Thursday, November 08, 2018

Poetry Thursday

My Love Is Black
 ~DéLana R. A. Dameron

You might say fear
is a predictable emotion
& I might agree. Whenever
my husband leaves
for his graveyard shift,
when he prepares to walk
out into the abyss of black
sky, I am afraid
tonight will be the night
I become a widow. I don’t
want to love like this. But
here we are: walking
hand in hand
in our parkas down
the avenues & he pulls away
from me. I might be
in some dreamy place,
thinking of the roast chicken
we just had, the coconut peas
& rice he just cooked,
& how the food has filled
our bellies with delight. How
many times can I speak
about black men
& an officer enters the scene?
I don’t want to love
like this. But there is a gun
in the holster & a hand
on the gun in the holster
& my husband’s hands
are no longer in his pockets
because it is night & we are
just trying to breathe in
some fresh evening air,
trying to be unpredictable, to
forget fear for a moment
& live in love & love.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Not Poetry Thursday ... VOTE!

Gitanjali 35
~Rabindranath Tagore

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;
     Where knowledge is free;
     Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow
              domestic walls;
     Where words come out from the depth of truth;
     Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;
     Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the
                          dreary desert sand of dead habit;
     Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening
                                thought and action—
     Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Friday, November 02, 2018

Dia de los Muertos

Take a look at this face. Her name is Evie; well, she goes by Evie.

See that feisty look? See that strength? She that twinkle in the eye that tells you she will go toe-to-toe with you happily.

For the past five months, she had been battling leukemia.

I don't know her, but I know her.

That is to say, I have been FB friends with her dad, who I also don't know personally, for several years. In those years, he has posted seriously funny stories about Evie. With each one, I became more and more smitten with this girl.

She reminds me of our Evie with her quick wit and feisty spirit.

When they announced in June that she was about to embark on this fight with cancer, my heart sank.

But my instinct told me to hope. To believe. To fight with her.

When they started looking for an out of family marrow donor, I did all I could to get more people sign up for Be the Match. [If you haven't signed up, you should, someone's life could depend on it.]

And I continued to hope, to believe, to fight with her.

When they found a match, I celebrated. And hoped and believed.

I thought somewhere back in my mind, for her to need a bone marrow transplant, the cancer has to be really bad. It is not first line defense. It is brutal ... painful for the donor but truly brutal for the recipient.

When they started the process, I hoped and believed and feared.

I watched on FB with each day to see if the graft would take. And it did. And I was relieved.

And then the rest of her body began to die.

It really is the only way to say it. Some month and a half after the transplant, the infections had turned to sepsis and the kidneys and liver were nearly shut down.

I raged against this reality. I wanted it to not be true. I wanted a miracle.

And then she was gone.

Despite the enormous grief I have suffered in the past six years (how can it be six years?!), I cannot imagine the fresh hell her family endures right now. I know that the road of life without Evie will be long and treacherous.

On this Dia de los muertos, I am going to add Evie to the altar. And I will probably cry some more.

Thursday, November 01, 2018

Apologies

We are not supposed to apologize so much.

By we, I mean women.

But, now I have to... I meant to finish Grace and write at least three more posts.

However, the impending move, yes I am moving, and all the work and stress has just piled up unreasonably.

Sometimes there is so much to do, all I can do is stay in bed and pretend the rest of the world does not exist.

But it's November and I though I am not going to really try to do NANOWRIMO while I am driving cross country, I am going to try to post something every day.

The poems are already scheduled, so they don't really count. But you better believe I will count them when I am on the road!!

Hang in there, with me, I will be sharing much more...

Poetry Thursday, don't forget to vote!

Defiant
~Patricia Spears Jones

Fruit from one vine tangles with another
Making a mess of the intended harvest, yet
the lack of calculation is welcome

that accident that shifts bodies from shadows
into a locus of light midday bright & caustic
wounds un-healed   newsreel cameras trap

this old & angry man in a bespoke suit lifting
white pages & refusing to read them, mumbles
unwelcome threats & thanks the nation

the nation kicks him out—finally defiant
after years of misrule, disruption, murder
and the choked voice youth terrorized

he wants more blood on his hands so that
when he enters his version of paradise
all will be red.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Poetry
 ~Claude McKay

Sometimes I tremble like a storm-swept flower,
And seek to hide my tortured soul from thee,
Bowing my head in deep humility
Before the silent thunder of thy power.
Sometimes I flee before thy blazing light,
As from the specter of pursuing death;
Intimidated lest thy mighty breath,
Windways, will sweep me into utter night.
For oh, I fear they will be swallowed up—
The loves which are to me of vital worth,
My passion and my pleasure in the earth—
And lost forever in thy magic cup!
I fear, I fear my truly human heart
Will perish on the altar-stone of art!

