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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Trick or Treat

Transformation, or: Why Mommy Needs a New Pair of Black Boots

It began
with a bit of green
around my temple, a smear
edging out into the ridge
of my cheekbones,
creeping up the lip of my jutting chin.
Each evening coating my moon
face with smooth
white cream
I watched flesh-colored
pieces of me circle the drain,
disappear down its dark
winding labyrinth.

Conversations with
a murder of crows
took on new
I came to prefer
their raucous affirmations.
Nightly, I longed for a beak,
a dank tongue,
tail feathers.
I beat my breast
raised my arms
prayed for flight,
woke to find stiff lengths of straw
between my legs,
a nest of midnight cat hair
molded in the crook of my arm.

so many years
as mother, wife,
plain woman, it was a relief
really, to slide into new bones.
Pure ecstasy to thrust
the soft-edges
of my hips, my elbows,
my Puritan chin,
out through the remains
of my old, used skin.
It is the balancing of pelvis
to broom handle
that has me in tatters.

Monday, October 29, 2007


Orphan Poem...no title yet...

Full moon.
Warlocks are lining up outside my door.
Witches wind around the block.
The pastor tells me
it is Satan and his band
of rogues come for me.
My conscience tells me
it is only fair,
considering what I have done.
Have you done it too?

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Still not June Cleaver

Warming up for NaBloPoMo! Must give props to The Polka Dot Witch for the idea of yellow gloves. She used the little beauties in a poem and I could not get them out of my head. Comments & critique much appreciated!

Messy Girl (a working title)

The yellow gloves at my sink
are not there. The women sitting
around my kitchen table are dead
poets and busy writers, their faces glow
not with furniture polish, spilled coffee
or maple syrup, but with the sheen
of airbrushing, touching up.
If I still cleaned my house
with no clothes, I would dust
my bare belly round and round
with perfection. Shove the dirt
of my days hard and fast
into my bellybutton,
and beyond
out through my spine
carpet sweep it back to the place
where filth tangled my braids
not my gnarled mind.

Monday, October 22, 2007


I'm in!

Join me!

It will be fun, fun, fun!

With friends like these

By way of explanation, as this is a poem not like my usual, a "Pre-poem."

There are women.
There are friends.
This was one woman.
Quiet as a church mouse.
She saw fit to call a spade a spade.
We weren't even playing cards.
Conspiratorial whispers
are really just dull daggers
in disguise.
What would you do
if a friend
sotto voice
When you walk into a room, there is no life.
You're just dead.

And now, the poem. Comments & critique welcome!

A Well-Meaning Church-Goer Lets The Wife in On a Secret: or, Husband, I Can See Your Heart Beating Through Your Shirt

There is no further need for disguise.
Husband we have been found out,
revealed for the frauds we are,
stripped naked, bones hung out
like a shop-keep’s hopeful shingle.
We are the undead.
When we walk into a room,
Sinners and cross-wielders alike,
strangers, even,
have stared
have prayed
have seen into our sorest beating hearts,
exposed the muscle,
the raw truth. Together we are a dead man
and his mortician. One ceases to breathe.
One paints a waxy face the color of stale breath.
No beat. No pulse. No life.
And with this truth, freedom.
Free of flesh, of bloody muscle
husband, we may drop pieces
of ourselves where we walk now.
We are free. Free.
To hell with the trail we leave.
We are stepping out
of our graves, tripping
the half-light fantastic.
Almost like a first date.
I don’t know wheteher to run
hand in moldy hand
in front of a car
or send the worms
of my lips down your throat.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

My Poetic Statement

This is my poetic statement. It is a little lengthy, but then, I have a lot to say! And much more to aspire to! Check out Fertile Ground for more of your poetic peers promises.

A tree that can fill the span of a man’s arms grows from a downy tip; a terrace nine stories high rises from handfuls of earth; a journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath one’s feet.
- Lao-Tzu, Tao-te-ching, sixth century B.C.

