Lessons My Mother Taught Me

17 Dec

dear mother
you taught me well
to pay close attention
to all the details
especially around you
and so i do
which is the reason
I am left, wondering
why fears twist you in knots
and you indulge anxious thoughts
as your years stack up?

I love you dearly,
but my patience wears thin
when I am at the wheel
yet you anxiously feel
the need to read every sign
out loud, as if I were blind
remember, you taught me
to drive, as well.

I promise you:
I
will
read
every
sign.

But, if I miss one, don’t worry,
I’ll do something else you taught me:
we’ll call it an adventure.

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Lo Que Te Quise Dar

10 Dec

Algo sin tiempo
porque los años
pasan lentos, pasan rápidos,
y no pasan.

Algo profundo
y a la vez, no muy hondo
para no ahogarte
de emoción, ni mojarte
en un charco transitorio.

Algo viejo y nuevo
con palabras ardientes
que te acarician por dentro

Algo tuyo y algo mío
que no se lleva con el viento
para tocarte sin huellas,
pero eso sí, con puro sentimiento.

image

Originalmente escrito en Abril 2014. Lo encontré en mi cuaderno hoy, y decidí publicarlo.

Recipe for Vitriol

9 Dec

You will need water, which means
you can let off some steam
about all those specific things
that fill you up with rage.

Then, four parts Oxygen to two parts
Hydrogen, because along with
the letting off of steam
most feel an intense need
for expending volumes of hot air.

Finally, one part Sulfur, that’s the kicker
you can pull some from the pit
of your stomach, from that deep
special place where you store
all of your brimstone to hurl.

Just one part sulfur, which is
precisely enough to pour
bitter acid over their heads
all it takes to make them
writhe in pain from your
caustic words.

(And, you do want them to burn-
otherwise, what is the point
of vitriol?)

For best results:
While serving vitriol
stay away from mirrors and
any other reflective surfaces.

Sparks

Sparks

As a culture, we Americans have become too accustomed to uncivil discourse these days. I remember back in the early 80’s when a man named Morton Downey Jr. had a television talk show where people would scream at each other. It was really horrible! He was a precursor to Jerry Springer and all those other shows. It has gotten so bad, that I have opted get my news through print and online because of the great distaste I have for the vitriol that has permeated news sources. Unfortunately, I experience enough vitriol in my daily life that I really don’t want to expose myself to any more of it, neither for entertainment or informational purposes. Vitriol is actually the common name for Sulfuric Acid, or H2SO4. It will burn your skin off pretty quickly and painfully.

Big Picture

2 Dec

I don’t need anything
from your trip across town
though I always rack my brain
thinking of that elusive thing
that will complete the task,
the day, and perhaps my life.

I don’t need anything
from the store, at least nothing
that can be bought or sold
and definitely not another thing
to add to the tower of things
I have filling up my closets now.

I don’t need anything, really
except a moment of your time
to look at this picture of a duck.
It’s not a great picture of a duck
I admit, but that’s not the point,
because I am the duck, you see.

If you’d bear with me a moment longer
and look at the duck in a different way
you will see something new in the picture.
It’s actually also a picture of a rabbit.
I am the rabbit; yes I can be a rabbit, too.
And you know what they say about rabbits.

I don’t need anything, nothing
that can be bought or sold, but
thanks, for taking time to look at my picture
which is really what I want the most.
But please, don’t get stuck on the rabbit
because I am still, and also always will be, the duck.

rabbit and duck

“Kaninchen und Ente” (“Rabbit and Duck”) from the 23 October 1892 issue of Fliegende Blätter. Public Domain.

This is a riff off of Billy Collins’ poem “Duck/Rabbit,” but only because when I heard him read it I couldn’t stop thinking about the idea that once you see the rabbit, you can no longer see the duck. And here’s the thing, to see the big picture you need to will yourself to see both. Once the rabbit is revealed, you have to choose to still see the duck. Please.

Everything is Cold

26 Nov

Cold stares across the table,
cold eyes meet mine, cold
like a loud, echoing
telephone ringing, ringing,
cold calling, no one home.

The cold sun curls
the cold dead leaves, falling.
Your freeze-dried words, frosting
in the cold air. Time is frozen.
Morning is the cold, wet nose of a dog.
This case is cold, and
our trail has gone cold, too.

I am lost, in a cold forest.
Clammy toes, stumbling
over cold, wet stones. I know
I should’ve worn shoes.
My hands are cold, but
that is nothing new. No shelter
from the icy stares
of indifferent trees.

