Friday, October 26, 2012

October 26: Better You Than Me

I remember the sting of a willow whip
on the backs of my legs,
later a thick, leather belt,
or a smack in the face.
I went to school with bruises,
carefully hidden under my sweater.
I forgave you for drinking long ago,
the day you leaped out of a moving car
because I wouldn’t stop at that tavern.
Researchers say we repeat the actions of our parents.
We speak, surprised
to hear our mothers’ voices in our mouths.
I choose not to. Tenacity,
this is the gift I learned at my mother’s knee.
I know down to my bones
we do not have to repeat what others have done.
My own daughter, her hands,
like my own,
only touch her daughter with love.

Today’s prompt from Octpowrimo (write a poem a day for October) asks us to
consider forgiveness, not an easy topic. In fact, when faced with danger, we fight or
we run away. Some say we can choose to “go with the flow.” Though being quiet,
unassuming, leery of argument, and somewhat shy, I generally choose to fight. My
husband says we forgive the foibles of those we love. I agree, most of the time.

But there is much in the world to fight against. I do not forgive the mean-fisted failures of
our governments, our soldiers, our social institutions. Even the smallest interactions
between parents and children can go wrong. No child should be hungry. No child
should be alone. No child should be born addicted to drugs. No child should wake to
bombs in the night. Personally and collectively, we do know better.

I love the line that Welsh poet Dylan Thomas wrote, “Rage, rage against the dying of
the light.” In fact, Thomas was a poet who died at age 39 from a heavy drinking bout.
But his words still resonate for me.  Here’s his poem, a villanelle, in its entirety to
celebrate October.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Source of Dylan Thomas' poem HERE.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 25: Love

I have never torn off my clothes
Or run naked through the mountains,
But I have followed you, love.
Only two continents left to explore –
Africa and China, and a subcontinent, 
if we choose India. 
In four decades,
never has one of us said,
 “What if we went to . . . “
without the other saying, “Where are
the suitcases?”
I would rather go together
than alone.

Rumi once said, “Love is a madman, working his wild schemes, tearing off his clothes, 
running through the mountains.” This quote is part of today’s prompt from Octpowrimo 
(a poem a day in October), to write of love. Read what others have written HERE.  

We leave on Sunday morning, just ahead of a snow storm, for a month-long trip to 
Africa. I will still write my poem a day, but you’ll have to check in at the end of 
November to catch up. Thank you for reading – and writing!

October 24: Bare Bones

I wake up with poetry lines shimmering,
a distraction. My house, every room,
speaks of chaos. In three days,
we’ll be gone to Zanzibar.
My plants need watering.
One has outgrown its pot,
its broad green leaves reach to the sun,
the lower leaves fall away,
as I will do one day.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23: Travel Preparations

We leave for Africa in four days.
Travel books warn: Carry cash
for the hotel, the airline.
We stand at our bank, watching the teller
count dollar bills. No credit cards.
Once, between flights, I slept
spread out atop my luggage.
So we will sleep in Dar el Salaam,
no cab ride into town at midnight.
I sew secret pockets for shirts and pants
of nondescript colors.
We will travel alone for eight days
before joining our group.
We are older.
We are ready.

When I first met my husband, he explained he couldn’t really settle down, for he loved to travel. I was hooked, for better than libraries was the draw of seeing the world.

My husband has a facility for languages. He talks outrageous politics with cab drivers, the policeman on the corner, the shopkeeper. The closest I came to this kind of encounter was in San Cristobal de las Casas, in southern Mexico, just after the government negotiated peace with the revolutionaries. A woman in the corner grocery store we had patronized for two months spoke to me out of the side of her mouth. What was it really like in the United States, she asked. Could she truly find work if she crossed the border?

Because I taught, each summer gave us opportunities to travel. We were not wealthy; we took buses and trains. We saved up airline miles. But travel requires certain preparations, and I am a coward. A friend boarded a subway in Mexico City. Within minutes, his backpack was slit with a razor. He lost his wallet, his shoes, and his glasses.

We explored a beautiful colonial port town in Montevideo, Uruguay. As we walked downhill to the sea, I was a little ahead, camera out, when I heard a grunt and turned to see Allen, crumpled on the ground, a young man racing back up the hill. I chased him, screaming Spanish curses I didn’t know I knew.

