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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Halloween Haiku: Poetry Gong 20

Zen in loud darkness
filling an empty pumpkin
with stranger’s candy.

Standing on the stoop
quick glimpse into stranger’s lives
smell their dryer sheets.

It is not chocolate
not the pleasure of disguise
door-to-door is treat.

Pray for lone pumpkins
run through chill autumn shadows
be open to ghosts.


It's all I've got. Well, four haiku and a chocolate high. I'm trick-or-treated out! Happy Halloween!


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 19: A Found Poem

June Cleaver Explains Sex to a Group of Future Homemakers: A Found Poem from Adventures in Good Cooking and the Art of Carving in the Home

An empty stomach is not conducive to beauty.

When long, slow cooking
is required
it is often
best to use a double

boiler. The dishes
most popular are not those complicated
with a vast number
of ingredients. Instead, those remembered
with pleasure and desired
often are the simple,
easily prepared
recipes. Put solid

fresh whole
in boiling water for just a minute—
then into cold
water to have them
peel easily—then
in refrigerator.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 18

Halloween Costume

Days later I am still at her thighs
black satin
ragged edges

Another one of those nights wherein I fell asleep after reading with my son, then stumbled to the computer, vowing to just find a half-poem already written, one I could post to keep the gong going. But my new-found poet heart wouldn't let me.

I chose a poem at random to read for inspiration (Elizabeth Spires, "Nightgown"), then began to imagine what would happen if a Halloween costume turned evil.

Note to self: the last two stanzas need work.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 17

Still Life: Umbrella Blown Inside Out

At night, the Perfect Rain becomes Rain that Lets the Farmer Sleep Deeply, knowing that the good work is done, and that tomorrow brings rest because the fields will be drinking deeply.
..............................- - - Chris Blanchard, Rock Spring Farm, Iowa

The wind whistles through chinks
in our armor. Not one of us can carry


Every once in a while a poem arrives with no return address, no note from weary relatives saying, "Please take this poem in and give it a home," no luggage, no name tag. Nothing. It just shows up. And I guess it is to me to make sense of it.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, October 27, 2008

Number 16: Scary Poetry Gong

The House Begs to Speak

Soffits grant permission,
gutters open the floor
pitched roof provides a platform.

Draped in black towels
days after Halloween
the children tumble
from heaving orange pumpkins
treats and wrappers caught
in their teeth, a low crackle
creeping between stained lips.

An empty apron slides
out the open front door
boney skeleton close behind.

Broom handle pokes,
prods words refusing to stand
at attention. No crowd
gathers under the chimney’s
panicked smoke. Neighbors
char dinner in backyards
knee-deep in soft root
vegetables and dripping leaves.

Glinting silver spatula curled
in long-stemmed hand—
a wicked knuckle microphone
shoved through cob-webbed window--
when will someone speak?
Bats hang right-side up
in anticipation. Witches
dressed as church-ladies
drop from the sky.
Snow begins to fall.

If the mailman leaves
a match, flames will lick
our faces, draw our tongues
out in the haunted open.

Labels: , , ,

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Sad Poem to Match the Weather: Poetry Gong #14

Some of Us Are Lucky Enough to Fly

I thought of birds and
their luck, how they rise…
- Karen Chase

When you said I was sad
I didn’t speak. The voice
I had been using all these years
had flown
out of the room.

Behind the feathers
I was a bird.
You didn’t see
because you were speaking
setting down in syllables
that which I know
that which I see
that which has eluded
me all along.

The sad girl is flying
now, winged, not free
enough to build a nest
but catching enough air
to call out.


I could write more, but really, I hate sad poems. Maybe after the gong, I will revisit this. Think more about birds, becoming a bird, flying like a bird, dreaming of flying, growing feathers, replacing my heavy bones with tiny, hollow bones, choosing what kind of bird I want to be, researching what type of birds do not mate for life.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 24, 2008

Happy 7th Birthday, Crab Catcher!

