{pf: the p7 get dizzied by dizains}

The new month has burst upon us like …well, a lot like a sudden shower of rain. Because we keep having those. And I am not even mad about it. We’ve also got early strawberries at the Farmer’s Market, so… you win some… and then you win some more, if you have a hat in the car.

May is National Mental Health month, and this is my annual – weekly? – reminder to you all to be excellent one to another, because truly — “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” – Amelia Earhart. After all, it’s SPRING! Time to make things grow, good people.


Poetry Princess Sara challenged us to dizains this month, which turned out to be… oddly mechanical. We were discussing how sometimes poetry seems to require us to …look things up and make specific connections with definitions and distinctions in order for mere words to turn into wordplay. The French poetic form dizain (not to be confused with dizaine which either means a decade or “about ten” in French) is regimented – ten lines, ten syllables per line, and a strict rhyme scheme – ababbccdcd. I found myself looking up things which were square, or ten, because it felt awkward, at first! I found that the form kind of builds on itself, and halfway through, the rhyme pattern begins to echo the pattern from the beginning, building a kind of square. Sara decided we could have a bonus point if we used the word “square” in our poems (from the Imaginary Point-Giving Poetry Body), so off we went.

My first poem was kind of a joke – my siblings and I play cards at my parents’ house once a month, in order to see them and each other more regularly, and we were making a disorderly mess last weekend, and my father was patiently …doing dishes. While we played. This is not the pattern of my childhood AT ALL, so that was… spectacularly weird, to be honest. But it got me thinking how much we girls (and my poor lone brother) disrupted my father’s #goals for order and peace. And, since my Dad was a bricklayer just out of high school, and that uses square…

Netherlands 2018 690

All the bricks you could want.

Daughters, Or Things That Messed Up Dad’s Life

Brick by brick, the Mason’s art constructed
Scaffolding, hod, cement in balance tied
Calculus, a symphony conducted
With “joints” and “beds,” and squarely dignified
As sums meet stone, and stone is satisfied.
Bull-nosed – both brick and man – he made life’s call
For “soldiers” in a row, chaos forestall.
No fickle furbelow accommodate
Geometry the goal, once and for all.
But Life provides girl-chaos to frustrate…

(I was reminded that CHILDREN, not just daughters, are the point of chaos, and so I concede. However, a good soldier makes do, and my father has.) That was a good entry poem for me, because I got to use a lot of technical terms (soldiers is a way to lay bricks – in a specific line. Who knew! [Well, Dad, probably]) and got to grips with the weird rhyme scheme. I decided to look further at squares… with dance.

Having attended religious schools my whole life, I never experienced the “fun” so many of my friends and relatives complained about (middle school + dancing for PE = tales of woe). I can’t square dance – or dance at all – but was delighted to discover that for an allegedly simple country dance, square dance has tons of serious adherents and technical terms. A ‘promenade’ is itself a whole dance subgenre! So, I was off again:

Treasure Island 35

Around the Quad

The Promenade brings sweethearts, two by two
With mincing steps, into a perfect square.
Striding in step along the avenue
Forward-and-back, the dancers walk on air
A ‘side-by-side’ that’s truly debonair.
Seeing – and being seen – the highest goal
As gents and ladies proudly take a stroll.
Walk where the lights are bright – all eyes on you
And never mind the critics on patrol —
Just do-si-do on to your rendezvous.


But, wait, there’s more! Sara’s poem uses more technical builder‘s terms, Liz is all science. Rebecca is, of course, quantum science, while Tricia found myriad other disciplines. Poetry Princesses Kelly, Andi, and Laura are off creating their own experiments elsewhere this month.

Need a bit more poetry? Poetry Friday today is hosted by the fabulous Jama-j, at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens T 15

One last Mental Health Month reminder: “Kindness in words creates confidence. Kindness in thinking creates profoundness. Kindness in giving creates love.” – Lao Tzu

{pf: p7 does anagrams}

Ah, it is April, the month, that, according to Ms. St. Vincent Millay, “Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.” (Am I the poetry nerd who exchanged that poem with a college friend the first of April every year? Yes, yes I am. Do we still yearly exchange that poem, in full or in part? Yes. Because we’re STILL those nerds.)

