Memento mom-ri

There are
certain advantages
to having
a young son
in the mortuary business

such as when
he tells you
that you really
ought to set up
a “pre-need”
and pay for
your funeral
in advance

or
when he texts you
a picture
of a rose-gold casket
because he thinks
you will love it
(okay, it IS beautiful
—still…)

but most of all
when he brings you flowers
while you’re living

because he
remembers Mother’s Day
and he works
right next door
to a killer florist.

*******


with thanks to Two Writing Teachers community for Tuesday Slice of Life sharing

Walking poem

Today on Ethical ELA Leilya Pitre invites teacher poets to “walk to your place of comfort.” The idea is to take a break, rest, relax, maybe noting things that capture your attention when you’re on a walk, or maybe walking back in time, through memories, or recalling a personal revelation that occurred on a walk. Just walk, poetically.

I love walks and have written of many… today, I meander back through memory to a place of comfort.

Walking with Granddaddy

Sunday afternoon
sidewalks aren’t crowded
no rush hour traffic
clogs the street
just a few cars
stopped at the intersection

can’t walk over to Rose’s
at the corner today
to buy a toy 
like my Slinky
or click-clacks, 
glass amber spheres
suspended on a string
to pull back and hear
that loud CLACK CLACK,
or a powder-blue
sachet ball made of satin
decorated like a lion’s head
with blue googly eyes
and an aqua feather-tuft mane

no, Rose’s is closed today

so is the drugstore
at the end of our row
no chocolate-covered cherries
or Peppermint Patties
or those caramel creams
that you love so

no, today we walk
hand-in-hand
across the street
while cars wait
at the lights

past the fire station
round back of the 
Baptist church

to the playground

you let me climb
the big sliding board
not letting go
of my hand
until I am sitting at the top

you are there
at the bottom
when the sliding stops

you push me in the swing
until my feet touch the sky
I am a bird 
flying so high

until the shadow
of the steeple-cross
grows long on the grass

hand-in-hand again
I watch our feet pass

back over the pavement
crossing the street
each step measured in time
of heart-to-heart beats

—oh, how yours to mine
still talks
so long after
our Sunday walks 

Granddaddy and me on his 61st birthday.
I am two and a half.

Thirty years later:
Granddaddy with my boys and me, on his 91st birthday,
a year and a half before he died.

He is gone, but never far away.

‘Succinct truth’ poem

Today on Ethical ELA, Maureen Young Ingram invites teacher-poets to compose “succinct truth” poems for VerseLove. The idea is to write about a difficult subject with a message of hope in 10-20 short lines, playing with lack of punctuation and capitals.

Mine’s twenty-two lines but I’m letting it be.

Dichotomies

humans
are a dichotomous race
desperately desiring
dutifully demanding
historically unable
to extend grace
at least
each other-ward

the tome of our existence
a work in progress
pages of pain
penned in blood

some say that babies are a sign
that the world should go on

forgetting that worlds go on
without humans at all

although my dog doesn’t think so

there’s hope
isn’t there
as long as dogs
haven’t given up
on us

My son with his dog, Henry, who surely has a soul
and who loves with his whole dog heart

Good Friday tritina: It is finished

Eternity hangs on it
there where our sin-debt is
paid in full, finished

we would be finished
yet out of love, He did it
He is

what love is
the robe of righteousness is finished
take it, wear it

It is finished

Detail of a shirt made for me by a friend

The words “It is finished” are a translation of tetelestai – Greek for what a servant would say on returning to a master after completing a mission. It’s an accounting word, signifying a debt paid in full; it was stamped on receipts. The phrase indicates a final and complete sacrifice: Christ died as the Passover lambs were being slaughtered. And where were Passover lambs born? Bethlehem. The responsibility of those shepherds in the field abiding, keeping watch over their flocks by night…

The tritina form is comprised of ten lines with repeated ending words in this pattern:
1
2
3

3
1
2


2
3
1

1 2 3


Tell me without telling me poem

Yesterday on Ethical ELA’s VerseLove, Scott McCloskey invited teacher-poets to compose around “tell me without telling me,” the popular social media meme from a few years ago: “Tell us (through vivid sensory details and whatnot) that you are __________ without telling us you are __________. ” In his model, Scott masterfully incorporated many fragments of famous poems that have inspired him to write, followed by this reveal: “Tell me you’re a poet without telling me you’re a poet.”

