Wednesday, June 14, 2006

My Window ...

The pristine page

is a window

through which

I view the world

with my imperfect

vision, attempting

to make sense

of what I see,

while the world,

at least a small

portion of it,

stares back, trying,

equally, to see

whats up with me.

© 2000

(originally published in PKA's Advocate)

I write a lot about writing. Don't get me wrong ... I'm no expert. I am intrigued by the process, the way ideas come creeping up, the shape-shifting of words and phrases, the way poems are born.

I write essentially for myself, expressing my feelings, my thoughts, my dreams, in the hope that I might understand them better. Still, much of the process remains a mystery to me. I am intrigued, entranced sometimes, by that process.

And I share. What I've written is always shared with Phyllis, who has sat through so many first readings, who has given me so much encouragement, that I shall never be able to repay her. I share some of what I've written with poetry groups.

I share when I give public readings. I share by way of this journal and through a weekly e-mailed newsletter. I share when an editor discovers something I've written, likes it, publishes it.

Oh, I share.

And I depend on the listener or reader to share reactions with me. I really do. I value these reactions, because they provide a measure of whether I have truly hit the mark with what I have written.

They tell me much about what I have written, of course, but their reactions also tell me something about the listener or reader ... the poem becomes that window through which we view each other.

Thank you for looking in while I continue looking out.


Today's word: pristine

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Magran, for those kind words. I admire your ability to say a lot with few words, the mark of an experienced writer. Best wishes to you in your own writing.

Thank you so much, Marlene, for those words of high praise. Oh, if I could live up to them! I keep trying, and trying, and trying, as all writers do, I believe. I'm glad you hear music in some of the words I've put to paper, and then here. Remember, though, that I believe much ... very much ... depends on what the reader brings to the poem. Blessings to you, too.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Air Like Fog ...

I'll always remember those bluffs, those canyons they embraced, the cool air on the trails, the kind of quiet that is only found in the woods.

Giant City State Park, located in the hills of Southern Illinois, seemed an almost magical place to go when I was a child. What a treat it was to trudge those trails, imagining all the others who had walked there before, when it was all wilderness.

As a child I relished family outings there, especially those which extended into the evening, when we'd sit around, watching the crackling flames dancing in a fireplace in one of the shelters, listening to the adults trading stories, hoping to catch some of the night sounds of the woods, too.

Later, I took my own young family there to camp, to go tramping down the same trails I had explored, to let them feast on the same sights and sounds I had enjoyed.

In more recent years, when there were just the two of us on trips back to the place where I grew up, we always managed at least a drive through the park. Those drives rekindled so many memories ... so many ...

This poem, which embodies some of those memories, is part of my first collection, Chance of Rain, published by Finishing Line Press:

Air Like Fog

Morning air clings to me like fog

as I enter the deep, cool canyons

that thread the water-rounded bluffs,

where I pause for a moment to look

about, to drink an ancient silence

that flows and deepens while lichens

struggle up the pocked, towering walls,

up, up toward a swallow's nest, high

where clinging ferns await the random

blessings of summer shade and transient

yellow light; then I notice soft-edged

flecks of light dancing on the trail

where others must have stood watching,

where they may have heard, as I do now,

a crow, distant, calling them by name.

© 2005


Today's word: crackling

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Running the Hurdles ...

I know, I know ... two wrongs don't make a right, right? Still, I was struck by how two mistakes ... little ones, mind you ... came together to provide today's entry.

First the photo. I had a new camera. Who hasn't fiddled with a new toy, trying to figure out how it works, without all the bother of reading a lot of boring, technical stuff?

I knew it had some kind of gizmo that would allow me to take my own picture, or appear in the photo with others, if I chose. But I wasn't exactly sure how it worked.

I pushed a few buttons and set the camera on a nearby shelf. I waited. I waited and waited. Nothing seemed to be happening. I decided to take a look to see what was wrong. At that instant, I heard a tiny z-z-z-z-zip, and I was recorded for posterity.

Blurred, but recorded.

The poem, I think, cries out for more poetic detail ... and more detail would call for more than its eight short lines could deliver. The poem may, in fact, have been longer when it was first written ... but I was under the mistaken impression that Capper's only published eight-line poems.

So there you have it, the story of two mistakes coming together to make today's entry.

Running the Hurdles

Have you

ever noticed

how many more

things go wrong

when you're trying

to get away

early, or make up

for lost time?

© 1997


Today's word: gizmo

Sunday, April 9, 2006

Haiku #75 ...

I lived along a lightly graveled road, way back then.

The tires of passing cars and trucks didn't really sing to themselves there. It was more of a rumbling sound, especially with the trucks loaded with produce which would eventually end up in some distant city.

It was something of an experience to hear tires singing on the stretch of blacktopped road leading into the village ... or better yet, on "the hard road," U.S. Highway 51, which ran through town.

I'll never forget hearing that on one of the hottest days in the hottest part of summer. I just closed my eyes and listened. It really did sound like a distant, steady frying noise.

Perhaps it was the combination of hot pavement and travel-heated tires, the density of that moist summer air, or simply my young imagination, but it was definitely a haiku moment, long before I knew what a haiku was.

This one was originally published in Capper's:

sitting in the shade

listening to the traffic

making frying sounds

© 1995


Today's word: frying

Thursday, April 6, 2006

Catching a Wave ...

I don't think I was intended to be a morning person. Mornings have always been a struggle for me.

I know, I know. Morning is the best part of the day for the writer. Other concerns have not begun to intrude. The house is quiet. The brain is rested, ready to rev. Here's a whole new day beckoning.

