{pf: poetry peeps sound an ode to ourselves}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of June! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing a poem with the title ‘Wabi-Sabi.’ Aaaand, that’s… the scoop. That’s it. A little unsure of the concept and philosophy? In his book Wabi-Sabi Simple, Richard Powell described wabi-sabi as a philosophy that acknowledges a lifestyle that appreciates and accepts three simple truths: “Nothing lasts, nothing is finished, and nothing is perfect.” We’ve left ourselves room this month to meditate on all sorts of things, including, but not limited to, ellipses, pauses, and periods to acknowledge endings. Are you game? Good! Whichever way wabi-sabi wafts you, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on June 28th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Friends, this month was a doozy.

Periodically in our poetic perambulations, we wander into a quagmire and find ourselves just… stopped. Stuck.

This time, it was because we were writing in the spirit of Lucille Clifton’s “homage to my hips,” and uncovered a lot of body image issues in ourselves. Here’s this lovely poet, praising the promising swing and sway of her bountiful hips, and we… recoiled from a paean of praise to our own bodies, because… eew. There was imperfection. There was wistfulness. There was frustration. There was a lot to dig through to get unstuck.

Soooo, we had to do a little therapy. As one does. Results? Liz’s poem is here. Mary Lee’s affirmation is here. Tricia’s poem is here, and Laura’s is here. Michelle’s poem is here, and Linda B.’s poem is here. More peeps with poetic panegyric might sally forth to give thanks for their thighs – as I discover their poems, I’ll post them, so do check back for the roundup.

From Process…

I was so, so grateful that I’d found the Bill Moyers’ recording of Lucille Clifton reading her own poem aloud. She made people laugh. She made people worry. She laughed at herself, and, gently, at their worry. She claimed she had “thrilling” body parts. In performance she was a live wire, and her joy in herself – in opposition to the societal norms which bid her condemn rather than celebrate the swish of her hips – is infectious. We all listened, and we none of us could resist that joy. So, step one, if you’re ever stuck writing something kind about yourself – listen to Ms. Lucille.

I listened for the “presence” word as I reread the poem. Ms. Lucille’s hips are big, they take up space, they don’t fit just anywhere; those hips are free and have never been enslaved. They were mighty and magical, and then she offered us proof of this. When the poem is stepped through instead of skimmed, it is easier to see where her hips sort of “break through” the confinements and actions of other people’s calmer, tamer hips. With that in mind, I turned to my own poem.

…to Poem

Of course, that meant trying to find a body part that I could deal with. Oh, sure, I could have echoed the mentor poem, but Ms. Lucille had capital ‘h’ Hips. I have… a hinge that does the job, but without much ‘verve and swerve,’ as it were. I do have shoulders that hit all of the presence words – big, take up space, don’t fit… but five lines into trying to write about them, I became entangled in the metaphorical uses of shoulders – people use them to cry on, they have to bear the weight of the world’s problems. I have shoulders like a linebacker (with only minimal exaggeration) but I don’t always want to be leading the defense and protecting the quarterback. That’s… less about the shoulder and more about what a shoulder’s expected to do. Nope. Wrong direction.

I sighed and considered. Belly buttons – what can one say about an ‘innie’ in a squishy belly? – necks – boring, really, – fingers – um, right now the joints are a bit too inflamed to be giving me praiseworthy vibes – feet, hips, spine, same issue. This is the problem with a flawed body, friends. A lot of my systems started to fail in my late twenties, and I’ve had somewhat of an adversarial relationship with my body since then. It’s too easy to find fault with it. Too easy to look at the scars of deficiencies and disorders and the associated insufficiencies and think there’s no room for homage, only abhorrence. And that’s …not good. Understandable, but not sustainable. I have to LIVE here, after all – we need a working relationship, and at minimum, respect and care and appreciation. So. Back to the drawing board yet again.

