Sunday, December 26, 2010

#257 Manifesto

My manifesto is
just large enough
to scrawl
on the back of a leaf:

Balance in all things.

Sunday Scribblings this week asks us to write a manifesto.

When I think of a manifesto, I’m remembering demagogues through history who screamed at their followers; economies out of control, privation, suffering, and war became real demons to fear.

Our greatest religious teachers have distilled their insights to simple truths. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. In the west, Ten Commandments, sacrifice and denial become a way of life. In the east, a search for nirvana based on meditation led people to act intentionally and to try to do no harm.

The tension between a dream and reality remains. I wish that all people lived in peace and harmony, safe from harm. But this speaks to a survival level. A larger dream would be for each soul to achieve its highest vision, whether that is to be a parent, an artist, a musician, a writer, even a politician. And, yes, I do believe that all actions are expressions of human creativity, even to making a simple meal, and that the best creative works have something uplifting, something good in them. So I would add: As your hand turns, work for the public good.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2011 Resolutions?

I've never made specific writing resolutions, but I just joined a new online writers' group and found Joe Konrath's A Newbie's Blog for Publishing. He's been setting resolutions since 2006, so I thought I'd piggyback on just 4 (OK 5) of his resolutions.

Konrath's resolutions (and my commentary) follow:

1. "I will start/finish the damn book" (2006).2. I have finished STANDING STONES and have 3-4 ideas in the research/drafting stage (RIVERS OF STONE and YEARS OF STONE, both sequels at 40% planned, and MOTHERS DON'T DIE (85% drafted) and THE LAST TAPESTRY (10% drafted). I will work on two of these.

2. "I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth" (2006) This is a biggie for me as I have a horrible track record at sending stuff out, whether poems, stories or subbing the current novel. So my take will be always have two out working while working on a third. That seems sustainable.

3. "I will create/update my website" (2006). Does every writer who keeps a blog have an identity crisis or worry about readers? (See resolution 4 below) I want to go back to simply writing about writing. Those who come here can just expect a little venting, an occasional poem, and updates on research and writing -- as well as appreciation for other writers.

4. "I will stop worrying" (2010). Konrath worries??? I will strive to write (and edit) my best every day, and then I will let it go. That's me in 2011. I will dig deeper, write more intensely, and stop worrying!

5. "I will self publish" (2011). Yes, I will, just as Amanda Borenstadt did with her short story to test the water and then her book, Syzygy, an acronym I cannot type without doublechecking. Smashwords, look out! I'm nearly ready to play!

If you are a writer, my mantra remains: May your own writing go well!

Friday, December 10, 2010

An Unexpected Moment . . .

I have been sadly remiss in keeping my writing blog up. I'm in the research phase for the next book, RIVERS OF STONE, with some days going well, and other days, not so well. I've found some great stuff online and at the library, delved into history, worked on understanding the "real" structure of "plot", but the story has remained elusive. Until this morning.

Larry Brooks writes that the reader must discover a compelling reason to keep reading: An unexpected moment occurs when everything changes. Up to this point, you may be writing (or reading) about sympathetic characters, interesting situations, but the story doesn't really grab you. You're just as likely to put the book down and turn to other, more rewarding pursuits (Farmville, online Scrabble, sex), right before nodding off.

But as I was reading his post what readers must experience for a satisfying read, something clicked for my story. A true WHAT IF moment. And for the first time, the story I've been working on for the last two months felt like a story. Thank you, Larry. Thunder fingers is ready to roll.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

October update . . .

I haven't blogged or written any poetry for what feels like months, yet the mantra of "perseverance furthers" pushes me forward most mornings. Today I started the edits on the last section of STANDING STONES. I wonder if this will be the last edit. Most likely not, but I have cut 15,000 words in about two months.

This kind of editing is rather fun. As I reread the story, the hunt for extra words and passive voice continues. I ask constantly: Is this wording, character, scene, or chapter essential to the story? Does this move the story forward? Words drop off the page as I read the dialogue aloud and and "hear" again how my characters talk.

