Movement: Mind and Soul

Movement: Mind and Soul

For the next six to twelve months, at least, I’ll be focusing on writing poetry. Not to the exclusion of anything else, of course – but with an eye towards publication. That means no more posting it online, until it has had its fair shot at the footlights of publication – poetry journal, contest, anthology, or book. No “previously published” material is loved in the hallowed halls, and I have been an undisciplined writer all my life, shoving scraps of paper in drawers, posting bits online, here and there. When you have a full-time career and no plans to leave it, it’s difficult to write poetry or fiction seriously. It simply cannot compete for time and energy. So you shove it into drawers. Or share it willy-nilly, like these:

And a few posts on writing poetry, if you’d care to join me:

View at Medium.com

View at Medium.com

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Little Prompts for People Who Think They Can’t Write a Poem

Recently, in the Garden of Neuro Poetry Circle, I ran across a poetry prompt:

Monday Poetry Prompt: Backyard

I thought that this might be an excellent exercise for young writers and novice poets, as well as those who are more experienced. As the prompt says, you can use your own, very real back yard – or the one that exists only in your imagination.

First, observe and take inventory. 

What does your “back yard” look like? It doesn’t have to be a yard, and it doesn’t have to be real. It could be the view from your window, if you are an apartment dweller. Maybe it’s a community garden. Maybe it’s the back yard you’d like to have, some day. Maybe it’s the back yard you have today – and the one you’d like to have, some day. Let’s take inventory. Write notes and take photos; don’t just trust to memory. Mine looks something like this:

There’s a ladybug, rescued from a little birdbath in the back yard. She was surrounded by debris, but when I put my finger in the water, her tiny legs began to wriggle. I left her to recover in the shade of the Daikon leaves, in my vegetable garden, where she is protected from birds. Not pictured, but seen within the past few days: crab-like orb-weaver spiders, praying mantises, and a scoliida wasp with blue-black wings and a blood-red body, frantically darting from one squash blossom to the next. Its nest appears to be in the bell at the top of our wind chimes. Perhaps not the wisest or calmest place to start a home.

There’s a nice green compost bin, and a holding pen full of brown leaves my husband’s collected, that will eventually be mixed into the green scraps. Herman the dog-vomit slime slime mold lives inside the green bin, and now sleeps in the rich soil of my vegetable garden, where he feasts on dead and decaying things.

That raised veggie garden has been a learning experience, and there is a corner garden that is more wild than not – with volunteer holly bushes, crepe myrtles, and a plethora of spider plants and canna lilies that have crept under our fence from the neighbors’ back yard.

There are tall trees that shade us and saplings that try to reach the sun through the dappled shade cast by live oaks and Bradford pears.

There is also a sundial and an area laid out with blue rubber tiles to be an outdoor exercise and play area. Because this is a recent project, there are scraps of wood, rocks, glue, and bags of sand and concrete laid around the patio.

This is all visual information.

Pay attention to all five senses!

What do you hear? Birdsong, a lawnmower, children playing on the other side of the fence? A garbage truck, perhaps. A leaf-blower. Cars. A summer breeze, tickling the windchimes. Waking up the scoliid wasp, maybe.

What do you smell? Flowers, compost, petrichor. Earth. Freshly rained on? Or parched?

What do you taste? I pulled a few of the Daikons from the garden – they were in desperate need of thinning. I couldn’t resist rinsing one off with water from the outdoor garden hose and biting into that underripe and slightly-too-bitter crunch. A basil leaf. A pinch of fresh oregano.

What do you feel? Focus on touch, not emotion. Did you wander the back yard barefoot? I can’t, these days – well, I risk a foot full of pricklers from the carpet of weeds that winds its way through the grass, if I do. Still, barefoot girl that I am, at heart, I do risk it. I hop from one sun-warmed paving stone to another, avoiding the pricklers and the river rocks, the bits of broken stone. I let my toes sink into the cool, soft dirt while I try not to think of what might be wriggling underfoot. I dig in a mud puddle with a stick and transfer an earthworm to the garden, marveling at how fast they are when they’re trying to get away.

What symbols or themes begin to emerge?

Glancing through what I’ve written, I see a whole ecosystem. But unless I want to write an epic poem, I may try to narrow my focus to something like “birth” and “death” – how new life emerges and is nourished by the old, the dying; how it breaks down and builds up before becoming part of the cycle, itself. That may lead outside the garden, into the philosophical. Sometimes, a “back yard poem” strays from the back yard and explores uncharted territory. Follow where your thoughts lead.

