Category Archives: Poetry

What Brenda Learned from Sally Elliot’s Painting

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Don’t be afraid to go alone into the dark.

Sometimes you won’t know where to begin.

Sometimes you will begin many times.

If you stop you won’t start again.

Everything breathes.  Trees. Colors. Sky. Shapes. You. Everything.

The sun is always shining

somewhere.

From the roots of despair comes courage.

Out of courage comes breath.

Out of breath comes new beginning.

Don’t be afraid to go alone into the dark.

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Prickly Memories

In a few days I will return to Muhlenberg College for the IWWG Summer Conference. Looking through my journal from last year and found this poem I wrote in Myra Shapiro’s workshop on July 21, 2016.

mama and daddy

The mole on mama’s chin;

Bangs that landed two inches above her brow

A temper that flashed when I rubbed her the wrong way

She is attached to me by an umbilical of wounds.

Piercing memories

The white dress she stitched for my Phi Mu Pledge Dance

The goodbye she waved to the back of a Greyhound bus

“I wrote you everyday in my mind” she scrawled on that last birthday card.

A single ovary produced a daughter who never bore fruit.

Who left her never to return.

More than a container of seeds.

I trace the lines on my palm and the furrow between my brow.

I revisit scars that map a lifetime.

I touch the mole on my chin.

Once removed only to return.

July 21, 2016

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Things to do on Sifnos on a Windy Day

Find a sunny spot and drink Chai Tea

Watch the white caps dance across the Agaean 

Practice your Dancer’s Pose on a stonewall

Let the sound of the wind lullaby you to sleep and wake you up  again 

Don’t regret the walk you didn’t take or the souvenirs you didn’t buy for they can wait for tomorrow 

Just look at that Bougainvillea dancing up that stone wall

Breathe in gratitude

Breathe out regret. 

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Midnight in Apollonia

 In a murderous time

   the heart breaks and breaks

      and lives by breaking.

It is necessary to go

   through dark and deeper dark

      and not to turn.

-Stanley Kunitz

I walked home in darkness surrounded by new friends, laughter and the sound of startled goats.

Their bells clanged as they ran up the hill like apparitions in the moonlight. 

The path that had been long and unfamiliar just a day before now familiar even in darkness. 

There is a lesson there somewhere. 

Is the lesson about goats or friends or the tiny beams of shared light that illuminated the path?

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LOVE

Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.

Charles M. Schulz

The last original Peanuts comic strip was published 17 years ago today. Poor Charlie Brown’s undying love for the little red-haired girl was never returned in the strip.

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Love comes in many forms. The look in the eyes of the bull dog that sat in front of the DeltaBlue and SaraBlue at Pups in the Park were filled with love.

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DeltaBlue’s attempt to get the puppy Aurora to play with her – sadly unrequited.

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My hope for you – this day before Valentines Day – is that your love not be unrequited.  But remember, there is always peanut butter.

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Happy Birthday Mr. Lincoln

From time to time we all experience bouts of melancholy. Sometimes we even enjoy it.  Who doesn’t like sad melodies or tear-jerking melodramas. For most of us these spells are temporary.

This was not the case with our 16th President whose birthday we observe today. Many of Abraham Lincolns’s close friends noted his melancholy.

He often wept in public and recited maudlin poetry. He told jokes and stories at odd times—he needed the laughs, he said, for his survival.

Strange isn’t it that he was quoted as saying “Most people are as happy as they make up their minds to be.”

Personally I believe he would have been much happier if he owned a couple of Samoyeds.img_4131

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The Poet as Activist

This week I have been surrounded by poets at AWP17.  One of the many gifts I received was a panel marking W.W. Norton’s publication of Adrienne Rich’s Collected Poems: 1950–2012.

The appearance of this volume makes possible a mapping, sounding, and gauging of the expansive reality—the terrain (surface), volume (depth), and climate (atmosphere)—of the poet’s incomparable career. This panel has been assembled to do just that: to describe the elements that comprise the multidimensional power of Adrienne Rich’s life and work as a resource for continued, engaged endeavor.

