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, March 29, 2007

The Art of Invisibility

I had a whole other poem planned, scribbled out in elaborate progression in my journal, but I couldn't get to the heart of it. As an artist AND a poet, this inability to SAY something about ART drove me crazy, to the point of stalling my writing. So, tonight, after a long day of teaching about Georgia O'Keefe and Henri Rousseau, I settled in bed with an art teaching book about stories in art. I stumbled on a painting by Marc Chagall called "Midsummer Night's Dream." All of a sudden, the woman in the painting started speaking to me. Thank goodness. I really needed a poem! Thank you Queen Titania!

The Art of Invisibility

If I hold my breath
I will fade into the distance.
Let the ass take center stage.

In my simple white gown
and veil, suckled up against
my lover’s brown fur face

and morning coat, what choice
do I have but to melt
like so much snow in Hell.

Melt like creamery butter
left out in mid-summer sun.
Already, my eyes are dissolving

in the artist’s titanium haze.
My face is a blur, my body flat
and boneless beneath this virgin robe.

Bottom, lover, man-donkey, is dark.
His strokes much deeper
than my own hesitant etchings.

We are complimentary, at best.
The heat of the ass’s red-orange gaze
melts my sallow oils, smears my cool

blue undertones. Make no mistake.
No red devil floating at my head,
no hair-faced donkey, no King of the Fairies

will smother my ghostly form.
I will take this blue fan, rub myself out,
off this fading canvas. I will become Queen

of enchanted nothing, bright as light
high in the green branches
of a pink stained tree.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Here's to the underdog

Some things make my heart hurt. A lame deer, nudged along by his pack, until they just can't bring him along, so they leave him, camoflaged in the woods, while they carry on. A five-year-old, made fun of for having a fruit roll-up that is different. There is no accounting for what can pull at my heartstrings, just a guarantee that I always root for the underdog.

Tonight I decided I needed to write a poem. I pulled out a Sharon Olds' book, determined to try and write a poem like one of hers. The first two lines of "The Untangling" read, "Detritus, in uncorrected/nature, in streambeds or on wood floors..." I didn't read any further. I was just reminded of the mess that is my backyard as the Spring thaw begins, which reminded me of the deer, which, for whatever reason, reminded me of the story my son told me while we were grocery shopping for this week's snacks.

This is a first draft, a rough draft. Comments & critiques welcome!

Tracking a Lame Deer, My Son Speaks of Snack Time

Limb by limb, limp by limp, the broken deer hobbles
into our backyard and through an invisible mirror
into maimed animal heaven. The only sign, a mat of white
hair floating in a snow puddle. On three good legs
he has vanished into the February trees. Tracing his hoof prints

we see eternity. “The kids made fun of my snack,” my son tells me.
They said my fruit roll-up was old.” It was, in fact, organic.
The best flattened fruit to be had, healthy, full of vitamins
and squashed love. Ostracized for healthy living. A small slight,
but still, the sugar-eaters and the red dye # 40-mongers have pushed

my son from the kindergarten fold. Mud sucks our boots,
pries our knees loose from our legs. There is no sign
of the deer we have called Luke, after the Star Wars hero
who turns to the dark side and back again. We’ve no choice
but to pass through the invisible mirror. Green fields swallow us.

Here our deer is gold, his leg has agreed to bend and steady,
his family of six has taken him back. He is once again lucky seven,
part of the crowd, welcomed on all the fence leaping, tree nuzzling romps.
It is what I wish for my son, to go back in time, to fill out his skeletal belly
with leaves not fallen, berries not rotten. At his last supper there will be no betrayal.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

Bad Mommy, bad, bad, bad

This is the first, I am sure, of many more bad mommy poems. Bad, as in bad mommy, not bad as in bad poem. But you know, the truth is the truth, and some days, it's less Mother Goose and more Grimm. I was not exactly inspired by an image, per se, as the PoetRy ThuRsdaY prompt requested, but my image poem is in progress, and I really wanted to post something before Saturday!

I Am No Mary. You Are No Lamb.

At eight thirty on Friday night
not five minutes after I laid you, asleep,
in your crib, your cry pierces sharp
as a hook in a gill.
I am too tired for you.
After a day full of picking up your knock downs,
putting away your drag outs,
I am punch drunk.
If I have to enter the ring one more time
I just want to sit in my corner and bleed.
Your blue eyes have no charm or sparkle
in the dim of a princess night light.
You are as heavy on my chest
as the dentists’ lead jacket, draped before an x-ray.
Your blonde head drills into my chin.
This is the grey in the shadows
of the pink and blue portrait of motherhood.
This is Jack’s seventeen stitches,
Jill’s three broken ribs.
This is the cry of the baby,
formerly of the treetop,
damning the wind, the tree, and the broken limb
as she falls through lilting eternity
in that cradle.
After you read this poem, read another.
The sun always comes out
to dry the drowned spider.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Would you read this story?

Hello there, old friends. It's been so long since I've posted, I've probably lost my whole readership. It's hard to explain. I've been in the ebb & flow of something. A sprite stole my mojo. Beats me. Still not feeling myself, my writerly self. I did bake a lasagna in my absence, however. Score one for Betty Crocker!

