Saturday, December 12, 2009

#193 Bravery . . .

Something so simple
as two boys riding a red wagon
down a hill, all the way down.
the sun shines brightly;
the air fills with their cries.
I think to myself:
This is the meaning of life,
no remembering, no forgetting, only this moment,
and they come down the hill again.

Something so simple
as two men riding a tank
down a hill, all the way down,
the sun shines brightly,
the air fills with their cries,
no remembering, no forgetting,
only this moment,
the objective, the target,
the result
plotted on a map,
and they come down the hill again.

Something so simple
as a man walking down a hospital hall,
thinking of red wagons and tanks,
The sun shines brightly,
the air fills with remembered cries,
no remembering, no forgetting,
only this moment.
He continues down the hall, out the door,
back in the world.
This is the meaning of bravery.

Read more of bravery at Sunday Scribblings, this week's prompt.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Love Story

You came into my life as stragglers
flee a bar, not wanting to hear the clink
of glasses, smoke-filled vulgar
rooms where you sat reading
well past sundown.
You had my number,
with your gifts of apricot,
warmed within, past any sense of solar
burn, the color orange wearing
thin, your lips stretched to park
all the way to California,
and after, in the back seat, sandwiches,
greasy on our mouths, your ears
so tuned to my gray
stories, you so willing to walk
out with me. No felonies,
each step a cadence,
I thought it was another episode.
You thought?

Here's a challenge from Sage Cohen's December Newsletter, Writing the Life Poetic . Her newsletter is not online and is delivered via e-mail, just once a month, well worth reading.

This month, Sage describes a poetic form that began as a game, Bouts-Rime, from the French, meaning "end rhymes". Someone gives you a list of words; these words must appear at the end of each line. The writer cannot even change the spelling or tense. So here's my bouts-rime and here are the words that Sage listed. Try this and post a link in comments, if you like!
1. stragglers 2. clink 3. vulgar 4. reading 5. sundown 6. number 7. apricots 8. solar 9. wearing 10. park 11. California 12. sandwiches 13. ears 14. gray 15. walk 16. felonies 17. cadence 18. inconceivable 19. episodes 20. ?

Thursday, December 03, 2009

#191 Game . . .

The first time I seriously went hunting with my Grandfather, I was twelve. He taught me to shoot a rifle, his old 22, and to carry it, muzzle down. I nearly shot my foot off as I forgot about the safety catch, but I was game, the only girl in the family to go hunting.

He had started me on easy tasks at first, using his hunting knife to gut fish or strip game birds of their feathers. After I was grown and gone, he called me once to come over and help him with a deer. We worked through that hot October afternoon, peeling the hide off that deer, the fleas still jumping. My grandfather's gone now, though he lived to be 100. I could dress out a deer today if I had to. I still know how to use a knife.

When I was a kid, I only saw my grandfather excited once. We were camped in the Siskiyous. Early mornings, we two were the only ones awake, hiking through the trees, our feet crunching on pine needles, our breath coming out in little white puffs.

“Hush,” he said, and we took off as fast as I could walk, following the ridge line. He stopped suddenly and stared at the track in the path, pointing out the soft indentations in the muddy trail, and hand signalling me to follow.

We crested the hill and looked over the lake just in time to see an elk with a tremendous rack enter the water and then swim across the lake to an island. The mist rose above him. He walked up the beach, shook his mighty head, and disappeared into the brush. My grandfather said, “You don't see that often.” I knew he regretted that elk season hadn't opened, but I was glad. The lake was as still as if the elk had never come or gone.

Then the day came when my grandfather decided I needed to shoot the gun for real. We had been car-hunting along some backwoods road that twisted through the wooded hills, getting ready for deer season. He pulled the car over to the side, as close to the dropoff as he could. We looked out on a deep gully, a brushy hill on the other side.

“Think you can hit that?”

I was game. I nodded. I levelled the shotgun as good as I could, and squinted my eye down the sight. I could barely see the rabbit he wanted me to shoot. I took my time, waiting, following the rabbit's slow movements along the hill.

“Nah,” he said. “I don't think you'll do it. You're a girl, just like the rest of them.”

At that, I shot. I felt a thrill of exultation. I had done it. What he said I couldn't do. And then the rabbit started screaming. The shot wasn't a killing shot. The distance had been too long.

We were silent all the way back to camp. I remember everything my grandfather taught me, but I never went hunting again.

This week, Sunday Scribblings asks us to write on "game". This story came immediately to mind. I was raised in a family of women, so my grandfather was pretty important in my life. I still wonder if I could stand up to a hard task if I were needed. I completed a Police Academy training for citizens a few years ago. When we got to the firing range, I held that gun as if I knew every aspect of it and hit a bulls eye. I like to think my grandfather would have been proud of me, though there are no guns in my house and I hope never to use one.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Writing at the end of 2009 . . .

I wonder sometimes why it seems easier to write when I'm on the road, as if I need some separation from "normal" life. Today we landed in Costa Rica for the next three months, found our house, and I'm already looking forward to tomorrow morning. I will start with writing. Or, I should say revising.

Writer's Digest posted a link to this lovely summary of the 43 most inspiring posts for 2009, and so I shall begin reading.

This list of articles made me want to think back to what has been most inspirational for me this year: Allen's cheering and steady support that makes it easy for writing to begin my day, technology that brought me a tiny netbook, only 2.4 pounds, just right for writing on the road, Google, for starting Google-docs that allows me to back up daily work online, my friends who have read early drafts with kindness and helpful comments, including critters from Internet Writing Workshop, and finally, the characters I spend so much time with. They have grown this year, and for that I am deeply grateful.

Maybe 2010 will mark the completion of Standing Stones, as other stories are starting to crowd in as well. I'm not so overwhelmed by revision now, as I was just a year ago, and that feels good. The threads of the story are winding tighter and tighter. And so tomorrow, the writing continues.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Whistling girls and crowing hens . . .

I never understood
why I couldn't whistle
or strut.
I stuck my nose
as deep as anyone
into books,
even as my blonde hair
and breasts
labelled me bimbo.
And then I did
finally understand:
No woman on the moon.
no Amazon won my battles.
Stone by stone and
step by step,
I learned camoflage,
how to talk football,
how to run meetings,
how to push down walls
and rise to my own ends.

This prompt comes from Robert Lee Brewer's Poetic Asides. Choose an adage, make that adage the title of your poem. I instantly remembered hearing my mother tell me as a young girl that "Whistling girls and crowing hens come to bad ends." That wasn't quite as bad as "men don't make passes at girls who wear glasses," but I always felt I could whistle if I wanted to. This poem comes out of that rebellious time when I did have blonde hair, worked by day at a conservative bank, and at night, went to college.

Monday, November 16, 2009


He carried out
his ablutions
with the aplomb
of someone
with more
than one bathroom.
I waited
in the hall,
magazine in hand,
dreams caught
in my hair,
poetry under my fingers,
carefully folded
over to morning.

