Personality color poem

with thanks to Tammi Belko, host of today’s Ethical ELA Open Write. Tammi invited participants to take a personality color test and to write an “I am” poem based on the color results and their traits.

I took the test. I began to write a series of “I am” stanzas when the poem went running off in its own direction…

True Color 

I am
the three bands
on the ring finger
of my left hand:

one worn by
my grandmother
engraved with
her initials
and my grandfather’s
alongside
their wedding date:
December 12, 1936
(the day after
Edward abdicated
for Wallis)

one worn by
my mother-in-law
a 1953 engagement
between a widow
and a widower
with two children each
with the long reach
of duty in Korea
calling

one given
to me
on the day
I married
thirty-seven years
two sons
and two granddaughters
ago…

a poet
named after
fleeting morning ice
may say
nothing gold
can stay

but I endure
because

that is what love does

like many before me

I am gold

*******

Interesting…

Poem of perspective

On the the fourth day of Ethical ELA’s Open Write, Ann Burg invites poets to “Think of a moment in time— an historical moment or a personal one. Place yourself outside yourself — as a favorite tree, a flower, even an inanimate object who has witnessed this moment…”

The Upright Mahogany Howard
(c. 1920s)

I grow old
I sigh
I know you hear
my bones creaking
as you walk by
I have no mirror
but your eyes
and there I see
my beauty
is not faded
although
I’m scarred
and snaggle-toothed…
you may not realize
my proclivity
for touch-memory
but I tell you
that baby on your lap
presently pounding
my ivories 
has the feel of her
—one day,
she will play
and I will respond
living on and on
in the song
for the chords
never broken
vibrate once more
stirring the dust
of five generations
in my bones…
I am
your reliquary.

The piano was my grandmother’s most-prized possession. My grandfather bought it secondhand sometime during WWII. My grandmother intended to bequeath it to my aunt, who also played; my aunt contracted MS in her 50s and died before my grandmother. Grandma then offered it to me. I do not play, but my youngest son is an extraordinary pianist with a degree in worship music. His brother’s baby, my granddaughter Micah, ten months old, is already showing an affinity for music. She sat on my lap ‘playing’ Grandma’s piano last week, thoroughly enchanted.

Return of the retro pet

My six-year-old granddaughter found the comics section from the Sunday newspaper I recently purchased (first time since I can’t say when). After poring over the funnies, she asked:

“Franna, can we do the crossword puzzle?”

Girl after my own heart…

“Sure, let me get a pen!”

On her own, she figured out ache for ‘Dull pain’ and treat for ‘Dog’s favorite word, probably’.

Then she asked: “What’s ‘Digital pet of the ’90s’?”

“Oh! Mister had one when he was little,” I replied (Mister is what she currently calls my son. This kid…). “I haven’t thought of it in years. A Tamagotchi.”

“Tamagotchi?! What is that?!”

I tried to explain.

Blank expression.

I looked it up and showed it to her on my phone.

She looked dubious.

There was only one logical thing to do….

It arrived today.

She picked it out (yes, they’re still out there; she chose one decorated like an ice cream cone).

She was, in a word, enraptured. Could hardly wait for the egg to hatch so she could figure out how to feed her Tamagotchi. And clean up after it. That was what puzzled her most when I was trying to explain how this thing….er, pet….works.

She’s a quick study in everything: “It wants my attention! Ohhhh nooo…it’s not happy! All its hearts are empty! Help! What do I do to make it happy?”

We tried to play a game with it but apparently we only made it mad.

Fortunately, Mister arrived around this time. With all the expertise of a previous Tamagotchi owner, he fed this digital pet of the ’90s a ton of snacks and filled all its hearts with happiness.

Then, with pure delight, my granddaughter cleaned up after it.

“When I am busy, you will have to Tamagotchi-sit,” she told my son, with authority.

I wonder if I am enjoying this too much…and if he remembers there’s an on/off switch…maybe I should remind him…

—Nah.