I considered body parts which I actively dislike, but couldn’t summon the energy to fight myself for them. I wondered aloud if hair was a body part – I mean, technically that could count? – and then I saw a picture of a stairwell in a museum which I love, and remember walking down those stairs MANY years ago in three-inch heels (for an event) and thought, “I loved those shoes, they made my calves look…” Oh. OH!

Suddenly, I was unstuck.

Acclaiming My Calves

These calves are strong calves,
bulging muscles Foundational
to my under
standing. Like cocoa-butter silk,
when I’m bothered to shave
them, these calves – not milk-fed (yet
Outstanding in their field) –
they don’t fit into
ordinary settings
or stovepipe boots.
Solid maple, this Mare’s
shanks. These calves,
they like a lug sole
a long stride, and a
short skirt ‘cause these calves,
they gotta Breathe.
Legs louche or Ladylike, these calves,
they lay it out, straight,
no chaser, though I have known them
To stop on a dime and Flex,
To strengthen the stretch
of my strut.
draft ©2024 by tanita s. davis

That was just the warm-up! There’s more poetry this Friday, hosted by Janice at Salt City Verse, exploring a great new poetry anthology, so check that out and the community’s poetry as well. Thanks much for hosting, Janice!

Meanwhile, here are the calves in question: you’re WELCOME.

Don’t forget what Ms. Lucille said. You have thrilling body parts. You are, both body and soul, breathtakingly made. Celebrate the wonderfulness that is you.

{npm24: progressive poem!}


Aaaah! It’s been exciting to watch this poem take shape. This is my first year, and as I watched the couplets collect at first I thought, “OH NO, I should have picked a MUCH earlier date to contribute!” There were intimidatingly beautiful phrases! (…the tender, heavy, harsh of home – *alliterative swoon*) And so many details as the poem took on a narrative shape. I felt like I was too late to do anything “good.”

Well, that was silly. This day, this moment in the life of these young immigrants… this time is perfect. Cousin, thanks for giving me a strong springboard from which to jump into playing with you all. The mastery of the Muse to those poets providing our conclusion, including:

April 24 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
April 25 Joanne Emery at Word Dancer
April 26 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
April 27 Donna Smith at Mainly Write
April 28 Dave at Leap of Dave
April 29 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
April 30 Michelle Kogan at More Art for All


And now for our featured presentation…

Cradled in stars, our planet sleeps,
clinging to tender dreams of peace
sister moon watches from afar,
singing lunar lullabies of hope.

almost dawn, I walk with others,
keeping close, my little brother.
hand in hand, we carry courage
escaping closer to the border

My feet are lightning;
My heart is thunder.
Our pace draws us closer
to a new land of wonder.

I bristle against rough brush—
poppies ahead brighten the browns.
Morning light won’t stay away—
hearts jump at every sound.

I hum my own little song
like ripples in a stream
Humming Mami’s lullaby
reminds me I have her letter

My fingers linger on well-worn creases,
shielding an address, a name, a promise–
Sister Moon will find always us
surrounding us with beams of kindness

But last night as we rested in the dusty field,
worries crept in about matters back home.
I huddled close to my brother. Tears revealed
the no-choice need to escape. I feel grown.

Leaving all I’ve ever known
the tender, heavy, harsh of home.
On to maybes, on to dreams,
on to whispers we hope could be.

But I don’t want to whisper! I squeeze Manu’s hand.
“¡Más cerca ahora!” Our feet pound the sand.
We race, we pant, we lean on each other
I open my canteen and drink gratefully

Thirst is slaked, but I know we’ll need
more than water to achieve our dreams.
Nights pass slowly, but days call for speed
through the highs and the lows, we live with extremes

We enter a village the one from Mami’s letter,
We find the steeple; food, kindly people, and shelter.
We made it, Manu! Mami would be so proud!
I choke back a sob, then stand tall for the crowd.

A slapping of sandals… I wake to the sound
of “¡GOL!” Manu’s playing! The fútbol rebounds.

