Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 30: Morning Swim, Last Day, and Redux

Morning Swim
(with immense gratitude to the KVYMCA and Total Immersion)

Early in the morning
--though usually not early enough--
I slip into water
just a little too cold
and glide beneath
the surface
trying to mold my body
into a vessel.
Each length a new focal point--
   hanging head
   marionette arm
   patient catch
Each focal point a mantra
that lifts from my mind
the burden of its days.
Is it possible for water
to save you from drowning?
This cold, chlorinated prism has.
Each flick of my foot-turned-fish-tail
propels me across the pool
into my life.

Month of Poetry Wrap-Up

Thanks for sticking with me, those of you who are still around, while I indulged myself in a little word play this month. I managed to write a poem for almost every day (only missing four), although a couple of those were back-dated (shh). Two of those poems were revisions of poems I started drafting months (in one case) or years (in the other) ago, but the rest were written new and fresh in response to what's going on in my life now. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a very different experience from last time I did a month of poetry, three years ago, but I was in a very different emotional space then. It's just a really nice experience to sit down for five minutes at the end of the day and put into words the most significant aspect of your day--perhaps it is not the stuff of great poetry, but that wasn't really the point. It turns out that the hardest time for writing the poems has been weekends--being with kids nonstop is not conducive to self reflection. I need a bit of total solitude to spool out a few words (in the car at baseball practice works, or on the couch once I coax everyone, including the Man of the House, into bed at night). My poetry style, it seems, is basically super-flash nonfiction with line breaks. I'm not sure that actually counts as a poetry style. I had intended to educate myself on meter and form and learn more about what really makes a poem a poem, but I didn't quite get around to that. Next time (or before next time). Actually, it's been such a good meditative, calming, clarifying experience that I might try to keep it up (don't worry, gentle reader, I will spare you the results, and keep them to the pages of my journal).

What are your thoughts on poetry? Do you read it? Write it? What do you like (formal? free verse?)? Are you like my son who rejects any poem that doesn't rhyme?

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014: Spring Peepers

Spring Peepers

You would not believe
how loud it is
standing at the edge
of a wet-bottomed gravel pit
in the early dark of a late
April evening,
the sound of the frogs
so loud it almost hurts
your ears, so loud it
sounds like a siren,
high-pitched with that
round-and-round wavy
repeated pattern
like a fire truck.

You would not believe
that the creatures
that make that sound
are no bigger than
your thumb nail,
each one crying out
"Peep peep" in search
of love or sex or
and all added together
sounding like the end
of the world.

You would not believe
that after spending the winter
frozen in cold mud
this is what the male frog does,
wailing his siren song
into the spring night
like there's some kind
of emergency.
Which, I guess, there is.

Weekend Things, Busy

We've just been catapulted into the busy time of year around here--baseball season and birthday season, with a camping trip and a weekend out of town (for me) all coming up this month.

But we had a little down time over the weekend. I took off Thursday to be home with the boys (spring break) and since I had planned to take the week off (for our DC trip that didn't pan out), so I didn't so much want to be at work at all. I ended up spending the day catching up on housework (as if there's any such thing as catching up with housework), and reminiscing about how I used to get two whole days off per week, and then getting really angry about how frigged up everything has become over the last few years (work-wise).

Friday we went to the Science Museum in Boston and Saturday I took M to The Young Composer's Competition in Blue Hill, where he was awarded an Honorable Mention. 

By Sunday I was ready to just lie around the house, but instead I took E and Z and a friend of theirs to a live raptor show at Wolf's Neck State Park. Z loves raptors and I've been wanting to take him to a show for a long time. It was worth the drive to see a golden eagle, raven, screech own, and kestrel up close.

After the birds, the sun came out just long enough for a short hike down to the beach.

Where the boys climbed this cool tree and looked for sea glass and skipped rocks and had imaginary orc battles.

No one wanted to see school start up again Monday morning (least of all, if that's possible, me).

Monday, April 28, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 28: A Moment

A Moment

after a day--
may days--
of perpetual motion.
In the boys' room
I pull curtains
peer into bunks
tug blankes over
sleeping forms.
Long past the days
when I had to check
to make sure they
were breathing,
I still like to gaze
on their sleeping faces
press my hand to their backs
feel the rise and fall of breath.

I sip the last drops
of cold kava tea,
eat a piece of marzipan
bought and forgotten
last Christmas.
The only sound the creak
and crack of woodstove
fired up to ward off
the late April chill,
and the distant hum
of some household machinery.