Or I may focus on something even smaller.

Sunny and yellow
Herman, Eukaryotic,
Greets the squash blossoms.

Silly little Haiku! But it’s a start. Start small; start big. They key is to start.

Elegy at the Bird Bath

Lady, who told you you could swim?
You were meant to fly;
Not to float upon your own reflection
Waiting for a clever robin,
Or a hungry, ill-tempered jay
To pluck you from the placid pool –
Cool on a bright, June morning –
To pick you, all blushing red
And speckle-freckled
For their breakfast appetizer.

 

Lady, you were meant to bring me luck.
To dine, yourself, on sweet little aphids.
Oh, how they rejoice at your downfall!
But Heaven helps those who pray for their prey –
The mantis exacts swift vengeance,
Leaving the summer squash un-nibbled.
And I have pre-empted the robin’s repast –
A wriggling earthworm, uprooted,
Dumped beneath the Daikons, unaware
Of criss-cross shadows, a netted sky,
Shielding it from the watchful jay.

Now, it’s your turn. Please give this a try, then share your poems in a comment or link to one in your own blog. I look forward to reading yours, too!

 

 

 

 

 

Speak Truth (Cinq Cinquains) – #AtoZChallenge

Speak Truth (Cinq Cinquains) – #AtoZChallenge

Simple.
But you hold back –
Scratching the surface, form
Over substance. Superficial.
Challenged.

Distance.
The beauty of form:
Hold that thought at arm’s length –
Can’t hurt you, dangling, wriggling there.
Can it?

Never
Was that easy,
Breezy. Don’t turn away –
That thing that’s locked inside you can’t.
Escape.

But then,
Neither can you.
Joined at the hip, limping,
Numb, void of thought, the pristine page
Mocks you.

Nick bone.
Transfuse yourself
With ink and move your hand –
Exhale on paper words unsaid,
Speak truth.

 

 

Broken Things – #AtoZChallenge

Broken Things – #AtoZChallenge

Broken Things

We hold on, against
Inevitability
Of broken things:
Good dishes.
Hearts. Trust. Minds.
Time and time again
We gather shards,
Glue them together
With grief, tears,
Willpower. 
Sheer determination.
We hold on, knowing
One day, soon enough
We will be
Those “broken things.”
And so, against
Inevitability
We hold on.
 
 


If you enjoyed “Broken Things,” you may also enjoy these poems published last year on Medium.com: 

Kintsuge, a spiritual reflection on the value of broken things

Carefully Stacked Bones, worn, weary, and full of wonder. In every ruin I have ever seen or traipsed through, I imagine the people who built what must have once been a thriving center of life. I know that every one of them, and us, is someone’s child.
Social Compost (an Abecedarian Poem) #AtoZChallenge

Social Compost (an Abecedarian Poem) #AtoZChallenge

Absolutes: we deal in
Black and white.
Color – once vibrant – now
Dimmed to dull gray
Effluence – our
Flaws flowing, fulgent –
Garish graffiti on our souls.
Have mercy.
It’s ironic:
Justice, blind, can’t see
Keenly how, by their absence,
Lacunae have tipped the scales –
Making chaos out of order.
Not till the eleventh hour –
Ostensibly, too late
Practically past all hope,
Questioning the who, what, where, and why of it
Restores her sight, and now
Shows clearly how
Tenacious tendrils of apathy
Unseen, like dandelion roots or
Varicose vines,
Wrap around the wooden heart –
Xylophagus. Rot, in the end, reduced to
Zero.

Happy 1st of NaNoWriMo!

Happy 1st of NaNoWriMo!

A Walk in the Park

November and NaNoWriMo have become as much of a tradition for me as apple cider and ghost stories in October. To kick things off right, I recommitted to my health and fitness goals, last week. I’m inordinately proud of the fact that I took two long walks – 6.5 miles – around my favorite local park, this week. The first time, I was exhausted and in pain. I took three days “off,” and the second time was a breeze. I didn’t even have to stop for rest, and averaged about 18 minutes per mile. The more I exercise, the more I realize I don’t want to derail my efforts with unhealthy eating, though I did pay for that Trick-or-Treat Blast from Sonic on Friday, and will finish paying it off today. Fortunately, the weather is great and a walk in the park isn’t really much of a chore.