In this month of rain, rain, more rain, weeds, floods and renewal, my Poetry Sisters nerds and I have set before ourselves a fairly robust challenge…anagrams. Anagram poems are varied – they can be the title of an existing poem, using the words created from the title to describe it. They can have no particular rhyme or rhythm, but each of the end words is an anagram variant. They can be a series of variations on a word or phrase, in its anagram variations. We had inspiration, word lists, and anagram creators, and a lot of blank paper. Not giving ourselves too many limitations was meant to make this challenge easier… but, anagrams, people. NOT EASY. And, I freely admit that all of these are bad – so very, very bad – but fun.

I mean, just ask Laura. Or Sara. Or Andi, or Liz, or maybe Tricia and Rebekah. Don’t ask Kelly, though, she’s just watching the carnage with genteel horror.

Glencoe 30

Because… ME, I started out with a theme. (My gosh, I needed some kind of guard rails and training wheels on this thing.) Being as last month was National Women’s History Month, I did several ‘Herstory’ poems, and managed to amuse myself. I tried ‘Spring’ as a thematic element, anagramming ‘pastel,’ then anagrammed some Rumi quotations – because he sounds both profound and wildly unfettered in his words. I anagrammed my name, which was weird (Savants Aid It? Really???), then a few random phrases. It took a long, long time to find my feet with this, which means I need to try it again and again until it becomes not such an oddly-shaped form in my brain. I’d say it was fun, but it was …more addictive? An inescapable challenge? Something. Once I got started, I couldn’t stop. So – here are a few of the myriad ways my brain jumped, vis-a-vis anagrams.


HERSTORY I.

Whilst sprawling in the spa
The Queen declared, “You’re saps.
You could jump in to save your skin
But you’re clueless. Buy a map!”
Mark Antony’s faux pas
Left Cleo in the wrong:
Held to the Romans’ iron law
Queen Cleo exited – stage asp.


BLUSH

Caspar 04 HDR

A springtide staple
Adorning both pleats
And sweet picnic plates,
pink breathes palest
in the perfumed pastel
of cherry blossom petals


SPRING’S MADNESS

This anagram, “spring’s madness” is a phrase that I worked hard to make sensible. I wasn’t entirely successful, but it was an amusing, realistically inarticulate look at how “In the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love.” As they say, “life comes at you fast…”

I. In the mall
Mr. spending. Sass!
Spasm sends grin
Miss Rang spends.

Madness springs —
Man sends sprigs…
Grand mess spins!
(And sperms sings)

II. Disillusion
Nags Ends Prisms
Snags pends rims
Dangers spin, Ms!
Designs – Mr snaps!
Pangs rends Miss
Sadness pings Mr

Grasp mends sins
Spars mend. Sings!
Sass. Mend, Spring!

III. Cue HEA
A Sign: Mr Spends.
Sass pending… Mrs?

Mass pends: Rings!!!
Drams. Pens. Signs.
…Mass ends. SPRING!
Snaps. Signed. MRS!

Prams send signs…


WHAT IS APRIL POETRY?

Perhaps A Pier, Portly, into which our words might come.
Perhaps it’s a Reality Prop – IRL’s totes humdrum.
Possibly it adds a sparkle, like Literary Pops?
Or an Ear Pilot: Pry-ing out all the stops?

Start your own Riot! Reapply those skills,
Add a Parley Tip, Or keep writing “until”
The show goes on, times 3, like Opera — Triply
And as you Repair To Ply may your words be set free.


Poetry Friday is brought to you by the letter a, and the number 7, and is hosted this week by the über-creative Karen Edmisten @ The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title. May you have a delightful weekend, full of wild words and soft winds.

{pf: p7 marches in with masks}

On the four weeks and five days before the Equinox, my plum tree gave to me… a surprising number of blooms, which I tried vainly to tell it to hang onto until temps got above the thirties at night and the wind slowed from 30 mph gusts.

It did not listen.

