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Nephew 1 was a very solemn baby who stared a lot, and who could hardly be coaxed into a smile. Unlike his little brother, he’s tended to be a bit of a loner, so we were excited to hear he’d joined an after school team.

It’s an Airsoft team. Air. Soft. This harmless sounding team sport started in the ’70’s in Japan, tailor-made for fans of guns in a country that doesn’t have them. Airsoft moved from Japan to the UK – another non-gun country – and was meant to be about safely team-building, skills and sharpshooting. Nothing to do with real violence. Americans got hold of it in the 80’s, and… yeah. Nephew 1 was invited to play by a classmate whose father takes them both to run through the woods, scoping out other fathers and sons and shooting, keeping score, counting out loud the time you’re “dead.”

It’s “only a game.”

And yet….

afterward, we sat, silent
“it doesn’t matter
him learning to hold a gun,
if what he’s holding
in his skin is the target,”
my husband said, his gaze pained.

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The other day, I made the mistake of wandering over to lean against an outdoor table to talk to a friend… and leapt back, as I discovered the entire underside of the table, and much of the top was a wriggling mass of… oak caterpillars. (aka Western tussock moth caterpillars).

I retreated to the safety of a table beneath a maple. However, these guys were paragliding down from the oak on skeins of silk, to go where the wind took them. As I sat and read under my tree, I brushed them off of my shoes… my socks… the cuffs of my cardigan, my purse, my book, my collarbone, the back of my neck…

…and then we decided maybe it was time to go home, as there was Entirely Too Much Nature outside.

fuzzy logic

a dun-colored moth –
fully unremarkable –
confirms Metamorphosis,
(that insect intermission)
transforms even the spineless

(If you look at the picture carefully, you will count EIGHT at the moment I snapped this, under the maple. Please consider that a.] these were LITTLE ones, and b.] I was as far away as I could get from said oak tree and still be within hailing distance of my friends, and c.] I took this picture AFTER I’d flicked them away from my feet. For the sixtieth time. It was definitely time to just leave the outdoors to the those who live there.)

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Sunday afternoon was out of doors for a picnic with friends-of-friends, one of whom is originally from Minnesota. It was a big number birthday celebration for our friend, thus the out of town folks absolutely reveling in a snow-free world for a long weekend. One of few California natives in the bunch, I was vastly outnumbered, and amused by it. It was ironic how Minnesotans didn’t sound anything like people out of movies (unless they were imitating movies. Which they did do, as one does).

Inasmuch as I probably don’t sound like a Californian out of the movies (unless I do? Hmmmm), this was probably okay.

What a mess of assumptions and stereotypes movies have given us.

Glasgow 1

Sown Counterpanes

aerial piecework
patchwork crops, cradled by coasts
dubbed “flyover states”
connecting Midwest marvels
just as Heartland as hot dish.

Dear Midwest, do you all have fireflies? What’s it like to have a lake house? Corn fields just up the road? Snow AND tornadoes? State fairs with cheese curds and butter carving? While just now is not the best time to go exploring some of these curiosities (HELLO, SNOW), I like the sample of the Midwest that I have tasted. Granted, last Sunday it was more beer and brats than hot dish, but it was the classic flavor of friendship just the same.

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So, we had Nephews this weekend. It’s like having mice, but a lot louder.

Nephew 1 turns eleven this month… and already he runs cross-country and wears a size 10.5 running shoe.

TEN. AND. A. HALF.

Y’know what? I’m just going to concentrate on the memory of little fat feet instead of being gobsmacked that he wears a half size lower than Tech Boy. (Also: I apologize in advance for the Dad Joke, but once heard, these things cannot be UNheard, amirite? Of course I am.)

Elf at Eleven

that gummy grin gleamed
face drool-bright and triumphant
as he found his feet –
his feet, like Saint Bernard’s paws
give him great understanding.

(Those adorable ears are why he’s been Elf his whole life. These nicknames just write themselves.)

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One of the oddly undiscussed side-effects of growing up in a very conservative faith is that I never wore red lipstick, or nail polish, because red was… tacky, basically.

It called for attention. It insinuated. It wasn’t modest and quiet like A Young Lady Should Be.

