Poetry Friday – In Memory

Jeff, gentle giant
Your heart was big, but failed
Today you are gone

It was the summer Scotty died.
I flew back a month after I moved to Iowa.
After the funeral
we went on a road trip.
Your aunt, Scotty’s grieving mom,
your broken Grandma,
and your stunned Aunt Denise
(who was being driven back to Iowa
to start a new school year
in a new school and new state)
and you, his cousin —
teenage laugher and listener,
so bright-eyed and fun-loving,
with a sly shyness.
You, who made the trip fun,
instead of a drudge.
We drove in the camper,
saw some sights,
took funny photos,
and told stories of Scotty.
It was the year of the Blizzard–
a new ice cream treat.
We stopped
in every small-town DQ
for a new flavor.

Today, thirty-five
years later, you have left us.
Another nephew
gone too soon–death’s order in
this broken world, false again.

It is Poetry Friday, and Laura Purdie Salas has the roundup here, with tankas and a new picture book coming out: If You Want to Knit Some Mittens.

Authors

Authors

1861
Anne Abbot created a game
that I was still playing
over a hundred years later.
“Go Fish” it was,
only with authors–
Tennyson, Poe, Longfellow
(a poet whose feet showed it),
Stevenson, Dickens, Irving,
Shakespeare, more white men,
and one white woman–
Louisa May Alcott–
somewhat of a mirror for me,
white girl
from southern California,
who matched authors
with siblings
and cousins.
93% of the authors were white men
with funny hair and clothes.
Conspicuously missing–
Frederick Douglass,
Phyllis Wheatley,
Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley
and many more.
Heck, even Anne herself
was an author.
The system, though,
wasn’t interested in being inclusive,
wasn’t interested in giving voice
to others less powerful,
wasn’t interested in giving
little girls and little boys
different mirrors
to reflect possibilities.
They were selling a card game.

Yesterday at our family Bible study
“We are having problems
with this book. We’re trying to have
an open mind and keep reading, but
there are some ableist and racist things,
like Peter’s scary hair.
What’s with that?”

Today
What she said (this young woman
who is teaching her parents)
lead me to go back and review the authors
of the books I’ve read this summer:
White male authors: 5
Black male authors: 1
Black female authors: 1
White female authors: 1
I am not making and selling a card game,
I am choosing what books to read.
I chose 63% white male authors.
Well, more accurately, my partner
(another white male)
chose two of my five books
for our family study.

Today I came back to notice,
and, praise God,
I am still alive,
with at least
a little time to
become a better ancestor.

Finger Painting

Today’s prompt by Barb Elder for Day 2 of September’s Open Write was “An Out of Body Experience for Sunday, Fun Day”.

Finger Painting

I reach for my tubes of paint,
Nervous as usual,
to try my hand at art.
I squeeze the tentative
joy–plop, drop–
onto the canvas.
I stick my finger in as
I laugh and ask myself,
Are these finger paints?
Yes, indeed. They are
finger paints–
My fingers! Paint!
Then my forearms
My elbows, up to my pits, I am paint
Wow, I exclaim, and
Dive into creating,
All the tubes are squeezed out
All of me now cool, smooth,
shivering onto the surface.
All of me impasto-ed in
Shades of hope and honey,
Fearlessness and fuchsias,
Brilliance and blueberries,
Completeness and coffee,
And the delicious reds of earth and fire.
I relish the moment of freedom
To let go and let the paints.
For a moment I’m in a world where I hear,
“You are lovable, capable, and creative,
You are enough.”

Jigsaw Puzzles

Inspired by Barb Elder for the Open Write prompt at Ethical ELA today: Finding Yourself Again: A Memory Poem.

I was six, old enough,
according to the box,
for the 100-piece puzzles
my nine-year-old sister liked to put together.
She could even handle 250-pieces puzzles.
Shudder. I hated those puzzles.

We were homesick at the farm,
left for an extra week in the summer
while my mom went back home
with older siblings
and younger brother.

We were left to have fun–
climb hay bales,
follow feral kittens,
hold baby lambs,
collect peacock feathers
and drink all the Cokes we wanted,
pulling the glass bottles out
and popping the caps off,
just like we were never allowed
to do at the gas station.
This magical machine was
in my own uncle’s garage,
and it didn’t need coins
to operate it.
The farm was a wonder–
yet my sister would
still cry herself
to sleep every night,
bringing me into her sadness.

My aunt tried her best
to entertain us. She
wanted us to enjoy our time.
My sister found joy in
putting together puzzles during the day.
Not me. They were too hard,
so my aunt said she would
take us to the store and
get me a puzzle I liked.

I remember asking her,
“Do you think they have
ones that aren’t JIGSAW puzzles?”

