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, November 28, 2007

Listen to the stones

The prompt at One Deep Breath this week is boulders, rocks, stones, pebbles. I love rocks. I'm a rock collector from way back. After first thinking of poor Virginia Woolf…

Fill your pockets full
pebbles, lake rocks, heavy stones
Walk in, slowly sink.

And then my son at two-years-old…

Pocket full of rocks,
inside-out, grass-stained pants.
Now you are a boy.

I settled on a poetry idea I have been toying with since summer. In July, my husband’s brawny, healthy, nature loving uncle Paul, a boxing coach, died suddenly. We were all shocked. This is a haiku sequence in his memory.

There Are Spirits Here Kids, If You Just Listen to Them

Traipse through green forest,
follow squirrel scat, bird wings.
Climb blessed boulder.

Transplanted out west
rock-hard middle-aged boxer
blooms best in north woods.

From top of ravine
mossy mountain side beckons
drop your pebbles down.

Mammoth silver oak
acrons broad as your shoulders
wrap arms around tree.

Rub hands over bark
step lightly over green moss
listen for spirits.

Life all around us
beyond the breathing wood ferns
wisdom in the trees.

Crumbling headstones
cemetary at trail head
life’s final grey rock.

Silver light on face
recognize dead woman’s name.
Do you feel her ghost?

Your life a haiku.
Worn boots bow to ancient oaks,
pay respects to stones.

Your spirit still roams
picking up pebbles, rocks, stones.
Shadow in the woods.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Love Poems from the Produce Section

1. The Apples Speak

It is what it is.
Some of us are soft and red.
Some of us are voluptuous beyond belief.
We will come to you hard
as rubies.
When you rip into our rigid flesh
we will slide across your teeth
thick as menses.

2. Avocado Dreams

Inside my armadillo coat
I am slick as oil.
Choose me.
Choose me.
I will slip down your throat
quick as a lover leaving your bed,
peeling satin sheets
in one long tangle at your feet.
You will always remember me,
always remember me.
I am the green fields
of your wild horse dreams.
As close to you as
the creamy marrow of your bones.

3. Sacred Voices of Sweet Potatoes

Touch us.
Touch us.
Just touch.
Shove your rough digits
down deep into the pit
of our artful pyramid.
We will not topple.
We will not fall.
We are stacked as tight
as bound as an Egyptian orgy.
Feel how our coarse skin
sloughs away your sins.
We are manna.
Take. Eat.
Devour us in the raw.

4. And Finally, the Banana

What can I say?
If you put your hands on this oar
of mine, I will row with you straight
across the desert.
No stiff wind needed.
Blow across the bend of my harp.
Swallow my simple tune.
Take me in both fists
and throw. I am a boomerang
that will come back
and back
and back to you.
I promise.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Overheard in the bathroom

Who says children have to hinder your writing? I challenge anyone who stops by and reads the following American sentence to use it in a poem! *

Let me squirt your hands with a water gun to help you clean them faster.

* bonus points if you use any of my new favorite words in your poem...

A list of words I like, culled from my father's dictionary:


And, I think if I--when I--have a first book of poems I will call it Glad Rags.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Four seasons, twenty years past

You fell into me like sweet summer corn into hot melted butter.
After the first red leaf fell I knew you were a tree to climb swiftly.
Snow melted on our tongues while our hands drew circles under wool sweaters.
In Spring, all of life pokes painlessly through ice and earth: grass tips, your lips.

And a bonus sentence...
Kissing underwater, sharp stones and snail shells steal my breath from your lips.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

After a long absence, an American Sentence

Ship lines tell tall tales, spin yarns salted by ocean spray and pirate spit.
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 15, 2007

An American Sentence that would really like to be a longer poem

Why not salute Queen Anne and her lace, proud in field of fallen soldiers?

Monday, November 12, 2007

NaBloPoMo, Day 12--Some Reflection

I was going to bag posting tonight. It's been a busy few days with my parents visiting and I am out of the poem-ing habit. I was thinking this evening, while taking my son on a bike ride--well, he was riding, I was strolling through the leaves on my own two feet--that a poet really needs solitude.