All that from a color? Yep.

An Auntie I adore always wears brilliant red polish on her very short, squared-off nails, and I remember a less than charitable comment I overheard that her nails looked bitten down to bleeding. I keep short nails (no longer bitten… mostly) and know myself to be prosaic, hardworking, no-frills, no fuss, no nonsense. Not someone unserious who flaunts a red lip or polish, right?

So stupid. One of the worst things about clarifying one’s own beliefs is how often I find other people’s thoughts substituted whole-cloth for thoughts of my own. I grew up never wearing a red lip or a red nail, because that was the next best thing to Jezebel (like we actually even know what that murderous woman wore)… but, that isn’t ever what I thought. If I’m in the right mood, I LIKE red. I like most colors, if they’re in the right shade. (Why else do I have both teal and turquoise shades of tights??)

Last week, Tech Boy brought me a lipstick that’s redder than anything I’ve ever worn (Colourpop Sessy, bc Sessy is what my little brother called me for a long time, and I exclaimed over it whilst watching a makeup tutorial), and I’ve enjoyed painting it on – when I’m not going anywhere. Admittedly, as much as I KNOW red is FINE, I still feel like it makes my lips look HUGE and pouty and …wow, do I look like the whore of Babylon? some adolescent playing dress-up? It infuriates me how much other people’s voices play in my head, so I’m defiantly wearing my lippy now every. single. day. In my house.

Eventually, I’m going to go outside.

piloted

old habits die hard,
stumbling down well-traveled roads –
a flash of brightness
dances just beyond our reach
over the next hill, progress

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Iceland 2016 94

A meal eaten in haste – dry bread and bitter herbs, standing clothed and shod, gripping walking sticks. We are prepared for the anything, everything – anticipating the starter pistol’s sharp report, yearning for the open road, whilst apprehension lingers just beyond the door in the old copper penny smells of spattered blood… and Shadow blackens the night, pursued by rising wails…

Exodus

the wide road beckons
onward to freedom. Behind
doors like bloodstained mouths, screaming
for innocence slain, the People
await the passing of Death

(Actually, yes, my imagination DID keep me up nights as a child. Why do you ask?)

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It’s the first Friday of the month, and the Poetry Sisters are ba-ack. (And that is never not going to sound faintly ominous.) This month, we’re in sunny downtown Antarctica … or, at least I am; others may gone on to places where their brains were able to be more or less thawed. Nevertheless, this month, the Poetry Seven took on writing a variation on a Golden Shovel poem, that is, incorporating a single line from another person’s poem into one of our own. Myriad other poets may have done this assignment properly, by using the borrowed line’s words to end each of the words of your poem, but… mine simply wouldn’t work out like that.

It might have had to do with the line I chose from Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art, which was the poem Tricia selected for us this month. We’re all familiar with it and its theme of loss — and there are many lines which would have lent themselves to shaping my poem around loss. I… didn’t want to, for whatever reason. So the line I chose was places, and names, and where it was you meant, which is the most vague thing ever – but I felt like challenging myself.

Others poets have heeded the call to a challenge this month including Sara, with a rather ominous title, Tricia, who couldn’t decide on a line; Laura, who’s been “branching” out this week; Liz, who has traveled AND partied this week, Kelly, who could barely drag herself out of her new art studio long enough to put pen to paper, and Andi, who found a sled somewhere, and a Yeti to pull her back up to the top. She can’t be bothered to come in out of the snow just yet, but she’ll be back.


an·te·ced·ent

/ˌan(t)əˈsēdnt/
noun
          1. a thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another.
          “some antecedents to the African novel might exist in Africa’s oral traditions”
          synonyms:
precursor, forerunner, predecessor


ancestry sites hold just the highlights of
places and names, and where it was. You meant
to present it, your past’s territory –
but found just blank pages and nothing. No story.

Is DNA testing so worth our investing?
Gateway to the past! Splash with spit to come through!
those twenty-three pairs are
commodities, wares
and data determines percentage, not clues

what have we to show,
we seekers, who know we are remnants of
slavery’s chattel-bred schemes?
What else do we carry? Our truth’s ordinary –
are we really our ancestor’s wildest of dreams?

each beat of a heart is state-of-the-art
a voyage more vital than Mayflower’s sailing
no more handicap or blanks left on a map
your story begins where you choose its unveiling.


