Thursday, April 30, 2020

April 30: Two Littles

She reads to her sister now,
bedtime stories, and then,
they cuddle through the night.
In the morning, she'll tell
stories. They'll hide
in the closet for a meeting
to plan out their day,
little one following big one
to chase around and around
in the kitchen,
climb on the roof, or
take turns petting that kitty
named Cupcake.
I do remember those endless days
marked only by
a yellow school bus,
stories told before bedtime,
heartfelt hopes
the parks will open, and
summer will come.

Childhood by jyliagorbachevya (Pixabay)
Today's prompt, the last one for National Poetry Month, comes from Robert Lee Brewer, who challenges us to write a praise poem. But, this morning, I'm missing the grandchildren who give freely such big hugs and run as fast as they can, being nearly eight and five, into their next adventure. Even in quarantine, with only virtual hugs, they spread love.

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April 29: Blank?

Maybe no writing
of a poem today, for the prompt
goes sideways: 'total blank,'
and that's what I am, pulled like taffy
stretched too thin
in that shop on the boardwalk,
the ocean outside, relentless
in the early spring afternoon.

I keep hoping for inspiration,
wanting to take that unexpected leap
into what? A total blank?

Where does art hide
when we wish it to smooth
those rough edges?
Don't call her a flighty muse,
for I have seen her
at work, healing my soul.

"Vintage" by ArtsyBee on Pixabay

Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer is simply write to a poem about a 'total blank.' Unfortunately, that's how the day has gone. At least I can rely on the visual inspiration of photos from Pixabay, and I did get the laundry done.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

April 28: Look Back or Don't Look Back

Today I picked up a 20-pound bag of rice.
Wore a mask inside the store.
Didn't stop for a latte.
Felt like I was preparing for Armageddon.
Don't look back.

Two months ago, grocery shopping,
a sensual delight. Marmalade made
of bitter oranges from Seville.
Artisan breads reek of rosemary
or garlic. Fresh bananas and sushi:
let me count the ways
I will cook for you.
Oh, look back.

I pace my apartment, ready to fall
into my computer, far from
these four rooms and yet, at home,
books, quilting, the next writing projects,
friends a click away . . . zoom!
Cooking ever a challenge: Where
did those eggs go? What can I make
with the last can of black beans?
Maybe I'll water a few struggling house plants;
today's sunny outside on Day 50
of stay-at-home. Birds
scrabble after seed in the feeder,
freshly full, and my love sleeps.
Don't look back.

Finch by 272477 at (Pixabay)
Today's prompt for National Poetry Month comes from Robert Lee Brewer who asks us to respond to this prompt: 'look back' or 'don't look back.' I couldn't help it. I chose both, for these days, aren't we all poised between looking back to what once was and, somehow, not wanting to look back?

So, I'm sending wishes to you all, whether at home or not, that you stay healthy, close to family and friends, and as we move into an uncertain future, stay brave.

Monday, April 27, 2020

April 27: The path ahead

Path in the Woods by Aitoff (Pixabay)
Sometimes the path ahead is dark.
We can't help ourselves.
We go forward, hoping
that bit of light will lift
this massive sense of foreboding,
the walls closing,
too many loud noises, too much clatter,
virtual and otherwise, lists and maps
show where and when and who,
too much death, too much crime,
even dropping a knife on the kitchen floor
is an omen. 'Nevermore,' the raven calls,
a murder of crows gathers on the front lawn,
unexpectedly, a bear lifts his head to sniff
before crossing a city street.
We all wait and watch, perched by our windows.
Spring rain falls, and we hope for some sweet glimpse
of tomorrow, maybe the past deconstructed,
reconstructed anew, and when
we least expect a glimpse of hope,
someone begins to sing.

Jonny West, last night on American Idol, simply sang, "What a Wonderful World." This morning's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer for National Poetry Month asked writers to write a poem about something massive. I kept thinking of Jonny West and his simple, direct affirmation. Let it be.


Sunday, April 26, 2020

April 26: Lessons from an Elephant

I'd rather be third
in a line of elephants
ambling somewhere
in that endless, grassy savanna,
or the next wet wadi
where I could roll in the warm mud
and not think about change.

Something about elephants
makes me calm.
Their eyes aslant,
their bodies slow to move,
their ears flutter and
their trunks wave
in a language of touch,
close to their companions or
to herd that little one.

I saw an elephant in Tanzania strip bark
from a tree with his expressive trunk
and lift his head to trumpet a warning.
They twist and rip grasses
from the land, as they follow each other,
a measured pace, close together
for protection, undulating across the land.

Never underestimate the creativity
or change that hunger brings.
In times of drought, those tusks
can dig the earth to find water.
Female elephants don't discriminate:
they mother any baby in their herd.
We could learn much from elephants,
though I'd rather not weigh up to ten tons.

