{npm: solus 24 – p7 gets the skinny again}

As long as March seemed to last, I find it astounding indeed that the end of April seems to just abruptly have been thrust upon us. How is it the end of the month already!? What a long, strange trip it’s…being. Maybe it has something to do with it being a leap year… time is flinging us into a future we cannot imagine, and it keeps catching us off guard…

Meanwhile, Laura reminded us of our poetry meet-up this month a little earlier, and I’m grateful – most of us right now are having a hard time keeping track of what time of day it is, and whether or not we’ve bathed and eaten, much less trivial things like calendars and plans. My Poetry Peeps joining us this month are Andi, Laura, Tricia, Liz, Sara, and Rebecca. We wave hello to Kelly and John, who are elsewhere, deep in the quarantine outback, the requisite six states apart. (Or, something like that. Whatever works, you guys.)

Now more than ever, it seems we were prescient with this year’s poetry forays – seeing as our goal was EASY and “more refuge than challenge.” Oh, how we all need a refuge just now. We’re back this month with The Skinny – the eleven line form first invented in 2005 by poet Truth Thomas. You’ll recall the first and eleventh lines can be any length, and use the same words, in the same order or rearranged. The second, sixth, and tenth lines are identical. (Skinnys have a linked form, which would be amazing to play with if any of us had spare brain cells – this year, we do not.) And all other lines but the first and last are a single word – thus the name of “skinny,” as they appear rather narrow. (Fiddling with the font helps this appearance as well.)

…if we define essential, what is it? Is it what drags us upright in the morning? What brings us to our feet, instead of slumped in our seats, staring out at the rain (or snow – that was a shock for some this week)? Is it what extends our arms with care – or with coffee – for another? What defines essential? What underpins our routine, our neighborhoods, our society?

What it is that gets us up in the morning?

              

…how quickly might we learn to live without it?


To hit pause on those deep (or disquieting) questions, amble over to Wondering & Wandering, where Poetry Friday today is hosted by Christie Wyman. This weekend, friends, gather what is essential to you… and share it.

{pf: p7 becomes a ‘classic’}

When we came up with this word “classic” for our prompt this month, I was… a wholly different person. As were you, I’m sure. December us did not know March us, that’s for sure. December me thought ‘classic’ was a pretty okay word. March me feels like ‘classic’ is a trap.

(Yes, I’m being slightly dramatic. March me can BE dramatic – March me has earned it.)

I think ‘classic’ feels less trustworthy right now because …a lot of people do a lot of things because In The Good Old Days, We… and then insert some inanity that doesn’t have much bearing on the present day. It happens – the classic things are comfortable, and have been perceived to have a good value over time. However… as March me knows very well, times change. Often rapidly and with maximum unexpectedness. I’m all for knowing what we valued from the past, but boy do we need to be ready to jump and come correct for the new day – or we’ll get run down by circumstances, left behind by progress, or let a lot of people down who NEED you to be on top of things.

Enough said.

Now, those who know me know I love a classic car – I ADORE looking at what I call Museum Cars – those cars that people don’t really drive except from their garage to their driveway, just to show them off. They’re beautiful! I really wanted one – but they’re …not reasonable. Even with their steel bodies, their crumple zones are HORRIBLE, and today’s traffic warrants both airbags and seatbelts – classic cars usually have neither. Their gas mileage is atrocious – and even if I went through with my grand plan to have a hybrid gas or electric engine inserted into a classic car body, not only would it not sound the same, it wouldn’t give me what I want – which is a world where I could drive that kind of car, slide around safely on wide bench seats, wear gloves and a double strand of pearls and run errands instead of just taking my car five feet out of the garage into the drive. Sometimes, things that are classic are meant only for a certain time, and then that time is over.

We adjust.

Mostly.

All of those thoughts – and current events – tumbled through my head this week when Liz reminded us that it was time to remember ourselves as poets. I surprised myself with my change of heart, but I think it’s quintessentially me: old school as I can get, but always keeping a weather eye out for the new.

This poem was a quick, rushed affair, in part, because we’re putting in the garden (in between rainshowers) and so my days are writing in the afternoon/evening, and shoveling and weeding right now in the morning. (My body would really like that part of the day to end soon, but it’s hanging in there in a shocking fashion: go, me!) Once Liz reminded us of our poetry date, I couldn’t help but jump in with both feet. Just for fun, I used words in this poem which remind me of my Poetry Sisters – various turns of phrases which bring them to mind. As a for instance: there’s a math phrase in here I’d normally not use anywhere, much less in a poem, but I thought of Tricia, and of course put it in. Here’s to you, you classy, respectful, marching, offbeat, inviting, cherished women. I am holding you close in my thoughts.

(In case you can’t tell, the title is A Classic Question.)


Like classic cars, it’s “Good old days” again –
The past, for some, remains a sacred space
Enshrined amnesia: “Remember when?”
Our glory days there never are erased.

There’s value in a classic, over time –
Respectful weight imbued with lasting style:
“That’s how we did it then!” back in our prime
But halting change’s march isn’t worthwhile.