This honestly should be no surprise; the starlings did not listen when I explained to them last year that a nest over the front door was not really the most advantageous spot, the little cat from the house behind us does not listen when I beg him or her not to sleep on top of the plant in the walkway — the ladybug horde that has moved in does not listen when I gently try to entice them with the advantages of the great outdoors. I don’t know why I expected anything different from my tree. Spring comes whether it is pouring or dry, whether I think it is way early or no, whether it is convenient to the sinuses or not (it is NOT. Ever). And so, it is coming, a dive-bombing bird of prey, screaming across the sky, with talons extended, and with no brakes. Um, welcome Spring.

For reasons made clear in the previous paragraph (just call me Dolly Dramatica), this month’s poetry challenge was a good match for my particular brain. Mask poems are poems in which the reader slips into the soul of an inanimate object or an animal, and looks out through its eyes, answering questions of what it sees, what it thinks, or how it reacts to what’s going on around it – or with the poet. What does a snowflake want to say about itself, before it’s gone? A pair of gloves, a cell phone, a turtle? The poet takes the opportunity to embody another – an excellent excuse to pretend – and to consider a question in a voice that isn’t quite one’s own.

Because Laura initiated our challenge this month, I set myself the additional challenge of writing a poem that might suit a child. Laura is very good at consistently using our challenges to write poems for children and teachers, who are her readers, so however successfully/unsuccessfully, I’ve tried to take an animal-and-upbeat page from her book today. I’d say it was unsuccessfully, but hey – I was mindful not to be depressive, at least! I call that PROGRESS.

You might wonder if you’ve ever met a black phoebe. They’re a variant of flycatcher, and they’re they hardest darned things to photograph, ever. They’re tiny, smaller than a sparrow – more finch-sized, really, and ALWAYS moving, flicking their tail, abruptly leaping up or diving, and zipping all over, deeply unconcerned with what you’d like them to do – much like all of my other backyard neighbors.

Peachtree 244

a plum tree sings of phoebe

Black phoebe sits and sings near me
Concerned with only my gnat pests
He could care less that I’m a tree
With Damson blossom buds as guests.
Just bugs for him. His whistled call
Says mostly that it’s “time to eat!”
My branches reach for Sunlight’s fall.
(My leaves are waiting ’til there’s heat.)

My human comes to fuss at me
And gently touch a blossom guest.
She worries there’s no guarantee
That frost won’t make my branches stressed.
But phoebe flits, and doesn’t know
If flies tomorrow he will find –
“But look,” he tweets, “the lily grows!”
(Birds worry less than people-kind.)

Black phoebe, dining on the fly
Nabs lacewing here, a moth elsewhere –
Aerial antics amplify
The birdkind version of a prayer
To Spring. To flight, to frigid wind
As blossoms shimmy in the breeze –
Sing, even if the world should end
Use beauty’s balm your mind to ease.


There are more masks hiding and revealing all sorts of things amongst the poetry sibs this month. Laura’s enlightening us, while Sara’s sharing treasures. Liz is in the kitchen, while Rebecca is using windows as eyes. Tricia was gluing the last bits of her mask together as she also leapt a tall building in a single bound, while Kelly and Andi have hung up their masks for today, so we’ll see them next time.

Poetry Friday is graciously hosted today @TeacherDance. Thank you, Linda B!

Ah, friends, I’ve heard it in the chillest land (which is where it feels like most of us live just now) -/ And on the strangest Sea (also what we live in now on the West Coast, despite this bright blue picture on a briefly dry afternoon)-/ Yet – never – in Extremity,/ It asked a crumb – of me.

Miss Emily reminds us that no matter where we are, we must listen for it… Singing, I mean. Get out and listen to things with feathers this weekend. And if you can’t hear the hope, sing it aloud for someone else. Tough times for many of us just now, but holding each other up, we’re going to make it. Keep singing.

Peachtree 243

{pf: on her gifts}

Cheers again for Mary Oliver, whose memory will always bless, and whose life was something to celebrate, and whose death is encouraging a whole bunch of new people in my Twitter timeline to read less frequently quoted examples of her poetry.


Something profoundly lovely is the intimate and personal connection that poet Mary Oliver made with the world. I was talking to a friend, who met the poet in person, and mentioned the respectful and gentle manner in which she listened as my friend related how a poem of Mary Oliver’s reminded her of a loved one who had died. Mary Oliver probably heard that sort of thing a great many times, but her active listening, which is reflected in her work, somehow helped to both share and diffuse the sting of grief.