"Elephants" by Alex Strachan (Pixabay)
Today's prompt for National Poetry Month comes from Robert Lee Brewer who challenges us to write a poem about change or not-change. I wasn't sure what to write about until I found this photo by Alex Strachan, an image that took me far away from staying-at-home and our world of coronavirus. I'm wondering what animals appeal to you just now and why?

Saturday, April 25, 2020

April 25: The Tenth Muse

Did Sappho write every day,
fret over words that clung
in strands of clumps,
and stare within?

She was an island girl, living in a Mediterranean clime,
blue skies and blue seas. She ran wild like any other girl
with violet hair, along a ridge path, taking care of sheep,
looking out to sea.

One day, she turned to pen. Who knows
what drove her then, what night of terror, what loss,
what inner music; only fragments remain
that soar and soar.

Around her, others went about their work,
made bread, sewed clothes, or directed slaves,
for Greece was then a democracy
for the very few.

Perhaps a slave caught her eye, some tragedy,
some loss. Perhaps her mother died,
her lover sailed away, her family scattered,
and she alone.

So, in the mornings, when the light came,
this tenth muse began to write,
her words a music of their own, still lost,
still inspiring us all.

Sappho of Eresos (Wikipedia)

Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer's Digest fame, asks us to write a remix poem, that is to take a poem from long ago and shake it up entirely. So here's a new version of a poem written in 2009, a musing about Sappho who lived on an island of women long ago (about 630-570 BC). She wrote poetry meant to be sung with a lyre. and invented a poetic form (3 longer lines, followed by a shorter line), which I have tried to follow.

Sappho may have written as many as 10,000 lines, but only fragments remain. One such fragment: “Someone, I tell you, in another time will remember us.”

Friday, April 24, 2020

April 24: My Cowboy

My grandfather was a cowboy,
back in the 1920's, just before
World War I. He used to entertain us,
as we sat around the campfire,
poking at the logs, with stories
of his life then, bears and wolves,
rattlers and mean snakes of men
who took a shot at him.
He made cowboy coffee so strong
it would curl your teeth,
and a cornbread pudding that lay
on your tongue like a promise
of Christmas. He'd wake us girls
up in the morning,
stick his head in our bedroom door,
"You gonna' let the sun burn a hole in you?"
He taught me how to shoot,
even if I was a girl and nearly
shot my foot off in the process.
He dared me to shoot a rabbit we spied,
far off on another ridge.
Guess he thought I couldn't hit it.
I did. Later, I borrowed money from him
when I went away to college.
Paid him back too. What did he say?
"You didn't have to do that.
Nobody else paid me back."
I guess even now, telling stories
about my grandfather nurtures me,
like half-remembered lessons
that led me here, to be with you,
safe, loved, and happy.
Frank Henry, about 1920

Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer's Digest fame, asks us to write  poem about nature -- or nurture. Who knows exactly how a poem/story begins. I was thinking how much we need nurture now and remembering times I'd watch certain animals, elephants or gorillas, and how they constantly touch each other and hug each other, in a reassuring way. Truly, what is it that nurtures us -- even when we are alone?

By the way, that cornbread pudding can be sweet or a little spicy, depending on how you mix up the ingredients. Out on the trail, and sometimes at home, the taste depends on what you have on hand. Here's one recipe to try, if you like.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

April 23: Social?

My socks say it all
'cause all
I want to do
is take my socks off,
run barefooted
in the green spring grass,
lay on a picnic blanket
under the pines, and
watch the sun flicker
between spring clouds,
while kids shriek and
run after a soccer ball.
Yes, I want it all,
even a cat.

Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer, of Writer's Digest fame, asks us to write a poem about some aspect of social, as in the 'social blank' (and fill in that blank. Busy today with proofreading, I nearly didn't write a poem today until I went sideways, inspired by my new socks, comfortable in front of the computer, but truly wishing we could ALL go outside. For real. I'm not anywhere near protesting, but . . . I can fantasize that soon our quarantine will end. Maybe in another six weeks or so. Meanwhile, I'll cuddle up next to my computer -- and work away!

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

April 22: Quirky?

Writers are supposed to have their quirks.
I know one who kept apples in his desk,
breathing in the scent as inspiration.
Not me. My quirks are simple,
switch the hat from morning writer
to afternoon editor and formatter.
Think about it: Two hours to
insert headers and footers
in a 55,000 word novel.
Who could be inspired by that?
But once the task is done,
I can move on. Since my books
take a luxurious two to three years
to write, well, smile with me.
Once this puppy is out the door,
I can switch the hat back
to morning writer
for many days to come.

Writer by Angela Yuriko Smith (Pixabay)

Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer asks us to explore a quirk we may have -- or that someone else may have. The famous writer referred to above was 18th Century German poet Fredreich Schiller; he literally did keep those apples rotting in his desk as he wrote. I truly can't imagine doing that, though a nearby cup of coffee with lots of milk or hot tea sounds good.

