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Works
For Adults and Children

OBERON POETRY PRIZE WINNER, 2020: In the words of the judge, Philip Asaph, the poem, "beautiful, subtle, restrained and yet emotional... kept calling me back to it until it made me forget my age, my gender, my personal history, and my own distinctive family sorrows. It made me feel more human and grateful to the poet who gave me that feeling."

 

Boxes

 

My sisters and I bent
to the task,
penitents hunched
over the keys
of our upright piano,
a box where music lived
in fervent bursts   
until we banged it shut.
 
Our mother polished
that box and paid for it
with her life
of early to work, late to bed,
teaching children
too poor for pianos.
 
We played to make up  
for what they lacked,
our love for music growing 
with the tumors in her breasts,
the bags under her eyes,
which I always imagined
packed with tears.
 
On late, late nights,
when we longed for sleep,
we sat upon the piano bench,
her jury box of three,
backs turned to the keys,
and listened to the charges,
our father's not-so-petty crimes—
gambling, lying, failing to call home—
and it was guilty, guilty
on all counts.
 
After my sisters left home,   
I played alone, trying to avoid
the broken keys
that a hamster had gnawed,
riding the bus each week back   
to the nineteenth century
of my teacher's house,
dark with wood, bright with crystal,
and infused with incense
like a Russian church.
 
He tapped out the rhythms
on my back as my fingers
marched like soldiers
across a plain of black and white.  
 
Some days, to reward my work,
he played with me.
Racing to keep up, I felt
as powerful and grand
as his two pianos,
side by side, black
and shiny as hearses,
their lids wide open.
 
I was grateful
for the sturdy floor
that held them,
for the velvet curtains
that silenced all distractions,
for the exhilaration
of tracing familiar patterns
with fingers that had learned
how to outrun my brain,  
while my family slipped
through the cracks.
 
I played until I turned sixteen,
the year my mother was buried
in a plain pine box.
Then all the notes blurred
and I banged the lid shut.   
 
                  Orel Protopopescu

 

A shoot's a flute/you hear/when a breeze/ is blowing near/a band of flowers...
The ducklings sing back whatever tune you compose on the flowering shoots!

A Word's a Bird, Spring Flies By in Rhymes

An Animated, Interactive, Bilingual Poetry App (all ages)

Thelonious Mouse

Thelonious was some cool cat—for a mouse.
Scatting to the beat of his dancing feet,
the snazziest, jazziest mouse alive sends Fat Cat into overdrive!
Will sly mouse live to sing alonious?
That’s the twist in this tale of Thelonious!

What Remains

Praise from poets for What Remains:

The world Orel Protopopescu creates in her poems is rich with music, cinnamon, birds, fish,and family; with exile and celebration and mourning. "In our corner of America/where all was supposed to rise/what a pleasure to lower ourselves/and slip under a bamboo bar/further and further towards something like love..." she writes in one of my favorites from this collection. These poems revere love from the ground up, from the places it begins and the warm arms of earth in which it is laid to rest.
--Alison Luterman

Winner of First Prize, Oberon Poetry Magazine, 2010:

Listening to My Favorite Things
From The Best of John Coltrane


I never liked this silly song
before I got hooked on the way
brushes whisper to the drum heads
as Trane dips and slides over the melody,
teasing me with his horn,
drawing me along the edge
of the abyss where his star pulses.

His notes appear and disappear
like those slim, beautiful boys
who played basketball in torn Keds
and leaned against the rough brick walls
of the projects until their dark skins
were scraped with comet trails.

Some lost half-lives to heroin,
to prison, to grief held back
until they burst the way
Coltrane explodes in my ears,
horn chattering like a crazed parrot,
shredding the melody and taking it
up where he wails and climbs.

When he drags it back,
that annoying tune is a snake charmer’s dirge,
slower, sadder, older, wiser,
like my old friends,
sometime boys who shot for the stars
and fell, leaving their music in my head.

So I cry when,
after taking me so far,
after thirteen eternal minutes,
Trane knots a perfect loop
of pure round sound,
then strangles it.

A Thousand Peaks, Poems from China

The poems have poetic, rhymed translations, as well as word-for-word transliterations of the characters. Beautifully illustrated, each poem is accompanied by prose texts that describe the world of these poets and the culture that inspired them.

"A wonderful sampling of Chinese traditional shi style poetry... Not only is the surface meaning captured for each poem, but also its poetic spirit and quality.”
--Hua-yuanMowry, Dartmouth College

Praise for Two Sticks:


"A tongue-twisting read-aloud hit. Wilsdorf adds to the slapstick and exuberant mood with bright, colorful, action-filled acrylics picturing wild-haired fearless Maybelle, who follows her own beat and makes joyful noise." --Booklist

"The text sets a catchy rhythm and never lets go. Wilsdorf’s illustrations, rich in saturated color, glow with warmth and vibrancy.” --Kirkus Reviews

"Wilsdorf captures the verve and action of the tale in vibrant colors and broad strokes." --School Library Journal

“Pure entertainment.” –The Orlando Sentinel