Poem #5

After a week of struggling and another of lethargy, I’ve finally managed to come up with a poem.  Although technically I’ve failed in my quest to write a poem a week, I’m not quitting.  We’ll just sort of ignore that week of lethargy and pretend it didn’t happen.

I wish I could say that I was super busy or had to deal with a big emergency.  But sadly that’s not the case.  Although I do work two jobs, watch my granddaughter in Shawnee one night a week and scoop five litter boxes daily, that’s all normal stuff.  I just didn’t feel like doing anything but sleeping or reading.  So now that I’ve indulged myself…get thee behind me sloth!

I came up with the idea for this week’s poem after seeing my old art history teacher in the grocery store.  That was one of my favorite classes of all time and what decided me to go for a minor in art history.  I loved seeing the slides and hearing the stories.  Though it was a more than two-hour class, it always ended too soon for me.

I’ve always contended that I wasn’t interested in history but somehow tying in the art and artists with what was going on in the world made it fascinating to me.  History is mostly non-visual or what tangible changes it did make are so complete it’s hard to imagine how it was before.  With a piece of art it’s like capturing some of that history.  Though it’s been several years (and I don’t remember any of the required dates!) I love being able to look at a piece of artwork and be reminded of what was happening back then as well as appreciate the beauty.

So this is my attempt to recreate some of those long ago classes.

Art History Class

I enter the ordinary classroom
students sliding into seats,
peering at their cell phones.
The lights go down
the slides come up
we go back into history.

In Austria we meet the Venus
from Willendorf more that 20,000 years old
Tiny stone figure, voluptuous body,
her femininity exaggerated.
She sustains her people’s survival
in her thick thighs and pendulous breasts.

In Greece, Laocoön found out the hard
way – never go against the gods. Caught
in cold white marble, every feature, every tendril,
every contorted muscle and sinew exact.
Despair and agony forever captured as the serpents
perpetually entwine them all.

In 17th century Italy Caravaggio creates
dramatically lighted naturalism. Christ
is lowered into the tomb, sickly pale with death,
by the weather-reddened peasant with mud on his bare feet.
The stricken tableau bathed in light surrounded
by deep shadows. The painter’s life is darkness
and strife as his temper rules him to his early end.

The lights come up, we squint and blink.
Don’t forget, test next week and I groan.
Totally absorbed by the lecture,
my notepad is emtpy.

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Poem #4

Well I have come to week four of my challenge and it has happened. I knew it would eventually, but  I didn’t realize it would be so soon. The inspiration and excitement of starting something new and all my “easy” ideas have run out. Now the real work begins.  This is why I picked this particular challenge. Now if I am to meet this challenge, I must act like a serious writer.

In almost every book on writing, or in the advice of every successful writer: You must write regularly, preferably at the same time every day. Even if you don’t put anything on paper, you must sit and think about it. I like the way Mary Oliver explains it in her book, A Poetry Handbook

 “The part of the psyche that works in concert with consciousness and supplies a necessary part of the poem—the heat of a star as opposed to the shape of a star, let us say—exists in a mysterious, unmapped zone: not unconscious, not subconscious, but cautious.  It learns quickly what sort of courtship it is going to be.  Say you promise to be at your desk in the evenings, from seven to nine.  It waits, it watches.  If you are reliably there, it begins to show itself—soon it begins to arrive when you do.  But if you are only there sometimes and are frequently late or inattentive, it will appear fleetingly, or it will not appear at all.”

I tend to write at odd moments, when I have 20 or 30 minutes or maybe even not that long. I procrastinate. I put it off until the last minute.  While sometimes that may feel kind of exhilarating, in a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants way (you pantsers out there know what I’m talking about) it tends to desert me quickly.  I love the excitement of Nano, the camaraderie of the participants, the support and the write-ins, but I haven’t been able to maintain all that for the full 30 days yet.

I think I need to develop that careful part of the psyche that seemingly comes out of nowhere. So I will try to carve out a specific time to write. This may take awhile, so bear with me. Hopefully my poems won’t be too bad while I work on this.  Here’s to the hope that they won’t be any worse that this, my fulfillment of the challenge for this week:

Poem #4

There once was a woman from Jersey
Who wanted to cross the wide blue sea
She rowed and she rowed,
But the tide flowed and flowed.
‘Til she cried out, “Me oh my, woe is me!”

I know, I know. Sorry.

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Poem #3

One thing I thought would be hard about writing poetry was the rhyming.  I mean, poems have to rhyme, right?  That’s what I, and a lot of people, thought before I actually started learning about them. It turns out that they don’t have to rhyme.  In fact John Milton and other poets around his time absolutely despised rhyming.  Eventually, that trend turned and rhyming poems were popular again.

There are different kinds of rhymes.  Eye rhymes look the same but may not be pronounced the same. End rhymes are the most common, when the word at the end of a line rhymes with the word at the end of the next line.  Masculine rhymes are when stressed syllables rhyme and feminine rhymes are unstressed.  Hmm…something seems odd there.

Rhymes are fun to say and fun to listen to.  To me it seems a lot like writing music with beats and tempos.  It turned out not to be so hard to do, at least most of the time.  Every once in a while I do get stuck and have to work out an awkward line.

This week, I’m offering two poems for the price of one.  One I wrote in poetry class and I think it’s my favorite one I ever wrote.  It’s from back when I still had dogs and about our walking ritual.  The other I felt I had to do to fulfill the challenge of actually writing a poem a week.  So it’s about my current cat situation.

The Walk

On our nightly walk
it’s always the same.
Me and three large dogs…
I wonder if I’m sane.

Wild and excited, the dogs
pull every which way,
trying to go different directions.
Doesn’t matter what I say.

