Friday, February 6, 2015

Show No Kindness

I wish for a voice as thin as spider thread, a whistle
filled with wind, pressing strings to cradle the tune,
and never, ever thinking of you.

No harbor of compassion, no seed of regret, stones
all overturned, vermin released, forgiving nothing.

Stack wood, gather the ropes, secure
the villian, rain oil, and ignite.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tomorrow I will be participating in National Poetry Month by being the guest blogger on Author Amok. Here is the catch; The guest blog writers are to write about a source poem. As Laura Shovan explains, " Source poems. Poems that we draw like water from a well, again and again, to quench some thirst."

Laura has invited 17 authors and poets to guest blog this month. Each of us writing about a source poem. A single poem; not a single author. But one poem. The well. The well wrought urn. The poem. Or wait. No. We are to write about a source poem; one of perhaps many. Because otherwise the decision making process alone would take months, right?

I came to identifying as a poet reluctantly. I read poetry and it was a part of my childhood as my mother read poetry to me, and we memorized poetry, playing with the emphasis on a particular word, or moving our hands in the air to emulate Wordsworth’s dancing daffodils. But my real love was prose and poetry was so often riddled in metaphor and obscure reference and confined by strict forms that I could not master. It was a long time before I learned that I would never “master” any writing, but I could develop some skill, some muscle, if I worked out regularly. 

So I wrote some very bad poetry and then some mediocre poetry. But during my MFA program, I was introduced to experimental forms and contemporary poets writing in free verse. Many of them unlocked the creative handcuffs of writing for me, but Sharon Olds’ unflinching ability to unveil the spiritual in the physical, immediate, and familiar changed my writing. I like to think for the better.

So here is a bit about a poet that I did not write about for Author Amok. 

 A friend gave me a copy of the poem “Visiting My Mother’s College” by Sharon Olds. My mother had died recently and this poem invited me into her life before I was born. After that, rather than trying to write my truths cloaked in layers of subterfuge, my work became more honest and transparent, without the naval gazing of the “confessional” poem. Sharon Olds raised the
confessional poem from a tawdry salacious tale to a universal, fistful of carefully selected
imagery and language.

Visiting My Mother’s College

This is where her body was
when it was sealed, her torso clear and whole,
she walked on these lawns. Curled as the Aesop
fox she sad in a window-seat, it
makes me sick with something like desire to thnk of her,
my first love—when I lay stunned
in her arms, I thought she was the whole world,
heat, smooth flesh, colostrums,
and that huge heartbeat. But here she had
no children, no husband, and her mother was dead,
no one was far weaker or far
stronger than she, she carried her rage
unknown, hidden, unknowable yet,
she moved, slowly, under the arches,
literally singing. Half of me
was deep in her body, dyed egg
with my name on it, in cursive script—
the most serene time of my life, as I
glided above the gravel paths
ghere near the center of her universe.
I have come here to walk on the stones she walked on,
to sit in the fragrant chapel with its pews
rubbed with the taken combs of bees, its
stained, glassy God, I want to
love her when she has not hurt anyone yet,
when all that had been done to her
she held, still, in her fresh body, as she
lay on her stomach, still a child, studying
diligently for finals, and before the dance
she washed her hair and rinsed it with lemon and
shook and shook her head so the interior of her
tiny room was flecked with sour bright citrus.

Sharon Olds is the Rocky Balboa of poetry; she is a clean fighter; she is coming at you honestly, her poetic muscle oiled and shining, slipping under your fingertips, her feet agile, so that in the last line you sigh, nod, or gasp and she knocks you so hard, that stunned, you climb back into the poem and bath in the human condition and grow stronger, even when there is heart break.

“Visiting My Mother’s College” does have a distinct cadence, a bit of sing/song through the line breaks. A mere five sentences of strong sensual details staggering us in a unexpected and somewhat alarming longing for the mother as nurturer until at the end her mother is awash with the image of sour bright citrus and lemon.

This is not my "source" poem if I only get to chose one. To learn that one, you will need to visit Author Amok. But Sharon Olds taught me a lot about writing the truth.

Do you have a poet or poem that was significant in your evolution as a writer or in your thinking? Who makes you laugh or calms you or raises questions for you?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Behavioral Tracking - great TED talk

"The young generation is spending 8 hours a day online."

"The price we are asked to pay for this communication/connectedness is a lack of privacy." "It's time to watch the watchers." We can download Collusion for free and track the trackers. "Collusion is an experimental add-on for Firefox and allows you to see all the third parties that are tracking your movements across the Web. It will show, in real time, how that data creates a spider-web of interaction between companies and other trackers."

When teaching effective social media communications to my college students, I encourage them to create a strong, positive, on-line persona. Some students are reluctant; they don't want strangers to know their personal business. They don't have a blog, a twitter account, and they don't engage on Facebook. Unfortunately, that does not prevent the behavioral trackers from tracking them. If they access a class, a dictionary, a map, a newspaper article; those actions are being tracked.

Try this:
Search for a word about which you are not interested (for me, this might be Nascar or wrestling)
Then go about your day using the internet as you normally do.
Observe how frequently ads pertaining to that word show up.

