The givers


Remembering people
across the years
with a mixture
of awe, gratitude,
and humility
for often those who
gave me the most
had the least
to give

materially,
at least

I don’t recall
every gift now
only the bright joy
on the faces
of the givers

there is
no calculating
the vast riches
in their hearts
or the price
of their generosity

only that it lives on
long after them

I still hold
their greatest gold:

sacrificial love

Widow’s Mite – Ancient Roman Bronze Coins. IronRodArt – Royce Bair (‘Star Shooter’). CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Something about September

Sunlight
still bright
takes on an amber tinge
the sky
day by day
almost imperceptibly
deepens its blue
still hot
in Carolina
but now she’s rolling up
her blanket of humidity
to put it away at last
there’s the first
tiny delicious trace
of coolness in the breeze
cicada choruses fade
day by day
a vintage time of year
I think to myself
remembering
how September stands
as a paradise paradox
regal in earth’s greatest finery
stitched with threads
of her greatest losses

September morning. rkramer62CC BY 2.0.ran

Today years old poem

On the final day of the August Open Write at Ethical ELA, Scott McCloskey extends this intriguing invitation:

“Have you heard of the saying, ‘I was today years old when I found out about…’?  It’s what we say when we find out something surprising, something new that we’ve just learned…Think of the most recent (most interesting /startling) thing that you’ve learned…You could examine the fact.  Interrogate it.  Expand on it.  Or simply just share it with the rest of us.”

I return to the hummingbird.

Inside the Skull

When I was
ten or eleven years old
supermarket tabloids
ran story after story
of UFOs
and alien abductions.
I half-believed 
these ridiculously weird
narratives…
at today years old
I sit at my kitchen table
looking through the window
at a hummingbird
hovering in midair
like an otherworldly thing
looking right back at me.
I wonder what it’s thinking
this tiny iridescent creature
that mesmerizes me
takes over my brain
controls me for hours
compelling me to read
everything I can
about its kind
which is how I learn
a hummingbird’s tongue
is so long
that it coils
around and around
its tiny skull
and rests behind
its ever-bright
and curious eyes
-ridiculously
unbelievably
weird
I say to myself
as I lose all track
of time…

Resharing my photo of my hummingbird with her tongue extruded

Tiny warriors

Not one but two hummingbirds
visit the new feeder now
as if the first brought a friend
to a cool new place for a drink

This is not the case

It’s a competition
a quarrel, a chase
each determined

to drive the other away
each little but fierce

Methinks I will call them
Helena and Hermia

(no sign of any males;
perhaps they’re in the woods
asleep)

What I’d say to these tiny warriors
if I could make them understand
is that there’s plenty to go around


but humans
(what fools we mortals be)

who should understand
have yet to learn
about living peaceably
about there always being enough

if only…

I sigh as I ponder
the solitary existence
of hummingbirds

and the mad beating
of their wings


“And though she be but little, she is fierce…”

Translation

with thanks to Jennifer Guyor Jowett for the Open Write invitation on Ethical ELA today:

Think about your reality.
What do you see today?
Ponder the possibilities before you.
Allow a free verse poem to develop.
Begin with the line I see…

*******

Translation

I see the sign
on an office wall

simple black frame
simple black font
on a plain white field

devoid of décor

just words:

Alles ist fertig;
es muss nur noch
gemacht
weden.

I do not read
or speak
this language

but that doesn’t keep
images from
springing to mind:

I see furrows
lush and green against
chocolate loam soil
spread out
like a billowing blanket
to tree-lined ditches

I see my childhood
materializing like a ghost
in the white summer haze

I see the cadence
of cicadas
and storytellers
around the dinner table
long ago
(yes, I see them;

rhythms
have shape
and color

as tentative as candleflame
as sustaining as river
as permanent as earth).

—I see it all
even if
I don’t always know
what it all means.

Eventually
I’ll translate
what I see
into words
on a page
for the knowing.

Everything is ready,
it just needs
to be done.

Suddenly sunflowers

Where I live
rolling fields
of soybeans, tobacco,
and occasionally cotton
are the familiar.
I imagine
it all looks like
a patchwork quilt
of various textures
and patterns,
from the sky.
Driving by
the pastures
where the pair of old mules
lived and died,
on my way back to school
at summer’s end,
I see something
unexpected.
Sunflowers.
Tall and tangled,
bordering a garden.
Light-seeking sentinels
with open faces
and inner resources
as myriad
as seeds.
At sight of these
yellow-petaled suns
my heart leaps
a little.
Is this what they’re mostly for,
sunflowers?
Beyond seed, oil, fiber,
beyond cleansing the soil
and waters
of nuclear radiation,
burning with their own
silent, mysterious fire
just to inspire?
I realize as I drive
backroads I’ve not driven
in a while
that they are everywhere.
All around me.
Whole fields of them
where I’ve never seen them
before.
They buoy my spirit.
Whatever task
lies before me,
I am up to it.
I stop at a store
to buy sunflower seeds
for my workday lunch salads,
as if channeling
the power of the sun
while remembering
what Van Gogh said,
as he painted:
The sunflower is mine,
in a way.