Her poetry helps me listen – to myself, and to the world. Next to my journal and my Bible, beside The Chair Of Comfy Awesomeness is a thick collection of Oliver poems. And, on those frequent days when the heart is bowed or silent, and the exigencies of rigorous – or any – religious thought escape me, I read a handful of poems, and walk through wilds where the Divine is less inexplicable, and the simplicity gathers a focus which is clear-eyed and joyful, and I can once again draw breath, and consider the lilies – and then, the hummingbirds. This, too, is a gift.

WHISTLING SWANS

Do you bow your head when you pray or do you look

up into that blue space?
Take your choice, prayer fly from all directions.
And don’t worry about what language you use,
God no doubt understands them all.
Even when the swans are flying north and making
such a ruckus of noise, God is surely listening,

and understanding.
Rumi said, There is no proof of the soul.
But isn’t the return of spring and how it
springs up in our hearts a pretty good hint?
Yes, I know God’s silence never breaks, but is

that really a problem?
there are thousands of voices, after all.
And furthermore, don’t you imagine (I just suggest it)
that the swans know about as much as we do about

the whole business?
So listen to them and watch them, singing as they fly.
Take from it what you can.

Martinez 62

THE GIFT

Be still, my soul, and steadfast.
Earth and heaven both are still watching
though time is draining from the clock
and your walk, that was confident and quick,
has become slow.

So, be slow if you must, but let
the heart still play its true part.
Love still as once you loved, deeply
and without patience. Let God and the world
know you are grateful.
That the gift has been given.


~ both poems from FELICITY, by Mary Oliver ©2017, Penguin Books

Poetry Friday is hosted at Miss Rumphius’ house today, where there are doubtless numerous other people celebrating the gift that is the life and work of Mary Oliver. Whether you are snowed in, or leapfrogging puddles in this boundless wintry weather, may your weekend be touched by a breath of the Divine, and a touch of the untamed world which reminds you that you do, in fact, have only this one wild and precious life.

Pax.

{p7 on pf: a patchwork of a cento}

“I cannot hide my anger to spare you guilt, nor hurt feelings, nor answering anger; for to do so insults and trivializes all our efforts. Guilt is not a response to anger; it is a response to one’s own actions or lack of action. If it leads to change then it can be useful, since it is then no longer guilt but the beginning of knowledge. Yet all too often, guilt is just another name for impotence, for defensiveness destructive of communication; it becomes a device to protect ignorance and the continuation of things the way they are, the ultimate protection for changelessness.”

Greetings and salutations: It’s Poetry Friday, and is anyone else mildly bewildered that it’s September? While no one can say this summer has gone by quickly – no one who was has been wilting in the heat or sucking down smoke – that we’re officially motoring towards Autumn is a bit surprising… ah, well, on with the dance.

How I did it: While found poetry is typically difficult for me, this month’s cento challenge was a doozy. After TEN YEARS (this past April) of making poetry together with these ladies, I would not have wasted time whining about how difficult this was, except if we’re too quiet, it makes Sara leery, so WOW, THIS WAS HARD, UGH, GOSH, CENTOS, ARGH. Better, Sara? Onward:

From the Latin word for “patchwork” a cento is a collage poem made up of lines from poems by other poets. For our poetic quilt, the Poetry Sisters chose a single stanza from “I See Chile In My Rearview Mirrow by New Delhi poet Agha Shahid Ali. From this poem, we then chose a single word from a selected stanza around which to build our collage.

Finding poems for centos can be challenging, but a quick shortcut is to put your chosen word into the search engine at Poets.org and proceed from there. Out of the plethora of interesting choices, I chose like, which was common enough to give me too many options for poems, so I limited myself to only five pages of results from Poets.org, and twenty-seven poems, which I whittled down to a mere seventeen. Happily, this choice also opened my poem up to myriad cultural and ethnic diversities as well, as we move from the past to the present, through myriad continents and genders and faiths.