I will my shoulders
to unfurl knots, my neck
to release its kinks.
I read once that busy-ness
is a choice we make
one more thing to brag about
a competitive sport
among modern adults.
I wonder, as I look down
the barrel of too-much-to-do
too-little-time how much
did I bring on myself?
How long I could sit
in the rocking chair
by the fire
with a stack of books
a hot cup of tea
a log of marzipan
bought and forgotten
last Christmas.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 27: Serenity


Out beyond the wet sand
and the line of lime-green
seaweed-covered rocks,
gently waves ripple
blue water reflecting blue sky.
Clouds drift by in big, cottony tufts.
A seagull sits on a rock.
It is a postcard picture
of serenity--the Maine cliche--
but for the three eight-year-olds
running around the beach
slaying orcs.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 26: Honorable Mention

Honorable Mention

My hand holding my phone
trembles, nervous for the boy
in jeans and an orange hat
playing electric guitar
among the classical pianists.
Will they laugh at him?

They do laugh, and my hand
making the recording shakes
harder, as I hold back my
own laughter at his funny lyrics.

They hand him a certificate--
Honorable Mention--parents
and judges shake hands, offer
congratulations. The words
"Springsteen" and "Tom Petty"
are uttered as he takes his place
among the classical pianists.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 23: Braids


He crawls into my bed
in the early morning light
ponytail holders in hand.
"I'm still asleep,"
I murmur into the pillow.
"No, you're not," he replies
and makes those annoying noises
that are his specialty until I sit up
and pull the brush
through his long blond hair.
He lays his head in my lap
so I can weave a tiny
French braid over his right ear
then switches sides
and finally settles between my knees
for the thicker braid at the back.
He finally got brave enough
to wear his Legolas braids
to school last week.
"Did anyone make fun of you?"
I asked and he listed off the names
of a bunch of fourth-grade thugs.
"Did you beat them up?" I asked,
of these children guilty of a double
crime: not taking my son for who he is
and implying that "girl" is less-than, an insult.
"Pretty much," he said. "Did you tell
them they're just jealous of your
beautiful hair that brings in the ladies?"
My son dove under the table, retching.
There is only one girl he admits liking
and that only obliquely, crawling into her bed
in the early morning light.

Weekend Things, Easter Weekend

Spring continues to creep slowly into our corner of the woods.

Saturday, we took a walk along the stone walls on our property.

I expected it to be a grand adventure--

And it was, sort of, but it was a lot less elaborate than I expected.

But nice anyway, and we found some treasures along the way.

We had planned to go to Washington DC this week (spring break for the kiddos).

But something came up with the friends we were going to visit, so we regrouped and are having a staycation instead.

After the Easter egg hunt and breakfast of hot cross buns, fruit salad, jelly beans, yogurt-covered raisins, and, of course, hard-boiled eggs, we headed out on a hike and picnic lunch at our favorite spot.

There's something about going to the same spot year after year that emphasizes how much and how quickly we're all growing up (or old). 

Everyone has memories--"Remember when E carried that giant Easter egg rock on the whole hike, and then Z threw it at his head?"

("I told him to watch out!"). 

"Remember when I found the deer antler?" 

I remember pushing the double-stroller down this trail.

Next year, we'll remember owl pellets and giant sandwiches and too much wind on the beach.

 And so another year passes, with birthdays all-around coming in a few weeks, and time galloping along without any regard for my feelings.

P.S. I neglected to notice that my book review of Susanne Antonetta's adoption memoir, Make Me a Mother came out on Literary Mama last month.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 22: Earth Day

Earth Day

Another excuse for shopping
All day my inbox pops with "Earth Day Sale!"
I should get off these lists
Each taking up space on a server somewhere
All that electricity
At least I am at work
Protecting The Environment
One of those jokes
That isn't even funny
At the end of the day
I'll pus the "Power Save" button
On the copy machine
Which is something, I guess

Monday, April 21, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 21: Rejection


Early morning
rejection message
in my in box.
It was a long-shot.
But still.
We're not supposed
to acknowledge
these things.
Don't mention it.
Just thicken the hide,
hit "send" again.
Writing is not hard.
It is not mining
for rare earth minerals,
or smashing cathode
ray tubes, or digging
in garbage dumps.
It involves no noxious
fumes. There is little
chance of explosion.
There is also little
chance of success.
Which makes me
wonder, why not
spend time on more
fruitful pursuits?
Like Words with
Friends or more TV?
Why not take up
tatting or home
brew? Why not
stop neglecting
the garden? All
good questions,
for which I lack
answers. So instead
I move on to the
next long shot
on the list and hit

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 19: Stone Walls

Stone Walls

Today we walked
the walls
gray, lichen-encrusted
tumbles of stone
marching in straight
lines across our property.