My secret dream is to be a gardener. To call myself one who gardens. “Me? Oh yeah,” I will say humbly, kicking the fertile ground at my feet, “I planted 2000 tulip bulbs last spring. Who knew they would self-split and double?”

The truth is, I know little to nothing about true gardening. I’m pretty sure my yard isn’t even big enough for 2000 bulbs, I really have no idea how to plant tulip bulbs, and I’m almost positive “self-split” isn’t a word, let alone a naturally occurring phenomenon.

But, a girl can dream. And somewhere, in my piles and baskets and folders of notes and paper poetry ephemera, I have an index card with crayoned directions on how to plant tulip bulbs. A dad of a student at my art studio dictated the simple, s-i-m-p-l-e directions to me last year. I have yet to plant a bulb, let alone anything from seed.

Still, from seed is how I long to garden, and from seed is how I write my poems. The seed of an idea, the seed of a fabulous word will lodge itself between my pointer finger and my thumb and I have no choice but to plant it with pencil and paper. Sometimes, because I am a modern girl, after all, I will push that seed down, down, down, firmly between the grey keys in the plastic earth of my laptop, and without too much hard work, up blooms a poem.

However, a fool and her seeds are soon parted, and, as Marcia Hollis, author of Down to Earth, reminds us, “A garden, whether formal or natural, must be cared for, and even those natural plantings are not so easy to maintain as they look.” To grow, you must obviously plant. To plant well, you must plan. The same holds true for writing poetry.

I am a poor gardener. The two gardens in my front yard sat vacant and neglected most of the spring and summer. It was too hot to * plant. It was too rainy. I was too busy. (Author’s note: feel free to insert “write poetry” whenever you see the word plant!).

In April, I began to think about those bulbs I should have planted. In late June, I dragged the whole family into the dirt—weeding, hoeing, getting ready for the annuals I would surely plant alongside tomatoes and cucumbers. In May, I planted two lilacs. One died. One thrived. In mid-August, I planted three beautiful sunflowers. Tall and willowy, they lounged like lean, big-headed supermodels against the front of my house. After two days, all but one was beheaded, their stalks chewed to nubbins by an unidentified four-legged stalker.

Now, with the onset of a northeast winter not far off, I am finally planting yellow mums. I vowed I would not garden willy-nilly, but stick with all yellow—a harmonious golden wheel of color circling my bird bath. Last Saturday, I bought orange and white mums. I let my two-year-old fill her pint-sized cart with purple and maroon. There is a riot of color in my front yard. A regular circus. If I had done it sooner, we could have reveled in the festivity that much longer.

What I have learned from my flora and fauna follies is a lesson well-applied to my notion of poetry, my poems and my writing practice. Day after day, I carry around seeds for poems. Ideas, images, lines, sometimes even full poems, springing forth from the hard-packed dirt of my daily life. Luckily, I am a much more dedicated, confident writer than I am a gardener.

To grow a poem, I must not only till the soil—read poetry books, think about poems, gather words—I must sow the seeds, water the ground, toss the weeds and every now and then, play the garden some nice soft music. I must sit down to write every day. I must believe in my abilities as a poet. I must fine tune my poems. I must share them with others. I must send them out into the world.

And keep tending.
Keep tending.
Keep on.
Keep on.
Keep on.

Fallow has no place in a real gardener’s life. Not a “self-splitting” gardener’s life. And certainly not a poet’s life.

Here is my challenge to myself: There will be no more green tomatoes, never ripening from lack of water, on my vines. I will dig in the dirt, turn the earth, plant, water, repeat.

I will read, write, edit, send out into the world, repeat.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Has this ever happened to you?

One Day The Wife Woke Up and Didn’t See the Mirror

I paint self portraits because I am so often alone
because I am the person I know
- Frida Kahlo

If I am never alone
how will I ever poem
a self-portrait?
If I am eternally buried
beneath bottles of soy milk,
berry-stained shirts,
missing socks,
and missing cats,
will my words surface
on the bare toe of my left foot,
sticky with strawberry fur?