Lucky #13: Poetry Gong Bangs On

All Good War Stories Start With a Little Something Landing on the Ground

Leaves are falling in the backyard
yellow maples, green oaks,
sailing down like miniature paratroopers
storming our home.
Surrender! they cry, shaking off
limp parachutes, untangling themselves
from crossed lines. There are no patriots here.
Soon, the house is surrounded
one by one we file out
a legion of wrongdoers toting our sins
in backpacks and ruck sacks,
plush poodle purses and bulging messenger bags
heads lowered, princess pajama tops
and Spongebob sweatshirts pulled over
guilty faces. Father hides beneath the label
of last night’s microbrew. Mother wishes she had sprung

for the full length apron, settles
on a women’s rake--
tiny, preposterous.
Acorns pummel our heads,
brittle leaves crackle in the crisp autumn air.
Where is the hero throwing clichéd body
over the rest of us, taking one for the team?
Who will save the day? Let the history books show
it was not a fine wind blew the leaves away
but a firm slender hand, a rake, a dozen
tan lawn bags, purchased as an afterthought
while shopping for bowties, bread and beer.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Channeling My Inner Plath: Poetry Gong #12

Boarding Up the Bees

"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, then man would have only four years of life left. No more bees, no more pollination, no more plants, no more animals, no more man.”
- Einstein

The bees fill our chimney,
send their dead to the hearth
as a warning: such atonement
could be your reward, dried husks.

The Queen and her minions gaze
on our frail buzzing from papery cells
constructed among cracks
in the smokestack’s entrails.
Tossed Hell-ward, purified
by the absence of smoke
simple drones believe
there is no fire waiting below,
no barbed flames waiting
to lick lazy flight muscles.

Numb as honey-plundering moths
the sacrificial bees can not sting
the enemy within, the soot, ash,
bits of birds’ nest falling, crushing.

Blackened angels, forgive me
this plywood barricade, this dark
tarp blocking your exit. Your sweet
freedom follows the children’s breath.


Responding to a statement I made, my friend Fred asked me if I was channeling my inner Plath. Fred is funny. He should have a blog. He used to. But he's big-time and can not reveal his wit without sacrificing his career. Not everyone gets Fred.

Thanks to him, I had this great line running through my head. I thought of Plath's bee poems. Then I thought of the time hundreds of half-dead bees were in our house, coming, it finally turned out, from the chimney. Even though I knew it was for the best, I felt bad when my husband boarded up the chimney flue. We don't use the fireplace, but the bees were. They had found a home, and we took it away. I know it was for the best.

Researching bees and sacrifice and cultures that sacrifice others was rife with poetic possibility. This poem, along with many others, does not have the oomph I want it to. Even I don't know exactly what I mean to say. And that is the problem.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Against Desiccation - Poetry Gong #11

Exoskeletons contain rigid and resistant components that fulfil a set of functional roles including protection, excretion, sensing, support, feeding and (for terrestrial organisms) acting as a barrier against desiccation. Exoskeletons have a role in defence from predators, support, and in providing a framework which musculature can attach to.

Skin turned inside out
eyeballs hanging from bloody wire
too gruesome for pancakes, too soft-bodied

to complete even a simple morning routine
though she is flat
as gluten thinned on a griddle.

Like an earthworm ravenous with rain
mothers step from kitchens
hands blistered and peeling

holding out casseroles to ghosts.
Find (dig) the family in the (a) hole
lost in the folds

of an incomplete exoskeleton
pliant, shriveling, gathering in upon
itself—an apron, an artifact, a defense

against burnt offerings, faulty cocoons
entrails refusing to exit. To join,
to crawl under, live among the tissue,

fossilize before the soft parts rot
requires a desire to change, a meeting
of cells, a declaration of kinship.

Enter in your own mouth, see skin
and eyes, hands and hollow bones
molt the unnecessary, feed on what remains.

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Love You - Poetry Gong #10

I love you.
I start small,
speak to the peaches.

No flowers
hiding my face
roses leading

for me. Just three
short syllables, grapes
rolling down a throat

choking the owner,
a girl or a man shopping
for fresh fruit, Sam the Butcher’s

best meat. Grilling
the enemy burns
bridges. Say I love

to pieces
of beef, veal cutlets.
Chicken kabobs kick

start conversations
daily here at the market.
Aisle of ewe. Olive

juice. Circle an onion
uncover the sweetest
avocado. I love you.

When the fruits,
the meat and the vegetables,
are thrashing in your basket

mating in exotic
combinations, look away.
When the bag boy asks

paper or plastic, say
I love you.
Leave him watching the orgy.