I don't know
what I expected––
a maze,
complicated and ancient?
Walls that meet
and cross
and go on

Instead we found
a three-sided rectangle
overgrown with
and hemlock trees
rocks slumped
and fallen
not going anywhere,
halting in the middle
of nowhere.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 18: Sapsucker

The way a crow
shook down on me
the dust of snow
from a hemlock tree
has given my heart
a change of mood
and saved some part
of a day I rued.

     ~Robert Frost, "Dust of Snow"


Half in the car
half out I pause
ignoring the clock
to listen to the birds
sing in the frost
robin, jay,
crow, song sparrow,
that says "fweep"
or maybe "cheeup"
and a tap-tap
I sense a rustle
and glance up
at a sapsucker
perched on my
open door.
I barely register
its yellow belly
before it is gone
rasping from the trees
but I feel a release
in my chest
a lightening of
my heart.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 17: Waiting to Give Blood

Waiting to Give Blood

The girl sits on the high school gym floor
Converse low-tops in prayer position
Earnest and eager, she clasps her ankles
And leans forward as she talks to her friends.
When a teacher walks in, she tips back
her thick, dark hair and asks him
what he thinks about her taking a gap year
to go to Guatemala, from where she just returned.
He hems. He haws. He gives the
parent-pleasing diplomatic answer
Go to college for a while first.
Take off a semester.
Try to get credit for it.
I want to grab the girl by her shoulders
And shake her awake.
Go! I would shout. Go to Guatemala.
Some day you will have kids and a job
A husband and a mortgage
And you will never be able to go anywhere.
You will never regret the things you do,
I would say, only the things you don't.
So go right now and never look back.
But I remain silent and instead
Shift my legs, crossing the right over
the left and pretend to read my book.

Weekend Things: Slowly but Surely

The weekend brought one day in the seventies.

A balmy day of melting snow,

Rushing river,

And blue blue skies.

C finished making the maple syrup--and the season did not turn out to be the bust he feared.

And we toasted marshmallows in the evaporator stove box.

This picture sums up this time of year perfectly: snow plow on the left, bike and beach chair on the right, boys in t-shirts.

Sunday we had some April showers and M played a mini concert at the pub.

While a few little emissaries of spring popped up in the yard.

Of course, we've had sun and more rain and snow and more sun and 23 degree mornings since the weekend, but the red winged blackbirds are back and the peepers are peeping in the evening (when it's not too too cold). More and more I see spring as not a steady state, but a slow shifting, with a little back-and-forth. Maybe all the seasons are like that.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 16: Last Snow

Last Snow

When I woke this morning,
a thin, white pelt of snow covered the earth.
And I remembered how
you went out to play
in the first snow--
even less, a sugar-sanding
over the brittle November earth
that you tracked through and
scraped into grass-furred snowballs.

Today you were content
to stay inside and read.

Firsts hold all the allure:
First breath.
First cry.
First smile.
First letters crooked across a page
of toothy red construction paper.
First day of school.
First loose tooth.

I do not know
if this wet April snow
is the last for the year. By
lunchtime it had yielded,
leaving behind a hint of green
in the winter-brown grass.

It is like this with lasts.
You don't know they are
until later. They fade away,
leaving behind something new.
Footsteps overshadow the last crawl.
Sentences eclipse the last babble.

Even as I drove out
this morning, green spring stirring
beneath a world furred white,
I remembered my skis,
dusty in the barn
never once touched this winter,
and the skates
and the sleds
and the snowshoes.
Had we used them enough?
Did we make the most
of what we had?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 14: April Abundance

In line at the grocery store I listened to
the bagger and checker discuss the weather:

"It just jumped so suddenly.
From the fifties to the seventies."

One said about the first opportunity
we have had to remove our parkas.

"Yeah, we don't even have spring anymore,"
said the other, oblivious, I guess

To the patches of snow lingering in the woods
And the tiny yellow crocus blooming beside

The walkway to my house, and the peepers
each night, growing their chorus of "spring-spring."

The winter was long and dark and cold
it is true. But worse than the weather were

The relentless complaints from people who in
a few months would be moaning about the heat.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 13: A Poem for My Son

A Poem for My Son on the Occasion of his First Rock and Roll Performance in a Bar

I watch you
watching the headliner band
on a couch with the other kids
ginger-ale in your hand
and I remember
taking you to the pool
at the YWCA
when you were
nine months old
your eyes wide
your mouth a line
you held onto me
and did not move
or make a sound
until I concluded
you were not having
a good time
but when I tried to
climb out the pool
stairs you whimpered
and strained for the water.