You know which hat I was wearing when this poem came along? After all, it's afternoon, but I truly did finish two monumentally difficult formatting tasks today! Hooray!

Have a wonderful day. It's raining just now, but afternoon movies or a nice read await. Enjoy the quiet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

April 21: Tribute to a Soddy

"Come with me," he said.
"We'll move out to the Great Plains.
We'll have our own place,
a long way from all this."

She said yes. They bundled up
their belongings, and,
carrying what they could,
walked west,
too poor to take a train.
They hitched a ride,
filed papers in Lincoln, Nebraska,
grateful for the Homestead Act of 1862
and 160 acres.

By then, she was pregnant.
He built her a soddy out there,
dirt floor, sod blocks for walls,
one window to look out
at the stretch of endless, rolling grasslands,
coveted by ranchers.
"We have to stay five years,"
he said, dirt ingrained in his hands.
"Five years, the wheat will grow.
We'll be all right."

Remember those men and women
of the plains, and their sod cabins.
Many didn't know how to farm,
there were failures,
and then the cattle came.
But some persevered, facing
isolation and years of work
for a dream of something better.

A sod house, called a soddy (Wikipedia)
Great Plains near Lincoln, Nebraska (Wikipedia)

Robert Lee Brewer's poetry prompts for National Poetry Month always take me someplace unexpected. Today's prompt (influenced by our current preoccupation with coronavirus), asked writers to write a love poem or an anti-love poem.

My poem began when I thought it must take more than love to follow your man out to the Great Plains and live in a soddy. When I went looking for images, I found this lovely photo of a sod house and another of the Great Plains -- near Lincoln, Nebraska, where my grandfather once lived. He was a cowboy.

Monday, April 20, 2020

April 20: Isolation

Long after you resume
the coming and going freely,
that swirl of errands
and work and children,
my grandchildren,
I shall remain at home,
a member of that compromised group,
one who has lived too long,
perhaps with nothing to contribute
to that bustling world,
like butterflies that pass before me,
I see, but I cannot touch.
I feel, but I cannot speak.

Free Photos at Pixabay
TODAY'S PROMPT from Robert Lee Brewer at Writer's Digest focuses in on the effects of the coronavirus, that daily reminder that life has irrevocably changed, affecting us all in ways large and small. 

How do we confront each day? Some days, we comfort ourselves with routine, checking off that to-do list, and taking a daily walk. We can exhaust ourselves to sleep by binge watching TV, or reading, or making phone calls to loved ones, enhanced by FaceTime or Zoom, still missing the physicality of hugging our loved ones. 

The chaotic frenzy of 'breaking news' -- each broadcaster more intense than the last -- makes me want to get insanely drunk. In a loud bar. With a sports channel screened overhead (soccer, maybe something more physical, football?). Trump's assertion that the coronavirus can simply 'wash' over the country infuriates me. We have over 40,000 dead in the United States today. We may have plateaued, but that's the size of a small city. So many lives and dreams lost.

Yes, I embrace isolation -- no sharing of germs. But I still look forward to that day my extended family will gather together at dinner, or I can quilt with sewing friends, or I can walk at the park with my grandchildren, my only fears for them, a scraped knee.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

April 19: A word or two from Shakespeare

If I were to resolve
that moment when
an embrace became a bump,
leaving me lonely, 
howling against the dark, dark night,
then I would be Shakespeare,
a fixture on the stage, pacing
back and forth, mourning 
that damned spot,
and crying, "Out! Out!"

Shakespeare by JJ Jordon (Pixabay)
Not every thought is sun-filled on Day 48 of quarantine. Today's prompt from Robert Lee Brewer of Writer's Digest fame (and celebrating that commitment to write a poem a day for National Poetry Month), asks us to write a poem around six words that Shakespeare invented:  Resolve, bump, embrace, fixture, howl, and lonely. The result is a little dark, for I haven't read Shakespeare in decades. But I do remember the shock of Lady MacBeth (not a namesake).

Tomorrow begins 9 days of free Kindle books. Starting Monday, April 20 through April 22, you may download the Kindle version of Standing Stones for free. Partly as a thank you for reading my blog, partly to celebrate the almost here release of my latest book, The Seventh Tapestry, and partly to offer another reading respite from this quarantine. Share the link!

Saturday, April 18, 2020

April 18: A Polite Pineapple

If every word or action
could be decoded, we introverts,
happily quiet in these days of quarantine,
would wish for pineapples
to give those friends who
yet stop by.

For long ago, when travelers came to
plantations by coach,
and visits were measured
by weeks and months,
each morning, a fresh pineapple
would appear in the visitor's room,
perfectly sliced, juicy
and with a silver spoon.

Until that morning when
two pineapples arrived:
One to enjoy this morning
and one for the road.

