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.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

One for the birds

There is not a lot I can say about this week's prompt for POetry ThURsdaY. I'm not supposed to! The prompt is to write about something beautiful without naming it. Thing is, from whence I began, so far have I flown. Heehee. I'm getting silly. It's late.

Anyway, I was writing, writing, writing about the beautiful dance the birds were holding in my front yard. So many birds, more than I've ever seen on my lawn. It was amazing. Fast, furious, darting in and out of the trees like drunken sailors, and yes, by my estimation they were all men. So, I wrote the poem. Only to be left a little non-plussed by it. Then, on re-reading, I realized, the longing was reminscent of something from so long ago. The bad boyfriend popped into my head. He didn't deserve even a title on one of my poems, but here it is, nonetheless.

So much for not naming something. Thanks for reading!

How a Flock of Birds Brought Me Back to 21, Cheated On By a State Trooper

The birds are having parties in my trees
when I am not at home.
I caught you robin.
Big, fat harbinger of Spring,
I know for a fact
you and your red-breasted friends do not go South
when the snow flies.
And here you are, wings askew,
orange belly puffed out in pride or testosterone, proving my point.
But what of your cardinal friends?
What about the pretty boys?
Sweet red cowboys.
Don’t see their kind around here too often.
Loud, raucous bold as their bloody feathers.
They dwarf the smooth-crown regulars,
the black-capped chickadees
the house sparrows
and purple finches.
What’s the meaning of this?
What’s the deal with the crowd?
Pulling in my driveway
it looks like a tailgate party
in my front yard.
Wings tipped, breasts bared, feathers ruffled,
tufted titmice scrambling to cover their stiff crowns.
And red-headed wood pecker, is that a lampshade?
Where’s my invitation?
I would like to eat and fly.
After all, I pay the rent.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Random thoughts, words & lines that may someday work themselves into a poem

"I wish I'd been brave enough to ask him to waltz,/
but then Andrew is a sweet waltzer,/
and who knows if Jesus can dance."

from "asking for the bread" by Margaret Szumowski in the night of the lunar eclipse

For a month now, I have been finding scotch tape all over our house. On dressers, on chairs backs, on carpet, on doll heads, on my back, on my socks, on walls. It's as if my son is trying to piece our sometimes fragmented family back together.

When I was pregnant with my son, I shared with a neighbor that sometimes I had "visions," that things I thought about actually came to pass. She said, patting my stomach, "Oh honey, then your son will have it, too."

Today I read they found Jesus' tomb. There is talk that he had a child named Juda with Mary Magdalen.

"...He goes anywhere in perfect

anonymity. I notice him in the pensione, offer him bread
and chocolate with his coffee. He says, "I'm not dead,

remember? Invite me for a walk. Match make me
with Magdalen. Give me a kiss. A good one."

from "christ goes out into the world" also by Szumowski

When I told my son, Jude, that he may have the same name as Jesus' son, he said, "That's cool." Then I heard him mutter, "I don't like my name."

I had talk radio on during dinner and the woman was discussing the whole Christ had a girlfriend and a son issue. Being a very bright, inquisitive boy, Jude had many questions, and much talk of God & Jesus ensued. As I am not the best authority on all matters biblical, and daddy was at karate, I did the best I could.

What struck him the most was the fact that when Jesus comes back, it means we are in trouble and only the people who have been following God & Jesus will be going to Heaven. The rest of us, watch out. This, mind you, is my interpretation of Revelations and it could be very flawed. At any rate, the idea of being in trouble with Jesus and the world ending at any time was probably too much for my son. After asking me several times if I knew when the end was coming (one hour? one minute?), he said, "You don't have to listen to him. Jesus is a fake."

Also in the news today, a lunch lady saw the Virgin Mary in a cookie sheet.

