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We are halfway through National Poetry Month and I haven’t posted a poem. Shame on me!

I decided to post one of my own today and share someone else’s before month end! Enjoy…

Clock made of Wood

Roy’s Clock

 

REMEMBERING ROY

On my wall, the clock Roy made

loses time every day, but I dutifully reset it.

I keep it for the picture of my grandmother

he varnished onto the pine wood tree slice

that reminds me of a knotty pine cabin

in the mountains of California she once owned,

a string to a memory of a summer visit there that made me soar with dreams and happiness.

I keep it to remind me of him.

The clock of Roy’s heart stopped long ago

in a tragic way:

he was run over by his own car

as he tried to stop it from rolling down a hill.

Our possessions sometimes betray us;

our death can be entwined with them,

just as our life is entwined with them,

like ivy running wild,

over time crumbling the very bricks

it is attached to.

Roy, maybe you knew this;

you thought you could bypass it

by giving away your dreams:

the bricks of your life repurposed.

I remember the day you turned us loose

in your garage of clocks;

you told us to take what we wanted.

After their crafting was done

and your time was spent,

they no longer affirmed your life

or made money to live on,

just collected dust.

With bitter generosity you let them go

 to pseudo grandkids,

like released birds you had once loved,

with hopes they would soar

somewhere you couldn’t.

Roy, I don’t even know where you are buried,

but across the country your clocks tick in small apartments,

twigs in the nests of lonely people;

where will they go from here?




Donald Hall, "Essays After Eighty"

Donald Hall’s latest book

Why would a fifty-something-year-old woman relate to the essays of an eighty-something-year-old man? Does that say something about him, about me, or both of us? This is not really a review, but a review of sorts; my stream-of-consciousness emotional reaction to his latest book. In all reality, just what a writer really wants…a confirmation of a connection made, not just an intellectual criticism of the writing.

I have always liked Donald Hall’s poetry, and when I read John Freeman‘s well-written interview with him in Poets and Writers (Nov/Dec edition) and read the excerpts from the book, Essays After Eighty, I was burning to read it. So off to the library I went.

Sitting down to read the first essay “Out the Window,” (without a window in sight) I can see what he sees — the old barn, the snow falling, the birds at the feeder — because he describes his view in vivid language, in a poet’s way. But I also feel what he feels — the isolation of New Hampshire in winter (having just been through the worst winter in my life in MA), feeling unable to do what used to be easily accomplished, and feeling abandoned by contemporaries and left to spend time with the ghosts of old ancestors (those to be joined sooner rather than later). His writing just seems to add credence to what I already know…why? Because my best friend right now is my mother, who is 86. I talk to her daily. She watches out the window when she can and has dreams of cooking and cleaning and doing things she can do now only with difficulty, so I understand the mindset and the feelings. That, and the fact that timing and circumstances took me out of challenging but ultimately satisfying work too young; I have felt abandoned by a changed world that no longer values my skills and my abilities ($9 to $10 an hour to proofread…really?), and no longer believes in my beliefs.

Donald Hall describes old age and aging as “…alien, and old people are a separate form of life. They have green skin, with two heads that sprout antennae…If we forget for a moment that we are old, we are reminded when we try to stand up, or when we encounter someone young, who appears to observe green skin, extra heads, and protuberances.”

And though I have some decades to go before I officially get to his age, I feel the separateness as he describes, as if I went to sleep and woke up on a planet I didn’t recognize, where I was suddenly an outcast, where suddenly people could see my antennae.

Well, that is easily rectified you might think: study the creatures of this new world and remake yourself to be like them. Hide those antennae or — better yet — cut them off. But I can’t do it, ugly as they seem to be, all of my beauty is there. And all the positive personal development books I read tell me to value them. They represent that last crumb of hope I still possess that someday another alien will show up at my door with their own antennae displayed in all their glory, smile, and come in and sit down for tea. Maybe that being will tell me of a colony of others like us, which still exists, and that my isolation has kept me from finding. And we will set out together, where the warm sun and exercise will make me feel 50 again. The gears of my mind will squeak and groan, at first reluctant with pain, but begin to chip off the rust and neglect, and then revel in something too long lost and left behind. But I digress…as old people do.

The book also contains an essay entitled “A Yeti in the District.” Each of the essays in the book ends with Hall’s tongue in cheek, a wry twist on what has come before. This one made me smile from ear to ear. Its truth reflected in my librarian’s reaction to my checking out of the book.