AWP Conference Program

Moderator Ed Pavlic’ had the challenging task of describing his friend Adrienne Rich which he did beautifully with these words: “Adrienne work focusses our attention on how we are with each other.” He meant not just how we are with our inner circle but with all of the beings who share this planet.

Jill Bialosky, Rich’s editor at W.W. Norton listed the many awards she received and one she did not accept – the 1997 National Medal for the Arts. Rich refused the award to protest the “growing concentration of power in fewer and fewer hands.”

Another panelists, Joy Harjo, described Rich as one of her ancestors. That lineage is evident in Harjo’s body of work including her most recents book of poetry  Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings and her memoir Crazy Brave.  One cannot read Harjo’s words without hearing the echo of all the disenfranchised and the silenced.

Ifullsizerendern a personal moment Rich’s middle son Pablo Conrad read one of his mother’s later poems. I am haunted by the last line.

EVER, AGAIN

Mockingbird shouts Escape! Escape! and would I could. I’d

fly, drive back to that house up the long hill between queen

anne’s lace and common daisyface shoulder open stuck door

run springwater from kitchen tap drench tongue

palate and throat throw window sashes up screens down

breathe in mown grass pine-needle heat

manure, lilac unpack brown sacks from the store:

ground meat, buns, tomatoes, one big onion, milk and orange juice

iceberg lettuce, ranch dressing potato chips, dill pickles

the Caledonian-Record Portuguese rose in round-hipped flask

open the box of newspapers by the stove reread: (Vietnam Vietnam)

Set again on the table the Olivetti, the stack

of rough yellow typing paper mark the crashed instant

of one summer’s mosquito on a bedroom door

voices of boys outside proclaiming twilight and hunger

Pour iced vodka into a shotglass get food on the table

sitting with those wild heads over hamburgers, fireflies, music

staying up late with the typewriter falling asleep with the dead

 

 

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Prickly Memories

gum ball

Memories cling like resin to my tidy life:

The mole on mama’s chin;

Bangs that landed two inches above her brow

A temper that flashed when I rubbed her the wrong way

She is attached to me by an umbilical of wounds.

Piercing memories

The white dress she stitched for my Phi Mu Pledge Dance

The goodbye she waved to the back of a Greyhound bus

“I wrote you everyday in my mind” she scrawled on that last birthday card.

A single ovary produced a daughter who never bore fruit.

Who left her never to return.

More than a container of seeds.

I trace the lines on my palm and the furrow between my brow.

I revisit scars that map a lifetime.

I touch the mole on my chin.

Once removed only to return.

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What’s In Your Wallet?

….I have found the suitcase open, collecting snow,

still holding your vade mecum of the infinite,

The Lost Suitcase by Carolyn Forché

It would be nice to have a handbook that contained everything I ever needed to know about anything. I once had a Brownie Scout Handbook. Then a Girl Scout Handbook. Then, much later, a Big Book. But the only thing I could carry with me all the time was “a great big Brownie smile” and I often forgot to put that on. It’s amazing how much stuff I carry around now.  I’m retired now but when I was working I carried:

iPad
iPhone
shampoo
soap
towel
lock
lotion
deodorant
face cream
make-up
hairbrush
comb
wallet
keys
clear nail polish
toothpaste and toothbrush
eyeglasses
sunglasses
bills to pay
checkbook
stamps
return address labels
Oxford Magazine
Advil
Scrunchies
Gym entry card
Diet Dr. Pepper
Knee brace
John left with his keys and a wallet. Why is my life so complicated?

 

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There Are No Trains on Hatteras Island


There are no trains

The only roar comes from the ocean

and it never stops

There are no triathlons

but fishermen stand in the surf for hours

and they never stop

There are no all night diners

but there are rainbows, sunshine

and the wind never stops

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