"Pineapple" by ssenjakelabu (Pixabay)

Today's poetry prompt from Writer's Digest poet Robert Lee Brewer for National Poetry Month asks us to write a poem about a message, perhaps the message itself, how it was received, or what ever came to mind. This prompt reminded me of summer driving trips through the southern United States, where each plantation featured pineapples carved on the gateposts. I'm thinking now of a fruit salad for supper. No fresh bananas. No pineapple.

Friday, April 17, 2020

April 17: On Visiting Giza

I have stood on the banks of the Nile
and stared into the eyes of the Sphinx,
wandered between the tumbled small pyramids
of the three queens, and watched the sun
change the colors of the three great pyramids:
Cheops, Khafre, Menkaure.
They all hoped for that divine sleep
that closed their eyes,
but kept their souls alive.
Each gold-framed jewel, each sarcophagus,
each mural painting, each ritual prayer,
a great preparation. The ka/soul
now wanders lost without its body,
their mummies now carted off to museums
for public display. All three tried to buy insurance –
Cheops had four solar boats to ferry his soul to the next life,
Tut’s three sarcophagi intended to hold and protect
his mummified remains, the innermost one of solid gold.
Oh, how the pyramids at Giza cry out for respect,
The most solemn prayers warn intruders away.
The size of the pyramids, a competition,
Each larger than the last, each one saying
Pick me! Pick me!
The grave robbers came almost before
the painted seals were dry, almost before
the closing rituals were complete,
before the concubine’s tears had dried.

Tourists wander this large complex,
ready with cameras to catch images of themselves,
standing in front of the Sphinx,
the ‘Horus of the Rising Sun,’
guardian at one with pharaohs and the gods.
Tourists line up to buy a memory of this moment:
postcards, a tabletop pyramid, calendars,
a bust of Nefertiti or Alexander the Great,
an Egyptian flute, its melody in minor key.
They line up to ride the Bedouin camels,
gaily decorated with tapestries 
of green, red, and yellow yarns.
All this – even the tourist buses
which pull up in a great flurry of dust,
all this seems dwarfed by simple reality:
I sit on a giant stone block next to
Khafre’s temple. The nearby causeway, still flat,
reaches down to the Sphinx, the clouds
shift above the three great pyramids.
Even my tears dry in the wind
as black-hooded falcons fly, and
camels race awkwardly, their unshod feet smack
the pavement, and their drivers’ cries echo.

Pyramids of Khafre and Menkaure, Giza
The Sphinx at Giza

At the base of a pyramid, Giza
Today's poetry prompt from Writer's Digest poet Robert Lee Brewer for National Poetry Month asks us to write -- an exotic poem. This could lead in so many directions. I chose to travel back in memory, to that wonderful month spent in Egypt doing research, when all seemed possible. This week, I'm starting a new writing project, a story set in Egypt, where once I saw the black-hooded falcons fly.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

April 16: The Last Breath

If I could imagine the last breath
life on this planet would take,
think underwater, 
that struggle for air, 
and then, truly, an ending.
Not even pandemic will alter
what we all must face at some point.

Not the time for joking
as family gathers by the window or 
an open door, unable to step near. 
I can only whisper, "Cherish each day,
for they are numbered."
What lies beyond is 
unknown and measured
by more than a gasp.

"Polar Bear" by Echoyan (Pixabay)
Today's prompt comes from Robert Lee Brewer who asks us to write a fill-in-the-blank poem that starts, 'the last . . . .' We're supposed to begin by filling in that missing word. I want to write positive poems just now that will affirm the beauty of each day, despite the effects and tragedies of coronavirus. But it's pretty hard to work around the implications of 'last'.

So, I'll tell you about today's first. I cleared my cork board off and posted 3x5 cards to seriously begin plotting for the next book. I only know 2-3 main characters and the setting -- Egypt. All else remains a mystery. Well, except the story will involve art crime, danger, and romance. Maybe a distraction for the days ahead!  Meanwhile, stay calm and safe. Cherish each day!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April 15: Dreaming

These days, we stay inside, quarantined,
except for that mandatory excursion
for groceries or prescriptions.
A daily walk is encouraged, ten blocks
up to the pond, a tally of birds just
beginning to nest, their mating colors
match their calls, vibrant, echoing.
Red-winged Blackbirds and
Yellow-headed Blackbirds argue over
who has possession of the reeds.

But, I want to fly,
not just in memory. I want to return
to the mountains, to sleep in a tent,
even if it’s raining, to hear night
rustles and to find a bear track in the morning.
I want to wander the Louvre once again,
drink café au lait sitting at a street-side cafe,
with you beside me, and fall in love
all over again.

"Girl on a Swing," by Composita (Pixabay
Today's prompt comes from Robert Lee Brewer who asks us to write about a dream. I'm hungry to just walk out of my apartment, visit friends really, and not virtually, and go somewhere else for a time, without thoughts of pandemic or worry about the world.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

April 14: The marking of a moment

I have driven under a tornado, noting
its shifting form as we argued
whether to take shelter
under a bridge or to keep going,
the car lifting from the ground
with each gust of wind.