Friday, October 19, 2018

Grace, Part 2

In the early years of my schooling at a Catholic elementary school, I learned about Grace.

It was one of the most interesting and difficult to grasp concepts I remember learning.

I think if you asked each of the forty of us in that class what we took GRACE to mean, you would get forty different answers.

This is what I remember from those lessons: Grace is something that you want to collect - that you will bring with you from this world to the next. It is something only God can grant. Grace is not something you can buy or sell. [I guess I learned at a much later date about the buying of indulgences, note, this is quite different from Grace.]

There were ways that you could EARN Grace. I understood from what the teacher told us that Grace was earned by doing things selflessly; that you would never know when the Grace was granted, rather the heavenly tally was something God and St. Peter would know when you met them after death.

I am not sure that I was moved to try to earn Grace by that lesson. It seemed like one of those things that was so out of your control that you shouldn't worry about it. Besides how would you know if you had reached the correct level of selflessness? Wouldn't that just invalidate the action if you were worrying about whether or not your act was selfless.

By the way, I was probably seven when I was trying to assimilate this concept into my life.

I equated the concept of Grace with my dad who would literally give the shirt off his back if you needed it, even if you didn't ask for it. My dad never appears to stop and consider whether or not he should give. He certainly doesn't seem to worry about whether or not the act of giving is selfless.

In my mind, this meant that Grace was another one of those amorphous rules, like the Golden Rule, that you strove to achieve, but that was not something you could reach and then coast through. Rather it was like a heavenly measuring stick you needed to keep trying to reach. I don't remember fretting about it at all.

I had a classmate, though, who clearly spent much more time considering how to achieve Grace. Let's call her Melanie. I discovered Melanie's Grace quest by accident.

Our school, like many Catholic elementary schools, was on the grounds of a Catholic Church. We walked by it everyday. We played in its shadow at lunch and recess as its parking lot became our playground during school hours.

At this Catholic Church, like many others in the country, there is a morning mass every day. It starts at 8am and runs roughly thirty minutes. Though my dad's regular schedule when I was in school had him leaving the house by 7:30am, during Lent, I would often walk past the church parking lot in the morning and see his work truck, painted bright orange, parked there.

It turns out during Lent, my dad liked to go to morning mass every day. It is now his daily practice in retirement to go to mass every day. I started leaving for school as early as I could, and this was extremely challenging for me as I was almost always late for school. I wanted to spend a little more time with my dad, so my reasons for trying to make it to morning mass were anything but selfless.

I noticed, on those mornings that I arrived in time for mass, that Melanie was there. As I got one last hug from my dad [who we have to say is lovely and wonderful in so many ways, does not really do well will showing physical affection], I noted that Melanie was sitting in a pew outside the confessional.

It turns out during Lent you can also go to confession right after morning mass. Maybe not everyday, maybe only one day a week. I can't exactly remember. But on those days, I started to notice that Melanie would be late for school, but she never got in trouble. Being inquisitive and not employing filters, one day at lunch I asked Melanie about it.

Melanie was one of four classmates who came from an inordinately large family. The "large" families ranged from 8 to 12 children. And Melanie was number 10 of 12 in her family. Her mother prescribed to the healthy, earthy-crunchy lunches way before it was fashionable. So, there was Melanie with her perhaps homemade whole grain bread, thickly sliced, with peanut butter and jelly. I asked innocently why she was coming late to class sometimes.

She answered briefly, "I went to confession after mass." This is why I think it was every day during Lent because my response, probably read in my eyes widening, was astonishment and shock. Pretty sure my follow up question was, "What do you have to confess every day?"

She looked at me innocently and resolutely and said, "I'm collecting Grace."

We clearly had gotten different messages about earning Grace from the same lesson.

What does this have to do with Jamey? Sorry, it's getting long, you'll find out in part 3.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Poetry Thursday


Grace
~Sarah Gambito

You will transcend your ancestor’s suffering

You will pick a blue ball. You will throw it to yourself.

You will be on the other side to receive.

Green leaves grow around your face.

Hair stands on your body.

You look at old photographs

that say:

The bread is warm!

A child is a blessing!

That’s what I said!

I meant it!

You could say this is a poem.

Like the great halves of the roof

that caved and carved together.

Found us before words

and tender-footing.

Before wrongdoing

and the octaves of blue

above us all.