We, curious, advance on all things new
Delight in offbeat, random, spare, and strange
And so we change: adjusting our world view
A widening invites an interchange.

So, classic – yes, it’s only what we know
Valuable, true, but celebrate routine?
Can we not cherish “known” but say hello
To odd and bright? – make that our golden mean?


Many of us right now are struggling to think straight, much less write – and many of us have suddenly had new and nearly impossibly things heaped upon us as we figure out how to make our new reality work. Check in with your family-friends, folks! And read some poetry from mine. Laura is here. Sara is here. Liz is here. Tricia is here. Some of the other Poetry Sisters may chime in later in the weekend, or catch us next month.

Poetry Friday is being ably wrangled by Tabatha Yeatts, at The Opposite of Indifference, which is quite the aptly named blog.

The road is new, and so are our shoes just now. Take breaks as we break things in – there will be some blisters and some pinching, and we may be lost at first. Keep walking, knowing we all are walking the same strange roads, together. Pax.

{pf: p7 hindsight – & birds again}

It’s been three years since my mother was last meant to have retired.

Originally, it did not stick.

It’s partially a teaching thing. There’s always some class somewhere who needs you, and whose teachers are students you once mentored or something, and they ask – please? – if you couldn’t fill in for them while this or that happens, while someone has maternity leave, while the earth implodes and reforms its mantle and the dinosaurs return. It’s always something. And, my mother, usually, is happy to help. Usually. Lately, though, she’s been counting the days ’til her last subbing job is over, and saying, “Okay, I’m done.”

I think she means it, too.

I wrote a poem in response to one my mother wrote to me, about the time she went back to work, and with all the bird flurries going on just now, it fits the bill for a poem to which I want to respond.

No nightingale, nor angel without wings
Her song rings out while pushing playground swings –
“Use listening ears – Is that what Teacher said?
“Sand’s not for throwing. Throw a ball instead.”

Long years her songs have echoed in the yard
As Littles changed, and outgrew her safeguards
Such weary notes must falter now, sometimes…
“Keep bottoms on your chairs. It’s clean-up time!”
Some birds fly south, once eggs, now hatched, take flight
Are RV migrants, dawn, until twilight
This nightingale, whose silver-plumage shines
Still loves the song, affection genuine.

Though caged, she sings in faith. Substance deferred
Through evidence unseen, hope’s undeterred.

©February 2018

I love the resigned expression (if birds can have an expression) on the face of this piping plover, as all of her chicks cram themselves in around her legs. She’s probably wondering if she’ll ever walk alone again – I know my mother did. (The real question was probably more along the lines of if she’d ever get to go to the toilet again in peace, but let’s just draw a veil over that, shall we?)

In nature, parents are allegedly much more stern parents, and push their babies out of the nest. That’s not exactly true – more often than not, baby birds are nagged out of the nest, teased, cajoled and bullied – just like human babies. Most often, though, the babies just… try out their wings one day, and fly. Sometimes, it is simply… time. One of the more terrifyingly adorable babies of the natural world are wood ducks. Wood ducklings, according to PBS, jump from nests upwards of fifty feet high. And, they… bounce.

There’s a life lesson in there somewhere… no, it’s not the one about leaping and the net appearing or whatever nonsense. The more likely lesson is that if you jump, you may land more safely than you’d imagined. Perhaps, the lesson is a Leap Year koan, something about, get out of the nest already, and give your wings a try. Whatever it is, I imagine it’s all in learning how to fall. Here’s to trusting the blue…

For your edification, this is a variation on a kyrielle.

Balboa Park 36

Baby Birds

They, loudly chirping, clamor for a bite,
A place to hide, or entertainment – rights
Which they demand as lawfully their due,
Beaks gaping wide and feathers all askew.

Offspring produced with effort quiet lie,
Sweet, silent gametes, nested warm and dry.
How anxiously they’re preened when they’re brand-new!
Their every tiny peep attended to…

But soon enough, their din and racket swells
(Almost as soon as their beaks breech their shells…)
Their growing wings and bodies can’t subdue
The restless urge to bid the nest adieu.

They stretch their wings, gravity’s neophytes
‘Til one small step entrusts them to the blue.

©February 2020

Spring is coiling to spring forth, the birds are busy, and there are poetic revelations – and a whole lot else – happening all over. Our poets are revisiting their writing – Laura‘s revisit is here, and Sara’s is here. and Liz is here. Tricia is here. Other of our poetry seven may pop in later in the weekend.

In the mood for more? Poetry Friday is hosted by Karen Edmisten, she of the shockingly clever blog with the perfectly lovely name. Have a marvelous nearly-Spring weekend, and don’t forget to leap.

{pf, p7: 2020 – now with foresight}

I love Lunar New Year – because by the end of January, most of us already need a do-over. I’m never ready to perkily greet a new year after the exhaustion of running around like a headless chicken all December, so a little time to drum up some enthusiasm for the new is necessary and appreciated.