{npm24: 19}

My GOODNESS, it’s nearly the penultimate week of the month! Time to check in again with this month’s NPM Objective from The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” – T.S. Eliot

A level deeper into my, erm, substratum, I think of the unnamed feelings I have surrounding the well-meaning. There is a woman with whom I peripherally interact in my volunteer work who is a fervent inclusivity ally. She consistently grabs the spotlight with her dogged insistence on letting all and sundry know that if anyone ‘better’ comes along to do any of the tasks she’s been assigned, she will step aside for them. That would only makes sense in a work environment, to move aside for the better qualified – and a savvy manager would make sure that happened. However, this is volunteer work, and her “better” is always a person of color.

Have you ever tried to grab hold of the amorphous reasons behind WHY something feels discomfiting? Have you ever tried to do so in a poem? I have been sitting with those feelings and here I am – going to, without a mentor poem this time – blank them onto the page. (This IS A DRAFT, NOT A POEM) Am I going to want to make it all at least rhyme tomorrow? YES. Am I going to feel like it’s incoherent enough not to address real feelings? Yes. Is that going to matter? No – because… feelings, duh. If I knew why it was bothering me, I could write a better poem, but alas, smoke and sand…

Draft, Untitled 4/18

The more you try to hold them in your hands
The more the tumbled grit slithers away
You’re micro in the cosmic, that’s your place
Let go! There’s nothing you need understand.

What troubles you is trouble’s thinning skin.
You’re triggered, primed, and spoiling for a fight.
So packed inside you’re ripe enough to crack
But you’re a lady, so you pack it in.

Dust riding on the wind can’t slow this train
Unless that windstorm’s fine enough to choke.
When engines, falter, wheezing your mistake,
Make common cause with nomads, wait for rain…

We see all that we have here, what is known,
Is all our people need is all we lack.
Yet somehow, hearts abraded still, we chafe
Hands fumbling after smoke that’s being blown.


Have you been following this year’s Progressive Poem? I am kicking myself for not jump in to add lines on an earlier date, in a way, as the poem now has… like, a name and an identity now, and maybe I should have worked with it when it was more of an amorphous zygote!? I hope I don’t ruin it.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is celebrated today at Second Cousin Heidi’s juicy little universe, where you’ll find poems with clarity – and titles. Happy Friday.

{npm24: 17}

Mom has what she calls a “Senior Moment” when she walks into a room and forgets what she came for. I have what I call ‘Dyscalculia Moments.’ Today it was the date – I literally read the 1 and the 7 on the calendar as a 1 and a 2. I often invert numbers and/or completely make them up, so it shouldn’t surprise me. And, yet it gives me a double-take each time.

John Hopkins University has a Mathematics of Music course. The American Mathematical Society has a whole page exploring the intersection of mathematics and music. For a long time as a kid, I didn’t understand why I couldn’t “get” reading music, remembering time signatures and what all the little patterns meant. As an adult, learning about the way my brain works and does not… well, now I get it.

This will never be effortless for me. This will never not be a problem. I’m learning to be unembarrassed, and to accept the good. Look at the intricacies of sheet music, and I can understand that! Look at me claim the weird little things that I do to make my life function: see the tiny notations in my music, places to put my pencil so I can count? It’s not ‘Touch Math’ as its taught in many school districts, but it’s close – and it works for me.

Everyone has coping mechanisms, I remind myself. May yours continue to work for you.

Mistakes Were Made

Mistaken, yet again
My blunders make me sigh.
“This too shall pass.” But when!?
Perhaps before I die?

My blunders make me cry.
Burnt cookies in the bin!
Perhaps before I’ll die,
I’ll know twenty’s not ten?

Burnt cookies in the bin…
“Too late to reapply.”
Can’t rely on my brain,
My calendar’s awry.

“Too late to reapply.”
And can’t apply my brain.
My whole schedule’s awry.
Numbers drive me insane.

