{psst! poetry peeps!}

Happy January, Poetry Peeps!

How’s the listening in and overhearing going? Don’t forget your “eavesdropped” conversation doesn’t have to be hearing Actual People (TM) since many of us are avoiding them just now – hearing a radio DJ in someone else’s car, taking the words from a billboard or a sign in front of a building where you’re not going – those all count, too. You’ve got time left to craft your creation(s) in any form, then share your offering with the rest of us on January 28 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals. See you then!

{p7 ring in the new year on pf}

Poetry Peeps! Thank you for poetry-ing along with us in 2021. You’re invited to our revels in the new year! Here’s the scoop for January: We’re stickybeaks and earwigs. We’re listening in, and overhearing. This month, we’re writing the poetry of Eavesdropped & Overheard. In tribute to the overheard poetry of longtime Poetry Friday maven Susan Thomsen @Chicken Spaghetti, we’re taking what we hear and using it…somehow. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on January 28 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Vallejo 111

It’s new year’s eve… evening, after dark, and I’m just now posting. In my defense, I attended a memorial service yesterday, and it somehow wiped my entire brain. A few of us are beginning the new year in a more thoughtful frame of mind than we expected, but though I am late, I hope you still didn’t miss Sara’s ringing out the year poem. Kelly’s bell poem is here, and Laura’s jingles along here. Tricia’s is here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s poem (sadly not a rage acrostic) is here. Poetry Friday is ably hosted at Carol’s Corner and we’re all keeping Carol in our thoughts as she opens her home to her neighbors. More Poetry Peeps are ringing in – Michelle K and Carol V. are all sleigh bells and sound waves. My newest relative, Heidi, is blitzing in, along with Janice. More Poetry Peeps may yet be ringing in, so stay tuned.

One of the questions I asked whilst trying to compose a poem this month was why. Why bells? What are they for? What do they do? Why am I one of those people who has to stop, turn, triangulate and figure out where they’re coming from? (Granted, I do that with particularly loud birds, too, but stay with me here.) One of the other poetry sisters mentioned that she lives near an historical carillon that she has often heard, but never paid much attention to – which is bewildering to me. How could she not know every little thing about the bells in her neck of the woods? We determined that in her historic town, there are bells everywhere. Here on the decidedly late-to-American-history West Coast…? Not so much.

And yet, this has been a season of bells. Tiny silver ones were played on Christmas Eve. At the memorial service yesterday, the carillon played through the keyboard of the organ. The Boy’s chimes are bells of a sort, made of titanium rods. Why do I love bells? Because to me, they sing.

sounding joy

silver made sound
stills commonplace clamor
burnishes the fleeting moment
and sings

I had so many reasons I like bells that Mary Lee suggested I write a list poem. Whenever I think of joy in poetic form, I always go back to Christopher Smart’s “Jubilate Agno”, which is to me the most joyous list poem in the world. So, with a nod to my favorite Christoper and Jeoffry, I will consider bells.

canticum campanarum

for I will consider the ring of bells
for they are both legion and legend
for they denote both curve and clarity,
for they peal out times and seasons,
for they bless unions and get us started,
for they resound alarms and herald change
for they knell a death, and muffled, toll of absence
for their tongues herald both law and declaration,
for they symbolize a liberty both damaged, yet resilient,
for when your bell is rung, you are done,
for they apocryphally ring on angel’s wings
for they arrive with us, on us

for in their peal is laughter
for they cry pax

Alarms, warnings, joys, sorrows, meeting, parting – all voiced in song of bells. They’re kind of neat, when you think about it.

So, that’s it from me for 2021 – which feels so weird to write, because the last twelve months seem like some bizarre fever dream. It’s been a joy to write with you. Happy Hogmanay, and health, joy, and hearth wishes to you.

{gratitude: last #gratiku}

In 2021, I am thankful for: The word “NO.” Sleep. Petrichor. Compost. Memory. Barriers. Look(ing). Travel. Delete. Endings. Kneeling. Forgiveness. Soup. Order. Deadlines. Enough. Resilience. Community. Stillness. Collaboration. Science. Massage. Circles. Rehearsal. Acquaintances. Recipes. Dentists. And today… poetry.

Wait, what?

Why, yes, it is a bit weird that my ‘thirty days of gratitude poetry in November’ is coming to a close on the second of December. Right now, with my autoimmune sitting on my chest (back? head?), when embroidering makes me tired, late is as good as it gets. And that’s fine.

Why do I do this every year – try and write gratitude poetry for the thirty days of November? Don’t I get enough of this daily practice thing during National Poetry Month? Well, yes. But, I like the lack of Offical Poetry Month pressure and the focus that a daily challenge in November presents – the freedom to write doggerel if that’s what comes out (and in daily challenges, often it does), but the freedom to ignore the excuses and write about gratitude matter what I’m feeling like. I like the constant poking at myself to write the next one better. When the dark is coming down for the close of autumn, and I’m getting ready for my annual trip to “the morbs,” as Victorians flippantly named the more grim and contemplative moods, I need to take stock on the daily, and remind myself of what I have. As a country and as individuals we seem to be losing things – freedoms, civilities, certainties, things we’ve taken for granted – at an alarming rate. I needto remind myself of and give thanks for what remains. And – and this is especially true this month-plus-two-days – I like sitting back with a big whoosh of breath when it’s done.