I'm not in a poetry place. I have a poem, many, many poems waiting to be written into life. They are patiently sitting on yellow legal pads, lounging in journals, resting on sticky notes. Vacation on, poems. I'll get to you soon. For now, if anyone is reading, would the following story intrigue you? Would you want to read on? This is the beginning of a short story that I wrote years ago, and I've always been partial to it, just never did anything with it. I thought maybe if it worked for some of you, then maybe it might work for an editor somewhere...

Still Life: Maggie, Woodswoman

Maggie was running naked through the woods. His wife was running, naked to her sandaled feet, through the woods. Carl found this vaguely amusing, in a hazy, moonlit sort of way. He hoped the wiry branches weren't scratching her sun burnt backside.

It was midnight at their campsite, according to the wind-up clock on the fireplace, the one he'd brought from their bedroom at home. In fact, looking at the glow-in-the-dark numbers now, small hand obliterated by the big one, it was midnight by this clock the last time Maggie had run off naked. That had been exactly one month earlier, on a moonlit night in what passed for woods in their development. He had woken up to a cool breeze blowing though the curtains, parted them, and seen Maggie, hair wild, feet sandaled, body unclothed, running across their back lawn. She had looked so wild there in the moonlight that he had been afraid to call to her, afraid of what her green eyes would do to him in the iridescent darkness, what spell would be cast over him. So he'd waited until morning when, given confidence by the sun's light, he'd asked her what she was doing. She had smiled and said, "Chasing the moon."

Tonight he wasn't worried about seeing her eyes. He couldn't even see her. He sat down at the picnic table in front of their tent. He traced the deep grooves of initials left by earlier campers and wondered if any of them had lost their wives to the moon.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

A little rant from a part-time stay-at-home

“You’re just a laid back artist.” If this was all he had said as we pulled into Borders, I wouldn’t have called off our trip to a bookstore—my passion.

“You’re not motivated. You’re just a laid back artist.” This is exactly what he said, and if I didn’t love books and the idea of two hours out without the children so much, I would have called off the date. Called off the whole thing, date, bookstore, marriage, all of it.

We were talking about my business, my little children’s art studio and gallery. The business I started from the ground up. The business that I run by myself, that helps put food on our table and keeps my hair looking good (good hairdressers are expensive, you know). It’s not a huge money maker and sure, there’s a lot I could do to make it so, but, hey, I never wanted to be a working mom. A “stay-at-home,” as my friend’s 8-year-old daughter put it, is what I always planned on being. It’s not my fault I married for love not money. Well, yes it is.

But being compared, and not favorably, mind you, to my friend who sells an unnamed line of women’s cosmetics, my friend who drives a succession of pastel colored power cars, is where I draw the line. Her children are both in school. Her husband is really good with the children, really good. She could stay-at-home during the day when they were in preschool and go out at night to hawk moisturizer and foundation. My clients are mostly under 10 and they have to be in bed by 8pm.

Oh, I could go on and on. But not motivated? Argh! Bah! I write all my own brochures, make up my own lessons, answer my own calls, teach 10 or more classes a week, bring my 1 ½ year-old to work two mornings a week, buy my own supplies.

OK. This is not going where I wanted it to. I was hoping to write a thoughtful piece on being a working mom and being unappreciated. A piece about how working part-time is much harder than full-time. And, some day, when I don’t have four new poetry books waiting to be read, I will work on this essay. You see, I found a book at the bookstore about how writer mamas can succeed, er, make money with their writing, all the while being a mommy. And this is where my husband fell down the metaphorical well—he correlates success with money. Say nothing of the fact that I am a minor celebrity in the under 10-set in my little suburb. Say nothing of the fact that when he couldn’t find me, he just had to listen for the familiar cry of “Hi Miss J.,” from an adoring student, or, in this case, a student’s mom. See, husband? I am motivated. I’ve made little Picassos everywhere happy!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

That ridiculous hood

Premonitions About the Forest – A Father’s Advice to a Girl Off To College

Forget everything you know about the golden rule,
good karma, the kindness of strangers.
Our world is one giant forest,
trees, wolves, mud underfoot, men around
every towering pine, shotguns quivering in their hands.

When you get set to go
off into the trees, Red Riding Hood,
take care. Take more than a basket
and that ridiculous hood.

There’s the usual precautions,
the smart girl’s staples:
pepper spray
an extra key
a full tank of gas
jumper cables
that hundred I gave you,
tucked not in your bra,
but in your secret compartment.

Don’t give too much away.

When you go off into the forest, Red, beware.
The trees have teeth.
There is fire.
There is blood.
There are winds that blow
hotter, deeper, stronger
than your typical tornado.
I mentioned this to Dorothy.
See what became of her.

Mind the purple trees.
They’re bad shit.
When the sky turns orange and green, run.
Glass may fly out at any given moment.
Catch a shard to light your way.

In the clearing you will see a band of gnarly trees
dancing like old ladies, bending, bowing, scraping.
Join in.

