jillypoet: mom trying to write

Each day I wish I had invented waterproof sticky notes (for shower inspiration) or pen-friendly diapers to get down all my quirky thoughts that I am sure are relevant and publishable. And so God (actually another writer-mommy) sent me The Blog.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Just one more before I call it a night

I'm on a roll. Can't stop now. Here's another poem. Hey, Mom, thanks for reading!

Scheherazade, Pen in Hand

I am following the thread of a poem
finding my way
between the folds of life’s cloth.
Sometimes sliding easily in
and out of silk,
capturing happy mothering moments,
precious three-year-old chatter
of handy dandy parking spots,
when we park up close,
cats as best friends,
the golden glow of slumber.

Other times I am jabbing a dull needle
through deep dark denim,
bending my pen around
hidden words,
angry statues,
frozen strands of stilted conversations,
the wide wale corduroy of being man and wife.

Always I am following that thread,
unspooling in long winding lines,
wrapping round corners,
Some days sewing cowboys
in my favorite color scheme
with golden hair and midnight hats.
Some days stitching
dark-haired, Indian-eyed baristas
into the back pocket of my sewing kit
as they stroke their goatees,
ask large or small, whole or skim.

I collect words in thimbles,
use pinking shears on newspapers, pump
my trundle in rhyme, sew closed
the holes in my socks
with letters
cut from magazines.
I will not stop until I am Scheherazade.

On visiting Fort Ticonderoga 7 times so far this summer

At the risk of sounding like a folk singer on stage at a summer festival, here's a little ditty I wrote last week. My assistant and I at the art studio have been seeing mommies since late June, and she and I have decided the mommies are growing weary of summer. I dedicate this to them. Keep the faith, sisters!

The Thing About Summer

The thing about summer is,
summer is restless.
Trees hang around
waiting for something to happen.
Young boys pick and choose identities.
By day, two-sworded pirates jab
innocent village girls in the back
with inflatable weapons.
By night, brave, doomed colonial soldiers
cringe at canon fire,
charge imaginary foes
with broken twigs.

This summer, we see British regulars
around every corner,
spy painted, feathered Indians
behind every tree.
Still, summer is restless.
Mothers stop mothering,
administer care in fits and starts,
fueled by tall, plastic cups
of strong ice coffee.
Little sisters don three-corner hats
pick up wooden swords
in the cause for gold and debauchery.
They do not wait for something to happen.

The Best Place I've Ever Been

Well, here it is, finally. My response to the travel prompt. I am posting it quite unedited, quite hopeful that someone out there will help me tighten it up. Anybody? As always, thanks for reading!

The Best Place I’ve Ever Been

In answer to the strange man with the 10-gallon hat
who asked me
as I daydreamed
in front of a glossy little piece of Jamaica
in the travel agency window,
one hand on the stroller,
one hand collaring a four-year-old,
the best place I’ve ever been
is caught just off center in a glossy 4x6.

I was there yesterday,
visited last week.
I am still there today.
Frozen in the cool smooth
surface of a moment in time,
captured in a late summer’s leap
from shore to ocean.

The destination on my ticket is here,
frozen eternally blissful in mid-spin.
The jangling tags on my luggage read:
pulled out of the ocean for an instant,
plucked from the waves
like some fully clothed mermaid,
one toe hold from sea.
Strange these places I have traveled,
never leaving the flatness of the photograph.

It isn’t the place I hold dear,
one or another empty beach in Fall.
It is the sand still beneath my feet,
the salty midday sun still caking my cheeks,
It is the wind tingling
waves deafening
sun whitening
motion of it all.
The great lengths my arms stretched
as I spun in circles,
raced sharp-edged waves
out and followed them back in.

It is that sun-bleached day, that freedom,
that bearable lightness of being,
the power of knowing I alone am wrestling the waves
I alone am making love to the ocean,
but just off to the right,
just out of the frame
is someone to reel me in when the pull is too much
when I have breathed too deep of the salty air.
Someone taking a picture,
making this day, this reeling mermaid, history.

I am still there today,
cold spray of water still soaking
the soles of my Keds,
still dampening the rolled cuffs
of my faded jeans.
But when I turn to the man in the 10-gallon hat
to show him the water all around me,
he is gone,
his Stetson casting shadows at someone else’s feet.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Acting Class

OK. So, tonight we will again try to watch Fun With Dick and Jane. In the mean time, please enjoy this little piece of wisdom from a woman in the 7-year stretch. That is as opposed to the seven-year itch.

Acting Class

Some moments, hugging the husband
she would think,
What are my lines?
Over his shoulder
she would see the bruised
pear, the bunch of browning
bananas he bought
just last night
and think,
Of course!
The script is in the desk

Moments like these
deep in the scent
of Tide
and day old deodorant
she could almost remember
where the desk was.