Mr Hall reminisces about trips he made to Washington DC over the years, including the year he was Poet Laureate, and the most recent trip to receive a National Medal of the Arts from President Obama. Let me be clear: the author is “scruffy” in his advanced years, but it doesn’t bother me (he looks much like my own brother!) In the “Yeti” essay, the author writes of the picture published in his local paper of him receiving the Medal. “Top of the first page was a photograph of the President looming over me, hanging the medal around my neck. My mouth is open in life’s widest smile as I confront the neatly dressed Obama in my sports coat and khakis, with my frizzy hair and reckless beard.”

He goes on to tell of the picture then being picked up by a blogger for the Washington Post named Alexandra Petri. “She identified me, called me a poet, and assured her audience that I was not a yeti. She announced a contest for a caption.” But of course in this age of Internet bullying, the picture brought in entry after entry “…gleeful with ridicule. Then there were reactions. I was praised and Ms. Petri was scolded. I was defended as a poet, and flattered despite my appearance.” He ends the essay with this: “…With our increasing longevity, Ms. Petri should live to be a hundred. May she grow a beard.”

Now back to my librarian. She handed me the book and said, “That’s quite the cover art,” with what I sensed as some distaste (and perhaps a little insult to me for wanting to read it??) I said, “well, yes, it is a bit of a close-up.” I chuckled to release the sense of “judgment(?)” I felt. And she went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put that on my bedside table.” (I hadn’t read the book yet or I would have questioned whether she knew Ms. Petri?). This time I didn’t answer. And she still went on, “Yes, I wouldn’t want to put it on my bedside table because I would feel like someone was watching me.” I then made a judgment on her in return…You are a librarian and you are passing judgment on a Poet Laureate and Medal of the Arts winner???? But again, I digress.

Bottom line is that I enjoyed the book because I enjoy Donald Hall’s writing, his irreverence, and his sense of humor. I’m glad that after eighty he is still writing. And I hope there are plenty of people who won’t judge a book by its cover!




Stone wall

Walls Take Time to Build…and Dismantle

I am now calling myself a recovering writer, and I have photography to thank for it, but I’ll get to that later. Recovering from what you might ask? I have had a way-of-life-threatening case of writer’s block, resulting in my own personal Great Wall of China! The existence of Writer’s Block has been a topic on discussion boards and blogs for as long as they have been around…some people don’t believe the phenomenon exists. I think it does exist for some people and not for others. Some people see angels or ghosts, and some people don’t. I believe in writer’s block because I have unfortunately experienced it.

My wall has been truly impressive: years and years of perfectionism and expectations piled on top of each other, heavy and solid, leaving me unable to pick up my pen, no longer able to put words to my thoughts. Like the Tin Man, I became frozen in place.  My great wall was the physical manifestation of “missed opportunities,” a monument to my failure. Somehow I felt that building this monument was preferable to being mediocre; I suppose it gave me a “heroic” stature in my own mind. And yet… it was making me miserable not to write because it was clearly a passion or I wouldn’t have written all that I have written since a pen or pencil was put into my hand.  I couldn’t seem to resolve this problem. But then…I just walked away for a while; I did something I wanted to do instead of what I felt compelled to do. And now I hear the Ronald Reagan “presidential” voice in my head saying that it is time to “tear down that wall”! And I am seeing some daylight; I pulled out an old poem the other day and worked on it. I sat down to write this post, and not just “toss something out there.”  Thus, the title of “recovering writer.”  Now for the benefit of those readers who may be building their own wall, let me get to the “how” part. Read the rest of this entry »




New Moon Storm

It was a dark and wet ride home last night, a new moon Nor’easter,

But I was tired enough to sleep through the night without hearing it.

This morning the cat was hidden somewhere she thinks is safe;

I’d like to hide myself there too, I think.

But this morning my prayer group email is entitled “Clarity,”

and it seems true.

The Universe seems to be aligned,

I think there is also an eclipse.

Fitting that the trees have been cleared of leaves,

Their structure revealed, a kind of clarity,

My life changes revealed, I feel a surge of creativity.

After months of distractions and busy-ness,

I know what I want to say and I want to blab it!

But I have to work.

Ironically these are the days when it is hardest to work –

High energy days when it is almost impossible to stay where I am,

To sit and stay focused.