Making Meaning: It’s challenging to make meaningful poetry out of patchwork, however – having to leave the words of the poems in the order in which they were within their individual works made this even more difficult. However, because I have still been reflecting on my recent foray into harpy-ism, I found myself with ample fodder for the whirling emotions in the lines which presented themselves. Reflecting on how I had felt in the moment just after an insult, I found a backing for the swirling patchwork, and I pinned my individual bits in various places and orders until they felt true.


ozone & petrichor (after lightning)

i.
I would like to describe the simplest of emotions

ii.
it was like this:
like a feather on an arrow shot through a neck other times
like brooms of steel.
like sunlight, in fog
breaking like oil. the night
smelled like a dead frog.
a rose like a screw
drawn out of my breast like a rib.

I know this is an all-black-people-look-alike moment…
I have never been anything like pink
& lord knows, I have been called by what I look like.
Just like that, I’m a flung open door.
I run around like mad –
Like them, I wanted — only to die, moon-dark. Blessed,
unnoticed. now they look suspended, like heroes
a dream still clinging like light to the dark,
as the mist disappeared. like a curtain, open,
maybe. its flaws, like cracks
leaking in and out in all directions

iii.
mistress, eyes are nothing. like the sun
like a million dollar god with a two-cent
rim-shot, history, like a shadow, passes.


Closing Credits: And there’s even more cento-y goodness from the Sisterhood. Laura meets this month’s challenge through glass, Tricia found a truly envy-producing title, Sara, who set our challenge this month, sees all that is before us, while Liz breaks down breaking/brokenness. From their cushy chairs on the sidelines, Andi and Kelly meanwhile wave their pom-poms in our general direction, cheering us onward.

The true gift of a cento is the impetus to read widely – and wildly – a number of different types of poems one might not have otherwise attempted. To best appreciate the rich cloth from which each piece of patchwork is cut, you are invited to find a line you feel is especially intriguing, and read its antecedent poem.


This week’s Poetry Friday host is Beyond Literacy Link. Here’s to corralling the various whirling emotions that we might have and pinning them down into poetry. A cento style might not make it as easy to impose order onto your world as, say, a sonnet, but there is something to be said for using whatever feelings you have – however you feel – to make an orderly mind out of chaos.

” We use whatever strengths we have fought for, including anger, to help define and fashion a world where all our sisters can grow, where our children can love, where the power of touching & meeting another woman’s difference & wonder will eventually transcend the need for destruction.” Audre Lorde, Sister Outsider: Essays & Speeches (Berkeley: Crossing Press, 2007), 124-133

Hat tip to Tech Boy who made my little table in ten minutes, when I would have had to work carefully, with a lot of scowling and muttering, for an hour or more.

{pf: the p7 & the sestina scourge}

Okay, so maybe “scourge” was dramatic, but this, y’all, has been… just about impossible.

Don’t get me wrong – every month, I adore the challenge of pitting myself against a poetic form, but the sestina and me… we’ve just never managed to do more than approach a strained détente and limp back to our respective corners to lick our wounds.

The form… just… repeats a word. Not a whole phrase, a word. That should be no harder than a pantoum or a villanelle, right? And yet, because of the length, perhaps, or the lack of rhyming, the tetrameter, or perhaps the specific order of the word repetitions… well, for whatever reason, it just seems much harder. The list of end words from which we were to choose six seemed fine at first – nothing wrong with face, down, mirror, ground, prism, prison, block, bend, wishes, beam, string, or blade, but eventually they were too concrete, too unwieldy, too… blah, blah, blah. Something.

Add to that, a creeping horror over the vast and terrible fires consuming my home state and my adopted country while suffering a soul-sucking loss of faith in humanity from the decay rate of our disintegrating Republic, bleak discouragement over a new diagnosis which might lead to surgery, generalized introvert anxiety over house guests, as well as the stomach ‘flu in the SUMMER, and you may well understand that my mental state was not all that it might have been for the construction of this poem.

Nevertheless, she persisted.

With locked jaw and gritted teeth. Scowling fiercely.

Won’t you celebrate with me? I’m still here. Still. Here. Dang. It.

As are my sisters Tricia, and Laura, and Sara, — as well as Kelly, Liz, and Andi, though those three are down at the boardwalk just now. Through packing and moves and trips and illnesses and too many meetings and family – still here. The battle this month is to those who finish, no matter when it happens. Slog on, ladies.