So for Day 9 of National Poetry Month, here’s mine… it incorporates bits I’ve written before… and there’s SO much more to write…

It all began, I suppose,
in a darkened room
when Grandma plugged
this thing called a color wheel…

it sat on the floor, rotating, illuminating
the all-foil Christmas tree.
There in the dark
the sparkling silver tree
transitioned to red, blue, gold…

a stillness, a riveting

There was a girl
in my childhood church
who played the piano
accompanying the sanctuary choir.
Once, she stood alone
in front of the handbell table
reaching, grasping,
her white-gloved hands
a blur of choreography
playing those bells solo
never missing a note.
She was sixteen.

a stillness, a holding of breath

I don’t remember
learning how to read.
It was just a thing I could do.
But in fourth grade, the teacher
(built like a mountain, with a face
and heart of carved stone)
read to us every day.
An intelligent, artistic spider
who saved a less-than-radiant pig.
A boy who didn’t want that annoying,
subversive, endearing, ol’ yeller dog
that ended up saving his life, 
before picking up the shotgun…

My God. My God.
I almost died with that dog

and there have been books
in my hands,

in stacks by my bed,
ever since.

a stillness, an absorbing

There’s more, so much more.

At nineteen, 
walking into the community theater audition
where the handsomest man I ever saw
sat with a script…

we were married in less than six months.

Thirty-seven years this summer.

Two years in, when he said he was called 
to preach, I said
Well, you’ll be miserable 
unless you do.

a stillness, an abiding

Our oldest son saying
over and over
I’ll never go in the ministry.
It’s too hard a life.
Not getting married or
having any kids, either.

Just after he enrolled
in seminary,
he met a lovely young lady
with a little daughter
named for the title character
of his favorite book.
In the fullness of time
and in the span of a month
he became a husband, father, 
and pastor.

It was ordained. Jehovah jireh.
God provides.

Last fall, he named his newborn daughter
Micah. Which means
Who is like God?

Indeed, who?

I am still, and know.

*******

(Tell me you are awed without telling me you are awed)

(likely to be continued…)

I bind unto myself

A Spiritual Journey Thursday offering for April.

Karen Eastlund beckons fellow SJT writers with the phrase “I bind unto myself today…”

It’s the beginning of many prayers compiled by the Northumbria Community in Celtic Daily Prayers. The phrase is also attributed to the Hymn of St. Patrick (see Cantica Sacra). Thank you, Karen, for the inspiration and blessing.

What prayer might I make, what claim might I stake, on these five words? What do I need to bind unto myself today, any day, every day? What do I hold most dear? What holds me?

It comes to me via pieces of Scripture—John 1:1-4, 6:63; Hebrews 12:2.

A pantoum:

I bind unto myself today
love of words
the Word, in the beginning
the Creator of all things    

Love of words
I bind unto myself today
the Creator of all things
speaking life

I bind unto myself today
the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us
speaking life
the Author and Finisher of my faith

The Word made flesh, who dwelt among us
the Word, in the beginning
the Author and Finisher of my faith
I bind unto myself today

Core memories poem

On Day Two of National Poetry Month, Emily Yamasaki offers this invitation for VerseLove at Ethical ELA: “There are some details that we hold in our hearts and minds, never to be forgotten. Whether it was carved into our memory in joy or distress, they are always there. Join me in giving those core memories a space to live openly today.”

This is the kind of thing that can keep me writing for hours, days, years… I kept it simple, using the first things that rose to the surface, sticking somewhat close to Emily’s models.

random core memories

the cadence of my grandmother’s voice, reading
fat pencils in kindergarten
the smell of struck kitchen matches
bacon grease kept in a canister by the stove
having to throw myself against the stubborn front door
     of my childhood home, to get it open
ironing my father’s uniforms
the smell of his shoe polish
the vaporizer sputtering in my room at night
the rattling crescendo, decrescendo of cicadas
saying it’s going to be all right without knowing how
finding sharks’ teeth in the new gravel of an old country road
lines from dialogues in my 7th grade French textbook
soft-petal satin of new baby skin
that one wonky piano key (is it D or E?)
the mustiness of my grandparents’ tiny old church
the weight of the study Bible in my hands
seeing you for the first time, across the crowded room
the cadence of our granddaughter’s voice, reading

A book my grandmother read to me, that I read with my granddaughter now.
Is it any wonder that I find birds and nests so alluring?
Early memories hold such latent power.

