Thursday, October 31, 2013

October 31: Summer unfinished . . .

Why does summer feel unfinished,
unfinished until the last leaves fall,
fall into winter's coldest nights,
nights without regret, promising endings,
endings that lead to beginnings,
beginnings that bring hope,
hope in this little baby's tiny fingers,
fingers that will seize life and tremble,
tremble with joy before she's finished,
finished with false endings,
endings that mark a beginning,
beginning what we do not know.

Finch Arboretum (Camp, October 2013)

Today's the very last day of OctPoWriMo, that celebration of a poem a day, a challenge that has been fun, taken us all in many different directions, now done. Today, we're asked to write about endings and beginnings. We may use a loop poem, which uses a curious repetition for a different rhythm, the ending word of each line begins the next. Read what others have written at OctPoWriMo.

What's next here in November? A series on creativity, perhaps the release of Standing Stones toward the ending of November and the beginning of December. And perhaps updates on another challenge -- NaNoWrMo (National Novel Writing Month). Are you a NaNo rebel?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

October 30: Play in the dark . . .

Play in the dark,
crawl under the bed,
keep still,
the monster won't find you
Not when the radio plays loudly,
glasses break in the night,
people shout,
cars screech away,
and you are
all alone in the house.
The stair creaks.
Night terror begins.

Nightmare before Christmas Pumpkin
Jimmy Snell (2005 Flickr)
As OctPoWriMo nears the end of the month, today's poetry prompt is to explore the dark side, to play in the dark. We're asked to write about "the hard stuff." Halloween is too close; it's too tempting to add a little horror story. I'd rather write sweetness and light, as in the light at the end of a long tunnel, the light that brightens each morning, the light within we share each time we do good in the world. But I can do dark too.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 29: An Epitaph . . .

Here lies
my mother:
A simple stone plaque,
level with the ground,
marks her birth
May 5, 1919
and her death
by drowning
April 17, 1971

If I could write
an epitaph
it would say:
She loved and was loved.
She will be remembered.

In this quiet place,
nearly anonymous,
surprised by deer,
I remember her love,
sometimes her folly.

Marion Louise Henry Appleby

Ukiah Cemetery, California (Marilyn, Find-A-Grave, 2009)

Monday, October 28, 2013

October 28: I do love Rumi . . .

Today's poetry prompt from OctPoWriMo asks us to reflect on those who have influenced us "for the better" -- perhaps parents or poets, for example, Rumi. An accompanying video explores human nature and the destructive effects of competition and capitalism. And we are invited to consider who we are, how we came to be ourselves, a complex issue I've thought about all day.

I do love Rumi, but
I'll pass on today's poetry prompt.
We live in a capitalist country
where worth
is mostly measured by
possessions. I've downsized
to a small apartment, routinely
recycle the newspaper without
reading it, yet I have books
in stacks and boxes.

We struggle to find ourselves --
journey, quest, no matter;
we each define ourselves
one decision at a time,
sometimes we make mistakes;
sometimes we're helped by the kindness
of strangers. We argue
over science as if it were fact
and emotion as if that
were the only reality.

I'd rather sit beside a lake,
watch the moon float over clouds,
read Rumi out loud,
and hold your hand.

That may not be possible.

In the 19th Century, Voltaire wrote Candide to tell the story of a young man who discovers horror on horror, natural and human. His conclusion: Cultivate your own garden, separate, fenced all around, as if one could not change any other person, but the only sane response to a world we cannot comprehend or change is to simply withdraw.

As the gap has widened between the quality of life in developed and developing countries, political economists have predicted mass migrations from the have-nots to those places where 'having' still seems possible. We see this happening in our own cities, along our borders. I do not think fences will protect our way of life -- or that 'our way' is the only way.

I only know to cherish each moment, share what I can, and let go.

Maybe the human race will muddle through.

My favorite poem from Rumi is the story-poem-meditation about the mouse and the frog

I wrote the following poem in response.

For Rumi:  A Garden Poem for Frog and Mouse

This day was like any other day
for this man and his wife (frog and mouse)
who lived in a clapboard house
with a garden sort of formal,
slightly overgrown hedges, messes
of potted plants growing up into the garden,
large and wild.

Something terrible had happened;
not even perfect companions (frog and mouse)
talk freely about all things:  a lost child,
the operation, night terrors.
Sometimes he said/she said you don’t hear me
spinning out alone
as if our only shared life is here in this garden
at the appointed time, too formal a tea,
a tete-a-tete, too high a fence, the wild moon/sun
floating too far away.