Copyright © 2018 Sarah Gambito. Used with permission of the author.

I swear it is a complete coincidence that I chose this poem for today and also felt called to write about grace. Seriously, I chose this poem weeks ago. I just reopened it today to add a photo.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Grace, part 1

I have a friend at work, I'll call him Jamey, not short for James, just Jamey.

He is an original.

He seems to the outside observer to be slightly off. Actually, he just doesn't care what you think, and he is willing to be "ridiculous" in order to make you smile, make a point, or just entertain himself. He delights in your belief that he is ridiculous; and his very being challenges you to be some more authentic part of yourself that is associated with whimsy or joy or both.

Jamey loves to talk to strangers; rather, he loves to make strangers his friends. He knows the name of every person we pass in the halls at work from the maintenance crew to the vice presidents. Often, he knows the name of their family members and inquires about their latest trouble or triumph.

There is no one I have seen that doesn't meet Jamey with the greatest smile, head tilt or shoulder drop - the sure sign that someone has really seen you. He never addresses someone without truly wanting to make a connection.

He is the kind of person you meet and instantly know you have found one of your tribe.

But from the outside, we might look like the most unlikely of friends.

Over the year plus that I have known him, though, I have learned to see that he shows that whimsical side in a carefully choreographed, even though it may seem haphazard, way. He is not open and vulnerable with just anyone.

I told you, he is one of my tribe.

Jamey seldom rests, either sleeping or sitting still. He is almost always exhausted and subsisting on daily runs and breakfast biscuits from the same (unnamed here) fast food restaurant. I imagine him ordering at the drive-through, but also wonder if he doesn't know the name of all the workers and their family members, too.

You might also think he was textbook manic/depressive.

If you peel back the layers, though, there is more evidence for a soul struggling with dark and light than a brain misfiring despite its best attempts at "normal."

Jamey loves music, especially of the stringed variety, preferably guitar. He makes them. And then he gifts them. They are art through and through.

He likes to give his gifts as anonymously as possible. I rationalize that it is because he wants to remove his presence from the gift. He wants the gift to be pure gift, not generosity, but purity of freedom. That's not quite right, but I need more words for gift than I can recall at the moment.

If you probed Jamey, and he were feeling particularly open and willing to be vulnerable, he would admit that he gifts the guitars in a spiritual way; that he thinks the guitar is finding its way to the soul that needs it, for whatever reason. I might say the guitar is Jamey's spirit animal; and I would say that his guitars are alive.

Jamey often speaks through music in his life outside of work. And Jamey's work outside of business hours is his life. He is that extremely rare person who is inordinately good at his work, yet that work does not dominate his mind or soul.

Our work is not creative work, though Jamey's title is "author" - an apt title though the work he does is anything but cathartically creative. It might be covertly creative as he tries to weave bureaucratic language into as authentic a portrait of a people as possible. But it is relentlessly bureaucratic, the definition of boring. So, Jamey build guitars, breathes life into inanimate pieces of wood, and sometimes plastic, weaves strings into these newly animated appendages and then hands that life/spirit to someone who needs it.

In his other work, the work outside of work hours and not in our building, he ministers to the dying.

I drew the picture of the work work and the guitar work so you could see the contrast - and begin to capture the meaning of giving life in all aspects of Jamey's toiling.

Others have said to me that Jamey's sometimes depressive mood comes from his work with the dying. They say it in an accusatory tone, one that makes you see that they think he brings it on himself.

I think it is just another generous, humble life giving act that is at the base of his being.

These acts, done without need for recognition or recompense, bestow on us that ineffable nourishment I will call here Grace.


Friday, October 12, 2018

Poetry Thursday, a day late...thinking of home

Gulls
~Leonora Speyer

Fearless riders of the gale,
In your bleak eyes is the memory
Of sinking ships:
Desire, unsatisfied,
Droops from your wings.

You lie at dusk
In the sea’s ebbing cradles,
Unresponsive to its mood;
Or hover and swoop,
Snatching your food and rising again,
Greedy,
Unthinking.

You veer and steer your callous course,
Unloved of other birds;
And in your soulless cry
Is the mocking echo
Of woman’s weeping in the night.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Poetry Thursday, secrets

Secrets
~Lola Ridge

Secrets
infesting my half-sleep…
did you enter my wound from another wound
brushing mine in a crowd…
or did I snare you on my sharper edges
as a bird flying through cobwebbed trees at sun-up
carries off spiders on its wings?