Street musicians outside our hotel
in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

In Salvador, Brazil, where the smell of feijoada, a fish stew, carries on the air as you pass Mama Rosa’s restaurant; sometimes your back tingles as you walk along cobbled streets. We stepped on a side street. Two men rushed after us, a mix of Portuguese and English, “Don’t go that way.” We turned back to our hotel room, La Sirena, in a city of mermaids and samba.

When we flew back from Costa Rica 24 hours after Allen’s stroke, a volunteer met us at between planes  and walked us through customs, her bright face unforgettable; her litany of words, a prayer; I was not afraid, for we live in the world, not apart. Past, present, future, we are all connected. Tanzania, Zanzibar, its people, its history are calling. We leave for Africa in four days.

Octpowrimo (write a poem a day for October) is nearly winding down. Today's poetry prompt was to write about a challenge. Read what others have written HERE. Morgan also challenges us to actually record our favorite poem from this month and post it (a skill I've thought about and never tried). Maybe later. The bulldozers are pretty busy outside our apartment this morning! And I'd like to read what others have written. May your day go well!

Monday, October 22, 2012

October 22: At random

I feel nearly invisible
In my own skin 
as we rush to complete
Photo of L. M. Montgomery,
taken at random,
a woman traveler
our list before we leave.
Snow is expected Sunday,
but we pack for Africa,
a trip almost at random,
the first in nearly two years,
our suitcases half-full,
What do I take?
What do I let go?
Three weeks, impossibly short
for travelling, yet
too long to be away.
I only know we are going,
you have the tickets, the map,
you know the way.

Today's Octpowrimo (an poem a day in October) prompt asks us to have fun, to play with random facts (such as the brain of a Neanderthal is bigger than a human brain). But my head is full with plans and packing for we actually do leave for Africa this Sunday at 6 am and a great snow storm is expected. When we retired, we thought we would travel at least for seven years, living here and there at random, but two years ago in Costa Rica, Allen had a stroke. Everything changed.We came home, and I have learned finally perhaps the greatest lesson: that every day is precious.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

October 21: Woman Weaver

Huipil pronounced whee-peel
Young girl weaving huipil, Antigua, Guatemala (2001)

Since the beginning,
I have seen my mother 
weave huipil.
She would set me 
to sorting colorful threads 
while I watched  
mountains and birds take shape
under her fingers. 
The women weavers,
chattering softly in Spanish,
worked around us, 
all leaning on the leather belt
of the backstrap loom.

Only when I was thirteen
Did I begin to understand
What it meant to wear huipil:
I became the center of the universe
as I slowly pulled the huipil over my head
and emerged transformed, a woman,
between heaven and the underworld,
guardian of the past and the future,
keeper of my culture, weaver of huipil.

Huipils are traditional garments designed by men but woven and worn by Mayan women all through MesoAmerica. I took the picture of a young huipil weaver in Antigua, Guatemala, in 2001, while staying there in the summer, a break from teaching. Each village has a slightly different design, but the symbols are generally of nature, fantastic birds and flowers, or geometric mountains and birds. I treasure three huipils of my own to remember this time in Guatemala.

Octpowrimo's poetry prompt today was to write a poem about whether your life would go smoother if you would simply go with the flow -- Weave and flow. Once I read the word 'weave', though, I was lost in memories of Antigua. Read what others have written HERE or on Twitter @octpowrimo   More about huipils here.
Bird Huipil, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala, 2001
ROW80 (Round of Words in 80 Days) UPDATE:  The Quilt Show is over today! Maybe 4,500 attendees and over 600 fabulous quilts. I trashed my feet walking and looking and dreaming about quilting. Worked the Boutique during rush with a high tech cash register. Programs were great! Now I collect survey info and plan for next year.

WRITING: By making the chart, I actually wrote on my wip 4 out of 7 days, and am still holding to a poem a day for Octpowrimo (a poem a day for the month of October). I'm learning that if I write poetry, I don't have so much time for my wip. Must do/will do one critique today for NOVELS-L (else I am banished for the group for not doing two critiques this month).

