sort of tortured artist, or simply a lover of art. Perhaps, art has always been how I relate to others, whatever their station in life, whether we have anything else in common or not, I find ways to discuss art, or the artist’s way, the need to create, the desire to communicate with others in some way, the ability to see beauty in tragic figures, the sixth sense that everything is connected, that all matter is here to be formed somehow into something beautiful.


Several years passed, and I was working in Sausalito. I walked outside my office, and there in front of the Safeway, was a tall, stately street-man with a rag on his head, relaxed, and resting against the wall as if he was in one of his calmer days. He looked up and quietly said, “It’s the Modigliani girl!” I smiled and shook his warm hand, and tears came into my eyes, that he would remember me.


Today, I wonder where he is, and if in any way, he is still a lover of arts, a soap-box speaker on a corner, enlightening people to the ways of the world, and pointing out what he thinks is beautiful to everyone who passes his way. I wonder if he knows that the artist who died alone and miserable and poor, just had a painting auctioned off for millions of dollars. Perhaps he only ever pretended to be crazy. Perhaps he bought it for himself.


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Web Posted on June 28, 2000
Updated on September 4, 2017 (the day my brother turned 80!)

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