Origin Stories – Claudia Reder

Origin Stories
    My Mother’s Superstitions  (Bleigiessen)
    by Claudia Reder

    We were educated and superstitious,
    adoring black cats, uneasy about walking under ladders,
    yet climbing the rickety flight of steps
    to hear our tea leaves read.

    On New Year’s Eve 
    platters adorned with 
    marzipan pigs and Linzer torte,
    we’d spoon small amounts 
    of melted lead into a bowl 
    of cold water, then divine 
    the shape and interpret its shadow.

    One New Year’s she said 
    that her lead was shaped like a coffin. 
    Mine, a train, or bus. 
    Her choice of words 
    didn’t surprise. She had 
    always kept company
    with death, some years 
    courting it more than others,  

    She is still fleeing Riga, 
    tucking small valuables 
    into brown paper bags.
    She wears panic as an 
    impeccable piece of clothing, 
    familiar with it since a young age.
    Her stories like tiny gems 
     sewn into our dress hems.

Origin Stories – My Mother’s Superstitions  (Bleigiessen)

This poem has lived in me for a long time. I had wanted to write about Bleigiessen, a German New Year’s tradition my mother always participated in with me because I found it strange. My mother wasn’t superstitious per se. She was more sardonic and pragmatic.  However, over time I realized that the poem wasn’t about that alone, the poem included a larger story of secrets. My mother fled Riga, Latvia in 1939-1940 and although she created a new life for herself some things were never talked about and yet, not forgotten. These things live in our bodies. Her love for German pastries and New Year’s were shared with me. But she wouldn’t talk about anything else. When I asked her what she had loved about Riga she said, “Riga Beach. It had the whitest sand.”  Originally this was a two-page poem/story. Over time I realized what was important to keep and what could be saved for other writings.


Claudia M. Reder is the author of How to Disappear, a poetic memoir, (Blue Light Press, 2019). Uncertain Earth (Finishing Line Press), and My Father & Miro (Bright Hill Press).  How to Disappear was awarded first prize in the Pinnacle and Feathered Quill awards.  She was awarded the Charlotte Newberger Poetry Prize from Lilith Magazine, and two literary fellowships from the Pennsylvania Arts Council. She attended Millay Colony, NAPA Writer’s Conference and The Valley. She recently retired from teaching at California State University at Channel Islands. Her poetry ms. Appointment with Worry was a finalist for the Inlandia Institute Hillary Gravendyk Prize.

You can find more information at:




Amazon link to my book, How to Disappear, winner of the Pinnacle and Feathered Quill Awards. 

Previous Origin Stories

April 1 – Wanda Praisner

April 2 – Howard Lieberman

April 3 – L. Shapley Bassen

April 4 – Sharon Scholl

April 5 – Stellasue Lee

April 6 – Jeanne DeLarm

April 7 – Virginia Smith

April 8 – Patricia Ware

April 9 – Mary Makofske

April 10 – Ann Wallace

April 11 – Jessica Purdy

April 12 – Lakshman Bulusu

April 13 – Kim Malinowski

April 14 – Anita Pulier

April 15 – Martha Bordwell

April 16 – Anastasia Walker

April 17 – Annette Sisson

April 18 – Shaheen Dil

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National Poetry Month Interview Series 2018

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