Earth-keeper poem

For the final Day of National Poetry Month, with thanks to Susie Morice, who encouraged poets to write of their favorite earth-keepers on yesterday’s #verselove at Ethical ELA. She suggested using a quote from an environmentalist to build the poem.

My quote is excerpted from a favorite novel:

“We found that trees could communicate, over the air and through their roots…We found that trees take care of each other…seeds remember the seasons of their childhood and set buds accordingly…trees sense the presence of other nearby life…a tree learns to save water…trees feed their young and synchronize their masts and bank resources and warn kin and send out signals to wasps to come and save them from attacks.” —Richard Powers, The Overstory

Understory Haiku
(for Granddaddy)

Once upon a time
my grandfather dug a well
in the earth he loved

he never said why
or who needed that water
maybe his neighbors

farm communities
did that; they worked together
for the common good

down deep in that hole
his shoveling uncovered 
a fully-formed tree

never saw the likes
he said, and I never asked
what became of it

but I imagine
it still lives, long after him
my understory

My grandfather, walking the land he loved most, his childhood farm. He told me where the house stood, and all the old barns…at the time of this photo, nothing remained but a wide field still in cultivation, bordered by trees. That’s my shadow at the bottom, taking his picture.

Saying something back poem

with thanks to Katie at #verselove on Ethical ELA yesterday. She inspired poets to look around the room for an object of great personal significance, followed by a brainstorming process for finding the object’s own voice and characteristics: “Now that you have stilled this object in order to distill it in a piece of art, it’s time to bring it to life. Listen to it, and once you are ready, consider: If it were a character…and say something back.”

For Day Twenty-Nine of National Poetry Month

Repository

high-backed
mahogany cracked
infinitesimal spider veins

ever musty
oh so dusty
relic of bygone days

when the harmonies rang
and people sang
songs by shape note

now more of a reliquary

with touch-memory
of her hands
on your beloved keys

they don’t forget

somewhere in that
high-backed
mahogany cracked
prized-possession frame

amid your hammers and strings
and octavian dreams

surely you must
hold her dust
alongside mine
skin cells of
the child I was

relics of bygone days
side by side
just as we used to be
on your bench, of a summer night
in pale lamplight

singing
of the sweet by and by
when we shall meet on that beautiful shore

in the meantime
despite your need for tuning
and your wonky key

her great-grandson
stirs the slumbering chords again
the dust
the strings
the house
the blood in our veins
pounding out the glory
of the old, old story

blood does not forget

she’d be overjoyed
with my boy

as you must surely be

as you whisper to me

in high-backed
mahogany cracked
corners
where silence
aches

The piano dates to pre-WWII days, possibly the 1920s. My grandfather bought it secondhand for my grandmother. I spent many hours beside her on the bench as she played and sang alto to my soprano. In her last years she moved in with my aunt and finally the nursing home. She gave the piano to me: “It’s my most-prized possession, you know.” I never learned how to play but my my youngest son grew up loving old gospel songs. He’s a magnificent pianist who graduated from college with a music ministry degree; not a day passes that I don’t think of how elated she’d be to know this.

The piano knows, and remembers all.

My grandmother at the piano, long before my time

“Secret connoisseur” poem

with thanks to Karen Workun who invited a quick write today for #verselove at Ethical ELA. The idea is to brainstorm “secret areas of expertise,” choosing one to spin into a poem.

This is dedicated to Dennis. Again.

For Day Twenty-Seven of National Poetry Month

Lapland

Lapland
they say
is an icy
enchanted region
where the
northern lights
color-play
in the sky
and where
the only official Santa
actually lives
but here
in my house
I am Lapland
to a ten-pound
cream-coated
chocolate-nosed
dachshund
who will NOT stop hopping
by my chair
until he successfully
springs into my lap
or until I scoop him up
whichever comes first
and where he settles in
to snooze
with blissful
rhythmic
surprisingly loud
dog-snores
for as long
as I’ll let him
which is usually
until my leg goes
completely numb
from his tiny deadweight
yet still I sit
absorbing
his mighty warmth
like a recharging
of life
for the day
and should I have
to get up and walk
to get the blood flowing again
in my poor numb leg
he trails me
with glistening
brown doe-eyes
beseeching
the reappearance of
his cozy
enchanted Lapland
for the sweet dreaming
of his
little dog dreams

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.