This little poem is dedicated to my brother-in-law as the clan gathers in a one-bathroom-house, and is somewhat inspired by Dorianne Laux' column, "Poetry: Writing From a Lived Life" in Writer's Digest, February 2009. Laux (it turns out, also at one time from Oregon), wrote about Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems, which he snatched at odd moments by writing every single day. I'm trying to catch up. Three Writer's Digests from the Library here in Philadelphia, and one more I just got from Borders. I make time for writing nearly every morning, novel first and hope for poetry. And then the blogging takes me to unexpected places. Check out the Frank O'Hara poem "Animals", written in 1950. Now, there's a poem.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

#189 Oracle . . .

What oracle speaks
from fading family photographs?
Even the handsome man
with a small dark bow tie,
his blond moustache
combed and curled,
has enigmatic eyes.
Who stands next to whom?
Who touches the loved one,
as if she or he would fly away
in a wind so unexpected
that stories need to be invented?
Generations later, what memories
do we breathe in,
what histories do we invent?

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is simply oracle. A lovely prompt. Visit the link to see what others have written.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

On visiting Stirling Castle

What remains here at Stirling Castle:
a raven hops on a castle wall,
the sun glints on stone palaces and yellowing leaves,
a gargoyle's head,
two artisans weave a tapestry, mille-fleur,
a thousand flowers bloom red and blue and green,
the unicorn's legs picked in black and white.
Afternoons for cream tea and scones
with sultanas, plump and dark,
your hand shakes slightly as you add sugar,
pomp and subterfuge, processions,
the coming and the going,
the spring and the fall,
and winter ahead.

Stirling Palace and Forework, Scotland
Stirling Castle, Scotland

Sometimes I feel flat, as if another poem will never come. And then one does. And I know why I feel sad, even as each day is beautiful, the sun shines, and the promise of another day is ahead. All is well in my world, and yet the days pass. No one lives forever, not even poets.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

About NaNoWriMo

I don't really know if this is possible. We'll be in Philadelphia and Spokane for November, then to Costa Rica, but I've signed up for NaNoWriMo. This crazy and rapidly spreading writing scheme has thousands of participants, each writing 50,000 words in one month. That's one incredible draft. And we all start with word 1 on November 1. So, poetry to the side, revisions to the side, I'm taking the month of November off and plunging into . . . I don't know what yet! Any one else want to play? For more info, go to

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The unicorn . . .

A maiden waits in leafy bower
in quiet repose, bound in terror,
long hours gone, her forehead gleams
white, her eyelids droop in dreams
asleep, her hand falls open.
The unicorn, of jeweled eye and jeweled horn,
approaches slowly. With bated breath,
hunters watch the maiden sleep, a little death.
Is she virgin, the hunter hisses. The unicorn
will know: Its nostrils flare,
he dips his head, once, twice he circles lady fair,
then settles down beside her thighs,
thus ensorceled to amazed cries.
As hunters rush the sacred circle,
the maiden wakes to dreams banished;
the unicorn's white, white flesh vanished.

Yesterday we visited the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the current residence of the Queen here in Edinburgh, and its exquisite abbey. As we walked into the central courtyard, a majestic fountain greeted us, embellished with mythical animals, a lion, griffin, deer, and a unicorn. This castle and accompanying abbey date from the 12th Century. The lion and the unicorn, their past history together uncertain, are paired everywhere, well washed with gold and glitter.

I've long been a fan of Tracy Chevalier's The Lady and the Unicorn, but her book leaves the relationship of the lion and the unicorn unsolved. Once we went to England, we saw the lion and the unicorn everywhere as symbols of royal power. I learned last night that Stirling Castle (just north of Glasgow) has a team of master weavers working on the Hunt of the Unicorn, a set of tapestries, perhaps inspired by the famed 14th Century tapestries currently at the Musee de Moyen Ages, or Cluny, in Paris, the Lady and the Unicorn. Legend suggests these tapestries once were at Stirling Castle. I hope we can go there before our last three weeks in Scotland end.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

#184 Bump in the night . . .

Native American traditions say
We cannot tell someone else's story.
We can only tell the stories that belong to us.
Yet I stop in front of this spirit mask
in this glass case
in this museum,

The mothers tell us, “Don't go into the woods alone.
Ghost woman waits for you,
her round mouth cooing,
her long hair drifting pine needles
as she walks
hunched over, singing.

The forest is dark.
I stayed on the beach;
you went into the woods and never returned.

This week's writing prompt comes from Sunday Scribblings.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

My very bones . . .

My very bones are tired
as we pass through the Great Glen.
Its trees shimmer yellow and
bow down, leaves on the ground.
Once green ferns now brown to bracken;
now the last flowering before winter,
purple heather covers the hills.

Here, Jacobite rebels
once fled into the hills,
no respite, no cover, no mercy.
All under seventy put to the sword.
The elders must have felt they lived too long
to see this, their sons and their sons' childer
all gone, their goods taken,
their homes scattered stone.

Today, tourists walk up and down the streets
of Fort William, past The Crofters' Bar,
the Jacobite Bakery, munching hot meat pies,
carrying packs, wearing the plaid,
and remembering the songs of long ago.

Rogie Falls, Scotland
Picture: Rogie Falls, Scotland (Webshots)

The history of the "Forty-five" has followed us all through Northern Scotland, a history I'd only read romanticized versions of. Today we visit the Scottish Parliament, which has very definitely a complex history as an independent body functioning from the middle ages to 1707, when in merged with England, to 1998, when the Scottish people voted to restore a limited Scottish Parliament (I'm guessing much like the relationship of the United States state-level government to the national federal government in the United States), where certain powers are reserved for Scotland and certain powers retained by England.

Click these links to read more about the Jacobite rebellions and especially the story of the MacDonalds whose chief was late taking the oath of loyalty. The Campbells travelled to the MacDonalds, and asked for hospitality (this open door policy still exists today, with no doors locked in Orkney or Inverness or Fort William). In the middle of the night, the Campbells attacked the MacDonalds, killing 40, with the rest fleeing for safety to the rugged hills of Glencoe, to die there of cold and exposure. The Campbells still are scorned for their treachery, still some 300 years later. Read more of this history (and see more pictures of Glencoe here. In my poem I'm mixing two stories, that of Glen Coe (the MacDonalds and the Campbells) and the Duke of Cumberland's order to kill those under 70 following the battle of Culloden.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mermaid's Purse . . .

Washed up on the strandline
between wave and rocky beach
that marks the furthest reach of the sea,
I find, half-buried in a bed of kelp,
a curious lucent closed pocket,
tendrils dangling from each corner,
so named a mermaid's purse.
Within, a tiny dogfish quivers alive,
waiting for the moon to rise,
the waves to return,
life to begin.

Photo taken at the Brough of Birsay, Orkney, Scotland, September, 2009.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

#180 The Mermaid Tattoo . . .

She resides on my left inside ankle,
a small mermaid, tail curling, her aura
like a string of bright green seaweed,
spilling runes I cannot read.
But I know you, Moira,
traveller of long journeys,
survivor of storms,
sister of the deep sea.