Nature follows laws, 
even when we do not know
their structure or form,
or how we are changed.
Doesn’t Nature’s beauty seem accidental,
the possession of artists, intuitive
and somehow intimate, a living poem,
a respite from our own commitment
to order, a commentary 
on the marking of a moment, 
or hours or days, or a life.

Cloudy Sky by jplenio (Pixabay)
Robert Lee Brewer, over at Writer's Digest, with his poetry prompts for National Poetry Month, asks us to consider/write about form or not form. That led to my thinking about how even the most chaotic objects around us have a form, even when we cannot see or understand it. This leads some philosophers to say (as they think about  molecular levels), "I am sitting upon a chair, but is it really a chair?"

Napowrimo's prompt suggests we write something about how we came to write, what other writer or person inspired us. I didn't want to return to that dark time but forever think of my aunt who invited me to come and live with her to go to college. That's when my writing began.

Monday, April 13, 2020

April 13: Don't Look

I read somewhere that when
you look at a gorilla with intention,
the gorilla, being a shy creature, may decide
you are a threat to his family 
and attack you in a flash, 
some 300 pounds of confrontation.
So, if you are traveling in gorilla country,
don’t look.

Once at a zoo with a large compound
for gorillas, I saw a male sitting quietly,
his back against a tree.
I looked at him and then away.
He looked at me and then away.
For just five minutes, we repeated
this dance of glances.
I wasn’t in danger.
Neither was he.
I wanted to communicate
but did not know his language.
Dismissing me, he wandered away.
I was obviously not a threat.
And then I wondered why this creature, 
capable of some level of thought, 
lived behind glass.
What had we taken from him?

Eastern Gorilla by Michael Bell, Pixabay 
Today's prompt comes from a mashup of Robert Lee Brewer's prompt to write about purpose (or lack of it), and napowrimo's prompt to not apologize for something you have taken, that is something that didn't belong to you. 

Not quite sure how that led to gorillas, but I did remember that trip we took to Tanzania where we saw herds of zebras and wildebeests, and mama lions at dawn taking their cubs to the watering hole. Time to get out the picture books on Day 36 of quarantine. Stay safe!

Sunday, April 12, 2020

April 12: If I were cavorting . . .

If I were cavorting, deep in the woods,
dancing where no one can see,
is my song filled with ‘coulds’ or ‘shoulds,’
or am I left simply to be
myself, under the dark green trees,
hearing birds sing their own nocturnes,
the rustle, the wings, a warm breeze,
even at night, I feel patterns
as simple as moss under my feet,
and joy in my heart, surprise at a vision
of trolls, ready to dance with me,
dancing where no one can see.

Efraimstochter on Pixabay
Today, I wanted something whimsical as it truly is Day 32 of self-quarantine. I wonder how many of us still dream of dancing.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

April 11: Who could control a flower?

Who could control a flower?
Yet I’ve seen it done – those
formal gardens in such regulated rows,
all blossoming in the proper season,
even a Japanese tea garden balances
order (those carefully raked stones)
with profusion.
Georgia O’Keefe knew something
about flowers, as did the Victorians,
coding each one, daisies for innocence,
gardenias, a secret passion,
purple hyacinths, their pungent smell
an apology.
I would rather walk alone in the woods
to find those hidden flowers
that speak of survival.

Anemones by Peggy Choucair (Pixabay)

NOTE: Today's prompt is a combo. For April 11, Robert Lee Brewer challenges us to write a poem about control, especially daunting since so much seems out of our control in these days of coronavirus. Napowrimo suggests we write a poem about flowers and that language of flowers (called floriography) from ancient times (think of Buddhists and the lotus flower) to the Victorians who sent bouquets with secret meanings. As you can see, on Day 32 of self-quarantine, I do not stray far from wishing I could walk in the woods.

Friday, April 10, 2020

April 10: And we shall dance . . .

We traveled to Mexico City
on a honeymoon trip, long ago
and far away from today,
a time of seclusion.
On that sun-filled day,
we wandered through the garden
close to Teotihuacan,
and came across five men,
dressed in costumes, red and white.
They climbed a wooden pole
roughly 100 feet in the air,
and sat, somewhat balanced,
on a tiny wooden platform.
The leader, for I know not what else
to call him, began to play his flute,
and the four men, one for each
sacred direction, banded in silk and ropes,
leaned back and began
the slow descent down to the ground,
circling the pole some thirteen times,
their arms spread wide,
a miracle, we thought, the flute's high notes
echoing, their measured flight,
something so beautiful,
so inexplicable, caught between
earth and sky, the notes repeating,
the men circling.