This poem is in response to this: http://mygorgeoussomewhere.org/2008/10/20/i-love-you-poets-getting-over-themselves/#comment-4311

Note to self: it may be stronger with a "you" instead of an "I." Actually, it kind of shifts perspective. Hmm...

Labels: , ,

Monday, October 20, 2008

Poetry Gong #9

Hunting Party Line: The Deer Need to Be Killed

First day of hunting
season. I trail a hunter
through the backlit woods,
yellow leaves fall like snow.
I shoot them straight through
to vein, golden blood flowing
like honey through the chill.

I might have brought the (man nor) beast
who pushed me to these limits,
shooting leaves, fashioning quilts
of their skin, but he is a buck now
and I don’t want to share his rotten
meat with anyone, not even a man
smeared with green black bruises,
disguised as a savior with a rifle.

robed like a savior with a rifle.


I can't decide on the last line. Disguised or robed...

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Even With Clorox, June Cleaver Has a Tough Time Cleaning the Skeletons From Her Closet: Poetry Gong #8

When mother shook the broom
wrenched that wooden handle
......................................consider dancing with a ragdoll
round and round, sending dust
up into sunbeams pouring down
even the dust bunnies stopped mating.

I mean even the big, hairy Jesus’
crown of thorns, all wrapped up
.......................................like a robe without fabric softener
in a tangled mess dust bunnies.
Second cousin to the brittle balls
of rolling hay weed lumbering

The indented lines, some, came later. I can't decide if they work, but I kind of like how they add another dimension to the poem. Ya think? Yes? No?

Labels: , ,

Saturday, October 18, 2008

When Your Father is a Fireman, You Can't Avoid the Ashes: Poetry Gong #7

Once there was a fire and I walked
into it, head first, feet following

my eyes, skimming the white
hot coals, looking for a way

in. Once, despite her burning
weight my father carried

a screaming girl into a hot building.
Those inside hushed, removed their eyes

out of respect for the embalmed.
Only one man asked if the chicken
barbecue was any good that afternoon.


Whew! Under the wire! And here is what is so good about poetry gong: if I didn't have an invisible deadline, I would have never written this poem. Now, I'm not saying it's a great poem. But it is a poem. And this string of words would have never had the pleasure (!) of being introduced if I didn't have a little pressure.

Oh sure, I wrote two other poems today. One in the morning in the course of my write-five-minutes-before-I-get-out-of-bed-writing, and one while the kids and hubby played after lunch (I can barely bring myself to admit we were at McDonalds...) In fact, I considered going straight to bed tonight without posting.

Yes, dear reader, I was going to blow the whole thing off. Write a witty piece tomorrow about how I wrote two poems so, technically, I haven't failed, don't have to go back to the beginning of the gong. Make a bunch of excuses about being out all day, falling asleep with my son after reading to him... But, I didn't. I picked a poem out of Mark Strand's Man and Camel, I read for inspiration, and I wrote a poem. And I'm glad.

Labels: , ,

Friday, October 17, 2008

A Twist on the The Emperor's New Clothes - Poetry Gong #6

Explaining the Wedding

The Wife decided, finally, that clothes are useless,
her body remembers how to lace.
Let her fingers slide into position.
The beast can cover itself.

Her body remembers lace
recalls darning everyday gaps.
The beast can cover itself.
The bedroom is so cold.

Recall darning everyday gaps
the husband, the wall, the cracked mirror.
The bedroom is so cold,
the ice princess paid the rent.

The husband, the wall, the cracked mirror--
it was not the white knight’s proposal.
The ice princess never dreamed of paying rent.
Her fairy godmother bought the gown.

It was not the white knight’s proposal,
let her fingers slide into position.
Her fairy godmother bought the gown.
The Wife decided, finally, clothes are useless.


A pantoum, after Carolee's running poem.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The End of the Rainbow in the Tip of a Cigarette: Poetry Gong #5

Christine over at Balanced on the Edge just wrote a letter poem in response to Jo's (Florescence) poem on poverty. From these two poems, I was inspired to write the piece below, about my fascination with a neighbor family in my hometown. They were a loud house, a full house, a messy, smelly house. I loved them.

Dear Christine,

When old Unk lit his hand-rolled
cigarette on the sagging wood porch,
the whole clan pulled up a step.
This was the family with the kids who ate
peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bread flopping
in time with shoe-less feet up and down the sidewalk.

