{pf: the poetry peeps build a villa(nelle)}

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

You’re invited to try our challenge in the month of August! Here’s the scoop: We’re writing after the style of Jane Yolen’s eight line, unrhymed poem, “What the Bear Knows,” a poem written in honor of her 400th book, Bear Outside. Our topic is What the ____ Knows, modeled here by Joyce Sidman. Maybe you may know something other than what a bear knows. Maybe you know what the finch knows? or what linden trees know? maybe fishing creels? …mailboxes?! Are you thinking of something? 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 August 27th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.


One of the problems with pulling your theme for the month out of your metaphorical hat is that occasionally that hat might have better suited another outfit. Either we were not in the mood for villanellery this month, or we’d nearly forgotten how to write one, or we remembered there was a theme mid-villanelle – and there’s really no good way to change partners once you’ve started this dance. Suffice it to say, we each had more than a few moments of “Ugh!!!” -but in the immortal words of Sara Lewis Holmes, “What the heck, I’ve gotta have something – so here I go:”

Viva La Villa(nelle)! Sara’s poem is here; Liz’s poem is here. Laura’s is here. Cousin Mary Lee’s is here, and Tricia’s is here. Andi and Kelly are out on the beach, but they’ll come inside at some point. Heidi’s in the villa, along with Denise, writing about truth and lies. Michelle is joining with us, and Donette wrote a villanelle, too, though for a different project. I really appreciated Margaret’s jeremiad villanelle. Carol’s villanelle is here, and she’s open to suggestions to improve it. If this is your first time joining in, welcome! Other Poetry Peeps links will be dropped into the villa as I find them, so stay tuned!


Wait – whose bright idea was it to include dichotomy in this challenge? Oh, yeah, mine. ::sigh:: I started three villanelles, the first was contrasting past and future, which was fine, but sheesh, kinda grim. The second one, which I was really getting to like, started within the theme, but became completely mired in something wholly different – both off-theme and equally depressing. (This happens a lot for me when I have a repeating form. One sad thought gets bounced around endlessly.) SO! I started again, first taking time to read back over old villanelles from Poetry Seven projects in 2015, 2017, 2019 and the like. (Hmm… we do tend to hit this form in odd years, don’t we!?) I found that I often write villanelle when I’m emotional – qué sopresa, no? As I’ve mentioned, the repetition of the first and third lines, together with the iron-clad rhyme scheme tends to mimic how a thought can pound into the brain. Throughout the poem the theme tumbles over and over, end over end and if you’re not careful, you’ll get sick of the whole thing. Villanelles are really good for looking at all sides of a thing thoroughly.

My attitude toward friendship changed radically after seventh grade. After a year of false friends and being ignored en masse by almost all the girls who were once my friends, I learned to be all in, or all out – one or zero, nothing in between – if you showed the least little sign of turning on me, I’d find somewhere else to be. After eighth grade, and all the tearful promises of keeping in touch, I wondered, with a mixture of panic and plotting, what I’d do if I had to see those people again… Well. A couple of years ago, I found out… and honestly, this poem could have been my internal monologue. I imagine someone could perform this pretty well, slam-poetry style.

Attitude

Hah, no – I did not come here to be friends
My seventh grade heart bled to pay my dues
Now you’re my enemy – let’s not pretend.

You called me weird – said I would never blend
I tried, but you kept shifting social cues
So no, I did not come here to be friends.

Each cliquish tween sorority depends
On “Just ignore them, girls” – words which excuse.
Now? They’re my enemies. I won’t pretend.

Do you think that’s too much? Do you defend
Your “harmless childishness” like I’m confused?
Uh, no. I did not come here to make friends –

Nor did you – no, you came to condescend.
I shrank when bullied. You grew large, amused.
An enemy, clearly – let’s not pretend
~
We graduate together in the end,
They sign yearbooks and cry, keep up their ruse.
Years on – I will not look to them as friends
They made their choice – I refuse to pretend.

Mmm, nothing like the smell of scorched earth in the morning.

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Rebecca Herzog at Sloth Reads, which has one of the cutest little cartoon icons ever. A glasses wearing sloth! It me! Hop over to find more original and shared around poetry to kick off your weekend right. Don’t worry if you’re still mad over junior high – or your last job. It’ll pass, and if not, you can use it as fodder to make art which amuses you, if nothing else. The best revenge is living well – so take joy in your survival. ☮Happy Friday.☮


(NB: My mother would want me to add the caveat that poetry is a game of the mind, and I don’t really believe in enemies as a concept, just super difficult people, and of course I was perfectly chill and polite to former classmates, just… perhaps more chilly than my usual chill… Don’t worry – my ancestors remain unashamed. K? K.)