READING: Slower progress in reading James Scott Bell's Plot & Structure, so I'm downsizing my goal to 2 chapters a week. Still making a steady dent (one magazine a day) in that pile of unread material. Posted a review in Goodreads for Kate Grenville's The Lieutenant, an absolutely engrossing read that's set, of course, in colonial Australia. What I appreciated most is that the conflict was mostly inner and mostly moral, leading me to ask what moral dilemmas my own main characters face and with what commitment. Feeling more comfortable with Twitter and holding to daily reads of what others have written.

MARKETING: Goals met for Marketing this week. In some ways, here I face the biggest challenge (is anyone else a shy writer?). But I'm pursuing a book group reading for January (just picked up my courage and asked! They said yes), and will also start attending an author's monthly lunch in December. I distributed mermaid bookmarks at the quilt show. While on Goodreads, I discovered Mike Lopez left a lovely review of The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales!  Now time to reset that chart and get to work on the critique!

May your week go well.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

October 20: Song to the Saguaro Cactus

(pronounced sah-wha-ro)

hike in
Canyon to see
the great, green Saguaro standing as guards,
in the thousands along the valleys in this
canyon, each one
unique, grave,
The Tohono O’Odham call these persons,
and so they are, arrayed in arroyos
as sentinels,
their slow-growing
well pocked with nests for cactus wrens or owls.
Ah, Saguaro, you live longer than the
people, whose years
are measured
flowering and the fruiting, the hungry
times, the longest nights, the coldest, short days.
The people come
to make wine
from your
to give thanks in the proper season and
to dance safe, under your sheltering arms. 

Octpowrimo's prompt today was to take an old poem and play with a new form. I chose this poem, written in January 2011, after a stay near Tucson, immersed in desert culture, because the order and harmony of the form made me think of the order and harmony found in Native American beliefs and nature itself.

The poetic form (found on Shadow Poetry) is a Tetractys. In its shortest forms, syllables for each line  must measure 1, then 2, 3, 4, then 10. Here, the form is extended: 1,2,3,4, 10, 10, 4, 3, 2, 1, and repeated again. Somehow the lines on the page remind me of the arms of the Great Saguaro, the name itself a poem.

Read more about the Tohono O'Odham HERE, the earlier version of this poem HERE, and what others participating in Octpowrimo (a poem every day in the month of October) have written HERE.

Friday, October 19, 2012

October 19: A Griffin and a Sphinx

We were brothers once in Egypt, you and I.
I left for Knossos, that island in time,
Griffin fresco in the "Throne Room",
Palace of Knossos, Crete, Bronze Age (Wikipedia)
and you for Thebes.
Seduced by the Greeks, you still have
our lion’s body and wings, but now
you’re graced with a woman’s face
and a serpent’s tail.
I cannot answer your riddle, but I know
you will not bite my throat.
I could save you from these Greek witches.
Just one of my feathers will cure your blindness.
We could guard Alexander’s tomb together.
I could fly you to the Andes far from here.
I will protect you, Brother Sister.
Transform me into bronze,
Dumbledore’s staff.
I will stay by your side.

Marble Sphinx dated 540 BC Acropolis Museum,
Athens (Wikipedia)
Today's poetry prompt from Octpowrimo (write a poem a day for October) is "Seize the Day!"  Read what others have written HERE.

But, I was intrigued by Lena Corazon's poem, “A Griffin guards my dreams . . .” and the beautiful cover of her writing journal, and so wrote sideways about the conversation a Sphinx might have with a Griffin. I had fun reading about both mythical creatures on Wikipedia.

What was the riddle of the Sphinx? Two versions: The most common, “Who walks on four legs in the morning, two in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” If you were unable to answer, the Sphinx would bite your throat, strangling you and holding you down until you died. 

But Wikipedia reports a second version: "There are two sisters: One gives birth to the other, and she, in turn, gives birth to the first. Who are the two sisters?" I can imagine this second question being asked by the later, feminized Greek Sphinx. The answer is Night and Day.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

October 18: Time

Chuck Segars said, “Calendars
are for careful people, not passionate ones.”
I imagine ripping a calendar apart,
tearing the pages away to those moments
that cannot be held by 24 hours
or measured tick-tock:
When you said, “Enough about
me, tell me about you.”
When you held our child
for the first time and crooned
you, my love, my center.
Yes, my life’s been ruled by work
commitments and deadlines,
all those hours of commuting,
totting up and keeping track,
I would rather walk with you along the wetlands,
morning or night, mesmerized,
I unfold myself to you and see
Van Gogh stars – infinity. 

