Misty reflection

There’s a scientific explanation
for the mist rising
from the glassy ponds
along my morning commute

then there’s poetry
the perceiving of
elemental transitions
autumnal ghosts rising
from the silver surface

the old heron
is still there by water’s edge
not wading
but watching
in the cool gray
in-betweenness

quite possibly studying me
an unnatural phenomenon
a recurring phantasm
passing through
its world

Lumia Shot: Foggy WatersTom Mrazek. CC BY 2.0.

Something about September

Sunlight
still bright
takes on an amber tinge
the sky
day by day
almost imperceptibly
deepens its blue
still hot
in Carolina
but now she’s rolling up
her blanket of humidity
to put it away at last
there’s the first
tiny delicious trace
of coolness in the breeze
cicada choruses fade
day by day
a vintage time of year
I think to myself
remembering
how September stands
as a paradise paradox
regal in earth’s greatest finery
stitched with threads
of her greatest losses

September morning. rkramer62CC BY 2.0.ran

Grass poem

On the second day of the August Open Write at Ethical ELA, Margaret Simon shared “a photo that wants to be a poem.”

Here’s mine.

Release

I savor 
the secrets
of grass
in its returning
again and again
to a scarred surface.
I savor its growing
here in tangled profusion
with yellow foxtails
beckoning in the breeze
in the knowing
that when there comes
a mowing
the inner balm
ever-flowing
secretes itself
across the brokenness
releasing its sweetness
in the air.
What I savor
most of all
is breathing
the fragrance of grass 
healing itself.

Photo: Margaret Simon

Lingering

with thanks to Ruth for the inspiration at Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog:
“Invite the reader to linger and feel unexpected emotions.”

There was a time, before COVID, when we lingered. Not endured, not withdrew, not withstood…lingering did not mean an unshakeable cough, unshakeable fear, unshakeable uncertainty.

We lingered because we wanted to make the moments stretch and last. With purpose, holding onto goldenness before it melted away in lengthening shadows, desiring just to be, to savor, to breathe, without words for naming the why, unaware except in the deepest part of subconscious self that everything is temporal. Everything is always imperceptibly changing. We change, the people and creatures we love change. They leave us, in one way or another. In certain moments before the leaving, be it theirs or our own, we linger, suspending the faint ticking of the clock on the wall of our existence.

Tonight, I lingered.

I discovered that winter lingers even on the cusp of July. Not like the witch’s enchanted Narnia (“Always winter but never Christmas; think of that”). My granddaughter wanted to watch a Christmas movie. Why not? And so we did. The hour was already late but in summer bedtimes do not matter as much (for her, anyway. I fight the good fight). Winter scenes rolled across the screen before us…an era long past, row houses standing dark in the evening, nightfall coming early, deserted streets coated in ice…for a few seconds, I was in that place, feeling the bitter bite of frigid air, the crunching under my feet, the barrenness settling into my bones. I remembered being a child in winter, walking outside, wondering at the stillness, the delicious desolation. Winter has a scent, a taste. A cleanness. A sharpness, unlike the crispness of fall. Both bracing and tiring. A paradox. Winter is halflight, chiaroscuro in gray, white, blue, and black. The stars shine crystal-bright in winter, nearer than ever.

—all this in a few seconds watching a Christmas movie on a lazy, balmy night, the last of June, when rabbits are sneaking from the woods into my yard to nibble their fill of fresh clover.

My granddaughter remained wide-eyed throughout the movie while I lapsed in and out of dreams. Then with the going-to-bed ritual of my reading her a story, she just so happened to choose a book in which the word lingering appears on the last page…

That is the magical way of that word.

Both beckoning and reminding.

For memories linger far longer than moments…

A winter night. Mourner. CC BY 2.0.

Definito poem

On Day 10 of National Poetry Month, my friend Margaret Simon invites teacher-poets to compose a definito poem for VerseLove on Ethical ELA. It’s a form invented by her friend Heidi Mordhorst: “A free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which always ends the poem.” Margaret’s suggestions: “Choose a word that has a certain fascination to you. You can look for the Word of the Day or any word that comes to mind. Play with the etymology of the word. What do the sounds mean? How does the meaning play with your thoughts? Explore the word using imagery, metaphor, and word play.”

