{waiting wednesdays: book birthday countdown…!}

HAPPY DECEMBER!

It’s hard to believe that in just one month, Henri Weldon will be out in the world! This is a book that I feel so good about… that I sat down and read it cover to cover last weekend in one sitting. (No joke; you can do that with your own books sometimes because it takes a while for them to come to publication, and you can actually kind of forget what they’re about. It’s a little weird to laugh at your own jokes, though… which I did. Anyway.) If you’d like a sneak peak copy of the book, stay tuned Wednesdays this month for a giveaway. I’ll be giving away an ARC each week, and we’ll also be talking about middle grade math, sisters, frenemies and school survival strategies. It’ll be fun!

Genuinely nice things people are saying about Figure It Out, Henri Weldon:

“Skillfully realized, this is an affirming and inspiring tale for readers who are only ever told what they can’t accomplish. Uplifting and amusing, this book will leave readers with valuable lessons.” – Kirkus Reviews

“An involving middle-grade narrative with a very likable protagonist.” – Booklist

“…a complex character who is not singularly defined by her personal challenges. In this hopeful, well-paced volume, Davis (Partly Cloudy) centers accommodation, community, and understanding.” – Publishers’ Weekly

“Davis successfully drives home the importance of finding one’s own path and accepting the journeys of others.” – Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

{pf: poetry peeps serve up…something}

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’re thinking outside of the BOX. Or, maybe into the BOX? Freely indulge in any kind of poem, but our theme is a box, boxes, or even boxing. Maybe you’ll try a 4×4 poem, creating another kind of box? Whatever your desire, let BOX inspire! You have a month to craft your creation and box it up on December 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


This is one of those fun poetry assignments that I wish I had more time to do, but — as I write this, it’s Tuesday, kids, and I volunteered to make something complicated for Family Thursday, so I need to get started, AND we’re supposed to take actual with-a-tripod family pictures and I have to dig out the requisite color theme (navy and white this year) AND I said I’d write a mini reader’s theater and bring games I have yet to unearth, I, who moved house five weeks ago, AND I still haven’t done my Actual, Real Work this week, and who was it that who cheerfully got me into all this extra busyness? Oh, right. …Me.

::sigh::

Well, writing to you from the future, I know you managed to get all you wanted to completed – including a poem to add to our roundup. These turned out to be a little harder than many of us expected, but I’m excited to see how Sara’s turned out, and Laura’s, as well as Mary Lee’s poem here. Kelly’s cooking up poetry here. Tricia’s poem is here. Liz’s poem has recipe is here, and Linda M. joins us here. Jone’s poem(s) are here. Margaret’s poem is here, and Carol V’s poem is here. As their food comas wear off and their families and guests ebb and flow, more Peeps will check-in throughout the course of the weekend, so stay tuned for the roundup. If you’d like even more Poetry Friday goodness, join the gathering at Ruth’s beautiful table @ There Is No Such Thing as a Godforsaken Town.

And, past me eventually found my recipe… and I was pleased that it didn’t turn out as saccharine and twee as I feared it would. Here’s to the footlight flutters, the little singers practicing their dreidel songs and the ones who just go on stage and freeze. Here’s to the older ones who wished they had practiced that one tricky measure just a little longer, and to the ones who can’t wait for the curtains to rise. Winter concert season is upon us all! As my days and evenings are now filled with music, I wish the same for you. Wear a mask as I do, and get out to at least hear an outdoor brass ensemble, okay? It’ll do your heart good…

Recipe for a Winter Concert

Prep time 3 months ♦ Concert Time 2 hours ♦ Serves the Soul

AUTHOR’S NOTES:
For best results, prepare.

DIRECTIONS:
Take one set of singers, seasoned.
Hydrate.
Stir lightly into a stew of scales –
Do – Re – Mi- Faaaa – ahem – aaaa
Gently stretch vocal chords until pliable.
Hydrate singers. (Drain.)
In listed order, add airs, ballads, and madrigals.
(For spice, a single shanty is more than sufficient.)
Layer in lieder and carols. Add a pinch of recitative.
Repeat.

Gather six part strings to four parts horns
add two parts timpani. Reduce to a symphonic syrup,
And measured notes into voices, sprinkle in beats
Until the mixture gels. Repeat.