Please let me know about your experience.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Why I am not a Landscape Artist

I am not a landscape artist. However, this morning the forecast was warm but overcast as rain is forecast later today and for the next day or more. So it was time to clean the leaves from the stairwell and cut back the monster size ornamental grass that flourishes at the top of my basement stairwell.

So I gathered the electric cord and my electric trimmer and got to work zipping through the slender grasses that reach over four feet.
I pulled the rushes into a single pile with a rack and then leaned over and gathered them into my arms to carry them into the woods behind the house where they can decompose naturally and feed the trees.

I felt a teeny something on the back of my right thigh and thought a leaf may be stuck to my pants. But my hands were full of fronds and the footing was leaf covered and irregular so I headed for the woods. All the while, my right thigh felt a slight pressure, as if something was floating over it. In my imagination, the leaf was on the outside of my pants, snagged in the fabric somehow which account for a sense of movement.

I dropped the cuttings in the woods and looked back to examine my pants. No leaf. I put my hand on the outside of my gray khaki pants. I felt something long and slender extending from under my buttock check to the back of my knee. Something moving. What lives in tall grasses? Snakes - green garden snakes or green grass snakes.

My heart raced. My sneakers raced over the leaves, skittering up the hill toward my back door. My hand tried to grasp what I thought must be the snake's head and pull it away from my body. Were they poisonous? Were any of my neighbors home? The elementary school teachers leave at 6:30 AM. I'd heard my next door neighbor's car rumble at 6:57 AM as I'd been in the midst of a "rah-rah" self motivating lecture to get out of bed. No one was home to help.

Wait - no one was at home to see me frantically unclasping my pants and unfolding them to my ankles so I can grab the snake and throw it deep into the woods. My fingers fumbled with the button and the zipper. Standing ankle deep in leaves behind Dave's house, I pulled my pants inside out and down, grabbed the long green intruder into my hand and just before I tossed it into the woods, discovered it was a long frond of grass. How it found its way into my pants will never be explained.

But the reason I am not a landscape artist is easily explained.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Common Courtesy

Everyone understands rules and procedures and laws.
Common courtesy is more of a mystery. "Common" means something you do for family members, good friends, co-workers? Does it include the shoppers at the mall, the grocery store? What about the panhandler on the medium at the red light when even though it is 102 degree in August and the air conditioner in your car is broken, you roll up the windows and stare straight ahead. Or racing to the office with a box of donuts, the fellow who sleeps beneath the awning of the machine parts store on Calvert Street raises his hand? Is it common courtesy to offer him a donut?

We all know where "common" courtesy begins; where does it stop?

How do you decide that one person deserves compassion, consideration, and another does not? How is one person determined to be inhuman? What makes us shift from polite and waving in the Dodge caravan carrying several children trying to merge versus inching bumper to bumper to make sure the Ford 150 pickup truck with gun rack and rebel flag does not merge. Or perhaps it's the tractor trailer or the Jaguar or the 1957 Chevy with historic tags? Why can't we be generous to all? What rears up and pushes our molars together, grits the teeth, pinches the lips, hunches the shoulders?

Why can't common courtesy be "common" for all.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

MOB on Mother's Day

When Sara was four and I wrapped her in a towel from her bath, held her up to the mirror and sang, "Here, she is Miss America," I had no idea of exactly how beautiful of a woman she would become. Not magazine cover beauty but rather the type of woman who is beautiful to the bone.

Mother's Day found me in New York City with my daughter, Sara, celebrating her bachelorette weekend. Most parents will understand that this is a miracle. My daughter and her bridesmaids (Gretchen and Bridget) also invited my sister, Pam, and my sister in law, Debra. A true bonding of generations of strong, smart, independent, loving women gathered to rejoice that one of us has found a wonderful partner, a man suitable and worthy of her amazing attention and affection.

I could provide an itinerary of events, funny moments, remarkable moments. But the moment that will follow me is not her surprise on seeing our matching tee-shirts, or her shock that we were taking a knitting tour, or the subtle blush of viewing Le Scandal burlesque show. The moment was small, minor, easily missed by most.

When I was a young woman, my mother would take my hand and hold it out next to her hand, telling me how beautiful, unlined, and lovely was my skin, my fingers. As I aged, I witnessed my hands slowly become her hands; the raised veins and sunspots, the nails with exact same weaknesses. At first I was appalled to see her aging hands at the ends of my wrists; and then after I lost her, I realized the beauty there and how I would now comfort myself, mother myself, with her hands discovered in my own fingertips.

My daughter, without explaining or speaking, took first my left hand and spread it out and looked at my fingers, my nails and then I held out my right. Foolishly, I wondered if she worried how I would look at her wedding with my unvarnished and uneven nails. I was wrong. She was looking at my hands with love just as I have looked at her unlined, strong hands that constantly create loving meals, beautiful crafts, efficient work. Sara did not see my hands through my own critical veil but rather just as the continuation of capable women's hands in our family.

As a mother, seeing my children successful and happy would have been enough, but to be invited into her world for such a milestone event is something mother's do not even imagine.

This mother's day, I was a very fortunate mother.