After all, it’s just a set:
fake wood, fake
house, no front door.
Was there ever even a door?
How do they get out of here?
Stay in the hug, she would think.
Is there a knife in this scene?

Moments like these, lost
in the footlights,
it’s good to have an understudy.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

New Jill Meet Old Jill

Will the irony never end? After last night's treatise on marriage and synchronicity, the universe has offered up yet another mystery. Or at least something to think about.

We were just settled in to watch Fun With Dick and Jane (pass the irony please), when I felt the urge to show D. the new trout fishing and the writing life memoir I bought. If you show your husband a fishing book, you're going to remember the essay you wrote 10 million years ago about how you learned to fish at the hands of many different men. If you remember the essay, you're going to want to search the very old disk that you think it's saved on to try and find the essay. If you find the disk, you're going to have to go to the basement to test it out on your computer. And so on (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, anyone?) until here you are, 1 hour later, discovering just how clever you were 12 years ago, waaaay before you would have even considered marriage--except maybe as a prerequisite for the people you nannied for.

Nevertheless, to continue on with irony... a poem from my very single, very feminist past.

For the Dancing Mermaid: A Wedding Song

I am silver rings and bangle bracelets etched
with fire. I am blue jeans, brown boots and red,
red lips that will not part.
Do you hear me?

I am long blond hair. I am short red curls,
and I can move. I am pierced hoops and
brass buttons, but I do not shine.
I will not be lacquered, frozen or splayed.
Can you see me?

In the wind I am the scent of
one hundred heathers, dozens of dahlias
and one violet iris. I am the
bouquet your mother warned you about.
Will you breathe my scent?

One hundred years ago I was
the prairie dust in your eyes, in
your pores. I stuck to your skin.
Do you feel me?

I am blue eyes, white tears and a
wad of crumpled kleenex wedged in
your pocket. I am lost deep inside.
Can you find me?

I am the rasping voice of
your dreams. My sound scratches
you in the night, slices you like
the sliver of a winter moon.
I am your experience.
Will you have me?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Marriage, ice cream, and angels in polo shirts

Another Friday night, another girl writing a blog. Our topic tonight: marriage. Actually, marriage and synchronicity, and ice cream, and angels in polo shirts. But mostly marriage.

To begin, a poem by Wendell Berry. As you're reading, remember--synchronicity.

They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes--only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons--small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.

This poem is beautiful in its simplicity. Beyond all the ranting and raving, the fights, the icy stares, colder words, beyond the daydreams of old flames, hot milk men and hotter Schwan's delivery guys, this is what I hope for. The peace of knowing. The calm and assurance of just being. An old boyfriend once said (or maybe it was my husband), I know I love you because we can ride together for hours without talking and I know we're ok. Actually, it might have been my mom saying that about her trips with my dad. Anyway. Two Adirondack chairs on the porch. A sunset. A sunrise. Silence. Marriage nirvana.

OK. Now that I've waxed poetic about what might be, let's take a look at what is. What it is, man. We just this week went to a family therapist. A little for us, a little for our son. We want to be the best mommy and daddy we can be. Truly. I have to admit, the June Cleaver in me, the little bit of 50s housewife that rubbed off on me from my mom and her wonderful friends, is a little shocked to be admitting this fact on national blog-space. But, so be it. I have to tell the tale in order to tell the tale. You see, as the June in me has dictated, I've been laboring under the delusion that problems are best swept under the rug. Of course, I have a bit of 70s Cher in me. A bit of modern-day Dr. Laura, and a tad too much of Jane Fonda circa Klute (not workout Jane). So, I also find strength in action! Talking, acknowledging, recognizing, blaming, and endless, way-past our bedtime searching for solutions marital discourse. Yes. I know. Not the best strategy when dealing with a male. Thus, after years of torture on both our parts: the therapist.

Blah, blah, blah. Here comes the synchronicty. Of course, there's the poem. I just happened to get the address of a friend's poetry blog and there was the beautiful marriage poem right on top. I shared it with my husband and he said, quite sincerely, "Wow. That's cool. How about that guy at the ice cream place tonight?"

Duyt chastened and humbled by the therapist's admonition that, basically, we better get it together for the sake of the children (I'm paraphrasing, of course), we have been on rather steady ground. Daddy even suggested quite gleefully that we all line up to go out for ice cream tonight. The guy ahead of us had quite a brood of kids with him, and his total bill was something like $40, just for ice cream. Being a money-minded guy, D. felt the need to strike up a conversation. "Any more kids and you'd be broke."