My granddaughter, waiting for the egg to hatch. By the time they left this evening, Tamagotchi had grown quite a bit and remained happy with all the attention it was getting (have fun with that, Son…).

Always remember

a bit of palindrome written to a picture worth much more than a thousand words,
maybe even a thousand infinities, to me

Always
remember how much you’re loved
my child
and child of
my child
remember how much you’re loved
always.

My oldest son and his baby girl, Micah.
He named her. Micah means “Who is like God?”
Answer: No one, no one, no one…


But the steadfast love of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s childrenPsalm 103:17

*******
with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the Slice of Life Story Challenge every day in the month of March.

Anniversary of twelves

On the twelfth day of December, back in the Great Depression, my grandparents were married. My father was born the following October in a tenant farmhouse.

That’s my grandmother’s wedding band in the photo. It’s not the one she received on her wedding day. That ring was thin; it wore “clean through,” Grandma said. Broke in half due to overuse, in the days when washing machines had wringers, in an era of canning and preserving, in the time of sharecropping cotton and looping tobacco.

This is Grandma’s replacement ring. She had her initials and Granddaddy’s engraved inside, along with their wedding date. A wide gold band, made to last.

It is my ring now. I wear it every day.

Often thinking of December 12th.

For it’s not the only anniversary.

Almost thirty years after my grandparents married, their youngest daughter got married. On the same day.

She was eighteen. A senior in high school.

Her husband, my uncle, was going to Vietnam.

I went to that wedding. In utero. I wasn’t born for another five months. My presence was obvious; my mother couldn’t fit into the dress she planned to wear. She had to rush out and buy a new one that day.

My young aunt mailed black-and-white baby pictures of me to my uncle on his tours of duty.

He brought these pictures back home with him.

Fast forward three decades…

On December 12th, exactly sixty years to the day of my grandparents’ wedding, my husband and I learn that we will have another child.

A second son. Our last child.

My grandparents lived to see him and know him. To tell him they loved him, like they always told me.

It is a day of remembrance for me, December 12th. A deep and quiet knowing, a dark-blue glittering gem that I carry in myself in the middle of the holiday season. Meaningful. Valuable. Priceless.

I think of the long-ago Decembers. Family gatherings, celebrations. Layers of blessing. A blanket unfolding again and again to encompass the next generation.

I am a grandparent now; the mantle is passed.

It is one comprised of faith. Of courage and commitment. In it lies the story of persevering against unknowable odds. The Depression. Vietnam. In it I find strength for living now. I know that what keeps us pressing on is having someone to press on for.

Numerologists might wax eloquent on the significance of the number twelve, in all its powerful associations. We mark our time by twelves on the clock, by months in the year…there are ancient connotations such as twelve Olympians, twelve disciples, twelve tribes of Israel, twelve of days of Christmas… twelves go on and on. Twelve is considered the number of perfection, cosmic order, completion. Just now I recall that our second son was born in our twelfth year of marriage. I am not a numerologist, only a poet contemplating patterns. Not a mathematician, just a wonderer. A believer. Pythagoras is said to have said: “There is geometry in the humming of the strings, there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”

I sense a geometry in dates and a musicality to years…a song of life and the living of it. For me, this is the lesson of 12/12. There’s something of eternity in it.

Which makes perfect sense, if twelve is God’s number.

The song is love.

*******

Many thanks to Two Writing Teachers and the Slice of Life Story Challenge community.
And to readers…you’re all part of the story and the song.