Last week's Sunday Scribblings asks us to write about a tattoo, imaginary or real. These days I'm deep in research here in the very beautiful stone city of Inverness, Scotland, and poetry comes slowly.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Don't Speak . . .

Don't speak,
words will only steal the moment
Lean instead toward this stone,
this standing stone
marked by yellow lichen.
You may hear a mighty thrumming
4,000 years old, the earth tilts,
the elders sing the sun into rising.
All unfolds at the proper time,
even you here standing,
as silent as a stone.

Written in response to a visit to the Ring of Brodgar, on the West Mainland of Orkney, a Neolithic circle of stones, originally 60 stones, of which 27 remain on raised ground overlooking the Loch of Harry. Written for Carry on Tuesday's prompt #17 from Peter Auster's poem, “Farewell.”

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Kirkwall Crows . . .

As we trudge up Dundas Crescent at five o'clock,
one by one, the crows of Kirkwall flock
to land on eaves and roof lines,
their black wings tucked close to spines.
And on and on, still they fly down
to land along the rooftops, somehow bound
to this city of 6,000 souls near the sea,
as darkness falls, their calls a scree
of sound, nor sad nor sweet,
above these stone houses still so neat,
these narrow lanes, this quiet street.
Above all, North Sea winds push
clouds and rain to a blustery rush,
and yet we're home, inside and warm,
welcomed, cosseted,far from the swarm
of Kirkwall crows, their song long gone;
they'll ride the wind again at dawn.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Homage to Robert Frost

Robert Frost would not like it here.
Stone walls abound,
stone houses too, green lawns
meticulously maintained.
And yet today we walked in Merdun Wood,
a ramble along muddy paths,
past ravens rising from the trees,
and rain-swollen streams,
past a woman with a large black dog
and a blank stare.

We follow the path less taken,
far from gardens or tea, or appointed times.
Out here, a stranger makes our breakfast,
familiar faces remain just out of reach.
We pass cold toast and jam
and dream of a field of wild bluebells,
growing on a forest slope,
mountains rising above,
and miles to go before we sleep.

Written in Edinburgh, second day in Scotland, cold rainy weather, jet lag, in a quiet room overlooking a proper garden, stone walls just high enough to hide the neighbors, apple tree heavily laden with fruit leans against the wall, leaves just hint at fall, barely turning red.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Highwire Artist

She has already ascended the ladder,
above the makeshift stage.
Her attendant, white-suited, awaits,
red umbrella ready.
A wave of her hand,
the performance begins,
a delicate sliding forward of her foot,
legs decorously covered in blue silk,
she glides forward,
above them all, to dance
suddenly, improbably
in the air.

The ladies in the audience, long skirts
carefully arranged, sit at leisure,
their backs straight,
not an ankle showing.
They gasp at this moment of balance,
this arranged entertainment,
this stark leap
into the unknown,
facing down fear, embracing passion,
just before the fall,
the little death,
the abyss,
the end of what is known.

Written in response to William J. Glackens, Hammerstein's Roof Garden, c. 1901, currently in the collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art, as part of a month of writing poems for Postcard Poetry, and perhaps inspired by jumping into two months in Scotland. I found the postcard at John L. King's bookstore in Detroit. Image courtesy of Artchive

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

If . . .

If I truly understood nature,
I would say all is mathematics,
the deepest blue of morning glory
balanced at day's end,
a summer night so hot,
I long to add
my own rhetoric
to crickets' endless call,
all intricately connected
in smaller and smaller
until, as night falls still,
I see the stars
through heavy, humid trees.

This summer, access to internet is more than sporadic. I'm participating in Postcard Poetry, though, just for August, sending a poem a day out to people who've signed up. And we'll be in Atlantic City this weekend, ah, internet access for nearly three days straight!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Famous . . .

I’m at the deli, entranced:
Whitefish salad, herring in cream,
chopped liver, knishes and fishes
smoked, kippered or Nova.

It’s crowded, the aisles too narrow;
behind the counter, five men in
white aprons: Who’s next?
Who wants salty black olives,
rye bread, seeded or plain,
Swiss cheese or American,
corned beef or fresh chicken.
Try the home-made coleslaw.
You won’t regret it.
The tomatoes, field corn still tasseled.
You wanted what, sweetie?

Ah, a litany of tastes:
Life could be simpler:
Whitefish salad on fresh rye, to go.

Yesterday we stopped at Famous, the only deli in Northeast Philadelphia I know. Famous IS famous in Philadelphia. It's always crowded, and no matter how many years pass, unchanged. I'm without internet for these three weeks in Philadelphia, and for some reason, the unseasonable heat means that even internet at the nearby coffee shop is tempermental.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

#175: Osha's Star . . .

At 96, she remembers very clearly
the colors she chose, where the quilt was made
and when. Her fingers outline the pattern,
one of her own making.
She smoothes the coverlet
and notes a torn stitch that needs repair.
I start a fabric copy,
stitch and turn and stitch again,
making something new from this old quilt.
We talk of days far in the past, her life on
the oil fields of Michigan in the 1930s,
what the children said when they were small.
She smiles and remembers
and folds the quilt away.

Sunday Scribblings' prompt for something "new" seemed to fit this afternoon of talk, for this pattern will stay in my family now.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Michigan in July . . .

Last night a thunderstorm,
covered the stars, darkness;
a crack of lightening sudden, complete.
I hid my weakness:
Nature doesn't patronize.

Out near Duck Lake,
I heard a loon cry this morning,
one small trill, then silence.
A barred owl sat on the fence for the longest time.
Under these Jack-pine trees, I feel safe,
safe from even the strongest rain.

NOTE: This poem is in response to Three Word Wednesday (darkness, patronize, weaken), and is the first poem I've written in a while. Perhaps it's because we've traveled across country, on our way to Philadelphia, then Scotland, and our car is loaded with boxes for three different kinds of journeys.

Today's quote on i-Google Literary Quotes widget highlights Gertrude Stein who says "In the portraits of really great writers, the mouths are always firmly closed." This made me smile. I'm a writer, not a great writer, but I'm deep in the midst of editing, editing, and even more editing. I could say the work goes reasonably well, that I'm on schedule, more or less. But every time I look at another photo of Inverness, Orkney, or Edinburgh, where we're headed in September, my heart feels lighter and lighter. I will really see these places where part of my story takes place. An amazing dream. So perhaps it's ok to hover a bit with my writing.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

#171 For my daughter . . .

I sink into your eyes, shift and sink,
child of mine now grown,
an indulgence to remember
you were once small.
I remember your first days.
I rocked you in my arms and sang
and dreamed of this,
two women walking in a Japanese garden,
two women sitting in a coffee house,
but one is saying hello,
the other saying goodbye.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jet Lag

I awake speaking Spanish,
not sure where I've slept.
I hear strange bird calls,
and the sky is dark
when it should be light.
Tomorrow seems an ocean,
impenetrable, and I find myself
thinking of gardens crowded
with trumpet lilies
and hummingbirds.
My daughter says
I've flown too fast.
She holds my hand and tells me
my spirit will catch up.
I am home.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Bird song . . .

