Tuesday, March 31, 2009

POEM: to know better

To accept responsibility
is to accept your pain
that place you acted out of
because you didn’t know any better

Now you don’t want to know any better
even tho it’s in front of you
confronting you

Because to know better
would mean you have to do better
and to do better would be to know
to admit
to own
that you should have done better
done things differently
would have done things differently
if they’d been different for you
better for you

But they weren’t
or different
and that hurts
to know
doesn't it?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

POEM: Tidbits

I like small poems
seemingly harmless
they are tasty soundbites
torn off in small portions
at thoughts and realizations
little by little
barely noticed
until there's nothing left
bones revealed
no scraps
no leftovers
only crumbs remain

POEM: Black Gold

My mother leaves my coffee can open
morning is stale, flat, weak

She uses the last slice of bread
noon is empty, unfullfilled, hungry

My mother put rotten food back in my refrigerator
my evening is disturbed


She says she didn't know where I wanted to put it
thought I had a special place
for things spoiled

I do
my childhood memories make handy containers

my dreams compost the scraps
slumbering, steaming, changing
awake I sift through the clumps
and enrich my writing with the best
of the worst

Friday, March 27, 2009

POEM: Alice in Writer-land

Poetry is easy
just follow the rabbit
and trust that the hole
leads somewhere

Fiction is hard
you have to convince
someone that there was a rabbit
and describe the hole
without revealing too much all at once
letting the reader follow you instead
and discover Wonderland for themselves

POEM: Daughter

I don't know who she is
everything seems affected
floating on the surface
just for play
nothing deep, no connection, no intimacy
her joyfulness infantile
she doesn't see me
and I try desperately to find her
or see myself there
behind those same eyes

POEM: I am

I am

words, thoughts, stories
what is right, what is wrong
embracing arms, stroking hands
flowing milk, tender lips
harsh voice, singing voice, silly voice
tears, shallow breath, unquiet mind
loose thoughts, dark places, wild
siren-song, high-pitched,wailing
regret, love, blocked, obstacle
dreams, hopes, fears, sorrow
lies, truth, painful, free




POEM: Shelf Life

Poetry doesn't keep
you can't put it on hold

that first thought
can't be put aside
it must be written down quickly
lest it fly away

The trail must be followed
leading you to the end
or you will get hopelessly lost
and never find your way again

Poetry is a dish best served hot
it goes bad quickly
one millisecond past the expiration date
and it is spoiled
barely resembling it's original form

POEM: Uprooted

I sat in that chair today
the one I spent years in, thinking
waiting, dying, wishing

It didn’t feel the same.

The view has changed only a little
one tree gone from a storm
laying on its side, dead,
across the dry gully
an unnecessary bridge

But otherwise, things look the same.

Time escaped me there,
sitting in that chair
or did I escape from it?

Did time and I become stuck
locked, stalled, immovable
neither one of us willing to budge
to get up out of that chair
if only to change our view

It was changed for us instead
nearly uprooted by a surprise storm
I managed to hang on
but the chair was changed forever
Time just kept on going, it didn’t look back


When people talk about forgiveness I think that they sometimes mean recognizing the humanity in another who has not shown any.

POEM: Morning Pages

Straight from sleep

my thoughts are deep

they will not keep

from my pen, they seep


People in the rearview mirror of life

may appear closer than they actually were

POEM: Phantom Limbs

Severed stump, frost-heaved
thick roots, gnarled and twisted,
slither through the mulch of dead leaves.

Tentacles reaching beneath the surface
searching for nourishment
though there is nothing left to feed

Monday, March 23, 2009

POEM: Morning Moon

Sliver of a morning moon

delicate, thin, pale

tangled bare limbs disect your light,

but cannot dim it, you are safe beyond their reach

ESSAY: Mountain Letters - My Writing Life

When I was a little girl of three, after watching someone on TV write something, perhaps it was Bugs Bunny scribbling a note to Elmer Fudd, I took a piece of paper and made my own wavy, jagged lines undulating across the page. Line after line I tried to imitate the crooked scribble I'd seen, imagining what it all said, probably even saying it out loud while I wrote. After I was done, I brought it to my mother in the kitchen and I proudly said, “Look Mommy, I wrote you this,” to which she offhandedly replied, “That’s nice, Honey, but those aren’t real words, real words have letters.” I was undeterred and snapped back, “These are real letters, they are mountain letters,” and off I went in a huff.
Rejection of one’s work is never easy.

I called them mountain letters because that is what they looked like to me then, like row after row of mountains, high and low, tall and small. But I knew my mother was right, they were not, in fact, real because I couldn’t remember what I had written, couldn’t tell what it said anymore. Some innate desire to communicate got the better of me. I went back into the kitchen and asked my mother to show me real letters. That day she showed me how to write my name. I was hooked. I wouldn’t leave her alone after that. Every chance I got I pestered her to teach me until I learned how to read and write. It was the greatest gift she ever gave me.

