Greetings! Welcome to another Poetry Peeps adventure on Poetry Friday!
Poetry Peeps! You’re invited to our challenge in the month of May! Here’s the scoop: we’re writing a ghazal. The ghazal (tripping correctly from the tongue as “guzzle” – with apologies to those of you giving it a French flair as I used to) is the oldest poetic form still in use, with roots in Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, and Hebrew traditions. A ghazal is made to be sung, and is a couplet-based form with internal rhyme. (Find out more about it at Poets.org.) As always, the topic is totally up to you, but the Poetry Sisters are continuing with our 2023 theme of TRANSFORMATION. You have a month to craft your creation and share it on May 26th in a post and/or on social media with the tag #PoetryPals.
I feel like I need to set up a camera in the garden, so I can capture the milometers-per-hour growth of my seedlings. We have hit the 80°F mark this week in my part of the world for the first time in 2023, and the acceleration of — everything green is just gobsmacking. We’re happily stashing windbreakers and pulling out our short sleeves. …For the most part, anyway.
Last week at my Sunday gig (choir #2), a friend stepped behind the pulpit and slipped off her cardigan to put on her robe. She saw me watching her and winced. “I don’t usually wear sleeveless dresses,” she explained hurriedly. “My arms just look so bad…so crepey.”
Of course, I fussed at her about it, as we do with friends. She looked gorgeous in her spiffy dress, which I’d complimented the moment I’d seen it and I reiterated. I told her it was a gorgeous day and she had a gorgeous set of arms that needed to feel the sun on them. And then we settled down to warm up and rehearse.
But, I kept thinking about it.
Poets, my friend is eighty years old. She is a size six, maybe a seven. She swims one hundred laps in an Olympic pool three times a week, and walks two miles the other two days. She sings in the choir with me, and she’s louder and has a longer range. She sports a perfect layered cinnamon-brown bob with nary a silver strand twinkling, as well as perfect manicure at all times. More, she’s kind and funny. And she’s still worried that her upper arms look bad.
As I said to the Poetry Sisters when I mentioned this, good Lord, at some point we HAVE to be enough.
I mean, I get it. I don’t display my upper arms. Having been various sizes of fat my whole life, even when I was really lifting weights and playing sports, they were still… squishy in a way that was socially unacceptable. Bigger than other girls. I never wear sleeveless things outside of the house. But, I will not be eighty years old and still worrying about this crud. I. Will. NOT.
And so I wrote a lovely sonnet to my upper arms. The style of Pablo Neruda to me is layered and rich, loquacious and bountiful — just like my arms. He writes a lot of love poems, heady and redolent with beautiful language with which he woos the reader. I choose to attribute that to his Argentine heritage, a beautiful country filled with beautiful people speaking a lilting and glorious (and gloriously complicated, I say from the perspective of sixteen hundred days on Duolingo) language. Using the mentor poem “One Hundred Love Sonnets: XVII (I don’t love you as if you were a rose)” I speak of my arms – and your arms. And all of our arms. May we embrace ourselves, and our flaws, not like something about which poets sing – some romanticized, perfect thing. Rather, may we embrace ourselves as if we’re children who may or may not be sweaty, muddy, covered in pet hair, widdle, puke, snot, or tears and still – cherished, and worthy of love.
I Do Not Love You ‘As If’
I don’t love you as if you were a summer fruit, warm,
Firm, perfumed and toothsome:
I love you as an auntie loves a defiant toddler,
Exasperation woven from skeins of amusement and resignation.
I love you as the corner of the yard the cats favor,
Dense blooming bush beneath which they lie concealed, tails twitching,
Keen to pounce and leap and rend, replacing peace with panic,
Forcing conflict and change, challenge and confrontation.
I love you without knowing how, or when, or for what,
I love you austerely, without expectation or prediction,
I love you like this because I know no way but this, to embrace
The flawed and the fleshy, the crepey, creased, amd changed,
Complete in this moment as the sweet-fleshed perfection of a ripened peach,
Complete in this broad-shouldered, wide-bellied work of cradling a wailing world.
There’s always more poetry. You should see what Liz wrote. And here’s Mary Lee’s. Tricia’s poem is here. Michelle K’s poem is here. Heidi is “Neruda-ing” (yes, that IS a word) here. More Poetry Peeps will be checking in throughout the weekend, so don’t forget to come back and read the whole roundup. Meanwhile, Poetry Friday today is hosted by Ruth at There Is Not Such Thing As A Godforsaken Town. Thanks, Ruth, and Happy Seventeenth Blog Birthday!
Well, back to the garden, poets. I’m sending you out with a hug, from my arms to yours. Happy Weekend, you are loved. ♥