He calls the birds down
from the sky, first one,
then another. They perch
on the topmost branches
peering down, as if to see
into his heart and know
with a final certainty
where they belong
in this net of sound
which is part of the trees,
the water, the sun, and in the morning,
this desert altar, replete with conches,
rattles, wooden staves carved
into birds that lift
like waking dreams into the sky,
leaving behind a sweet taste
that lingers, something familiar,
unforgettable, a profound breath
that parts the air in waves
like the wings of birds
moving up, circling once,
twice, carrying my sorrows away.

This poem came from an afternoon hike through the Reserva Ecologica de Chaparri near Chiclayo, Peru. Our hike began with Thomas, our guide from Moche Tours, literally calling the birds down out of the sky by imitating different bird calls. We meandered through the reserve, where we met a deer along the trail, saw the nearly extinct spectacled bears, a burrowing owl, and two condors. We then stopped by a shaman's house to talk briefly of ancient healing rituals. The words "waking dreams" come from this week's prompt from Carry On Tuesday.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Beneath the Surface

We chat at breakfast, our forks
move over scrambled eggs, bits
of ham, the fresh baked roll,
hot coffee with evaporated milk,
cafe con leche in a hotel lobby,
anonymous, and yet, in these moments,
morning begins, another day,
the headlines around us, sound bites rising
like birds to the sun,
hints of rosemary and the sea.

Later we walk where bones were tossed
down the mountain side,
Moche sacrifices made in another time
and at the proper season,
the mountains to the east,
the river below,
140 million bricks for the sacred place of the sun,
and for the Huaca de la Luna, the decapitator,
amid images of the sea, pelicans and cormorants,
a peace loving people, so it was said,
that is before the bones were found.

Yesterday we visited the Huacas (sacred places) of the Sun and the Moon to find the most marvelous freizes, a truly amazing temple, every bit as inspirational as any colonial Baroque church we've visited here in northern Peru. Excavation is slow, much has been lost to looters and the weather. Even photos do not do justice to this main plaza, about the size of two football fields, decorated with five levels of freizes, each level about 5 to 6 feet high, each with a different theme. I can shut my eyes and still see a line of warriors holding hands. Are they dancing? Are they singing? Archaeologists use pottery and painstakingly slow research to name these icons of Moche culture, and change their minds. Behind the temple, the Cerro Blanco, a singular mountain, rises, so named by the Spanish, yet the people here say White Hill Temple is not the proper name. This is the Temple of the Moon.

Additional pictures of the Huaca de la LunaÑ are at and

The prompt comes from Robert Lee Brewer's prompt 046 Beneath the Surface.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

If I were on a ship . . .

If I were on a ship,
a clipper ship, with gray waves higher
than any seasoned traveller can imagine,
the ship rising and falling with the swells,
racing against the white caps that blow senseless
in the wind, and the crew, all barefoot,
pulling the ropes that lift the sails
so we could run before the wind. And
everyone suddenly burst out singing,
"Leave her, Johnny, leave her."
and I was filled with such delight
at that chanty call
that e'en the terror of the deep
stayed far below:
"Leave her, Johnny, leave her"
an' the first mate cried "Ho, boys,
Pull, ho!" The ship sailed to the far horizon
and back again, my motley crew around me,
the deep purple sea still
beneath us, no land, no land as far as
anyone could see, God's landscape
flat and infinite.

Drop by Carry on Tuesday to read more in response to this week's prompt.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Peruvian cloudless night . . .

Here, the Pacific Ocean drifts in tide
along this gravel shore,
the waves undulating,
serpentine, infinite.

At night, the Southern Cross rises
low to the horizon, above mountains
as the earth rises and turns.
These fixed mountains remain;
the sun circles to the right, to the left,
months pass, another millenium.

The puma, the serpent, the condor,
transformed and transforming,
feathered serpent, feline jaws:
Incan icons tremble.

At night, the stars burn
an arc in the sky,
across the dark spaces,
the Milky Way splashes across the heavens.
A cloudless night like this
can set the spirit soaring.

One day too late, but still, a poem for Keith Ramblings´CARRY ON TUESDAY, pulling from my reading and study of Incan beliefs and artifacts here in Lima, Peru. His lines to prompt the poem come from Auden: "A cloudless night like this can set the spirit soaring." Very evocative. Thank you, Keith.

Friday, May 22, 2009

164 Worry . . .

Are my Chinese noodles cooked sufficiently?
Should I become a vegetarian?
Have I enough clean underwear?
How many overdue books can I have at one time
without losing my library card?

Will my flesh melt when I die,
or do I care, for then
my sightless eyes will not see,
my mouth will not laugh,
I will not worry about you.

How do we know when a poem works? This little poem started silly, then turned serious. Isn't the world full of worry. Don't we all worry, and only sometimes with reason?

Also, I did want to get on the list just a little ahead of Anthony North, who is always so prolific and prompt with his postings. This week I have access to a computer, so this week I am early, early, early! It's not a race at all. Being part of Sunday Scribblings is like a virtual home, and those who post (and read) (and even comment) seem almost like friends.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

162 Disconnecting . . .

It only took a moment. I looked down. My computer bag was gone. Yes, I lost my driver's license, some meds, but mostly I was stunned. Would all my backups function? Had I backed up my poetry as carefully as my fiction?

Only days later did I realize the extent of my loss, pictures of this once-in-a-lifetime trip, six months through South America. Yes, all my backups (flash drive, DVD/CD, e-mailed copies of current work to my yahoo account), all worked. But the biggest loss was being able to write easily, whenever and wherever I wished. Now, only 3-1/2 weeks from home and being able to replace my computer, I'm calmer. I can write in bits and pieces, but I lost truly this last month as well.

Tenacity remains. I scribble on scratches of paper, a new notebook and whenever I have access (internet cafes, hotel lobbies), I try to write something -- bits of scenes, parts of poems, and posts to my travel blog.

What I learned: Back on up i-Google documents, especially when writing on the road. That service is free, private, and accessible from any computer (tip thanks to Internet Writing Workshop, an online writing critique group that shall forever be appreciated for their prompt practical and thoughtful advice). Trust yourself to write, no matter what happens. New concepts, scenes, bits of dialogue, insights into characters, commitments to different strategies for research, all have come my way. Appreciate what you have. No matter what your workspace is, know it, appreciate it! It is your unique writing place, your refuge, your inspiration. That view out the window, the line of books in front of you, the stack of notes, the quiet at early morning. You have made this as surely as any written product. And, if you are traveling, Wrap your laptop in your arms, no matter where you are -- in a bus stop after 12 hours, on the airplane, on a train, sitting in a rstaurant, or even standing on a corner.

We are often told some experiences can never be taken from us. What remains for me is a commitment to writing. I lost a few poems. I lost some treasured photographs. And perhaps several hundred research files. I cannot replace some of the drawings or notes. But I still write.