My mind is numb, subzero
cold cranking amps; my feet
are falling asleep. I shiver
from your frigid embrace, like
a desolate, cold shower,
and your heart is tundra,
permafrost, cold to the bone.

You descend into snow blindness,
your glacier words cleaving
our barren earth in two, thus
revealing a cold, bitter truth:
Despite your cold shoulder,
my winter days are numbered.
And inside this shivering snowflake,
beats my warm, ever-loving,
glowplug of a heart.

image

“Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verdes ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montaña”

from Romance Sonambulo, by Federico Garcia Lorca

Last night, a Fantasy

25 Nov

Last night there were protesters in Ferguson
bearing riotous yellow umbrellas
and fistfuls of daisies, honoring
the memory of one Michael Brown.
12 hours away, the Chairman
had an epiphany over his Corn Flakes
“Every child a blessing!” became an anthem
and millions of souls can now rest in peace.

Last night I got a call from Ben and Jerry
they needed my expertise in marketing
to formulate a new flavor. I told them
chocolate-covered pretzels are the ace
up my sleeve. We are in negotiations.

Last night while waxing her upper lip
Angela got a call from Vladi, inviting
her to play Risk with the guys, over at his place,
but she politely declined, citing the need
to wash that man right out of her hair.

Last night the bank called to apologize
for taking so damn long to make up their minds
so, we threw a party and invited all our friends
right after renting a dump truck to haul
these worldly sorrows away.

Last night, the children went straight to sleep
you tiptoed into the room, and said “shhh!”
we played Scrabble on the bed
and as you may have suspected, no one lost.

image

Today’s poem was inspired by a prompt by Anthony Desmond, over at Dverse poets pub where he quotes an interview with Albert Einstein.

In 1929, poet and journalist George Sylvester Viereck interviewed Albert Einstein.

He asked: “Do you account for your discoveries through intuition or inspiration?”

Einstein replies: “I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

Tony prompts us to use our imagination to create a fantasy world in a poem. “When the noise of our surroundings gets a little too loud, imagination is the perfect escape,” he asserts. Well, today was extremely loud in my neck of the woods, but although Tony suggests that we move away from the familiar, I chose to keep things somewhat close to home. To quote the Spanish playwright Calderon de la Barca, “Toda la vida es sueño, y los sueños, sueños son …”

The Naming

25 Nov

your essence, encapsulated
in hope, with promise,
and on purpose, spoken
as a breathless blessing
every time I exhale it
up against your ear.

who are you?
let me tell you
and bask
in its fulfillment
who am I?
I long to know
and to show you
how I embrace it.

image

I am reading a book called One Thousand Gifts, by Ann Voskamp. In the book she meditates on the effect of gratitude, and begins making a list, where she names all of the things she is grateful for. It doesn’t matter how big or small, yet because her life is in a state of upheaval she has to start small, almost microscopically small. Intangible and tangible things, such as washing the warm eggs, crackle in the fireplace, still warm cookies, all make the list. Moonlight on pillows, long, lisped prayers, kisses in dark …

In the naming of the things she feels grateful for she begins to find a new identity that eventually transforms her outlook. “Naming is to know a thing’s function in the cosmos- to name is to solve mystery. The space that spans my inner emptiness fills in the naming.”

What is in a Name?

24 Nov

Exactly one month ago I attended the Dodge Poetry Festival, held biannually in Newark, NJ. I really didn’t know what to expect when I bought my festival tickets, but my hope was that I would learn more about the mystery of becoming a published poet. I also hoped to be inspired, not just by hearing excellent poets read their work, but also by traveling alone, being in New Jersey, and most of all, seeing the beauty of autumn in the Northeast.

During the festival, several of the sessions were with panels of poets who both read their own poems and discussed poetry with each other in front of the audience. Afterwards they opened the floor to questions from the audience. I attended one such panel, which consisted of four poets: Billy Collins, US poet laureate, Steven Kuusisto, A. Van Jones, and Natalie Diaz. It was a great conversation, as they are poets from all different walks of life, and I enjoyed some of the poems they read, namely “Ode to the Beloved’s Hips” by Natalie Diaz“from” by A. Van Jordan, and one of my new favorites, “Suggestion Box” by Billy Collins.

When they opened the discussion up for questions from the audience, I bounded (literally) down the theater steps to the mic. I had missed asking my question the day before, so I was ready. This is what I asked:

I write poetry, and have been doing so for many years. It is a very necessary part of my life. However, I hesitate to call myself a poet. So, my question is, at what point in your careers as poets did you feel justified to call yourself a poet, and more generally, when do you think it is appropriate to do so?