I’m like a horse pawing the ground,

Resenting the bridle and the rider, work and responsibility,

Let me go, says the voice inside,

Let me go with the wind and the leaves…

 

P.S. This was written totally off the cuff as a stream of consciousness in response to the Daily Post Prompt: Ready, Set, Done, so excuse grammatical and punctation problems…take it for what it is. It is written like a poem because it seemed liked random thoughts to me as a they came…more like a poem than prose. Hope you enjoy it!



{June 11, 2014}   Working through a Migraine

puddle with pollen

Pollen Murking up the Puddles

I had a rough day at work yesterday; the thunderstorms and weather change brought on a migraine at a busy time. My stress at being unable to control what is happening to me exacerbates it, but it is hard to calm myself down. I know no one on the outside knows what is happening inside my head; I fear they think I am stupid when I can’t get things right. Can anyone relate?

This poem is what I got out of a bad day.

Migraine

When it comes, the torture begins:

I am plunged under water and

struggle to do the simplest thing –

Breath, hold on –

as the numbers and words enter

my whooshing ears,

they are dashed around

inside my head,

flipped over against

the rocks of pain over my eyes;

behind them, I mentally write white

upon a black backdrop

so I can see what I hear,

try to send them in a slow-motion rush

through my hands, through my pen,

backwards like a photo negative,

Black on white –

Make sense, I pray,

please

make sense,

hang on

until you are released

and the water recedes.



{May 19, 2014}   Virtual Blog Tour

My current morning pages notebook

My current morning pages notebook

My friend and incredible photographer, Susan Licht, recently invited me to take part in a virtual blog tour. I first “met” Susan by discovering her beautiful blog and then discovered we had a mutual friend on Facebook! (Despite the massive size of the Internet, it’s still a small world!) We have many interests in common including literature, gardening, music, nature and photography. We could have met each other years ago through our mutual friend, and sometimes I wish we had.

So…my thanks to Susan for asking me to be part of this blog tour and involving me in this slightly different way of learning about other bloggers’ creative processes, of finding some new blogs recommended by people I respect, and of being able to introduce some of the bloggers I enjoy and give them a little extra support.

The “work” part of this blog tour involves answering the following questions about your creative process, so here goes:

1) What am I working on?

Too many things! Recently I had been trying to send out some of my poetry to publications. The last time I had poems “officially” published was in the 90s, though I do support a local poets community and go to open mike events. Although I publish some poems on this blog, I “keep” what I consider the best ones, seeking a more prestigious home for them than my blog. 🙂 I will probably end up self-publishing…sending work out seems to be too much like a dating service. I have also joined some photography groups, hoping for an inexpensive way to learn Photoshop. I take pictures almost every day for Last Train to QVille, though I don’t post every day. I tend to walk in the same area so it is a challenge to find new ways of looking at the same scenery.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Anyone who reads positive self-development blogs and books has probably read over and over that we are all unique. I still struggle with the answer to that question. The easy answer is that I was an only girl growing up amongst 6 boys! But beyond that I suppose part of my uniqueness is that I am interested in so many unrelated things…I have held a lot of different jobs in my life: from working at a movie theater (doing everything from selling tickets to popping corn and cleaning the theater) to working in offices. I worked in the garden dept at Home Depot; I’ve been an usher supervisor for concert venues, a legal secretary, an editor, and now I am working in the wine industry and as a part-time hostess at a restaurant…totally unrelated things. This translates into meeting people from all walks of life, which is a great thing for someone who likes to write.

3) Why do I write/create what i do?

Well, bottom line is that I love to create and I live to create. When I’m not creating, I’m miserable. My creativity most often takes the form of  poems because I have been expressing my feelings that way for over 35 years and it is second nature to me. It is an integral part of the way I process my life and connect with others. And I love beauty and nature, so I take pictures to capture and remember moments in time and the beauty I see daily.

4) How does my creative process work?

I have many different notebooks that I jot down ideas in. I journal every day. I read other people’s blogs and see which directions their work sends me. I write about whatever strikes me on any given day.

NOW comes the best part of this post: my recommendations for other blogs to check out. Another reflection of my eclectic job history and interests, the blogs I read regularly are very different, but all great.

Louisa May Alcatt takes her name from the author of Little Women; her “pub” writes interesting posts about women in history at her blog: Suffragette kitty

Peter S, former ad man chronicles his life as a stay-at-home dad through the antics and eyes of his son, Mr. C.

Queenie, as her name might suggest, is from the U.K., a former dance teacher with a bucket list, a camera and a good sense of humor.