Today's prompt from Octpowrimo asks us to explore a sense of time. Today marks the anniversary, just one year, of my sister's husband's death. I remain so aware that every day is precious. Read what others have written here

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

October 17: San Miguel de Allende

Who could forget walking your cobblestoned hills,
the surprise of history in carved wooden doors
and dark, aged, stone Gothic churches,
the cacophony of market day,
the wonder of dancers at fiesta
with fireworks strapped on their backs,
spiraling stars through the crowd?
The flakes of pastry that clung to our fingers,
the sweet smell of rosemary and marguerite from our garden,
as we sat on the patio roof of our rented house,
watching the sky turn pink with memory?

San Miguel de Allende (Rosewood)
Today's Octpowrimo poetry prompt is inspired by Maria Ranier Rilke's reflections on Venice and Florence and asks us to bring a place to life. Simply that. I remembered our days in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, when all was new. These are cherished memories. Read what others have read HERE.

ROW80 Weds Update: Inspired by how other writers participating in ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days) report their progress, I made a weekly chart to show this week’s goals only and can report (Yahoo!), that in spite of deadlines and commitments everywhere, I’m writing daily on my work in progress, writing a poem daily for Octpowrimo, reading James Scott Bell’s Plot & Structure, and posting in Twitter. Biggest challenge this week was to work on the marketing plan. Very slow going here, but because I am accountable Weds and Sun, I took the plunge and pitched a reading to a writing group. Thank you!  May your week go well.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

October 16: Happenstance

Just as the African violet unfolds
another deep purple flower, anonymous, unseen,
I am caught between my last breath
and the next, my past, constructed reality,
and the future, unknown, I build words across
the abyss, a world without meaning. At any moment
we face whimsy or tragedy:
Someone makes a left turn instead of a right turn
and another car plows into yours.
Happenstance it is you rather than me,
or me rather than you who suffers.
I strive to write poetry that sings
some sense of order, harmony,
each day a quilt of many blocks,
Sisyphus stitching yet another day.

Which side am I on? Hot or cold, am
I in the middle? Heartsick at suffering,
too hungry for beauty, unable to let go of joy?
Even when I fear the consequences of any action or inaction,
even if there were no meaning at all to this round of days,
I can still choose.
I breathe in another moment, another choice,
I choose to not exist in the middle.
I am free to choose.

Today's poetry prompt at Octpowrimo asks if we are in the middle, either/or, yes or no. And I thought of the existentialists, an awareness whether or not we believe in a God, that we shape our own futures with our choices. In fact, we cannot blame our past for what we choose to do today. Consciousness. Today's acts lead to who we will become. Accountability. If I am caught in the middle, I need to work to synthesis, and trust in the inherent common values we affirm. I will not say that life is 'nasty, brutish, and short' but rather, each day we have the responsibillity to re-invent ourselves and work for the good in ways small and large. May it be so. 

Photo African Violet (Wikipedia).

Monday, October 15, 2012

October 15: Rachel's violin

When I hear you play
I remember hours of practice.
When you were six, we couldn’t get you to eat.
You wrote crayon stories about the violin,
I think you slept with the violin.
Other parents would ask:
“How can you stand the missed notes;
they screech through the house?”  But you
had perfect pitch. Your fingers knew what to do.

When you were eight, somehow we arranged
for you to play Bloch’s Nigun at an Anne Frank exhibit.
You were introduced with an apology to the audience of 200
who chatted and smiled to see a small child, 
alone, unaccompanied. 
They were shocked to silence when you played.
Only music drove you.

As a teenager, you confided,
“Any boyfriend will have to understand music comes first.”
Recitals, performances, auditions, summer camps,
your growing up years were filled with music.
You graduated with a music degree to play
on the streets of Portland. You wanted to bring Bach to the people
(that was a year of worry).
Then you met a musician who cares
as much as you do about music.
Now you play in a symphony.  
The music informs every day.
Now you are a mother.
Now you talk of getting a real job.