Now and again, writing friends from several online writing communities share their works in progress, their ambitions, their tenacity, and I am encouraged. My characters seem a bit impatient, but come November 1, I will be ready for the first push into a draft of RIVERS OF STONE. Dougal, Colin, and Mary Margaret, disguised as a young boy, will travel the Atlantic as newly hired servants of the Hudson's Bay Company, join the Fur Brigade Express to trek across Canada and come to Fort Vancouver. It will be late spring, 1843, well before Mount St. Helens' eruption in 1847 or the discovery of gold. Perhaps Colin will sail to the Sandwich Islands or China. Perhaps Dougal will find a fiddle, and Mary Margaret, this woman who worked as a man, will discover herself in the Great Nor'West.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Back to editing . . .

On July 24th, I stood in front of 450 people to receive the second place award in historical fiction for Standing Stones at the Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest.

I remember bouncing up out of my chair when my name was called with a sense of disbelief and joy. Some 1100 people entered back in February. Now just three names (Kendra Hall, for Joan of Arc, Gabriella's Story; Debra Carlson for Shakuhachi, and me) were announced in our category. At the "winners only" reception following the dinner, several agents invited me to send my work, but here I heard for the first time that 118,000 words is too long for a first novel by a new author.

Over the long weekend of August 6th, I attended the Willamette Writers annual conference in Portland. Robert Dugoni was an inspirational keynoter ("Begin your story with blood on the floor") and workshop leader. Charlotte Cook changed my perceptions of how to write back story with her comment:

"If you don't want to compromise the forward momentum of the story, integrate back story as you experience your past in your own life. Do we stop action in the present to retell ourselves a story from the past? In chronological order?"

But the real draw for me at Willamette Writers was to find out more about agents and the possibility of representation. Now I learned in earnest that Standing Stones was too long. But after a year of editing, I'm no longer intimidated by the challenge of chopping out 25,000 words or so. I'm not subbing to agents just yet. I'm not writing poetry or short stories. Each morning begins with editing. Each afternoon includes research, for the next two stories in this series are simmering and shimmering in my imagination. Summer now begins its turn to fall. May your own projects go well.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

About what's next . . .

In northern Scotland today, here and there in the rolling green hills close to the sea, clusters of stones remain. Once these stones were cottages for crofters. For in the early 19th Century, rich landowners, inspired by the Industrial Revolution, sought to make this land more productive and evicted the people who had lived here in these hills for generations, to make way for sheep.

Mac MacDonnell , a fisherman, with his brothers Dougal, Colin, and Jamie, and his sister, Moira, lived in such a cottage. Suspicious when Lord Gordon took possession of the tiny island they lived on, Mac protested changes first to his fishing boat and then, when sheep were brought on the island and evictions began, Mac led protests to the lord’s manor house. When a child was trampled to death, the MacDonnell’s were evicted and their boat confiscated. Mac was arrested and sentenced to be transported to the penal colony at Port Arthur in Van Diemen’s Land. As Mac is taken to London to work in the prison hulks on the Thames, awaiting shipment to Tasmania, the remaining MacDonnell’s face the future alone.

Each struggles to decide whether to remain on their island home or to leave. Dougal and his sweetheart Mary Margaret disguised as a man, sign on as servants with the Hudson’s Bay Company. Colin is hired as well. Moira reluctantly takes Jamie, the youngest brother, with her to Inverness, searching for work and for Dhylan, her husband. And Diedre, fearful of leaving her family, yet more afraid of a life without Mac, follows Mac to Van Dieman’s Land, hoping somehow to be reunited.

This is the story of Standing Stones, a finalist in this year’s Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest. Critics called this story “a very promising work” with “excellent plot development” and “wide audience appeal for readers of “action/adventure, historical fiction and possibly romance.” My search for an agent begins as does the sequel.
I’m in the research phase for the next novel.

Should I tell the story of Dougal and Mary Margaret as they cross the wilds of Canada with the Hudson’s Bay Company’s famous fur brigades, perhaps traveling with artist Paul Kane west to Fort Vancouver? There, Mary Margaret’s disguise unravels, she is discharged from service and lives outside the Fort with a mélange of Native Americans, Hawaiians and Scots. Perhaps they’re hired by Paul Kane as he travels throughout the Willamette Valley and north again, documenting the “Great Nor-West” and painting the 1847 eruption of Mount St. Helens. And then in January 1848, gold is discovered at Sutter’s Mill. The Great Gold Rush of California begins.

