{pf invites poetry peeps to a susurrus of words}

Shhh. Listen to the crunch of leaves underfoot. Listen to the susurrus of leaves dancing with the wind. Hear the shrieking cries of… is that a jay? or some other kind of corvid? It’s cool in here – and despite the fact that dragonfly was the size of a small VW – it’s safe. Here is a place where a person can think. Look up at trees taller than you’ll ever be, and breathe… deep.

Welcome to Poetry Friday, which today is hosted at Karen’s Got A Blog! Today we’re pretending we’re in a deep, cool wood, and not in sunny downtown suburbia. Our woods are closed just now, but I’m imagining them because I have enjoyed discovering what lies beneath their cool branches. Muir Woods, which are the woods closest to my house, is wonderful. I’ve never felt unwelcome there, or awkward, or that I was not in the right space. I’ve been left alone to enjoy it, to give side-eye to the HUGE banana slugs and to wonder if it was the same ground squirrel following me for a half mile (probably not. Maybe?). I was left to myself to be ungainly, awkward, sticky, out of breath, and deep into brush. Unfortunately, not every green space is safe and welcoming to everyone, as has been adequately and dispiritingly displayed in weeks past. It’s an odd thing, that some places seem to belong inherently to some people, and not others…

San Francisco 234

But, today this imaginary wood belongs to everyone, and as you were invited to join our poetry-ing this month, you know the prompt was using the imagery of thick woods and the word “susurrus.” Was that word helpful to you? It wasn’t to me, even though it’s one of my favorites (AND I MADE UP THE PROMPT), but after a lot of revision, I decided to go with what I had – these poetry exercises are meant to encourage us to write, not perfect us as writers.

And, so we carry on.

If you want to hear a “murmur or whisper” – or something about trees – from more from our Poetry Peeps, check out Sara’s post, and Laura’s here. Cousin Mary Lee’s post is here. Liz’s post is here. Don’t miss Tricia post. New poetry peeps include Michelle, and Janice. (As we’re tagged, we’ll point out other folks’ poems along the way – and thanks for joining in, folks!) Remember to visit the blog of Karen Eastlund for more Poetry Friday fun.


stopping by the woods on a summer evening

Up narrow tracks hemmed in with trees
Far from suburban greens
A wilder place is beckoning
Towards places clandestine.

A hushed and restless murmuring –
Mere susurrus of sound –
An invitation from within
To become lost – and Found.

Space here reserved for breathing in
Amidst the buds and leaves,
Expands the soul, Lightens the heart,
And never fails to ease.

Come one and all, to fragrant woods,
Or wander by the sea.
We share these spaces to rejoice
In Earth’s tranquility

Come all – and come courageously.
Take up this space. This prize
To all belongs; the Earth is shared
Your welcome recognize.


Netherlands 2018 1141

I hope you find a green place that welcomes you. It might not be possible right now, but the joy of green spaces is that they remain, as my friend Elle reminded me recently, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, it all goes on, as long as the Earth remains. Never mind what’s going on with us; the woods will be there.

Want to join us again?

{to beauty}

UGH, is it still 2020? It’s been six years!

This morning, Nikki Grimes wondered on Twitter if anyone else needed a reminder of something beautiful in this world, and oh, holy heaven, yes. As she shared a picture of her roses in bloom, so I will share my blooms – and some thoughts on the reasons I stare at my plants when my mind is full.

Sonoma County 236

Despite the fact that I garden, I’m… actually kind of terrible at it. So far this year, the Evil Gopher has eaten two whole plants (although today I saw it ate A WEED. I’m not mad about it), and three have simply failed to thrive. I have no clue what’s up with the leeks and beets, or why they’re not doing anything. There are so many things i should put them on a list and make note that they don’t do well here, so as not to try them again – but I’m more bewildered and sad that they didn’t like me. ☺ Gardening is sometimes a lot about failure – and learning how to face it, breathe through it, and walk on.

Between a box of seeds I collected from a house we rented fifteen years ago (!) and seeds from my friend Elle’s crop last year, we planted LOADS of morning glories in at least four colors around the entire yard. Morning glories… are stubborn sometimes. They CAN grow in poor soil and with tons of neglect, but even when you give them tons of fresh, rich soil, sometimes they just… won’t. Right now, while I have morning glories which are just now stretching up trees and staked on sticks and trying to run up the fence, I have discovered myriad tiny new seedlings which are just now germinating.