Thanksgiving legacy

I once read of a young woman preparing her kitchen for Passover. Amid the traditional cleaning and purging, she had a sense of taking her place in the long line of women who had done so before her, throughout history. As if the rituals of tradition invoked their presence, for within the actions lie inextricable, unbroken threads of purpose, holiness, praise, gratitude…

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I have a similar sensation. Driving to the grocery store, armed with a list of ingredients for foods that my children have requested (deviled eggs and carrot cake chief among them), I am enchanted by autumn’s alchemy. Late afternoon sun gilds the trees along the roadside. The blending of red, orange, bronze, some trees already bare, preparing for winter…for a moment, for mere seconds, I imagine there are figures running through these flickering sunlit woods. If I could look long enough, or just right, I might catch glimpses of people as they were in times past, maybe even my childhood self. Burnished memories still living, beckoning…snapshot scenes of Thanksgivings, with card tables set up for the children. Heads bowed in prayer. My grandfather’s humble blessing, his knobbled, work-worn hands. Grandma’s deviled eggs and potato salad, Mama’s carrot cake (the hit of every holiday gathering), Grannie’s rum pound cake…lifting that big old Tupperware lid, the first whiff nearly knocking me down, but the moist golden richness after…incomparable. I find myself yearning for a slice of it now.

In the process of cleaning and preparing for the holidays I reorganized a closet. I found a box of Grandma’s things. Letters and cards given to her over the years, her green-bronze jewelry box containing her clip-on “earbobs”. Old photos. Books and trinkets I’d given her. Her diaries, dating back to when I was twelve. Programs from my school plays. Her funeral program. And I think about how life is the story of love, sacrifice, survival. How she and Grannie did much with little, raising children during the Great Depression. How they held faith and family above all else…how they do not feel far from me, even now, as I write these words. My own granddaughter, their great-great granddaughter, will be four weeks old on Thanksgiving Day. I have a profound sense of taking my place in a hallowed line of legacy and love. With abiding gratitude. And joy, shining like the immutable sun on the autumn trees, in the ongoing story of survival. The turning of pages, new chapters, in a gilt-bound book…

Here’s to all the blessings that were, are, and are still to come.

Our precious Micah

Reflections of gratitude: Spiritual journey

For my newborn granddaughter, Micah

What shall I tell you about the day you were born?

Your Grandpa and I were waiting in the carpool line to pick your big sister up from kindergarten when your dad texted: Micah is here! 9 lbs!

Gratitude flooded our hearts as photos flooded our phones.

We wept at sight of you. Your sister would say “happy cried.”

Looking at your beautiful rosy face, a thousand thoughts fluttered in my mind, like birds descending from the azure sky, landing one by one on soft, moss-covered branches…

I remembered it was supposed to storm that day, and it didn’t; the late October sun shone for all it was worth, illuminating the countryside with brilliant gold, orange, yellow, and scarlet.

I forgot the shadows, worries, and grind of daily life.

I remembered the story of my own birth, told over and over to me by my grandmother: She, Daddy, Granddaddy, and Grannie stood looking at me through the nursery window, Grandma “happy cried,” Daddy said I looked just like Granddaddy.

I forgot to be sad about not going to the hospital to see you on the day you were born due to limited visitors in COVID protocols.

I remembered that I’d be able to come the next day, and that it would suffice.

I forgot there was even a pandemic.

I remembered the joy of your father’s birth, the fierce motherlove which surged in my veins, which surges still, and exponentially now, for you.

I forgot about fearing my own inadequacies.

I remembered to wear Grandma’s locket.

I forgot, until your curious big sister opened it, that your father’s newborn picture was nestled inside.

I remembered the promises of God, that blessings fall on the generations of those who love Him, my precious, precious baby Micah, daughter and granddaughter of pastors: Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments (Deuteronomy 7:9, ESV).

I have never forgotten that.

Thankful for the infinite grace of God. Love you always, Micah. – Franna

********

with thanks to Denise Krebs for hosting November’s Spiritual Journey Thursday group, with a focus on gratitude.

and also to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I am deeply grateful for you all.