Or should I continue the story of Mac, shipwrecked near Port Arthur, desperate to find Diedre among the survivors, and of their lives in the early days of the penal colony on Tasmania? Does Mac try to escape, past the vicious dog line and north into the bush? Are they befriended by the very few aboriginals or bushmen there? Does Mac survive his sentence? How does Diedre begin a new life in the wild saloon halls of Port Arthur? Is she befriended by the peripatetic Lady Franklin, wife of soon-to-be-disposed Governor Franklin (1843), the ill-fated explorer of the Arctic? And then, in May, 1851, gold is discovered. The Great Gold Rush in the Macquarie River country north of Sydney begins.

Yesterday I spent three hours researching in the Spokane library’s Pacific Northwest Room where materials cannot be checked out. But I will persevere. Each of the stories above is roughly a three-year project: one year to draft, two years to revise. Which story appeals most to you?

Monday, July 05, 2010

Standing Stones a finalist . . .

I'm thrilled to learn that Standing Stones was selected as a finalist in this year's Pacific Northwest Writers Association literary contest. Over 1100 writers entered with nearly 100 chosen as finalists in 12 categories. Results will be announced July 24 at an awards dinner in Seattle. I'm going!

C. C. Humphreys is the keynote speaker at the dinner. This accomplished writer gives his occupation as "writer, actor, and fight choreographer," so I'm sure to learn something new. He's on my reading list now, along with other research which pulls me in many different directions -- all 19th Century but in Tasmania, China, Hawai'i, and along the fur traders' routes in Canada west from York to Fort Vancouver.

I found a gem in Paul Kane (1810-1871) who, inspired by George Catlin, painted to preserve the culture and images of the great wilderness of the West. Kane gained permission to travel with the Hudson's Bay Company fur brigades west and painted landscapes of Native peoples across Canada.

He left Toronto in May and arrived (after many adventures and misadventures) at Fort Vancouver in December, 1846. That's over 6 months on the road in far more rugged conditions we experience today, even when we go camping. He hunkered down at Fort Vancouver and then travelled throughout the Willamette Valley and north, including a stop at Fort Victoria.

Somewhere along the way, Kane painted an eruption of Mt. St. Helens at night (1847, source Wikipedia). You'll note the eruption comes (accurately) from the side of the cone, so not as significant as the big blow-up in 1980, but this must have had an impact on the peoples living there at that time. I also learned that Kane visited the Whitman Mission just a few months before the massacre there. Ah, the links that research brings!

Thanks to the library, I have Diane Eaton and Sheila Urbanek's book, Paul Kane's Great Nor-West with its wonderful commentary and diary excerpts to accompany his paintings. Now, back to work . . .

Friday, June 25, 2010

My Pantry . . .

Three things you'll always find in my pantry are garlic salt, rubber knuckles, and granddad's hand gun loaded with silver bullets. This is because I don't trust the garlic salt by itself, and garlic bulbs are too cumbersome to wear by themselves. I don't see them hanging around my neck. So, I just keep my garlic salt handy, right behind my old-fashioned breadbox, the one that Clem threw at me before he left. He didn't listen. He made it all the way out past the front picket fence before they got him. And they didn't leave anything behind to bury. Well, nobody's perfect.

I mostly stay inside now. Neither the TV nor the radio works. I'm thinking I may have to make a run to the city. Not sure how I'll make it past the front yard unless I wire the car up with garlic. I'm worried about my sister. She lives in a high rise with three cats. Clem never cared for her that much, so I haven't seen Sissy for three years. Last time I saw her, she was telling me to remember granddad's stories about when the moon turned red. That's when I started cooking with garlic salt.

Have you ever had oatmeal with garlic salt? It's not so bad if you mix it with raisins and peanuts. Clem didn't like my cooking after I saw my sister. He said I should watch the cooking channel and make some changes. I just kept my head down and kept on with what I wanted. We didn't ever fight exactly. He just threw things around, and I kept cooking with garlic salt. And, of course, the entire front yard and back yard is planted in garlic. Nothing bad is coming in here.

Did I say this just started the week before Halloween? I attribute it to the blood moon we saw all through September. Can't say I'm going to have much for the trick and treaters this year. Not even candy corn, my favorite. I'm keeping it for myself. Though this year, it tastes a bit salty. You know, like garlic.