As soon as music caramelizes, then
Combine the sound of twenty-one strings –
Lightly – against a single oboe’s song.
Simmer until sour notes shimmer, sweeten.

Add a prepared chorus, steeped in song
And stir fully.

For Topping:
Fold individual human beings
Into an audience –
Scatter applause until covered.
Whisk up the curtain,
And slice the baton
Through the waiting air –
And serve it forth.

Nutrition Information:
Makes one concert.
Serves the heart,
Feeds the soul.
100% fat free! Contains endorphins.

Best enjoyed with open ears
(and well-fitted masks.)


Happy Days of Deliciousness in whatever form they arrive for you.

{welcome, poetry peeps! the roundup is here!}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re drawing a form from within our community and doing a Definito. Created by poet Heidi Mordhorst, the definito is a free verse poem of 8-12 lines (aimed at readers 8-12 years old) that highlights wordplay as it demonstrates the meaning of a less common word, which itself always ends the poem. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on September 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Welcome, Poets, to the liminal season, where we are on the threshold of seasons, standing between the last gasp of summer, and the first breath of autumn. The Poetry Sisters’ challenge this month was a good one for a moment of transition, as it was a new-to-us form called the Bop. Created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of poetic argument, with the first stanza setting up a complaint, the second expanding on it, and the third either providing resolution or a narrative of a failed resolution. You can read Laura‘s poem, Mary Lee’s, Tricia and Liz’s poems here. Michelle K. joins us here. A few more Bops might pop up throughout the weekend, so stay tuned.

For more Poetry Friday offerings, and to share your own click here. Thanks for stopping by.


With my affection for the villanelle and the sestina, you’d think I’d be at ease working with a refrain, but perhaps it was something about a group-sourced refrain (hat tip to Poetry Sister Sara) that tripped me up. For whatever reason, the refrain in the Bop seems wholly separate from the stanzas… so much so, that I ended up hitting a wall at the end of my first stanza. Suddenly the fourteen-syllable lines seemed clunky, and the beats fell oddly. I started over, trimming my lines, but then the rhyme felt forced. Another draft, now completely unrhymed, but the internal rhythm and more polished language of my lines felt off when faced with that casually worded refrain. Isn’t that just the way it goes when you have a poetic form you’re certain will be simple? Eventually I got it to where I was …just done messing with it. I left the rhyme imperfect, with an off-meter step near the end of each stanza to signal that repeated refrain coming to pause the discussion again. Reminding myself these poems are meant to be exercise and not perfection, I stumbled and limped into my imperfectly perfect topic… housekeeping.


Click to enlarge

(Ashes to Ashes, and) Nuts to Dust

Disorder settles like the dust
Drifts into velvet piles
In quiet corners. Laundry Lurks,
disheveled. All the while
Freedom peers in through glass panes
Begrimed by birds. It waves hello….

Let’s kick that can down the road.

“Filthy” is not the kind of word
That tells the tale. There’s no mildew.
The difference between “clean” and “neat”
is miles apart. The follow-through,
Is that perfection never lasts:
A moment’s lapse, and things explode.
Chaos comes roaring, moving fast,
disrupts, dismays, and discommodes…

Let’s kick that can down the road.

Through window streaks you’ll see sunrise
And sunbeams dancing on the air.
A wrinkle will not scandalize
A meadow when you’re walking there.
That cabbage moth’s not judging you,
So, take today, get out and go.

…And kick that can down the road.


Just now, we all have so much to do – classes to start, books to buy, odd socks and lunch dishes to find, dust bunnies to rout, and water bills to pay. I hope we can find a moment to take stock and figure out which cans can be kicked down the road indefinitely – and which cans are absolutely only for right now, and must be cracked open immediately to let the full fizz of life bubble out. Carpe diem, poets. Don’t let that just be a catch phrase, life is way too short. Grab all the joy that you can – and splash it out. Happy Weekend.


(Commenting snafus: Commenting issues are an artifact of a sometimes aggressive spam filter. If your comment seems to vanish, it likely got caught. No worries, I’ll fish it out shortly!)