Char this, my soul, with experience,
no redemptive bath, renunciation one answer
that assumes a unity of self, one in one, not paired, not
floating we as couple, your true eyes
looking into my true eyes,
the mystery of loss and sadness,
of human limits forgiven.
This time the miracle, as sure as bells ring,
holding night and day together, the notes ringing and ringing
but not changing the loss or the separation,
larger than our house, our garden,
larger than our world,

And so alone, he wrote the poem down,
a requiem for mouse and frog,
transforming what is human to what is divine.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

October 27: Two rhymes . . .

Today's poetry prompt from Octpowrimo offers three options, each one progressively more difficult. I wrote just two, not three responses.

Rhyme Prompt One - A Mono-rhyme is a poem in which all the lines have the same end rhyme.

"With apologies to Mary"

Should one be inclined to marry,
my advise is first, to tarry
well before taking that first scary
step to creating your own eyrie,
complete with tiny, beloved fairy,
for too quickly you'll wish for nary
another soul quite so hairy
whose nasty words you'll parry
as you drink another glass of sherry;
at each sip, increasingly wary
of the contrary wish to bury
your own sweet Mary.

Rhyme Prompt Two - Duo-rhyme, a poetic form created by Mary L. Ports, is a 10 or 12-line poem, with the first two and last two lines having the same rhyme scheme, and the center of the poem (lines #3 through #8 or #10) having their own separate mono-rhyme scheme. Each has 8 beats per line. NOTE: Mine has 13 lines. Oops!


Leaning forward, I see you sign
this painting, dark sky, yellow pine:
   bright stars reach where I do not know
   how to read each painting or go
   to some other place long ago.
   I cannot paint or write or show
   my love another way but flow
   around you, still an awkward crow.
   Your painting done, you glow
   with visions, fingers marked with woe,
   for truth, there's only one Van Gogh
 who marries art, a perfect line
 I cannot measure, yet divine.

The Starry Night
Vincent Van Gogh, 1889

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October 26: Kitty sisters . . .

Two Philadelphia cats on kitty quilt (Camp 2012)
We kitty-cats are sisters
cat-napping, curled together.
I can always count
on sister-mine to keep my back
warm, her fur furry,
purring black cat,
sleeping off catnip.
We are almost domestic;
with claws, paws pounce.
Here, kitty, kitty.
Then there was one.

Kitty napping on kitty-quilt (Camp 2012)

I made this quilt for friends with cats to remember their white cat, Stella, now long gone, whose name was inspired by Marlon Brando's famous scene in A Streetcar Named Desire. My cat Tiger had a truly ordinary name, but he would leap on my desk and sprawl across student papers, marking them with paw prints when I worked too many hours. Sometimes our pets are as close as family.

Friday, October 25, 2013

October 25: Celebrate . . .

Today, we walked too far
along a path well known,
a steep incline
just below the tree line of pines.
Instead, I will celebrate with you,
one day at a time.

Trail near High Drive, Spokane
(Camp 2013)
Today's Octpowrimo prompt asks us to celebrate. Read what others have written here.

We really did walk too far on this steep trail, but I haven't missed a day yet for the October poetry challenge, so my offering is short today.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

October 24: When I was 8 . . .

When I was 8, I saw a witch
sitting atop the window
in my bedroom. It was dark so
I wasn't sure she was there,
casting a spell, her gnarled fingers
curled to grab my dreams.

We carved pumpkins that October
with the large butcher knives
that slipped when you least
expected it.

I was a ghost then,
trick and treating up the lane,
filling my pillowcase with treats,
candy corn my favorite.
Our friends, three little boys,
changed costumes and went another round
and another. Three times.
Not a lucky number.
That was the year their father died.
That was the year
I became a ghost.

Halloween Witch (Daily Record and Mail UK)
Today's prompt from Octpowrimo asks us to go back in time to when we were 8 years old.  Sometimes I think it will take my whole life to heal from what happened when I was 8 and 9 and 10. So I give you this Halloween story instead.

In looking for an image (Google search) of a child in a witch costume, I was stunned by the difference between advertising in the west (happy kids in outlandish costumes) and the reality that children accused of witchcraft face everywhere in the world and especially in Africa. Even though we all must face our own inner demons, if we are tenacious, we can overcome them. Not everyone can.

To read what others have written for today's prompt from OctPoWriMo, go here.
To read about witchcraft around the world, go to Wikipedia's fascinating and troubling article.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

October 23: Number this . . .

