Posted in Poems

Handful of Haiku

My World Literature professor gave us an assignment to write a haiku based on a photograph. I’ll be honest, I’ve always sort of hated haiku, because it always felt like an elementary school poetry to me. But age has brought me full circle to appreciate the brevity of words, and I loved this assignment so much, and I have so many photos I adore, that I couldn’t just do one. So here are a few drawn from my extensive photo library (all photos taken by me).

Beautiful dog glowing
In the late-afternoon sunshine
Is how I will remember you

My dog Rascal is 19 1/2 years old, and can’t walk anymore. We only have a short time left with him, but this is how I will always remember him, enjoying the sunshine and surveying his yard.

Tiny jeweled bird
Hovers to look me in the eye
Gift of her attention

I am fascinated with hummingbirds. They are so bold, zooming loudly across the yard, and hovering in front of me, as if demanding to know what my intentions are, then flickering away to sit in a branch and wait to see if I’m going to refill the feeder.

Rumble of hoofbeats
Noble creatures come at my call
Bringing their hearts to mine.

There is nothing in the world that sends chills down my spine like the sound of hoof beats echoing across the valley as my horses charge toward me for their dinner. Sometimes, I think they run just for my enjoyment.

Still waters ruffled
Rhythmic dip of my paddle
Peaces flows into me.

This is from City Lake in Coookeville, where I love to paddle because the waters are so calm and it’s filled with wildlife. It does not matter how stressed I am, when I get on the water all the knots fall out of my muscles and I reconnect with nature and myself.

All the world unfolds
Contemplation, vastness,
Utter smallness.

This is a photo I took at Stone Door overlook in Grundy County, of my son. In particular I love waterfalls and overlooks, and I am so thankful that Tennessee is full of both of them. Our state and national parks are places I can go to find myself again when I have chased my tail enough times to get lost.

Posted in Poems

Small and Uncatholic

Image by DDP

I remember places. I have
assorted memories of place
from childhood,
remembering patterns in carpets,
or that little cubby hole,
or climbing into the little house at
Grandpa and Grandma’s that was meant for
the Blessed Virgin statue.
I was that small,
that uncatholic.
I remember how when Mary
was reinstated, she stood
with her arms
beatifically spread,
her head tilted modestly.
Sacred Heart Jesus
had his own house in the yard,
and Grandpa and I
would tool around them
on his riding mower,
singing
Here We Go Round The Mulberry Bush and
Pop Goes the Weasel.
I remember painting a red dot on the porch railing
because I knew Grandpa would never see it
in our regular game of
I Spy. He didn’t.
I wonder sometimes,
is it still there,
and who does he play games with now?
Maybe Mary and Sacred Heart Jesus,
for whom he built little houses,
so he could always be near them.

Posted in Poems

I drowned…

Photo by Tim Marshall

I drowned in my dream last night
in a tidal wave that
crashed
over me, and I can remember
every vivid sensation
and struggle.
I woke, gulping for air,
wandered to the bathroom and back,
slept again.
And in the strange manner of dreams I
replayed the tidal wave,
only this time I saved myself,
and isn’t this a metaphor for life?

Posted in Big Questions

Free Write on Being a Woman

I used to free write as a way to spark creativity, and I ran across this old one (14 years, what?!) and it spoke to me again. I thought I’d share.

I am woman in all my denied raging femininity, full of unexpected curves to get lost among, full of — just full. I touch beyond myself unwittingly, drawing close and pushing away in the confusion of clashing hormones and post-menstrual tenderness, lost in my own gestures of grace.

Know that I must protect myself from my own curse of giving ness, lips unwilling to form one syllable No, one wide to an advantage-taking world. And yet I am selfish. But I am warm and soft and my breasts form as good a pillow as any, and if child-bearing hips were the criteria for a good woman I win, hands down.

The small things of admitting my womannness I flatly refuse; I will not migrate to lavatories with the herd, and I am not what you would call a domestic wonder, and I carry a wallet instead of a purse. How lost am I between estrogen and testosterone, and when will I admit that I bleed? Somewhere in this curse and Lessing I will find my way, and you will see i m y eyes the generations that shall call me Mother.

Posted in Poems

Falling

Photo by Bruce Christianson

Sense and Nonsense

Given the scope of my Truth
and the fact that i have been getting to know it
all these years,
I wish for a promise
that I cannot fall,
cannot fail,
but here I am

Spread-Eagled

in infinite Space
and I have been falling for years.
Not only is there no safety net,
but there is no ground.