I was thinking of some great lines as I followed my son. We saw literally hundreds of birds, starlings or grackles, with a few crows thrown in for good measure. They just kept coming and coming. It was as close to solitude as i've gotten in the past few days. Walking alone while my son zoomed around an empty school parking lot. He was happy. I was happy. My daughter was happy playing back at the house with my mother. Bliss for all.

But I didn't have a pen. I am out of the writing habit. And so soon. For me, I have to sort of give up the writer life when we have company. i can't go off and write, or go off and just think when my family is around. I have the writer me and the daughter me. Thus, I wonder, how do the other poets go about it? For surely Naomi Shihab Nye and Julia Alvarez have family. Mary Oliver must entertain. Do these women, daughters all, mothers most, continue their daily writing practice when family is around?

I write when I am visiting my parents. Granted, it is much easier to be inspired whn I am at the lake in the Adirondacks. Still, one of my goals as a poet is to write down the stories of my life, as well as to capture the universal of family and parent and child. And here I am in the thick of it, and no writing. Hopefully it will stick with me.

It is also possible that my quiet nights spent on thelaptop in my room are hindered because my son is sleeping on the floor in here. Tonight I braved turning on a little light and a little quiet key-tapping.

How do the rest of you do it, fellow writers with extended family? Even nuclear, day-to-day family. It is not easy to be a writer among the people. Even though among the people is exactly where you need to be to be a good writer. No great writer, poet or otherwise, can write in pure solitude.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Have you ever noticed how close 37 is to 40?

I tried to post yesterday, but my server was down. My IT husband (as in computer guru, he of the computer mojo) was unavailable. So my post went unrecorded. It was thus:

The boy's bent head, sharp as lead on dropped pencil, say a prayer for sirens. Or something like that. it was much better last night. My drawing student, in the middle of working on a sketch of Spiderman, heard sirens in the distance, dropped his pencil, clasped his hands, said a mumbled prayer and did a fast sign of the cross. I was baffled. At first I thought he was thinking, sitting there with his hands clasped. Nope, praying. Wow!

Here's today's poem.

To-Do: or, Today Is My Birthday

Let's not make a big to-do
it's just a birthday
anniversary of the big push.
My mother never made a big
production of her one production,
her few hours of fame.
It was life she made a production of,
the big to-do.
Must paint and paper the room girl's room yearly,
say yes to everything
no to nothing
yes to the boyfriends
yes to the dances
yes to the sleepovers
sleep ins.
Sit down dinners
down-payments on designer
jeans, designer haircuts
designer weddings.
The gown
the chicken marsala
the sparkling champagne
overflowing the green mountains
the nineteenth green
of the designer wedding.
Each item on the maternal to-do list
checked twice.
Prepare the girl
for real life,
for burnt toast,
burnt meatloaf,
burnt wishes
on a burnt birthday cake.
Not on the list.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Have you listened to your guy in the sky today?

"That guy in the sky told you to eat your lunch."
- My 2-year-old, commenting on the loudspeaker voice at Panera, telling the owner of the Mediterranean veggie that their sandwich was ready

In case anyone doubts my utter commitment to NaBloPoMo, please rest assured, I posted yesterday! It was a fabulous post on my sister blog Fertile Ground! We are issuing our first monthly CHALLENGE! Check it out!

Short post tonight. We are cleaning like crazy people to get ready for my parents' visit. My birthday, my son's birthday...big celebration!

I'm dying to write a poem. I have several started, but my poet mind is distracted. Maybe if I crawlinto bed, shut my eyes to the half-cleaned mess, have some tea (or some wine) and sit with my journal, or sit with a poet. Maybe the dude from Chile who read at the last poetry reading I attended... oh! hey! I wrote a poem about him. Off to find it!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

New poem, needs work, needs love

I have risen to my own challenge. I used the word mercurial from the read. write. poem. random word generator. I used my pet peeve--mean people. I put them together in a poem.