Here’s mud in the eye of all the things trying to ruin our day.

Battle Plan

A countermove for every move you block
A spark and it could all burn to the ground.
A breath could tip the house of cards you face;
They count you out, but you will not stay down.
Resolve a whetstone sharpening your blade
In battle’s heat you will not break, but bend.

How fine the line exists ‘tween ‘break’ and ‘bend’
What makes ‘assist’ turn into ‘stumbling block?’
There’s no help up from those who’ve fallen down
No stopping ‘floor’ from meeting with your face…
At least you walked before you met the ground –
So trial by fire creates a stronger blade.

It parries; thrusting, slashing with a blade
We nimble fighters long must strike and bend
Not moving meekly to the chopping block
We slash and stab until we’re falling down…
Bedtime. Tomorrow we must battle face
For now, retreat, regroup, and go to ground.

And this is where we find our common ground:
That all of us are wounded by this blade
That all, whip-scourged and raw, before it bend
And all, hauled fighting, to life’s butcher block.
And all of us death hunts, and will drag down
We’ll “go not gentle.” That, we could not face.

Still spitting venom in disaster’s face
We won’t just let it drag us underground.
A change of route avoids each sly roadblock,
We pray for open roads around the bend.
Audacity shines, hope-bright on the blade
The slingshot wielding shepherd boy brings down.

“He’s small – but won’t take trouble lying down.”
“She killed a giant?” – Shock on every face.
“But, when the gristmill grinds you up, you’re ground!
And, I heard you were bludgeoned by that blade!”
They didn’t see you learning how to bend…
Mustering moxie through each stumbling block.

A starter block for scything setbacks down:
First, stand your ground. Look trauma in the face
Then draw your blade and make the bastard bend.


Shout out to Josh Mandel’s useful and beautiful sestin-a-matic for help in remembering those tricky repeat patterns, especially in the envoi. Visit the site, click through, and choose a few words of your own, if you’re feeling poetically frisky. Sestinas really are a delightful challenge… when you’re not in a vile mood. Or, maybe they still are, but your sestina might end up being a teensy bit combative. Whatever, right?

Poetry Friday today is brought to you by the letter U and the number 8, and is hosted at my play cousin Mary Lee’s blog, A Year of Reading.

{blessed are they that sit}

One of the first poems I memorized on my own was Robert Hayden’s Those Winter Sundays. I first read that poem during a literature test, and it stopped me so long that I feared I would not finish in the allotted time.

The words of the poem resonated like a struck bell, speaking directly to me as I struggled with my relationship with my father, whose love, much like the love described in Hayden’s poem, was threaded through with those “chronic angers” in our house… and yet, he did for us those backbreaking tasks that too often are taken for granted as “stuff that my Dad does.”

You have to sit with poems like that, poems which challenge your perception, gently chastise, and remind you — the world is bigger and more complex than you imagined it to be. Nothing is straightforward. Black and white is in variegated shades of gray.

This past week, we’ve had to sit with things that are discomfiting – personally, perhaps, nationally, surely. Many of us are still sitting with the reminder that depression is a liar — surely a lie cut full cloth from the father of lies himself. And that lie – and these losses of good people – reminded me of another Hayden poem, which is so fitting today.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted over at Karen Edmisten’s brilliantly named blog.


Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday

Lord’s lost Him His mockingbird,   
       His fancy warbler;
       Satan sweet-talked her,
       four bullets hushed her.
       Who would have thought
       she’d end that way?

Four bullets hushed her. And the world a-clang with evil.   
Who’s going to make old hardened sinner men tremble now   
and the righteous rock?         
Oh who and oh who will sing Jesus down
to help with struggling and doing without and being colored   
all through blue Monday?
Till way next Sunday?

       All those angels
       in their cretonne clouds and finery   
       the true believer saw
       when she rared back her head and sang,   
       all those angels are surely weeping.   
       Who would have thought
       she’d end that way?