*******

My first encounter with sunflowers was in childhood summers spent deep in the countryside. My grandmother’s brother, who suffered trauma at birth and who lived alone in the old homeplace with his siblings looking after him, planted sunflowers in his garden. I marveled at their towering height and how their faces always followed the sun. Fields of sunflowers have indeed been planted to remove toxins from the soil after nuclear radiation. They are cleansing, healing, and surprisingly buoyant: their stems were used as filler for the first life jackets.

There could hardly be a more encouraging motif as the new school year gets underway.

Thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the space and invitation to share these noticings in the weekly Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Unexpected poem

with thanks to Araceli, Deanna, and Michelle at #verselove on Ethical ELA today, for the invitation to write about someone who’s influenced your life, incorporating sensory details. My first inclination is to write of my grandparents – as I often do – but today, my aunt came to mind. I expect she’d be so surprised.

I am.

This one’s for her.

On Day Twenty-Two of National Poetry Month

A Poem for Earnie 

I didn’t expect to write of you today
but here I am, remembering
of all things, the tape recorder
your ready, set, go!
the click of your finger pressing play
and singing for all we were worth,
you, my little sister and me:
Wherever you go,
wherever you may wander in your life
Surely you know
I always want to be there…

one of us flubbing the words
all of us cracking up
you saying, I’ll rewind
let’s try it again

I think of your laughter
wild, free, contagious
your raucous humor
trailing you like an ermine robe
rich, resplendent, priceless
cloaking loneliness
I may not have perceived

The only one of my mother’s sisters
never to marry or have children
which didn’t keep you from giving advice
pressing Mama’s buttons
like no one else on Earth
yet she went and named her youngest daughter
after you

Then there were the wigs on
the featureless disembodied heads
sitting on your dresser
you could pick whatever 1970s hair you wanted
each day
how cool was that?

I can’t recall a thing you ever cooked
only that you loved eating
Mama said you were picky
you didn’t look it
Mama said that’s why you weren’t married
so picky that you didn’t get got

I wondered why you never really left home
living with Grannie most of your life
you’d break away for an apartment once or twice
but would always go back
like you needed to be
within the borders
of her shadow

Perhaps it will surprise you
that I recall the ceramics class you took
and the Pepto Bismol pink statuette
of Hotei, the Laughing Buddha
god of happiness and contentment
that you made for me
his hands thrown high to the heavens
Rub his big belly for good luck
each day,
you said
and I could hear the pleasure in your voice
only much later did I flip him over
to find your inscription of love
on the bottom of his pedestal

Funny how the dress you wore to my wedding
was Pepto Bismol pink
I am glad I asked you to be my wedding director
at Mama’s prodding
I remember the books you ran out to buy
to do the job well
for me

Of course there’s Jenny…
a love of your life
Siamese as picky as yourself
who’d curl in my lap
purring
That’s rare,
you’d say

Jenny who lived twelve years
who died in the fire
when you woke in the middle of the night
choking on the smoke
phone in your bedroom
hot to the touch
calling 9-1-1 for the first time
because it was
a brand-new thing
I don’t know how you roused
Grannie and Papa G in the other room
nor how any of you climbed out of the windows
onto the roof
into the freezing midnight air
and safety
as the firemen arrived
but you did it

in my mind, Mama’s voice:
It took three firemen to hold her
from going back in
for Jenny.
They found her
the next day
under Earnie’s window.

I hear your anguished sobs
even now
in those wee hours when you
arrived at our house to stay
reeking of smoke
so that the fur coat you wore
would have to be destroyed

I remember the clothes
you bought for my first baby
in bright, beautiful colors,
expensive
so lovingly chosen

You didn’t live to see my youngest
never knew of his gift for music
how you’d have loved it
I can see you right now,
tape recorder in hand

As the disease took your lungs
and reached its insidious fingers
into your brain
I recall the peculiar shine in your hollowed eyes
against the yellowing of your face

when you asked:
Are you still writing?
Have you published anything yet?

Yes and no, Earnie.
I am still writing, yes.
Long, long after we laid you to rest
in your pink dress
(Grannie had your nails painted to match)
and this isn’t really published
but it’s for you
I didn’t expect to be writing of you today
or singing Olivia Newton-John all of a sudden
after all these years,
but here I am
and here you are,
wherever I may wander
in my life
snatches of song, rolling laughter
here in my morning
here in my night.