Monday, January 31, 2011

A Silence




Today's poem, originally published in Silhouette, is the end result of a self-imposed writing exercise. 

I pick a word at random, in this instance "silence," then I try to block out everything else, focus completely on this one word until images start gathering.

Then I write ... and write ... and write. After that, of course, comes the revision ... many revisions, until what I've written has been boiled down to its very essence.


Then, perhaps, it's ready to travel. After all, poetry – if that's what results from all this process – is meant to be shared. If it doesn't turn out to be poetry, well, it's been a good, healthy exercise, at least.

The poem:

A SILENCE

There was a silence
between them, a wall
that neither wanted,
yet they had built it
together, rock upon hard,
uncaring rock. And now,
from opposite sides
of it, he watched
his coffee cooling off,
she used her fork
to turn a cold remnant
of fried egg on her plate,
quietly examining it
like a fine jewel.
© 1997

Today's word: silence

Sunday, January 30, 2011

When the Frost Comes




Most of my poems are fairly upbeat. Oh, there are those I've written just for myself ... a little less than upbeat in instances, I suppose ... poems that deal with pain ... and healing.

I find some release ... some relief ... for having written them. They are unlikely ever to be shared.

Then there are those like today's.

It's not an upbeat subject ... this matter of loss ... personal loss.


Still, in coming to grips with loss, we sometimes do find a degree of comfort ... I don't know if that's the right word ... an easing, I guess, of the burden imposed upon us.


I hope that comes through in today's poem:


WHEN THE FROST COMES

We miss the flowers
that kept us company
during summer months.
Well into the winter
we savor the memories
of their nodding under
the weight of foraging
bees, of their colors
lifting our spirits.

And so it is
with dear friends
and companions.

When they have gone,
we remember the bright
times we shared, how
we cheered each other,
and we cherish these
good memories, flowering
long after the frost,
to give us sustenance.
© 2003
(originally published in Brave Hearts)

Today's word: sustenance

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Tulsa or Bust




I've written about finding a broken pencil with only a few words left in it ... the frantic search for a scrap of paper ... any tiny piece will do ... to write down an idea before it flits away ... the hurdles, the barriers, the great feeling of success. All about writing.



It's not that I consider myself an expert on writing. Far from it. I continue to be mystified by the process ... curious about how ... and why ... poems sometimes come sneaking up on me ... but not baffled ... no, I would not say baffled ... not completely, any way.


"Tulsa or Bust" is also about writing.


As you may note, writing about writing sometimes takes some strange turns on the road to completion and eventual publication, in this instance in 
ByLine Magazine:


TULSA OR BUST

The paper's dry,
drier than
my driest poems,
threatening
to shatter,
turn to dust,
so I must write
quickly, softly,
cautiously,
choosing only
fluffy, light
subjects like
a "Wash Me"
written large
on the back
of a truck
lumbering
toward Tulsa.
© 1999

Today's word: lumbering

Friday, January 28, 2011

That New Day





I've thought of country mornings a lot of times when I was struggling into another day, far removed from those early beginnings.

I've missed the "leisure" of "working by the sun," rather than under the stern eye of the ever-glaring clock. I've missed those mornings when I could lie in bed a few extra minutes, savoring the return to wakefulness.

I've missed the sounds that filled the spaces between the trees back then. Now it's the sounds of the cars and trucks and buses that echo off the buildings and clog our senses.

What I've missed most, I think, is the sound of a cow bell coming to me from a meadow just beginning to fill with light.


Now that was music to a young boy's ears.

And now, the poem:

THAT NEW DAY

Sounds came crawling across the coolness
of the damp night air, climbed into the cot


where I lay stretching to touch the sides
of that new day. A screen door squeaked


open, then shut again. A tractor groaned,
fired up, deep, throaty song floating to me


like a breeze. Struggling early light visited
a hint of warmth high on the hilltop trees,


an image of candy-apple red slowly rising
in my mind's eye over the wooded brow


of the opposite ridge. A cow bell clanked
into the silence the tractor left as it went


rolling off toward a waiting field; so long
ago, but like yesterday. And I hear it now.
© 2005

(published in Brave Hearts, summer 2005)

Today's word: meadow

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Spiraling Home





(One of my small acrylic paintings which came to mind when today's poem got my attention)




I'm putting this together between a series of "sprints" ... efforts to make up for the time and distance I lost during a tussle with phone line/computer problems ... among other things.




