My Easter gift was a bright orange bud on one of my new plants. I peeked into the unfurling cluster of leaves and saw another emerging stem, and I’m happy. Also, discovered three nasturtium plants and a morning glory struggling up, so all the rain didn’t wash my seeds away, yay. (It’s gopher one, t, like, nine, so clearly, I’m winning.)
I have, for the past few years, tried to set my mind into the appropriate place for gratitude at Thanksgiving through a series of haiku through the month of November… The worse the year, the more of a run-up one needs for the holiday, so on that note:
By common magic appears
Art that delights us.
Happy sneaky pre-autumn!
It’s been a wildly busy month thus far — I feel like a got a few things done, namely putting up some peach butter and drying a lot of peaches and freezing some other peaches… and our chorus resumed this week, so I am already hip-deep in new music. It’s all in Spanish, so I’m doubly glad I kept up with my Spanish studies this summer, and I’m understanding at least 80% of what I’m reading! This is super exciting! (Never fear I’m smug; my pronunciation probably sounds like I’m speaking intoxicated Welsh.)
The only snake in the garden is… well, there’s not one, unfortunately, that’s the problem. I actually ADORE snakes, even the ones that surprise me in the yard (I KNOW. I’ve not yet met a poisonous one in the yard, but even then, we’ll probably just respectfully leave each other alone). Laura’s challenge this month was for us to use a snake metaphor we haven’t used before, in a poem maxing out at eight lines.
This was DAUNTING. I’ve used every “narrow fellow in the grass” metaphor that I could think of before. I once wrote a sonnet to my snake. I didn’t know that I could come up with something new.
We didn’t share our process as a group, so this month, every single Poetry Peeps poem is a happy surprise to me, too. Kel’s all snaked-out and will join us again later, but Laura started us off sweetly, and then Andi surprised herself, Sara brought the weather, Rebecca saw snakes everywhere, Tricia got technical, and Liz slid in before the finish line.
Incidentally, Poetry Friday is hosted by Sylvia and Janet at Poetry for Children right here, and did you see the faculty for the International Board on Books for Young People (IBBY), biennial conference???? Our very own Princess Liz will take part, as well as some other really special poets, including Naomi Shihab Nye, Jacqueline Woodson and Traci Sorrell!!! WOW.
When I’m stumped for poem topics, I think about what’s new with me. As I’ve mentioned, we moved this summer and we’re around the corner from a high school, a block away from an elementary school, and a block and a half away from a junior high. It’s nice to go on my walk while others are trudging to zero period,
secure in the knowledge that I will never, ever, ever face zero period again… *Ahem.* As I was saying, living so school-adjacent is entirely new, and so I thought of what I could do with that… and somehow add snakes.
A shrewdness of discerning tweens
A scamper of their anxious folks
A freshness of “first day!” school scenes
A catch-up made of snark and jokes
A schedule labyrinthine as snakes
Stumbling cross-campus, end to end
A tiredness heavy as lead —
Ends all first days. Thank God for bed.
It was a minimum day, but even so, you could see the difference between kids walking to school, and walking home. They were BEAT. I’m sure the teachers were, too – I remember that feeling, and salute you all who felt it a couple of weeks ago.
From Mission Peak the sun sinks low
Final salute to end of day.
Fog, coiled cool like nestled snakes
Encircles foothills and the Bay.
Outstretched, a shadow’s arms yawn wide
Offers of rest, and work to cease.
Breeze-ruffled leaves with night scents sigh
As twilight’s blueing light breathes peace.
I can feel the season changing – the overcast morning and the cooling evening. Some of you can feel other nastier things, mainly high winds and oppressive rain. Be well, East Coast friends. A peaceful weekend with the grace of rest to you all.
It Has Come to My Attention
It has come to my attention
that people like me
are not generally welcome in fairy tales.
It’s the talking birds that do it.
The minute a sparrow shows up to pipe a direful warning
it’s all over
down at the first hurdle
The body in the fifty-fathom well
will have to wait
the old woman turned into a hare
the murdered mother in the juniper tree
as I whip out my Sibley guide and look for the entry
with the fieldmark labeled capable of human speech.
For this crime
I have been accused of a failure of wonder
of having chained up my inner child and sent her
to work in the salt mines.
But the truth
(if you really want to know)
is that I have read too many fairy tales
and lives a bit too long
to be surprised by anything that happens in
the cottages of lonely woodcutters.
I can even venture a guess
to why the bear speaks with the voice of a maiden
(my heart goes out to her)
and why, when the animal has saved your life
you will be required to make a harp out of its bones.
These are old familiar mysteries
as love is an old familiar mystery
the dwarf’s name
the contents of the enchanted walnut
the thing which stands behind the mill.
Fairy tales are human things
which we have chewed over
since before we could eat solid food.
But a bird!
A bird that talks!
This is outside my experience
this un-parrot-like fluency.
I have so many questions –
Where did you learn?
and How do you make the P’s and B’s and M’s with that stiff beak?
and most important,
Are there more like you out there?
– forward from Toad Words And Other Stories by T. Kingfisher
I’ve been digging in with my Dutch studies since we returned from the Netherlands this past summer. It astounds me (READ: worries me; there WILL be a wall at some point, and I will hit it hard) how easily it comes. One thing I hadn’t expected is how studying language – any new language – improves the skill I have in other non-native languages. My French and Spanish have suddenly improved, because I have to think about neuter and feminine and masculine verbs. Even my German pronunciation – for sung German, anyway – has improved, all thanks to stepping outside of the English box. I’m so grateful for the world of words and my (brief) facility with it.
our language shapes us
on paper, inches apart
our worlds come together, inked
Have you checked out The Anxiety Chronicles? Anxiety is such a weird thing, and everyone experiences it so differently. I’m grateful that someone thought to record the stories of different women, saying in essence:
The Lily Anxiety Chronicles
you are not alone:
your twitchy, breathless, dizzy
has, at her back, empathy
a sisterhood called Legion
So you aren’t Tolstoy or St. Francis
or even a well-known singer
of popular songs and will never read Greek
or speak French fluently,
will never see something no one else
has seen before through a lens
or with the naked eye.
You’ve been given just the one life
in this world that matters
and upon which every other life
somehow depends as long as you live,
and also given the costly gifts of hunger,
choice, and pain with which to raise
a modest shrine to meaning.
no sermon, no sexton, birdsong from every direction
the quail’s quiet sageness is truth for the ages, and never is service too long.
It is rare-to-never that I think of a poem I’ve written in conjunction with a Moment I am having, but I did in this woods! It was sublime… to the point where I am studying the Dutch language and planning to emigrate. It was an AMAZING trip. Good to be home, though, and starting work on this novel again. Fingers crossed to finish by November!