A poem in every pocket

poem in every pocket

Today is National Poem in Your Pocket Day.  I love that this is a thing now.  I love poems, all manner of them, short, long, rhyming, oblique.  Each poem is a wrapped piece of candy I can never get enough of.  The idea of NPIYPD is that you carry a poem in your pocket to share with others.  I didn’t leave my house today, so I’ll use this post as my pocket.

A Poem in Every Pocket

Imagine a plaza
where some people sit on squat pedestals,
and some people are
talking/walking/milling about,
but all are carrying this secret:
that their pockets are filled
with poems only they
know all the words to.

Mary Pierce

That is my little poem.  It is also my wish.  If you have a poem you are carrying around today I’d love it if you would share it with me.

A Stupid Place

Gram at 70.

Gram at 70.

A Stupid Place

A stupid place to put it,
she says, winding into another rant
about a ceiling fan at the wrong end of the room.
She sits and twists the ring on her finger,
and wonders why she is here.

Because she used to have a house.
Now she has too much furniture,
and a life packed in cardboard boxes,
honey-combed walls wilted by
the heat of how many summers?

Moments flicker and play out
in silent testimony to what came before
this place, this stupid place.
At the window, a curtain lifts like an apparition
in a breeze too flabby to last.

She turns her head and waits for
the next riffle of wind,
for the days that gather and roll
like dust bunnies beneath her bed,
while she sits and twists the ring on her finger

and her mind meanders in a space
too narrow for contentment,
a labyrinth of thoughts
that twists and turns upon itself
crossing the same trail, the same words,

A stupid place to put it, she says.
I don’t know why I’m here.

~~  Mary Pierce, 1995


The woman in the photo is my grandmother, Pearl Crawford Pierce.  She was seventy when the photo was taken, her hair color still hers and not from a box.  She cut her hair herself.  My grandfather had been dead for more than twenty years by then.  In those years, she had learned to drive a car and shop for herself, two things that my grandfather had always done.  She also got a job at the local paper mill, worked for a while, retired, and found a sense of satisfaction selling Avon products because it got her out of her house.  She had style and a snazzy Mustang by then.

A few years after this photo was taken she was mugged on her own front porch.  She stopped selling Avon and was reluctant to go outside.  A couple of years after that, in one of the infrequent times she did leave her house, her car skidded on an icy road and she hit a bank.  The kind you keep your money in.  She broke her jaw and her hip and cracked some ribs.  Eventually, she healed.  Physically.

By the time I wrote the poem, she had given up her house to a daughter and moved to a small one-bedroom apartment in a subsidized development.  Her short-term memory had moved somewhere else.  It clearly was no longer residing with her.  I wrote the poem after a visit.  That year I made many visits, driving from my home in Rhode Island to her stupid place in northern New York with a six-year-old in tow, trying desperately to find a way to keep her in her apartment and out of a nursing home.  Physically, in spite of her run-in with the bank, she was strong and relatively healthy, the one glitch being that she had developed high enough blood pressure to necessitate her taking daily medication.  Which, of course, she could never remember to do.

Twenty years and five months after the photo was taken Gram died in a nursing home after she fell out of bed in the middle of the night.  Had she known what was happening, she would have laughed at what a ridiculous way to go that was.  A few years before that, on one of my visits, she asked me to take her to the area she had been born.  We ended up at the cemetery where her parents and her baby brother, Rosco were all buried.  It was one of those lovely large cemeteries with mature trees and undulating hills, a place with a good view, she said.  We didn’t make it to the Crawford family plot because in our traipsing about, she lost her balance on the spongy ground and rolled down a hill before I could grab her.  When I caught up to her, she was unhurt and doubled over in laughter.  “Well, if I died here, at least I wouldn’t have far to go,” she managed to choke out.  And we both laughed like hell because the whole thing was hilarious, and what else was there to do?  Life is hard.  Sometimes, we end up in a stupid place.

I chart my grandmother’s journey in words and pictures because that is the best way I know to remember who she was.  To me, at any rate.  Others may remember someone else.  Despite the poem, despite the place she ultimately found herself in, it wasn’t the whole story.  I knew her as a woman of passion, of strength and the courage to guide me past a bear.  (Yes, a real bear.  A story for another time.)  But, she was also something more.  Scroll back up to that photo and you’ll see what I mean.  It’s there in her eyes.  Those are the eyes of someone who has always known how to dream.  An asset, because dreams will get you where you need to go.

No matter what place you happen to be.

Between, & all the years that have passed since then

In a kingdom far away

In a kingdom far away

BETWEEN

I wanted a red dress and wide hips —
the better to love with
not necessarily for birthing babies
as those books
would have us believe
their pages filled with
elastic wombs & embryos,
miniature aliens placed there
by god knows what.
Desire.  Was that it?

Motherhood has since selected
something more suitable
for me to wear.
responsibility and self-sacrifice
in a durable weave,
stains wash out easily.
Count on cotton
I hear in my head,
a titter made sonorous
in the hollow of sleepless nights.

Swaddled in flannel with pink rosettes
I dream of a tight red dress
warm breath in my hair
probing fingers
so many places to search for comfort
or passion.
Desire and need are not the same things.
My thighs have grown soft.
I remember when they were taut,
sprawled heedlessly on the edge of caring.