Not sure if any of them will be following through on this tour, though. 😦  I know it is a time commitment that we can’t all manage.

Finally, I’m adding this on my own, one of the bloggers I wanted to recommend had participated in a blog tour right before I could ask her! So I’m throwing in a link to her post for good measure. Meet Beeblu!

Happy reading everyone!



{April 30, 2014}   A Life of Irony

I am always reading personal development and inspirational blogs and books. I’ve tried meditation, visualization, and spirituality, and still I can’t figure out what my life’s purpose is and what I was meant to do. (PLEASE…THIS STATEMENT IS NOT AN INVITATION TO BLOGGERS OUT THERE WHO WANT ME TO JOIN THEIR PYRAMID SCHEME OF MAKING MONEY BLOGGING! I DON’T BELIEVE IN IT SO DON’T TRY TO HOOK ME.)

To bring God into it, I continue to be baffled by what he wants from me, I seem to be deaf to his messages in my life. My proof of this? My life is always full of irony. The moment I finally, after an agonizingly long time, make a decision, I am faced with an ironic response. Or my timing is off…things just don’t seem to work out.

Barricades

Barricades

My proof in point today: My to-do list had included the task — “make business cards” — for quite a while. My purpose was to use them as a tool to pick up freelance editorial work. But I wasn’t getting around to it. I finally decided to enlist the help of a friend’s daughter who is studying graphic design: good practice for her and assistance for me. On the front of the card I would advertise my services and on the back, my blogs. I finally spent the money and got them printed a couple of weeks ago.

And what happened in the meantime? One of the printers near me where I had planned to drop off a card and resume just laid off a large number of people. I was told by someone who works there…don’t bother…they won’t want your services…no work. I have been so busy working extra hours at my part-time job for the last month, as well as working on a freelance editing job and another part-time job, I have barely been able to visit my blogging community or produce blog posts. Result? Dead blog. JUST WHEN I PRINTED MY CARDS TO ADVERTISE. And now, a full-time job offer is on the table after I have been scrambling to pay my bills for a while…Although the job doesn’t involve what I THINK my talents are, I feel like I have to take it for financial stability.

What’s the message my readers? Is God telling me to give up my dreams and passion because it is not part of his plan for me or is he testing me? Based on the reading I have done, if you are following the path you are meant to follow, it will be smooth and easy. It won’t feel like constant barricades are being placed in your path. Or have I got that wrong?

I know that some of you manage to work full-time and still produce blog posts, but that doesn’t seem to be something I’m able to do. Is God it making a correction to my path or am I deluded as to what my talents are and what my purpose is?

I will move forward with the hope that there is a future I can’t foresee. In the meantime, I will try to post when I can. I’ve put 4 years into this…what’s another barricade?




Brene Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection

Imperfection

 

Does this happen to you? Books seem to appear just when you need them? And they all tie together?

A co-worker dropped this off at my cubicle with the caveat: “My friend loved this book and gave it to me…it didn’t do anything for me, but I thought you might like it…if you don’t, pass it on.”

I will admit that my co-worker and I have had book discussions, so she has some idea about what books I like to read, but…I REALLY needed to read this book…NOW.

I have been struggling to embrace and accept my imperfections for a while (including the blurry photo at the left, which I took several times. I figured as long as you can see it and read it…it doesn’t have to be PERFECT). It fulfills its purpose as is.

I recently had a get-together with some wonderful supportive friends who love me and see me as gifted, talented and creative. I read some poems for them, including one I had recently, with trepidation, brought to a workshop. I was sharing with them some of the comments (which actually were mostly good and quite helpful). I told them “when it was finished” I was going to submit it. They thought it was fine the way it was. We laughed about how nothing was ever “finished” for me. I now know why: I believe that there is ONE thing I will create that will be THE thing that will prove my worthiness…if I keep working at it and never finish it…then the magical piece of work might still exist (like believing in Santa Claus…or the Elusive Comic Book!) I guess it is my way of believing life can change overnight. Though this appears to happen to some people, it is for the most part, not true. It certainly is not something I can will or force to happen. Life happens when you live it.

This book helped me understand why I can’t create a body of work. Perfectionism is a big, bad monster for me. I am “hustling” for my worthiness as Brene Brown says in her book. (I LOVE this phrase…I picture myself walking the streets, begging people to appreciate me.)

The book is broken into ten guideposts that represent ways of thinking you need to let go of in order to embrace your imperfection and believe in your own worthiness. Guidepost #2 is “Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism”.