Words from children's book Rain, Rain, Rain Forest by Brenda Guiberson that I like:

splitter, splat,
gushes, thrums,
slick waxy leaves,
squishy like a swamp
every crevice and cup
a slow journey, trickles to a stop
a bathing macaw
roar in a noisy chorus
sip water that drips from leaves
oozes poison

Somehow, somewhere in this collection of random, yet very connected thoughts, there is a poem. I will find it.

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Monday, February 26, 2007

The Last Time

Here I am again! Don’t they say third time’s a charm? Again, tonight, I start with the writing, end with the babble.

The prompt: The last time.

Take 1: Wherein I recall old boyfriends

The last time I kissed a frog
I leaned in at an awkward angle
swallowed my tongue
sure that he would have enough
for both of us and prayed for rain
so much rain that I would slide
right off my lily pad,
or lightening
so much electricity
that I would forget he was a frog after all
and then, ten thouand volts coursing through us
the real fireworks would begin.
These were my prayers.
What I got were warts.

Take 2: Still the Boyfriends

The last time they met there was a bar and a barmaid. There was a short skirt, a cold beer, and a blueberry muffin. The muffin came much later, but hey, it was the last time after all.

Take 3: Like I Said, Third Time’s a Charm

The last time

This is the last time I am going to tell you.
Door closing. Chapter ending. This is the last time
I am going to tell you.
Why is it when a parent gives a child the last time line,
it is never really the last time.
Never really.
There is the last kiss, the last thrust, the last heavy sigh.
The last scent of a certain shampoo on a certain head of hair.
These last things are really the end,
the final glimpse. No one is there wagging a finger,
growling, This is the last time I am going to tell you.

Face it. The last time you see him,
the last time you smile at her,
will dawn like any other morning, bright or not,
rainy or snowy, ice on your windshield
or flowers in your garden.
You may or may not have time to eat breakfast.
You may be late for an appointment.
You may forget to kiss your husband, your wife,
your first daughter goodbye.
When you see your friend, your mother, your old roommate,
you may or may not tell him or her how you really feel,
how your weekend was,
how much you enjoyed the book, the wine, the movie.
You will wander off, or run off, or saunter off in your car or on your bike.
Maybe you will have merely passed in the grocery store
and smiled. That could be the last time.
This may be the last time you read these words.
If it is, then, I told you so.

Now for the discussion! I have spent the greater part of my evening looking for a yellow legal pad that may or may not exist. You see, I was playing with the kids when I found a book of poetry by a woman I took a workshop with. Myra Shapiro.

She signed it, to Jill Poet Mom. Oh! I said, more to myself than to the doll-dressing dragon-flying children. I must find the journal or yellow legal pad I was using when I took her workshop. I must have some lovely mothering poems in there. After all, she called me poet mom.

And so the search ensued. And then my daughter squirted Bath & Body Works lotion in her eye at the exact moment my son had a bathroom incident. Simultaneous calls of Mommy! halted my search. Dinner halted my search. Heading out to teach a creative writing class halted my search. Reading a sad Rain Forest bedtime story to my son halted my search. At 8:45, the search resumed. To no avail.

Now I am writing. And you know, every time I start out thinking I am so uninspired, I keep plugging and I wind up with something I kind of like. Writing practice is like that. Now if only I could get myself to edit. To revisit the stuff I start. Any tips?

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

By the Sea

First, the writing. Then the pre-amble. Backwards, I know, but it's how I want to do it!

The prompt: "By the sea, beneath the yellow and sagging moon." (after Walt Whitman)

Take 1:

The night I stepped outside and saw a yellow and sagging moon,
I knew the end was near. If the moon, harbinger of love and sex and howling
is sagging, what good can come of it? A sagging moon is a sad moon,
an unhappy clown moon, a weak, tired, jaded moon, less yellow than beige,
more paste, than gold.

Take 2:

By the sea, beneath the yellow and sagging moon,
I hung my wash, picked up handfuls of towels and t-shirts
wrung clean of your scent and flung them out to dry.
By morning, they had taken on the golden hue of moonshine,
sprouted arms pink as starfish and flown off to rest
in an eagle’s nest on an island just past clear view by binocular.
Over the waves I thought I heard you say, Hand me a t-shirt would you. I’m cold.