I'm working on something a little different just now to open up some ideas along the theory that any writing takes me somewhere, as most of my attention is still focused on 19th Century research. So today's short story was inspired by a prompt from Jennifer's neat site Procrastinating Writers ("What three things are in your pantry . . . "), as well as Keith's Carry On Tuesdays (prompt: "Well, nobody's perfect").

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Valparaiso graffiti . . .

Down any cobbled street
in hilly Valparaiso, we see
butterflies, a prism
of light, a hand uplifted:
white doves take flight,
scrambled letters shape a poem,
a street musician plays sweet horn
for veiled women on a wall,
behind the garden
giant salamanders play.
Blue sea, blue sky,
my heart is far from home.

This poem comes from a melange of photos taken on a walk around Valparaiso (in Spanish, Valley of Paradise), in Chile, last year.

Valparaiso Chile

Sunday, June 06, 2010

#217: Mantra . . .

I have no mantra. I resonate instead
with the four sacred directions and
feel nature to my bones,
the rise of sun,
the floating moon,
the moment I know that life begins
or that I die.

I walk in any forest attuned to bird cries,
sacred scrit written on air.
A cloud of yellow butterflies
crosses my path and I am at home.

If a poem appears,
I hold it in my hands,
so briefly,
as brief as my breath,
and let it go.

This week's poetry prompt from Sunday Scribblings is simply mantra. Read more of what others have written by linking to Sunday Scribblings. I read a definition of "mantra" to find that in the Upanishand belief system, each letter of a word is given spiritual meaning (that should be of interest to writers). Here's the quote from Wikipedia: "The mute consonants represent the earth, the sibilants the sky, the vowels heaven. The mute consonants represent fire, the sibilants air, the vowels the sun. The mute consonants represent the eye, the sibilants the ear, the vowels the mind"

Personally, I'm drawn to the moon and water, so I begin to think this system leaves out much -- the mute consonants representing earth (think mud as well as mountains), but no moon. The second level lists fire, air and sun, but no earth or water. The third level -- the body -- the eye, the ear, the mind, but where is the gut, the heart, the belly of life?

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Benjamin Percy and the Southern Cross . . .

Tonight, I'm settled in with the latest issue of Poets & Writers, reading "Home Improvement," by Benjamin Percy. I was jolted right out of a quiet evening when I read what Percy had to say about the difference between beginning writers who revise and a professional writer who " . . . mercilessly lops off limbs, rips out innards like party streamers, drains away gallons of blood, and then calls down lightning to bring the body back to life" (26). Ah, passion.

So today was research again, no writing. And that's what's slowing me down. The not writing. I did find some interesting stuff on the Southern Cross, always visible at night in the Southern Hemisphere, south of 35 degrees, particularly useful to sailors as the southern sky lacks a pole star. The Southern Cross was/is honored by Australian aborigines through folktales of the Two Brothers and of totemic protectors.

In 1854, the Southern Cross inspired a banner raised by protesting gold miners in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia. The bloody battle that followed decimated the miners but their cry remains -- "We swear by the Southern Cross to stand truly to each other and fight to defend our rights and liberties." Many of the Irish transported to New South Wales were political prisoners, well versed with 18th Century American and French ideals of liberty and enfranchisement.

If I were sailing near Australia, I could find the southernmost pole now by tracing my finger down the stars of the Southern Cross. But I'm in my office, preparing to "lop off limbs" in one of my stories.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday . . .

Just a bit of blue through the clouds. A promise of rain. Outside, a young man walks a bouncy lab in the field next door, disappearing into the pines, perhaps following the scent of yesterday's white-tailed deer. I peek out of our third floor apartment. All is quiet. Early morning. And yet today I sent my first query out. I won't promise not to whine, but for the foreseeable future, I'll be poised between two worlds, one, heavy into research for the next book, Years of Stone, the other, this search for an agent, also more research.

Today's research tidbit from Charles Bateson's classic study of convict ships to Australia (1787-1868): Prisoners were sent from all over the world, not just England and Ireland, but Canada, Bermuda, Mauritius, the Cape of Good Hope, and India. I'm thinking about India. Now there's a place that resonates with connections to historic Australia.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

On writing . . .