1 equals the fall.
2 proximate, those most affected,
3 trinity, unspoken:
one-two-three, infinity.

# # #

I have no easy familiarity
with numbers,
one being first, I suppose,
then last as well.

# # #

Number this:
the days I loved you;
the days before,
too many,
the days after
I don't want to think of,
let alone count.

# # #

People like to count:
just three days before . . .
what will be
becomes was.
The days fall away
like brown leaves.

On entering college, I scored in the 98th percentile in language skills and in the 10th percentile in math. In elementary school, I loved playing with numbers, but we moved so often, I lost how they connected, what came next or even after.

Numbers still escape me in some mysterious way. Before finding DH (dear husband), I used to round up my bank account to create that secret slush fund. He made me go to the bank and explain what I had done. I never forgot what the bank clerk said, with raised eyebrows yet. "I've heard of people like you."

Today's poetry prompt is about numbers. Go to Octpowrimo to read what others have written. I hope someone today took on the language of numbers -- natural, rational, real, and complex. Ooops, I left out integers, negative numbers and transcendental numbers. Much grist for poetry here. Note: This category of 'important number systems' came from Wikipedia. Read more about numbers there. And, yes, I did like that TV show.

NUMB3RS (2005-2010)  (Wikipedia)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

October 22: Leaning into tomorrow . . .

Leaning into tomorrow
how do you find your way,
lost in a pirogue,
this mist,
this now?
Do your roots sink down,
holding you here, mirrored
in quiet waters?
Does the tangle of trees
cover the path
to somewhere else?

Follow the birds of your heart.
You are at peace in this place,
breathing in the sweet smell
everywhere, every day,
each moment true.

Today's prompt from Octpowrimo asks us to select from three images. I chose this one from Rodney Smith, titled, "Danielle in boat, Beaufort, South Carolina" (1996).

Already I'm curious to see what others have written about this beautiful photograph. I only had time to look at a few of Smith's photos, but they all have this luminous composition -- or something whimsical -- that provokes reflection and makes me want to see more of his work.

Read what others have written at Octpowrimo

and explore a little of Rodney Smith.

Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21: Micro beat . . .

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo asks us to write a sentence poem of exactly 17 syllables, inspired by Jack Kerouac. Here are the results of this morning's writing.

Morning begins with delight and hope: I am here, aware and ready. 

I write with a woman's eye to find what lies between thought and action.

I struggle with form and content, to be surprised by grace and beauty.

With each breath, I am attentive and forgetful in equal measure. 

What I found from writing these deceptively simple sentences that take us down to the essence of an idea is that I am a conditional thinker. My writing begins with phrases like -- if, because, since, although.  And that I find it difficult to confront reality head on. Is this because I am a woman? That I think slant? Sometimes my statements do rise at the end, with that questioning inflection that asks: Is this all right?

But notice how the sharp images of poetry have vanished. That which connects to the five senses is simply not present. So perhaps:

My fingers ache with desire to put words down that connect heart and mind.

I find quotes here and there and keep them at the front of my daily writing diary for inspiration.

Imagine my surprise when I counted syllables to find that this month's quote falls under the category of Jack Kerouac's American Sentence Poem -- 17 syllables.

'The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.' --Pablo Picasso

My response:

I still know only one Picasso, one art, one daily life, one soul.

Picasso: Boy with a pipe (Wikipedia

Of course, we can romanticize Picasso, and I do. But he lived a complex life, had many affairs, and wrote poetry, often as ribald as he was. His art and his poetry describe a man with large appetities and an equal amount of rage. 

Read more of Picasso's poetry at Wikipedia.

Read what others have written for this poetry prompt at Octpowrimo.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

October 20: Love lines from a Mouse to a Pin Cushion . . .

He: There's something about you
very practical. You're so busy.
I'm not sure I'll measure up, but
your colors dazzle me.
I think I'm stuck on you.

She: I don't know. You seem
fast -- that metallic purple.
You're always over by the laptop,
wireless. You have no cord.
How do I know
you'll have time for me?

He: Hop on down here, sweetie.
I got a new pad today, just your style.
We'll play with the cursor,
discover a little something about each other.
You know I look up to you.

She: Maybe.

He: Maybe yes?

She: Yes.

Beth's new mousepad!

Just for fun: today's prompt from Octpowrimo. Read what others have written here!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19: Rhyme sometime . . .