{pf: the poetry peeps rise}

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: Get on your flippy poodle skirts, your tough leather jackets and penny loafers; we’re going to The Bop. A form created by poet Afaa Michael Weaver at a Cave Canem summer retreat, this is a poem with three stanzas, each followed by a single repeated line as a refrain. The first six lines presents an issue, the second eight line stanza discusses it, and the third six lines resolves it, and/or discusses the failure of resolution. Are you in? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on August 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


The truth is, I never really give acrostics much weight as a poetic form – even phrase acrostics. It’s possible it’s because they’re so often used as elementary school art projects, where every kid finds a positive word to go with each letter of their name. Though I do like them, and the Poetry Peeps and I have messed around with them before, they’ve never really taken off as a form I’ve mastered. They’re simple, but… sometimes a little too regimented for how I’m feeling.

When Tricia selected a poem for us to take a line from for our poems, I think we all thought, “Okay, taking a line from a poem we already know? This’ll be easy.”

Yeah, that just shows what our past selves knew. No. No, this was not easy. In fact, using an utterly iconic poem like “Still I Rise” was immensely, fiendishly challenging. Additionally, a few of us found it difficult to separate the poet’s intention from our own poem – especially a well-known poet who lived during our lifetimes. This is Ms. Maya, y’all. This poem has spoken to generations of people with clarity and joy – we surely weren’t going to mess with that.

…well, obviously, we did, though I will say the good thing was that we read the poem repeatedly. I made it hard on myself by pulling the second-to-worst line in the whole thing to work with (the first worst is about having diamonds between my thighs; I’ll happily leave that one to someone else). A random line would work best, I thought, so I closed my eyes and picked…”You may kill me with your hatefulness.” …Great.

I did try to write from that line. I got halfway through and it was getting both long and depressing, and the internal rhyme felt forced. I tried a double acrostic, but those work best with really short subjects – which wasn’t what I was working with. I had to go away and come back several times and fiddle, fiddle, fiddle with word choices and order. I don’t often write a poem I’m happy with in a single sitting, but usually I can at least manage an entire draft. Not this time!

Finally I gave up, which was honestly the wisest choice. I don’t think I can write a good poem about hatefulness yet – not the way I tried to approach it. (ETA -*And here is where I forgot it was supposed to be a PHRASE acrostic…. oops.) Frankly, I’m sick to death of people’s hatefulness and could do without all that for a bit, so I switched to the important and meaningful part of the poem to me – “But still, like air, I’ll rise. Get on with your trifling hatefulness anyway. I’m over it – literally.

One of the ways I worked on creating rhyme within the confines of an acrostic was to record myself (ugh) reading it over, and over, and over. Here’s the last recording I made – it’s a really helpful (if dorky sounding) tool in the poetic arsenal.

I still don’t like the title – it really isn’t much of one – but I’m thrilled I finished with something meaningful, grounding, and largely coherent. I’ll take it.


I’m excited to see what Liz has come up with, if Sara joined the girl gang, and what Laura wrote at the lake. I’m looking forward to finding out what Tricia dreamed up, which one of the probably forty-three that Mary Lee wrote she ended up choosing. Here’s Michelle K’s beautifully upbeat take, and here, Carol V. shares another classic acrostic. Thanks so much everyone for playing along! More Poetry Peeps will be added as the weekend progresses, so check back later for the full round-up.

Meanwhile, Poetry Friday is hosted over at Marcie Atkins’ blog. Thanks, Marci!


Even if you don’t feel like you’re rising above like air this week, don’t forget the poem also suggests that you can rise like dust. Dust or grit is central to the oyster’s pearl, to the clouds that make the rain, and to the fragile impermanence of a snowflake’s beauty. Even the smallest of us has impact and purpose. Here’s to finding yours. Happy Weekend.

{poetry friday: p7 string, rope, thread, chain…*}

I set up this post Tuesday morning, trying for an upbeat tone despite still processing the hate crimes shootings on May 14 and 15 in Buffalo and Southern California. By Tuesday night, I couldn’t face writing something else – I have no words. Today is for poetry, not tragedy, so I’m posting what I have. Perhaps other words will come later; right now there is only… a soul-deep heaviness.

Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of June! Here’s the scoop: We’re doing byr a thoddaid! Yes, it is INDEED a Welsh form, good guess. It’s got more than a few rules, so buckle up, Buttercup: 1.) A byr a thoddaid is a quatrain or series of quartrains, divided into two combined couplets. 2.) One couplet contains 8 syllables for each line with an aa end rhyme. The other couplet contains 10 syllables in the first line and 6 syllables in the second. 3.) The 10-syllable line of this other couplet has an end rhyme near the end of the line (but not AT the end). 4.) The 6-syllable line of this other couplet has a link (either rhyme, alliteration, etc.) to the end word of the 10-syllable line and then an end rhyme. 5.) Additionally, the couplets can appear in alternating orders like a traditional quatrain. WHEW. Are you in? (Are you scared?! I am, not gonna lie.) You’ve got a month to study up on the rules and craft your creation(s), then share your offering with the rest of us on June 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


Since my last post, I have packed for and gone on a vacation which required an airplane (and many hours with a mask. MANY hours. But, it worked), crashed my computer (which gave me some panicky moments with three Works In Progress, let me say), then crashed Himself’s computer because we connected it to MY drive (oops). Additionally, I’ve been juggling two volunteer projects, and the micro-managing director makes me regret every moment, plus I got one of my best friends involved, and she’s suffering through the micro-managing too. Ugh. Can we still blame the pandemic for everything? Y’know what? I’m just going to do so. I have been at the end of my rope, people, and I’m not even kidding. So, when I remembered our poetry theme this month was just a poem using the word “string, rope, thread, or chain,” I snickered, wondering if I was being tied up, tripped, or hanging on.

Well, I’ve decided it’s all of the above, though I’m thinking the rope and chains are mostly bent on tripping me. Still, I’ll hang on…(and volunteer for fewer things)

It has been such a blurry, busy month that the Poetry Sisters crew didn’t even get to hang out on our usual Zoom – so I’m super eager to see what everyone’s doing. Make sure you visit Tricia @ The Miss Rumphius Effect, Sara @ Read Write Believe, Kelly @ Art & Words, and Michelle @ More Art 4 All is here with twine, while Carol @ Beyond Literacy Link finds that thread binds us. More Poetry Peeps will check in on this challenge during the weekend, so stay tuned for a full round-up.


Want more? Poetry Friday today is hosted by Linda at A Word Edgewise, and you’ll find lots of other lovely poetry to brighten your Friday there. Thanks, Linda!

Hang in there, friends — even if you feel yourself dangling by a thread… tie a knot, and hold on. And if you have to drop, it’s all right to let go and fall – those who love you have got you.

{pinned post: book events in september}

Thanks for your interest in my book events!
(This post will be continuously updated.)


Essay • “Checking the Weather” Teen Librarian Toolbox Blog @SLJ

Interview • “Writer Q&A” @NerdDaily

Interview • “Author Q&A” @Confessions of a YA Reader

Interview • Author Q&A @ at Karen B. McCoy’s

Interview • Conversation @ Edie’s Cotton Quilts

BOOK GIVEAWAY • from September 16th – 21st: CLOSED Recipients have been contacted on Twitter and Instagram. If you were contacted, please use the drop down the menu on the left “About This Site” and leave your address in the contact form. Thanks!


ICYMI: View the Crowdcast of my book launch with Janae Marks here.


View the Shelf Stuff conversation with Saadia Fauqi and Shanthi Sekaran, and educator, Dr. Dawn Bolton at Brave & Kind Books here.


View the Princeton Children’s Book Festival’s Book Jam with Damian Alexander, Kathryn Erskine, Lee Durfey-Lavoie and Veronica Agarwal here.


{pf: poetry peeps know what the ____knows}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of September! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing tanka in response to a poem we love from the Poetry Friday universe. Choose to respond to an original poem from anyone – give us a link to the original poem, then go tanka-tangoing on. Are you thinking of a poem? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your 5-7-5 creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on September 24th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


The original steps for the Sidman Deeper Wisdom poems included: a.) Choose your subject, b.) think about the overarching Truths relating to your subject, c.) state six of the strongest truths into two stanzas, and d.) make your end words rhyme – but you don’t have to. While the mentor poems we used – Jane Yolen’s vs. Joyce Sidman’s – differ slightly, at least on the surface, this is a short, simple vehicle for thoughtful poetic description. That said, I still choked on the first step.

During our Seven Sisters meetup the previous Sunday, I had written one poem off the top of my head, but realized it might be somewhat controversial, so I shelved it. However, since sharing an office in a 1959 bungalow means help (READ: constant Zoom meeting distraction) is just two inches away, I glanced over my shoulder and said, “Hey – I need you to tell me ten things.” Once we determined that “things” in this case meant nouns, Himself said, “Fine,” and began to recite: “An emu egg. A hummingbird. A geode. A monocle. Lilies. Squirrels. Garam masala. Swim fins. Cuttlefish. Moose nuggets.”