The greatest surprise is always when the words come. Today, challenged by Carol K. to write three pages, and stuck on that rock of what's next after Standing Stones, and after I told Allen I would not be continuing the story in Australia, the story began again, on a beach near Van Diemen's Land. It's 1842, the Brilliant, a sailing vessel bringing passengers and convicts to Port Arthur, has run aground. Mac and Diedre are safe. The working title: Years of Stone.

Friday, May 21, 2010

On subs and crits . . . and reading

I'm making the last round of changes on Standing Stones. By mid-June, I'll be finished and ready for a new writing project. I know I could keep working on this novel, adding layers of detail, nuances of setting or character, but, for now, it feels done, complete in itself, and I'm ready for the next phase. This next phase requires tenacity of a different order as I begin the agent search.

So the question before me is what is my next writing project? I have the proverbial folder with some ideas. Do I continue the saga of the MacDonnell's, following what's next for them, staying in the mid-19th Century in three different settings -- India, Australia, or Hawaii/the Pacific Northwest? I begin to feel that the "next" story that's closest to my understanding is here, in the Pacific Northwest. I've grown up with a sense of the wilderness and the history of early settlement right here. So maybe. But I have two other stories cooking -- one a quilting mystery and the other, Mothers Don't Die, a first draft novel of a serial killer's attempt to build family.

I sent off the first chapter of Mothers Don't Die to my critique group on the Internet Writing Workshop. I asked for the harshest criticism possible, figuring that would bring me a sense of whether this first novel had validity. Ouch! Within a week, seven faithful readers generously gave me their sharpest comments. And ouch again! I learned some new things about critiquing others' work, even as the harshest of the comments taught me humililty. I learned that even writers of very bad stuff want to hear something good. That whatever I've written, some readers will see what I intended. If I do pick up Mothers Don't Die, I have at least 6 months of revision ahead.

I'm reading Jeffery Deaver's Watchlist, a thriller written by a committee of 22 established writers (including Lisa Scottoline, Brett Battles, David Hewson). Found two typos so far, but the stylistic issues are fascinating as each author contributes a chapter to the story. And I'm reading Tracy Chevalier's Remarkable Creatures, a tale spun from the story of Mary Aning, an English woman who discovered fossils (and who is the woman behind the old tongue-twister, She sells sea shells . . . ). Here, I see shifting point of view as Chevalier changes the first person narrator chapter by chapter. Beautifully written. Interesting characters so sharply defined. This video on introduces Chevalier's book with a wonderful author interview (so much more here, writer's process, a look at a writer's workspace, and the setting itself in Lyme Regis). Very, very nice.

My last discovery comes from Ann Hite on Writer Woman Blog, who brought me to Natalie Goldberg's new book, Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir. Goldberg's book of writing exercises promises another way to explore "between".

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A love poem: Fractals

Most intricate,
the smallest part
mirrors the whole,
infinite shapes repeating,
linear, unexpected,
Where is chaos here?
Footprints lost and then found,
and lost again.
I remember these
dimensions in your eyes,
your skin, your tongue.
Come, let us be butterflies
and fly against the grid.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Two Spring Poems . . .

Where were you
when the orchid cactus opened
its petals, yellow and red,
and the flower fell
of its own weight
across the spiked leaves
of spring?

Today I walked in a garden alone.
Two carp swam together, golden and black,
their shadow shapes floated
on the bottom of the pool.
Early rhododendron flowers
opened in the shade of bottlebrush pines.
The first cherry blossoms, palest pink,
shimmered against gnarled dark wood,
covering the signs of winter.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Your world explained in graphs and charts

I see no ending
to data sets, tea leaves that predict
your future bright and bold,
shown here on this graph in red,
time ascending, and, on the x-axis,
passion unfolding.

