May 2006


Helene Lee to write until she dies

“I plan to write until I die,” says poet/teacher/activist Helene Lee. It’s one of the few things you can do at any age.”

Helene was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and moved to Modesto in 1973. A self-proclaimed product of the Sixties, she became a community activist early on and served as a volunteer summer counselor at a day camp for retarded children. Throughout high school she was politically involved with the civil rights and women’s rights movements and protested US involvement in the Vietnam War. It was during this time she tried her hand at writing as a way to inform and persuade.

Soon after arriving in Modesto she became a volunteer at the YMCA, which motivated her to return to school where she earned an AA in Child Development and became a preschool teacher. During her preschool teaching days she realized that children were “sorely in need of advocacy, especially poor children.” She continued her education at CSUS in Turlock, earned a BA in Liberal Studies and a teaching credential, and currently teaches first grade at Modesto’s Orville Wright Elementary School.

She has received several awards, including the Jim Morris Outstanding Achievement Award from CSUS and has become politically involved in numerous organizations and clubs, including the League of Women Voters, Democratic National Committee, Central Valley Democratic Club, National Association for the Education of Young Children, and California National Organization of Women (NOW). She also serves as Site Union Representative at Orville Wright. Her advocacy has been an example to her son, Daniel Hubbell, who last September was elected to serve as city councilman in Newcastle, Washington at the age of thirty.

Helene participates in several local writing groups and has been published in the Great Valley Writing Project Anthology, the Modesto City Schools Anthologies, and with a group of bay area poets in a collection called Musings from the Midnight Hour.

Her son, daughters, husband, parents and other family members are a top priority in her already busy life

He Gave Me Flowers

He said he gave me flowers
Because flowers are soft and pretty
He said he gave me flowers
Because they are honest and real
He said he gave me flowers
Because they are just like me
I hope he’s right
Because that is what I try to be
Because I love flowers
And him

— Helene Mirko, age 17

He Used To Bring Me Flowers

He used to bring me flowers
Crimson Roses
With violet and blue statice
He always brought me flowers
The day after…

After he slammed my head against the wall
Threw a glass bottle at me
Cursed me with obscenities
So vulgar
I didn’t yet know their meaning

He used to bring me flowers
To assuage his guilt
And ask my forgiveness

He greeted me with flowers
Quite often I’d say
Always the same gesture
He was just sentimental I guess

Roses as red as blood
Mixed with blue and violet bruises

He used to bring me flowers
Until the day
I threw his flowers and him
Into the street

He doesn’t bring me flowers anymore

— Helene Lee age 32

September 11

I awake today
To images too real to comprehend
Planes crash through buildings
Towers aflame
Bodies fall from the sky
Immense buildings collapse to dust
And with them … human lives
Ashes to ashes
Choking the air of all who survived to breathe it

Images accompanied by the soundtrack of destruction
Fireman tracking beacons scream
So do the people
Heard above the cacophony
A chorus of voices
“Oh my God …Oh my God”

I do not see God in these images

Fence Sitting

Straddle the fence
Glance side to side
As if following a tennis volley
Neither side looks green
Both barren, unpromising
The devil you know
The devil you’ve yet to meet
Afraid to choose
There is no choice
Just sitting
A splintery wooden board
Rides uncomfortably between your cheeks
Still you sit
In this tennis match
You’re the bye
You can’t play
If you’re not in the game
Any decision
Is better
Than giving up
To sit on a fence
And watch the world go by without you
Mistakes are lessons
Opportunities to grow
Correct choices
Bring joy and celebration
But you can’t have either
If you refuse to get off the fence

Learning on a Shoestring

Kick the seat
Tinny electronic tunes play
Lights blink
Green, blue, red
Pull the handle
Mary has a little lamb
Shake the seat
Plastic fish swim in pools of trapped oil
Smack a button
With a little flat hand
You hit the jackpot
Lights, music, action
Today’s nursery
Televisions substitute for the very young
Every new parent MUST have one
“You want a smart baby don’t you?”
One who interacts

Lazy Sunday coffee break
Baby perched on Daddy’s knee
She reaches forward
Far, far forward
“What do you want baby?”
She grasps tiny six-month-old fingers
Around his shoelace
She tries to taste it but it won’t reach
It slides through her fingers
Pulling back
She grabs her slipper
But finds no laces there
Eyes plead to Daddy
“Where are mine?”
Back and forth
Shoe to shoe
She puzzles the idea

Passing to Nana’s lap
Baby’s eyes smile
“What is this?”
Her tiny fingers grasp once more
A shoelace
Long and flowing
Interlaced through ten eyelets
A shoelace in Nana’s shirt
Knees bounce
Giggles percolate
Pull it tighter and it grows
Shirt gets smaller
She passes a glance
Nana’s shirt
Baby’s booties
Daddy’s big tennis shoes
She longs to grab them all
And interact

(For Sabrina)

Charging through time at full gallop

Seconds fly through my hair, willy- nilly
My mind racing ahead
Always ahead
Always ahead
Never a finish line in sight
No mantle of fresh flowers

Quiet moments of grass fields
Are lost on me
Always ahead
Always ahead
Hounds in the lead
Clear my course

Never breaking stride
I dodge and bank
With utmost agility
Always ahead
Always ahead
Any obstacle in my path
Is not my obstacle
Merely an ordinary exercise

Charging through time at full gallop
As if I had purpose
When in truth
My travels
Lead nowhere
Around in the circles of a carousel
The brass ring always ahead

I believe in the magic of children

I believe in the magic of children
Fairy dust
Magic carpets
A wish on the morning star
Four-leaf clovers
Wishing wells
Shiny pennies tucked in a shoe
Dandelion fluff
Trick or treats
Ruby slippers to tap together

I believe in the magic of children
Leslie’s big blue eyes
Intoning earnestly
“If you catch a leaf
As it falls off the twee
You can make a wish
And it has to come twue.
Don’t let it touch the gwound
Or the magic will disappeaw”

Reaching up on my tiptoes
I hopped
And stretched
Twenty or more times
Until I caught a golden leaf
As it floated on the air
I made a special wish
Just for you
I know you will be well, my friend
I believe in the magic of children

(For my friend George)


The trill of his flute
Plays magically in my head
Like the flutter of a bird
It beckons me to follow
So I dance under the full moon
To his fantabulous flute song

I sway and spin
As he plays his tune
This piper has enchanted me
My spirit must celebrate
Under this marvelous moonlight
On this mystical night
As the stars watch with quiet envy

Fog drifts in
Shadows the moon
With its opaque veil
This night must end
Hearing his jazzical melody fade
I will wake

I watch as he turns
Bows politely
And I wonder
When I will hear my good friend again


One fiery moment
One restless day
One too many searing words
One more reason to leave
One missed moment to forgive
One slam of the door
One rancid feeling in the belly

One fiery moment
One restless day…

Why I Came to Work Today 9/11

I came to work today…

Not wanting to leave the security of home
But unwilling to surrender to those
who would try to control my freedom

Needing to be near the comfort of friends
Drawing strength from helping the young and innocent
Needing desperately to keep them so

Trying to put images out of my mind
Creating distance from this evil
Which invades my sense of security

Because, like soldiers in a battle,
We pick ourselves up and move ahead
Not allowing fear to paralyze us

Knowing this historical truth…
Life goes on
And we must go with it