And my favorite (V8…knock in the head) moment while I was reading the book was when the author wrote, “I think everyone should read Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist — I try to read it at least once a year. It’s a powerful way of seeing the connections between our gifts, our spirituality, and our work…and how they come together to create meaning in our lives.” WHAT?! I recently wrote a blog about that book!

I just love when the dots connect!

BTW…I submitted the poem last week…with some of the workshop suggestions. 😀



{March 24, 2014}   Daily Prompt: Sixteen Tons

Geez…this prompt gave me an earworm I couldn’t get rid of all day: “You load sixteen tons, whadda ya get? Another day older and deeper in debt…”

I once worked with a guy who put notes to himself on his day calendar every few weeks. Just when he might not be thinking about it, he would turn the page, and there it would be: “You are still there?? Are you kidding me?” or “Do you have any soul left or has it been completely sucked out?” He showed me a couple one day. I thought it was pretty funny, in a dark way.

I wrote a pretty dark poem myself many years ago when I didn’t like my job. I thought it fit the prompt, so here it is:

Monday Morning Hike

 When I park my car

the music stops.

I shuffle to the front door

of my brick purgatory

a little late,

head down,

watching my feet

go through the motions.

At the front steps

a pack is

put on my back–

every soldier’s companion;

gravity pulls

my shoulders earthward;

a groan slips out

as I yank open

cumbrous glass doors.

With every step

down the stale hall,

my pack gets heavier.

I imagine the silent

figures I pass

loading me up

behind my back,

as I struggle along,

bound for my trench.

By the time I reach

that terminus

my canteen is empty;

any weekend peace

it held drained away.

Another deadend

week has begun.



{March 20, 2014}   The Pit Man

The Pit Man with his TruckThe Pit Man

The rumbling truck sound

sent us running on little girl legs,

between gushing giggles:

“The Pit Man’s Here!”

Funny how things turn up when the time is right.

I’ve been thinking about writing about the man I called, “The Pit Man” for years. I had started a poem that was never finished (see above). Then, over the weekend, my brother and I were back to sorting through boxes of old stuff at my mother’s. My brother found this solitary picture in a box of random stuff. He pulled it out and said, “Hey, is this the Pit Man?” I snatched it out of his hand excitedly and showed it to my mother. “Yes,” said my mother, “That’s him!”

When I was a child, my grandfather owned 18+ acres of land next to where we lived. He had owned the land our house was built on also, but gifted/sold it to my parents to start their family. The rest of the land was next to and behind our house and was leased out to a sand and gravel company. My parents ended up building their “retirement” home where the driveway to the gravel pit was. fifty years later the remnants of the chain are incorporated into the tree, and the rusty old cable is still coiled on the ground.

Chain incorporated into tree

Nature Devouring History

rusty cable

History’s Remnants

The arrival of “The Pit Man” was akin to a trip to the zoo for two five-year-old girls looking for something to relieve the boredom. He didn’t come every day, only when somebody ordered gravel, so his arrival was unpredictable and exciting. He would have to stop the truck in driveway to unlock the chain that protected it from unauthorized visitors. That gave us time to run over and greet him. He would always smile and spend a couple of minutes talking to us before proceeding with his work.

My memory is of a “James Dean” character: handsome, trim and tanned. The man shown in this picture resembles my memory that way Barrack Obama resembles Denzel Washington…NOT! I remember him in the heat of summer in a t-shirt: I remember staring at the tattoo on his sweaty arm while he smoked during a cigarette break…exotic! He didn’t speak like us. He spoke slowly; he said his “R’s”!  A  child’s first crush on an adult is a memorable life event. Funny how different our memories can be from reality, isn’t it?

Nowadays a mother would have to be wary of her daughter being around such a man; there seem to be so many brazenly bad people ready to hurt children. But back then, it was a different world. It was a small town; my parents knew him. (Funny that they even had a picture of him!) Finding it gave my mother the opportunity to tell me what she knew. His name was Lloyd; he was originally from the Ozarks in Arkansas. She doesn’t remember why he ended up in New England — that would have been a big move back then when people were less likely to move so far from where they grew up, but it was likely economics or because of a marriage. She said he would often speak of his birthplace with affection and wistfulness, and he hoped to get back there someday. He never did; he died quietly in our small town. But he is remembered fondly…

Maybe I am meant to finish the poem…my tribute to what he meant to a small-town five-year-old girl.



et cetera
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