I sometimes think I should just reconcile myself to the fact that I will not likely catch up ... ever again. But I keep trying.




Meanwhile ... one of the readers at an evening of poetry mentioned that autumn was her favorite season. At that very moment I felt that we had bonded.




It's my favorite, too ... although the other seasons have certain redeeming aspects, it's autumn that gets my vote.




There's just something about the colors, the quiet that seems to come with the transition ... at least I perceive it as a time of quiet ... of reflection ... such a peaceful interlude.




But let's let the poem speak for itself:



SPIRALING HOME


I have carried with me
Southern Illinois autumns,
fragile and enduring,
all these brittle years.

Still they comfort me,
memories showering down
in the autumn of my life.

Leaves spiraling to feathery
soft landings on woodland soil
waiting patiently for them,
children finally returning
to their beginnings.
© 1995
(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)
Today's word: enduring

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Reaching Out





I'm not sure where or when this poem actually began. 

Poems sometimes have a way of hanging around ... lurking ... waiting for the right moment ... and then presenting themselves to me.

I think this one had its roots in the time and place where I grew up. We lived on a small piece of land just outside a small farming community, so it was not truly a lonely existence, in the sense of being a stranger among strangers.

We knew everybody ... and I presume everybody knew us. We were among friends.

Still, there were times of loneliness, times when there were no playmates, times when there was nobody to talk to, except my grandparents ... and they were sometimes occupied with their own concerns.

So I think this poem may have been speaking to that time and place, particularly with its reference to the hills ... "my voice flying" ... "someone hearing, answering" ... but I really think it speaks of a hopeful outcome.

We could all use a bit of that.

And now the poem:

REACHING OUT 

Let me stand
in the clear blue
of morning,
sun rising, warming
the waiting hills,
and my voice flying
through the silence,
someone hearing,
answering, more
than an echo,
a kindred spirit.
© 1998

(originally published in The Christian Science Monitor)

Today's word: kindred

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Paths That Crossed





After I retired from my "regular" job, I began looking for something else to do, something structured, something which would take me outside these walls on a regular basis, something to ease this void in which I found myself.


I found all of that in becoming a "temp," a temporary worker who had a variety of assignments, doing inventory, sorting, filing, things I could do without stress or strain.


Then I found myself assigned to a project which was expected to last a couple of years, maybe more. What a great assignment that was, working with people of a wide range of ages, from a variety of backgrounds, all of us learning the routines, growing, settling in, enjoying this adventure.


Then another door opened, an offer of "early retirement," which I took. But I didn't just walk away. You don't do that with a family of friends. I maintained contact (and it wasn't just for the monthly carry-ins for sharing tons of cake in celebration of birthdays), watched the others continuing their growth, celebrated their successes, shared in their setbacks.

After our latest gathering once again for lunch  I was reminded of the poem I had written ... a rather long time ago, now.


It's an effort to capture some of those feelings,  to preserve some of it for myself, perhaps some for them, too.


PATHS THAT CROSSED

First the warehouse site,
then Newmark and Woodman.
How the paths of lives
came crisscrossing there
with the burgeoning work!


My own path veered away
at the end of '90, but
came back several times
as ever-widening circles
tested the boundaries
of my untethered life.


Now the grass reclaims
my old path, footprints
erased, nothing to mark
my having ever been there.


But I possess evidence.


The landscape of my mind
is alive with these paths,
tracks of those crossing
the path of my own life,
seemingly without design
or plan, yet unerringly.


These stored memories
endure on a gentle slope
teeming with paths strong
where crossings link them,
and likely to cross again.
© 1995
Today's word: paths

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ordinary Moments





Sometimes it seems that all my poems are rooted in memory.


This one is no exception.


From those distant beginnings ... the foundation stones of all those "ordinary moments" in a young boy's life ... to today ... there's a long bridge of discovered excitement, adventure.