Duality poem

with thanks to Brooke, Bailey and Ryan at #verselove on Ethical ELA yesterday. They challenged poets to create duality poems: “Alternative italics is where a poem is written with two meanings. The first meaning is the poem as a whole, and the second meaning is given to it through the italics. Most commonly, the two themes are fundamentally (or, at least, seemingly) opposed. Take two opposed ideas or concepts and make one the base. The other idea will be repeated throughout the poem and written in italics.”

Here is my take on the dual nature of the human heart…

For Day Twenty-One of National Poetry Month

What the Human Heart Craves

Peace
sweet peace
drifting earthward
as prayers float heavenward

Peace
enveloping souls
like winter coats
pulled from a magic wardrobe
thwarting winter’s chill

Peace
seeping inward
warms the heart
dwarfing all fear

Peace
is hardly for cowards.
It is
its own reward.

Peace dove. Jeff Attaway. CC BY

Tiny trembling life

One of my favorite things about spring is the return of the house finches, which build a nest and raise a little family on my front door wreath.

I am treated to a bird’s eye view of tiny life coming into the world.

As some of you know from previous posts, the finches built the nest last year but never laid any eggs. It was haunting, coinciding with the onset of the COVID-19 shutdown. Barrenness. Emptiness. Loss.

They are making up for it this year.

Mama Finch laid five eggs during Holy Week; usually there are only three or four.

They’ve all hatched now and more pictures will be forthcoming, but here are the first two babies.

For the record, the collective noun for finches is a charm or a trembling.

A trembling charm of tiny new life upon my house:

For Day Twenty of National Poetry Month, a haiku:

Nature has her charms
Gifts of fragile new songbirds
Trembling abundance

“Wire structure” poem

with thanks to Jennifer Jowett on #verslove at Ethical ELA today. Jennifer used the idea of wire structures and blind contour drawing to inspire today’s invitation to compose: “Today, trust the pathway of your words. Find a starting point and let the words take you where they want. You might find yourself meandering, stopping here and there to absorb, or moving quickly until you reach a finish. You might play with extensive enjambment to keep the eye moving continuously. Or you might try something else entirely. Your journey is yours to explore.”

Just this week, the opening line of this poem came to me. As did the last. I wrote them down so I could figure out what to do with them…then came today’s prompt. I dedicate this “wire structure poem” to children…young and grown…your interpretation is your own.

For Day Eighteen of National Poetry Month

Double Helix, Pulled Apart

separated
by walls we didn’t make

shattered
by hearts we didn’t break

scattered
by paths we didn’t take

yet eternally connected

by blood we cannot take
away

by cords we cannot break
away

by history we cannot make
aright

scattered

shattered

separated 

perhaps united in silent ache
today
that love will find
a way

Photo: Peter Alfred Hess. CC BY

Living traits poem

with thanks to Gayle and Annie in today’s #VerseLove at Ethical ELA, at this invitation: “The goal is to select a character trait or an emotion and give it a back story. How did they get to be who they are now?  Fill in the details–what they wear, where they travel, who they hang out with. Have fun with the creature you meet and get to know them a little better. Take it past the formal definition of personification into something bigger (or smaller…) than that. Make them into a living, breathing, quirky individual.”

It just so happens that my “one little word” for the year is awe. How can I resist the chance to personify her? She is leaning in even now, to see what I will write…and waiting to be revealed.