Now I know your
serious countenance
means concentration
not unhappiness
so as I watch you watch
the lead singer
a tall blond man with a
white sweat band
bang out Talking Heads
and "We Like the Funk"
I do not worry
about your enjoyment.

Only after you
and your best friend
take the stage
shred out Nirvana
The Ramones
shaggy blond hair flying
with every bang of your head
only after you finish your
set and take a seat
on the couch with the other kids
only then do your lips crack
a lopsided smile
half-hidden by the dip
of your head.

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 12: The River

Yesterday I took a poetry field trip, walking all by myself down to the river while the boys all worked on the maple syrup and rode bikes and played two square. I found a nice comfy spot, leaning against a tree, and wrote a fairly dreadful poem about the river.

The exercise was to sit quietly and listen, then write down what you hear and then compare it to something. I'm not a natural-born metaphor-maker and I struggle with metaphor, simile, analogy, and personification. In fact, I gave a graduate presentation on "Figurative Language for the Metaphorically Challenged," with the hopes that I in teaching it I might get better at it, but it's still a challenge for me.

How about you? Are you a born metaphorical genius or do you have a hard time coming up with figurative language? What are your tricks for developing fresh images and avoiding cliches? What would you compare the sound of a river to? (I came up with marching, applause, shouting)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 11: A Missed Opportunity

A Missed Opportunity

My seventh-grade English teacher,
in a lame and transparent (to me now,
28 years later) to make poetry “relevant,”
told us to write down the words to a song
that was like a poem. 

I chose U2’s “October” 
-- nine lines long 
(even then I resisted authority) --

And the trees are stripped bare
Of all they wear
What do I care?

And kingdoms rise 
And kingdoms fall
But you go on
And on

Mrs. B. -- who equated quality with quantity --
doubted this was a whole song. “What? Do
they just repeat it again and again?”

She did not invite the class to bring in tapes
of our songs, or she would have heard the 
haunting piano instrumental. She did not use 
"October" as an example of metaphor, of saying a lot
with a few words, of “this leaving-out business.”

She merely “harumphed” my song and my
attitude and gave me a B.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 10: After


Chytrid took the frogs
but the salamanders simply shrank into oblivion.
The honeybees collapsed
and the fisheries too.

The glaciers calved themselves infertile.;

And the sea level?
Don't even ask me about the estuaries,
let alone New York, New Orleans,
or half of Florida.

The coral bleached
delicate white bones.

The trees you say?
There were the beetles, the borers, the adelgids, the moths
the fungus, the bacteria, the inexplicable
Sudden Die-offs.
There were a lot of those.

Oh, forget polar bears
snow leopards.
Look how long we did without
Carolina parakeets
ivory billed woodpeckers
great auks
passenger pigeons
the dodo.
Who even misses the woolly mammoth?

The skies brought drought,
tornadoes, floods, hurricanes,
stinking black smog,
dust storms from halfway around the world.

You know about the water, of course.
Fracking slurry, coal ash,
atrizine, jet fuel.
Injected underground.
Diverted, dammed, damned, and drained.

The children?
What about the children?
You should have thought about the children a long time ago.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 9: Bologna


Last night
my kid came into my room
strumming the three-quarter guitar slung over his shoulder.
"Is that 'My Sharona'?"
I asked,
wondering where a kid
born in 2001 would have heard "My Sharona."
"Yeah," he said,
"But it's Weird Al's version, 'My Bologna'"

I, whose
musical talent extends to
recognizing the guitar line of "My Sharona" twenty-five years
after I last heard that song,
asked him,
"How can you
hear a song and then just play it?"

"It's easy,"
he said. "I have a
sound-graphic memory."
"What is a sound-graphic memory?" I asked.
"Like a
photographic memory for sound."
"How do you know
you have one of those?" I asked.
"I hear a song once and then I just know it," he said.
"Yes," I said,
"But where did you read about that?"
He laughed.
"I just made it up."

This kid is amazing.
Not only
does he have musical talent and a sense of humor,
but he's a
class A bullshit artist.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 8: Thirteen Ways of Saying "No"

Thirteen Ways of Saying "No"
(with apologies to Wallace Stevens)

First there is the whine and the shriek
the lips clamped over bare gums,
head roving side-to-side to avoid
the spoonful of mashed sweet potatoes.

Then there's "un-uh" and index finger
and middle finger tapped to thumb ––
baby sign language for "NFW."