If I never become the person I know,
never meet the woman in the mirror,
lose the address
miss the cab
wave wildly
to the back of a stranger’s blond head
will my poem be the last thing
seen on the shining silver bumper
as the checkered taxi
careens around a corner?

And then.
If I walk into the nearest salon
drape every mirror
with a piece
of myself,
transform from gold to ginger
will I ever
will I ever have the right paints
to capture my beauty?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

I'm doing a meme!

This is a first for me, and I am so honored. Seriously, I feel like a high school girl who just got invited to the cool kids' party. So, Angie at Between the Lines tagged me to do a meme on my 5 greatest strengths as a writer. That I am a writer thrills me, still! That someone considers me a strong writer, or at the very least, a writer with strengths, thrills me all over again! And to top it off, that Angie mentioned me, flaky jillypoet in a paragraph with the heading meticulous, well, that blows me away. Practically all the way to Kansas, with Toto in my basket.

I understand I am also to alter the meme a little and add writers to my list of strengths, or tag them, too. More school references. This time not at the party, but on the playground. Picking people for my kickball team.

Here goes.

1. Imaginative. When I sit down to write, I like to let my imagination off its leash, let it run through the neighborhood like my old dog Fatty used to, unencumbered, fur flying, tail wagging, nose buried in grass, in trash, in a freshly planted pansy bed. My good friend The Polka Dot Witch does this well. She is the Wicked Witch of free-association.

2. Voracious. Now there's a loaded word. I love to read. I read (and buy, much to my husband's chagrin) all the poetry I can get my hands on. Fiction, memoir, travel and art books, too. I truly believe that the more you read, the more you can write. The words become part of your own personal lexicon and if you treat them right, care for and feed them well, they will pop back out in your own writing! Another Angie, the writer over at Moxie, started reading lots of poetry when she began writing more. Bravo!

3. Possessed. Or is it obsessed? I have a need to write. It's like breathing. Well, maybe not that strong. Like needing a beer, or a glass of wine, or two hours of mindless sitcoms after a long day. I just need to write. Now that I'm a little older and a little wiser (little on both counts), I know that I fare much better (as do my spouse and my children) when I write on a regular basis. Everyone needs to breathe, right? If I may interject, on the flip side of strength...my weakness as a writer is that I am not especially disciplined. I'm working on it though. A local writer friend, Therese has a blog devoted to ekphrasis poetry. When she was getting her MFA she blogged about writing every day. She is dedicated.

4. Funny. I know my husband rarely laughs at my jokes. I know I'm no Ellen Degeneres. No Lucille Ball. But, in my own quirky way, I can be pretty humorous. I don't take my writing too seriously. No diary poetry for me, man. One thing I like about my poetry, or I should say, my muse, is she's pretty adept at taking a serious topic or something that might pull at your heartstrings, and using humor to lighten the load. At least I think she is. At least that's what I try to do... Poet With a Day Job is funny. She's funny, no doubt. Check her out!

Must pause here to note: This sort of self-examination is hard. Yes. Memes are hard. And just what exactly is a meme? Here I am meme-ing and I don't even know what I'm doing.

OK. And the number 5 greatest strenght I possess as a writer is... Hmmm... I am thinking...

5. Wordwise. I love words. Before computers, the thesaurus was my friend. I love synonyms. I love the sound of words...fleeting, flying, floating, flotsam, jetty, jaunt. Symphony, moss, slick, slider. Peregrine falcon, pileated woodpecker. Black crow, polka dot, cross-stitch, cross-hatch, sail away to Catmandu. I love nothing better than to free-associate and let the words write the poem. I will work very hard to get just the right word to paint just the right image in someone's head. Poetmom has some very cool words, too.