I am going to talk a little bit about the process, about how difficult it was to sit down and think yesterday with my kids both home, and how I really wanted to write, over at Fertile Ground. Then I'm going to offer up this poem as the first to be critiqued and workshopped in our private critique area. If you would like to join us and have a poem critiqued in a thoughtful, critical, meaningful forum, email us: art AT polkadotwitch DOT com

The Wife Stands Alone

Joy, stitched in gossamer on the back of bird’s wing,
a mercurial message flying past.
In the awkward “V” of geese
relocating, another note,
an abstract memo like a flock of clouds.
a tensile word, gentle, sweet.
A cleft barb on the tip
of a gleaming fish hook
when kiss comes gliding
out of your mouth, life mate.
You were raised on the sewage of sarcasm,
sucked at the breast of backward
compliments. Rare in your nest
the feathered blessing,
the gift of an ear, an arm.
You call to our hatchlings
in the only voice you know
a shrill, tense cackle
meant only for crows or shrieking bats.
Even bat babies hang more securely
than the fate of our children.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

a poetry challenge...

I just issued a poetry challenge on the read. write. poem. page at NaBloPoMo. Head on over to the read. write. poem. website and get your random word. Refresh, if you like and get another word. Maybe grab the random poem tip. Then write an eleven line poem.

Your mission, if you choose to accept it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

NaBloPoMo 5...and some more thanks!

Just so you know, I did post yesterday. I posted an itty, bitty, late for church haiku on my NaBloPoMo page. So, I'm still on target for 30 days/30posts!

However, I did not post my thanks and gratitude for the day. Bad. Very bad. I will make up for it. Thankful for, once again, my daughter. She loves life, that one. After attending, as an adjunct, the birthday party her brother was invited to, she said, "That birthday party fun!"

Today's thanks...
  • beautiful fall day
  • delicious home cooked dinner (by me!)
  • the soft woolen arms of twilight folding us in our home one hour early
  • I am not kidding, that thought came into my head tonight, right at sunset as my kids and husband were playing outside. Such domestic bliss is a rarity in my house!
Tonight, for your reading pleasure, a blast from my poetic past. A relic unearthed from my Van Gogh Sunflower journal. This is going back 5 years. Can you imagine? A poem left hand-written, alone in a journal for five years? Were it an animal or a child, I would surely be arrested. Luckily, it's just a poem, and my poems are forgiving (and without expiration dates!).

Comments/critique welcome!

Marriage as Milk, or: Is the Cereal Bowl Half Empty?

We have run out of milk,
that lifeblood of babies
and breakfast cereal.
As I sit eating my Cheerios,
reading a book of poems, I taste
something terribly wrong,
something too dry, too dull.
Oh, the little Os are sticking to my lips.
My mouth sticks to the spoon.
There is no slide,
no ease of insertion.
Like a half kiss missing its mark
by one more dry innuendo,
these lips are only slightly damp,
only vaguely pleasing.
I dig the spoon deeper
surely, there must be milk pooled
at the bottom
of the bowl.
It couldn’t just disappear?
Could it?
Evaporate in a blur of days left unopened?
Maybe my flowered bowl
has become a wok,
the cereal pushed up on the sides,
spectators of their own consumption.
Even as I stir them, hoping to squeeze
milk out, force them down
into the center
I know my Cheerios are not sponges.
My heart is dry.
We are out of milk.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

I never promised you...

The Intro to My Third NaBloPoMo poem...

Wanna read a funny poem?,
I asked my husband expectantly.

I can't. I'm busy.
The pork chops are coming out any minute.

We're going out tonight.
On a date.

Just wait until I jump
up on stage and tear
my clothes off
at the acoustic guitar concert.

He'll make time then.

And now, the actual poem...

God Hears One Too Many Promises and Decides, Finally, to Go Out of Business

A half-cocked Christmas Christian sitting on a bench
outside Heaven’s gate says to God,
Dude! Promises naturally imply forever
and who can get a handle on forever, slippery frog

You have only yourselves to blame,
says God, sober philosopher.
Never drink again.
Never cheat,
kick the dog.
Have you people looked
in the mirror?
You’re all repeat offenders
Promise. Ha!
Cross your heart. Ha!
Keep your prom dresses on


Ah. Back from the show. Many blessings. Even the husband. Thankful for sushi. Thankful for Sapporo. Thankful for Robert Fripp & His League of Crafty Guitarists. Thankful for cool night, silver stars, and the home I have, the home a DeadHead we met doesn't have. Thankful I am still a believer in the basic goodness of the human heart.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Thanks Day 2, Poem, Day 2

Since tonight's poem continues the slightly off-beat & out-of-character train I've been riding of late, I think I will start with the blessing first.