At first you panic, flailing,
looking for ground that you are certain
will be The Death Of You
but it spins out of control.
There is no control in this
Space.
Nothing to push off of,
no orientation, no trajectory.
When you realize that,
when you settle into the space
between Beingness and Unbeingness
and enjoy the ride,
you realize that this
is not a fall to your Death
but your First Flight.

Posted in mindfulness

Rituals of Gratitude

Every night before I go to sleep
I say out loud
Three things that I’m grateful for,
All the significant, insignificant
Extraordinary, ordinary stuff of my life.
It’s a small practice and humble,
And yet, I find I sleep better
Holding what lightens and softens my life
Ever so briefly at the end of the day.
Sunlight, and blueberries,
Good dogs and wool socks,
A fine rain,
A good friend,
Fresh basil and wild phlox,
My father’s good health,
My daughter’s new job,
The song that always makes me cry,
Always at the same part,
No matter how many times I hear it.
Decent coffee at the airport,
And your quiet breathing,
The stories you told me,
The frost patterns on the windows,
English horns and banjos,
Wood Thrush and June bugs,
The smooth glassy calm of the morning pond,
An old coat,
A new poem,
My library card,
And that my car keeps running
Despite all the miles.
And after three things,
More often than not,
I get on a roll and I just keep on going,
I keep naming and listing,

Until I lie grinning,
Blankets pulled up to my chin,
Awash with wonder
At the sweetness of it all.

— Three Gratitudes, Carrie Newcomer

Happy Thanksgiving.

For most people, this holiday is about gathering, family, and way too much food, but my wish for you is that it is also about actual giving of thanks, whether you thank the people who loved you this year or give thanks to the divine. It doesn’t matter. Gratitude changes us in wonderful ways, and I firmly believe that it should be among our regular practices not just one day a year, but every day.

My mother recently told me that she and my father, who has a great deal of problem with anxiety, have begun a daily Gratitude Practice together, each sharing three things at the dinner table for which they are grateful. She said dad called her up one day to tell her he “had a thing!” to share with her that evening. For me, I keep a journal, and each day I write three things (at least) for which I am grateful.

When you make this a yearly practice, you hit the big ones: family, health, home, well-being, friends, community, employment, gathering. When you make it a daily practice, everything changes. You start looking for little things to be grateful for, that you can write or share at your daily ritual. You start to focus on what is right with your life when it is so very easy to focus on what is wrong. And I believe, when you focus on the positive, you invite more of it into your life. People are attracted to positive people. You start to like the grateful person you see in the mirror every morning. You gain confidence that good things WILL happen.

It truly is life-changing. I beg you to try it, for a month at least. Share it on Facebook or Twitter. Write it in a journal. Make it a ritual in your family.

I’m not sure what the magic of three is. You don’t have to do three. You can do one. But for some reason three makes me push past the one big thing in my day that makes me smile, and encourages me to find more. There is always more. There is poetry in it. Yes, the sun is shining today, and it’s nice to notice that, but I can be grateful for the cheering glow behind my eyelids while I’m basking in it. I can be grateful for the long golden shadows at the end of the day. I can be grateful for the relief I feel after many gray days when the sun greets me and makes me realize that I didn’t know how much I needed to see it. Push your gratitude farther this year, dig into details and your feelings, let it really make you present. Why is the sunshine good? Why is your marriage good? Why is your job good? What is good about gathering with family, today? Yes, there is stress about the gathering, but you keep doing it year after year. Surely it’s not solely out of a sense of obligation. You’re not obligated, not truly. Find the joy in every small thing, the reason you keep doing it, and if you can’t… why are you still doing it? There is truth in gratitude, as well. Honesty. Maybe a wake-up call.

I am thankful that you are here, reading my words. I have known since I was small that words were my blessing and my craft. I have written a lot of words in a lot of journals since then, but now I am honored to bring them to the Internet, and more honored that you took the time to stop and listen to my thoughts. May this holiday season bring you joy that you have been forgetting to look for. ❤

Posted in Uncategorized

Gatlinburg is Burning

smoky-mountains-on-fire

 