I’m not yet sure if I, er, should have challenged myself quite this thoroughly… but that’s the point of our little monthly excursions. It ironically follows the same theme I was discussing yesterday – despite me beginning this poem before I heard the latest story about an inquiry through Ancestry.com. Oh, the shocks and surprises in the careless delving into one’s familial structures. Digging into the past can undermine some foundations, so be careful what you look for, dear ones. We do not dwell within the lines of the past; we live in the now. Though your line – like mine – may have begun in darkness, it can still end in perfect light. The story begins where you choose to begin it.


Poetry Friday today is graciously hosted by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at the Poem Farm.

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DNA-Ancestry research stories are kind of a fascination of mine – this girl just found out that her parent’s fertility doctor is actually her birth father; that guy just found out the cousin he always thought had interestingly different hair is no relation to him at all. DNA testing – at least for some people – is inherently tied up in narrative drama. I’m intrigued by the rush to aim saliva into a tube and the believe that DNA data reveals the secrets of the universe.

So now, true story:

I attended school three grades behind one sister, and five behind the other, so we never attended the same institution at the same time. There was a brief overlap in college, but fortunately it didn’t end in any of us ever being in the same classroom. Because of the closely-knit community to which we belonged, I knew of my siblings’ friends, mostly from carpool and gossip, but I didn’t really know them. Nevertheless, we all of us had general knowledge of each other – and of a guy we’ll call Hobbes – a cheery, silly, floppy-haired blonde who was the son of one of the teachers who taught three of my siblings at one point or another. Hobbes was just part of the community scenery, as he was at least two years older than even my eldest sister, but when he was home from school, he popped in and out of view for many years at school functions, tagging along with his parents.

Skyway Drive 076

Within our community were also a family of sisters we’ll call the Roses. The Rose kids were almost the equal in number and age spread of the Davis kids, and both my older sisters had a Rose in their classes. Recently one of the Rose girls – apparently one of those helpful adults who does the family tree assignment WITH their kid – went on 23 & Me to do a thorough research of the, ah, Rose-tree.

She discovered that Hobbes is a Rose.

After the initial confusion and shock, she hesitantly made contact, found out that Hobbes was open to finding family, and that – shockingly, they were in the same city, and had always been. Last weekend, they met.

Imagine having grown up within the same religious(!) community as a half-sibling of yours, and having no knowledge of it at all, not even a suspicion enough to look at the shape of your nose and his and see how well they match. Imagine the adults who quietly… papered over an early indiscretion in their lives, and made all the gears work to keep churning out normalcy on a day to day basis. Both Hobbes and the Roses seemed to be happy enough as kids; how funny it must have been for them to compare notes, and figure out what it means to them now to know the secrets their parents kept; to laugh for what they’ve gained – and grieve for what they’ve lost…

As I said — inherently full of narrative drama. A story in each splash of spit.

revealed/concealed

at Halloween, he
the top-hatted magician
appears, and vanishes
a person in his pocket
we watch the whole show, wide-eyed.

see, in the garden
the Roses grew sweet with thorns
contrary posies sheltered
by some brave Beast, awaiting
hard truths coming home to roost.

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“We serve the world by finding out what feeds us, and, having been fed, then share our gifts with others.”
– James Hollis

she weaves

noiseless and patient
the orb mistress toils and spins.
my own strands streaming
one tangled thread to the next,
weave a net which captures stars

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Yesterday my sister remarked, rather sadly, that she met her best friend’s mother at the age she is now. Her best friend’s mother has recently had a stroke, and my sister is struggling with seeing Mrs. V’s ending, seeing in it, as it is human nature to do, the potential of endings of our own.

A chance exchange in a phone call… I hung up, and Tech Boy texted me that his father had died.

Life, and death. Just that fast —

Ephemeral

the weight of water
seeded from dust to cloudburst,
fulfills its circle –
dust to clouds, to sea, returns
as waters rise, and sun sets.