Later we learned
that high pole was the World Tree,
and this was the dance of the flying men,
la Danza de los Voladores,
an ancient Mesoamerican rite, so designed
to appease the gods.
What accident led us to witness this ancient dance?
Why does this memory cheer me now,
for surely our prayers still reach
the ears of the gods?
And we shall dance yet again.

NOTE: For some reason, memories of this ancient dance came to mind as I thought about today's poem on Day 31 of this coronavirus quarantine, when I'd rather be traveling.  Here are the pictures I took of Los Voladores at Teotihuacan in 2001.

Beginning the climb

Notice the rope ladder

At the top, the flute player plays the notes

The men begin their descent

The men circle

The dance
Safe on the ground

For more history of this ritual dance, please see Wikipedia.

Thursday, April 09, 2020

April 9: When all else fails, make pasta . . .

My daughter just got a pasta maker,
the old fashioned kind you
hunch over and crank the handle.
You slowly feed just-made dough through
this complicated machine.
Out the bottom
comes these rounded, fragile tubes,
lightly dusted with flour.

Toss into boiling water,
then dress the spaghetti with olive oil,
a little salt, and freshly-grated parmesan.
No need to measure.
Generations of cooks know who's
sitting down to eat.
Maybe sprinkle a few red pepper flakes,
and remember those Italian grandmothers
who taught us how to cook.

Pastamaker (Camp)
Maybe today, I thought, this poem will come easily. I have work to do, even if today marks 31 days we've stayed home and stayed safe as Governor Cuomo challenges us.

Robert Lee Brewer, of Poetic Asides at Writer's Digest, asks us to write an ekphrastic poem, that is write poem about a painting to dig deeper into its meaning, using any means you wish. As my mother would say, "Ooofta!" And then I remembered a photograph I found of an old woman making pasta, bent over, glasses askew, and my daughter's joy at making pasta with her new pasta maker.

Wednesday, April 08, 2020

April 8: If the shoe don't fit . . .

My mama used to say
"If the shoe don't fit,
pitch it." Reminds me
of an old song: "Hit the road,
Jack, and don't you come back
no mo', no mo' . . ."  Reminds me
of what could have been.

An' that's what I think about the future.
Ain't no past comin' after you.
Just keep goin'. You'll find that bright
fluttery rainbow some day.

Meanwhile, fish to fry. Good ones.
Caught them in the bayou this mornin'.
Sun rose early. Dogs a barkin' out there.
Somethin's on the move.
Maybe me.

Florida bayou (Camp 2008)
NOTE: I honestly don't know where today's post came from for Day 8 of National Poetry Month. I read prompts from Napowrimo and Robert Brewer's PAD for Writer's Digest (his was to write something about the future).

And I'm still thinking about yesterday's 'poem,' so depressing I can't forget that old sad story of betrayal. Maybe I'm in the storytelling mood as I get ready for today's writing session. Don't know. Maybe I saw yesterday's Wordless Wednesday post by Andrea Huelsenbeck of flowers, and in these days of pandemic and staying home, I wanted more. I wanted flowers too.

Instead, this 'poem' came along.  Yes, my mother truly used to say, "If the shoe doesn't fit, pitch it." She also said, "Don't let the bastards grind you down." And I loved her anyway. 

Here's Ray Charles singing as only he can, "Hit the Road, Jack."

Tuesday, April 07, 2020

April 7: The Murder Quilt

In 1915, near over 100 years ago,
on an October afternoon,
in rural Willamina, Oregon,
Anna left her daughter,
then twelve, and young son,
to walk to her mother’s house.
Anna didn’t know her husband, William,
jealous, followed her.

Someone else found his body.
He’d been shot. All the Sheriff’s men
hunted clues, to find nothing.
All the townspeople
gossiped. For another man,
another William, age 23, had been seen
talking to Anna. They must have
been lovers, neighbors whispered.

Taken into custody, Anna and William
were held in jail behind bars,
each alone, their lives upended. 
No one believed their stories.

At the first trial, the women of the town,
what did they know? They
filled the gallery, for they could not
serve on the jury or sit in the main floor.
Those women patched a crazy quilt from scraps,
raffled the finished quilt off to cover trial costs.

First trial, mistrial.
Second trial, both found guilty, but
a judge reversed the jury’s finding.
Third trial, William sentenced to life.
Anna pled manslaughter, only
one to fifteen years in jail.
She wanted to be with her children,
passed off to relatives.

Finally in 1920, someone else confessed,
Anna and William were released,
five years lost.
They remarried, each to someone else.
Only court records and the quilt remain.
The quilt, dubbed the murder quilt,
hangs at the Oregon Historical Society,
a testament to misunderstandings.

The Murder Quilt
Source: Mother's Day: The Murder Quilt
Today’s prompt from Napowrimo asks us to write a poem inspired by a newspaper article. I really felt at a loss since so much of the news just now is about the coronavirus. Then I remembered an article I read long ago that tickled my interest as it combined quilting with murder. Anna and William's story still makes me sad. 