There you have it. I am an imaginative, voracious, possessed, funny, word-obsessed writer. How will that be for the back of my first book jacket? Or maybe on a t-shirt? A tattoo?

I wonder how I would write about myself on another day?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Lean in close, let me tell you a tale


I wish I were close
To you as the wet skirt of
A salt girl to her body.
I think of you always.
Akahito c. 730 A.D.
from: One Hundred Poems From The Japanese
translated by Kenneth Rexroth

My son leans into my side
as close as an elm growing into a home.
His skinny arms push into my biceps
knead my muscles, stiffen my spine
as my feet root us to the ground.
Day after day, sun rise to moon rise,
reading books, scratching out the alphabet,
counting the stars on his bedroom ceiling,
leaning, always leaning, pushing near enough
to climb inside my bones and walk away.
They say it is a symptom.
They say his senses are off, incomplete, awry.
He is seeking sensory input, filling a void.
My son is a sapling, not suckling, but stretching.
I am the host tree, the rough barked mother tree,
coarse, uneven, irregular. I think of him always.
We will grow together, apart, together, apart
following the sun through a dense green canopy.
Until we part.
We will part.
Blistered bark will shatter.
Dry wood will split.
We will part. The forest would have it no other way.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

On marriage

I heard on the radio this morning that a bad marriage can actually make you sick. Literally. Of course, heart disease as a result of stress is no surprise, right? And the study was on a group of British professionals. How 'bout studying an American part-time-stay-at-home, art studio owner? I'd like to see those results!

In other, more poetic news, I just started reading Notarikon by Catherine Bowman. Part of the book is a one-thousand-line poem written in one hundred ten-line stanzas, each line made up of ten syllables. It is part homage to a ten-year marriage. Hmm... marriage again.

I was inspired to write the following poem. I know I'm not supposed to wait for inspiration, but hey, it came. I wrote it. Comments & critique, please!

Hurry, Hurry, Step Right Up

Somehow we have passed the seven-year-itch
without incident. Afterbite, soothing aloe, avoiding
dense shrubbery, trios of three--who can explain luck?

Every morning I imagine the neighbor-dad
watching me wiping, moistruizing, blow-drying.
Each night, I think I see the long-legged jocks

at the school behind us, illuminated in one lone street light,
lathering their virgin stubble in the same round rhythm
my hands follow as I wash my face.

You used to come to bed
with me, brush your teeth beside me,
bend and spit together. Caress, foam, spit, rinse.
Then you came
to bed at eleven, twelve.
Now it is one.

Just this morning I heard from a cartoon wife,
"Some hats you wear. Some hats you cook."
I think tonight I will boil your hat,
shrink to fit,
hand it to you at midnight,
declare a new year,
twenty-one days before all-hallows-eve.

Here's your hat.
Here's the door.
Hurry. Hurry. Hurry.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

My Life in Stories: The List

I love lists. List poems. Lists in the middle of a piece of good fiction. Lists open you up to new worlds, all in the span of a few lines. If a list is really descriptive, you can almost write the whole poem, story, paint the whole picture, all in your imagination. Watch...

long-haired calico cat
fire whistle
fire trucks
cartoon brat
freshly dug earth
grass in need of mowing
traces of the stench of dying raccoon.

This is a list of the sounds and scenes around me right now. Did you get a mental picture? Did a poem form inside your head? A picture behind your eyelids?

Ah well. I like lists. So, I am officially throwing my hat in the ring of Shelley's My Life in Stories Project.

Here's the start of my story list. When I find out how to make a separate page on my blog, I will.

The List:

1. My first cat. My eleventh. Stay with me while I unravel the mystery of my cat obsession.

2. How I, a mere nine-year-old, walked on hot coals.

3. Don't talk to strangers: or, how a bright, inquisitive, peace-loving journalism student wound up next to the head of the KKK on the nightly news.