Up and down the sidewalk my mother cried,
apron flying behind her one summer afternoon.
I’ve lost my daughter. I’ve got her bologna
with the crust cut off waiting on a plate
in our kitchen. Have you seen her?
She never thought
to stop at the neighbor’s where the children took meals to go.

Whiskered stump of a man, Unk rarely spoke.
A smoking Buddha, wrapped in paper-thin plaid
and tattered polyester slacks. Uncle, grandfather,
brother, father all jammed into one man, into one house.
His tobacco stink wrapped its brown arms around
you, pulled you in like moth to flame.

My mother once told me how she and her sister
were the only kids who smelled like a barn.
Now she relishes her daily showers, bastes her body
in Jean Nate, dusts herself in Love’s Babysoft.
She is a garden, the fistful of dandelions on the neighbor’s table
next to my half-eaten bowl of cold Spaghettios.

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 4

Advice from a Caterpillar While Washing Breakfast Dishes

The caterpillar questioned me
hanging from the spider plant
in my kitchen window,
a wretched height for dangling.

I shrink from his glassy gaze,
grow bold with my strangled admission:

I do not know who I am.

My son strolls in with a pigeon
behind him, his sister with a snake.
Chicken and spaghetti?
they suggest the usual supper fare.
Clearly culture is in order.
I drop the mop

(am I still the same person as before?)

leave the pancakes on the plate
crusting in sugar-free syrup,
surrey to the Indian restaurant.

Welcome little family
to the hookah patio.
Inhale the cumin wind
relax in a bowl of pad thai
swim through the noodles.
Climb onto our spicy shores
nap on a cushion of naan.

Hand to mouth
food as divine. Fingertips
only, if you please.
The task at hand,
how to get dry again.
We must never speak of spoons
or forks. Clean fingers only.

Avoid the roots and subterranean
vegetables. Spare the cattle,
enjoy the dancing sheep.

Mommy wants you to have fun


You can impress your friends
with our secret language:
chana, atta, toor, ghee.

I pray you’re small enough to think

this is an adventure


We are saffron warriors.
Off with heads of lettuce.
it is rough being a child
of a poet, forced to eat foreign
cuisine. Through a cloud
of smoke we exit, hop a bus to McDonalds,
mash French fries between greasy lips.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 3

Waves tease deep sleeping fish with promises of jetting flies. Flies give nothing away. Across the lake, a man in orange sends messages in calloused sign language. To receive a word, stick your nose in the west wind, smell fish intestines. Cock an ear, listen for the baby that is not a baby whining in the wind. Fence hinge, hindered owl, all alone silence carries its own weapon. Is the child drowning? Someone throw the child a rope. Ring it round the neck, reel it in. Fishing’s great here in the summer.

Tourists hug blind curves.
Country road bends like trout fin,
cars swim with fishes.


Trying a haibun--a Japanese form of travel poem comprised of a prose poem and haiku.

Labels: ,

Monday, October 13, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 2

Still stuck on the impression the armless, legless evangelist made on me. Can't get to the "meat" of it...

Bible as Playbook

"I'm not living on my own strength. I'm basically walking on water.”
- Nick Vujicic

It was a sunny Sunday in October,
warmer than it should be, not hot
as hell or the equator, but stifling
still. Why worry, the pastor preached.
in the Lord
in the Lord
everything to the Lord.
Three loaded verbs.

I was contemplating action
words when I should have been singing.
Bowing to the muse
when I should have been lowing
like the rest of the flock.

Ever Sunday he throws us a challenge.
Fevered coach, former all-star posing as pator,
passing pigskin to folding chair quarterbacks.
Few plays are made. Little touches
down. The game goes on.

Busier than a one-armed paper-hanger, my father used to say.
I always pictured my mother, ash blonde held back
in a red bandana, wrestling with angels
and rainbows on the sloped ceilings of my bedroom.

We all suffer. It’s hot in church.
There’s no I in pray,
or is it team?
And who is meant to suffer more,
tell me preacher, when you toss
the limbless evangelist up on the wide screen.
This man is happy,
you scream, but it wasn’t always so.

Preacher, throw the final pass.
Tell us the man with no arms and legs
trusted no-one, delighted in trying to commit
suicide at age eight. I am the sheep slipped astray,
singing, not wow, but how?