To which the man replied, "Oh they're not my kids. They're my grandkids and grand nieces. Too many to count. And can you believe not a woman to help me. Just me." I thought he meant he was out for the night without help, but then he shared his story. This sun-wizened grandfather in the faded purple polo shirt had lost his wife to diabetes in 1999. They didn't even know she had it. She was his only girlfriend. Married for 37 years. "It was the funniest thing, how I asked her to marry me," he laughed. "I said, "Hey, so you wanna get married?" And her answer was funny, too. She said, "Why not, I got nothing better to do.""

"You got a good wife," he said, looking over at me, but clearly addressing my husband. "You gotta love her hard. You never know what can happen." The he walked off to join his too-many-to-count grand-family. We both looked for him as we went to sit and swing and eat ice cream with our little family, but he was gone. Gone, I suppose, like all good angels go after they've imparted their otherwordly wisdom to some very unsuspecting, but very deserving married nitwits.

Synchronicity. Ice cream. Angels in polo shirts. It doesn't get much better on a Friday night in suburbia.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Who's Your Earl?

It's those black-eyed peas! I'm listening to the Dixie Chicks on PBS.

So, who's your Earl? I think this has got to be the greatest prompt ever. OK, maybe not ever. Maybe not even great. But, it is good. And the Dixie Chicks rock. I always do my best writing listening to girl groups. I once wrote an entire 20 page (or so) short story listening to The Indigo Girls.

Your Earl doesn't have to be as bad as their Earl. So who's your Earl?

Because I have worn a strapless underwire all 90 degree day long

Not about travel, I know. Anyone have any other thoughts on bras? Underwear in general? Yikes. That could be a scary inquiry to toss out into unchartered cyberspace! Anyway...for your consideration, enjoyment, amusement, comment, etc...

All I Want is a Beautiful Memory

I want to remember my first bra
my first breast sighting,
little mound protruding,
shirt not flat against my boy chest anymore.

But I don’t remember when
or where or how or even who.
Who was the girl that grew those breasts.
Who was the woman who bought the bra?
Was it training or full-size,
A, B, C, or D?

Did the tiny pods burst forth
fully bloomed like twin carnations,
or were they slower to form,
like two clay pots of wildflowers
grown from seed?

Was my first bra white or pink,
tan or beige?
Were there ruffles,
padded cones?

Did I start my life as a woman
swaddled in cotton, plain-Jane pure as flannel,
or did I come of age crossing my heart,
Jane Mansfield 24-hour style?

I would like to know
did my picture hang on the wall
in a curtained dressing room
among photos of other pure, unblemished
girls from town.
Did we each have a caption?
Jill’s first bra.
Marcia’s 36B.

Was I proud, or did I live in fear
of the three-sided shadow under my shirt?

In an uncertain world, this much I know,
as soon as they arrived,
someone, somewhere covered my breasts.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Thoughts of a Sundrenched Elsewhere: Writing Prompt #1

  • OK everyone, since this is my blog, I can blog it the way I want, right? So, what I want, more than anything is to write and get feedback. I love the energy of being in a room full of writers (usually women) all working on the same idea, then sharing what we have written. I love this part, especially. The reading aloud and the hearing. The excitement and apprehension of sharing, the feeling of being in 1st grade again, jumping off your seat with your hand in the air because you have the right answer. Actually, I was never an edge of the seat jumper, hand flipper, but I have since experienced that very feeling when writing in a group and sharing time comes! I just love to write.

    So this is the 1st of 3 or 4 prompts a month that you will find on this blog. I will challenge myself to write, give other writers a bit of inspiration, and hopefully, we can all enjoy some thoughtful dialogue and criticism on what we have written. We shall see.

    The first prompt comes from The Writer's Idea Book by Jack Heffron. It's a conglomeration of a bunch of ideas, with the main idea being travel.

    Thoughts of a Sundrenched Elsewhere

    "We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accomodate...And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again--to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." Pico Iyer--"Why We Travel: A Love Affair With the World"

  • Write about your desire for travel, be it great or small.
  • Write about the place you most want to go--for a visit or to live. Open with details, unbarnacled with explanation.
  • Write about the best place you have ever been. "Best" can have a few meanings: most exciting, most fulfilling, most interesting, coming home to a place you've never been.
  • Avoid, at first, explaining why you liked the place. Just describe it. Then, begin to explain and speculate upon why this place hadn such a profound impact on you.
  • Think about why you are hooked on a place.
  • Include the people you saw, the smells, the temperature, the color of the sky and the buildings and the leaves on the trees.
  • Consider which elements of your personality are hooked into this place.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Family is a Work of Art

Weddings are typically a time to put your life in perspective, remember what true love is really about, find that old spark, remember what true love looks like, see how far you've come since your wedding, wait! true love? what?, see old friends and family, wonder if the happy couple is truly in love, and just plain have a good, old, loving time. Truly. So, in light of that, it is small wonder that my son and I, sans hubby and baby girl, barrelled (quietly, of course! I am teaching him manners, after all) through the back doors of the church, the church where I got married, in fact, just in time to hear the minister say...I now present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Richard Honey. A bit anticlimatic, sure, but, hey, we made it. And all the relatives thought we were just in back because I was thoughtfully trying to keep the little guy quiet during the ceremony. Of course I told my mother the truth.

The little guy was dually unimpressed with the bride and fascinated with the bride's father's oxygen machine, the bubbles we were handed as we walked out of the church, and the prospect of cake later. And so, off we went to the reception, by way of picking up hubby who appeared from the depths of my parent's house, hair mussed, sweat pouring down his face, bemoaning the fact that the baby didn't nap and did he really have to wear a shirt and tie? I'm telling you--weddings--the ultimate family party.

Which brings me to family. The bride's mother's family all look alike. I wonder if they think that about other families? The groom's mother looked like she must have had him when she was seven, and my long lost (read: estranged) aunt was there in true Aunt C. form, acting like she hadn't shunned the enite group that was assembled for 18 years. Oh, and my other cousin has a brother 23 months older who he just met 7 years ago. If I was in the market to write fiction, I sure could. In fact, I think any aspiring writer should just drop by a wedding reception, maybe even the ceremony, and chat up a few of the party-goers. The interesting thing is, everyone acted most hospitably. There were no scenes, no drama. It was the unscripted, unspoken undercurrent that intrigues me. Maybe that's why people write at all, to get to the heart of the unspoken, to speak it, so to speak.

It wasn't until later, back at my parents' camp in the paddle boat with my mother, that we spoke the unspoken. As my mom, my son and I alternately pedaled and stopped to look for fishies around the lake, my mother filled in the backstory of the brother newly revealed. He, too, and his birth, adoption, etc... is the stuff of novels. Back in the late 60s, my cousin M. broke up with her high school boyfriend and moved to Maine. Few (including the guy) knew she was pregnant. She met another man, fell in love, got married, had the baby, and though the new guy would have loved the baby as his own, she gave him up for adoption. In retrospect, probably wise, as she was young and unready for a child. However, my 2nd cousin S. was born just 23 months later. M. went on to marry and divorce several times, eventually leaving the area and the family proper. The adopted son, at the prompting of his wife, looked her up, sent her a letter in Texas, and that same week was sent on a business trip to...Texas. Clearly the universe at work.

I write all this not to bore my many readers (ha!), but to illustrate what is so un-illustratable about families. They are not picture perfect. They can not be drawn without erasing, and starting again, and again. They are like abstract art with a little fauvism (wild beasts, crazy colors, green sky, red trees, yellow mountains) and impressionism thrown in. A family is a Jackson Pollack splatter painting with some VanGogh wind swirls running through it in white-washed blue. A Monet waterlily pond, up close a discordant jumble of so many little dots in harmonious colors, built up to render, when seen from afar, a sturdy bridge. And, of course, in true wild beast (Fauves) fashion, a stand of red trees, branches stretching high off the page, roots fading into orange. Thus, the theme for my meandering blog this evening: a family is a work of art.

And just in case you were wondering, after our whirlwind trek to the Adirondacks and back, my nuclear family is sun-kissed, bug bit and happily intact. Truly.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

1 Wedding & 2 Kids

You know how each time in Four Weddings & a Funeral when the couple is late for a wedding and they run around saying f**k, f**k? Well, that is me on a daily basis, except I'm usually running around like a sponge with no holes yelling "barnacles!," or "tartar sauce!" You see, Spongebob is the soundtrack to my life.

So, we're off to the Adirondacks for a 1 pm wedding. It's 10:12. The baby and the hubby are in the car. The 4 year old wants my exacto knife. Just wait until my cousin reads her wedding card! WARNING!

Friday, July 14, 2006

Hey, it's Friday night, isn't every girl starting a blog?

Well, here we go. I'm starting my first foray into blogging with a bang--literally. While the kids are asleep upstairs, D. and I are in the basement each working on our computers (how new millenium) and there was a big bang. Not "a" big bang as in we are having s-e-x, but a bang like a gunshot? fireworks? As we're in the heart of upstate NY suburbia, I'm pretty sure it's not a gunshot, but hey, we do have an accused ax murderer in our midst, so who knows. After all my attempts at good mommy-dom: homemade pancakes, fresh fruit with each meal, clean socks for God's sake, it wouldn't look good if the kids were kidnapped while I was working on a clever piece of writing that no-one may ever read. But, here I go, I'm off. Expect more cleverness to come!