Four holes in her heart. The gold works wrecked.   
But she looks so natural in her big bronze coffin   
among the Broken Hearts and Gates-Ajar,   
it’s as if any moment she’d lift her head
from its pillow of chill gardenias
and turn this quiet into shouting Sunday
and make folks forget what she did on Monday.

       Oh, Satan sweet-talked her,   
       and four bullets hushed her.   
       Lord’s lost Him His diva,   
       His fancy warbler’s gone.   
       Who would have thought,
       who would have thought she’d end that way?

Robert Hayden, “Mourning Poem for the Queen of Sunday” from The Collected Poems of Robert Hayden, edited by Frederick Glaysher. Copyright © 1966 by Robert Hayden.

I don’t think I studied Hayden enough in school. That omission will henceforth be corrected.

For those of you sitting in grief, among the broken pots and ashes – remember, you are NOT your worst day, or even your worst moment. Always recall: this too shall pass. Don’t neglect to check which voices are telling you the truth about your life. The ones who say we’d be better off without you are lying.

{p7 on pf lift a glass & w r i t e}

Every once in a while, I go through my blog’s drafts folder and find posts I began and never finished, or finished and never published. Sometimes, the reason is crystal clear – they were too moody, too personal, too specific. We always want to show our best selves in public, after all. But, every once in a while I find unfinished gems. I started a post last June, after Robin Smith died, and I was “all up in my feelings,” as it were, pondering her exhortation to me to keep writing despite the chaos in the world. (And there was chaos closer to home, too – after Robin passed, we had houseguests from across the country to entertain, my Mom went back to work, Tech Boy got a new job, and within two weeks, we’d abruptly moved out of a place we’d been for the five years since we moved back from the UK – it was A LOT. Too much, really.) I was groping my way through what those words meant to me. I did eventually publish something on writing near the end of June, and will eventually share the blog fragment — but today is more for my thoughts based on those words.

The fragment was some very descriptive thoughts on writing – and writing through life’s chaos – and as a jumping off point for the Seven Sisters Poetry Challenge this month, that’s my topic. Now, this month, Sara’s challenge was for us to write a toast. Or, kind of a toast, anyway; more of a salute to a…thing. Toasts for non-drinkers don’t come up a lot, but I gave it my best shot in three glasses.

three tools, one toast

A quill! A quill! The poet needs a quill
to scribe in blood the pain of loss
to lance the flesh and drain the wound
to coolly plot a double-cross
signal a shipwreck left marooned
A quill! A quill! All hail the mighty quill.
      ♦
A pen! A pen! All celebrate the pen
chips ice from frozen seas inside
a two-edged sword, which cut both ways
a whetstone to the tongue applied
we cross out lines and then rephrase –
A pen! A pen! All celebrate the pen.
      ♦
A word! A word! the writer seeks a word
elusive as a unicorn
it hovers just beyond one’s reach
grasped for in joy and hurled in scorn
its figure lent to grace your speech
A word! A word! the writer seeks a word.


Sara’s rules for “A Toast! A Toast!” were merely that we had to begin and end each poem with the same two words. (After setting the challenge, even SHE found this supremely difficult!!!). The crew is off in seven different directions this month, so we may not all get to this challenge at the same time, but we raise a glass to Laura in Cyprus, Sara in an airplane between here and there, Andi in the garden, Kelly in the studio, Tricia under a pile of final projects, Liz dashing between school and daughters, and me packing for vacation. The poetry must go on!

Poetry Friday is being hosted by the gracious Brenda Davis Harsham at Friendly Fairytales. Pop over to visit her beautiful garden-centric blog.

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While I haven’t had anywhere near Liz’s adventures with specs this month I’ve been back and forth with them, and start today with a new pair – in a new, much smaller shape.

It’s funny – my first glasses were so big (okay, it was the eighties… all glasses were big. As was hair). As styles grew sleeker over time, I continued to wear mine wide and face obscuring. And now, as styles have widened and broadened so everyone looks like Edna Mode from The Incredibles? I’m going the other way, to try something different.

There’s never a day when I’m going to feel like I need to show off my face… but maybe it’s past time to consciously choose to stop hiding?

[porthole]

“windows to the soul,”
these eyes with their two clear panes
have worn shutters
but now, new day beginning,
we, brave, throw those curtains wide