Can’t rely on my brain.
This too shall pass. But, when
Math gives me a migraine
Mistake are made, again.

{npm24: 11}

I enjoyed writing with a mentor text so much the other day that I’m going to try it again… (and to be honest, this is the easiest way for me to gently move into blank verse, and avoid my pathological need to rhyme things…) I was introduced to this poem in my small writing group, and just loved its simplicity. But, as I’m practicing not evading, its simplicity turns my eyes a new way.

One of the simplest truths about humans is that they are fear-based species. About a year ago, the National Geographic did a whole piece on how our fear drove our evolution (yay?). It’s an unpleasant truth, isn’t it? But our ability to fight or flee or freeze has made us who we are…

Others have used Naomi Shihab Nye’s “Valentine for Ernest Mann” as a mentor text and taken it a new direction – today I’ll be replacing courage with poetry. Or is poetry actually courage?

Getting to Grips with the Gift

You can’t order courage like you order fries.
Move up in the drive through and, say, “two orders, animal-style”
and wait for the shiny-faced young person
to hand you a waxed-paper box.

Still, it’s a worthy quest.
Demanding of the cosmos, “Give me courage,
I need to be brave,” rates something in reply –
Maybe more than the expected:
Courage collects. Behind the bunker called Fear,
it is bunched up under a drift of “fight” or “flight. It
crawls from beneath the bed, but crouches, trembling
at the edge of the stage
when it is our turn to step out into the spotlight.

It erupts at the call of karaoke,
sometimes with no notice.
It pulses to life when your section stumbles.
In realizing, “I recognize this part,” you’re reminded,
And your voice rings out, flaring
bright against the formless dark,
pointing out the path. Your singing,
no better than it has been before, but for
love of song, you break ranks and shove aside
silence. When courage layers a chord,
it discloses the secrets that fuel it,
forcefully vouchsafing that though we fear,
fear can be forced away.

Maybe if we refuse what secrets and silence suggest,
we cultivate courage. Spread your shutters, loose
your lion heart, and approach the subject which distresses you.
Let courage grow.

{npm24: 9}

The Poetry Sisters’ recent pantoum project reminded me of how much I have disliked repeating poetry forms – but the pantoum was fine. However, I recently compared the pantoum to the villanelle. For a rigid topic, a villanelle works SO well – short lines, direct ideas. It’s good for inescapable truths. A pantoum sometimes leaves more wiggle room…

Pivoting back to my examination this month of those “deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being,” that T.S. Eliot mentions, I started thinking about growing up poor. Talk about an inescapable truth. I remember seeing an hourly pay stub of my mother’s when I was in the seventh grade, and being …afraid. I remember murmured, late night conversations that were probably my parents trying to figure out what to do, what not to pay, how to stretch what we had. That they owned their home was their sole saving grace.

My life is so different! I don’t own my house. I don’t own much. Yet, am I better off?

inescapable

Couch cushions never hid cash
We winkled every last cent
Never allowed to buy “trash.”

Squirreling away in a cache,
So youth could not be ‘misspent.’
Couch cushions never hid cash.

Washed and pressed – neat, not slapdash.
“Who do you girls represent?”
No one could call us poor trash.

Concocted “cures” for a rash.
A doctor’s care? Infrequent.
Couch cushions never hid cash.

In school we read of the Crash,
Kids worked in fields for the rent
They even reused their trash.

Treats – cash and candy – I stashed
Where I hid my discontent.
Couch cushions never hid cash,
We were never allowed to buy trash.

How’s that for not “evading,” my truths, Mr. Eliot?

{npm24: 3}

Relationships with parents remind me that their parents had dreams, goals, and expectations which they passed along, pressed into them like clay, and which affected… us, their progeny. From the other side, my mother’s experiences with me must have been somewhat terrifying. I wasn’t the first child – by far – but the one who was so different than the others, it must have been a little off-putting.