Secrets,
running over my soul without sound,
only when dawn comes tip-toeing
ushered by a suave wind,
and dreams disintegrate
like breath shapes in frosty air,
I shall overhear you, bare-foot,
scatting off into the darkness….
I shall know you, secrets
by the litter you have left
and by your bloody foot-prints.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Poetry Thursday, prepping for the 1/2

Brown Girl Has Walked Into the Wild, Palms Open
~Barbara Jane Reyes
 
                   See how she lists. The body is bent as light, as wind will it.
And so you must tread light. Mind the rocks under foot. You must tread

          slow.
There has been drought; see where water has long ago troughed, has

          carved her.
                      See how she branches, twisting, her many hands reaching.
Her roots also reach, sweetened from reaching. When fire arrives, she

          toughens.
She will slough away the thick. She will be slick, and dark beneath the

          rough.
She will mimic the fire her bones remember. Know her bones glisten.
                      See how she rests. The body will fall, as time wills it.
See how it hollows, how her pieces return to earth.
          And from her thick trunk, mushrooms cluster—
                                 Her belly a nest of moss and poison.
When broken open, see what of her mother she has kept,
                                 what of her father, what of the stars.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Poetry Thursday

Leaving
 ~Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

No matter how he wrested himself silent in night,
six days post-stroke he woke fluent in former languages,
backtracking this time here.

Mercy nurses, attendants, remedied in their own.
Once he registered, all he cawed out was
          if it’s too far gone, we need to talk.

     All of this, what I am, doesn’t know how to die.
     All I know how to do is survive. All I ever done.

     If it’s time, tell me, tell me, give me four days.
     I’d like to have that blanket Dustin designed.
     Damnit, I hate to leave this beauty,           life.

On the fourth, came the Pendleton, delivered
right on time. His breath slowed, eased, then quit.
That was it.

After some hours the rest of us slept.
Some of us sleep still left.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

9.19

Since September 19, 2012, everything in my life is either pre-9/19 or post-9/19. The myriad of other cascading tragedies all fall underneath this day.

The sadness clouds my vision - and I never know if I should stop and cry, soldier on, tell people why it is a hard day, or stay in bed (or any combo of those actions).

Last year, the first year I was in a "real" job since Greg died, I took the day off. I could not predict what the emotions would be... being away from home and not having a ritual. I have either gone with my mother to church or gone in solidarity to church away from her. But church is not a safe or happy place for me, so it is not really an option.

This year, with a horrible deadline looming, I could not even entertain taking the day or even a few hours off.

It turns out that all the hard work I put into the project is for naught. My piece, such as it is, is done but it broke the system, so nothing works. Now those who should be fixing the problem are pointing fingers (at me, of course) instead.

At first I wanted to scream at them. But then I did my little pivot, and I thought: "At least I could scream at them if I wanted to." I am alive. I am breathing in and out and their pettiness cannot take that away from me, unless I let them.

Don't get me wrong, I am irritated. I am so irritated, angry, frustrated, exhausted (after putting in over 12 hours for the past two days and getting little to no sleep for the past three nights).

But, perspective is lending me a hand in bringing down my blood pressure.

This is the email that I want to send colleagues today:
"I will happily take the hit for [our project] not working. We can say I misunderstood or took it upon myself to implement a fix that was not appropriate, or whatever you want. But I have one condition: next time a colleague asks for your help with a project, stop and listen. Give that colleague an hour of your time. Don't say, "I don't know any more than you do." Or send the person away to someone else who will also throw up his/her hands. Answer emails. Stop long enough to figure out what the issue is before you dismiss it as not your problem.

I will take the fall. You can have my job if you like. It will not make [the project] work. It will not help in getting [the project] to work. But spending some time collaborating and assisting your colleagues just might make all of this work a little more smoothly."

Here is the part I also want to send but probably wouldn't:

"Six years ago today my brother died. He was the person I was closest to in the whole world. When he left this universe, he took parts of me with him that cannot be replaced. It was the worst day of my life. It irrevocably changed me.

Your pettiness in pointing fingers rather than helping or even accepting your part in how [the project] doesn't work today is so small compared to that loss."

Ok... out of my system, carry on, internets.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

ugh, frustration and exhaustion rant, feel free to skip on by

If I were to judge the amount of effort I should put into my work based on the amount of effort (and attention) my colleagues put into their work, then I should not have come to work today.

I should not address any issues facing my content areas until it is too late to do anything about the mistakes. I should, then, say that taking measures to rectify the mistakes would be too risky.

Finally, I should suggest that these are not truly issues, rather, whatever (and I mean whatever) is happening, is, in fact, a direct result of user error. User in this case refers exclusively to the person who has uncovered the mistake.

