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Middle of July

backyard is a wide sweep of greengreengreen
dotted with waves of white clover
dash of dashing rabbits
and one almost red tomato

Working On It

From Day 5 of Every Day Is A Poem class: “It takes work to be in awe,” writes poet and teacher Jacqueline Suskin. This final day’s lesson is all about giving yourself permission to be creative.

Since I live alone
there is no one
I must ask.
sometimes long, harsh lists
of Things To Get Done
Or Fix
Or Buy
Or Clean
are the mean and clever
ways I say no.

Who Do You Write For?

Why do you write? And who are you writing for? Those are the questions posed in Day 4 of the poetry online class I’m taking.

Weirdly, I had already been thinking about this a lot this week.

When I write my morning poems, this practice I’ve drifted away from, I don’t have to think about the why and who it’s for–when I’m actively doing it, those answers are so clear to me.

I write for you, stranger,
who I picture as a version of me
sitting in a cafe
reading and that click
of connection

Mostly, I write for me
for the moment at the end of the day
when I am tired, and morning is
long past and I think,
Did I write a poem this morning?
I write for that pink flush of joy
when the answer is Yes.

My Father’s Map

Prompt, Day 3: Use the senses. Use joy. Use suffering.
Memory is inspiration, says the poetry teacher
The past? A map of your experience, she says.

Last night, a closer look at a hidden map
As if you opened up a stranger’s glove compartment–
(Do they still call them glove compartments?)
As if you opened it and pulled out a paper map
crumpled corners, inexpertly re-folded and
stuffed back in, the small hinged door
slammed shut
with a click.
This is my father’s map.
Whole sections are torn away or
disintegrated. Look at how the old paper, damp and
creased, begins to fade at the folds,
at the way it whitens until the roads there–
and the names of those roads– disappear.

Shells, Rocks, Bird

Today’s prompt: The instructor tells us “assigning meaning to objects, places, and animals is an ancient human practice.” The prompt is to write about talismans, about the signs that appear consistently in our life, thereby creating our own personal mythologies. This one was a lot of fun.

Shells, Rocks, Bird

One beach vacation
I hunted for only those miraculously
despite the efforts of the sea

Instead, everywhere,
broken shells shaped like wings
poked through the sand
Symbolic of
angels? fairies? birds?
Who knows?

Here at home, far from oceans,
heart shaped rocks
are scattered across the ground
Held, they warm in the pocket of my hand

What are these? SIgns? Messages?
If so, I remind the world
that although I do enjoy poems
in this instance I’d prefer an essay
founded in classical rhetoric
a clear exposition of the how,
and most especially the why

While I await a more shapely reply
I do appreciate the chance
to get out of my head
and look around
at the real world which is
full to overflowing, thick with mystery,
with signs I can’t interpret
a fact plain as rocks and seashells
an open question repeated again
and again which, if indulged,
breeds patience

Over head, a small bird crosses
between me and the clouds
singing as he goes

The Price Of Supplies

Poetry and I have not broken up, but we’ve been far from each other. Pandemic. Slow waking to systemic racism through reading and listening, an awareness of what privilege has let me ignore. The overtly racist rantings of a power-mad, unstable president. Global climate change. Problems more personal and closer to home. All of these. Moments every day when I have to remind myself to breathe. And then remind myself of the luxury to do so.

I believe there are people who can change the world with the power of words. I’m not one of them. Me writing a poem doesn’t change the world. But it changes me. I am a person who often thinks I Know Best if only my child, parent, friend, coworker, neighbor, student would listen to my Excellent Advice. I’m less bossy and more compassionate, more awake, a better listener when I’m writing my poem a day practice.

In hopes of rekindling the spark between me and poetry, I’m taking an online poetry class this week. It’s called Every Day Is A Poem, with Jacqueline Suskin and it’s free this week if you’re inspired to take it too. The class showed up in my social media feed. When I looked up the poet and discovered she makes her living as an itinerant poet who works on a manual typewriter she bought at a flea market, I knew this was a class I wanted.

Here’s hoping I’m working my way back to poetry and poetry is still willing to open the door when I knock. The prompt/lesson for Day One of this class is Be In Awe Of Everything, then go write a poem about it.

The Price Of Office Supplies

The chipmunk who, I hope, lives in the hedge,
but I suspect may live in my cellar–the chipmunk
stored a black walnut under my overturned wheelbarrow.

Yesterday, three dollars
bought me a dozen
spiral ring notebooks
their covers bright hot colors
to wake up words

Not everyone has three dollars.
But those of us who do–
What a deal, what a bargain,
What an awe inspiring chance to record
whatever stirs awe inside you

Deep in this unsettling summer
the three dollar notebook stash slows
and deepens my breath

We all know winter will come
and who knows what she’ll be carrying

We all know winter will come
But me and the chipmunk—
and maybe you–
we’ve stocked the important supplies.

Hurry Sale Ends Soon

no– Today’s secret
it is never our last chance–
breathe, stretch, begin, learn

Green Beauty Reaches For Us All

green beauty reaches for us all
Even those neighbors–
yard full of rusted cars and rottweilers.
they’ve lined their sidewalk
with old tires, each filled with
potting soil and possible gardens

Unconditional Acceptance

morning meditation
teacher’s soft voice
drowned out
by bird song

Another Of The Hundred Blessings

I first came across the hundred blessings in a wonderful novel by Alison McGhee, What I Leave Behind. She writes, “The hundred blessings display is at the back of the blessings store. Each numbered with a Chinese number…Each with a specific purpose. Blessing for the dead. Blessing for the afraid. Blessing for the lost.”

This struck me so, that I had to put the book down and walk away, just to savor the pleasure of coming back. It stays with me still, and I keep playing with it. Try it yourself. Come up with some hundred blessings of your own. See where they take you.

Another of the hundred blessings–
A forest of solitude, with songbirds, rabbits.
A forest of solitude, with a path running through.
A forest of solitude at the edge of a meadow
where the circus has pitched its tents.
In this, the different circus, the magic circus,
tame lions and tigers roar for the pleasure of
making enormous sounds. The elephants
are happy to be here. The dogs yearn to do tricks.
The clowns rejoice in their huge shoes and tiny cars
and everyone crowds together and feasts on
popcorn and candy apples and spun sugar cotton and if the crowds get too large
or the music too loud,
you are blessed, to be here at the edge of the forest

Remember, you may travel back and forth,
circus to meadow to forest

And remember the forest travels deep within you
Deep within each of us,
beneath the collarbone.
All you need is to learn your own way in.

Learning your way in?
That’s another of the hundred blessings.

The Novel Bunch

aka: The Happy Bookers

The Sketchbook


Red Wolf Prompts

I came to where you were living, up a stair. There was no one there.--John Ashberry, "The New Higher"

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