Materhood

She told me, at birth
I was like a new gadget:
Boxed, with no handbook.
Just rows of shiny buttons.
Just so many ways to break.

{npm24: 2}

From the beginning of my life, my relationship with my Dad has been… fraught. This year began with health issues, and aging issues, and though I am trying to reframe that relationship, I am learning that I must first take the time to look at it… Have you ever wondered what went wrong in a relationship which was supposed to be easy? Family – you’re born with those people. Why aren’t they your easiest relationships?

Pater

In early memory I said, “No,”
His opposite in every light,
His preference for my sisters clear
He left me home rather than fight.

His opposite in every light,
My busy fingers matched a mind
He left me home rather than fight
Me, whimsy-filled more than with sense.

My busy fingers matched a mind,
Head-deep in books and story-blind.
Me, whimsical, not filled with sense,
My world a foreign one to him.

Head-deep in books, I, story-blind
There was no chance we’d meet as friends
My world wholly foreign to him
Two aliens, too alien.

Never a chance to live as friends
Since children reap what others sow –
Two aliens, too alien
We failed to thrive, too starved to grow.

{npm: 2024}

Every single year, I think of nineteen National Poetry Month projects, and every single year, the first of April catches me wholly unprepared to enact said projects.

I’d say “Why am I like this?!” except… I know why. Reasons. This is who I am – over-thinky, wildly creative, too many zipping thoughts, colliding midair, and too scattered to actually settle on one. Right now, I’m still behind on rewriting my manuscript (one more month to catch up!) trying to be supportive as my family goes through various woes, as Himself job hunts through month six (uggggh) and striving to surface from the worst bits of Spring with my sinuses intact. As there is in every life, there’s a lot going on.

And, that’s why I’m here. That’s why I deliberately force myself to engage in poetry for a solid month …to tackle this idea of praxxis and practice. Making poetry forces me to stop, to look, and to listen… to both others, and to myself. As T.S. Eliot said, in his book The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism (1933), “Poetry may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to which we rarely penetrate; for our lives are mostly a constant evasion of ourselves.” Dear April, let me not evade. Let me step out in other shoes, onto other paths, into others’ footsteps, and …find a new way.

beginning

first, step off the porch
make the adventure begin –
the other shoe drops


P.S. – One project that is actually quite prepared is the PROGRESSIVE POEM, which I’m taking part in for the first time this year. Check out the progress:


April 1 Patricia Franz at Reverie
April 2 Jone MacCulloch
April 3 Janice Scully at Salt City Verse
April 4 Leigh Anne Eck at A Day in the Life
April 5 Irene at Live Your Poem
April 6 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
April 7 Marcie Atkins
April 8 Ruth at There is No Such Thing as a God Forsaken Town
April 9 Karen Eastlund
April 10 Linda Baie at Teacher Dance
April 11 Buffy Silverman
April 12 Linda Mitchell
April 13 Denise Krebs at Dare to Care
April 14 Carol Varsalona at Beyond Literacy Link
April 15 Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities
April 16 Sarah Grace Tuttle
April 17 Heidi Mordhorst at my juicy little universe
April 18 Tabatha at Opposite of Indifference
April 19 Catherine Flynn at Reading to the Core
April 20 Tricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect
April 21 Janet, hosted here at Reflections on the Teche
April 22 Mary Lee Hahn at A(nother) Year of Reading
April 23 Tanita Davis at (fiction, instead of lies)
April 24 Molly Hogan at Nix the Comfort Zone
April 25 Joanne Emery at Word Dancer
April 26 Karin Fisher-Golton at Still in Awe
April 27
April 28 Dave at Leap of Dave
April 29 Robyn Hood Black at Life on the Deckle Edge
April 30 Michelle Kogan at More Art for All


{pf: the poetry peeps love a letter}

Welcome to another Poetry Friday Poetry Peeps Adventure!