Leda Rose, 3 months, in her father's viola case

Octpowrimo's prompt for the 15th day of October asks us to write a poem to someone you cherish about something important to them. Bloch's Nigun remains my favorite piece that you play, Rachel.  Here is Joshua Bell.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

October 14: Reflection

I could avoid looking in the mirror
or looking within, but not what I see
when I look at you, daughter of my heart,
from my flesh and from my bones.
I cherish this old photo taken in San Francisco,
just after I learned you were resting in my womb.
I remember longing for you, daughter,
the dream of night visions realized.
Today, you bless your own child with love,
one generation and, as the poet says,
“Joy on joy,” now two, sweet reflections.

Today's prompt from Octpowrimo simply asks us to look at our own reflection, and if that is too difficult (as evidenced by my frequent breaks from writing this morning), to reflect on Eric Hoffer, "With some people solitariness is an escape not from others but from themselves. For they see in the eyes of others only a reflection of themselves." So the prompt goes: What I see when I look in your eyes. There are some 50 of us trying to write a poem a day. To read what others have written, click HERE.

ROW80 UPDATE: Skipped Weds update. Feeling a bit overwhelmed by travel preparations and the quilt show (this coming week and then done!). When the "to do" list is too long, time management gurus say to tackle the hardest task, the one you least want to do. So yesterday I sewed secret pockets in my two travel pants.

BUT the good news is I have begun working through  Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. A chapter a day. This process feels like it's more connected to the revision I want to do, even if the coming three weeks in November mean I will be far from home or computer. Still have two critiques to do for NOVELS-L. But I am writing a poem a day (and reading what others have written, sheer creativity!). Bell says set a writing quote for each day and then stick to your writing until you achieve it. I need to hear those words, though I'm setting goals, not a word quota  -- yet. 

And progress on yet another sideways marketing goal: gain skills on Twitter. Yep. I'm twittering. Twitter posts take me to very useful articles on writing craft -- and connect me with other writers. If you twitter, try @bluebethley  May your week go well.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

October 13: Buddha Babe

The Buddha rests,
feet folded above the pink lotus,
its roots mired in mud.
His belly is full, his face reflects contentment,
his thoughts float far away,
yet I’d rather see him laugh, now,
his belly shake in sheer enjoyment.
I am surrounded by illusion.
The first winter winds sweep
yellow and red leaves up into a gray sky.
Two Canada geese honk their way south.
My African violets quiver in morning light.
Winter comes. My writing rests.
But I remember laughing,  
for I hold a four-month-old baby.
Her eyebrows lift and her lips
curve into welcome,
a grand chortle
worthy of any Buddha.

Today's Octpowrimo prompt is laughter. How lucky we are when laughter informs each day.  Click HERE to see how other writers celebrate laughter.

Real life swirls around me. Change is constant. Commitments and obligations yammer away. I'm truly not able to do all I'd like to do. Yet these moments of laughter hold all together. May your week go well. Tonight I see Leda Rose once again and will watch her face transform with joy.

Friday, October 12, 2012

October 12: Passion

Bang.  Slam. The house tilts.
Presidential debates notwithstanding,
the living room fills with testosterone.
I hyperventilate. Not even national policy
can be decided without an argument.
We have forgotten civility,
punctuation that brings order to discourse.
“Madame Chair,” pause, paragraph unstated,
I give you snarky innuendo, road rage.
You are the enemy.
We smile with all our teeth.
We have guns. We have heroes.
We circle in for the kill.

October 11: Biden/Ryan Vice Presidential Debates
Source: Associated Press, ABC
Day 12 Octpowrimo, a poem a day. Surely others found something other than this national argument to remind us that poets can celebrate passion? Click here to read 57 other takes on "passion," today's prompt. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

October 11: Was She Pretty?