Leaves quiver in morning sunlight.
A mysterious bird warbles,
and its call is answered by a passing train.
I sit in this garden and watch for the birds
as the sun shimmers on the leaves,
the train passes, the ground rumbles,
and the chip-chip-chip of hummingbirds
punctuates the garden.
Pale white trumpet flowers sway,
the train´s bell makes a harsh last call,
metal on metal clanging, the rails hum.
I sit under this mango tree,
looking up into its green leaves,
where buds hallow into fruit.
The past, the present, the future,
all fuse in the humming bird's call.
The mountains rise around me impossibly high,
but I remain at peace,

Monday, May 11, 2009

167 Healing

Tourists come here to Cusco
to Macchu Picchu, to marvel at
quaint colonial plazas with arched colonades
that rest on Incan stone.
They pass through churches
as lightly and quickly as hummingbirds.

I am walking in the great central
Plaza de las Armas, blue sky above me
marked by high white clouds.
Mountains surround me
for Cusco is the navel of the world.
I can see the great Cathedral, its
Baroque bell towers rest on
solid Incan stone.

Here in this, plaza, 500 years ago,
Incan leaders were put to death,
great fires consumed their cloths,
fine embroidered cottons embellished
with feathers,
their gold and silver from the temples
replated on Catholic altars,
each church racing to build the finest church,
Baroque serpentine columns
rise 50 and 60 feet high.
Even a statue of Christ turns black
in sorrow, Lord of Thunder.

I see the bronze cross Pizarro carried,
high on an altar,
read excerpts from old chronicles,
one a 1,200 page letter sent to Phillip the II
that most likely lay unread until found
in a Copenhagen warehouse in 1908.

Guaman Poma de Ayala wrote:
"Our Indians, who may have been barbarous
yet were still good creatures,
wept for their idols when these were broken up
at the time of the Conquest.
But it is the Christians
who still adore property,
gold and silver
as their idols."

How do we heal history?
How do we heal the world?

Peru remains an impoverished country, dependent on tourism, with 50% unemployment. The churches here are marvels of Baroque architecture and a style called Cusconesque Baroque. The Spaniards required the Incans to build churches out of the stones of their temples and taught them to paint and sculpt and carve. The result is subversive and somewhat hidden Incan symbols embedded with the icons of Christianity, the sun headdress adorning the Christian god. At first I wanted to write a personal response to Sunday Scribblings prompt 167 on healing, but this history is unfolding before me. Our world is much in need of healing.

Church of the Company of Jesus, Plaza Mayor, Cuzco
Church of the Company of Jesus, Plaza Mayor, Cusco (source Webshots)

Thursday, May 07, 2009


Today we hiked up to the top
of these sacred hills,
past round stone circles,
here for thousands of years,
where amid ruins,
these large round towers stand,
chullpas, just 500 years old,
as high as four men,
bones still inside. Tiny doors face east,
for from the east, life comes
to those who sit inside in a fetal position,
reborn into circular time that moves
with the sun and the moon.
We descend the stone stairway in silence,
facing east, always east,
a translucent moon rising before us;
a petroglyph shows our journey
and our return.

This ancient site of Sillustani, above Lake Umayo, has perhaps been used as a cemetary for 10,000 years. Petroglyphs (a journey circle, a lizard) have been dated to 8,000 BC, and subterranean tombs have been documented to around 500 AD (Tihuanaco), 1000-1440 AD (Colla), and 1440-1532 (Incan). Our guide told us that those buried inside these towers always face east because "we are beings of light, and from the east comes life." He also talked about the duality of life, a kind of tension between the sun and the moon, earth and sky, male and female, even water and plants. This separation continues: Even young men do not wear the hats of women, but wear the hats of men, peaked hats, shaped like mountains. Perhaps the women's hats, rounded bowler hats, symbolize the earth. In these sacred places, he said, any one can breathe in the spirit of the sacred mountains and the sacred lakes. We came here by tour, just outside of Puno, Peru. Read more about Sillustani at Wikipedia. Note the Wikipedia site says the towers (chullpas) were built by the Colla people: our guide told us the towers were Incan (typical large square stone blocks). Even today scholars have not replicated their building process. More photos at Andy's Sillustani page.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

To the Lady of Ampato

I'm high in the Andes Mountains.
The bus curves around foothills,
stark sand dunes lead to rocky cliffs,
salt crusted, and at the top, snow.

No one could live here.
Yet 500 years ago, people came,
wearing sandals woven of grass,
climbing up these mountains,
carrying what was most sacred
to the highest point of Mt. Ampato.

This ice princess began with unnamed
warm ocean currents.
The shells turned red and white, bad omens,
the elders said, the mountains,
talking gods, began to belch smoke and fire.

She was born in the most propitious time,
her auspicious umbilicus saved
against that day she would transform herself
withh sea eyes, to become protector of her people,
one who walks-with-gods,
the beautiful one, the pure one, perfect,
wrapped in sacred prayers.

Placed just so, wearing gold ornaments
and wrapped in red and white, she could see the future,
the deep black sky sparked with stars, ahead,
the curve of the earth. She was one with
the Apu, the spirit of the mountain, her
eyes open for all eternity, a bridge,
a song, prayers burned into her bones.

The bus moves down to Arequippa. We pass
a road side altar, a Christian cross
entwined with pink and white plastic flowers.
I remember the ice princess, Juanita,
a child among children.

Juanita (so nicknamed for her discoverer) was sacrificed to the mountain spirit of Mt. Ampato some 500 years ago. Her mummified remains were discovered by Johan Reinhard in September 1995, in a gully surrounded by ice. Recent volcanic activity and perhaps earthquakes had caused her body to be dislodged and fall down the side of the mountain, a trail of artifacts spreading behind her. Today she resides in the Museo de la Santary, in Arequipa, where she can be visited from May to September. Her offerings included three small hand-sized icons of copper and gold, dressed in exquisite textiles and adorned with feathers honoring the moon and earth, the water, and the sun. While we may remember the horrific human sacrifice of the Aztecs, both the Mayans and the Incans also sacrificed humans, but at a much lesser scale. Only 18 of these children have been found at the top of mountains throughout what was once the Incan Empire, spreading from Peru south through Chile.

Please visit the Museo de la Santury for some dazzling pictures of the Ice Princess, some of the artifacts she was found with, including her red and white huipil, and, of course, the mountain.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ars Poetica

Each day begins with faith
that word will follow word.
This is my ars poetica,
my house I build
stick by stick
and stone by stone,
my soul space between my hands,
my dreams
as harmonious as a white moon
rising imperturbly
through the night.

Crack me open.
Seeds spill out
from heart and bone.
They float and dance,
a mystery, a joy.
As I write, the very pulse
of the mountain shimmers through me.
I can see into the eye of a spawning salmon.
For a moment, the shape of an aurancara tree
is fixed, its bristling branches spread out
in two directions, to the earth, sloping down,
and to the stars, curling up,
a poem.

