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{March 28, 2017}   Scenic Overlook

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Scenic Overlook

For some reason I have never been able to find a writing partner, someone who is not too much better than me or no worse than me, someone who writes in my style, who instinctively understands me, or at least wants to understand me. So when I have a bad day, I either put on the fake cheer on Facebook, which is acceptable to most people, or write in a vacuum to get my thoughts and feelings out, producing yet another poem to stick in a bulging notebook of unread, unpublished efforts.

So yesterday was one of those days for me and this is the result. I am taking the leap of sharing my poem here with whatever readers I have left (considering that I haven’t made my blog a priority for a long time or kept up with the people I used to follow faithfully).

SCENIC OVERLOOK

Some would say life has brought me backward.

I grew up poor in a rich town

where I had to hide my dark hair

beneath a golden hat, which only

made me feel hot and awkward.

Now I live poor in a poor town,

a place most of my old classmates

wouldn’t get caught dead in,

but at least I blend in:

another gray wisp of a cloud

on a sunless day,

another brown leaf on the ground

of a winter wood full of leafless trees

in muddy March

when spring’s new hope

feels like a crazy dream…

But I digress.

 

Yesterday I drove through some rich towns —

just looking —

not like an open-mouthed tourist

but like a coroner searching for clues to a death.

I examined the details as I saw them:

the handsome man with the perfect haircut

jogging on my side of the road

wearing clothes that I recognized

cost more than two week’s of my groceries,

(he forced me to the wrong side on a curve).

Then I pulled over to gaze at a view,

and to avoid the impatient BMW surging

at my back bumper, like the rough waves

against at the rocks at the beach

with the “No Trespassing” signs, whose beauty

I had to observe from afar.

 

But I will keep my scientist stance

because I don’t like the flavor

of bitterness.

I theorize the owners of these million dollar mansions

with empty yards would naturally

look like the jogging man because their parents

looked the same, and because beauty and wealth

go together like cut glass and cognac.

Why would hothouse plants live among weeds

that may choke them

to death?

 




An old friend of mine passed away suddenly in a car accident in March. Friends and acquaintances continue to post things on his Facebook page; he is truly missed. Though you, my readers, don’t know him, I feel that everyone should, so this is my attempt to spread word of this wonderful man.

Richard was inspiring, one of those rare and unique individuals that come along so infrequently, but touch the lives of so many. Here is his obituary, but that is just part of his story.

Richard was a gentle soul who loved to laugh, forever curious about the world. He was a much-loved teacher. Right before his death he had accepted a teaching position in Shanghai and was learning to speak the language. He loved to travel and was a master storyteller when sharing his travel experiences.

After some tough years of suffering from a rare form of cancer, he sacrificed his leg for his life, but he didn’t give up his spirit to live life to the fullest.

Because of him, I made a decision I can’t share yet, but I hope to share it soon. In the meantime, here is a poem I wrote right after he left us.

For Richard

One sudden death can produce ripples
as big as surfable waves;
some will ride their shock on
to greater things; they will heave a board
to the top of their dreams,
enjoying their own breathless ride
to its end with gratitude
and dedication, like you.

For others, the ripples will be bigger, scarier,
like tidal waves that gather their fears into a fury
that sweeps away all that they thought they had,
leaving them clinging to whatever has roots
enough to survive the disaster.

I want to be the surfer.
Let me hear the ripples of sorrow
with an attentive ear
toward my own future.
I can’t be you,
but I can choose to be like you.
Tell me, Richard —
where to get the board —
I’m listening.

Susan Desrocher

 



{January 4, 2016}   The Leaf and the Feather

leaf and feather

Uncommon Fellows

I took this picture recently — it was not one of my best, but it inspired me to write a little “children’s poem.”

 

A leaf and a feather

awoke together

On a balmy Christmas Day.

Their conversation

Was their situation

this balmy Christmas Day.

“Something’s not right,”

Claimed the leaf–

Thinking the sweep of the wind

Blew him south in his sleep.