There is the traditional "no" of
course, yelled or shouted or
chanted –– "nononononononono."

Then comes "I'd rather not." Who
can spoon casserole onto the
plate of a three-year-old who
would  "rather not" eat it?

And then "Circle with a line
through it." As in, "Circle with
a line through it zucchini."

There are the chest-racking sobs all
the way home from the thrift store
where you picked up an infant carseat.
(Translation: "No baby brothers.)

Now there is, "I'll do it later," and
"After I finish this chapter," and
"I'm playing guitar right now, Mom."

The thirteenth and final no (you know
this is not true; there is no end of no)
will be the no that means, "I'm got this.
I'm all set. I don't need you any more"

Weekend Things: Signs of Spring III

Friday night two boys at their friend's to watch The Hobbit while C, M, and I watched Young Frankenstein. Why is it that all of the humor in those seventies comedies is sexual? Rain all day Saturday and I went from dropping one kid off at baseball tryouts (indoor) to a nice quiet breakfast by myself at Sheepscot General to running errands (ridiculously happy about a new shower curtain) and a spa party at a friends. C made syrup all weekend and my piles of squares grew.

The sun came out Sunday, helping melt most of the snow from the yard. 

And convincing some people it was warm enough to play in the hose,

and wear t-shirts and throw water balloons.

The woods still harbor snow.

But the beech leaves are starting to fall, which means they're getting ready to grow new ones.

And the river is breaking free of winter's hold.

(Don't worry, it's not nearly as dangerous as it looks)

Those who passed on falling into the frigid water had a better idea: sunbathing.

I saw our resident phoebe near the house when we got back,

And I heard Canada geese flying over yesterday morning.

I can't exactly say anything new and green is growing out there (not to my eyes anyway), but 61 degrees sure feels like spring.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 7: The Only Way to Be Alone

The Only Way to Be Alone

In a house of five people
     ––seven stringed instruments (two electric), upright grand piano,
         full drum kit, and a trumpet––
         (whose stupid idea was the open-concept floor plan?)

Is to set the alarm early
     ––5:30 gets you a half-hour before coffee-grinding, an hour before
        get-ready-for-school protests––
         (5:00 is far too early)

Wrap up in an afghan
     ––hot cup of chai, laptop screen dimmed, brain fuzzed in sleepy
         (eastern sky just starting to glow)

Thirty minutes of head space
     ––pen an essay, write a review, revise a short story, just sit
         and listen to the silence––
         (it's all that you'll get)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 6: Spring Runoff

Spring Runoff
(a prose poem)

The sun returned today and so did the phoebe, dip-dipping his tail in the apple tree. I dragged everyone to the river, rushing with snowmelt and yesterday's rain. Milo and Zephyr wandered out on the ice, Zephyr wading through ankle-deep water-over-ice, skidding across to the opposite bank. Emmet, wearing Papa's boots did not brave the ice. This is the part where you let kids do things that seem dangerous, so later they won't do things that actually are. And still I paced the bank like a terrier. Milo went in first, a triangle of ice breaking off his floe. I didn't see him go in until he was scrambling out of the waist-deep water. Then Zephyr went through a black hole to his knees. "I almost drowned," he said later, after we poured water out of his boots and stripped his wet clothes on the deck. "I was almost swept away in the current."

Friday, April 4, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 4: The Baby Just Wants to Stand

The Baby Just Wants to Stand

We wake late
       that Tuesday
            sun streaming on guest room sheets.

The baby
       --four months and all he wants to do is stand--
            and I
                 so far from home.

On TV planes crash
     buildings fall
           again and again
                is it real?

The baby bounces on my knees
      --only four months and look at him stand!

Planes crash
     buildings fall
           our plane leaves in two days.

How can he know war will punctuate his whole life?
     (the first twelve years, anyway)
          war that barely makes a dent here.
               war whose end barely makes a dent there.

Planes crash
     buildings fall
          and the baby just wants to stand.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Month of Poetry, 2014, Day 3: Love in Stitches

Love in Stitches

Fringed afghan
twisted strands
of yarn yellow thick as spaetzle
(crocheted by the grandmother who doesn't remember my name)

Baby booties
tasseled slippers
size infant to adult in every rainbow color
(knitted by the grandmother dead more than half my life)

Patchwork quilt
frayed yellow fabric
pinwheels cut from childhood dresses
(sewn by my mother in time to drape my dorm-room bed)

I cut squares 
triangles of many-colored fabric
knit woolen cabled hats on bamboo needles
(because women in my family say "love" in stitches)

Weekend Things: Signs of Spring, Part II

Little by little, we're getting there!

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