This poem is posted in response to Poefusion 36, to explain what a poem should be, inspired by the magnificent Ars Poetica by Archibald MacLeish. Sunday Scribblings' prompt this week is simply ¨"follow." Some of you readers know that I'm traveling in South America. This last week has been a challenge for my laptop computer was stolen in a very small town in southern Peru, after a 17 hour busride. While I did have backups, I was shakey over the loss and very uncertain how I could write without a computer. I posted a query on Internet Writers Workshop, their Writing listserv, and cannot tell you how wonderful it was to hear from other writers and to have a solution that brought me back to the keyboard and writing in only 2 days. So part of this poem is a celebration simply of the ability to write.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

#159 Quipu . . .

I stand in front of this quipu,
the second one I’ve been close enough
to touch with my own hands,
this strange belt of long, knotted strings.

When the conquistadors came
to the land of the Inkas, the Mapuche, the Wari,
these quipus were burned, idolatrous.
Only later scholars discovered these belts,
made of woven llama or alpaca wool,
knotted in units of ten,
these “talking knots” carried information
from kingdom to kingdom,
high along the Andes trail,
the knots their own language,
a chronicle, a census,
accountable, transparent
in their fragile white, red and black twists of wool,
some knots figure-eights,
more than numbers, sacred colors, stored infinity
that, it is said,
a few could read with their eyes closed,
their fingers “telling” the knots.

In the whole world, only 600 quipus remain.
This is one.
Not all that was burned is lost.
Some things are known and not told.

The Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino, here in Santiago, Chile, has an amazing collection of Pre-Columbian artifacts, including textiles and this one quipu. I read scholars are now finding possible clues about the “language” of these quipus in paintings of textiles and pottery. I was still very moved to see this beautiful quipu and so wrote this second response to Sunday Scribblings' prompt on Language. The image comes from Wikipedia.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

#30 Neruda Retold: Fable of the Mermaid

Sometimes mermaid stories are about an ugly side of the relationships between men and women. Here, I followed Poefusion’s prompt to make a new poem by adding lines of my own between the lines of this mermaid poem by Pablo Neruda, still one of my favorite poets.

What was learned? That poets work in tight levels of meaning. I went online to post my version and discovered another Poetfusion poet, Gautami Tripathi, also working with a Neruda poem. Ha! And then I traveled up to La Sebastiana to walk through Pablo Neruda’s home here in Valparaiso, Chile. No photographs were allowed, but my eyes are full of this wonderfully creative space.

You can read Pablo Neruda's original version here: Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

"Neruda Retold: Fable of the Mermaid"

All those men were there inside,
as if they were waiting
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit
and laugh as if they had been given a toy.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was as perfect as the moon.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way, and
the smell of the sea filled the room.
Their insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor
until one by one, they became quiet.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love
shaming the men before her.
Her twin arms were made of white topaz
that burned those who touched her.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light
scream and the room was empty of life.
Suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river, she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back, she swam again
swam towards the deep sea, swam towards life.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

#159 Sappho's Language

The two poems lie side by side.
Their words float off the page,
their meaning some place
between two mirrors.
The serpent uncurls and in an instant
all is known and then lost.
I look each word up
in the dictionary of my imagination,
but the nuances shimmer, love,
the letters flicker and twist,
transforming what is known
into something strange and new,
perhaps close to what the poet cried
in her dreams.

This week's Sunday Scribblings asks us to write about language. I remembered reading Pablo Neruda to prepare for a competency exam in Spanish. No matter how long I studied the vocabulary, the meaning in translation kept shifting. I found a book once that had Sappho's fragments in the original Greek and wondered how we could construct meaning out of a partial poem over such a distance of time and culture. Sometimes I think poets write in a very personal code, adding another barrier. Even our popular vocabulary changes over time, so that what once was a "good" translation of a classic sounds somehow off and not true to the writer's intention.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

April 15: Earth's Hair . . .

If I could count the hairs on your head,
I would count each one
with pine needles frosted white, or
as elm leaves drifting yellow in the wind, blowing free,
or in the tiny filaments of jellyfish swimming,
swimming in the sea. I see cities ratcheted up
your hills and at night, stars scattered on the ground.
And if I were lonely, I’d wrap myself
in dreams of you and never sleep.

Tuesday's Title from Poefusion is "Earth's Hair."

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Offline for awhile . . .

Just a note to say I'll be offline until April 15. No computer access, and I'm not paying 40 cents a minute. But, I'll be busy trying to write a poem a day for April, National Poetry Month, and the challenge from NaPoWriMo. So, go ahead. Join in. Write a poem.

#156 On Aging . . .

This week's Sunday Scribblings asks us to reflect on aging.

I thought once I would die young for I never saw a tall person, and very quickly, at the age of 12, I grew to be 5’8”, tall for a girl-child and still tall for a woman.

I loved the lines of Rabbi ben Ezra, “Grow old along with me, the best in life is yet to be . . .” Isaac Asimov included those lines in the opening of his Foundation series, which I discovered in my teens when I read science fiction by the box. Later I learned Robert Browning wrote this poem, and other lines jumped out: “What I aspired to be, / and was not, comforts me.”

Melina Mercouri, flush with fame for her portrayal of a prostitute in Never on Sunday and appearing on an Ed Sullivan show, said something like, “Get that camera in here close. I want it to show every line. I have lived and I have earned these lines.” There was a woman I admired. She was not afraid of her age.

Other lines, from Omar Khayyám's Rubaiyat, have stayed with me: “I come like water, like wind I go.” And in a cosmic sense, Robert Frost, that great American poet, wrote “Fire and Ice,” which neatly puts the fate of the world and all of us accountable.

Fire and Ice

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

I was a quiet little kid. I wore glasses, read books, was last chosen for games, and the first to move to a new town or a new family. My childhood I now remember as a steady stream of argument, fueled by cases of beer and nights of brutality. I somehow reached 17 and wrote a desperate (and most likely horrible) poem that ended: “There’s no such thing as a future, whether good or bad,/ there’s only the past, taunting you with things you’ve never had.”

My aunt took me away, and my life changed. I went to college and worked to pay for it. It took me 11 years to graduate, working full-time after those first two years at a community college. Now and again, a teacher would encourage me, and this made all the difference. Of course, I became a teacher myself and at a community college. I could help others as I was helped. My dreams of somehow creating a harmonious family, loving my husband and a child – all came true because of the generosity of one person.

So I would say aging, if we are so lucky, is about understanding our lives, the choices we’ve made, and how each decision, each act shapes us and those around us. So many times, we seem afraid of death, and yet, death is the natural end to all of life. What is aging but a preparation for death?

If we are so fortunate to have a long life, then these last decades allow us to come to terms with who we have become. Each day thus can be a gift to appreciate and celebrate. I remember my 20s and 30s, and even into my 40s, as a struggle to become something I could barely imagine. But now, in my mid-60s, I can simply be.

It’s early morning, and the yellow-breasted kiskadee begins its song to wake the sun. Today, we leave on a grand adventure, to do something I once read about in Richard Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast – we will sail around the horn at the tip of South America. My suitcase is packed. My computer is nearly ready to go. And I am thrilled to be able to say to my husband, “Grow old along with me. The best in life is yet to be.”