“My friend,” he said, “if I may be so bold,

I’d really much rather

I sleep in the cold

Huddled close with my fellows

As I grow old.”

The feather  agreed

That things were not right,

He was used to the feeling

Of being in flight,

More feathers around him

Raising him up

and up like a kite.

But others like them

Were nowhere in sight,

no one else cared for

what they thought

was their “plight.”

The blacktop around them

Was dark and rough,

And the leaf and the feather saw

Their world as tough.

They knew they must see

themselves as enough.

They must accept change, just be–

Share this space,

find safety and grace,

in each other’s company.

Their talk made them realize

They both felt the same,

And learning to love this,

Was the name of the game.

So that was the way

that balmy Christmas Day

they bonded together,

The leaf and the feather.

 



{December 17, 2015}   Photographing Time

tall grass, shadows, morning sun

Sun hiding behind grass

I race to catch the golden hour

as if I were catching a life-saving ride,

escaping disaster, fire or flood;

I’m trying to catch time

by the second.

 As the light moves thru the leaves

and shadows cross stillness,

I think I can see it, oh, so briefly.

Quick, there’s one,

catch it before it races away,

laughing at mortal me,

using mirrors in a fancy case

to try to catch joy.

Copyright 2015 Susan Merrifield Desrocher



{September 30, 2015}   A Wednesday Poem

shadows on windows

On and On

Life has been insistently busy the last few months and I all but abandoned my writing. This morning I pulled out my poetry notebook to jot down a couple of lines that came to me as I drove to the laundrymat, and I found this poem. Appropriately it’s Wednesday. So I thought I would share it. Never mind Mondays, can you tell I don’t like Wednesdays??

 

It’s Wednesday,

my week’s nemesis,

work’s dullest day.

It stretches like a desert

of time, the afternoon

especially dry and arid.

How to prepare for the journey?

What to bring,

not too heavy that

drags me to the ground

in the moisture-sucking air,

but keeps my parched brain

from cracking and splitting,

and able to savor

the respite when it is over?

copyright Susan Desrocher 2015



{April 19, 2015}   Dead Poets Make Great Friends

Jane Kenyon

My Latest Library Books

Dead poets make great friends; they let you know they understand, and they don’t reject you or make you feel untalented like live ones do.

Whose quote is that? My own.

After I read Donald Hall’s essays, the next thing on my library list became Jane Kenyon, A Literary Life by John H. Timmerman and Jane Kenyon Collected Poems., because I am fascinated by poet/poet relationships (e.g. Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). For those who don’t know, She was the wife of Donald Hall and she died tragically at the age of 47 from leukemia.

Although I had heard of Jane Kenyon, I had not sat down and done a concentrated reading of her poetry. WOW…She became a favorite in seconds flat. It could be that reading about someone’s life at the same time as reading their poetry makes for a feeling of closeness that reading the poetry alone does not give. Or maybe having read about her from her husband’s point of view first also adds to the feeling that she is someone I know, a friend that I haven’t seen in a long time.

I put the books down and immediately wrote three poems in my notebook. Hallelujah!

This one was not the best of the three, but it goes with this post. Copying it fresh off the notebook page without editing here reveals my immediate spontaneous feelings without polishing:

TEA WITH JANE KENYON

I look up from a book of your poems

expecting to see your face in an opposite chair,

your cup paused halfway,

like it is floating in the air.

Your words hang in the air too

like an echo, though your mouth doesn’t move.

You look me in the eyes

with first a question, then recognition;

we share a smile, the same smile,

like looking in a mirror.

But I blink and focus

and my opposite space is empty.

I think if I say out loud,
“My grandmother was a Methodist too…

and “she liked to listen to Teleevangelists…”

and “I know that yearning — the need to rebel

against rules instilled by someone you loved…”

Then I hope you’ll be interested enough to walk

back into the empty space and sit down

and talk awhile

and I would not be alone

with my demanding white paper and pen,

a strict teacher forcing me

to write something

over and over

until I learn my lesson

and get it right.

