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.
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.”
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 beto know this.
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 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
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.
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.
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.
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
perhaps united in silent ache today that love will find a way
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
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
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