Here she comes,
my mother, trailing five husbands.
Hollywood starlet, she never asked
if she were pretty. She couldn’t sing.
She couldn’t dance.
Her death began when she was knocked
eighty feet down the freeway;
a roaring semi-truck couldn’t stop in time.
She couldn’t stop in time.
What was she doing on the freeway,
crossing over to the other side?
Trying to cross over to the other side?
Crossing over the road to that wayside tavern
for just a little drink along the way.
Ever truly dizzy after that, she finally fell
To her death off a rocky cliff.
Was she drinking? Yes.
The ocean held her innocence one last time,
A blonde mermaid awash in the drink, gone,
a loss I still don't understand.

Today's Octpowrimo featured Katy Makkai's famous poetry slam performance, Pretty. We were to write about something we resist saying, something that moved us. But first, watch Katy Makkai before sinking down into the poem we wanted to write. And this poem came slamming out of my past. It's not the poem I wanted to write. I know very well what I want to resist, what I need to say and do. But the issue of "pretty" is charged for women of any age. I've always felt that poetry is for those times when we have no words to say what we feel. We read poetry and it eases something deep within. May it be so.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

October 10: Morning

As I savor that first easy transition from night to pale dawn,
I leap out of bed and wriggle into the 19th Century,
already setting the scene with storm und drang, the sense
of sea or prison or some aspect of colonial life
in Van Diemen’s Land in 1842.
Mac and Deidre now deep in the angst of their own morning;
my body becomes their bodies, bruised and shaken,
far from home, lost to each other by convoluted
plot twists. By 7, my cheeks hollow out.
Coffee made quickly.
Granola poured in the first bowl I touch.
All carried into my office, and morning begins.

Octpowrimo's prompt for the day:  Morning, that moment when mind connects with body. Read what others have written here:

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

October 9: Retirement

Steady tick, tick, monotonous tock, an empty sound
this morning, and then tick, tick, tock again.
A battery-run desk clock should not tock,
the inexorable shock of time unraveling.
Outside about a block away, a thrum of cars hums,
stop and go at the corner.
I balk at the mad rush and sip my coffee.
Ah. Clock sounds fade,
the ‘paper’ on the screen invisible.
I write pock-marked scratches,
chalk lines soon erased, unfinished,
take stock of what is left to do, and hear again
the clock inventory my days.

Octpowrimo's prompt (a poem a day for October) has us exploring sound, poetry as music, and maybe playing with onomatopoeia, no doubt to make our readers flutter, bang and whir through the rest of today, October, the beginning of fall, a time when red and yellow leaves swirl to the ground, and we hold to each day, reminded that winter comes. Check out the link to see what others have written.

Fall leaves,West Virginia

Monday, October 08, 2012

October 8: Granola

In the 1960s, granola
was code for anti-war. We women
gathered in kitchens wearing granny glasses
and long skirts, while the men hunkered outside
by the hand-built illegal yurt deep in the forest,
trying to decide if they should evade the draft.
We used only natural ingredients, butter
fresh churned, organic oats, walnuts gathered last fall
and carefully saved, and honey [white sugar was akin to cursing].
We stirred our granola in great cast iron pots with wooden spoons,
adding vanilla at the very last moment. The smell hung in
the air like a promise of peace.
I remember those days when I have breakfast.
I still make my own granola on the stovetop,
pan-roasted, crunchy old-fashioned rolled oats;
my tongue delights in the sweet snap of brown sugar,
salty cashews and dried cranberries,
but the fathers who went to Viet Nam
watch their sons march off to Afghanistan.

Octpowrimo's prompt for today (the 8th) was simply taste. Visit Octpowrito to read what others have written. 

Sunday, October 07, 2012

October 7: Mermaids for free

ALERT: Just for today, October 7, my collection of short stories, The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales, is FREE on Amazon (KINDLE only) at   I'm hoping for a few reader reviews. Shameless self-promotion I know, but I'm trying to learn about marketing. Slowly!

Now for today's poem. The prompt comes from Octpowrimo (click to read other writers) and asks us to write a poem about friendship.

My Best Friend

Our daughters played together first.
Your slashing New York wit scared me, but
I found you work editing a hundred-page
horror of a manual on springs and coils.
It paid well. When a teaching job opened,
I spoke for you. You already had a reputation.
Our offices were next to each other. At coffee time,
one of us would thump the wall.
At department meetings, I kicked your shins
when it was time to be quiet.
You taught me how to argue.
Our daughters grew up, each finding haven in our houses.
We live in different states now, sisters still. 
One day we will sit on the porch
of a run-down retirement cottage facing the sea,
aging mermaids with ear buds tuned to Mick Jagger.

SUNDAY ROW80 UPDATE. Slow going this week, but the 40-page program for the Quilt Show is done! Only the proof on Monday, then 4,000 copies. Now to my 'real' goals:  

WRITING: So far, so good on writing a poem a day. Best is earlier in the day before reality intercedes. I feel a bit scrambled on my main wip, though. I circle what must be done. Am I ready for true revision, this being my third time through? I work on writing exercises and am seduced by research. I did find a new way to get into the imagery of places I have not visited. I make a table in Word with images on the left and my comments (and source) on the right. When I slow down and really look at the image, I learn about what my characters might see close up. Birds, kelp on rocks, the slant of a wave. I still need to diagnose what's missing -- plot holes, character flaws. But my progress here is nothing measurable.

READING: OK slow going here, but I did read one magazine. Not good enough. Finished a novel (JANE by Robin Maxwell) and another for review (SECRETS by Rick Bylina). Also pulled down several more books to review from Review Seekers on Facebook. Now to write Rick's review -- and at least two crits for writers on NOVELS-L on the Internet Writing Workshop.

MARKETING. I really don't like this part, but I will persevere. Some successes to report. I'm more comfortable on Twitter, following the mantra of reading and posting 2x a day. It's kind of exciting to find writing-related articles so easily. Most say limit the time (and I agree). 10 minutes. If the articles are really worthwhile, I return to them . . . later.  

I actually lost my draft marketing plan somewhere. Is that a joke? But I've started a new one AND because of what folks online have said about reviews being important, I took the plunge and signed up The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales for a free day, just for today, October 7. Already, by 8:30 am, I've "sold" 34 books. Maybe someone will post a review (that's my goal). I learned you can't be picked up by Kboards (a marketing goal of mine) unless you have at least 5 reviews. Aargh, what writers have to do!

May your week go well.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

October 6: Remember

We wait for the bride among strangers,
two sisters standing beside a picket fence.
We’re dressed in crisp, white, starched blouses
with ruffled collars and matching jumpers.
I lost a brass button somewhere,
my bangs are too short, and
I peer through my glasses
with a slight smile.

I remember waking later that night,
open suitcases in every room,
then driving through darkness,
mother glad to leave California.
I would not see my father for two decades,
I keep this photo yet, me hopeful, yearning,
my sister hesitant, as if she knew 
what was coming.

Today's prompt for Octpowrimo (a poem a day throughout the month of October) asks us to remember the past, to dig down to early memories. I still feel like that bespectacled girl in the photo, long neck arched forward, a slight smile and hopeful. 

Friday, October 05, 2012

October 5: Eccentric

Call me sweet, mousy, quiet, unassuming,
rather like a tall librarian who wears glasses
and lurks along the stacks. But know this:
When I am 70, I shall have flame red hair,
wear décolleté with abandon,
stagger into morning on spike heels,
laugh raucously with my gut, drink beer for breakfast,
give perfect strangers poems written on lavender paper.
One morning you will come to my apartment
and find I’ve gone to Buenos Aires
to dance tango in San Telmo on Sundays,
under the leaves of the aurancaria trees.
You’ll caress my fourth published book
and say I knew her once.
But you knew me not at all. 

This video comes from a trip to Buenos where we found tango dancers dancing in the street in San Telmo. The prompt, eccentric, comes from today's OCTPOWRIMO, that eccentric group of writers who will write a poem a day through October.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

October 4: Surprise Me!

Surprise me! I wish you would
change night to day. 
Morning begins
another round of words,
a familiar litany
of aches and groans and 
last night’s doubt:  
Why do I write?
The story first, then comes revision,
that torturing of inspiration with rules,
subject/verb agreement being least and last
or even lost 
in that moment
when my words bring tears.

I knew a writer who burned
two years of work in a single night.   
“Too many voices,” he said. He wanted
to write literature. He wanted fame.
There is no talking about this.
I build a story word by word. Bedrock.
‘Tis enough to face down doubt,
To balance inspiration with craft and discipline.
I make my own morning.
I make my own rules.
I tell stories. I write.