When we went to Woolworth’s,
there were lots of puzzles in boxes,
and then I saw what I was hoping for–
my dream puzzle.
It had a photo of a kitten
sitting up in a basket
with a pink ribbon
around its neck.
It was 24 big pieces
of paperboard cutouts
that fit neatly in a tray,
puzzles like we had at school.
Not jigsaw puzzles,
which I guess I assumed came
in boxes with small pieces,
rather than indicating
the way they were cut.

My homesickness began
to subside that day,
as this simple act of kindness by
my usually prickly aunt
convinced me of her care.

Poetry Friday – This is What the Jasmine Flower Knows

Today is Poetry Friday, hosted by Elisabeth at Unexpected Intersections. Elisabeth wrote a poem about what the marmot knows. Check out the other posts on her blog and see what other Poetry Friday poets are up to. Many are following the prompt inspired by Jane Yolen’s “What the Bear Knows.” Read more here on Mary Lee Hahn’s blog post.

This week I helped plan a surprise Zoom party for my dear friend and ministry partner. One stop I made was for her favorite flowers. I went to a little shop just outside the Hindu temple and purchased a string of jasmine flowers. The shop keeper, Raj, gave me a snip for my hair. (In my thin hair, it didn’t stay very long, but I do keep it nearby enjoying the scent as a work.)

Today we had the surprise Zoom party with friends and her family members, some in India and some here in Bahrain. I wrote my poem for my friend.

Ode to My Friend Vinolia,
Who Has Learned to Live Life Well
From What the Jasmine Flower Knows
To light up the room with love
And spread gentle perfume of
This gift of God, beautiful and pure,
Strong and full, savoring to cure
This is what the jasmine knows
Comfort of sopping up your tears of prayer
Later the warm caress of hugging your hair
as you hold the gaze of your mum and dad,
adult sons on life’s launching pad,
husband and daughter by your side–
The shepherding Way as your forever guide.
This is what Jasmine knows this year,
as your milestone birthday appears.

 

 

Slice of Life – Making a Yo-Yo Quilt

Today’s Slice of Life at TwoWritingTeachers.org, 24 August 2021

Remnants of history
(that blouse for the Sadie Hawkins dance,
the dress that I wore when I interviewed for my first job,
a scrap from the bridesmaids’ dresses my mom made for my wedding,
and hundreds more forgotten memories)
I’ve carried around for forty years,
cut into perfect circles,
each stitched lovingly around the edges
by Aunt Thelma, and now by me,
to make what she called a yo-yo,
now find new purpose.

Image by Mahmood Ali from Pixabay

This whole project is a scrap craft from things I have on hand. My inspiration is this landmark building in Manama–the Bahrain World Trade Center. It always leads people to Manama, the capital city. My Aunt Thelma was the quintessential crafter. She cut hundreds of circles and stitched them into yo-yos. Now, as I near retirement, I have finally got serious about using them to make something. It’s far from finished, but I’m having fun.

Tammi Belko was the host today for Ethical ELA’s Open Write. Her prompt was to create a One Sentence Poem. Since I’ve had this quilt on my mind lately, that became my topic for my poem. (I have no idea if it’s really only one sentence!)

Yesterday’s prompt came from Tammi too. She introduced a new-to-me Sevenling poem. She has students use it to share about a book they have read–as a hook or a character sketch. I thought it has great potential for that. Check out the link for many other examples of poems written in this form. Here is my sevenling about E.B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan.

Sevenling (He Works Hard)
He works hard to restore his honor,
Paying off his father’s debts, and
Waiting for his true love to respond.

He goes to school and takes on odd jobs—
Camp counselor where he learns to play, night club performer,
And Boston Public Garden entertainer.

Louis the swan became a trumpeter

 

Home

Today’s Ethical ELA Quick Write was shared by Jennifer Jowett, called Sunday Drive Tone Poem. I learned so much about tone poems and listened to a lot of great music. Do check out her post and read other poems written inspired by Sunday drive music. For my poem, I listened to some of the Lord of the Rings soundtrack and watched images of the Shire:

The peaceful scenes and tone poem of that soundtrack had my mind going in two opposite directions. Frodo said about leaving the Shire: “I shall know that somewhere there is a firm foothold, even if my feet cannot stand there again.” I used this quote to write a golden shovel.

Home

I am emptied by the news because Fred, Grace, and Henri
shall not stop their onslaught, and I
know they have siblings waiting
that will continue to ravage people and land.
Somewhere in Mexico,
there are families weeping, imploring,
Is that grace?” And now Henri is storming New England, and
cry arises from Afghanistan and Haiti and—God help! Is there a
Firm thatched roof, blue skies, and cirrus clouds, a
Foothold for a symphony of flowers, a launch for delicate butterflies?
Even old trees and honeybees find a place to be.
If there isn’t an expanse big enough for all, can we at least make
my prayer and yours to grow sweet-hope homes? Maybe our
feet can walk with the refugees and the broken until we
cannot help but find restful room for all to be, to
stand and share the waving hills and tender streams.
There–to create a home to return to
again and again.