Today, my second dayof thanks, I am thankful for way more than 1 thing.

  • a coffee date with my long lost poetry pal, wherein she reminded me how nice it is to have friends who love you
  • watching a silly, scary movie with the whole family, all four of us sprawled on the couch.
  • my daughter telling me five times in a row how much she missed me, and i was just on the phone in another room for a little while
  • a little while being an almost one hour conversation with my mom, my best friend

OK. On to the poem. I know I vowed to unearth the poems lying in wait in my many, many yellow legal pads and fancy beaded journals, but my muse has been so interesting lately, so sassy, I just couldn't help myself from giving her another random short prompt and seeing where she'd go.

Tonight I opened "Buz," my son's funny book about a mosquito who gets eaten along with the cornflakes. I opened to this line, ""Surrender," they commanded." And I was off and running. If anyone can make heads or tails of this, I would appreciate interpretation. Of course, sometimes I guess poems don't have to mean.

There Is No Evil in This Kitchen

“Surrender!” they commanded.
I did my best, trained my eyes
on the door, shuffled my bound feet
toward the voices.
Voices, always voices.
The pot, calling the kettle bad names.
The ladle, crying out for stroking,
for stirring conversation.
Tied by my apron strings,
I stumbled to the sink,
tightenend the tap,
lest my secrets eek out
with last minute’s hot water.
When they finally release me,
please tell my family,
the tea bags on my eyes
steam the evil out.
The carrots protruding from my ears
root the evil deep beneath maternal soil.
The mashed potatoes foaming from my mouth,
they are the better to eat you with.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thankful...Day One

Today I am thankful for my daughter who taught me how to make wishes on leaves. If you'd like to try just do this...

  • pick up a leaf. crumpled works as well as flat.
  • close your eyes. really squeeze them. i told you close your eyes.
  • make your wish while doing all the following...
  • jump up.
  • throw your leaf up in the air.
  • say "blow."

*Important note: this wish-casting technique also works with sticks, but is then referred to as "wish-sticking," as opposed to leaf-wishing.

NaBloPoMo #1

As today, the first day of NaBloPoMo, strolled on, I became less and less sure about my decision to do this thing. I had to teach two classes tonight. I did housework and played with my daughter all day. I didn't feel like writing a poem. Didn't even feel like turning on my computer.

I came home to find my husband had borrowed my power supply for some big computer job he has cooking in the basement. That helped. We're both only children. We have that rivalry, that "my stuff, your stuff" thing going on (sometimes). I demanded my stuff back. Actually, I asked nicely. I NEED to write tonight, I told him.

Here's how I did it. I picked up a Mary Oliver book. Opened to a random poem, read the title "The Best I Could Do,"and the first few lines, and let my imagination do the rest. I was totally surprised at the poem that came out. Surprised, and actually pleased that I took the time to write a new one, instead of typing something from my journal, which is my plan for this month--to bring out of the darkness of my journals and yellow legal pads the poems I have written but never typed.

It is a first draft, except for a couple things. After I typed it as one long poem, I broke it into stanzas. I also tried something new (new for me), I used the first line as the title. Critique & comments, please!

The skin and ribs dog

sat alone on the stub of a hill
behind the neighbor’s pink house.
Wouldn’t you beg too if your owners
tethered you day and night
silver bowl bottoms gleaming
sunlight straight through to moonbeam,
behind a princess colored shack?

Stay the hell away from that dog,
my father warned,
as if the animal’s hunger,
his teeth baring desire for food
might wound me.
What did I know?
Eleven years old,
belly full of love notes
and eighth grade graduation gowns.
Daily, I snuck the poor dog scraps.
Nightly, I waited for dad
to ask about school,
about John Paul,
about the way my hair,
long enough, yesterday
to wrap twice around my middle,
today hung greedily at my throat.

Finally, one night he bit.
All yellow eyes and cold meatloaf,
growling through saliva born of starvation,
his canines sunk into my hand.
I told you not to feed that damn dog,
my father barked all the way to the hospital.

With gratitude I howled,
as the last stitch filled
the tooth size hole in my palm,
Thank you for letting me do this one thing
I wasn’t supposed to do.