Susan Merrifield Desrocher

But now I leave you with a unpublished nugget from Jane’s college years, quoted in Timmerman’s book:

Today

I got

no mail.

What is it about the world that it wants

my cubby hole

kept in poverty.

My mailbox is bloated with emptiness

its opening —

an orifice

waiting for a word.

Hey.

Occupant,

That’s me.

And, my lesson to learn, this poem…

The Clothes Pin

How much better it is

to carry wood to the fire

than to moan about your life.

How much better

to throw the garbage

into the compost, or to pin the clean

sheet on the line

with a gray-brown wooden clothes pin!

Discover her or rediscover her during National Poetry Month…you won’t regret it! And maybe. like me, you’ll feel like you have found a new friend. 🙂




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?



{January 12, 2015}   A Tiny House Story

rundown

Abandoned house

Anyone interested in what it is like to live in a tiny home? Not one that looks like this, I’m sure!

I’ve been reading about the Tiny House Movement for a while through Rowdy Kittens and other blogs, so when Chronicle did a special about tiny houses the other night, I had to watch it. I love the IDEA of living in your own tiny mobile space, and admire the people who follow through with it, but I don’t think I could do it (not without having a storage unit bigger than my house). 🙂

Much to my surprise, a few minutes of the show was dedicated to the narrowest house in Boston in the North End. I was transported back in time as I watched the segment; my friend, Danielle had lived there for a brief time in the 80s! She had a lovely summer garden party in the deceivingly large courtyard behind it.

I remembered her giving me the tour; she told me how often she caught people staring at the house. It is only 6 feet wide in one spot (as they show in the TV segment). There was one room on each floor (the second floor included the bathroom), so there wasn’t a lot of space, but the view was wonderful at the top! It looks out over Copp’s Hill Burial Ground and you can see the harbor (at least you could back in the 1980s when I visited). I was taking a poetry workshop at the time so I wrote a poem about it not long after Danielle’s party. I had to experiment with form and rhyme as an assignment, which I very rarely do these days.

It took a little digging to find my notebook from that time, but I thought I’d share the poem:

 

 Guided Tour

Into the narrowest house I was led,

half a hundred feet from where sea captains sleep,

up on the hill in their cold narrow beds.

I step up the narrow stairs, hollowed and steep,

the old wood worn smooth without sagging,

from hundreds of years, and sizes of feet.

On the second floor I’m chastised for lagging

behind to peer into the small bath and bedroom.

Up and around, I’m instructed, zig-zagging

Up to the living space, cozy as a womb,

Keep going, I’m told, though I want to stop,

then I’m climbing again, dropping my gloom.

Suddenly it seems we’ve come to the top;

there’s a soft bed, lit by a window

in an alcove where we happily flop.

Laughing she finally lets me know

the vision she wanted to share with me —

the tourists staring up like dead fish below.



{November 29, 2014}   Using Genealogy to Find Yourself

My Grandfather with his Sisters

My Grandfather with his Sisters

I love when the pieces fit. I started this post weeks ago but life got in the way and I was too busy to finish it. Then last week the writing prompt was “Digging for Roots,” and I said, well, that’s a sign I need to finish the genealogy post. The final piece was put in place as I was reading “The Law of Happiness” by Dr. Henry Cloud and he discussed the “mathematics of happiness.” I knew I had to finish this blog post.

The last few years I have been on a journey to find myself. This journey has required a lot of “textbooks”: Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach and The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, just to name a couple of my favorites. But the farther along in the journey I go, the more I am finding genealogy an essential piece of the puzzle.

This was confirmed for me as I read Dr. Cloud’s book. In the section on “The Mathematical Makeup of Happiness,” he breaks down the origins of happiness into percentages:

…at any given moment, circumstances may be contributing about 10 percent or so to your happiness….The next factor comes from your internal makeup, which is probably composed of genetic, temperament, and constitutional factors. This seems to account for about 50 percent of your happiness level….the rest of what goes into your happiness comes from things that are directly under your control: your behaviors, thoughts, and intentional practices in your life.