MOOSE NUGGETS!?

“What?” he protested. “Don’t you remember that dried moose poop potpourri stuff we saw in Alaska that time?”

Erm… no, I did not, actually, but …aren’t travel memories precious? Or …something?

ANYWAY, thanks to this very helpful list, I did find a couple of things which were intriguing enough to warrant further study. But, that’s the problem with me – these poems are deceptive. Sure, you can find six facts about most anything, but how many of them are worth calling “deeper wisdom?” Plus, it’s a bit addictive to play with the idea of fact poems, because my rabbit-hole is research. I barely got my poem written because I was chasing the history of garam masala (every state in India has their own blend!!!)… Which tells me I’ll revisit these someday! But for now, did you know that cuttlefish can see into infrared, but they’re colorblind? And, that they have three hearts? And, did you know that they don’t have ten arms at all? And, and…

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?

hearts trio-thumping, three downbeats
two tentacles, eight arms to greet
a spy’s disguises and deceit!

What Does the Cuttlefish Know?
Through colorblinded eyes, the heat,
Mimicking objects, to defeat
Its foes. Nothing else can compete.
(A bonus line: they’re really neat)

This doesn’t really count as a “deeper wisdom” poem, per se – but this is just the first poem I came up with during my free-write. No matter what you feel about masks, though, I hope you read it in the spirit it’s intended: as just a thought, not an indictment of anyone, about anything.

What Does the Mask Know

The silken slide of facial skin
The snubness of a nose
A cloud of damp from breath held in
Being your newest “clothes.”

The shrouding of a friendly smile
The shielding of the Earth…
Perhaps a hint of runway style?
What I think you are worth.


Poetry Friday this week is hosted at Unexpected Intersections, and our hostess this week unexpectedly joined us in our Poetry Peeps challenge! And now I know something new about marmots! Thanks for joining the fun, Elizabeth! If this is your first time joining the Peeps, welcome! You can check out Sara’s poem here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and you’ll find Liz’s here. What Kelly knowss is here, and you’ll find Michelle’s poem here. Bridget joins us here, Heidi’s poem – well, the second one she wanted to write – ☺ -is here. Rose joins us here. Margaret’s heron is here, and you’ll find Linda’s poem here, and Denise’s poem here…and, joining us a bit later, Kat’s poem is here. What a fun bunch! Even more Poetry Peeps might pop in throughout the day, so stay tuned for a round-up of links.

It’s been a mentally-crowded kind of week, and I hope you find the time this weekend to geek out over some new and previously silent deeper wisdom that speaks to you. Have a lovely weekend! Hope you join the fun in September!

{pf: the poetry peeps, zentangled}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of July! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing villanelles on the topic of dichotomy – or, true opposites, if you will. Bifurcations. Incongruities. Paradoxes. Contradictions. We’re talking Luke/Darth (or is that a false dichotomy, and they’re two sides of the same coin??? Discuss), real or imagined, civilized v. savage, winter v. summer, function v. dysfunction. Interested? Good! You’ve got a month to craft your creation(s), then share your offering (or someone else’s) with the rest of us on July 30th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


A Recounting of the Trials of Zentangling, Or, Artistic Poetry Wherein I Screwed Up: Okay, so the thing is, I am a CHAMPION doodler. I excel at mindless scribble that we could stretch ourselves and define as patterns. It’s not relaxing so much as… something I do when I’m not paying attention. You’d THINK I would be all over the Zentagle poetry form! Reader, I was not.

The process for a Zentangle poem is really enjoyable. I had a good time paging through catalogs in the mail, electronics manuals, and old grad school texts for likely words from which to craft poetry. I scanned pages which looked promising, and fiddled with them, using the computer to create squares and lines to show the correct flow of the words. I honestly found that part fairly simple, though there often wasn’t just the right word – or in the right form – to create the meaning I wanted, but that was mostly manageable. The poems tended toward the enigmatic – I felt like I was writing Poetry By Yoda, after a bit, but that was fine, too – from the Zentangle I’ve read, they do tend to be short, pithy and …sound more like quotations than poems, to my mind. (And yes: we had the whole What Is A Zentangle Poem, And Is This One Because I Say So” discussion amongst my Poetry Sisters. We decided YES, there are rules, but fewer than you’d think, but your mileage may vary.)