Take 3:

By the sea, beneath the yellow and sagging moon,
she flung her heavy body into the sand.
Dove headfirst into a soggy, pebbly dune,
reached arm over head, arm over head, in a crawl
that brought her nowhere. Had she but time and foresight
she would have filled her pockets with rocks,
strode ten steps further to the sea.
Not by the sea, like the old song sings,
by the sea, by the sea, but ten steps further to the sea.
Walk in, not out. Walk in, one step, two steps,
rocks dragging her down down down.
Then she would not be crawling, but stroking
beneath the sea, by the light of the sagging moon,
the wings of a golden angel fish newly drowned.

NOW, the pre-amble, or after-amble, as it were, wherein I blather on about my process...

OK. This is going to be harder than it looks. Uh, harder than it feels? OK. This is going to be hard. You see, I just wanted to sit down and read Secrets of the Zona Rosa: How Writing (and Sisterhood) Can Change Women’s Lives, by Rosemary Daniel. I mean, with an introduction like this, can you blame me? “Our name came from a quarter in Mexico City..But if you think for a minute, you realize that it indicates more, that the rosa has been a part of us from our beginnings. And if you look inside yourself, at your inner lips or even more intimate parts—as many women did during the ‘70s—you see that all women are created pink, with a special relationship to that color.”

So, I would really like to read on, but, I have made a commitment to my lonely blog, to my muse, to my children…No, no, that’s the promise to feed and clothe us.

Anyway, as I have made my commitment, it only goes to follow that tonight my husband would download all of our favorite sitcoms to watch on the DVD player in our bedroom that he so kindly gave me as a Christmas present. (Who needs silver bangles or poetry books?) Yes. All the sitcoms we missed while he was away for work last week, sleeping in a KING SIZE bed in a room with a kitchen and a KING SIZE television, and no children, and I was at my parents’ house in the Adirondacks with my children in the home I grew up in, going to bed at 8pm every night and getting up at 5am every morning, removing tiny feet and elbows from my back and ribs.

Oh, I digress, and, anyway, it wasn’t all bad. I got to hang out with my mom. Too bad we would’ve had to hop the train to Montreal in the dead of night and leave the children with my father watching John Wayne to have a conversation that didn’t get interrupted with, “Nana, I need…” or “Mommy, when can I play X-box again?”

So. With a good book calling to me, and Scrubs and How I Met Your Mother beckoning from the blue screen, it was hard to get into the writerly mode. But I did it. And, actually, now that it’s done, I really like the last bit that I came up with.

The prompt is not one I would choose if I had my druthers (and just what are druthers?), but in the end, after three tries, I kind of like the direction it took. Whitman is a classic, and I tend to prefer contemporary poets. I studied all the classics, the masters, in undergrad and grad school, so I have my “classical training,” but give me Billy Collins or Margaret Atwood any day. Not to mention Mary Oliver, Sandra Cisneros, Naomi Shihab Nye.

Well. That's it. Hubby awaits with chips and sitcoms. Thanks for reading!

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

I Promise to Write Every Day

Because my blog has been a long time alone, because I feel guilty, not only for choosing dust bunnies over my children today, but for chossing dust bunnies over my writing, I have made a New Month Resolution. Well, it's almost a new month, almost windy, windy March, so what better time to let the winds of change sweep over my blog, over my writing life!

So, to get back into the swing of things, to crawl that much closer to my goal of sending out a manuscript this year (hey, who knew that was my goal for the year? Writing really works!), I am going to try to write daily on my blog. I have every intention of writing from the daily prompts in A Writer's Book of Days by Judy Reeves. We shall see. Please feel free to join me on my quest for writing nirvana.

Today's prompt is: Once, in the midst of all the recklessness...

Domestic Dispute

Once, in the midst of all the recklessness
I took the tiny clothes of all the Barbies
and lined them up along the window sill
for all the neighbors to see.