Health and well-being should never take a back seat to anything. It seems obvious, but we all tend to forget that. Even the “fitness nuts,” as they pursue their addiction to the gym with grim determination, sometimes forget that a well-lived life is a well-rounded life. I think this is why my favorite exercise is a long walk in the park. “Travel” is (mostly) out of the question, but that doesn’t mean we can’t take little “day trips” and appreciate our usual surroundings. Combining this with “cardio” – power-walking several times around the 1.7 mile path – hardly seems like work. I’m “getting my steps in” while I get lost in my thoughts, listening to music or reveling in silence and birdsong. I can listen intently for the scurrying of tiny feet, stopping suddenly, inches away. It’s comical how squirrels seem to think that if they freeze, staring back with beady little black eyes, we won’t see them.

“Hi, Squirrel.”

His bent tail reminds me of a story my mom used to tell me about her own childhood. She and her brother had a BB gun. They were playing around in the back yard, and she took a turn. Shot a squirrel in the tail. That squirrel haunted her for years – she’d see it running around with its broken tail, glaring at her as if it knew, making her feel guilty. She owned a gun, but never shot at another living creature again. I saw this squirrel in the park, and for half a second, wondered if he had a message to give me.

It’s been years since I last saw a grasshopper, but they seem to be making a comeback. Scroll fast if you’re squeamish about insects, but remember that grasshoppers are vegetarian and don’t bite or sting humans.

Walking in the park, yesterday – Halloween – was fun. Earlier in the week, I ran across this spooky Jack-o-Lantern. A grinning orange pumpkin head, washed up on the muddy banks of a gloomy lake.

Someone should have added a headless scarecrow, just to make the picture complete.

I found some more “hidden” Jack-o-Lanterns there, on Halloween. They seemed happier. Maybe that’s because they were perched atop bales of hay, and seemed to be having a lively, friendly conversation. They didn’t seem to mind my eavesdropping, and taking a selfie with them!

We have an overabundance of Halloween candy. Despite the pandemic, Trick-or-Treating, done with the usual levels of parental hypervigilance, ought to have been safe enough. And so, we set out carefully wrapped bags of factory wrapped treats.

I thought it was a little sad, at first, but as we went outside to gather up the treats, we saw that the street was full, and little costumed children were emerging from cars. “Wait,” I said to my husband, thinking that, although the hour was late, they might want candy. But no – a neighbor was hosting a party. I guess I know who I’ll be avoiding at the mailbox for the next two weeks or so.

No, chocolate is not “NaNoWriMo fuel.” It is a reward for walking 6.5 miles – twice in one week – at the park.

Halloween Acrostic & a Bonus Hidden Message

I think only one person found the “hidden message” and I practically had to lead him to it and point it out. Which is fine, because Mitchell Allen has been writing word puzzles and brain twisting stories for as long as I can remember, so for him to admit that I “got him” with this is serious bragging rights for a day! If you see it, leave it in a comment below (no fair helping, Mitchell!).

Hallowed haunts all children know on Halloween!
A witch’s brew, spooked lemonade — as little happy
People cram their sacks with sweets to eat!
Pretending merry mischief, upon the stoop they creep, to
Yell the chorus, “Trick or treat!” Good
Heavens, it’s a sequined devil! Princess? Something
Airy, like a fairy — Tinkerbell! And me,
Lighting up the entry way, I hear them give
Little squeals, delighted, as shuffling zombie feet
Outside signal their arrival: More of my
Well-mannered ghouls. Autumn’s crisp, clean smell
Evinces all the joys of fall; this, but one treat.
Evening comes to send them scattering home — or
Now, one wonders, were they there at all? Oh, marvelous trick!

The 1st of NaNoWriMo – Kick Off to a Month of Literary Abandon

This will be the first NaNoWriMo in which I have the entire month off work! This is my work. Which means there really are no excuses, this month, doesn’t it?  And since “excuses” include this blog, which does not, itself, count towards the word count, I must be off!

Healthy breakfast: :heavy_check_mark:
Coffee: :heavy_check_mark:
Big tumbler of water close at hand: :heavy_check_mark:

Although the required daily word count to “win” this thing is only 1667, I’m aiming for 2000+, so I can enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday guilt free, without derailing any goals.

Till later, Commentaters.