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

#155 I come from . . .

I come from the country, an
estancia so far from the city that
only the men go on horseback,
driving the cattle to market. When they return,
we’ll set up the barbeque on the patio.
The old men will play their guitars,
and the women will dance. Ah, I remember last time.
I could feel Renaldo’s eyes on me
as I placed a vase of yellow flowers on my head,
fanned my skirts back and forth, and
placed my feet just so.
Singing, I danced faster and faster,
my hips moving,
the flowers steady and true.

I come from San Telmo, a barrio in Buenos Aires.
I sit on my third floor verandah each morning,
hidden from the crowds below. I sip hot coffee.
The sugar from my sweet rolls sticks to my fingers.
Parrots nest high in the nearby palm trees, and
red flowers bloom in a Ceibo; later,
I’ll twine them in my hair when I dance the tango.
Ah, Renaldo, I long for when you come to the city.
I will put my black dress on and dance with you
cheek to cheek.

The startling scarlet flowers of the Ceibo, also called seíbo or bucaré, are Argentina’s national flower, as the tango is Argentina’s national dance. We’re only in Buenos Aires one more week and then back on the road (without internet for 10 days). Already, I’m thinking of April and napowrimo, the challenge of writing a poem every day for a month. Will you do it?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

#154 Buenos Aires, March 2009

Her head was found. They say
the rest was scattered.
Desaparecidos, they call these lost ones.
30,000 disappeared
sometime between 1976 and 1983.

I stand in the Plaza de Mayo,
wondering again about violence,
remembering when I was young.
Would my mother have worn a white scarf?
Would she have walked slowly
in a circle past the soldiers,
so slowly as to be eternal?

Our guide tells us the women still come here to the Plaza de Mayo, each Thursday at 4:30 pm, circling the plaza silently, holding photographs of those who were lost. A passing man interrupts our guide’s explanations. “Do not step on these symbols. They represent 30,000 lost.”

He tells us more; our guide interprets. Finally the man leaves and our guide continues. “We do not support these women today,” our guide says. Other Argentinians in the group nod. “We support them, that is, their main idea and honor what they have done, but today, there are two groups, one is made up of mothers who pressuring the government to admit its culpability; they take money from the government. The other group is made up of the grandmothers seeking to reunite those children who were adopted with their real past, which is very difficult.”

The sun flickers on his face. I do not really understand his distinctions, though I learn later that the more radical group also blames the United States for training Argentina's military in the controversial School of the Americas. The history of Argentina’s “Dirty War” and the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo is summarized more fully in two Wikipedia articles I found useful.

I look at the round plaza and remember learning of these women from newspaper accounts when I was in San Francisco in the 1970s. I marvel I am standing in this place, in the shadow of the Casa Rosada, the Argentinian equivalent of the White House.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

#153 Did you . . .

Did you pinch your daughter’s hand
because she didn’t mind you quickly enough?
Leave your three-year old alone in a motel?
Feed him beer because he was crying?
Hit her because she laughed too loudly?
Lock your child in the basement?
Or worse?

Your child will never forget.
You can’t take it back.
You can’t say “I’m sorry”.
Those memories won't go away.
Remember this. This is important.

This week's prompt from Sunday Scribblings asks us to write about something that is truly important, something you notice or would like to say. This was my first reaction. Child abuse takes so many forms, not the least at the macro level being poverty. Many adults struggle the rest of their lives to heal themselves from what happened when they were vulnerable and unable to defend themselves. So, what you do forever shapes a child (and their children), whether you are parent, teacher, or even a babysitter. Be mindful. Be gentle.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Last Night . . .

Last night, I dreamed
I was floating,
past your embraces,
past your eyes
frozen in dreams.

We have slept in how many cities,
walked through plazas together,
heard the night birds sing,
and watched the stars fall out of the sky,
always together. Yet the day comes
when, like a star
that follows its own path,
revolving slowly,
I will tumble into the future, alone.


Anoche, soñé
yo flotaba,
por delante de sus abrazos,
por delante de sus ojos
congelado en sueños.

Hemos dormido en cuantos ciudades,
andado por plazas juntos,
oído las aves de la noche cantan,
y mirado las estrellas se caen del cielo,
siempre juntos.
Aún el día viene cuando,
como una estrella
esto sigue su propio camino,
giramiento lentemente,
caeré en el futuro, solo.

Note: I'm still working on this poem that came to me partly because I was studying Spanish before sleeping. If you see changes needed in the translation, please tell me. Otherwise, be assured all is well.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

#11 Read Write Image . . . Reflections

No winter bites as cold as this.
You’ve hidden your face
behind a mirror. I remember each line,
the mole, the crease on your forehead,
Behind you I see leafless trees
like lacey fingerprints atop the snow,
and snow falls everywhere.

All I want is to see your face, still hidden,
your hands curled like two lost dark geese,
the mirror a perfect oval, mysterious, unknowable.
The hills stretch out endlessly behind you.

Someone who loves you knit those gloves
and tied the belt on your coat, long ago.
Yet you stand before me, fixed, invisible.
Maybe I see myself in your mirror,
a nameless tree against a cold and foggy sky.
I’m wondering just when winter will end.

This week's prompt from Read Write Image #11 uses this evocative photograph, "Reflections" taken by Camile Tulcan, shared thru Creative Commons. Although I do try to write in response to ReadWritePoem, this time the poem "Reflecta" by Gordon Mason led me to this prompt.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

#151 Would you trust . . .

Would you trust a jubilado
dancing in the street?
See omens in a cloud of green butterflies
settling just ahead of your path?
Stare into the red heart
of a Rose of Sharon.
Touch the points on a nettle?
Bathe your face
in the mist of a waterfall?
Look into the eyes of a stray dog
that follows you?
Count the fingers and toes
of a newborn babe?
Hear the telephone before it rings?
Dance without music?
Dream without sleeping?
Say yes before the question is asked?

This week’s Sunday Scribbling’s prompt is trust, a very difficult prompt. I wonder if we trust our ability to understand the reality that exists around us, that we perceive or define by our senses. Though I do not, or do not trust that I do, some of my relatives seem to have an extra sense. Also, jubilado is Spanish for retired person. As a relatively newly retired person, this word fascinates me for its very different connotations.

Some people have asked when Standing Stones will be finished. I do work every day except travel days, and now am revising Section 3 (out of five sections), focusing mostly on plot holes, logical connectors, and character development. I’d like these characters and their predicaments to be as real to a reader as they are to me. I hope to have one more go through for style and estimate I’ll be ready for my 3 readers by June or July, if all goes well. Six weeks in September/October brings the last bit of research and editing, so I hope to finish completely by December 2010, making it about three years overall for this novel. After that, the story’s no longer mine. Wish me well.

Friday, February 20, 2009

#150 Soccer . . .

There’s nae sport in it
if ye canna’ play the game, twist
yer head down, scrub the dirt
off yer leg, and curse
and hope and flail after the ball,
down the grassy field and back,
and hate the other side
‘till the whistle calls done.