The man with the pugs wanted to know
when the garage sale started.
The man with the young daughter wondered
how much for the blond on the far left,
his daughter wants a doll.

My husband came home after leaving for milk.
He was really just running away. A woman with a gun,
even a glue gun, even a camera, or a handful
of miniature miniskirts can scare a man.
So here he comes with the milk and a Snickers bar,
but he is not snickering because he knows better
and I say, Which Barbie do I look like?

My husband has not come home in three days.
The milk soaked into the carpet has turned
to crust and odor. The Barbies are fading into
the white sill, the babies are hungry.
We are all losing our hair, blonde tufts
falling out in fistfuls, when we remember
to reach up, to pull.

The sun is pale in the sky,
the peonies have lost their pink.
In the midst of all the recklessness,
I wish I had not told my husband to go to Hell.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

A Message From Your Body

What the Wife Learned from a Farmer

When it has been a long time since being touched
a fortnight since fondling, brushing, the slightest shudder.
When it has gone that long, forgo the clothes.
Lose the apron,
the cardigan,
the cotton.
Let them all fall away.
Fill the hallways with honey from the hive
Roll and roll and roll.
Coat your body in gold,
Let the bees speak to your silence.

Sleep well, warm from the heat of insect love.
Sleep all night with the window open.
In the morning leap from the slickest roof,
step out into the snow, greet each flake with a kiss
stand on your head,
bury your face to the tips of your ears
until only the burrowing worms can hear your cries.
Spread wide your arms and legs,
let a storm fill you,
let ice sculpt your joy.

When you have exhausted the elements
drag your frozen body to an open field.
Rest astride a rusted tractor, embrace
the tremble of one hundred years of forward motion,
Dress yourself in horse hide and wilted grass.
Wait for a lone owl to clasp your shoulder,
turn your head round and round
and round on your weary neck,
point you in the right direction.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

I Am No Genie

I don't know about prose poems. I have never been a fan. I like the brevity of poetry, the slim lines, the paring down of weighty, worthless words, the sharp images. Of course, I like Mary Oliver's prose poems. I feel like I am getting more of her wisdom, the more words there are.

But still, I am not a fan. I had a prose poem I wrote last Fall for an on-line poetry course, but even that, looking back on it and considering it for posting, left me cold. Sorry, poem. I love you, but, I'm just not that into you. That said, I did try to write a new one. It meanders. I have the urge to cut, cut, cut. And, not only that, no matter how I try, it doesn't show up properly on my blog. The line ends are all wrong! But, for now, I will let it fly. Fly little poem with seventeen million wings. Don't get bogged down...

I Am No Genie

A genie dressed in green silk robes slid out of my oven on a flaming gingham potholder. Paralyzed by the intoxicating aroma of chicken divan, the girl magician stood immobile on the edge of a wooden spoon. Before my very eyes, she dove into the casserole, offered herself up for an early evening feast.

Because they would not understand inadequacy, mommy-guilt or mommy testing her new bottle of acting tears, I tell my children the story of the flying kitchen genie.

But, alas, I am no genie, and it is just me, the mommy, perched atop my flat-top stove
waving a ladle at the radio, that harbinger of today’s disaster. The radio, squat, blue boom box that just informed me I have been feeding my family poison peanut butter,
a little Salmonella spread to go with their fluff and crustless bread.

You try and try to do right by your family, fill them full of vitamins and minerals,
steam the broccoli, deep six the fryer, broil the free-range chicken. Weekly, daily, minute by sticky minute, you send healthy lunches and sugar free snacks. Cushion the goods, nestle them among paper napkin love notes, written in Permanent marker.

All this, only to have an invisible voice looming behind an invisible finger pointing directly at you, chastising, accusing, sealing your family’s doom more airtight than Goldfish in Ziploc. Their fate, their gastrointestinal distress lies in your sticky hands.

It wasn’t like I bought it from some mustached door-to-door salesman. I went to the market, to market, to market, on a Monday like every other good mother. My steady hand passed over crunchy, full fat, most salt, tossed low-salt, low-fat right into the cart.