4. Don't accept candy from strangers: or, how I met my husband.

5. Putting Women's Day to good use: or, to end an argument, just get naked.

6. The Many Ways I've Escaped Danger By My Own Reckless Hands: or, Do German girls really have hot tempers?

7. I was fourth runner-up & I dreamed it would happen.

8. It's Not Polite to Budge: or, A Reformed Concert Crasher, Bathroom-Line-Jumper Attempts top Teachj Her Son Manners

9. The night I had my picture taken with Elvis' original band, I met the man of my dreasm, but I think he was a drug-runner & he eventually disappeared

10. Finishing the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Dead Last & Oh, 9 Months Pregnant.

11. Snooping at Tens-Years-Old, I Discover My Mother's Lingerie, Her Birth Control Pills, and Vow, Never, Ever to Use Either

Since 11 is my lucky number, I think I will stop here. I sure have my writing work cut out for me. I don't even know where to start...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Afterschool, First of October

As always, comments, critiques welcome!

Afterschool, First of October

Beneath the bells and whistles of the ice cream truck’s last hurrah,
putting a sharp end to our conversation about the pros and cons
of tricks on a two-wheeler, a shot rang out,
crisp and heavy as a Macintosh hitting solid earth beneath the tree.

Just one shot. Nothing more than a rest or a quarter note
in the tinny score of Mr. Frosty’s Greensleeves.
It happens like that, and the world plays on.

Just before the bike ride
just before the crash of tiny metal bike on black driveway
the phone rang. The neighbor warned of backyard passage.
Half-dead raccoon in our yard, she whispered.
Keep the kids in.
Sometimes, when all you want to do is bake cookies,
the October breeze will wrap it’s furred claws
around you and drag you along, outside in the open.

Have you ever noticed how heat draws people together?
Warmth of a kitchen, scorch of a housefire, spark of a gun?
The deer in the woods behind our house
lowered her head, did not stop eating.
A trio of squirrels bowed their heads.
The animal control officer held his rifle low, spent.
While he stood there, waiting,
perhaps, for the raccoon to die,
our kitchen timer went off.
Time’s up.
Time’s up. Up. Up. Up.

Down the street, ice cream wrappers hit the ground.
The officer, tan as the silent deer, stood immobile,
his back to us, praying,
perhaps, for the raccoon’s diseased soul.
All the while my son and I
went in through the back door,
took off our shoes,
scraped ghostly sugar cookies off the cooling pan.

This is how it goes.
Life rolls on.
The animal control officer went home and washed his hands.
We ate our cookies.
We washed our hands.

Monday, October 01, 2007

the mom, the kids, the cats, the whole shebang

In case anyone has missed me, in fact, because I have missed me, the writing me, that is, here is a portrait of me, jillypoet. In lieu of an explanation as to my scattered posting, scattered attempts at writing, scattered self in general, a portrait. Thank you Picasso.

I am in the general throes of why write? Who has time? Why write when I can read? Why write when I can buy poetry books? Just look at all the other poets already published. Online. In journals. And, God help me, on all the bookstore shelves.

Of course, it's not often I find an author I really, really like. However, this weekend I found a book by D. Nurske. I think that's the name. I loved a few poems immediately. I carried it around with me. I was going to buy it, until my two-year-old spilled her apple juice in the store cafe. And wouldn't you know, it spilled in the little pink stroller where we had all of our "want to buy them" books stashed. I knew that was going to happen, hubby said. Dude! If you're psychic, share! I did not buy the book. It was hardly wet, just a litle on the edges, but the thrill was gone. Of course, all of my daughter's board books were easily wiped off, paid for, and subsequently brought home.

The moral of the story? Well, I guess, the moral is, there are still poets out there who delight and inspire me, but truthfully, I kind of like my own writing, so maybe I should just get working on it.

So. There. i have a poem I'm working on. I'll be back. Hopefully for tomorrow's Writer's Island. Until then.
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