We stumble down the walk,
tripping and tangled.
It’s only been three minutes,
every nerve is jangled.

We reach a back country road
and the leashes come off
After unwrapping fourteen legs,
I’ve had enough.

The transformation is wondrous,
it’s why I persevere.
Now the night becomes soothing,
I breathe the air, crisp and clear.

The dogs lope gracefully
away down the road,
circling back to my side
as if bound by some unspoken code.

It’s as if a fine gold thread
is woven around us,
keeping them beside me,
bound by nothing but trust.

We make our way down the road,
the dogs surging and circling,
til we reach a wooded stand,
pitch black and foreboding.

With a word I command them
and we turn back around,
they head through the corn field
noses to the ground.

Again, a word calls them back,
ears pricked to my voice
Again by my side they trot,
in my approval they rejoice.

At last we come back
to the houses and yards
fraught with enticements, distractions
from which I must guard.

Back on go the leashes
under the streetlights glimmer
Tripping and stumbling,
we head home for dinner.

Life With Six Cats

Six sleepy kitties curled on my bed,
Three at my feet, three at my head.
If I move a muscle, the growling begins.
No one wants to give an inch. I lay still again.

Everything is quiet as I enter the door.
Then from every corner, cats begin to pour.
One wants out, two want to talk,
Three follow in my steps everywhere I walk.

Six pairs of eyes, hued from gold to green
Watch every move I make, see everything.
Soft, velvet fur, tails held high and well,
Black and white, butterscotch, tabby, tortoiseshell.

When it’s feeding time is when it really gets scary.
A twenty-pound food bag around I must carry
Twenty-four legs milling, bumping at my two.
Six voices crying, “I’m starving, I need food!”

How did this happen? It wasn’t in my plans.
Guess sometimes fate takes things out of our hands.
But when all of us are snuggled against the chilly night,
Rumbling purrs, adoring looks make everything alright.

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Poem #2

As I cast about for topics for this week’s poem, I realized I had been thinking a lot about my dad.  This is the 5th anniversary of his death and I thought it was time to do some remembering that I hadn’t wanted to do before.

Daddy’s Girl

When I was young you were
My expert on the world.
Why is the sky blue?
It’s God’s favorite color.
Where do baby birds come from?
Inside the tiny eggs.
Will it be okay?
Yes, of course.

I get my best qualities from you,
Your love of animals and classical music,
Your sense of humor, your positive outlook.
You inform my outlook on life.

I love your easy laugh when the cats are being silly
And that you wept when we lost a pet.
I hear your rich, tenor voice, beloved by many,
Your pride when you sang next to Richard Tucker,
The reverence when you sang The Lord’s Prayer.

Though you complained about being outnumbered,
You always bought valentines for all your girls
With your “allowance.”
Your purpose was to care for us
And keep us safe.

Imprinted on my mind are the tracks of the gurney
In the snow as they took your body away,
The red rose they left on your bed.
But I keep you in my heart.

 

As I wrote this poem, I tried to capture some of the things that illustrate what he was like.  Actions always speak louder than words, so I tried to incorporate some things he did, instead of always just saying he was “this” or he was “that.”  And I tried not to be melancholy, but I’m afraid that wasn’t quite possible.

While I realize not every person has good memories of their father, I hope I have touched some of your favorite memories.  I think, like it or not, we will always find some of our parents qualities in ourselves.  I actually never thought about the fact that I probably got all those things from my dad until now.  It gave me some comfort to realized it.

While my relationship with my father was always pretty easy, my relationship with my mother is complicated.  Eventually I may work up to a poem about that, but it will be quite a task, maybe an epic or something like that.

 

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Poem #1

Since this is the beginning of my quest, I decided to stick with the theme of beginnings. And so, for my very first poem, I give you, Beginnings.  (Do you sense a pattern here?)

 

Beginnings

This is the genesis,
A vast, calming darkness
Floating above nothing
Ageless, waiting.

The inception,
Thoughts wiggling
To the surface
New, unformed, unwritten.

The origin,
Wellspring, pure, bubbling
Unadulterated source
Creative and nurturing.

Pioneers searching
For the promise of
New life, new wisdom
Illumination.

 

So basically, what I did was get out the old thesaurus, find the different words for “beginning” and pick out a few that caught my imagination. Then I tried to describe what they made me think of in the context of starting this new project.

What I wasn’t able to convey is the delicious anticipation of being on the edge of beginning something, something that promises to be exciting and interesting. Of course this feeling can be somewhat fleeting and easily shoved aside by fear, fear of failure, fear of not living up to expectations, usually my own.  And there can be sadness too.  The sadness of knowing that once you begin, some possibilities will be closed.

Anyway, I guess that’s enough about beginnings.  I got the first poem under my belt and it’s time to start thinking about the next one.  Maybe I could do one about “do overs?”

 

 

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The beginning

When our book club decided we should each do a year long project and blog about it, a la Julie and Julia, I decided to use the opportunity to benefit my writing. Besides….while I do like a good bacon cheeseburger now and then, I don’t think I could eat a year’s worth and still keep my cholesterol down.

So I am committing to one poem a week for a year. This is also remarkable because up until several years ago, I was a person who didn’t read poetry and would never think of writing it. Then I was forced to in creative writing class and found out it wasn’t so bad, in fact it was kind of fun.

I love words and often see pictures in my head when I hear certain words. Often I will read through a poem very quickly just to see what images pop up. Sometimes I like to savor the feeling of the words on my tongue or the way they flow together.

It will be a challenge to write the kind of poetry that can do that. So we’ll see starting February 1st if I’m up to it. Wish me luck!

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