by Linda Baldanzi
Her daughter looks too pale, mother insists on the beach.
Mother looks good in her front-stoop tan.
Seldom accommodated her mother. Time restraints.
Changed to bathing suits in wooden lockers on the boardwalk.
Sat under a large rented green umbrella.
Brief measured soaks in the salty balm.
Ocean water wet kneeling horizontal on a beach towel.
Alice wonders have I forgotten what mother remembers?
Sand crabs rearrange what ocean waves sketch.
Mother-daughter détente unwritten, unspoken
Reluctant to give into mother’s memory.
Sun’s massaging warmth alleviates the aching.
Alice and Time scoop sand A sandcastle grows.
When is a lack of suffering suffering?
Came to terms with: I’m my daughter’s maid and cook.
Fragile the quiet between them.
Mother: Did Alice choose me, did she know?
Deep into the magma of them, a long weathering of the glitter.
Running after the tumbling green umbrella rolled by gusty shore winds.
In a letter to a friend: Mother and I went to the beach today, returned with
Alice Kober, born in 1907 to Hungarian immigrants in Manhattan, was a brilliant intellectual who mastered over twenty ancient languages. In college she became determined to solve Linear B-- small lines and logographs on clay tablets unearthed in 1900 in sacked palace ruins of the Mycenaean Era (late Bronze Age) dated 1375-1200 B.C.E. There was no alphabet for Linear B that Kober could work with: writing had disappeared from Greece as the Mycenaean Civilization collapsed into the Age of Darkness, and there was no Rosetta Stone equivalent to help with the deciphering. While working as a professor at Brooklyn College, for ten years Alice spent every evening deciphering Linear B at her dining room table. She published her work in journals and corresponded with the few other decipherers of Linear B. At forty-three, in 1950, she died after several long hospitalizations. She was a chain-smoker, never without a cigarette in her hand. Two years later, a young architect, Michael Ventris, used the methods outlined in Alice’s published articles to solve Linear B.
Alice Kober was acknowledged as the foremost authority on Linear B. She was the first to identify it correctly as the earliest known Greek language. She brought a lost civilization-- a prosperous, well-organized society on Crete-- back to life. Alice never married. She lived with her widowed mother. Little is known about her personal life. In her correspondence she would mainly share the discoveries she was making in her quest to solve Linear B.
Linda Baldanzi graduated from Mount Holyoke College, and has master degrees from Columbia University, Fairleigh Dickinson University, and Drew University. She teaches poetry workshops at the Fort Lee Public Library, and screens for a publisher of poetry books. She has been published in Barrow Street, Cold Mountain Review, Euphony, Redivider and others.