The truth is – I like poetry. And since I can’t compose song – well, not the music bits, anyway – this is my song, and I’m grateful for it.

poetry is

a bright stitch threading
the taut circle of our days
flashing silver grace

{gratitude: 11.29}

You know what doesn’t happen during pandemic isolation? A lot of things, yes, but specifically for me, medical stuff. I had “visits” with my endocrinologist on the phone, and right before lockdown eased finally picked up my contact lenses, which had been sitting for seven months. (Grr.) Along with everyone else, we were all catching up, and trying to reschedule and see what we’d missed… We were all set to figure out who was in our new insurance coverage area in January 2020 and find a new dentist when a.) I got a bad ‘flu, and b.) then we went into lockdown. Guess what STILL hasn’t been sorted out as we reach the end of 2021? Sigh.

dentist is a crisp word –
enunciate those t’s!
need thirty-two white chomper cleaned?
then sit here, if you please!
inside the office, you will find
sat reclined in the chair,
that nothing’s changed – it’s all the same
       you’re back getting healthcare!

(As soon as I get my booster shot, anyway!)

(When the Poetry Sisters started doing ____ is a word poems in November, we talked about how easy it is to do concrete things like blanket, tree, or sofa. I tried to do adjectives or adverbs this month, but dentist is definitely a solid noun. It’s amusing how as the month goes on I become more concrete with my choices!)

{gratitude 11.28}

For Thanksgiving, my baby sister always makes her special mac-and-cheese, so I decided I should pull out of of my classic recipes, too. Recipes remind me of trial and error, well-meaning relatives, and late teen days spent poring over newspaper and magazine food sections. I have files of spattered recipe cards and ripped out pages jotted with notes. Two of my sisters and I like cooking and have go-to recipes we can make in our sleep. Of course there is the other sister who attempts TikTok recipes that don’t come with clear instructions… *cough* ANYWAY, especially after reading Tricia’s ode last week, I realized I wanted to add my gratitude for recipes – especially those passed along from friends.

pinch, dash, smidgen, skosh

Recipe’s a map word, it plots
from ‘pre-heat’ to “serve,”
a receipt for instructions
received to make hors d’oeuvres.

Recipe’s a sheep dog word
corralling woolly thoughts
that call “a skosh” three teaspoons!
(It saves us from “store-bought.”)

A recipe’s passed hand to hand,
Holds Nana’s looping script.
It’s inspiration – whimsy, planned,
Memorable meal transcripts.

{gratitude 11.27}

One of the other nice things about holidays is if your parents still live in the area near where you grew up or went to school, and some of that community is still intact, you run into people you’ve not seen in eons. I last spoke to Angie… when I was …in high school? I mean, I’d seen her across the room at gatherings around holidays, but she’d bused in to our community for school, so it wasn’t as if I saw her around the neighborhood. This past weekend, thanks to the magic of masks (!!!) I didn’t even recognize her. I recognized her sister – by her glasses, of all things, while Angie was in my graduating class! When I got done shuddering over my social faux pas, I thought about how nice it was to see people from the past out and about at all.

As autumn wanes, it’s something I hope we continue not to take for granted. I’m grateful for people I see only once a year or less, because it reminds me the larger world keeps spinning outside my little circle.

auld lang syne

Acquaintance is old-fashioned,
chatty, gossipy, and ‘quaint.’
It asks about our parents
Numerates its health complaints.

Its sweetness is its saving –
“Takes us back” to days gone by.
We smile a bit, nostalgically,
Before we say goodbye.

Acquaintance stretches outwards,
Anchors to “from whence we came.”
Each soul a link to history,
Tied to our family name.

{pf: poetry peeps in gratitude for autumn}

Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of December! Here’s the scoop: We’ve got a ringing in our ears! Clock chimes, the Liberty bell, church bells, school bells, ding-dong merrily – we’ll be writing with bells on about bells of all kinds. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on December 31st (riiiight before your hopefully safe New Year’s shindig, so plan ahead) in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

Well, speaking of planning ahead, I certainly expected this post to go better, but my body is insisting on lying flat instead of sitting up doing much. Ah, well. For more brilliant takes on our November ode, don’t miss Sara’s poem, Laura’s poem, and Tricia’s is here. Poetry Friday is ably hosted by Ruth coming to us from the intriguingly named There Is No Such Thing As A God-forsaken Town. Ruth joined us in writing an ode today, so yay Ruth! Michelle K. shares her ode here, Linda M’s is here, while Linda B’s is here! Heidi’s ode is an acrostic! Jone’s ode is here, and Carol V’s praise is here. More Poetry Peeps may check-in throughout the weekend, so stay tuned for my very slow round-up.