So… I tried, I really tried, two things: 1) Getting away from my OLW, “awe” and 2) Keeping to the recommended 8-12 lines. I failed in both. I did, however, have a lot of fun with the unfolding of this pseudo-definito…

Awe “Definito”

So, Children, 
maybe you have seen something
so wonderful
that you went all shivery inside
and maybe your skin
even got tingly
or goosebumpy

a thing
so beautiful 
that you don’t have a word
for how beautiful it is

the feeling you get when
the sun’s slanted golden light 
breaks through the clouds
after a storm
or when you see a rainbow, 
(not made with crayons,
a real one) in the misty height,
colors glimmering, glowing, blurring, 
an ethereal sight
ethereal? Sorry. It means 
to be so airy and light and beautiful
that the thing almost doesn’t belong
to this world
like stars, crystal-bright
against the black-velvet sky
on a winter’s night

maybe you have felt their stab of
silvery coldness, looking up
while your breath
hangs white
in the air

—yeah, that’s the feeling;
should we stop to
discuss metaphor
again?

No, it doesn’t have to be cold.

It can be a rush of warmth
on seeing a puppy
tiny, pink-mouthed, and so new
that its eyes are not yet open

—please note: The word is not spelled
the same way as what you say:
Awwww!
This, Children, is a homophone,
a poem for another day—

and the feeling might not come
from something you see
at all. 

It can come from something you hear. 
Once I was in an auditorium
where a girl who was trained in opera
sang just one high note;
her lips never moved
I couldn’t see her breathing
and the sound grew bigger
and bigger
and bigger
until the room
and my brain
and my heart 
were filled, almost bursting
with the pure, clear
starlike sound

-oh yes, I can tell by your eyes
and your open mouths
that you are beginning
to understand
awe.

After the tornado

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.

Rambling autobiography

I was born in a state named for a queen, by a river named for a king, and in a hospital named for the river. I adore books, words, wind chimes, church bells, birdsong, the crying of gulls at the shore, ocean waves crashing, the utterance of my newest name, Franna, in my granddaughter’s voice, the aliveness in my son’s fingers dancing over the keys of my grandmother’s piano until the house and my soul burst with his music, and silences. I bought a white flannel nightgown and sheets with bright red cardinals on them at Christmastime because Grandma loved cardinals and Christmas, it is the season of her birth and her death, she is nearest then, so now I lay me down to sleep in heavenly peace. I have her wedding band; I wear it every day. I never dreamed of being a teacher. One of my sons became a teacher, too, then a preacher, like his father. When I was eight or nine, I had an imaginary black cat; one time after climbing from the backseat of Grannie’s car, I flung my hand out to keep the imaginary cat from escaping and Grannie slammed the door on my fingers (no one ever knew about the cat…sorry, Grannie, it wasn’t your fault). My favorite place is out in the middle of nowhere along an old dirt road where my grandmother then my father then I played as children, where cicadas in the woods sing as loud as Heaven’s choir about being born, living, dying, and the Resurrection. I can still smell Old Spice in the cool of those evenings when Granddaddy leaned down to offer me his clean-shaven cheek to kiss, Good night, I love you, see you in the morning. I dated the handsomest black-haired man I’ve ever seen for just three months when we decided to get married, thirty-seven years ago. I fainted at a funeral one summer afternoon but not from grief. I gave my real black cat to Daddy when I got married because I couldn’t take her to the tiny apartment that would be my new home. I once had a yellow parakeet; Daddy got it for my sixth birthday and it lived until I was twelve, dying one summer when I was at Grandma’s playing on the old dirt road — such a mysterious balance, the giving of things and the living of them. I am a grandmother now. I want to have a good dog as long as I am alive and to see my granddaughters grown into all their beautiful becomings before the cicadas sing me away to the riverside where I shall meet the King, at last.

If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

Psalm 139:9-10

*******

with many thanks to Denise Krebs for the inspiration. Here are Denise’s starters (borrowed from Linda Rief) for a rambling autobiography:

I was born…
I adore…
I bought…
I have…
I never…
One of my…
When I was (age)…
My favorite place…
I can still (sense)…
I dated…
I fainted…
I gave…
I once had…
I am…
I want to…

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

Listen

We know that silence is for the soul,
replenishing what’s extracted
in the grind of daily living

that meditation calms the body
as well as the mind

but

do we realize silence
is a form of listening

a sacred gift, an offering
of ourselves to others, yes,
and also to ourselves

For I find myself

slipping into hidden cracks
of my existence
over and over

just to listen

Rooster crowing while it is yet dark
and all the day long
tinged with urgent longing
not altogether of this earth

Wind in the chimes, unseen fingers at play,
the invisible howling creature under the eaves
out of pain now, and at rest

