one or two or maybe if it’s gravy a little bit more
as you head out into this crazy world with its woe-filled stores
let my hugs fortify your heart with love to wear like a cape
draped across your shoulders speaking softly into your dear ears
you: my one and only my messenger into future years
This morning I read in Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook about syllabic verse, and she presented a poem that followed a pattern. Thus inspired, I wrote this poem. . . . which is (hopefully, clearly) inspired by more than just a numbered pattern.
Thank you for reading! Wishing you all as happy of a weekend as possible!
Birds tweet Dogs bark Bears growl Cats purr Snakes whisper Bugs buzz Whales sing Dolphins laugh Monkeys chatter Elephants trumpet Geese honk Squirrels fuss Prairie dogs squeak Cows moo Pigs grunt Roosters crow Hens cluck Mosquitoes whine Trees sigh Flowers giggle Brooks babble And if WE are lucky we shut up long enough to listen
Here I present to you the first of my poems as inspired by Mary Oliver’s “A Poetry Handbook” (see my previous blog post about this for info). On page 20, she introduces “The Alphabet – Families of Sound.” That phrase caused me to close the book, pick up my pencil, and write this. . . . .It’s nothing special, just an exploration.
Just as an aside, thinking about the Family of Sound calls to mindthis extraordinary photography exhibition (I’ve heard about it, not seen it, since 1955 was just a tad before my time), and also makes me think of Mary Ellen Mark’s book AmericanOdyssey, with its gorgeous inclusion of Maya Angelou’s Human Family, which, if you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend checking out and writing on your heart. . . . . for me, everything is connected, friends!
Let’s talk inspiration: as in I am in serious need of some. Over the summer I drew back into my shell like a hermit crab and kept to myself, not participating in much of anything online, not sharing much on either of my websites or on social media. This cycle is a yearly thing for me: usually in January I make a bold confident beginning, telling myself that THIS is the year I won’t get spooked and pull back, but it doesn’t take more than a couple of months for the disenchantment to creep in. It doesn’t take long for me to become weary with the process of “putting it out there,” and choose to keep to my own little self instead. Creating continues, distribution screeches to a halt.
With back-to-school upon my house, I also find myself in a desert wasteland of “I’ve already written about everything I can think of.” Over the past year so, since I threw myself whole-heartedly into writing, I have voraciously ploughed through so many focused projects and prompts that I find myself staring into a dry well. I need something to kick start my brain again, something to wake the muse back up.
Also, I need to find a way to believe that sharing the work matters, that there’s some point in even trying – in this crazy world that’s so glutted with super talented people expressing themselves 24/7 and making sure everyone else knows about it. Have you looked at instagram lately? After about 30 seconds, it makes me wonder why I bother. Can one person shouting into a hurricane of raised voices ever hope to be heard; can one more woman with a pencil and a camera really expect to ever find even the tiniest glimmer of a breakthrough? Who am I to think I am anywhere near talented or deserving enough to garner any attention? What does “success” mean, anyway?
Stepping away from my own overactive, overthinking brain and the defeating questions it constantly raises, I meandered to the bookshelves and pulled out Mary Oliver’s A Poetry Handbook . I bought this a while back, and had my heart so fiercely pierced by her language on page one of the introduction that I knew I needed to lay this little volume aside and wait for the right time. Well, guess what? NOW IS THE TIME.
There are no “exercises” in the book, no prompts, but this book is like looking into a glittering secret garden. Her voice is as strikingly beautiful as ever, and I find myself barely able to get through two pages before it inspires me to write. Just a few words or phrases, or something I haven’t tried before. It’s a gold mine for me, so far, and I’m talking about it here because who knows – maybe you, Dear Reader, in this moment, are yourself seeking something that this book can provide.
Soon, I will share some of the poems I’m writing as provoked by my going through this handbook. One is up on my Medium page (in spite of my complaining, I realize I ought to keep trying with that platform a little while longer). Here is the link to the Medium poem. Thank you for reading! Happy creating to you, today and everyday.
In the glitter of the mountain morning, dew heavy enough on the ground to make a thirst content, they wandered with peaceful silence into the bowl of the meadow. Hushed hooves made no sound in the padded pine straw. A whole family, coats slick and rich as burnished mahogany, a proud patriarch and his ladies, plus youngsters. He watched us as we watched them, blinking Queen Mab out of our eyes, dream-checking. His displeasure at my approach came heavy and quick from the velvet of his muzzle.
In the shimmer of the desert afternoon, heat radiating from the scrub and brush, pulsating off the rocky ground, they rose like a mirage. A mild, friendly duet, rough weathered coats dusty with travel, they kept their heads down, busy. Until they didn’t, and raised kind knowing eyes to me, only a few feet away, acknowledging a fellow traveler, a fellow soul full of hope and breath. Later, at home, I reveled in the light of their lives, held for a time in the emulsion of creation, bonded to my memory in the luminosity of silver gelatin magic.