Billy Collins was the first to respond. He said that he felt that he could really call himself a poet when he received the phone call from the librarian of Congress, informing him that he had been selected as poet laureate. He got a chuckle from the audience. Later on, when I had a minute to chat with him by myself, he added that he never calls himself a poet to random strangers. He said that one time he sat next to someone on an airplane, who asked him what he did, and he said he was a poet. “Oh, my 13 year old daughter writes poetry,” the person responded. After that, he said, he never tells people he’s a poet, and just tells them that he’s a teacher instead.

The second response was from A. Van Jordan, who said that he didn’t feel justified in calling himself a poet until he received monetary compensation for his work. That, in his eyes, made him legitimate in front of family and friends.

The third, and final, response was from Natalie Diaz. She said that if poetry is important to me, and such an important part of my life, then I should own the title “poet.” That way, she said, I will make time for it in my life, and give it the importance it deserves. In order to be a poet, we have to make time to actively write, and take time to do so. So, she said, I think you should call yourself a poet now.

Steven Kuusisto said he liked Natalie’s answer, and so do I. I felt very encouraged by what she said, and I know she is right in saying so. I make time for things that are important to me in my life, such as staying in shape and being outdoors. I religiously make time for important naps on Saturdays.

As a wife and work-at-home mother of five children, my life can be very hectic. Solitary moments are what I crave the most, followed closely by meaningful adult interaction, especially conversation. But, silence and solace are the most valuable to me, because that is when I can actually think deep thoughts. It’s from my deepest thoughts that some of my best poems have sprung, so I try to do what I can to get to that place. It’s a struggle, as those opportunities are elusive, so this is possibly why many poems germinate in my mind while I am driving or trying to fall asleep (apparently composing words in my mind is how my brain defragments itself). I try to carve out time for writing, or even just thinking, but it has always been difficult to justify, given my circumstances.

So, guess what?

I am a Poet.

Dancing, @Cheers, Orange Park.

Dancing, @Cheers, Orange Park.

Long Branch

12 Nov

Robert Pinsky, US poet laureate
said that all of his poems
in one form, or another
are about Long Branch.

The same is true for me.
All of my poems, well
almost all, are about you,
in varying percentages
and, maybe not the you
you think you are
but, the you I see you as
which is a kind you
a noble you, slightly erudite, and fun
the you I have carried with me
all these years
and if you know me
well enough, you could
read any of my poems
and place your finger
right where x marks the spot
every time
and possibly see yourself
as the hidden treasure
that I have always thought you are.

I am not sure I need to apologize
since I didn’t intend it to be this way
there are no secret messages
or hidden agendas
and it often surprises me
as much as it must surprise
and perplex you; I can only say that
something about you stayed with me:
it peeks out from between the sheets
of poems I have scribbled, it has
mixed into my palette of colors,
it has woven itself into this
blanket of words
I sleep with.

I looked up.

I looked up.

Every poet needs a muse, but we don’t necessarily get to choose our muses. I am grateful to have one, though. To be able to draw consistent inspiration from a source removed from my current state and circumstance has enabled me to use my imagination to create instead of wallow. I have several muses, actually, not just one, but the common thread they share is that they help me write boldly, from the heart. That is not an easy thing for me because I am naturally shy, which in the past has inhibited me from doing or saying things that I later wish I had done, or said. The result is very liberating, and it leads me in an upward spiral; it helps me keep a positive outlook on life.

Long Branch, NJ is my hometown.

Messages in Milk

10 Nov

motherhood is a constant state
of feeling overwhelmed, starting
the moment you first latched on.
me, feeling the whoosh whoosh
of milk surging through my breast, your
big eyes rolling back into your head
your fist tight around my finger
my heart about to explode

you drank from me
greedily, yet ironically
the more you took,
the more I had to give
milk leaked out, overflowing
I felt like Arnold Schwarzenegger
if you can imagine him as a nursing mother
in a milk-wet t-shirt, suddenly
my nipples had new meaning

motherhood grabs you by the chest
and pushes you through a door
into a brightly lit room where
you fumble around, temporarily blinded
eventually, familiar shapes emerge
but, not like before, nothing
is like before

i taught myself to discern your cries
though I wonder, did I learn
to simply recognize your unique sound;
or perhaps it was the other way around?
Maybe all that time you suckled
in the crook of my arm, was spent
tuning your ear, learning my songs,
so one day you could sing them back to me

Nursing 40 miles offshore, sailing north

Nursing 40 miles offshore, sailing north

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