More information about this case can be found:
3) George A. Thatcher: Why Some Men Kill (Chapter 3).

Monday, April 06, 2020

April 6: The Painter's Gift

I saw the painter’s gift when it arrived.
Two peasants carried the large triptych
Into Father’s private study where it hung on the wall.
Sometimes I would sneak there to stare
at a world within a curious globe
painted on the outside, realistic black clouds
moving in, as if to predict some dark change.
I knew not what.

At special feasts, I overheard the men laughing
as they drank. When Father opened the painting, 
they were stunned to silence.
He would announce, “There before you:
Heaven and Hell on either side, and, in the middle,
the Garden of Earthly Delights.”
The men murmured for a while.
Then, the laughter began again,
as they argued over sins of the flesh
and named the grotesque images they saw.

When I was older, still curious about what
was hidden behind the globe, I met the painter,
Hieronymous Bosch, an older, kind and crumpled man.
I wondered how could he paint
the horrors those men saw?

One day, our house was empty.
I could have chosen to stay in my room, but
drawn by curiosity, I slipped downstairs
to Father’s feasting room to stand
before the globe. The silver colors shimmered
as I slowly opened the triptych
to discover a riot of color:
Heaven on the left. I recognized Adam and Eve,
And on the right, Hell so black I shuddered,
repelled by creatures strange and ferocious.
In the center, Father said, Bosch had painted
a garden of earthly delights,
but this was no world I knew.

If I were in his painting, what
would I be? A fallen angel? Or tiny creature,
there, under the table next to Bosch himself,
forever fixed in his world of codes
I could not decipher.
I closed my eyes, but the colors remain,
the images of creatures so fantastic,
so horrific, I wished I had never opened
Bosch’s triptych. I wanted to scrub my eyes clean
and forget I ever wondered what he painted
behind the globe of some mysterious world.
My choice. My penance now
as I close the triptych and pretend
nothing has changed. 

Today’s prompt from Napowrimo asks us to write a poem from the point of view of one person/animal/thing from Hieronymous Bosch’s famous (and famously bizarre) triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, painted sometime between 1460 and 1510.

If you'd like to learn more about this complex painting, you might read "Digging for Secrets in the Garden of Earthly Delights" or check out Wikipedia. This prompt was intriguing and not so easy to write!

Sunday, April 05, 2020

April 5: A Memory of Oranges

I am like an orange from Seville,
bitter yet sweet.
Always these oranges tease at my heart.
Even as a pungent memory,
the taste lingers; the tough peel resists,
then tears, and I pull the skin away
to reveal little sections
of bitter, yellow fruit, so loved
the trees line every street, and the fruit
lies on the ground, forbidden.

Just outside the Cathedral of Seville, I rest
in the Patio de los Naranjos, to admire
this place, once a mosque, built in 1172,
converted to a grand cathedral in 1511.
Yet history remains juxtaposed
against the murmured prayers,
tourists ramble through these aisles,
in awe of turrets and towers,
truly this edifice is the base of faith, recast as a tree,
upside down, that will transform us all,
or not, as they say:
Más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando,
But I don’t think a bird in hand is more
than one hundred flying free, for
far above this cathedral,
I see one hundred flying doves,
each one singing of peace and oranges.

Patio de los Naranjos, Seville, Spain (Camp, February 2019)
We spent a month in Seville last February, a magical month of history and culture, long walks, and amazing tapas and sangria at sidewalk cafes. Today’s prompt for National Poetry Month from NAPOWRIMO (delightfully detailed) led to this poem and the memory of an afternoon spent at the Cathedral of Seville.

And, yes, for us, it's Day 26 of staying at home. Be well. Write a poem?

Saturday, April 04, 2020

April 4: What do we learn from dreams?

Once I saw a witch, fearsome green
and fanged, sitting atop the window
in my bedroom. Was I eight then?
I didn’t believe in dreams, only
head down, follow the path, and survive,
holding close that sense one day,
I would travel beyond this horizon.

A decade later or so, my dreams filled
with the structure of an atom, 
me inside, the walls inexorably closing.
I could not breathe. 
When I woke that morning,
I knew it was time to leave.

Then, I met you. I saw my dreams
in your eyes and with your laughter.
For nearly fifty years, we’ve
danced our way around the world.
I haven’t seen that witch for a very long time,
not until I look in the mirror, and I realize
I am my dreams.

Photo by The Pixelman (Pixabay)
Today's prompt for National Poetry Month comes from NAPOWRIMO and asks us to remember/write about images in a dream. 