I often go trudging back across that bridge, in search of those beginnings, because I see them now as more than just ordinary events.


Isn't that always the case?


The poem:


ORDINARY MOMENTS


... in which I discover

travel-rounded stones

on the meandering

creek bed of my mind,

each a found treasure

whirring me back

to rainy days spent

with musty books, nights

floating in wood smoke,

mornings with eggs

frying in a dark skillet,

moments when the world

seemed to be

just waiting for me

to kick off the covers,

resume my pursuit

of this great adventure.

© 2001

(originally published in Midwest Poetry Review)

Today's word: travel-rounded

Sunday, January 23, 2011

My Song







A dozen or so years ago, when I wrote today's poem, I had no idea I would still be writing in 2011 ... or even that there might still be "wisps of thought gathering softly in the valleys of my mind."

But I am, and there still are.

Writing, of course, is a gift. I view it not as a talent which few others have, but as a gift, because the words simply come, freely, to the patient writer ... all writers know this. 

When they are ready, the words will come ... showing themselves softly, perhaps, like a thistle drifting past, or like a blast entering through a door suddenly opened to it. But they will come.

Writing derives from other gifts, as well. The gift of time, for example. I have been given time to write, thanks to Phyllis, who allows me the quiet moments I need, who gives me the encouragement I crave, who is so patient and caring, so vital to me ... like the air I breathe.

Then there are the gifts of support, words of encouragement, advice, concern, from other family members, from friends and fellow writers, from editors who've liked my work, from those who listen attentively at readings.

These things make writing the greatest gift I can imagine receiving ... they keep making me feel "like a teakettle on the verge of song." And I thank you, one and all.

The poem:

MY SONG

Like a teakettle
on the verge of song,
I have endured
the silent years
and now give vent
to the poems welling,
willing themselves
into being.

My joy-filled song
is the scratch
of pencil on paper,
racing to catch
the wisps of thought
gathering softly
in the valleys
of my mind.
© 1997
(originally published in 
ByLine)

Today's word: verge

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Leaky Roof




The morning seemed to start off with a bit of fog ... most of my mornings seem to start that way, even when the sun is shining brightly ... so it was no surprise when ... I woke up ... late, thirsty ... thinking foggily of clouds, rain, roofs, leaky roofs ... and this poem came to mind:


THE LEAKY ROOF

We knew just where
to put pots and pans

when the rain came
suddenly weeping

through our roof,
its pit, pat, pit-pat

lullaby lingering
long after the storm

had droned off into
distant, grumbling

thunder, leaving
a morning residue

of splatters
and puddles,

blankets on a line,
featherbed sprawled

like a newborn calf
broadside of the sun.
© 2001

(received an honorable mention award in Ohio Poetry Day competition; subsequently published in my first collection, Chance of Rain ... Finishing Line Press, 2003)

Today's word: grumbling

Friday, January 21, 2011

In Praise of the Mundane




(Today's art is a cooperative effort ... my grandson, Thomas, did the construction ... I took the photo

It seems like only yesterday ... but obviously was a little longer ago than that ... when I shared my poem, "Ordinary Things," with you ... and mentioned that it was an outgrowth of a rejection.

In response to my request for his comments on some poems I had submitted, the editor had scrawled something about "mundane treatment of ordinary subjects" on the rejection slip. 


My initial reaction? I had hoped for something a little more constructive. 


But I managed. As a matter of fact, I managed to get two more poems out of that comment.


Oh, and both were subsequently published ... elsewhere. I think there's an obvious lesson in that ... so obvious that even Professor Squigglee (remember him?) would be unlikely to fly into a detailed explanation.


Today's poem:

IN PRAISE OF THE MUNDANE


I don't howl at the moon,
read the entrails of chickens,
plumb the mysteries that reside
in the implacable eyes of cats,
nor take up strange, aromatic
cigarettes, sip unaccumstomed
teas, nor leave my body
to roam the universe.

