Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Fortunes (from Catching up the Baby Books)

My daughters read horoscopes
like scripture,
the eldest peering over
the tops of newspapers
to look eagerly about
for a tall, dark stranger with whom
to have my grandchildren.

The second, the pragmatist,
lifts rug corners and chair cushions
seeking gold and jewels
misplaced by visitors
who pretend to be less than rich.

I would chide them openly, deny
this charting of each day's journey
via patent frivolity
if I could be sure
what to offer in return.

Perhaps I could say,
"Avoid today anyone who
makes you want to lie,"
but in their fierce need for approval
children learn early
to shuffle what is true
with what they wish to be so.

Or I could say,
"Do not make love every time
your teeth itch--
try going to the bathroom first
and thinking of embarrassing diseases
or stretch marks."
But when teenage hormonal
sirens begin to wail,
it is the parents
who fold themselves
beneath the desk
awaiting the silence
of a narrow escape
or the concentric blows
of a chromosome explosion.

Maybe I could say,
"End each day with a hopeful song
full of dreamwords like heartbeats
and fond embraces,"
but some nights fathers rage
or disappear, grandmothers
pass away, and someone decides
to love someone else forever, again.
Who can read music against
the ink black of a starless sky?

If there is to be hope for them
perhaps it is this--
perhaps I could say,
"Be sure to make
the kinds of mistakes
that will prepare you well
for second marriages."

#writer #writerslife #writing #author #mothersdaughters

Friday, May 27, 2016

LetterPoem to a Man With His Hands at his Sides

Eons ago, when I was still teaching writing at Wichita State University, I used to give readings (no, not tarot--poetry and short stories) and writing workshops around Kansas. These were mostly at other schools and women's events, but once I travelled to a large brick building in western Kansas where my audience was seriously challenged. Seriously. As in some couldn't lift their chins off their chests or hold a pencil or propel their own wheelchairs. What to do, what to do. What I tried not to do was focus on the exceedingly limber man in the middle of the room who was chewing on his bare foot.

I settled on having them try to write acrostic poems--using each letter of their names. Those who could tried. Those who could read them aloud did. It was surreal, and I was desperate to fill my time slot on their activities calendar so I could get to my car and head back east.

A motorcycle accident--he was in his 30s--grasped that I was from Wichita and wanted me to know he was also. It seemed to please him. Then he stood to read his poem.

J ohn
O nly
H urts
N ow

In that sterile room of wounded bodies and brains, there was an audible, collective sigh. They got it. They were more present than I was at the time.

At the end of my dog-and-pony show, those residents who were able to line up were directed to pass by me with their thanks and goodbyes. The toe chewer dutifully shook my hand, smiled, and said, "Ya done good. Kep 'em busy. That's what they need."

Among my more conventional audiences, my poem below was the one for which I received the most requests for copies. Today's readers can make of that what they will.

In fact, I don't know who might be reading this, what your own stories are, what you're doing with your feet, where your man's hands are.  I'm always listening for a collective sigh.

LetterPoem to a Man with His Hands at His Sides

This early morning room glares like a naked bulb,
and when I close my eyes against the light, you
are almost here, like the lost words of your pauses
that always seem to tell another story, like the
wallpaper I've intended to hang for so long that
I am sometimes startled to see the stark sheetrock
and scarred ceilings where I had meant for smooth
patterns to appear. Even this new floor has been
gouged, the spot growing darker,  like a bruise
that will not heal, and I regret that I deal
so awkwardly with reversals and loose ends,
the unknowns left dangling, like your arms by
your sides the night I thought you were going
to gather my ill-defined fears against your chest
until I could lose them in the pattern of your shirt.
And while I know now that it matters only that you didn't--
the why of it lost in that last, long pause--I still go on
struggling against the absence of blueprints or anniversaries,
and write this letter, like my children scribbling their
messages across the blank walls, to color them with meaning.

#writer #writerslife #writing #author

Thursday, May 26, 2016

China Roses

If you would touch me
take me in the summer
when my hair smells like
the wind blowing through it
you will like the scent and feel
of my skin sun warmed
learn I can laugh
with the grass silky between my toes
my mind running free as the horse
I lost before I could outgrow him
I fear the same for you
so take me in the greening heat
while I still need the moisture
of your lips and tongue
if you wait too long
it will be autumn
when I lost my mother
before I could outgrow her
like those china roses I forgot to send
that bloom for nothing
having missed their season

#writer #writerslife #writing #author

I Hide Things

not a particularly tortured soul
but bothered by discrepancies
like not knowing
what to do
with the stone-faced couple
from the top of Mother's
first wedding cake
outlasting the marriage
and the mother

#writer #writerslife #writing #author

Hole in the Heart of the Country

bare catalpa trees
drape across the sandbar
my hand burrowing into
the grainy moisture below
grasps the ocean
waves rise from the hole
whitecaps foam
over my arms, knees, thighs
sucking me down
through a trail of seaweed
to coral city Santa Monica
where I am forever nine, tan
braver than the tidal wave
that one day washes me up
through a hole in Kansas sand
beached and breathless
salt scales spraying into the wind
as I climb the bank
cradling a handful of wet sand
two thousand miles across the pasture
to the house where I shake
the scent of seaweed from my hair
the ocean still whispering
in my argonata ears

#writer #writerslife #writing #author


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