Can't think of anything worse
than rhyming in verse,
for words, you know,
are perverse.
They come out in pure form,
when you least expect it,
that double x entendre
that's not deflected,
that shakes the norm,
not out of some lost library book.
You getting warm? I'd rather speak straight.
Look, I hear it on the street,
blue collar blues wailing out the beat.
You gotta eye that wild hombre on the corner
stringing, rapping his fate.
He was born to sing his own song,
as I sing mine.

Today's challenge from OctPoWriMo is to write a poem in verse.

Most true rap is too strong for me. From what I've heard, I guess I like the rhythm of "soft rap" and the glue of rhyme that holds a song together. Lots of energy and gritty story-telling in hip hop, a new art form that keeps right on changing.  Here is a Youtube clip of a musician who took to the streets . . .


The musician is Joshua Bell. The experiment was set up by the Washington Post. Bell played Bach for about 45 minutes on a Stradivarius violin worth about $2 million. Few stopped to listen.

Jump over to Octpowrimo to read what others have written.

Friday, October 18, 2013

October 18: Dylan twice . . .

Have the courage to write badly,
I cannot write at all today.
My feet hurt.
But badly, baldly forward I go
into what good night?
Must be 30 shades of something,
perhaps then
it, there, was, to be, when
Bob Dylan's nasal whine
cut through time,
wine, rhyme,
melting syllables.
Dark chocolate drips
lies along my tongue.
I waited too long, but
I have you, babe.

Today's prompt from Octpowrimo was to write a truly bad poem. So far only 14 people have the courage to do so AND post a link.
Joan Baez and Bob Dylan 1963

For me what makes truly bad poetry is plagiarism, intentional or not, so I've got two lines "aslant" from the two artists named Dylan.

My favorite poem, Dylan Thomas' "Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night," reminded me of my favorite singer from the 1960s on -- Bob Dylan. I never cared that he went electric.

Both were impossibly young when they wrote poetry/songs that forever changed several generations, and I still love their work.
Dylan Thomas  c.1939
Source BBC

My praise poem is, I think, truly bad. Maybe I should have used rap format. Then what is bad would have been waaay bad.

More about Dylan Thomas here.

More about Bob Dylan here.

Read what other writers have written for OctPoWriMo here.

October 18: Just sayin' . . .

Just saying Yahoo! for today.

The Mermaid Quilt & Other Tales has been selected for the World Literary Cafe's FREE E-BOOK FRIDAY!

Why not go visit and check my book out!

Today only.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

October 17: The games we play . . .

I played touch football once.
You darted past me so fast;
I didn't realize I was supposed
to block you.
Now we watch football on TV,
Sunday afternoons together,
your voice-over another
on who does what and when and why.
Thousands roar in the stands
as we yell from the couch.
Another player's down.
The gods of Rome smile.

Remember Nick Nolte in North Dallas Forty (1979)? The movie opens the morning after a big game. Nolte can't get out of bed. Bruised and stiff from pain, he stumbles to the bathroom. That was my first awareness that pro football players wind up hurt. Today, football headlines focus on the brain damage that football players incur at every level -- including elementary school. The NFL heads up a multi-billion dollar industry, yet supports some research to protect players. Change will be slow, but documentaries, like the PBS special "League of Denial" highlight risks of heatstroke, concussion, and long-term brain damage.

A gamer I'm not -- unless you count that ultimate time-waster, Solitare. The cards flip down so easily, brainless I tell myself, a harmless warm-up before I work on serious stuff. In the last several years, I've played Farmville to stay in touch with my sister who lives in a different state, Lexulous (an online word game like Scrabble), a tiny bit of World of War Craft (free preview, never got out of the training level), and Diablo II (that was totally fun but way too time-consuming). This afternoon I played 10 minutes of Candy Crush, recommended by someone from Octpowrimo. Oops.

Today's prompt was to write a poem about a game . . . See what others have written for Octpowrimo.

Larry Fitzgerald catches a touchdown pass
2009 Pro Bowl (Wikipedia)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

October 16: The last word . . .

What one word could sum up
our years together?
I need too many words to describe
even today's walk, the path
shimmered with fall's red and yellow leaves,
the great turn of seasons to winter.
You said, "I'm feeling tired."
Someday you will whisper that last word.
I want to be there
to lay my cheek on your hand,
even if your last word is Rosebud
and has nothing at all
to do with me.

Japanese Garden in October
Manito Park (Camp 2013)
Japanese Garden in October
Manito Park (Camp 2013)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

October 15: Let us swim with the sharks

Let us
swim with the sharks;
reservations only
at the Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium.
Gentle creatures we're told:
we'll cage dive to see
nurse sharks, lemon sharks,
blacktip reef sharks,
horse-eye jacks,
maybe a stray butterfly fish.
or a politician.