{#winterlight: rage epiphany }

I’ve blogged before about how many times girls are taught that anger is “being ugly,” thus setting anger as antithetical to being somehow properly attractive/womanly or whatnot. It’s always so bizarre when you don’t think you’ve been raised with any slant in particular, and then hear yourself prevaricating when someone asks you if you’re angry. “No, I’m not mad, I’m just upset. I’m a little vexed, yes. I’m frustrated. I’m aggravated.” Yeah. I’m also pretty torqued, ticked off, peeved, furious and properly raging as well – but it’s not nice to say so, apparently.

It’s always a little breath-taking to realize that you are mad about something when it’s deep-seated, private, almost even from yourself, and catches you off-guard. You stumble out of a conversation, panting like a marathon-runner, and wonder, bewildered, “Where did all this rage come from?”

I suspect the rage is a more common epiphany than one might think.

Dolomites D 039

Who Said It Was Simple

There are so many roots to the tree of anger
that sometimes the branches shatter
before they bear.

Sitting in Nedicks
the women rally before they march
discussing the problematic girls
they hire to make them free.
An almost white counterman passes
a waiting brother to serve them first
and the ladies neither notice nor reject
the slighter pleasures of their slavery.
But I who am bound by my mirror
as well as my bed
see causes in color
as well as sex

and sit here wondering
which me will survive
all these liberations.

– Audre Lourde


Real life is distracting, contradictory, full of issues of competing importance, and thoroughly messy. This messy, conflicting ball of emotions is also worth examination, if one is to live well.

Good luck with that.

{“to the young, who want to die”}

Sit down. Inhale. Exhale.
The gun will wait. The lake will wait.
The tall gall in the small seductive vial
will wait will wait:
will wait a week: will wait through April.
You do not have to die this certain day.
Death will abide, will pamper your postponement.
I assure you death will wait. Death has
a lot of time. Death can
attend to you tomorrow. Or next week. Death is
just down the street; is most obliging neighbor;
can meet you any moment.

You need not die today.
Stay here–through pout or pain or peskyness.
Stay here. See what the news is going to be tomorrow.

Graves grow no green that you can use.
Remember, green’s your color. You are Spring.

Greenock 38

– Gwendolyn Brooks

{right, christmas is cancelled}

You know what? I’m not doing this.

I’m not. I’m done. Seriously — stick a fork in me.

I hate shopping on a regular day. I LOATHE shopping during the holidays. I love my people. I know they love me, on a good day. But this frenetic rushing about, trying to get the perfect thing like it won’t be there the next day — no. Most of my nearest and dearest are underemployed and broke. Why are we doing this again?

Oh, Jesus. Right, right…

Nope, wrong.

This travesty of shopping and emo-ludicrous DeBeers commercials has nothing to do with that guy. We can’t blame this on Jesus, over the top tinsel, glitter, and white lights. I love looking at decorated houses, hearing carols and eating unfrosted gingersnaps by the pound. It’s just that I cannot… produce sentiment, nostalgia, or perfect family moments on cue. I cannot meet whatever silent expectation you might be having for me that you never explained, nor can I comprehend your disappointment, grief or — worst, your rage when I do not. And I strongly resent any arbitrary date on the calendar which requires this song and dance of me. Everything is ridiculous and overblown and too loud, and we are all so almighty stressed and distressed that this whole yearly extravaganza is a highly bad, bad, bad idea. So, Christmas is OFF, okay? OKAY, THEN, FINE.

…so, I’ll see you on the 24th, for brunch, a lazy movie marathon and board games, then? You’re on.

{thanksfully: 11}

Sundays used to mean getting up really early to go grocery shopping. At six a.m., the only active thing is the produce department, a whole rafts of people replace the ravaged displays of fruit and veg. Grocery stores that early are usually peaceful — though I have run into people before who haven’t yet gone to bed — and who really need to go home, sober up, and do just that. But, still – I am grateful for early hours, and the determinedly chipper people who work them.

introvert shopping

early morning aisles:
piled deep in cardboard boxes
chilled, damp vegetables
wait beside empty displays
blesséd* is the emptiness

I know. Blessed is a single syllable, unless your syllables use formal Elizabethan phrasing.

{these things I do}

Newark 135

Years ago, when a friend of mine was in the first throes of a difficult divorce, I saw a list on her wall which read “Things I Can Do And Not Panic” or something like that, and the list was filled with simple things she was good at, which she had control over, that had nothing to do with the betrayal and drama currently going on in her life.