We planted them in FEBRUARY.

How is it that seeds I planted months ago in the winter are JUST NOW deciding to germinate? Did their older siblings somehow signal that it was safe? Hanging with my plants reminds me I cannot make anything happen except in its own time. Gardening means relinquishing the idea that you’re in your control. It’s enough to make you scream. It’s also …life. Things happen when they do – and all of our stressing rarely moves the dial. Sometimes what’s needed is patience. Other times, a clipper or a trowel and a new location, or even just fertilizer. You don’t know ’til you get in there.

Sometimes, there’s nothing you can do. (There’s that failure thing again…)

So, you take a breath, and do what you can. You enjoy the blooms that you have.

Irvington 398

Right now, what with the additional plague of “you can’t tell me what to do”-ers infecting the nation, it feels like we might never stop dying of this disease, or gain social closeness again. It feels like authoritarianism continues to invent reasons to eradicate black and brown individuals. It feels like nothing is working, that nothing is worth working for, and that we’ve lived through the winter of our discontent, which is dragging on into an endless summer. It feels – every day, for some – like the end of everything.

It’s a good thing we have this reminder: there are beautiful things in this world. There is rest – even a moment’s surcease from pain. There is hopefulness. Look for it. See.

{p7 writes back: the lai}


Upon sitting down to compose my Poetry Friday post, I generally express shock that the month has so passed quickly, but May has been ridiculous — it was the same day for at least fourteen years, and then suddenly we were hurtling toward the first of June. The other day, some wag at the Farmer’s Market wished me a Happy Apocalypse, and …yeah, okay, fine. I’ll take it. Welcome To Your New Abnormal.

A friend mentioned the other day that at times, she finds things as they stand simply unbelievable. And I laughed – in empathy, in commiseration, and in recognition. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? In this society and in our world, so many times we’ve faced the same sweeping sickness, the same financial losses. The same racism, the same violence, the same losses, the same pain. Society lurches from pain to plenty and back again, and it feels like nothing we learn makes any difference. I don’t say this cynically – but sometimes in utter bewilderment, and a sneaking suspicion that we’re incapable…

Our poetry challenge this month was to revisit and revise an old poem, or write one new in conversation. Holding to our anti-2020 theme of foresight, I wandered back through old poems until I found the lai poems from 2017. The theme back then was hope and peace and light… and I wrote then that we “sorely needed it.” Bah. I don’t even remember specifics of the horror of 2017, and today’s self looks back, haggard, at yesterday’s self and sighs, “Girl, please. You don’t know the half of it.”

Hindsight. Foresight.

…since we ONCE AGAIN find ourselves and continually in need of hope, peace, and light, let’s light up another lai, shall we? This French form has a nine-line, “A” and “B” rhyme scheme with A lines being five syllables, and B lines two, with the pattern of AA B AA B AA B. This was difficult to work with, and seemed too short to imbue with meaning. To switch that up a bit, today we’re exploring the Lai Nouveau, which has a similar pattern internally, but falls into two stanzas of sixteen lines with repeating opening lines. I find this helps to tie together the whole:


“recompense”

Fate’s had a field day:
Predator’s turned prey:
Checkmate.
Knowledge can’t outweigh
Chance’s power play.
Stalemate
Forces us to say,
“Try another way.”

Plans still go astray
Every single day.
Irate,
Bigwigs cry “Foul play!”
Scrambling away.
They hate
Feeling like their prey…
Fate’s had a field day.

Who is the predator, and who is the prey? Is fickle chance the only way to upend tradition? Given the chance to change something big, where would you start? While you ponder these points, don’t miss more poetry from the Poetry Peeps: Laura, joined by Rebecca, and Sara, following Tricia, and Liz. And welcome to others who’d like to write along with us!

Still more poetry at Poetry Friday which today is at Cousin Mary Lee’s blog. There might be nothing you can do to predict the way life goes, but I know you can roll with it – just like the rest of us. Be good to yourself, friend, and be well.

{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.