But for me it's ... well, it's just morning. It takes me a little while to build some momentum.

I roll over, get one foot on the floor, then the other. I stand. I go teetering off in the general direction of the keyboard. I find the switch, flick it on.

By this time I have both eyes open. Things are starting to come into focus. And then, look out. Oh, look out! I'm starting to roll. I may be writing soon.

This one was first published in Capper's:

Catching a Wave

Down the avenues of my early-morning

mind zooms a flood of crowded, honking

thoughts that seek a place to park.

Im too tired to direct traffic, too stressed

to sort them out. That must wait till later,

tongue losing its taste of suede, on the

verge of talk. But then theyre gone, not

a thought in sight, not a word of that

early-morning roar. Perhaps tomorrow.

© 1999

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, punky. I wouldn't want this to become a divisive public issue, but it's nice to know someone else feels the same way I do about mornings.

Oh, those lost thoughts, Faye, as you know, are such fragile things. Just a slight touch of neglect and - POOF! - they're gone. I've learned that the hard way. Still, a little investment of a scrap of paper, a little time, and they can be rescued. Easier said than done, of course.


Today's word: momentum

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sun Catcher ...

Delia was my grandmother. I can still see her in that cold kitchen, the old wood-burning stove starting to throw out some heat, the skillet in place, waiting for warmth, a dab of oleo, an egg.

The kitchen faced west, but there was a side window that caught a bit of the morning sun. That's where the "film of frost gathered the gold ... poured it softly, like warm milk ... "

Of course, our memories become polished with much handling ... they take on a sheen far beyond that of the original event, and that has happened with this mental picture I still carry with me.

Oh, how I treasure it. The poem was originally published in A New Song:

Sun Catcher

A film of frost

gathered the gold

of morning sun

on the window,

poured it softly,

like warm milk,

into the kitchen

where Delia

stood working,

embracing her

with a radiance

like the words

of her prayer

being whispered

to the music

of preparations

for another day.

© 1998

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

Thank you, Stormie, thank you!


Today's word: sheen

Friday, March 3, 2006

Who Lives There? ...

This is a poem that came to me on the bus, was largely written on the bus, because it took hold of me ... and wouldn't let go.

Over time, I became aware of that window, that struggling plant. It got so I was watching for that cracked window each day when my bus went rolling down the hill, or climbing back up it on the way home.

I kept expecting to see someone at the window, watering the plant, turning it to face the sunlight, or simply looking out at the passing traffic. But I never did.

Still, the plant hung on, seemed to be growing, leafing out slightly, and I kept wondering who lived there with it ... "what small measures of encouragement" they shared.

Originally published in Poem, now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:

Who Lives There?

In an upstairs window,

below a sagging

gutter, beside siding

wind-peeled and flapping,

beneath a window shade

water-stained and torn,

behind a pane cracked

diagonally like a fragile

promise, sits a spindly

plant taking what sun

it can on a winter day,

while my bus struggles

in its uphill climb

toward a daily nagging

question: Who lives

there with this plant,

and what small measures

of encouragement do they

have to bridge the days?

© 2006


Today's word: encouragement

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

I Could Have Played Piano ...

Once upon a time, my grandparents had a piano. I believe it was for my mother, but I never heard her play it.

It sat in our living room. I remember a piano tuner coming once to do his magic on it. But mostly it just sat. Oh, I plinked and plunked on it when nobody was looking. But, of course, I couldn't play it.

I didn't feel deprived, and I don't now. There was that imposing upright musical instrument which fed my imagination. I dreamed of playing it someday ... like I dreamed of many other things.

Then one day it was sold. Strangers came to move that magical creation carefully through the front door, down the front steps and into the truck.

And that was that ... except for the poem (be prepared for a slight twist with this one), originally published in Midwest Poetry Review:

I Could Have Played Piano

My long, skinny fingers

itching for things to do,

toes just barely reaching

the pedals, and my bottom

gripping the slippery edge

of the bench, I dreamed

of playing ragtime, gospel,

boogie-woogie, maybe even

some of that girl-pleasing,

tough, classical stuff.

What I did was what

seemed to come naturally.

With only one lesson,

I flung myself into all

of the old favorites,

playing each several times

before going exuberantly

to the next. Finally,

Grandpa admitted he was

sorry he had taught me

what could be wrought

with a comb and paper.

Oh, I could have played

piano, no doubt, but my lips

wouldn't feel all numb

and fuzzy, like they do now.

© 1997

Afterthoughts ... in response to your comments:

I just might try those lessons, Meg ... even though I have visions of driving some poor, unsuspecting teacher up the wall. Meanwhile, I shall continue my listening. I'm a fan of piano, even when I don't know the title of what's being played. But violin is my favorite ... it has so many voices, can convey so many moods. Thanks for your suggestion.


Today's word: fuzzy

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Summer Dancers ...

I thought you might not mind a summer poem today, a mini-break from what remains of winter.

I'm not quite ready for an abrupt plunge into summer weather, mind you ... I can take a transition to spring first. I do find myself thinking more of summer, though, in this opposite season. I don't tolerate winter cold as well as I once did, and shoveling has become more of a chore.

Of course, when summer really comes, I'll probably find myself thinking of crisp, cool mornings, the sun glinting on a new covering of snow ... my search for mittens and scarf.

Meanwhile, here's a glimpse of a place long, long ago and far away, originally published in Capper's:

Summer Dancers

Flecks of sunlight

descend through

the leafy canopy,

dancing on the path,

still dancing

after the breeze

has gone off

toward a hillside

lush with wheat

that slowly leans

and straightens,

as though hearing

soft music, too.

© 2001


Today's word: canopy