A friend sent me one of those funny e-mails and the subjectline alone called for a poem. The graphics in the e-mail were considerably darker, but I'm feeling hopeful. Outside my window the most beautiful white blossoms have sprouted up the limbs of a tree some 30 feet high. I think this tree may be an apple, but my search suggests it could also be a cherry tree, hawthorn, thorn, elder tree, and, most fascinating, a guelder-rose. In the early days of spring, today foggy, I will hope for a guelder-rose.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Far from the Golden Arches

Day three of eating vegan:
that's brown rice, long grain,
mixed with wild,
then chopped spinach, carrots,
mushrooms, celery,
then chick peas for protein;
at the last, crushed garlic
that lingers on my fingers.
This savory supper just needs
a raw tomato, once a love apple,
sliced, the seeds spilling out.
Did I forget the nutritional yeast,
the tofu, the sunflower seeds?
My mouth tastes different.
I look out my window at spring
and think differently
about the growing season that comes
and harvest.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Walking to Stirling Castle, Scotland

People still stare out windows
in houses like these
built centuries ago,
towers and turrets,
defensive stone, arched windows,
and yet the poplar tree leans
against this wall,
a few yellow leaves cling
to its wintered branches,
like souls to history,
unforgettable, a few
where once many
shivered and burst into spring.

Writing a poem a day is challenging. This poem came from a photo I took during September's trip to Scotland, an unforgettable time. Here in Spokane, spring has finally arrived with 75 degree weather, cherry trees in bloom, green grass, and the very first tulips.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

#6 Deadlines

No one saw the long hours.
I could never have done that, they said
and waited for more.
And more years passed,
each one a matter of balance
this with that,
an office without a window,
too many clocks,
too many meetings,
endless, then an end.
I watch hummingbirds instead,
admire the yellow-crowned sparrow,
and make deadlines for myself.

I'm working without internet access this week and hope to keep up with April's poems. Sunday Scribblings' prompt this week is simply deadlines. My own writing comes along steadily; I'll begin sending queries out in May.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

#5 Little sparrows . . .

Little sparrows rustle in the walls
of this apartment building. I can hear
them chirping, signs of spring,
the tree, poplar, redbud, I don't know,
sprigs of buds decorate its winter limbs.
Across the parking lot, another row of apartments
looks back at me, windows blank.
Only the birds that flit past this window,
and the pine trees clumped together,
the frogs croaking in the reeds,
and the sun that crosses the sky,
as the moon rises in the night,
as the earth twirls its elliptical round,
all these are finite,
they move to some grand finale
I choose to not understand.

This morning's poem came as the birds did rustle in the wall just outside my office. We leave for Oregon sometime later today. Despite missing my internet connection (and Rachel and Nick), I will try to honor NaPoWrMo for National Poetry Month. Every day.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

#5 Coming to the mountains . . .

We drove up from the belly of Spokane
into pine-tree studded lakelands,
rolling grassy hills, saw a few cows,
turned west past Ritzville,
clipping along at 70 towards Seattle,
stopped for coffee twice,
then those cloud-shrouded hills came into view,
foothills of the Cascades,
flanked by just plowed fields with signs:
wheat, radishes,
more wheat, more radishes,
apple trees and cherry trees, tidy orchards
barely in bloom, into the Wenatchee Valley,
closer, always closer to the mountains,
unexpected triangles to the sky,
snow-covered, pine-dotted, sky-glazed,
this place
a home for the soul.

Monday, April 05, 2010

#4 April Haiku . . .

Late snow falls; three deer
graze the brown and white winter grasses.
Frogs rest hidden in reeds.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

#4: Partly here . . .

My lips part, another breath,
I am partly here,
partly virtual, a presence
on the keyboard, shifting, tapping,
simply breathing.
Right next to my computer,
purple African violets pulse,
little buds on tiny stalks almost open,
stretch and float.
A few flowers now fold
in on themselves, their yellow anthers,
faintly dusted with yellow pollen,
still bright, their green fuzzy leaves
cup anticipation for sun, for water.
I turn the pot. Each part should have
what it needs in this new house.
Just now, I am content
with morning blooms.

This poem was inspired by Robert Lee Brewer's Challenge for Day 3 of National Poetry Month. He asks writers to consider “Partly . . .(blank)” as the title and then write the poem. I chose “Partly here . . .” for I'm still not sure I will be able to write a poem a day through the month of April. He wrote “Partly Dangerous”.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

#209 Mentor . . .

This April afternoon,
sweeping sheets of sleet swirl
and cover this grassy field;
a young deer shelters under pines,
almost invisible.
I'm remembering a hike last summer.
Deep into a nature preserve,
we stood at the edge of the path
to watch a deer come fearlessly
towards us. Nose lifted,
she hesitated for long moments.
We held our breath.
Together we stood very still by the path.
Not a sound.
Not a bird.
Around us the warmth of summer,
the cool of the woods.
Come, trusted love, guide me into spring,
Let us begin anew.