Another offering from the prose poems I wrote for Camp NaNoWriMo last month. Thank you for reading!
Long-legged hairy creepy crawly minding its own business on the dry ground. Long-legged hairy creepy crawly held up on a stick to be examined closely. Long-legged hairy creepy crawly interrupted! Long-legged hair creepy crawly put back down, gently, over there. Long-legged hair creepy crawly recovers dignity and returns to its own business, trying not to mind the interruption.
A photograph of long-legged hairy creepy crawly, enlarged in the night on a bedsheet that flaps in the wind. The gust gives all the long hairy legs watching the slide show the creepy crawlies on the back of the neck, then scuttles off to gently blow aside a few dry leaves to give long-legged hairy creepy crawly an easier path, without further interruptions, back to its place out of sight.
Another prose poem toward my Camp NaNo project – thank you for reading!
This summer we planted a butterfly garden, lining the patio with bright signal fires to attract soft, shy visitors. Verbena and turk’s cap, lantana and sage, zinnias, marigold, and the king of them all: milkweed, to nourish monarch babies at its leafy breast. Orange flowers like tiny crowns proclaim its position, sprawling spindly arms reaching out to embrace passers by. An egg haven, a quiet nursery next to the rose bush and citronella, a place for gossamer mothers and fathers to rest and refuel on their relentless journey. Every year we join them, summer road warriors drunk on the milk of exploration and adventure, perching here and there in forests, deserts, along the shores of lakes and rivers, in the bosom of canyons, wearily drawn like moths to motel lights when the chrysalis of our tent becomes too much. We break free and fly on incubated propulsion, following the internal compass that always ticks off just the right amount of time, always tells us just when is the right moment to wing our way back home.
Another prose poem from my July Camp NaNoWriMo endeavor. Thank you for reading!
My cat doesn’t set an alarm, or worry about deadlines. She never checks her bank account (not that she has one), nor does she give much thought to tomorrow; she blissfully sleeps through news and politics, and manages to ignore even bees and mosquitos. None of these are feline concerns. In the drier places beyond her domain, her larger sisters spend their days in much the same way: alternatively languishing in sun or shade, giant gorgeous paws in a pile of slumber, yawns revealing rough pink tongues and ferocious teeth, a cave of kitty breath that tamps itself bank down into another lazy dream.
Her mountain cousin’s clock is hunger, driving her to hunt and pounce, stretch and climb. Fear of deer and hikers, she waits in high places for her moment. She spies from low choked up places, patient. Her gaze pierces dense brush. No fancy feast for her: she is wild and raw as desert sunlight, stealthy as the creep of death, calculating movement with the same keen sharp eyes that back home will sometimes track a bird or noisy squirrel. Her castle is a canyon; her feather bed is a rocky crevice, sweet and hidden as the truth she keeps in feet that pad upon the earth, ears that know the smallest sounds, life that accumulates beneath the nails of her lethal, inscrutable claws.
Last minute, I decided to participate in Camp NaNoWriMo this month, writing a series of prose poems on animals, specifically ones that live near me and in the areas of the Southwest I often visit. This is one of them! This is the link to my NaNo page.
Wandering through eighty six hundred lights strung from the ceiling, floating in the room like the reaching fronds of a kelp forest, we swim through the undulating display, holding our breath as the long tendrils sway, blinking in bioluminescent code, illuminating the neural highway, sparking a new language of wonder that resonates in the cold of concrete space. In the next room, a galaxy strung up becomes an immigrant face at distance, but only at a certain distance, seen from a specific vantage point, well marked. Stand here if you would behold my visage; from every other point of view, I am a mess.
Far beyond the realm of mylar’s crinkled breath, a bladder filled with air bulges up: an immobile golden snail, unshelled and gazing at a rainbow begging to be strummed.
In a long movie, men push trash around with precision brooms, designed to tell time, while kids hop around, provoking color that pumps through a projector to the wall. Beside a room of singing faces, still the eyes of the immigrant keep staring. Common doo-wop chords keyed out note by note fill the space with a wonder of music. Volunteers line up for a single tone while upstairs lights flash, and a video of illusions prepares to have the last word.
This blank verse poem is part of my June challenge, writing in poetic forms. Thank you for reading! (PS Wonderspaces is a great experience!)
Three people stood under the weak light of a streetlamp. The first was a tall young man who stood in a shabby black overcoat with a back straight as a rod. His short, dark hair was combed across his forehead, and each of the features on his long face were angular and very pronounced. He held a battered suitcase in one hand.
The second figure was a woman, not quite so tall and certainly not as thin as the man, wearing a slender dress with high shoulders that hugged her frame. Her hair was braided around her head, so blonde it was nearly white. Her face was round, with small features and a mocking smile.
The last figure was another man, shorter than the first but taller than the woman, whose frock coat, hat, and two suitcases were obviously very expensive. He was a brunette, slightly overweight, with an egg-shaped…