Abecedarian poem

ABCs for Micah, on the day after your birth

Autumn-child: So lovely
being born amid crackled-leaf,
cider-steeped, cinnamon-spiked
days of
ever-bright,
flaming color, crisp and
glittering under first-frost grace.
Hallowed moments
infused with
joy while I dream of
kissing your fuzzy head, your
little newborn face.
My precious Micah,
never doubt your Franna’s fierce love,
opal-bright, like autumn fire,
perpetual, eternal,
quietly flickering,
radiant and
sacred,
throughout all our tomorrows together.
Upon your coming, beloved Baby Girl,
veritable heart of my heart, I wait in the wings
with hugs (ooooooo) and kisses
(xxxxxxx) all for you from
your Franna, so blessed with new-life
zest.

Here

a Spiritual Journey offering

in memory of my father

and in honor of Micah, my granddaughter
who will be born later this month

*******

Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again…
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — 

over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

Mary Oliver, “Wild Geese”

October is here
and with it, memory:
it is the month

of my father’s birth.
I am here
because he was here
once upon a time.

October is here
and with it, wild geese

coming home.
My father loved them
like he loved planes
in the wild blue yonder
of his service years

when he was young.
At his funeral procession
a flock of wild geese
stood by in solemn ranks.

He chose to be buried here
so Air Force jets
would fly over his grave

every day.

October is here
with its fiery oranges, reds, golds
and heartrending blue.
Blazing colors that are here
for just a little while,
coming and going
before the long sleep
and eventual rewakening
.

October is here
with its bright story
of permanence
cloaked in

the temporary darkness
of impermanence.

October is here
with its beckoning to
see, smell, taste, feel, know
life in all of its spice

and fullness,
never bound by a calendar,
a schedule, a checklist…

October is here
with its own organic order,
a natural reminder

of all our comings and goings
and of the taking of one’s place
in the family of things
.

October is here.
You will soon be here
,
firstborn child
of my firstborn child
.
I, too, am
the firstborn child
of a firstborn child
.
My father named me
for his mother.
Your father named you
for God

by whose infinite grace
I am here
to see your coming.

A downy-soft blanket and a whole lot of love are here awaiting you, little precious one.
Your name is one of ancient faith and praise: “Who is like God?”

*******

with much gratitude to Ramona Behnke, who inspired our monthly Spiritual Journey Thursday group to write around the word “here” with this quote from Emily P. Freeman’s podcast, Episode 188: You Are Here (And It Matters):


“What if you being all the way here actually mattered, with your cold feet and your stomachache and the light shining through the window. You with your stack of books, by the bedside table and hopeful feeling inside your heart. You with your deep grief, over a loss you thought you’d be over by now, standing in the kitchen while you microwave your coffee. For now, this is true. So what is true of you? And do you really believe God is with you no matter what? That you are not alone, that you don’t have to be you all by yourself? Here’s to being where you already are. Fully present with all that is true. And then here’s to doing your next right thing in love.”

*******


Shimmer of being alive poem

Late September

across the street
the first few spots
of yellow dot the lush green
abundance of trees
despite the searing blueness of sky
and bathwater-saturated
Carolina air

lingering summer

yet in it I feel a tinge
the tiniest tinge
an almost imperceptible
coolness

deep in the wooded shadows
from a sun-patched limb, no doubt,
a lone cicada takes up his rattle
crescendo, decrescendo


they were late arriving this year
but still here

driving to work
along the winding backroads
a darting from the left
two gray squirrels, 
scampering in tandem
right in front of me
on the double yellow lines

I stop for them 
they stop for me

after a moment
of squirrel contemplation
one continues on across
but the other, the other
turns back
with something in its mouth

not an acorn, something hanging
pale-colored
I’ve never seen the likes
but instinctively know:
that’s a baby squirrel

and on I drive, thinking
of the old squirrel twins book
my grandmother read to me
so long ago

and of how I shall read it
to my own granddaughter
arriving in a few short weeks

the morning September sun shimmers
rose-gold in my rearview mirror
like promises steeped in time

I no longer dream of dying
like I did when I was nine
now, in my first tinge of autumn
I dream of new babies born
every night

*******

with thanks to Sarah Donovan at Ethical ELA for the inspiration to write poetry
around moments of knowing “I am alive.”