Whatever your premonitions about the forest, dear girl,
know you are always, always alone.

Plan for the future. Check your gauges.
If you ever need help, try standing
at the edge of the forest,
show a little leg.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

A little free cooking advice

Here is a found poem just for fun. I really like the idea of found poems. Some can be very powerful with just a little revision, a few clever line breaks. Annie Dillard (I think it is her) is a master of the found poem. I'll have to check my book shelves and let you know.

Careful what you wish for. A direct quote from my son, just this minute.

Freezing “Holdovers” – A Found Poem from Betty Crocker’s Dinner In a Dish, c. 1965

What a lovely feeling
of security to open the freezer
to a selection of your family’s
favorite home-
cooked dinners in a dish,

each ready to heat
and serve at the end
of a rushed day
or when unexpected
guests appear. To arrive

at this secure state, double up
when preparing recipes
in this book—serve one
recipe for dinner,
freeze the other.

are guides
for packaging,

and reheating
and other meals

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Monday, March 05, 2007

In the season of Lent

There is a lovely, charming little exercise I do with my young poetry students: My face & I. We draw self-portraits, then write. Lovely. Charming. Likewise, this picture of my SpiderGirl. Adorable. Charming. As for this poem, all I can say is, someone must have ticked off my muse.

Can anyone explain it? Thanks for reading!

In the Season of Lent, I Give Up Unneccesary Spending

My face and I have made a deal.
No more masks. Last night’s battle
royale over budgets, bathtimes, bad sex
will not be forgotten, washed off,
or creamed over. It will appear as is,
a wide red stripe across my left cheek.
Tomorrow when the rent is due
and the money has gone to the butcher,
the baker, the car loan maker,
my face and I will again wear
the band of our defeat, wide white
stripe of strife crossways on the right cheek.

My face and I, of sound mind and body,
will leave nothing but teeth and company
as we head out cross country
in search of the thumb that left its print
on the broad wide expanse between our eyes.
We never agreed to give anything up,
relinquish, renew or renounce.
We refuse to give up.
Tongue, with your wafer
you stay back, guard the abandoned
ears with your body, your life.

Without my face I am nothing
but another pretty fact,
a blonde that heads will turn
for, if only to pluck out the eyes
left behind, tendons wrapped around
each stringy, dyed tendril.
My face and I are ashes.
Our mask is plastic smoke
polluting your air. Bless you.

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Sunday, March 04, 2007

As my father always says, I found it in Reader's Digest

Thought for the day...

My muse wears a fur trimmed coat
and elf ear hat.
She is often seen walking away.

Someone once said...

In the company of the world's poems we feel less lonely.
- Quote found in an old journal. Author unknown.


Saturday, March 03, 2007


I won't say superstition rules my life. I will say that when I write, I go with the first words, not because they're the best words, but because they came from a higher power, they were a gift, so it's bad karma to get rid of them. On the other hand, if something doesn't sound right, I'm no stranger to delete. I will say I walk around ladders. On the other hand, I owned a black cat and he crossed my path daily.

My kind of superstition is more based on instinct. Fueled by my old childhood intuition that, Yes, the stuffed animals do talk when I leave the room.

More proof. Today I bought koi for my tank, and I was this close to buying the black and white one that looked like he was ready to be iced, just because he was the first one I looked at. It is only because I have lived with my husband, the experienced fish keeper, that I passed my first fish up for the calico koi. Still, as I write, I hope the black and white koi will forgive me for not giving him a home. Am I superstitious? I don't know. At least my new fish are still swimming. Here's a poem on the matter of grocery shopping and superstition.


She takes only the Empire apples her long fingers land on first,
bruises, pock marks, indentations be damned.
The broccoli she brushes first is the bunch
that gets bagged and brought home.

The spiders’ web wound round more than half
the last weeping red pint of strawberries?
The first one she laid eyes on,
the plastic container she couldn’t leave hanging
for fear its feelings would be hurt.

She feels like a grade school bully
blushes, even, as she stands, hand hovering
over the bin of Brussels sprouts.

Choosing the freshest, the biggest, the best is not how she shops.
She buys her groceries with her old pal superstition
riding shotgun in the wobbly wheel cart,
the cart she absentmindedly pulled from the silver train
outside the store, the cart she should have put back
were it not for the nagging feeling that something bad
might happen if she took a different one, a better one,
the one not intended for her in the grand scheme of things.

In the grand scheme of things if you follow your instincts
do what comes naturally, do what comes first
it will all come out all right, all will be right with the world.
The apple pie will be mealy.
The broccoli will taste of mold.
A mountain of whipped cream will avalanche
sending the furry strawberries
crawling down your throat,
chasing the rogue band of deflated Brussels sprouts.

As she leaves the grocery store,
the left wheel of her lame cart will freeze up
in front of an oncoming car.
Of course this isn’t how it ends.
She shopped for the grand scheme.
She will arrive home safely,
cart her ripping paper sacks up the steps,
make dinner for her hungry family.
Everyone will go to bed happy,
bellies wrapped snuggly in rabbit’s foot blankets.

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