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge for the month of March! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing animal pantoums. This delightful Malaysian poetic form will pair perfectly with beasts of all kinds – wild or domesticated. Are you game? Good! Whatever way of seeing that you choose, you have a month to craft your creation and share it on March 29 in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


From Process…

I love letters, and I don’t think it’s unfair to say that I could write a pretty good love letter if I put my mind to it… but somehow writing a poetic epistolary felt beyond me this month. Mainly because I am… burnt out to ashes. There’s been a lot of drama going on (2024 CONTINUES to be that special snowflake) PLUS I have a bunch of editorial notes and a big fat revision going on – which is honestly great news, my editor is brilliant, but… I’m just pooped. My body tends to respond to stress by… stressing out further. There’s some switch in my brain that trips that keeps me up, unable to quiet my mind, because SOMETHING IS WRONG AND I MIGHT BE ABLE TO DO SOMETHING TO FIX EVERYTHING IF I JUST STAY UP AND OBSESS.

Yeah, it hasn’t worked so far, but my brain remains determined.

This month is supposed to be about writing love letters, but I have no love for insomnia, and that’s all I could fixate on. Kelly helpfully suggested that I might flip that script, and write about insomnia’s love …for me.

…To Poem

Honestly? I hadn’t spent a lot of time thinking about anything but how grinding this was. Insomnia is like your worst night, on repeat. I knew I wanted a repeating form to work with, but I couldn’t think beyond that. The minute Kelly gave me her suggestion, I was able to shift my viewpoint, and found an entry point to writing not one, but two epistolary poems, in conversation with each other. After all, doesn’t every love story have two sides?

There’s the unhinged pursuit…


Pursuit
A fascinating flame as bright
As lightning streaks the thoughts fly through
A moth to flame, I crave the light
Of neuron’s fire. Of minds. Of you.

As lightning streaks, your thoughts fly through
From deepest darkness, just the sight
Of neuron’s fire. Of minds. And you –
Forgive me! – whet my appetite.

From deepest darkness, oh the sight
Of signals sparking, rendezvous
Forgive me for my appetite –
I know you’ve things to attend to…

Those signals sparking, rendezvous –
The surge and twist of thoughts delight
I know you’ve things to attend to,
I pause your sleep, but not from spite —

They surge and twist, your thoughts. Delight!
A fascinating flame so bright…
I pause your sleep, but not from spite –
A moth to flame, I crave your light.

And then, there’s the pointed refusal…


She Resists
Insomnia, your sobriquet
Sounds sweet, though lately, in the night
As sleepers sway at sleep’s threshold,
You feast with gluttonous appetite.

Your ‘som’ shapes softly somnolence
I sink in with a grateful sigh…
And wake – abruptly – all pretense
Of resting peacefully passed by.

Why me, Insomnia? Reply!
Explain your wearying campaign!
Your ardent interest I defy
Desist! You’ll not leave me insane.

Oh, well. Better luck next time… I guess. Insomnia will, doubtless, keep trying…

I spent a lot of time giggling writing this, so thank you, sweet Kelly, who is always a positive energy in the universe, for making me laugh, and reminding me that there’s ALWAYS another way of seeing things.

There’s more love stories, or anti-love stories waiting, thanks to our Poetry Friday host Tabatha, at The Opposite of Indifference. Want to see what everyone else came up with for love poems? Sara’s epistle to February is here. Mary Lee’s love letter is here. Laura’s affectionate missive is here, and Tricia’s loveliness is here. Michelle’s epistle to a sparrow is here, Linda B’s first heartbreak poem (it counts, Linda) . Carol V’s poem is here, and Linda M’s poem is here. More Poetry Peeps will be penning tender phrases to all manner of animal, vegetable, and minerals this weekend, so stay tuned and I’ll post more links as I find them.

Until then, dear ones – keep your pillows soft and your screens off. This too shall pass.