Labels: , ,

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Poetry Gong - Poem 1

All Around Me, People Had Chills


High above our heads, an incomplete angel.
A modern messiah in wide screen
offered for our edification.
Born without the usual wings
the legs and arms all parents expect,
this young man is spreading the love
of God without waving a single Bible.

It was not always so,
the preacher tells us.
Sorrow mocked him with her able grasp.
At the age of eight, the young man tried to commit suicide.

In the cavernous sanctuary,
a shift. Arms cross, feet shuffle,
the woman next to me rubs away chills.

Am I the only one wondering, how?


And, by the way, she stuck her head in an oven.
The muse and I are having a conversation.
We read that Sylvia Plath, brilliant poet,
tormented herself with self-doubt.
And, by the way, she stuck her head in an oven.

Am I the only one wondering, how?


When the oven fails to warm you
when hand-me-down genetics betray you,
how do you pick yourself up?
How do you get back on your horse
(provided you have a horse)?
What sky do you believe in
that might throw you a bone,
not hit you on the head?


Carolee and I have had another brilliant idea in our quest for poetry nirvana. We are going to write a poem a day for 30 days. Make it a habit. Carolee, much more spiritual and in tune with such things than I, described a "gong" her yoga instructor created for her. A chart with 30 squares. Each day she did a certain yoga exercise, she got a smiley face. If she missed a day, she had to start ALL OVER AGAIN.

I like to consider myself an idea-maker. I come up with ideas. Naturally, this yoga gong gave me the idea for a poetry gong! The poem above is my first smiley face. Feel free to send me a beer a day, a poetry book a day, a cat a day, in lieu of a smiley face.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Things You Should Put on a Dress For

Your first
date. Your first death.

Clandestine liasons at dusk.
Upon meeting a bear.
Upon meeting a bear
in wolf’s clothing. When you are naked.
When you are hungry. The first time.
The last time. Once upon a morning
when you wake
to find you are a skeleton.

When you don’t know
what to say. To the pastor’s
house for tea and cakes.
Pull a tight one over your head
in the car on the way to the hospital
while you are in labor.

Do not work too hard.

While your bare feet trundle
the sewing machine pedal.
Mind the silk it is fragile.

Hunting the midday woods
with a bow and arrow. Fishing
for the one that got away. Rise
to the surface in black satin.

Learning to fly.
Learning to speak
another language
while standing
in a dark alley.
When you learn
the awful truth, the cleaner
shrunk your superhero cape.

When there is nothing left
for you to do but stand
up and dress yourself
ask someone else to pull the zipper.


My poetry pal Carolee and I are trying to motivate each other. Crack the whip. So we are reading The Poet's Companion (Kim Addonizio & Dorianne Laux) and doing every single exercise. Yup. Every one. If we weren't best friends with our hair dressers, we might go gray attempting this task.

The first exercise, in a nutshell: Make a list of the most memorable events in your life...start a poem about one of the events.

I cheated. I didn't make a list. I looked on the floor and saw the red leather bible I got at my confirmation when I was about 10. I thought, hmmm..., that is an event. And I started to write. Actually, I looked at another spot on the floor (my bedroom is a mess) and saw Girl Meets God, a book in my to-read pile. From there, a poem began to emerge. That's as far as I got. A poem not quite out of the oven. So, I resorted to a list poem.

It is like my poem-er, my muse, my creativity, is on vacation.

I will persevere. I will.

Labels: ,

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Kiss Me, Monk, Again Before the Silence Kills Us Both: A Love Poem Written During One Of Those Mythical Long Walks On the Beach

In the wind, the floating bridge is no more
than a fat tightrope. Quite remarkable:
fish jumping out of the water onto the beach.

In the ballet studio, she sat in the center
a dozen reflections of herself crying.
In the ballet studio, the boy was safe.

When caught kissing the tree, he refused
to pull the bark from his lips.
A monk would never swing a sword. Never
say "I'll kill you." I saw the two of them kissing,
and I did not turn away. Send a thousand white balloons
floating. Bridge the time until wishes come true.

To the remarkable fish, a thousand kisses,
each wet as his scales.


Last week's prompt at Read Write Poem was to take five lines from a favorite poem, or five lines from five different poets, then use them in a poem. Well, I took five phrases from David Shumate, prose poet extraordinaire, and shared them with my pal Carolee. We each wrote five lines with the five phrases, then worked them into a poem. And this is what I got.

Labels: ,