We are safer than some
38 million sharks,
their fins harvested each year
for soup. They sink and drown
like my mother.
she was no shark,
but the sea is not gentle.

I make chicken soup with dumplings.
my grandmother's recipe.
Somehow chicken seems safer,
like albacore in a can,
chicken of the sea;
I pretend I don't see the cages.

Lemon Shark (Wikipedia)

Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo asks us to write a poem inspired by the news, as in, the news, my muse. Today's headlines are all about furloughed workers, a government shutdown, and an impasse that continues to shake the market and our credibility worldwide. But there on the first page, an article caught my eye -- "Tacoma Aquarium offers dive with sharks." And something clicked. Surprisingly, today's poem.

For more pictures of sharks: Your Shark Pictures - National Geographic
Info on shark dives at Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium

Why not jump in and join us in writing a poem a day for October?

Monday, October 14, 2013

October 14: Knowing silence . . .

Silence. I must close my door
for that sheer lack of sound.
Your television blares
through the night
but I don't care.
You are here.

Even with the door shut,
the murmur of that sports
announcer spikes
in tune with my breath,
almost a comforting

For when you go out,
then I know silence.

We're working on writing in 1974
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
No LINKY today, but you can read what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

October 13: 9 words from the internet . . .

Don't LOL, man,
I blog when I can . . .
there's an app for that,
finding memes.
I 'll twitter,
once I find my hash tag.
Internet's crazy
spammin' me,
sending me malware
like some mere cat
with nothing to do.
Hook me up, wi-fi.
What would I do
without you?

A Mere Cat Meme (Funny Animal Memes)

Today's poetry prompt from OctPoWriMo suggests having fun with one letter to see what words come into play, poetic forms. I've long loved words and read dictionaries for fun. A new word I can't quite define is meme. Online a meme is some cultural item repeatedly transmitted. Could be animal cartoons. Could be a list of questions you answer on your blog and then repost the questions to a few of your online friends.

For me, blogging was a way to connect with family and friends when I was traveling. Boy, that's changed. How about you? Have you ever played with a meme?

Saturday, October 12, 2013

October 12: Found treasures . . .

Take your thrift shop,
garage or jumble sale, call it
recycling, found treasures
that purple hand-knitted sweater,
that woven doll from Guatemala,
unfinished quilt blocks cut from calico,
the clever glass cutting board
emblazoned with Van Gogh's iris:
detritus from someone who has moved on,
leaving all behind,
flickers of what once was
a life carefully constructed,
now echoes I choose to take home
to cherish
for we are shadows all.

Today's OctPoWriMo asks us to explore the dark side, the shadows of our own self. I went to sleep thinking just of the prompt, shadow, and awoke with a sense of what has gone before -- and what will be. More the impermanence of each of our lives and how we cling to small, tangible things and take joy from them. If we are lucky, we have family and friends to love. Today, I want to affirm what is good. Maybe a darker poem will come along later.

Read more about what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Dresden Plates, unfinished, 1930s fabric
(Camp 2012)

Friday, October 11, 2013

October 11: Last call . . .

Down the bar,
someone's playing
piano, thunky-plunk picking
out a tune that makes
no sense a-tall,
midnight blues,
and me stirring
smokey Joe,
I told her I don't
drink and watched her eyes
flick past me.
Maybe someone else
will slide on that bar stool
next to me.
Middle C says not.
My lips remember
the saxophone of my youth,
pucker sweet.
Last call.

I honestly don't know where this one came from. I hate bars. I grew up in bars, waiting for my mother, watching the round clock on the wall. When I was a teen, I danced to Fats Domino and fell in love with stride piano and the sax.

Today's OctPoWriMo poetry prompt asks us to use sound in our poem. So here's "Blue Monday" featuring the one and only Fats and a little sax solo by Herb Hardesty. Not quite like my poem but, oh my, that's piano and sax.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

October 10: Love is like . . .

Today, OctPoWriMo asks us to write a sort of collaborative or reply poem by reading and rereading a poem that moved us -- and then writing a response. Here is Ron Potter's poem, "Love is like . . . "

Love is Like

Love is like
open heart surgery;
learning to trust your doctor.
Let him cut your breastbone
and open you down the center,
exposing the innermost sanctum:
The holy of holy's,
where only a high priest can enter,
once a year with a rope round his leg
to pull him out fast
in case your wrath is aroused.

Love is like walking on coals
in soft tender soles
more used to loafers or slippers.
And after that glass
with shards turned up to hurt you.