Sunflower acrostic

Happy National Poetry Month!

At Ethical ELA, Bryan Ripley Crandall kicks off VerseLove by inviting teacher-poets to compose acrostics: “Think of your  person, place, or phrase. Lay the letters onto the page as if fallen leaves. Game-on. Write as if you are ‘gifting’ to another, and use each letter to craft an original poem.”

I love acrostics and have long believed this ancient form is underused.

As I pondered a topic, I went to the refrigerator door to start breakfast, and there it was:

The Drawing My Granddaughter Made During a “Sleepover”

Six years old, blissfully
Unaware that it’s the emblem of a 
Nation being invaded, she announces:
Franna, I am making this for you.
Love crayoned on the paper as
Our own special symbol.
When night falls, we put on our pink pajamas
Emblazoned with these light-seeking faces
Radiating joy of now, promise for tomorrow.

She texts me in the evenings sometimes to be sure I am wearing my sunflower pajamas

Story love

My family loves to tell stories.

Mostly on each other.

At every gathering, my husband and our two sons continually try to one-up each other with their own versions of stories, all of which are calculated for maximum comic effect followed by boisterous laughter.

My granddaughter Scout, age six, is used to this now. She smiles, shakes her head, sometimes smacks her forehead with her palm, and sighs: “C’mon, Franna, let’s play.” She doesn’t have to ask me twice…

Micah, five months old as of today, is just beginning to take notice of conversations by shifting her gaze from speaker to speaker. She’s probably wondering the baby version of These are my people??

It so happened at a recent family gathering that as I was telling a funny story about Grandpa, I noticed little Micah, sitting with her dad on the couch, watching me with rapt attention.

I paused. “Goodness,” I said, “look how Micah is listening!”

“Oh yes,” said my daughter-in-law, “she loves a story.”

I had a sense, then, of something meaningful in the making. Something of great significance. Something being recorded deep in Micah’s baby brain, before she even has words for it, long before images and moments become archivable memories. She may not understand quite yet that I am Franna, her grandmother; she hasn’t yet learned words and attached meanings; but she could tell by the cadence of my voice that I was communicating something. She watched me intently, absorbing it.

It made me mindful.

It also reminded me of her dad’s little brother, who, before birth, stopped moving around whenever the piano was played at church. He’d kick back up afterward. He’s listening to the music, I told his dad at the time.

And he was. He’s our musician-mortician son. He’s loved music all of his life and can play anything he wants on the piano and guitar. Without sheet music. The patterns and chords are all in his brain.

Which brings me back to his baby niece, who bears a strong resemblance to him in many ways, especially in this serious manner of absorbing of things.

Micah loves music, too; we’ll see how that plays out…

What I know for certain is that, at five months, she loves story before she knows what story is.

I predict she’ll be the greatest storyteller of us all.

Micah with her preacher dad, my oldest son, while he works

*******

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

When you first laughed

a pantoum for Micah, age 5 months

When you first laughed
your family stood
surrounding you
oh how sweet the sound

Your family stood
filled with awe
oh how sweet the sound
of happy forevers beginning

Filled with awe
we are your cloud of witnesses
of happy forevers beginning
on the last day of your first winter

We are your cloud of witnesses
surrounding you
on the last day of your first winter
when you first laughed

Micah, here are your first laughs, captured on video. Your mom, dad, big sister, Grandpa, and I were all there to see it. Notice that the word “Happy” is on your onesie. I hope you know, someday, how much happiness you’ve brought to all of us. This actually occurred on the last day of winter. Your first spring has begun. A whole lifetime of love, blossoming…

You are a joy, sweet Micah-roon.

Love you forever.

—Franna

*******

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