I do write across the chalkboard
of my mind, or on a torn paper,
an envelope, about simple things
that come to me of their own accord,
quiet, mundane things that I welcome
and treasure as old friends.
© 1996

(originally published in ByLine Magazine)
Today's word: mundane

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Hello, Morning





During my working years, mornings were not my favorite time of day, largely because of the early hour at which my work days began, partly because of the pressures of work.


Ah, but retirement brought a change. Now I could sleep in, if I chose, and I could ... within certain limits ... set my own agenda for the remainder of the day.


So what did I do? Miracle of miracles, I started getting up early ... voluntarily ... and I found things to occupy my day ... a bit of art, a bit of writing, a bit of walking, a bit of watching the sun come creeping up over the horizon ... or watching it melting slowly into the western rim of the world.


The poem:



HELLO, MORNING

Early light
feels its way
across the top
of my fence,
gently warming
weary, weathered
boards, faint
yellow softness
spreading like
creamy frosting
on this new day.
© 1997
(originally published in Capper's)



Today's word: melting

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Glimpse





Just as distance changes the perspective of things in the physical world, so does it change the perspective we have on events of long ago.


It's been a long time since I "lived in the country." By today's standards, it was a rather restricted life. We had no running water, no indoor plumbing, no central heat, no telephone, no car.


Ah, but there are other things I remember about life back then, and I still savor them. Actually, their flavor seems to improve ... like warmed over soup ... each time I bring up those memories.

Perhaps I've overdone it a bit with my talk about "that bit of heaven so far beyond the grasp of cities, and all their suburbs ... " but perhaps not.


The poem:

GLIMPSE


Those who have never been
lulled by a country breeze,
savored the scent of hay
lying in the sun, caught
the sweet, wafting hint
of honeysuckle, who have
never heard the raucous call
of a crow gentled, distanced
by the summer air, well,
they've never glimpsed that
bit of heaven so far beyond
the grasp of cities, and all
their suburbs still to come.
© 2000

(originally published in 
PKA's Advocate)
Today's word: grasp

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Fireflies







Fireflies seemed such magic creatures in the place where I spent my early years.

They still do.

Especially in that period of transition from day to night, when darkness is beginning to settle in, they do seem to be wavering up some kind of invisible ladder.

They do seem to be signalling to us "that dreams still take wing."

Today's poem:

FIREFLIES

Slowly, randomly they rise
from daytime resting places
into the cool, embracing night.

Tiny wings whirring against
the sodden, clinging atmosphere,
they labor to lug their lights


blinking up wavering ladders,
beacons signaling that dreams
still take wing on such a night.
© 1997

(originally published in Sisters Today)


Today's word: randomly

Monday, January 17, 2011

Empty Boxes




Oh, I know, tulips are a little out of season right now, but I've seen enough of snow lately.

This is an inventory poem, a listing of items. But it's far more than that. It's a poem about departure, loss, a certain amount of pain.


"Healing," perhaps, is too strong a word for the ending, although I felt a need for something ... for comforting, I guess, as I looked over some of the items left behind by one of our sons.


He had discarded them as being of no use to him in his new location, his situation of being out there in the world on his own. I was double-checking, I suppose, to make sure he wasn't throwing away anything of value.


The basement was very quiet that evening. The memories came flooding back. It was the same ... all those memories ... with the departure of each of our four sons.


There was always that twinge of sadness at the ending of another chapter in our lives. Even with the good memories to bolster me, there was this sense of loss at their leaving to live on their own.


In that awful quiet that settled in then, I had to remind myself that they would do well, they would stay in touch, they would be back. We would still be a family, as we had always been.


Then I could throw away the empty boxes. But I kept the memories.


This poem received a First Place award in the Ohio Poetry Day Competition of 2000, and is now part of a manuscript in search of a publisher:


EMPTY BOXES


I touch worn corners,
torn, misshapen lids,
as though mere touching
might ease the pain,

and in the scattered
emptiness I find
a battered brown bag
with a piece of paper

crumpled in a corner
like a dried leaf,
folders for your
drawings, writings


sprawling across pages,
a fragment of pastel,
pencils, a flattened
glove, engulfing me


with memories as I
sort through, hoping
to find somewhere
a measure of healing.
© 2006

Today's word: crumpled