Friday, April 03, 2020

April 3: Ginger's Garden

Ginger’s garden is ranked by rows,
along each level something grows
in the garden slanting down
to a tall, wooden fence, all brown,
Separating hers from theirs.
She scatters seeds and refills
All the feeders just in time,
Songbirds come for respite,
and so do I, sitting on the back porch
in the spring sun for a bout of
desultory weeding.
Small conversations bloom
with first flowers, as she names
buttercup and yellow bells.
I learn where she hides her key.
She spies a baby quail, its little
topknot quivers. She shouts to scare away
a red-winged blackbird, one of my favorites,
but here, in her garden, too big, too greedy;
its zest brings no rest for songbirds or me.
Later, a dragonfly visits with wings of lace,
where birds, not words, do sanctify this space.

Garden Chairs by Terimakasiho (Pixabay)
With today's poem, I remember Ginger's garden. You might call it a simple, backyard garden, but it reflected her love of flowers and birds. She spent much time outside, coaxing flowers to bloom and appreciated every songbird that came her way. 

Consider jumping right into National Poetry Week. Poetry prompts can be found at the napowrimo website.

Thursday, April 02, 2020

April 2: Another poem and IWSG

This month, the Insecure Writer's Support Group poses its monthly challenge question straight to the gut: How are you doing?

Of course, the question is optional,
and I am a day late. Behind a little
on reading e-mail. Think I have an answer,
and then I don't. Distractions.

The pundits offer advice: Stick to a routine.
I am trying. Twelve years retired, I know
how to live simply. Begin each morning
with writing. I can be disciplined about that.

But these days, life's a bit more challenging.
Maybe we'll all have more empathy
for those who can't do what they wish to do.
Maybe I'll be like that little old lady, bent
slightly in front of empty grocery shelves,
or like a friend who's worried
her cancer medicine will run out, the same friend
who just bought twenty pounds of hamburger.
My car sits in the garage with gas enough
for 71 miles. Can I even go that far, if needed?

Just about a month ago, I caught a bad cold,
sitting next to a stranger on an airplane.
He was one of two wearing a mask.
Within a week, my husband began to sniffle;
now he has that raucous cough, just this side
of pneumonia. Yes, I worry.

Shouldn't we be volunteering somehow? I ask
my husband. "Honey," he replies,
"we're the group they're trying to protect."
I can't hug my daughter, her hubby,
those adorable grands. Trust me, FaceTime
is not a substitute.

Do the walls close in? Don't know.
We have downsized twice already.
Both DH and I have wanderlust.
Don't rattle those suitcases.
We'll go wherever, and I mean it.
Someone posted a game on Facebook
to list all the places you've lived. Ha!
How do I count eight months when we traveled those
countries that rim the Mediterranean? Or last month
in Tucson? Or when we first retired,
how we threw all into storage
and camped our way across country?
How do I count those moves, before I met DH,
into foster homes? I only remember six.
Or new schools with every move?
The walls don't matter. My home is here,
where we're together. Or at a library,
where he took me on our first date.

Once, traveling in Florida,
we stood in an airy, netted room with parakeets.
So innocent those colors. The birds fluttered
around us without thought. And I took
pure pleasure until that moment
when the parakeet perched atop my head
took a crap, that warm you-know-what
oozed down the back of my head.
We laughed and laughed and cleaned up
and went on, rather like now.
cherishing the moment.

Allen with Parakeets
IWSG NOTE: I want to say thank you to those clever folk who hosted April and who prod us writers into sharing our thoughts once each month: Diane Burton, JH Moncrieff, Anna @ Emaginette, Karen @ Reprobate Typewriter, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard.

But the April question was hard. Maybe others had an easier time of going down to the bone. You can read what others have written by going HERE. And I hope you do.

I also hope, wherever you are, that you and those you love are safe, reasonably comfortable, healthy, and loved. Our world may have changed, perhaps irrevocably, but our toughness and sense of community has not -- even with the news each day more challenging.

Wednesday, April 01, 2020

April 1: An Unplanned Path

Abandoned Railroad Tracks (robotonoid, Pixabay)
Where do I go when the path ends?
Deep in memory, I follow a deserted train track,
hoping to find direction, soothed by the
stirring of the wind in the hemlock 
and fir above me, the sounds muted.
A jay calls warning,
then silence reminds me that
everything has changed 
and yet remains the same.

Memories of walks in the woods
are now juxtaposed against the latest news,
a steady drum of voices announces  
quarantine. Each day, deaths increase,
yet I am grateful for memory, 
if nothing else remains,
of those days walking in the woods
along an unplanned path.

The first day of April begins a month of challenges to write a poem a day to honor National Poetry Month. Here at home, despite it being the 23rd day we've 'sheltered in place,' I tried to write a poem using a prompt from nanopowrimo (National Poetry Writing Month) and found myself thinking about the impact of the coronavirus.

Today's prompt was to write a self-portrait poem in which I could take a specific action and make it a metaphor for my life. Perhaps, being older than average, memory and reflection fit.  Go here to participate!