Edit your life

The poet asked:
What is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

The inner critic replies:
Things are what they are.
Can’t change much now.
Don’t even think about it.

The writer-soul contradicts:
What changes shall I make TODAY?
The possibilities
are exhilarating.


For, in the end,
one’s wild and precious life
is all about
craftsmanship

and
belief.

The cover of my daily planner

with gratitude for the late Mary Oliver and her poem, The Summer Day

Bad advice poem

with thanks to Scott McCloskey, today’s Open Write host on Ethical ELA. Scott says there are plenty of poems offering advice, but few offering bad advice… today we set about rectifying that shortage…

How to Manage a Skeleton

When sitting with a skeleton
it is best to remind him (?)
it is his own fault
he has no flesh

unless, of course,
you fail to recognize
a skeleton in the first place
(it’s possible
even probable
despite the garish array
of teeth
and the empty sockets
and all those ribs
gleaming white)

you might go so far
as to remind the skeleton
to keep a stiff upper lip
(although ‘twill do
little good
when one
has no lips
no more)

better yet to focus
all your time, energy,
and efforts with the skeleton
in pointing out the priority
of having a backbone
over having a heart

by all means,
continue extracting
your pound of flesh
ignoring, of course,
the feeble rattling
of wind whistling
through the bones
—this does not matter
in the slightest
when the spirit
is long gone.

Reading Skeleton. leted. CC BY-NC 2.0.

In our shared autumn

with thanks to Denise Hill for the prompt on Ethical ELA’s Open Write today: American Sentences, a poetry form invented by Allen Ginsberg, are comprised of seventeen syllables.

To my husband.

An Observation, While Watching Oblique Light Striking Fiery Leaves

What shall I say to you, in the long afternoon of our shared autumn?
Memories of many colors scuttle across sidewalk existence.
I cannot decide which I would gather to preserve, to toss, to burn.
Trees have no compunction about shedding their fragility—should we? 
Give me your hand while it is yet light, for evening comes earlier now.
Moments, in their gilded crowns, are more beautiful than ever before.

River dream

I cannot say, Child, what you might be experiencing within, but I can tell you I dreamed
that we were sailing along a river with green overhanging boughs
and that the waters before us were only troubled by a succession
of indentations made by tiny feet running rapidly across
—a little Jesus lizard, there in the recesses, trying to catch
or, on second thought, cavorting with, a dragonfly which shimmered and skimmered
away just as the swan drifted into view, its white feathers transforming as it neared,
changing from white to gold flushed with crimson
and then the eagle, gliding low over the glimmering water, huge, like life itself,
its curved yellow beak closed, its sharp eye affixed on us, not on the hunt,
merely acknowledging our presence
and so we drifted on and I didn’t even realize until the shore loomed
before us, rocky and steep, that we’d been riding in a little wooden boat
that navigated the river by its own power, not ours, to land us
right where we needed to be, and that we’d be able to navigate
this embankment, too, for there amid the stones and earth were steps
perfectly placed for our climb.

Cincinnati – Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum ‘An Unreal Moment, and a Gift.’David Paul Ohmer CC BY 2.0.

*******
with thanks to the Two Writing Teachers community
for the place to share Slices of Life
even when they are but dreams

Memory is…is not

with thanks to Susan Ahlbrand for the invitation to write a “this but not that” poem based on an abstract noun over at Ethical ELA’s Open Write today

Memory is a blanket
of new-falling snow
over barren ground
where nothing would grow

Memory is not static
it is ever-changing
reinventing itself day by day
ever so slightly
around the edges

Memory is sparks
crackling and popping
from the inner fire
in the grate

Memory is not reliable—
it goes its own way,
its own consummation
and consumption,
ashes stirred to life
rolling in the breeze

Memory is a river
life-giving, sustaining, sacred
flowing free until obstructed
necessary and nourishing
yet potential danger for drowning
—you cannot live there, submerged

Memory is not tomorrow
or yesterday

Memory is now

Memory is not a book,
a record carefully preserved

Memory is written in disappearing ink

happy snow. tamaki. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

Starting a semi-sestina poem

with thanks to Wendy Everard for the Open Write invitation today on Ethical ELA. A traditional sestina has six stanzas and a three-line envoi; the initial six ending words rotate through remaining stanzas in a prescribed order. Today’s process begins with brainstorming six words. For a semi-sestina, one can alter stanzas and lines, exercising creative freedom…

Here are my six words and opening stanza at present. It will take some time to see where they lead…

fabric
scissors
fall
damage
pieces

pattern

Childhood Memory

She spreads the pattern across the fabric
placing the pins. Wielding her sharpest scissors,
she cuts along the grain. The scraps fall
to the floor, haphazard collateral damage.
She will not save the pieces
or remember their wholeness, before her pattern.

Cobbler cutting fabric with scissors. Ivan Radic. CC BY 2.0.

Endurance

inspired by Bible study of James 1:1-12

Crucible:
an earthen container
able to withstand
intense heat until
the precious metal
within is purified,
its imperfect portions
sparking off in the air

comes from medieval Latin
crucibulum
meaning ‘night lamp’
possibly one which hung
in front of
a crucifix

perhaps in
cavernous darkness
on crumbling stone walls
a feeble lantern
reflecting on the last
tangible hope
that weeping endures for
a night
but joy comes
in the morning
whether the current battle
is won
or lost

a flickering halo
in the shadows
where faith responds
while carrying
staggering loss
crushing burdens
utter depletion
still believing
still living by
the stillness in
the soul
still trusting in God
despite all

endurance

there’s holiness
in it

Endurance. Mohammadali. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

New Oxford American Dictionary

The way of it

On the first required workday
before school begins
I drive the familiar backroads
once again

dew-drenched pastures
and old weatherboard barns
defy time
they are
their own world

then to my delight
a patch of tangled sunflowers
on the right
must have been growing here
all summer
I didn’t know
I think of Van Gogh
walking the rustic village
of Arles

up ahead, the pond
I scan it quickly
for the great blue heron
and there it is
at water’s edge
nearest the road
big and gray-blue
like a watercolor rendition
so perfect a pose

I feel light
like these are signs
that all will go well
with the work
lying before me

peace becomes strength
in my spirit
in my bones

on the second workday
I see it all again
even the heron

I can always face
the day ahead
whenever I see
the heron

I am so light
I could soar

then on the third day
without warning
orange signs on white gates
say the road is closed

I must detour

no passing the pond
no seeing heron
standing with elegiac grace
in the still water

although I know
it’s there

so on I fly
day after day
going out of my way
to get to where
I need to be

for now at least
I have the sunflowers

Vincent would say
it’s enough

keep painting the day
and the required work
beautiful
around the barriers
until they are gone

that is
the way of it

Coming home; the pond is just ahead but I can’t see it

Charged

The first gathering
before regular workdays
even begin
is a Leadership meeting
called by new admin
to set the vision
for the year ahead
where lingering clouds
so widespread
start dissipating.
The atmosphere is changed
from June, when we left
depleted and drained:
All my colleagues’ faces,
all their voices and words,
shaking off residual traces
of drenching despair
in this positive charge
electrifying the air.

It can be done.
We have begun.

Explosion of positive energy. Łukasz StrachanowskiCC BY-NC 2.0.