{npm: solus 15}

Noticing a rush to define “after.” After this is over. After we get our lives back. Makes sense; we all are longing for life to go back to “normal,” but normal is part of what placed us here in the first place. Maybe we should change our focus… Maybe we should cease looking for things to go back to “normal” and take this moment as if our metaphorical vehicle is up on blocks? What parts of the engine can we rebuild to make it work better?

(Also, I’ve done a whole half month of haiku… and now it’s on to tankas for the last half, I guess? Seems fair.)

Netherlands 2018 1039

after.1

what makes things normal?
what does it mean to “go back?”
what would it change, if
the direction we chose next
began with a sharp U-turn?

{npm: solus 9}

As a tween I was intensely fascinated by the bit of English history which tells of the mutiny on the trading ship The Bounty. Fletcher Christian, chief mutineer, took over the ship, set the captain and his faithful adrift in a small boat, found an island where he could hide, and burned the ship. He looked at his choices and the choices of the men he led and decided that his were the ONLY choices for everyone, and so cut off any avenue of a changed mind. Historically, there are a lot of ways in which people have tried to make sure that a decision sticks – that no one can change their minds (or mutiny). Ironic, really, when they saved the lifeboats…

Dundee 196 HDR

second chances

the known lies ashore –
but who dares the open seas
dares to discover

{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.

{the #MoSt Poetry: 30}

And, huzzah, we’ve reached the end. This was a lot easier over the break; somehow, once the new year began, it was difficult to find time for poetry – possibly because I’ve managed to have some sort of stomach ‘flu AND a sinus infection in the intervening weeks! Nevertheless, this was a great exercise in continuing to write during vacation time, and I’m grateful for Sarah bringing it up to me, and to the Modesto-Stanislaus poetry peeps. And now, onward to this last tough challenge…

Prompt #30 (for January 13th, 2020) ~ I’d like to thank you all for putting up with my peculiar approach to these NYPC prompts, and I hope you’ve had some fun along with some challenges to your writing routine. I’d like to leave you with this challenge: write a Trenta-Sei formal poem. Yes, I can hear you say Huh? and that’s okay; I’d not heard of the form, either, until I came across it in Edward Hirsch’s splendid A Poet’s Glossary and then again recently in an entry by Robert Lee Brewer in his series of descriptions of poetic forms on the Writer’s Digest website. Poet John Ciardi invented the form of trenta-sei (“thirty-six” in Italian) in 1985. It consists of six, six-line stanzas rhyming ababcc. The first stanza establishes the opening lines of each subsequent stanza: thus, the second line of the poem becomes the first line of the third line, the third line becomes the first line of the third stanza, and so on until the end. Ciardi’s “A Trenta-Sei of the Pleasure We Take in the Early Death of Keats” was the last poem he completed before his death. The poet/physician John Stone composed a memorial poem, “A Trenta-Sei for John Ciardi (1916-1986)”. (Please note that you don’t have to make death or memorials the subject of your poem!) Cheers, and may all manner of things be well with you, fellow poets!

new

All shined and new, an unwrapped year –
(We’ll give last year the evil eye)
a fresh new day we’ll now premiere
our yen for ‘recent’ we supply
pretending ‘past’ has never been
the latest, best, can now begin!

We’ll give last year the evil eye
(so long, farewell, begone with you)
With “best of” lists we codify
A time we’re glad to bid adieu…
As if, as one year slips away
Amnesia will rule the day.

A fresh new day we’ll now premiere
Let’s “carpe diem!” – Start afresh
“New Year! New You!” commercials cheer
As trainers sculpt our wobbling flesh.
Our bodies strain toward sleeker shape
(While wise brains know: there’s no escape).

Our yen for recent we supply
With meals and shopping – and our phones
Consumed by news we gratify
Our appetites and we postpone
The hollowness we often feel,
(Disquietude we can’t conceal).

Pretending ‘past’ has never been.
Pretending all is shiny-anew!
Pretend the fear that underpins
The lives we live and our worldview
Can be erased by days or weeks
That “new” will be the change we seek.

The latest, best, can now begin
Is New Year’s “fresh start” real and clean?
To tell the truth, to our chagrin
Change is much harder than routine.
To break the cycle of the past
Make one small change – and make it last.