Car poem: Galaxie Ride

with thanks to Susie Morice for the car poem inspiration on the Ethical ELA Open Write today

Galaxie Ride

One thing I knew
from the beginning:

We were a Ford family.

Granddaddy could recall
his first glimpse 
of a Model T.

Daddy always spoke

with a trace
of yearning for 
the white Thunderbird
he gave up
after I was born.

I came along in the era
when cruising the Earth
was not enough;
governments sought
to be the best
at hurling humanity
into space.

In the hazy gray memories
of my early days, 

one bright pop of color
stands out:

Grandma’s car.

Ford Galaxie 500
fire-engine red
rocket-sleek
aerodynamic
meant for racing

curious choice
for a grandmother.

She loved it.

Granddaddy bought it used
never imagining, I suspect,

that it would carry us
through three decades.

No power steering
—that silver steering wheel, 
a full cardio workout—

no AC

—sweltering in southern summers:
when I was twelve 

I left a stack of 45 rpm records

on the rear window dash
and they melted, 
rippling up
just like ribbon candy.

Grandma would tuck a Kleenex
into her cleavage
to absorb the sweat—

seats trimmed in red leather
upholstered in scratchy red fabric
studded with silver dots
—I like to think they were stars—

I cannot remember seatbelts.

Over the years

the red fabric
faded to pink
and began to split.

By that time I’d learned to drive
having practiced
with the old red Ford
on the old dirt road
of my father’s childhood home.

Grandma said:

“Honey, if you can drive this,
you can drive anything”

—and she was right.

The Galaxie and me. Grandma took this photo. Can you guess her favorite color-?

Daddy with his pride and joy. I believe the T-Bird had a red interior.

Dirt road

On Ethical ELA’s Open Write today, Kim Johnson invites teacher-poets to compose poetry from paint chip colors. She happened to have “Dirt Road” in her own list.

As soon as I saw that name, it was over. I would have to take Dirt Road. Its pull is too strong for me, calling me back to a place I write about often.

So today I write a memoir poem, although I did incorporate a few paint chip names along the dirt road: Oyster Shell, Turtle Green, Pink Blossoms, Dreamy Memory, Forever Fairytale, Summer Sunflower.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll try whole new paint chip poem away from Dirt Road.

This is where the name led me today.

Dirt Road

I watch the highway
and my heart beats fast
when I see it coming
just around the bend

old dirt road

off to the right
threading through the trees
past Miss Etta’s tiny turtle-green
screened-porch house
where she dips snuff

past the homeplace
standing like a dreamy memory
white paint faded to tired oyster shell
sunlight gleaming
on the tin roof

Grandma was born here

past the tangle of sunflowers
planted by her brother
who still lives here alone
something is different about him
I don’t know what
it’s in his long face
he never says much
but he did give me some quarters
once

just beyond the sunflowers
Granddaddy’s garden
looks like something
an artist painted
in watercolor greens
in perfect rows
he grows collards 
and little round peppers for his vinegar
squash, cantaloupe, snap beans, 
Silver Queen corn, crowder peas,
and butterbeans, 
speckled pink and white
when I help shell them
from their furry green pods

then the grape arbor he built
laden with scuppernong vines
big leaves waving Hey
big brown-gold grapes
won’t be ready yet
and they aren’t even pretty
but to me
they taste like Heaven itself

then the row of crape myrtles at the curve
bright pink blossoms nodding their heads
sometimes shedding, rolling on and on
smooth forked trunks
where I like to climb and sit
and make up songs
thinking in forever fairytale

the house
bright white
black shutters

and I can’t think now
about the tire swing 
hanging there in the pecan tree 
studded with woodpecker holes
or the tiny cemetery with its ghosts
across the old dirt road

because Grandaddy and Grandma
are coming across the yard
straw hats shielding faces
lit with smiles
bright as the summer sunflowers
ever turning toward the sun

Daddy pulls off 
the old dirt road
into the yard

we’re here
we’re here

I am out of the car 
before it stops
running toward
open arms

and I never
want to leave.

My grandparents and my oldest boy on the old dirt road, a long time ago

*******

with thanks to Kim Johnson, Ethical ELA, and Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge. Writing is but half the magic. Sharing is the other half.

King’s gold

Today on the Ethical ELA Open Write, Kim Johnson challenged teacher-poets to try different versions of the Golden Shovel, which is typically created by borrowing one line of a poem or speech and using it as the beginning or ending words of each line of your own new poem. Kim encouraged using lines from Dr. King’s speeches, in honor of the day.

This is the first time I’ve attempted to write a triple Golden Shovel. I took three meaningful lines from “Letters from Birmingham Jail” – remembering that Dr. King was a minister:

-“Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly”(opening words to line 7)
-“There can be no deep disappointment where there is not deep love” (somewhere in the middle, until last 4 lines)
-“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (ending words to line 8)

(Thank you, Kim – and Dr. King).

Winter meditation

with thanks to Stacey Joy, who shared the monotetra form this morning on Ethical ELA’s Open Write: quatrains ending in monorhyme, lines of eight syllables.

Winter Meditation

On this dark morning, falling snow
fills the spirit with candleglow
the bliss-blessed silence, calling so:
Hush. Take it slow. Hush. Take it slow.
 
Claim the quiet for your healing
be free as the hawk, a-wheeling
your crystal-scoured heart revealing
wounds are sealing, wounds are sealing.