Where it fell apart for me was the artwork. At first, I used a highlighter and the first one I picked up was… horrifying pink. This was a mistake. I tried to fix it with yellow. Also a mistake. ::sigh::

The poem reads:

the system may reduce failure

if you adjust
the adjustable
you
alter
the
present

It’s not terrible, but I wish I’d gone an artistic direction other than…pink. ((Shudder))

On my second try, I decided to mingle color AND black and white. I tried doing the outline of an image FIRST, and tried to let the flow of the words suggest an image to me. It… kind of worked? A bit?

The poem reads:

the
Universal
exists
in pieces.
lived through history
simply,
focused using
forgetfulness
to connect,
we share
remembrance
as
indelible.

Finally I thought I had a clue – just use black and white. That’s what the Zentangle artists do, who don’t try and use words but just make patterns. However, somehow my black and white was …too thick of lines? Too uncertain of pen-strokes? Or something. In the end, mine looked more like it intended to be blackout poetry, and also like it needed a watercolor wash, which I didn’t dare try adding because a.) I don’t know how to watercolor and b.) it was busy enough. I like the poem better, though.

The poem reads:

Consider
acknowledging:
you have sometimes
hesitated
holding
back
love.
Over and over
the
loss,
while small has
a
weight.
it speaks,
volumes.

Whenever I whined – oh, so frequently – about this project, I remembered that Tricia’s stated purpose was to “push us beyond our comfort zones.” BOY, HOWDY did she succeed, so thank you, dear Tricia, I would never have attempted these on my own (and may never again. Perhaps. When the sting of defeat dies down a bit). I’m so excited to see what the rest of us came up with. Here’s Tricia’s zentangle, while Sara’s zentangle-ISH is here. We welcome Andi right here, and Cousin Mary Lee’s zentangle is here. Of course, artist Michelle zentangled with us, and Linda B’s zentangle is here. Carol V’s is summering here, Jone’s here, and here’s Margaret and Chicken Spaghetti’s blogger Susan! Welcome to the Poetry Peeps joining us for the first time! It’s been an intense month, and we’re all in different spaces with it, but as always, various Poetry Peeps will be added throughout the day, so stay tuned. Poetry Friday is capably hosted today by Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise. I hope your weekend is as randomly artistic and creative as you can make it. As Miss Frizzle says, “Where the road ends, adventure begins!” Here’s to pushing way beyond the boundaries of creativity (and good sense) this weekend.

2♦sday Flicktions

If you hadn’t heard about the Tuesday Flicktions challenge some of my writing group is participating in, I hope you’ll pop over to Wonderland to read a basic write-up about it why we’re doing it, and to find links to other people’s poems and stories. If you do know about our writing exercise challenge, well, then, below is this month’s image, and the following is my little scribble about it. Enjoy!

Harryhausen Skeletons

Harryhausen Skeletons, by Flickr user Jürgen Fauth of Berlin.


Caught Up In Wire And Plaster

A heavy steam of golden syrup through our single-pane window, the sunbeam pressed me deeper within my nest of blankets, sweetly contented and relaxed. With my father elsewhere, and chores and other duties finally discharged, I was gleefully blessed with time to myself. I turned on our massive console TV to Channel 20, to find the Sunday Afternoon Movie. Always a double-feature, with no commercials allowed, the Sunday Afternoon Movie was pure gold. One never knew which cinematic clinkers would be unearthed each week; they ran the gamut from the Wizard of Oz to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, from Cleopatra to Cat Ballou. While my sisters would skive off to watch more modern shows on my parents’ tiny bedroom TV, I was all in favor of the oldies. If it was, as she called it, a “spaghetti Western,” my mother would settle in behind me, and drop off to sleep on the couch, while I watched with glorious abandon, my permission all but guaranteed by my mother’s insensate body. Though sometimes I was bored (I wasn’t as big a fan of Bridge Over the River Kwai or Lawrence of Arabia), and I spent more time with Shirley Temple and Bob Hope than can reasonably be expected of someone with the intent to retain their sanity, this Sunday afternoon tradition was a rare oasis of calm in a contentious household.