Love is like finding out
that none of those tests were worthy
of who you are or who you've become.

Love is like walking out
and finding that doubt
is actually a very nice feeling,
and you can learn to live there
with less and less care.
Love is when
you lay down your burden.

Love is Like

Love is like
a poem I have found
and cannot forget: 
and yet return to find myself
in those particular words
as one who dives 
into the dark side of the reef
where black water waits,
my only hope
the air in the mask
and those who wait on the shore.

Love is like floating above the abyss
with long flippers to ease
each stroke, feet
more used to walking 
than flying through water.
And after that, far below,
fish feed among brain coral,
and I feel the immense coldness
of the sea.

Love is like finding out
that none of this defines
who I was or who I will become.

Love is like emerging from the sea
no longer alone. Your words
spill out as if you understand 
exactly what I left behind,
there in the dark deep, 
that which will return in the night.
Love is when you reach out to me,
and I am with you.

I'm not sure I understand Ron's poem, but I do love every line. Thank you, Ron, for the inspiration that led to my response.

Writing this, I was reminded of the first time I went snorkeling in the waters off Honduras. The captain had us work with masks in waist-deep water and we saw fish nibbling at our toes. For our second dive, we neophytes floated above some 30 feet of water to see fish and seaweed swaying amid the coral reef below. The last dive some refused to do, for we were some 70-100 feet above that point where the edge of the reef deepens to the darkest sea. Somehow, swimming there, I felt free, a part of the sea and separate, perhaps a bit immortal for just that moment.

I cannot find a picture that captures that line, on one side the reef far below, full of life, and on the other side of the line, the end of the coastal shelf marked by the darkest sea, mysterious, unending, essentially unknowable -- at least by this casual snorkler.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

October 9: Tango in San Telmo

She sketches a circle
with the tip of her shoe,
an invitation.
He nods his head,
accepts with a bow.
He presses a button 
on a boom box.
The tinny music of tango
fills the air
to the delight of passersby 
from the neighborhood
and tourists who have come
to San Telmo in Buenos Aires
to see in these dancers
those moments 
we now remember from our youth.

Tango dancers, San Telmo
(Camp 2009)
She arches her back;
he twirls her around,
their steps pause
and repeat,
their knees and ankles brush,
an intricate embrace
of precision and passion;
her head thrown back,
the music, the music revolves
a rondo,
and we are lost again
in the moment.

San Telmo, Buenos (Camp 2009)
Today's prompt from OctPoWriMo asks us to think of music and to write a lyric poem.

Today has been a busy day, with laundry, doctor appointments, and a sweet grandchild, BUT the music and the dancers I remember most clearly -- that is past those early days of rock and roll back in the late 1950s and early 1960s -- is the music I found in San Telmo, an old barrio in Buenos Aires, where I lost my heart to tango.

Read more about the tango on Wikipedia.

Read what others have written, inspired by music at OctPoWriMo.

To see a 21-second snippet from the dancers in San Telmo, click on the video below.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

October 8: When a tree falls . . .

When a tree falls,
there's a thump.
Don't tell me no one hears.
I'm talking a big house-bouncing bump
and a ripple of noise that cracks
through my morning.

They're taking trees down next door
in a lot that's been empty long enough
for deer to forage all year long.
In the spring and summer, they bring their fawns.
In the winter, the deer walk slowly out
from the tall pines, lifting their noses
from snow-covered grasses
to gaze at our apartment building.
Perhaps they see movement at the window --
me looking at them in wonder
as I do now at men using chainsaws
that buzz through a quiet October morning,
and at a harvester that lifts massive stumps
to shake the red dirt away.

A white dog comes from nowhere
to bark at this intrusion.
I love that little white dog.
I will miss the deer.

The lot next door in June (Camp 2013)

Lot next door in October (Camp 2013)

Join in the fun by writing a poem a day for OctPoWriMo. Read what others have written here.

Today's prompt was to write a poem that began "Love is like . . . " but you can see that I slid sideways. I'm so far behind on my 'to-do' list that this may be the ONLY thing I get done -- even before my own writing!   But I'll be reading what others have written before the day ends. How about you?

Monday, October 07, 2013

October 7: Momma said . . .

Momma said, "Sleep tight.
Don't let the bed bugs bite."
So we snuggled down under the covers,
Cathy was four; I was five.
Strange motel bed in a nameless town,
until something fell
on the bed
in the night
and then another something.
My sister screamed.