Our poetry peeps need a do-over, too. After writing together for a long while, our monthly poetry exchanges have, for some, become more challenge than refuge. We are all so very connected, and all so involved in serving our various communities, our families, and our own creative work. It’s tough to pause the hustle long enough to be deliberate in our poetry practice – but that was our original premise, and it’s time to get back there. Thus, I found a lighthouse for this year’s logo fitting – here’s to writing as a refuge.


Our last-week-of-the-month poetry meetup launches us gently with the haiku form and instead of usual take on 2020 as being a year of hindsight, we’re focused on foresight. What in the world can we change, as we’re looking ahead? We’ll find out.

foresight

prognostication
provides less accuracy
than reading laugh lines


Other phenomenal poets at today’s meetup include: Laura, Liz, Tricia who writes-while-lunching, and poets Sara, and Andi. Here’s Rebecca’s and Kelli’s poem may occur throughout the weekend.

More poetry today hosted by Jone at DeoWriter.

Happy Do-Overs. Keep looking ahead.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 27}

Prompt #27 (for January 10th, 2020) ~ Read “Writing in the Dark,” by Denise Levertov. Write a poem about writing under adverse or unusual circumstances or in strange places— maybe standing up in a crowded airport gate waiting area and drafting that poem that must be written, even if it means using a leaky pen on a grimy window, or using your pant leg as your writing desk, or… R~S~G…

the scrawl

what did i mean then?
on the edge of the bedpost
blunt pencil gripped tight
on the back of a receipt
“who does the little things, wins.”

{poetry friday is right here!}

Welcome to Poetry Friday in December!

Hayford Mills 233 HDR

Gratitude is the theme the Poetry Sisters chose this month for our original poems. It’s kind of a low-key challenge for those of us who are in the teeth of exams and end-of-year work emergencies, or who, like me, are preparing for the slog of holiday concerts and staying upright and healthy until the final notes are sung. At this point, we’re grateful for small things, like a full night’s sleep, an unexpected packet of tissues in a cardigan pocket, or the umbrella behind the driver’s seat, and not in the trunk. This delightful poet is equally grateful for… earthworms:

WORMS

by Carl Denis

Aren’t you glad at least that the earthworms
Under the grass are ignorant, as they eat the earth,
Of the good they confer on us, that their silence
Isn’t a silent reproof for our bad manners,
Our never casting earthward a crumb of thanks
For their keeping the soil from packing so tight
That no root, however determined, could pierce it?

Imagine if they suspected how much we owe them,
How the weight of our debt would crush us
Even if they enjoyed keeping the grass alive,
The garden flowers and vegetables, the clover,
And wanted nothing that we could give them,
Not even the merest nod of acknowledgment.
A debt to angels would be easy in comparison,
Bright, weightless creatures of cloud, who serve
An even brighter and lighter master.

Lucky for us they don’t know what they’re doing,
These puny anonymous creatures of dark and damp
Who eat simply to live, with no more sense of mission
Than nature feels in providing for our survival.
Better save our gratitude for a friend
Who gives us more than we can give in return
And never hints she’s waiting for reciprocity.
– (Find the rest at The Poetry Foundation.)

Lynedoch Crescent D 430

This November I committed to a haiku a day, to help put my mind into the proper frame for Thanksgiving. The Poetry Sisters challenge this month was meant to be a gratitude sonnet – which, while still within my topical scope is a considerable step up in terms of word count. However, since Laura threw down the gauntlet, I (competitively) had to follow suit. Sara was inspired next. Tricia is poem-ing between teaching and stitches, and the rest of the Poetry Sisters will be poetrying through the weekend.

My haiku grew into a brief sonnet – after a little shopping trip which put me in mind of the power of thanks. I hope during this busy season, all of us find this to be true: gratitude greases the wheels, making difficulties and stress easier to bear for everyone.

greasing the wheels

We all have thankful hearts within
Despite the words of thanks unsaid
We’re grateful for what seems built-in –
Convenience, as we move ahead.

The city worker, climbing high
Changing the bulbs or pruning trees.
A cashier’s precise keystrokes fly,
The post arrives as guaranteed.

All gears and cogs, the life we crave
Is fashioned by a thousand hands –
If gratitude no roads will pave,
Its dearth creates a hinterland.

A little wax makes stuck drawers glide:
Likewise, a “thank-you” dignifies.

~~~~~ ~~~~ ~~~~~

And here’s a great way to start a new year: The Modesto-Stanislaus Poetry Center is having a New Year’s Poetry Challenge! This year’s NYPC will begin on December 15th. Opt-in via email, and you’ll get your first prompt the night of the 14th! If you’d like to jump in, shoot them an email: Info_at_mostpoetry_dot_org. You will receive a prompt a day for 30 days. You choose to write to all the prompts, some of the prompts, or none of the prompts – it’s all for fun. Toward the end of the 30 days, they’ll put out a call for any poem you’d like to share in an NYPC chapbook.


Thanks for dropping by!

(P.S. – I’m told sometimes it’s difficult to comment on these blog posts. Apologies in advance; WordPress is a capricious deity at times! If you comment and don’t see it, please don’t worry – it’ll come through eventually. The In-Links link works now (Thanks, everyone who emailed!) – and here are the links from the comments:)