Our precis this month was to write a poem that was an ode to autumn. Odes tend to have three sections – a kind of a layering that moves from an initial thought, a shift deeper, and then a turning toward the end. Some of us banged away on the form before we thought about rhyme while others of us jumped straightaway into trying to find thematic words that went with rhyme. In an attempt not to recreate our hymns to autumn of 2015, some Poetry Sisters discussed challenging themselves to create their poems non-nature focused. Ouch! Other than pumpkin-spiced everything, which is wholly unnatural anyway (okay, maybe not, but close), most people who love autumn tend to love… the nature of it! Frosts and changed leaves and drifts of leaves and big-headed mums and the swift drift of woodsmoke, and… hm. I obviously could write a poem about my love for the trees and leaves and such, but I also love a concept that makes me dig past the obvious, so I fiddled around and did some thinking… What happens in my life without fail, every autumn?

winter concert practice

September, late, and in an airless box,
We fan our pages, desperate for a breeze.
Sight-reading scores with one eye on the clock
In sweating ranks. Our voices drone like bees

As we commit each note and bright reprise
To memory. We dream of early nights
When sudden sundown catches by surprise
October rooms gilded by firelight.
For then, we’ll know these notes and harmonize!
And stand prepared for performance spotlight.
Or so we fool ourselves and fantasize
But late November tells us otherwise…

For EVERY YEAR the winter concert looms
As sudden as an iceberg in the fog!
That shrugged off “some day” morphs. Impending doom
Accompanies the notes through which we slog…

But…every singer warming up to C,
The orchestra, while tuning to their A
Know life with music gives no guarantees,
But feeds the soul. – Reason enough to stay.

I hope you had a lovely Thursday, filled with just as much noise and tumult or peace and quiet as your soul craved, with celebration of family and repudiation of the wholesale murder and greed from which the original American holiday sprung. I was wholly satisfied with my first visit to family since the Great Isolation began; even sitting in a chair and doing nothing but laughing at our collective goofiness was a precious, precious gift I will never take for granted again. Happy autumn, happy weekend.

{gratitude: 11.25}

Thanksgiving, 2021: first time in my parents house since March 2020. First time sharing a meal with my entire family since January, 2020. We’ve had to be more careful, with my baby sister on the kidney transplant list and me with an autoimmune, and sometimes careful is tiresome. We took the risk to be together, and it felt like the right choice.


Circle is a wide word
The ‘c’s like opened arms
That corral all within them
To keep them safe from harm.
A word that hedges against night
That keeps us safely in the light.

{gratitude: 11.24}

Poetry Peeps! Just a little reminder: you’re invited to our challenge in the month of November! Here’s the scoop: This month, we’re writing an Ode to Autumn. (If you need more information on how to write them, Billy Collins did a Masterclass.) Whether you choose an irregular ode with no set pattern or rhyme, or the ten-line, three-to-five stanza famed by Homer himself, we hope you’ll join us in saluting all things autumnal. Are you in? Good! Share your offering with the rest of us on November 26th (this Friday after Thanksgiving) in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.

About seven years ago, we got a full-size, professional massage table. Himself just came home from Costco and presented it proudly. I was… less than enthused. It wasn’t that expensive, but it was spendy enough, and should we really have been spending the money on something when neither of us had ever finished a massage course and we probably weren’t ever going to use it? Clearly showing what I knew, we used that thing so much, both for prescribed physical therapy exercises and for actual massages that within the first year I’d say it paid for itself at least twice. And now? It’s priceless. I’m grateful for a good massage.


Massage is a l o o s e n e d word,
Beginning with an “mmm
When masses of my muscles
Call a truce from their mayhem.
The body gives its wisdom,
Serves it out just like a ‘sage’
And informs me that it needs self-care
To amend its middle age!

{gratitude: 11:23}

Probably the best and worst thing about having a job writing is that there are so few… constraints. Time constraints, as in when I should show up to the office. Outfit constraints, because who cares what I wear? The only constraint I’m really up against is what I want to and am able to do… but sometimes ability – thanks autoimmune disorder! – is where it falls apart.

After being lectured by my endocrinologist about “you don’t complain enough,” I’m trying to be more… open about bad days, about the times I want to lie on the floor and weep. I wasn’t raised with floor weeping being an… acceptable attitude? So, I don’t do it, I often don’t often even take a painkiller, I just grit my teeth and bear it. Which is, quite frankly, imbecilic. For goodness sake, let’s take chemistry up on its promise to provide better living, no?

better living through…

Science is a magic word:
The Latin ‘scire” means “know.”
Knowledge is a magic that
with work and time will grow.
Science sits with ‘s’ and ‘c’
In words like ‘sick’ and ‘sad,’
And cures the symptoms of a cold
Before it gets too bad.
Shout-out to science, ‘specially
the science of the cell.
Shout-out to skill in germ-defense,
And here’s to getting well.