We went running into the night,
looking for Momma.
Cars with red lights came,
I remember people talking:
"Who would leave
two little girls . . ."
and Momma was there,
her face white, talkin' fast,
"I just went out for cigarettes, officer,"
she said, and we was crying and crying.

Then it was quiet,
and we all slept together
in that motel bed.
Momma said bugs don't bite.
We left in the morning,
our old Hudson clunking smoke.
I don't remember where we went.
Daddy wasn't with us anymore
or ever again.
I still don't like bugs in the house,
and Momma's long gone,
Sissy too.

Today's OctPoWriMo (a poem a day for October) asks us to write a narrative poem, to tell a story. This is the earliest story I know. I found this picture on Flickr, and it reminds me of that hotel so long ago.

Las Palmas Motor Court (Flickr)
Creative Commons

Sunday, October 06, 2013

October 6: In Celebration of Butterflies . . .

I've been wanting to start a series of posts on creativity this month, but have been distracted by writing that daily poem for OctPoWriMo.

But today's OctPoWriMo prompt -- Tell me what gives you butterflies -- was the perfect segue to Sandy Brown Jensen's inspirational video-poem: Can You Catch Butterflies.  (Her poem appears below for your reading pleasure.)

Today I chased butterflies,
in search of beauty
Today I climbed a mountain
because the day was fair
and I was free.
Today I chased butterflies,
took pictures,
and climbed a mountain
all at the same time.
Can you catch butterflies?

My response:

In celebration of butterflies

I'm always delighted when
a solitary butterfly passes by.
I could be walking in the woods
or along the watershed when
a fragile, bright dot of color appears.
Butterflies remind me
of that fleeting inner voice
that leads to poetry or painting,
something ephemeral
that hovers
on the edge of understanding.

I have seen butterflies sleeping,
wing to wing,
then lift to the sky in some mysterious migration.
I only know they leave us,
and I come to understand
that in some great cycle least expected,
these butterflies will return.

Thank you, Sandy, for giving me 'butterflies.' You have challenged me to write and hold me to high standards. Inside I may doubt; you do not. You are an inspirational writing teacher and friend. Your creativity constantly amazes me, and your latest venture -- to explore the connections between visual and written arts -- intrigues me.

Today's prompt from OctPoWritMo was truly "tell me more about what gives you butterflies." But the prompt goes on to ask, "What makes you nervous?" I think what makes me nervous more than facing down a group of strangers who have come to hear me read is this: That I do not finish what I've begun to write. Creativity seems awfully close to those migrating butterflies -- a gift that I try to honor with commitment and discipline.

Read more of what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Visit Sandy Brown Jensen's website here. And I will return with a future post on creativity with Sandy -- and her sister, Cheryl Renee Long, artists both.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

October 5: Memory Song for Samantha

Of course I remember you, dear.
After all, today I have my list.
It's the betweens I'm forgetting.
People frown, but I don't know
all the words anymore.
Where did Samantha go?
Chasing flowers with a net or was it
butterflies last summer in that green garden
on what street?
Or were we children in a field
of lavender, purple on every side.
I remember tea with Grandmama
on her verandah, overlooking those wide-spaced
fields, purple vines stretched in every direction,
rows and rows, and we so polite,
dressed in white, sipping hot peppermint tea.
Where was I?
Rocking here, talking with you,
and looking at my list,
Doctor's this morning. I remember that.
They say I need more medicines.
They'll tell me what and when.
I don't know anymore.
Where did Samantha go?

Lavender Fields in Tasmania,
Bridestowe Estate
(National Geographic)
Today's poem came from the OctPoWriMo prompt to write a poem a day for October in list form. I played with that idea. Read what others have written here.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Oct 4: Go Gentle . . .

Each morning I bind
my breasts in heavy cloth,
lift up the helm, a mask,
face hidden; next the chest plate,
gauntlets protect each hand.
Fully skirted, I cover my legs
with metal, gather my dagger
and my mace,
finally, the shield.
So encumbered, I yet remember
your touch and go forth,
outside these walls,
a warrior facing yet another winter.
Some can afford to be gentle.
Would that this world did not
require armor.

Adobe wall, Sante Fe (Camp 2010)

I struggled with the concept of 'gentle' all day, for at first, I could not forget the echoes of Dylan Thomas' famous lament on the death of his father: "Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light."

My husband wanted me to write a poem about our granddaughter who is learning how to be gentle with the cat. He is truly a gentle person, gentler than me.