At the beginning of the year I wrote a little poem that remains one of my favorites: Awe (The Blue Hour). If you click on that link you can scroll past the intro to find the poem. Today I attempt to rework it for Awe personified. With her help, of course.

For Day Seventeen of National Poetry Month

Awe 

She slips into the world quietly
born on the blue hour
at the falling away of day
and the coming of the night
unexpected but longed-for child
of Reverend Reverence and his indigenous wife
Waking Beauty

she takes their breath away
at first sight
they weep as they embrace
their tiny perfect child

Awe grows up studying the stars
under Waking Beauty’s tutelage
At her father’s knee, she listens
to stories of dreams and their interpretations
loving the sound of his rich, resonant voice
and the rustling of his fingers turning fragile pages

She thinks, When I grow up, I want to weave blankets
of stars and dreams and give them away
free for the taking

She thinks it, but Awe doesn’t speak it aloud
in fact, her parents grow worried
that she may never speak
until she startles them one gray, misty morning
by bursting forth in song at the breakfast table
her voice so high and pure
that Waking Beauty spills the juice
and Reverend Reverence nearly falls of his chair
instead he kneels in thanksgiving
while her mother dabs her eyes with a napkin

Awe sings for a moment
crystal notes hanging in the air
before dissolving into giggles
just as a shaft of sunlight
spills through the window

She decides she’ll be an artist

In smock and beret, palette poised
she considers the blank canvas
envisioning
at last determining
that there is no blue
without yellow and orange
and dips her brush

It is not enough for her to recreate nature
however

Awe must live and breathe it
and through it

So she walks in every season
through the countryside
through city streets
often wearing her cloak
of invisibility
undetected until
someone brushes against her
and realizes she’s there

she picks her moments
for revealing her presence
a peek at a time
of herself behind the cloak
smiling at transfigured faces
yes, full revelation
would be entirely too much

Awe is tireless in her weaving
of experiences
swimming the oceans
undaunted by depths and mysteries
scaling the mountains
unperturbed by heights and ice
she goes on through the storms
in the lightning, in the havoc
even in the horror
she is there
especially in
the aftermath
when people band together
to begin healing
one another

She stops by the house of worship
and lingers in the stillness
just waiting

the bird on the rooftop
understands
and sings
for all he is worth

Awe walks on
through shadowed back alleys
warming her hands
over the crackling fires
in our souls
at her whisper, we
beckon one another
to stop, come and be warm
instead of passing by
in blue wisps of smoke
curling upward and outward
in tendrils of wrongs

yes, even in the deepest darkness
Awe slips in quietly
carrying her candle
illuminating faces
and nodding at her reflection
in the eyes of those who see

silently offering her free blanket woven
of stars and dreams
and the color of forgiveness
in the blue hour

My drawing- the landscape spells AWE. Enhanced with Cartoona.

*******

also shared with with the Poetry Friday community, with gratitude to all and especially to Jama today for hosting

Habit acrostic

with thanks to Ruth Ayres at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog, for reiterating this truth: “Habit is essential for writers. If we develop a habit that allows us to enter into writing, then we will write more often.” She encourages the “magic” community to pay attention to the routines that make blog writing happen.

I am a morning writer. I love the rich, dark silence of the sleeping world around me, the freedom to hear my own uncluttered thoughts, the anticipation of gifts from the burgeoning day. I love the neighbor’s rooster, how his loud crowing wafts through the stillness; there are a few roosters in this neighborhood and sometimes they echo each other in a chorus of wild, rustic, joyful aliveness. It is a song of my soul. For a second, I have a sense of my young grandfather a hundred years ago, preparing for his farm chores, walking the fertile land he cultivated and loved all of his life, as darkness turns to light.

And so I write.

An acrostic, for Day Sixteen of National Poetry Month

Hallowed
Are these moments
Before the dawn
Immersed in words
The breathings of my being

If you are looking to write more or to develop a blogging habit, consider joining the vibrant community
at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog.