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.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Mother

I stumbled on the coolest writing site tonight. Writing Time. I would paste the permalink, but I haven't figured out how to paste into my text yet. Anyway, there was a prompt which suggested using beginnings of lines from the last stanza of Mark Haddon’s poem, The Trees. It struck a chord, so I went ahead and did some writing on Sunday. Not Monday or Thursday, but Sunday. Hooray for breaking a pattern! No routine for me.

I was stumped by the first line. Your kindness… Who do I know is kind? Very kind. So kind as to inspire poetry? And not sappy poetry. I do not like sappy poetry. Then, I stumbled on the part where the narrator mentions dressing and a boy. And not salad dressing. But, I persevered. And, at the risk of breaking my own anti-sappy rule, I had to Thank God, out loud, that my mom survived a car wreck. Saturday. My mom. OK. So here’s the poem. It seems to have taken the form of a prose poem. And, sorry, anti-sap groupies, but I have to add… I love you, Mom!

The Mother (inspired by The Trees, by Mark Haddon)

Your kindness to a young mother, just washed in from Louisiana, paddled in
on a hurricane wave with a baby on her hip, water following, chasing
up her attic steps. You gave a hundred. One hundred dollars.
Always so much, too much. Where is she now?
That girl with the husband back in low country, building the house.
I wrap gently used baby shoes in pink felt, pass them on to a couple with a fifth baby.

Your skill at sewing, baking, cooking, cleaning, removing set-in stains.
You never wore pearls. I have a silver bracelet I’ve never taken off. Seventeen years
in the same sterling bangle and I have never sewn a dress, taken in a seam,
baked a soufflé, have not made peace with Tide, still have to ask the butcher
what meat to use for a pot roast.

We lost so many hours fighting over how fast I could get dressed.
Never faster than when a boy was involved, just past midnight.
So slow when the big yellow bus was plodding down the street, idling at the corner.
What was lost has now been found. I now know there is nothing slower
than a kindergartner with a metal lemon snake breathing down his neck.

Look at you. You’re the only woman on the little town board. Big board. Little town.
Dale Evans whipping five burly cowboys into shape.
Big, bold bright woman. Little, tiny, shallow men. You and your ideas bigger
than life. You frighten the men. This makes me proud. I put on a hideous mask,
walk up and down my suburban streets. Scaring men has become my life’s passion.

Outside the spring air is far, far away. A hint of green in the brown, brown breeze
of this snowless winter. On the first day the snow finally fell, you hopped in your car.
I scraped the ice and snow from the back window and off you drove, headed north.
Alone on the loneliest stretch of Adirondack Route 9. Car wreck? Didn’t stop you.
I will thank God on every star for your life. Will drive three times over the same patch
of snarling black ice to prove I am your daughter.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Why do I write poetry? This was always the question that bugged me in college. Why should I bother writing about why I write, or why, for that matter, bother even thinking about why. I should just write! I can't really answer why I write, or why I love poetry. I just do.

I love words. Thimble, twinkle, clair de lune. Lute, Linus, silent, clanging. I love how words can paint a picture. Love how words that don't go together can be put next together and all of a sudden, someone says, Yes!

I like to think that since the wife-ly, kitchen goddess gene skipped a generation, I was blessed with the sugary thumb of a word chef. I can cook up a mean sestina. I'm known for my spicy sonnets in the coffee clatch circle. People beg for my famous free verse at cocktail parties. Someone stop me! I'm a poet without an apron.

Please, forgive me. It's late. I do have a poetic answer to the poetry question brewing (another good word) in the coffee pot of my mind, but until it's ready, here is a poem I posted way back in July when I was a lonely little blogger (and with the previous puns, is it any wonder?). 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.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

In Between the Suds

The prompt at One Deep Breath this week is process. I have never given much thought to my own writing process. In fact, I have never been much of a process person at all. I have an aversion to process, procedure, routine. I have always blamed this, if blame is the right word, on my mother’s beautiful attention to order, cleanliness, routine. She was Martha Stewart before Martha Stewart was Martha Stewart. She was the consummate June Cleaver. She made a wonderful home for me, her only child, and that, until she went back to work in the world, was her only job. I was a rebel: messy, late, very unpredictable.

This is why, when I had children, I wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. I had visions of bundt pans, fresh squeezed orange juice and every toy in its place. Because my mom was so good at being a mom, I wanted to give my kids the happy, orderly, predictable life my mother gave me.

Read the fairytale.
Try on the slippers. Buy the gown.
Wait for instructions.

Best laid plans, you know… Of course, having the cluttered soul of an artist, I am not organized. I am not in the least routinely inclined. I will drop the house-cleaning in a minute to take a walk in the woods and look for birds or bugs. I try. But I am no June Cleaver. This has always been my “cross to bear” with writing, too. No discipline. But I love words, and for whatever the reason, I have a knack for putting them in the right order. As for the dishes, the clothes, the toys…

In search of answers,
bird song, fox track, snow flake path.
Only pencil knows.

The poem can’t speak.
Birds, trees, feelings are nameless.
Poet is not home.

Ice creeps down windshield.
How to say cracks look like map?
That is the process.

And so, I have had to accept the fact that I can’t always make time for my writing. Not now. But, I can make my writing during the time I have. I can write between the suds, so to speak, between the dust bunnies, between the bus and the grocery store, between the lines on the road where my Pathfinder hopefully is as I write and drive and change the satellite radio to XM Kids. This is my process.

Interestingly, at least I think it’s interesting, I wrote the above haiku last night, after the kids went to bed. The rest were written this morning under 1 ½ year-old’s-feet.

For your reading pleasure, please avert your eyes from the unmade beds, the vacuum in the middle of the living room, the art projects waiting to be hung, and enjoy these haiku!

Between wet dishes,
in suds on plastic Tonka plate,
the poem smiles.

Not in coffee shop,
not in quiet of sunrise.
Words among the toys.

Chirp of plastic phone.
Pleasant drone of cartoon bear.
Here poem sings.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

In a Clean White Bowl

When I used to workshop my poems (pre-kidlets), the group required the poet to remain silent while everyone discussed the piece, pros & cons, images, themes, language, etc... The poet could not utter a word of explanation, lest they taint someone's interpretation. That is what I will do here, although I feel an overwhelming urge to explain. Explain, what, however, I am not sure. This poem came to me quite as is, with no explanation. The muse is fickle that way.

Thank you to Megan, however, for her line "resting in a clean white bowl." I took liberty with "rest," but doesn't every mother?

Recipe for a Slow Morning, Not to Be Confused with Hair of the Dog

Into a clean white bowl
a handful of yesterday’s clothes
snipped into neat, tiny squares.
Frayed cuff of faded jean,
gemstone letters, pink C, white G,
from Cowgirl shirt.

Beneath gauzy cheesecloth
wrap your arms around
your lover, a duck, some slightly
chilled pate, anything warm
and meaty. Squeeze. Mold.
Press firmly into brass bundt pan.

Fold in your youngest child.
Press oldest into service, straight
as a wooden spoon at your side.
Use care when inserting first born
into mix. Stir to the tune of Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Mind the curves. Keep it together
in the clean white bowl.

Into a tall silver kettle slide
hair stripped from household
brushes and combs. Separate
each fine yellow strand, yours from theirs.

Saturate with no more tears blend
of green tea, chamomile, lavender, calendula,
a various and sundry variety of calming agents.
Drizzle with EVOO, extra virgin I love oil,
because it makes your mouth happy when you say it.

Roll housecat’s snore up into a freshly painted picture.
Crush fast and sure with a sharp blow
from a shining silver potato masher.
Scatter fragrant slivered sound over assembled provisions.

Resist urge to combine ingredients.
Stand in middle of kitchen,
gyrate hips. Tell no-one there is an invisible
yellow hula hoop beating you to a frothy point.

Monday, January 15, 2007

As Seen in the Ice

There are reflections on all sides here in the northeast, seized as we are in the middle of an ice storm. Perfect day for reflecting, the prompt at One Deep Breath. Perfect for gazing at what stares back in droplets of ice, gasping at what echoes back in the daily indoor cavern of life on the inside—inside of a small suburban cape, replete with two young–uns 5 and under.

Ice coats rose bush buds.
See four seasons on all sides,
Spring in the shadows.

Look! I drew a bike!
A glimmer of confidence
in orange marker.

Imagine an imperfect diamond. Imperfect, yes, but resplendent with luminosity, with clear reflections on all sides, top, bottom, back, front. This is our little house, caught up on all sides by drooping fir trees, branches heavy with ice, short, green blades of grass, bent double with a crystal coating, shivering squirrels, made a shade grayer by a thin layer of ice.

Looks like night at noon.
Sun shines in talk of summer.
Light found in ice storm.

Bang trim reveals eyes,
toddler with grown woman face.
No mirror needed.

And here we are, the kids and I, skating along inside. Like a multi-faceted snow globe with real live people inside. Shake us up and read our haiku as they fall silently down…

Iced sunflower seeds
frozen in yellow feeder.
Birds hunger glistens.

Ice diamonds on trees,
squirrels, birds, children inside.
Stillness is a sound.

And last, because mommy’s shower always, always comes last…

In steamy mirror
Mother reflection or me?
Edges are blurred.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

We Are All Fin Here

The funny thing is, I had the idea for this poem before I even remembered this week's Poetry Thursday prompt. The prompt: cliches. I was in the midst of trying to figure out what I wanted to say when I checked on the prompt. It is so hard to think, say nothing of think deeply, with two Smurfs running around calling your name around the clock. And kids, by the way, Mommy's not here right now. Please leave a message and she'll call you back later.

I'm not sure this poem says what I want it to, or even if it's finished. But here it is.

We Are All Fin Here

In the flat glass world of our ninety gallon fish tank
there is a goldfish without fins,
a lone lopsided swimmer,
top and bottom triangles chewed off by tank mates, lost
to fish anxiety, fish envy, fish hunger.
Eaten, maybe, devoured like so much tissue
paper torn from a tiny golden gift.
Naked back and belly, he moves
like a thick orange worm,
a waving oval creamsicle,
a tangerine snake with a forked tail.

There are days I feel a wet kind of connection
with this fish. Less like a fish
out of water than a five inch feeder without fins
undulating between bubbles
dipping my yellow head for flakes
bumping silently off the cool-headed catfish
swimming mightily next to me.

A wet connection, yes,
as I step dripping out of my house
and dive into daily life, slick and finless.

One of these days I will cast a line
crane my neck for a fisherman to hook up with
a sunburnt angler to set my hook
net me, filet me.
Some days it's sink or swim, baby.
A girl can only swim in circles
so long, before some dry lander declares dropsy.

A wet connection, yes,
as I circle the damp shag carpeting
searching for keys, and one bent earring.

* Must note: Last two stanzas came to me in sleep. Not sure if they work. Comments/critique welcome!

Monday, January 08, 2007

While I was sleeping

This week's prompt at One Deep Breath is subtle changes. Not the obvious things you declare and sally forth to change like your weight, your work habits, your hair color (although, that, too, can change oh so subtly and fast!), but the things that shift and morph while we aren't looking, while we are sleeping through life. I suppose there is a way of looking at this in a glass half-full way, like...

Irises peek out
three-prong heads hold fast in rain
beware flakes, flowers!

Oh wait. That's not half-full. That is definitely my muse drinking the glass half down. Poor, poor irises, coming up too soon. I was happy to see them...

Hello, old blue friends
spring flowers awake too soon.
It's good to see you!

But we all know what will happen to their short, green, triangular heads when the snow finally flies. OK. So my muse is speaking in empty milk bottle metaphors. She is allowed. Here are my, uh, excuse me, HER views on those subtle changes. Maybe I wouldn't be quite so grouchy if only the sun would shine! And with it, a sunny snow shower!

Clementines grow soft
left in wooden box on floor.
Best intentions rot.

Finger through old fruit,
bread stored in fridge cold and hard.
Rations for winter.

Overalls stop short
five-year-old ankles shiver
When did you grow, boy?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Ta Da! My 50th Post! Please hold your applause.

Lost: 20 line poem. Free-verse. Reward offered.

It is the third day of the new year.
Hoping to see animals to theme my next twelve months,
I am wholly disappointed. The same crow two days
in a row, the same three squirrels, cats, fleas
and an unidentified hard-shell bug in the washer,
wrung flat and dry by Tide and the rinse cycle.
The only wild life keeping company with me is the two-legged variety,
A Jedi warrior and a puff-belly princess,
a little blond Wookie if she cares to play along,
a grinning spinner dancing stoned circles
in the kitchen if she has her way.
I have left the house to meet the bus, to greet the bus,
to bank, to market, to buy a fat hog. Jiggety jog.
My poems are stored for the winter under layers
and layers of grey squirrel fur, hibernating
in the molded hollow of a fallen oak tree.
It’s a good thing there’s been no snow.
Tomorrow I will venture out in my housecoat
and slippers to retrieve some words.