Last weekend we went to a local fairgrounds for a children's sale, paradoxically held right next to a gun show. I was surprised not only by the men who passed us in pairs and camouflage, but by how they held their guns and knives at the ready in an 'open carry' state. I immediately felt defensive, in 'fight' mode, ready for an attack.

Perhaps at heart, I shall always fight.

Read the full text of the Dylan Thomas poem here.

Read what gentler voices have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Oct 3: I wrote a poem one day . . .

I wrote a poem one day, jangled verse, angry verse, as if I could not survive without putting words down to separate who I was, who I might become from what seemed inevitable.

That first poem changed my life. My sister was pregnant at sixteen. My mother worked at a bar. My stepfather had turned violent.

My aunt came to visit that summer I was seventeen, she who painted pictures, great sweeping abstracts. I knew nothing of these, but she read my poem. A week later, she invited me to California, to go to a community college. I left and never looked back.

This poem began all my writing. Now I remember only the last stanza. Here it is.

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.

Hundreds of poems later, I see now that first poem was pretty terrible. As was my life then. Today I write fiction, an occasional poem, and quilt. My husband and my daughter (now son-in-law and granddaughter) enrich every day.

Poetry has always been my private side, difficult to read aloud, even more difficult to share. But there's still something in a graceful line of words, observation, reflection, a stillness or awareness that connects me back to joy.

I wrote a poem one day
so many years ago:
a great door opening
to a community of voices,
a mermaid singing on the edge of the sea,
a lover's voice reciting,
a baby's cry, fretful, then quiet;
a painter's brush rich with blue paint,
a kaleidoscope of words,
each one irrevocably bringing change.

Read what others have written for OctPoWriMo here.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Oct 2: Poetry hides . . .

Poetry hides
in some elusive spot
between my fingertips and
that landscape now

before me.
Outside the sun rises,
bright against the darkest night
when my heart goes

I turn
to pink skies dawning,
the earth twirls in its own dance;
my poem takes its

Camel Butte, Monument Valley (Camp 2007)
Today's prompt asks us to discover where poetry hides. Just for fun, I played with structure, so this poem follows syllables-per-line in this order: 4-5-7-4-2-1. I haven't written poetry in quite a while. I like to tie a poem to a photograph. Somehow the photo in my mind that would match this poem is more of swirling sunrises, yet this picture taken in Monument Valley catches the sense of journey and seeming simplicity. And this was a fun way to begin the day.

Read what others have written for this month-long challenge at OctPoWriMo here.

Are you writing a poem a day for October?

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Oct 1: In Rhyme and Season . . .

In rhyme and season, I begin
this October gray and dank,
still waiting for those leaves to turn
from summer green to autumn gold.

I remember red avenues
of leaves so thick I could not see
the sky that promised darker nights
until at last winter arrived.

If I could walk again with you,
seasons in perfect balance,
Spring, a promise of days to come,
Fall, that time we planned to wander:
where trees never lost their leaves
and skies were never gray.

Central Park, New York City (OctPoWriMo)

Above revised. Below, old version: Thanks to Sandy (see comments), back I went to wordsmithing in hopes of revising this first poem of October into a stronger draft.

In rhyme and season, I begin
this October gray and dank,
still waiting for those leaves to turn
from summer green to autumn gold.

I remember avenues of red leaves
so thick I could not see the sky,
a profusion of color that blocked out
the reality of colder nights
until winter finally arrived.

Would that I could walk again with you
along that leafy path,
the seasons in perfect balance:
Spring, a promise of days to come, and
Fall, that time we planned to wander
where trees never lost their leaves
and skies were never gray.

Poetry has long been my way to settle into writing. I don't write poetry every day, now being preoccupied with storytelling in novel form, but twice a year -- October and April, I take up the challenge to write a poem a day. Some poems resonate from years past. Most help me to cherish the moment, leading me to the 'now' -- that goal of meditation that says each day is a gift.

And so October begins with several writing challenges:

-- A month-long commitment to writing a poem a day, inspired by Morgan Dragonwillow on OctPoWriMo 2013

-- Hosting guest posts and commentary throughout the month from two very creative sisters -- Sandy Jensen and Cheryl Long who explore the visual and written with their poetry, teaching, and art. 

-- Continued research and writing of Rivers of Stone, the story of Catriona and Dougal, two Scots from farming and fishing families, who came to the Hudson's Bay in upper Manitoba in 1842 and were immediately separated. 

-- Completing Round 4 with A Round of Words in 80 Days (October 7 through December 26), an online writing community that with weekly check-ins encourages us all to set goals and report our progress.

What writing challenges will inspire you this month? 

Would you write a poem a day for October?