(In case you are interested, Dr. Cloud cites Sonja Lyubomirsky’s paper and book on “The How of Happiness.”) Of course, both Dr. Cloud and Ms. Lyubomirsky are focusing on the 40% under our control and looking at it as a positive finding. Of course, me being me — someone whose genetic makeup is to be a “glass-half-empty” person (or as my friends used to say, “every silver lining has a cloud” person) — I jump right on the statement that there is only 40% (or less than half) under my control. Also, I jump back to the 50% genetics…so my instincts in wanting to learn about my genetics seems to be on the mark.

I can blame some of my nature on genetics; there is mental illness and depression in my blood. But I also feel there is a “karma” of sorts flowing there. Like a story that hasn’t ended and needs to be played out. This is the thought process behind this first draft poem I wrote:

 

My relatives clamor for acknowledgment; 

my blood teems with their unmet dreams,

but I am a dead end.

The buck stops here.

 

My grandfather, who died at thirty-six,

wrote of the first World War

in tiny notebooks of concise script.

He filled letters with sketches, inspired by Paris,

he dreamed of art school, but never got there;

Perhaps it is from him I got the eyes squinting for beauty

that none of my siblings have,

covered by the glasses they don’t need.

 

My seemingly self-reliant, resilient grandmother,

Who married over and over, looking for the care

no one knew she needed, or the cure for the loneliness

no knew she had; she can no longer tell me

if after 102 years, and four husbands

she ever found it, but I suspect not.

 

My other grandmother did:

on her second try she found a kind man

who thought her as beautiful as her own father did;

she had the hats to prove it.

How she loved style and fashion,

but she lived with him in a little house set back from the road

in a tiny town, where she hermited herself after he died.

 

My grandmother’s first husband,

my blood grandfather, I know nothing of him.

He is the mystery ingredient,

the wild card, a scapegoat for the intangibles.

My father thought him dead for most of his life,

believing my grandmother’s well-intentioned lie —

her wave of a pair of scissors over photos made him disappear —

He died at mid-life with a new wife,

and no contact or acknowledgement by his only child,

or grandchildren.

Which leads to me, some combination,

unable to pass the buck to another generation.

They want resolution here and now, from me:

I feel all their pain,

but I am a dead end.

But now I am determined to learn more: understand the why’s of who I am on the road to the how’s of finding out how to be the best version of me. I may not be able to extend the dead-end with asphalt, but I can cut a path through the forest and build myself a cabin in the woods.



{June 25, 2014}   Gotta Love Grandmothers

Clippings

Clippings

The other day my mother and I were going over more boxes. (They are endless!) My paternal grandmother died years ago, but there are still boxes of stuff hanging around that were cleaned out of her house. My father never got a chance to sort through them before he passed away. My mother is determined to dig into the sheds and get through them during the summer months. (It’s easier emotionally than going through my father’s stuff or her own…besides, this stuff is OLD and smelly and she can do it outside.)

My grandmother was a clipper, especially as her memory started to go and she stayed inside all the time. She clipped out recipes, she clipped out poems, she clipped out news stories. There are many boxes just full of yellowed newspaper clippings. Why don’t we just toss them you might ask? Well, here’s a perfect example of why we don’t.

In one box my mother found an old Reader’s Digest envelope labeled in my grandmother’s neat writing: All Susan’s Clippings.

My grandmother had cut out the articles published in the local newspaper for every time I made the honor roll or appeared in the school play. They were tucked into my high school graduation program. Her efforts were touching enough, but I found a treasure in there.

I mentioned in previous posts that the first poem I ever had published was in the editorial section of The Boston Globe. I had just turned 16 at the time, so even though it is a “silly” poem, I’m still proud of it. But I didn’t have a copy. I’m sure I kept one at the time, but it was easily misplaced over the course of many moves and 40 years. Bless my grandmother…there was a copy in her little envelope! Nobody but a diehard Red Sox fan would probably understand it, but here it is…

Red Sox Poem

My First Published Poem



et cetera
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