Listen

birds

Children reading, hesitant, halting
a pump handle scraping until
—there now, there now, there’s the flow

The muted beat of drums, upstairs
my boy recording a song
both melody and harmony,
the rhythms of his heart
translated to keys and strings

same as I translate rhythms
of words to page

Listen

The timbre of voices long-loved
each like a blanket
for wrapping around
and resting within

Listen

Deep in angry torrents
born from undercurrents
surging over
razor-edged
ice-hot stones
of fear and pain
—there, the slashed heart cries
unassuaged
unabated

just love me

while in the sky

geese

House popping and cracking
yawning, stretching
settling back to sap-drenched dreams
of branches and green

much like me, holding a shell to my ear,
seeking the ocean
not necessarily one of this earth
but the sea-response
of my own brain,
echoing

resounding

reverberating

against my soul

Listen

may well be
the holiest of words.

*******

Photo: Listen. Rick and Brenda Beerhorst. CC BY

I enjoy that “Blessed are those who actually listen” photo. I also used it last November to accompany a pantoum poem: The sound of gratitude.

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year and I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approachOn Day 12, I am writing around a word beginning with letter l.

Also shared with the Poetry Friday gathering – many thanks to Heidi for hosting the Roundup.

Cry

Originally composed and posted as “The cry” on Saturday, February 27, with thanks to Ruth at SOS – Sharing Our Stories: Magic in a Blog for the initial inspiration to “write fast.” Reposted here today as a reminder that revision is also writing…

I heard it again. It stirred me from my luxurious Saturday-drowse. A loud cryyyy cryyy cryyy from the backyard, or very nearby. I threw off the blankets and ran out on the deck, promptly soaking my socks in the day-old rainwater.

I dreamt, once, that I was standing here exactly like this, looking up at the northwestern sky, when an eagle flew by. Bald eagles do live around here. I have seen them on occasion. I’m convinced that an eagle’s (big, sloppy) nest is on the top of a water tower on the highway around the bend. In my dream, I was awed by the eagle and knew it portended something good.

But eagles don’t have the beautiful, poignant cryyy cryyy cryyy I am hearing on this early, pearl-sky morning. All other life seems to be slumbering but for this phantom bird, the lusty rooster across the street, and me. Day is just barely fading in.

It cries again, in the stillness. The air rings with its sharpness, with the curve and edge of it.

It’s a hawk. It has to be. I’ve seen several in recent weeks, since the turn of the year. During an icy spell in January, when I went for a short walk in thin winter sunlight that gilded the bare trees and glittered on the grass, I watched a hawk gliding low overheard, never flapping its wings, staying aloft as if by magic.

Returning to the warmth of the house in my sodden socks, I make coffee and settle at my laptop to search.

Definitely not an eagle. That call is feeble in comparison to the one I just heard. I know hawks’ voices are dubbed for eagles’ in movies.

Not a red-tailed hawk, though. What a hair-raising, harrowing scream.

Then… yes!

A red-shouldered hawk. Fluid, syllabic, downward inflection. Exactly what I heard from somewhere over in the smattering of pines between my neighbor’s house and mine, where I dreamed the eagle flew. I’d rather hear this cry even if I cannot see the hawk. The sound scrapes against my heart. 

It has something to do with the aching aliveness of things, despite the hawk being a predator. If I want to focus on symbolism, there’s a lot: intuition, spirituality, power…

But now, now, as the rooster picks back up with his daylong rusty-bugle solo (that’s one vigorous creature!), there’s a familiar cheep cheep warble at the front door, so happy and so loud that it seems almost to be in my house.

The finches! They made their annual nest in my door wreath last spring but didn’t lay eggs as in previous years, when I held my granddaughter up to see the nestlings. For some reason, they disappeared. And left me bereft. One more little layer of heartache in a deeply heartrending year. When I took the wreath down in the fall, I mourned over the perfect, unused nest.

I saved it. I couldn’t toss such artistry away.

I put my spring wreath up early. Like, at the end of January.

When I went to look for the chattering finches just now, I couldn’t see them any more than I could see that hawk this morning; I believe the little birds were sitting in the wreath, voicing (to me) their delight. 

There’s likely to be babies at my door by Easter.

And, I hope, somewhere high in the lonesome pines.

Red-shouldered hawk. Don Miller. CC B

*******

The annual Slice of Life Story Challenge with Two Writing Teachers is underway, meaning that I am posting every day in the month of March. This marks my fifth consecutive year. I’m experimenting with an abecedarian approach: On Day 3, I am writing around a word beginning with letter c.