It wasn't long before I wrote my own stories, trying to emulate what I read in books. I remember some of those first pieces I wrote, they were always about a girl who discovered some secret, something that made her different from everyone else. She’d always known she was different, but now she understood why. And now that she understood that why, she needed to learn how to accept it, how to make use of it, or how to transcend it. Sometimes it would be all of the above. I think that scenario still captivates me to this day.

Songs came pouring out of me, too, sung loudly from my backyard swing set and later copied painstakingly into a notebook. Poems were written about flowers and secret woodlands, about dogs, about horses and best friends moving away. They were written about mean fathers and unbearable little brothers, too. There were love poems about teen idols like Donnie Osmond or David Cassidy. And eventually they were written about real boys, too -- oh my, the poems and love songs I have written through the years.

I wrote journal entries, copious diaries that started full of promise, overflowing with thoughts, hopes and dreams, only to drift into empty pages and be abandoned, then restarted in other notebooks, again and again. I was fickle.

I wrote letters, I wrote cards, I wrote children’s stories for the little kids in my family, my neighborhood, later for the children I was in charge of as a babysitter or nanny.

I wrote essays on politics, on music, on drugs, and on religion. I wrote plans for my future, names of my future children, lists of places I wanted to live, things I would someday do.

When I was 23 the place I lived in burned down in the middle of the night. I barely got out with my life. After, I was able to recover some things, but most of my writing was destroyed. I didn’t write anything for a long time. It was too hard to think of the fragility of it all, both life and word.

I did write during that awful decade I sat in a chair, fat, round, depressed, hiding from the world and stuffing my anxiety. But I never wrote about the things I should have. I didn’t write about being fat, or being scared, or being lifeless or empty. You could call it a different kind of writer’s block, more of a blockade. It was ok to write about this but not that, this can come out but that has to stay secret. Call it “selective writer’s block”…sort of like selective hearing.

Is there such a thing as selective living?

I wrote little when I was going through infertility, well, maybe a poem or two, but not much really. I didn’t write during any of my pregnancies. I think I was busy literally creating a person so I didn’t have any figurative creative energy to spare. Or maybe I was afraid to write about loving them too much until they were safely here. I had three miscarriages and did write poems about my lost babies, but only once they were gone.

When my two precious children were finally, safely, miraculously here on earth I loved them so much I gave all my energy to them, it flowed from me like milk from my breasts, vibrated from my aching tired arms after holding them for hours as they fussed or slept peacefully – I had little poetry for that, no prose could truly capture the essence of that painful heartbreakingly beautiful gut wrenching joy. That’s okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be with new babies. I wrote them each their own lullaby, beautiful in its simplicity. They think all children have personal lullabies. I hope they always do.

But now my children are not babies, they are still little but they are not newborn infants. Now my house will not burn down and even if it did I can keep back-up discs. Now I have lived 45 years and have come near death more times than I should have and know how fragile, how short life can be. I want to have something to show for it that is mine, mine alone. My children are a gift, and how they turn out is as much their own accomplishment as it is their father’s and mine. But my writing now is for me, it is for me to give to myself, to show myself that I matter on my own. I have something to say and I can say it in such a way as to make someone, anyone, feel. Even if more often than not that someone is just me.

And so I write. I write because it is the one constant in my life for nearly as long as I can remember. It is the only thing I have consistently been any good at, however good that may be. It is who I am. I would write even if no one read it but me. Even if everything I wrote looked like the mountain letter scribbles of a three year old, illegible, meaningless to anyone else, I would still write it down.

Monday, March 9, 2009

POEM: Cemetery View

Gray day, no rain now
the blank sky is still
Wet headstones are dark and clean,
dotted amongst the shrub punctuated lawn,
rising up here and there along the rolling field
Stone after stone, different shades of gray

A man stands silently before a grave, head bowed
his dark red sweatshirt erupts against the muted green lawn
against the bleak, white-gray sky,
against the quiet sleep of death
Life is dark red
A brief pop of color

Sunday, March 8, 2009

POEM: Brighid's Song

You are the cauldron and it’s hearthstone home
Both water and wellspring from whence it’s drawn
You are seed,
the bloom,
the heavy fruited vine
The hopeful sharpened plow and waiting fallow field
You are the green shaft of grain, the nourishing dark loaf
The Smith’s glowing forge and malleable iron both
A swift pointed arrow and the unknowing mark it seeks
The pen
the unsung words
the terrible white page, still blank
You are the candle and the flame it bravely bears
You are the mirror gazed upon…and the relection I see