NOTE: This rather harsh poem came from today's OCTPOWRIMO. "Surprise me! Consider those moments you have said, “This is just the way I write poetry” and write differently. Close your eyes and think about the place where rules and inspiration meet." I would have loved to write something more inspirational. All I could think of was e.e.cummings' lovely poems without any capital letters. And those writers I have known who struggle to write at great cost. Who one day simply stop writing. This I can barely imagine. Before I retired, my writing always came between other commitments. Now I have the luxury of mornings and online writing communities of readers and writers. Hooray!

See what others have written for Octpowrimo:

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Oct 3: Connections

I come to this constructed room 
each morning --
computer, books, table. 
On the wall,
Frida Khalo, holding hands 
with her divided self,
looks down on me, and yet
in this moment,
my past, present, future 
all stream into story,
into some sense that even on days
too full with obligation,
the African violet 
unfolds its newest blossom,
the tiny marble elephant lifts 
its trunk in celebration,
and I write.

This print of "The Two Fridas" by Frida Khalo, shows that tension between her colonial self (her German photographer father) and her mother (indigenous roots) that informs her self-portraits, divided and connected, affirming and violently separate. The print hangs on my office wall. I have visited Frida's house in Mexico and seen with my own eyes her garden and the narrow passageway that connected her quarters to those of Diego Rivera. This image is from WikiPaintings.

The writing prompt today from OctPoWriMo is connectedness. Here I think of artists and writers who have inspired me. I cannot explain so easily why I am driven to write every day.

ROW80 update. I am sadly behind. The quilt show looms. My volunteer job has expanded. Instead of writing, I work on public relations and the program for 5,000 attendees. The trip to Africa also is just three weeks away. Scored 2 travel shirts today at a thrift shop and 1 from REI, along with power-house DEET. Yes, I plan to wear a head scarf when traveling in Muslim areas. 

Some small success: I did write my goals for this next round of 80 days. I have accepted that I need another year of revision on Years of Stone. I am working on writing exercises to develop character and a deeper sense of their motivation. I will complete a review of Rick Bylina's soon-to-be-published Secrets (a sequel to his One Promise Too Manywithin the next three days. I did personally sell 42 copies of The Mermaid Quilt, though my marketing plan languishes. Sigh. A shy writer. But all is well. I will persevere and return tomorrow. And write.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Oct 2: The Photographer

I frame pictures with my camera,
narrowing down to one angle of direction, colors bisecting;
always I seek some indefinable balance,
some essence of the scene,
some inner truth.
They tell me I am good at taking pictures, but I know
it is only because I no longer paint.
I still see the outstretched finger, Adam to God,
Michelangelo’s perfectly realized straining to perfection,
that icon of so many that floats on a ceiling
you have to crank your neck back to see,
yet I love how Eve snuggles next to God.
Too bad she doesn’t carry a camera.
Her view would be incomparable.

"The Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo (source: Wikipedia Commons). Notice Eve sheltered by  the left hand of God.

I've taken on the challenge of a poem a day for OctPoWriMo. Read what others have written here: Or jump over to Sunday Scribblings where this week's prompt is "creativity."

Monday, October 01, 2012

Oct 1: Let Us Begin

Let Us Begin

Let us begin this journey, you and I,
we who have weathered four decades
together, a joining no one expected
to last, but we have
persevered through every
turning of the seasons.
Now we are here.
At the edge of fall,
that golden breaking of summer.
I see the gray in your hair;
I will hold your hand
every day that we have.

Today begins the October Poetry Writing Month Challenge, dubbed OctPoWrMo, most likely a spinoff of April's poetry challenge and the November Novel Writing Month NoWriMo, which I have done several times now, though not achieving that goal of 50,000 words.

But we leave for Africa at the end of the month, and so this poetry challenge fits right into preparing to leave my notebook -- and all else -- behind. Check out the daily prompts at OctPoWriMo's blog  You can follow on Twitter hashtag #OctPoWriMo or on Facebook Writing Poetry Group if you are so inclined. See what others have written here at Linky.