This week's prompt from Sunday Scribblings is simply "mentor".

Friday, April 02, 2010

Dialogue . . .

The moon rises in the night,
bright and sure, a temporary brightness
someone cannot fall asleep,
a thousand, thousand cry out,
in fear and pain, unheard.
And so my morning begins, a rising
of the most grave preparations, reflections,
dreams shaken, memories of
dusty seeds blown away
in the ordinary waking
to another day.
If even here poetry survives,
I can write again.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Spring Song to Witches

All hail to the merry, merry month of May.
We're wayward dancers celebrating spring.
The moon shall rise,
e'en the night doth smell of sweet green grass,
and the frogs call from deep in the reeds.
We'll lift our skirts, insatiable;
we'll twist and twirl,
eyes closed to forget that last dance,
gibbets placed at every cross road.
Confess: Take back each word, every curse.
Undo Death. Ah, April Fools we.
Except the red bud blooms,
and my bare feet want to dance.

April begins National Poetry Month. Last night faint sleet fell, tiny bits of ice, and yet, the red bud does bloom here; a shimmering red haze covers bare trees. Crocus blossoms and the first iris leaves poke from the ground. For some reason I thought of the persecution of witches during the late middle ages, those thousands and thousands of people, primarily women, who were killed. That might have begun after a particularly hard winter.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

#205 Fluency . . .

Tell me of mermaids' tears turned to pearl,
or a grandfather's gnarled finger
pointing ways to read the sky.
Stephen Hawking, face and body frozen,
dreams a paradox of movement,
unfolding black holes, new trajectories of fluency.
Blonde dreadlocks swinging, a young singer's gritty voice
reinvents Joplin, her stubby fingers hover over strings,
the very lightness of being.
That was yesterday.

This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is simply fluency.

Monday, February 15, 2010

This morning . . .

This morning, just a few mallards
nosed their way through the pond,
past fresh green marsh grasses
hinting at spring. I walked along
a suburban sidewalk,
houses shuttered, anonymous,
the wind hardly moving.

Yet the pine trees filled with sparrows,
and the sparrows huddled in the bushes,
scattered before me, then
gathered together again,
this February morning
all gladdened by their little bird songs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#199 Yes . . .

Yes, I know the texture of your skin
without touching it.
Your left side
has gone somewhere else,
sending back messages,
electric flashes,
phantom signals,
like dolphins calling
each to each through a foggy sea.

Yes, I am here,
though now we invent
new ways to speak to each other;
our fears tumble underneath
our daily walk with each slow step.
I unpack boxes of books and wonder
where the mermaid sleeps,
and if the sun will rise tomorrow.

NOTE: This week's Sunday Scribblings's prompt is simply "yes". I'm not sure where the writing will go just now, for since Allen's mild stroke, all has changed. We've relocated to a new home on the west coast and happily are unpacking books we haven't seen for over two years, but I feel a great uncertainty about the future. Our new local library hasn't many books on recovering from a stroke, especially a mild one (for which we are daily grateful), we haven't seen the new neurologist yet, and although I'm working very slowly on Standing Stones, this new reality is my center.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

#197 Extreme . . .

Living in someone else's house,
I assume a second skin, eat
another person's food, sleep
in another person's bed,
feet off the end, covers tossed,
the heat set high.
The stairway creaks with losses mourned.
I could not name all those photos,
phone books to another time,
each cracked bowl comes
with its own story, Chinese willow,
the night all the dishes were thrown to the floor,
speakeasy times,
I methodically go through the refrigerator
check food labels and dates,
change the pages on calendars,
take out the garbage,
and fill my days
waiting for doctors,
watching snow fall.

When a crisis hits, nothing is more wonderful than family and friends. We're five days away from coming home and have stayed with family for the last four weeks as my dear husband recovers from a mild stroke. I feel my world has turned, pivoted, and changed irrevocably. Writing has always been my solace, but this is the first poem I've written since December 18. I would love to change what's happened, my confidence in the future is shaken, and even as I appreciate family support, I'm longing for our own place.