There’s just that moment,
an ye don’t know it then,
when the ball sails past,
an yer boot taps it so
it flies good and true.
They look at you different then;
all the rest is remembering.

Tall, skinny, clumsy, and wearing glasses that were too expensive to break, I was last called and played little in the streets when I was a kid. I never understood the thrill of sport until I met up with a group of women over 50 and played my heart out on the soccer field.

Friday, February 06, 2009

#149 Morning poem . . .

Chip-chip-chip the beja flor
calls: Awake. Awake.
It is the last day in Ouro Preto, this valley
of nameless trees and red tiled roofs
brightening in the morning sun.
Trucks lumber up cobblestoned streets where
last night orixas and students danced
in samba, lace, bead, and drum, joyous.
So many have slept
anonymously, abandoned,
to waken here, in your room, Pablo Neruda,
whose lines make me want to sing.

The morning does begin here in Ouro Preto with hummingbirds, and last night students did dance in the streets, practicing for Brazil’s famous Carnival. This week’s prompt from Sunday Scribblings is simply art. For every person who takes pen or brush, and dedicates time, talent and effort to express some interpretation, past the senses and rhythm of pure line and color, to heighten our awareness of the meaning of life, I wish another someone who looks deep and says: Ah. Yes.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

148 Regrets . . .

For how many years have I known
your heart is larger than life;
its beats numbered like mine,
but with fewer days. So we embrace
the future without looking back,
here in this land of baroque hotels,
bus drivers who slide by trucks
and pedestrians by inches.
We stroll past palm trees and jacaranda,
orchids at eye level. Tonight I sleep
where Pablo Neruda once slept. I look with his eyes
on this colonial town with amazement:
How is it possible I have lived to see this day,
another day with you? We have memories,
enough for a lifetime or two, maybe three.
Should the day come when I sleep alone,
I will remember here, this moment, and you.

This week's Sunday Scribblings was hard to write. We're on the road today from Belo Horizonte, in Brazil, to Ouro Preto, finally a smaller colonial town of about 40,000. Pablo Neruda did stay once at the Pouso do Chico Rei, a hotel with its own interesting history, and, I think, internet in the lobby.

Monday, January 26, 2009

147 To Yemanja

Imagine a town each February 2 that closes its shops.
All the people come down to the water
wearing transparent beaded necklaces and
bringing gifts, little boats
filed with flowers and perfumes
to launch into the sea.

They come, singing songs and dancing,
the people of the town down to the water,
near the Rio Vermelho, the beautiful brown women
wearing gowns the color of the sea,
bearing gifts they come singing to you, Yemanja,
orixa, Princess, oh, Janaina, Queen of the Sea,
mother of the waters, of the storms, of the fish,
in your honor, the sweet perfumes, the rejoicing.
Even the cat prowling under the tables of Mama Bahia
for scraps of fish
has eyes the color of the milky green sea.

How I long to dance with the people
along the beaches here in your town, Yemanja,
in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil,
a town once of fishermen
who went to the sea in small boats,
while women waited and prayed by the shore.
Now all shadows and phantoms
they come from the past,
their boats filled with flowers and perfumes.

Here in Salvador, Saturdays are consecrated to Yemanja, the queen of the waters, ruler of the upper sea, a goddess (orixa) in the condomble religion. Most commonly shown as a mermaid, Yemanja appears in many forms in this city where people still gather on the beaches each February 2 to offer her gifts. We are in Salvador just two more days, so this week’s Sunday Scribbling’s prompt of “shadows and phantoms” came clothed in her story. The photograph is part of a monumental painting hanging in the lobby of the Pousada do Boqueirao, by an anonymous folk artist.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

146 A Pilgrimage

I have climbed the lower hills of the Andes
and walked in the alleys of Cairo.
I have waited in the rain
to see the works of Vincent Van Gogh in San Francisco.
I traveled to Turkey to stand in the Blue Mosque.
I’ve cranned my neck at the Sistine Chapel.
I touched the granite rocks of the pyramids at Giza.
I have heard the monkeys call, one to another, in the Yucatan peninsula, and I have climbed Mayan temples to the very top.

I have dreamed my way through books and paintings,
I have fallen in love
and have mourned the loss of those I loved.
I have held my daughter in my heart from the beginning,
I have followed stories of mermaids
and found my own place.

What a jostling pilgrimage of sorts my life has been –
an immersion into nearly five decades of work.
Even so, my memories flash all colors;
I would give up all my travels,
all my writing and remembering,
to walk with you in our own garden.

Though I found myself looking back rather than forward, what an evocative prompt from this week's Sunday Scribblings. Check out what others have thought.

Friday, January 09, 2009

#145 Organic . . .

Sunday Scribblings this week asks us to define O-R-G-A-N-I-C, so:

Whole Food organic baked beans
Organic food baked
Beans whole

Whole earth organic cocoa crunch
Organic earth cocoa
Crunch whole

I remember the first time I ate granola, visiting a hippie commune in the wilds of northern California. We women helped to build a yurt, made yogurt from what I thought was spoiled milk, and baked bread with joy. By day I worked for a bank, surrounded by suits. On the weekends, I lived in a counter culture. One day I realized my friends wanted to throw bricks through the front window at my bank. And then I read the politics of protest, “Chicks up front,” and disengaged.

Today, organic is a line of products; national debate rages over what constitutes a legal definition of organic, so necessary for labels. I see now “organic” can be defined as essentially commercial, at least in our capitalistic society, having little to do with individual freedom. I would rather define “organic” as in harmony, as in “at one” with the Earth, but we seem a long way from that definition. Individual actions can shape an “organic” whole, but not necessarily in the way the individual intends. I still do like granola.

Monday, January 05, 2009

#144 For richer . . .

As I walk along Sao Paulo streets,
the people stroll, no rush
here, arm-in-arm they wander as slowly
as if they were in a museum,
talking softly as they go
from one block to the next.

Later, I stroll as they,
past orchids growing wild in trees,
bouganville, impatience pink and white,
and margharitas,
yellow hibiscus, nameless others;
the smallest yards tell me stories
of fallen palm trees,
clipped shrubs and forget-me-nots.

I climb the yellow brick stairs to the Pinacoteca,
walk past portraits of another era, painters
as unknown as flowers, who saw with brushes
grasslands, mountains and the people there,
fishing, reading, sitting in transplanted
Victorian living rooms, still sighing sadness.
still singing with joy.

This week’s Sunday Scribblings asks what we are richer for . . . for me it is the gift of experience and interpretation that we create through writing or other arts. For me, travel gives me the ability to explore other cultures through meeting and talking with people, visiting museums (like the Pinacoteca do Estado), walking through parks, and, not least, eating delicious food with Allen. Yesterday we discovered the painter Jose Ferraz de Almeida Junior (1850-1899). He lived to be only 49, yet his paintings of Brazilian rural life continue. And I am richer for every painting I see, every book I read, each friend I share my life with.