This week, there was a pair of adventure films on the bill. In the first, there were interesting costumes and a lot of dialogue – too much for me, so it was mostly ignored. At nine, I was vastly interested only if there would be dancing, animals, or stunts. Robberies, shoot-outs, and kissing scene were where I squinched my eyes closed, and if there was too much talking, I sometimes wandered away entirely. To my mind, this movie had a LOT of talking, but eventually, the bald, eye-glowy guy in fancy robes, the young woman, the other guy in a sort of baggy-ankled pant, eventually got …somewhere. The bald man did things, then disappeared, and then, only the couple were hurrying through a cave made up of improbably sharp stalactites and massive boulders, when suddenly, they come upon a chained dragon, scaly scale flexing mechanically. On cue, the woman gives a sharp, cinematic scream as another monster – a cyclops? – appears. They’re trapped, of course, between greater evil and lesser evils, but baggy-pants has a plan, and he somehow loses the dragon. Entranced, I leaned forward, toppled, and sank into the story without a splash.

It was a glorious afternoon. The acting was stilted, the monsters, completely ridiculous, and the stutter-step of the stop-motion animation of the skeletons as they emerged from underground and attacked the Argonauts – with eerie screams from what vocal chords? – was both hilarious and compelling. I was hooked, moving closer and closer to the television.

And then, from behind me, my father grunted, “Huh.”

I jumped.

I rarely lost track of my father, ever. Knowing his location was important, and as every rabbit watches obsessively for hawks, I watched for him. When he was home, the floor seemed made of glass, being scored by diamond-sharp words and cutting silences. When he drove away, the walls leaned in and exhaled, and chronic tensions which had held the foundations tense shifted, softening the floor and resettling the roof.
I turned my head, trying to watch him from the corner of my eye. Now that I thought about it, I’d vaguely heard a car in the drive, but when the front door hadn’t opened, I’d relaxed my guard. He’d come in through the backyard, I guessed. And now, when I was so deep into the story – and so close to the TV – that now, when I was dying to know how it ended, now he’d returned, and was staring, hands on hips, at the TV. Now was the silent judgment, but next would come the pounce, as his body uncoiled, one hand shooting forward to jab to the OFF button, while the other would come down, a weighty pincher claw on my shoulder. Then would come the tightly gritted lecture, perhaps the one where he told me that he had something for me to do, if I had nothing else to do but “waste the Lord’s time.”

I held my body to unnatural stillness, pushing internal furniture aside to lock down emotional response and resistance; already a rabbit going limp, even as I fumed that now I would never know how the skeletons got out from underground with shields and swords, nor would I know the outcome of the fight. The Sunday Afternoon movie rota would move on, and they might never show it again.

“Huh,” my father said again, then, rasping a hand over his scruffy chin asked, “That Sinbad?”

Warily, I turned my head. “Maybe,” I said. When he only hmphed again, I ventured. “It might be. See, there was this dragon, and then, these giant birds…”

“Naw, don’t remember all of that. That’s the skeletons, though.” He stood, transfixed, and so I turned, too, watching with him as the skeletons leapt in awkward jerky motion, and with voiceless yells, brandished menacing swords. Jason – or Sinbad? – and his men fought valiantly, heroic and dying dramatically, yet emerging at last, triumphant against their deadly wire and plaster foes.

When the scene changed, I heard my father shift behind me, and blow out a breath. I sat back again, waiting.

“Huh. Sinbad,” he said again, shaking his head with a chuckle. I sat, blinking, as he walked off, adding from around the corner, “Sit back from that TV some.”

I scrambled to comply, a rabbit streaking for the bushes, now that the hawk has passed by.

And so, my father went his way, perhaps to do something important and mystifying with a stub of pencil, grout, and a triangle rule. And, as I sank into the story once again, the foundations shifted, and the floor softened. From above my nest of blankets, the roof resettled.

{thursday thought: lux aterna}

Night

Stars over snow
        And in the West a planet
Swinging below a star —
        Look for a lovely thing and you will find it,
It is not far —
        It never will be far.

~ Sara Teasdale

And we close this month on the threshold of this beautiful truth. Indeed, it is equally true that if you look for unlovely things, you also find them, but aren’t we lucky not to be THOSE people, scrying the world for the ugly?

Polish the lamp, trim the wicks, spark the flint. Arise and shine.