That …sliced me to the bone. While we both put on a brave face, I shed more private tears over that list than she ever knew. It hurt me to think that so talented and loving and competent a person was having to resort to lists to remind them of who they were. And yet. Depression – that liar – constantly tells us who we are not, and anxiety leaves us dashing about trying to prove we are better than that liar says.

So. Here I am with my lists.

This will be this administration’s legacy: lists. Lists to remind me of what I can control (nothing) and what I can do (not much, but something). Lists to act as bandages and gauze, staunching the stab wounds to my sanity Every. Single. Day. Lists. To remind me that I have to get up and keep going. Lists that remind me that there are still some thing which are…safely predictable.

I’m so impressed with what so many friends and acquaintances are doing – speaking up, speaking out, organizing efforts to raise funds and collect necessary items. I can throw money at things, when I have any (and LOL that with the writing life), but “silence, like a cancer, grows.” Anxiety and depression are some of the great stranglers, I find, and as events unfold and the national discourse goes from vicious to violent disintegration, some of us can barely think or speak. Every task takes enormous concentration to complete. We are overshadowed by a desire for unconsciousness during the day, and twitch restively with thwarted energy in the dark hours.

Peachtree 137

And so we pull out our lists… packed with metaphors, we make our lists force sense into the world.

On my list right now are plums. There are plums on our teensy, tiny Charlie Brown tree in the backyard, and that plum tree is doing its UTMOST right now. Every day I get a couple of pounds of plums from that thing, and when all is said and done, I’m going to have forty pounds of plums or something. I go out and take pictures of my plum tree pretty much every day. The life cycle of a plum is …pretty straightforward, actually. It’s yellow-green. Then it’s green and pink. Then it’s red. Then it’s plum-purple and then it’s ready.

(As anyone with a fruit tree, I also spend a lot of time side-eying birds. There are a LOT of birds in my life right now. I name them and count them and …basically argue with them.

Hey. It’s a thing. It’s something I can do that I’m good at now: random tiny bird identification and illogical discussions with said birds re: staying out of my plums.)

Oddly, the second thing on my list is my piano. To be clear: I am a terrible pianist. Just really bad. Mainly because I was an anxious child who didn’t ever have a professional teacher, and so had to learn from an older lady who meant well, but who basically terrified me with her quavery voice and tremoring hands. Those “lessons” lasted for about six weeks before we all gave it up as a bad idea. I could play anything the lady asked me… but I never read a note. No, learning to read music was something I taught – and still teach – myself, and my playing shows it. Badly. But, right now, an anxious aadult hacking away at the mountain of Really Craptastic Playing gives me a kind of peace. Plus, when I’m not butchering Bach, I play hymns – that’s a twofer right there.

The third thing on my list is… creating. Art. Crafting. Food. Did you know Bon Appétit has videos? (Soon I’ll be fermenting kombucha in self defense. At least now I know new things to do with alllll those plums…) I may not be good at creating, but I can be relentless. That’s basically how I have to approach everything – keep trying. Which leads to …

Netherlands 2018 1214

…the fourth thing on my list, which is, predictably, Dutch. The language is by turns impossible and then deceptively easy – and, like with piano, I am dreadful at it — but I keep hacking at it — oh, so badly, with the throat-palate-hiss sounds of g and h – and I can only hope that someday, someday I can solidly converse with a six-year-old. Someday.

Fifth is reading. Specifically, reading fairytale retellings and romances. A happily-ever-after is a requirement, a plot that isn’t too full of drama and chaos; the sure knowledge that, as in the thirty-minute sitcom, all’s well that ends. I am throwing a way a great many things which don’t fit my narrow parameters, but am happily finding a great many that do. It’s time to reread books that made me happy, where great justice prevailed over impossible odds. These are the times I reread the Discworld books, so I can listen a while to Sam Vimes.

Yes, Robin Reader. I am writing. That’s never not on my list. I am writing even though it feels like my fingers are chisels and the plot is granite. I write even though occasionally my chisel turns into a penknife and the plot is impenetrable. I hack out a few millimeters as I can. Sometimes, it’s like sand, and it all fills in the shape by the time I get back the next day. And then this beast becomes archaeology, and I take out my brushes and go dirt-diving. I find where the plot disintegrated. I carefully piece together the story’s history. And then I dig again.

These things I can do – simple, fixed things, while we do what we can. Meanwhile, the swords we beat into trowels to transplant the flowers of justice need sharpening. If you’ve turned your spear into a pruning hook, don’t forget that agricultural implements are still offensive weapons, according to Sam Vimes… what we sow, we’re going to reap, so keep planting.

Netherlands 2018 51