Wildfires
are a thing that happens in California every year,
not in lovely, green, humid Tennessee.
Nearly everyone in Tennessee has been to Gatlinburg
so when we heard it was burning, it was as if
a friend was on fire. Waiting for news. Is the candy shop still standing?
Is Dollywood burning?
Are the Ripley Aquarium animals all right?
It’s hard to imagine these things as ash. Places that feel like childhood friends, consumed.
It’s hard to imagine the Great Smoky mountains actually smoky…
but there’s the evidence, on the news, on the Internet
the mountains you remember lovely green misty
are now angry burning dying; a monster threatening
the streets decked in Christmas lights. An orange glowing haze as the fire
creeps closer and closer.
The people get out. Mandatory evacuation.
I imagine the horror of that one road out of town
the one that feels interminable when you’re waiting
for vacation to begin
and imagine sitting on that road
gridlocked in fear
as the flames creep closer.
We sit in our homes further west on the Plateau
praying, dancing, lighting candles for rain (the latter is ironic) —
please let the months-overdue rain that drenched us last night
go East —
save the people, save the animals, save the green things,
bring relief, stop the flames eating our memories.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Aftermath

cheekwood-treehouse-2013a

I thought I didn’t want to bring politics to this blog, but I gotta be honest, y’all, I’m struggling with the results of this election.  I’m not the only one, am I?  I mean, even if you picked the winning side, you didn’t feel 100% great about it, did you?  I know I wouldn’t have if it had gone the other way.  And yet we have to carry on and figure out how to come together, how to make a bridge over the divisive rhetoric.

I may  have more to say on this topic in the week to come, and I apologize for the politics, but I can’t help it.  I wanted to give you all of me in this space, and here I am.

I’ve engaged in some hearty introspection this week, I have to tell you.  I scribbled out this poem this morning.  Take from it what you will.

 

 

“Kindness
Is never the wrong anser,” I said,
Frolicking through fall leaves.
“What if someone is bullying you?” he said.
“Never,” I said, making a snow angel. “People
Bully because they feel unloved.”
“What if someone hates you?” he said.
“Not then,” I said, making a daisy chain. “My
Mama taught me to always counter
Hate with Love.”
“What if they’re killing you?” he said.
I tucked my flower skirt aside and sat in the sunshine. “Gandhi said,
‘An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.'”
“What if they’re hurting your family?” he said.
And darkness fell, and I became someone else.
“Then there will be hell to pay,” I said.

Posted in Uncategorized

Write Through Pain

thomas-st-sunset-0903-tonemapped

The last day I posted here was the day my brother died.  I planned to write regularly, but life has a way of throwing a monkey wrench in things.

Anthony committed suicide.  (I hate that word “committed”, like it’s a crime).  He was not a person you would expect to commit suicide.  In fact, people visited his Facebook wall and said how much they would miss him because of his “love for life.”  How ironic, I thought.  And how true.

If some day I can offer up this experience to help someone get through something similar, and they ask me, How do you get through it, I will tell them how I got through it:  You write through it.  Meditation helps too.

When you are grieving, you set aside that hour each morning and it is a safe place to grieve, to rage, to do whatever it is you have to do.  You let all the feelings come because here’s a secret I have learned:  when you let the feelings come, they also go.  The crying grabs us, sometimes when we least expect it, but it passes like a summer storm.  I felt the need to write about that too.  So I’m going to share a couple of poems that I wrote the last couple of weeks.


 

Day After Suicide

The first thing I thought when I rolled out of bed was,
I am waking up this morning
And my brother is not.

The words my brother is dead
Keep echoing in my head like the refrain
Of some badly-written earworm. My brother is dead.

There are always a million questions you can never ask anymore
When someone slips the bonds that kept them here, and nearly all start with
WHY?

Because it hurts.
If someone with cancer passes from us,
We say
“Well, at least she’s not in pain anymore.”
Why don’t we ever say that about suicides? Is it a judgment we pass on them?
I’m saying it. He’s not in pain anymore. For only that I am grateful.

I will take this burden from you, my brother, I and everyone who loved you.
You have passed on your pain and we will carry it for you
Shed tears you didn’t shed because they weighed too heavily on your heart
Mourn the help you didn’t ask for and the things we didn’t say and the visits we didn’t visit

… and never will.

 


 

Grieving

“Tears like rain” is another old cliché
And I hate to say it but as clichés
Often are, it is true. Not in the way
You would think — they are both falling water.

It’s more in the scrubbed-clean feeling I have
When they have gone, ozone scenting the air
Rays peeking from behind brooding storm clouds
Crepuscular, slanting over land.

I catch my breath, seeing the glinting tears
Standing on my eyelashes like dewdrops
Ornamenting shrub leaves after the storm.
I am purified afterward, at peace, drained.

Sometimes the storm comes on violently
Without the slightest warning — he is gone.
And I am wracked like storm lashed boughs, and drenched
In sorrow… it passes, leaving me whole.

Other times it comes on gently, and I
Do not resist, letting rain kiss my cheeks
And I let them come, as a remembrance —
If I do not shed tears, I might forget.