For now, nature’s red tooth and claw
newly blanketed, without flaw
is still, peace-covered, filled with awe.
Time to withdraw, time to withdraw. 

Time for a hygge

with thanks to Kim Johnson, who recently reminded me of the word

It really is a hug
that you give yourself
perhaps on darkest days
in the dead of winter

when forecasts of snow and ice
fill the news
or maybe you already hear
tiny frozen pellets
striking the windows

but inside
you have a little crackling fire
jars of dancing candlelight
wafting balsam and spice
a bunch of fleecy blankets
a few brand-new books
and bookmarks
and maybe soft new slippers
(mine say “Sleeps with Dogs”
with fancy scrollwork. They are
blissfully snug)

maybe your Christmas tree
is still up (like mine)
or at least your strings of lights
outside, sparkling
in the bitter cold
where the faint sound
of windchimes drifts in
from a distance

with your favorite brew brewing
knowing you don’t have to be going
anywhere
or doing anything
except savoring the now
with a slothful-as-you-please
slowness

go ahead now,
give yourself
a hygge.

Dennis the dachshund is a master at hygge (pronounced hue-gah).

Originating (or at least perfected) in Denmark, hygge is the act of intentionally creating an atmosphere of warmth, coziness, and well-being, however it works for you, regardless of whatever is raging beyond your own walls.

We are getting reports here that the ice may cometh soon. Dennis clearly has his hygge on. I am preparing for it…got my new books and and my slippers ready.

Stay tuned

Today SOS-Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog invites us to write about a catchphrase…here’s one I use quite often

When my colleagues
have more questions
than I have answers
I say
stay tuned

When my husband
bemoans the day
longing for simpler times
I say
stay tuned

When my children
are anxious
about their tomorrows
I say
stay tuned

When I sit staring, despairing,
at an empty screen
the Muse leans in close,
whispering
stay tuned

When sleep turns the knobs
of my weary brain
to receiving messages
on a channel of dreams:
stay tuned

When waking, I realize
the story isn’t over.
It’s a new beginning…
stay tuned
stay tuned

“Stay tuned” is an idiom meaning “keep listening” or “keep watching.” It originated in the days of dial-tuned radio receivers and eventually transitioned to television.

s

Metaphor dice

Today I played with metaphor dice for the first time.

The goal is to create a metaphor from a concept, an adjective, and an object.

I rolled guilt, stingy, odyssey.

What to make of this?

Guilt is a stingy odyssey
a relentless clutching on
the pearl-string of your days

its sweaty palms
obscuring nacreous elegance
choking your moments

whispering always
through clenched teeth
that you have no real worth


if you listen
the days roll on
like cement slabs

slamming end over end
one heavy turn at a time
every next day
just like the one before
—testify, Sisyphus

guilt is a stingy odyssey
whether true or self-imposed
it is unwilling to loosen its grasp
for if you should break free

and alter your course

you will discover
unforced rhythms of grace.

The sighting

In my various morning readings
I encountered plagues
divine deliverance
fulfilled prophecy
epiphany
and wounded trees
weeping until their blood-sap
crystallizes
into fragrant resin
ancient gift of kings

and in one passage, this line:
It is almost too beautiful to believe

my mind is replaying
all these things
when I catch sight of you there
perched on a wire
against the eggshell sky
an owl! No,
not in daylight
—a hawk
ancient bird of kings
winter sun glinting
on your snow-banded wings

—almost too beautiful to believe
my heart sings

3046 Red-Shouldered Hawk. Ashala Tylor Images. CC BY-NC 2.0

My hawk looked like this one. Stunning.

Hawks have a number of symbolic meanings, such as associations with Egypt, pharaohs, divine power, and salvation from slavery…I’d just been reading about these in Exodus.
I’d also been reading of the Magi.


Hawks, birds of keen vision, are also said to represent the ability to see meaning in ordinary experiences
—if one is willing to become more observant.

The slant of the light

January morning
clear and still
rose-gilded clouds
aflame in the sky
like a royal canopy

fiery pink
presiding over
the stone-gray world

as I drive on
smoke wafts and lingers
after a slow descent
from chimneys

around the bend
a curious slanting of light
from behind me

winter-tilted Earth
catching the rising sun
at strange angles

the treetops ahead
become gold filigree
sun-dipped coronets
adorning bodies
enshrouded with shadow

the road I travel
twists and turns

the slanted light shifts,
striking the tree trunks

turning them crimson

blood-red

like arteries

conduits of life
not competing for sunlight
in this one moment,
just standing transformed
by oblique rays

—I revel
in the winter-slanted light,
thinking of how blood rises
to the surface
and how age-old secrets
stay hidden
deep within.

*******


I couldn’t take a picture of the scene on my early morning drive to work today. I can only try to recreate it with words. The sight left me awed and grieved at the same time: that the slant of the light could turn the treetops to lacy gold, could paint their trunks blood-red, and that these conditions might never replicate themselves exactly this way again.
I just happened to be in the right place at the right time to catch the haunting colorplay between the Earth and sun.

So much depends on perspective.


Contemplation

six going on sixteen
that’s how you look to me, girl,
making my days bright and evergreen
with your unique window on the world

that’s how you look to me, girl,
pondering deepest thoughts
with your unique window on the world
piercing the depths of my heart

pondering deepest thoughts
like what would life be without you
piercing the depths of my heart
where I will keep you always

what would life be without you
making my days bright and evergreen
I would keep you always
six going on sixteen