I am pissed. Can you tell?

In part, I am tired. I traveled all night, and came directly to work from the airport. I did not go home, I did not collect $200. I am coming off a few days reflecting the shortness of life and the choices we make to spend (or not) time with those we love.

I am exhausted, physically and emotionally. I am tired of being one of very few who cares about the outcome of our work.

And, my teacher voice dangerously near to my lips, I want to counsel my colleagues; I want to let them know in no uncertain terms that the time we spend making up excuses for why will not fix what is obviously not working would be better spent looking for a solution.

I often told my students when I was teaching that I preferred not to have the excuse. Excuses are/were completely and utterly meaningless to me.

Day two...
My first impulse is to look for another job. But then I remember that I have faced this issue before although not always in the same exact way.

I need to calibrate my reactions, I get it.

This situation is dangerously threatening to kill my post-vacation glow. I have managed to maintain it through some very trying situations, both personally and professionally, for a few weeks. I did this by straining to see the silver lining every time an obstacle appeared.

After some sleep, I am going to rededicate myself to see shining through these clouds. Wish me luck.

Poetry Thursday

A Tempest in a Teacup
 ~A. Van Jordan
Prospero

Assume, just for a moment,
I am denied a job
in the factory of my dreams
under the fluorescent lights
of a porcelain white foreman.

It’s orderly and neat.
I feed my family.
No one questions my face.
I raised my son in my likeness,
so he would never go unseen,

bobbing on a wave of expectation,
I set in motion with my back
put into my work, praying
for my country, blessed
with more of me, never worrying

about those who might die,
or those who did, trying
to stir a storm, trying
to stand where I’m standing.

Thursday, September 06, 2018

Poetry Thursday, transformations

Humdrum
~Carl Sandburg

If I had a million lives to live
   and a million deaths to die
   in a million humdrum worlds,

I’d like to change my name
   and have a new house number to go by
   each and every time I died
   and started life all over again.

I wouldn’t want the same name every time
   and the same old house number always,
   dying a million deaths,
   dying one by one a million times:
   —would you?
                        or you?
                                or you?

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Poetry Thursday

The Average Mother
 ~Camille T. Dungy
The average mother loses 700 hours of sleep in the first year of her child’s life; or, what that first year taught me about America.


Most of us favor one side when we walk. As we tire,
we lean into that side and stop moving in a straight line—
                      so it takes longer to get anywhere,
let alone home.

                      In wilderness conditions,
           where people don’t know the terrain,
a tired person might end up leaning so far into one side
           they’ll walk in a circle rather than straight ahead.

It can kill you, such leaning
                      —and it can get you killed.

                                           Rest helps.

                                                                 I told my husband,

I walked in a circle in my mind but you came out okay.

                      Initially, he asked me to clarify,
           but then he let it go.

Who wrote that first If You Lived Here You’d Be Home by Now sign?

                      It seems I’m going to have to move.

           I am tired and also sick
of helping other people in lieu of helping myself.

                      Rest now.

It's really not that bad: we’re in the home stretch.

           That’s the mind of a parent.
Relentless optimism in the face of sheer panic
                                                                 and exhaustion.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Poetry Thursday, actually a quote


Sorrow, 
accumulating in 
one's heart, 
may one fine day 
burst into flames 
like a haystack, 
and everything will burn away 
in the fire of extraordinary joy. 

~Mikhail Prishvin.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Poetry Thursday

I looked up and realized -- It's Thursday! And, I had not yet posted a poem ... so here's one, with no photo. Thanks to Poem-A-Day for introducing me...

Spirits
 ~William Archila

At daylight, he surrendered to the gutters’
thick cirrhosis, his trajectory

half awake, half anvil from the glass to the killing floor
I was raised in, each thin thread tethered

from the root of a nicotined tooth
to the rusted bars of the slammer.  I couldn't tell you why

Felix the Cat came to mind, totally inebriated,
two Xs, bubbles popping, his gait

a saint carried in a procession—Cherry Pink
& Apple Blossom White, 1955—

except that my grandfather died
with a bottle in his pocket, his Robert Mitchum

chin & pompadour distilled
from a banana republic in fire, a slow, steady

drinker, perfect fulfillment to drown out
his manhood. There's a certain kind of fix

that falters precariously,
a benediction when they allege

one more drunk for the hood. He didn't matter
to the dispenser nor the riffraff crowd.

Nothing about him capsized, except his compound
of cologne & corrosion.  All those rotguts.

All those bums. They didn't matter
to the nation, though they were the nation.