Oh, I try and try, and now, children, I think I will pull my hair high into a ponytail, drape a veil over my face, nod my head once, wrinkle my nose, and order some organic peanut spread on-line. Presto magic-o. Abracadabra. A-la peanut butter sandwiches!

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Wife's Chronicles...

I went to a writing workshop on Saturday and I found my friend, The Wife. She is a friend of my muse. Heck, she might even be my muse.
All I know is, every so often I will write a poem and when it comes time for a title, there she is, The Wife, trying to get her two cents in, trying to get her fifteen minutes of fame, trying to be funny. Thing is, sometimes she's not so much funny, as biting.
That's how I know she's not me. I am not biting. I'm mommy. I'm the smiling art teacher. I'm the lady in the kitchen, trying really hard not to make shoe leather out of pot roast.
This Wife person. She is tricky. I'm sure there's an Indian legend about her somewhere out there. Tricky.

The New Wife, A Scientist by Nature, Considers Puppetry

No strings attached, you say?
On the first day of her honeymoon,
the new wife regards a collection of puppets
in a store window. Girl puppets, boy puppets, hanging in tandem.
The wife has a camera. The husband has a camera.
They are recording their happiness.
What is the standard operating procedure
for operating these dummies without strings?
The window is so clean, so clear, it is like looking in a mirror.
Who will raise my arms?
Who will move my legs.
Oh dear. Critical error. On closer inspection,
my lips are unattached.
Look closely now, husband. Bend at the waist.
What is it making my lips move?
There are so many variables.
There’s string weight, string density.
The very real possibility of unraveling, fraying.
The wife knows. She has come to a conclusion.
If her strings are removed, she will just lie there.
The husband will get splinters all over himself trying to move her.
What’s this? Let me get my magnifying glass.
Impossible, husband. Strings growing from your fingertips.
You said no strings attached.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

On the Day the Wife Gave Up Cooking

On the Day the Wife Gave Up Cooking

There are four basic principles that should not be overlooked in cooking any dish—proper and accurate measurements; proper cooking temperature, proper length of cooking time and proper time of serving.
-Duncan Hines from Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving in the Home (c. 1939)

Food is all mathematics, Betty Crocker and her kind
tell me, an artist at heart. Still, I stray from the stove
one minute too long, boil the two-thirds cup milk over,
follow a flash of ruby wings outside the kitchen window
add three cups flour, harden a reputedly moist red velvet cake.

If you can read, you can cook, my mother tells me,
stroking my poet’s soul. Pare, blanch, fold in, try out.
The words take me on a journey far from my milky mess.
Strain, sieve, sift, simmer. I truly believe a watched pot
never boils. I do not watch. I do not watch.

Pears, peaches, plums, potatoes. I bake a poet’s potluck
no-one dares touch. It’s all so simple with a head for numbers.
Twenty-two wafers equals one cup crumbs. Sugar.
Brown, light or dark. Teaspoon, tablespoon. Squash, strawberries,
split green peas. Dessert even the neighbor’s dog will not eat.

The fly in the rice is this: I want to cook like I live.
I want to curry with abandon. Salt and pepper to taste,
to taste. Stand for hours under the scrub pine, palms full
of chokeberries, waiting for the chickadees, all the while
breathing in the forbidden curl of burning roast turkey.

I want to flirt with the young butcher.
While away the hours batting my eyes, asking
How big the roast? How fat the pan? How sharp is that knife?
Pay him to bone two pieces of meat, roll and tie them together.
Stroll home with his meat under my arm, and serve salad from a bag.

Truth is, if I were a bird, a robin or cardinal, I would not have to measure
my food, no cups, no quarts, no gallons, no liters. If I were a poem,
another master would measure my words, weigh my meter, scan
my rhyme. So on this day, in this kitchen, I will peel away my layers,
remove my core, hang my skin from a hook in the ceiling to dry.

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