I perched there for a time,
between
the dream and waking,
between
desire and duty,
rivers of doubt flowing on either side.
I stared into the abyss
and leapt anyway.

~~~ written 1995


So, yeah . . . here’s a thing.  I’ve had a stack of old floppy disks sitting in a drawer forever.  A few days ago I bought an external floppy disk drive so that I could finally access the content.  One of the disks was just labeled Poems.  A few of them, like this one here, I hadn’t remembered even writing.  My son was six when I wrote this.  I was busy, probably tired as hell.

There are short stories I forgot about, ideas for children’s books, more poems. I’ll probably go through them slowly, savoring them.  Try to recall where my head was at the time.  It’s a little like finding a trove of letters from someone you used to know, but haven’t seen in a really, really long time.

Could be interesting.

Tap shoes, dreams, and dust

gathering dust as forgotten things go

My tap shoes gathering dust.  The dark blotch on the top shoe is my fingerprint.

 

I dreamed of dancing, once
of twirling, gliding, flying
slyph-like
across space and polished floors.
My parents couldn’t afford lessons
so I danced with Judy Forkey, instead.
She was Baryshnikov
to my Kirkland
because she was taller
and could catch me

when I lept.

Later the rage was tap.
Girls who took dance
in the next town over
wore their tap shoes to school
on the day of their lesson.
I loved the

click click click

of metal against
the tiled school floors.
I stuck tacks in the bottoms
of my shoes
trying to approximate the sound

click click click

It wasn’t the same.

Years later
I realized that I was grown up
and in charge of my life
so I bought a pair of tap shoes
and stuck them in my closet
sometimes I took them out
to imitate dance moves
on my linoleum floor
just to hear the

click click click

again.

I can afford lessons
now
when I find the time,
but time is harder to find
than the tacks
I had to filch
from my teacher’s desk
for the faux shoes.

Certainly
harder to come by
than dust.


Intrigued by the thought of leftovers.

Fragile

 

one day they will fly

One day soon they will learn to fly.

 

Reflections: 07/08/1990

A night
in the life of us.
Kathy says
she wants credit
for the title.
Okay
I say.
I am easy.
Tommy has always been
easy
or so he thinks.
I think
we are all too
fragile
for real life.


Several days ago my husband discovered a nest containing newly hatched baby robins in our rhododendron bush.  I took a photo with my phone.  I keep looking at the picture, amazed that such tiny creatures are able to survive at all.  How is that even possible?  I mean, look at them.  They have scant feathers and see-through skin.  Their spines are a yellow dotted line down their backs.  They cannot hold their heads upright.

Something in the fragility of these babies made me think of a night long ago. My sister was visiting from Virgina, about to move to California.  My brother was still alive.  I convinced them to go with me to see the movie, Cinema Paradiso — a magical film about childhood and how it shapes who we become. Afterwards, we went to a bar where we drank wine and wrote poetry on paper napkins.  Then we sat in a park, talking into the night until one of us was sober enough to drive home.  I kept all of my napkin poems from that night twenty-four years ago.  Dated and numbered, yellowing and stained; seven of them in all.  I don’t know if my sister still has hers.  I wish I had my brother’s.

I don’t remember what started it, the writing poetry on napkins.  Most likely the wine and the movie, the looking backwards to the past.  Wondering how any of us survive the chaos that comes with growing up?  We were so fragile then, our dreams as transparent as glass.  Our poetry so self-confessional.

But survive, we do, for a time.  Some of us longer than others.

The baby robins are thriving.  Which is a miracle to me.  In five days they have doubled in size.  Their feathers are coming in and there are the shadowy buds of wings that will eventually lift them from their nest.

I hope to bear witness when they do.

Five days old.  A crowded house.

Five days old. A crowded house.

What the Heart Wants

stone heart 2

“The heart wants what it wants . . . .”

     ~ Emily Dickinson


The heart wants blood & proper plumbing
valves
un-clogged arteries
electricity thrumming
a steady rhythm.

It’s a muscle
after all
little mouse of soft tissue
no bigger than a fist
wanting us to eschew
the fat
to move ourselves
in vigorous exercise
to breath deeply
of clean air.

A heart cannot live
on metaphors
that speak 
of love
and longing
words best left
to poets
& to time.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Twist

fforde ffiesta 08 TwistA whirl of caracters rising upward:
a girl in a green dress
a Hawaiian-shirted tourist
a minotaur
two cheese smugglars
mustachioed
horned
and adorned
disguised
and prized
Ffiesta tomffoolery
for the ffun
of it.


The photo was taken at the DeVere Hotel in Swindon, UK, May, 2008.  The occassion was the second Fforde Ffiestaa gathering for fans of the author, Jasper Fforde.  (You can find out about Jasper Here and Here.) My husband, our son, and I have been attending these events since 2005, because these people are like family; each event has become a family reunion of sorts.  Those of us who consider ourselves members of this wacky, wonderful family are celebrating the fact that this weekend is EXACTLY 12 months away from the next reunion.  We can barely contain our enthusiasm.

Posted as part of the Weekly Photo Challange.

Seasonal lake view

looking glass lake 1

From my bedroom window
I happen to glance out and spot the shroud of sun
spreading it’s last light over the horizon.
Before it melts into the woods beyond the lake —
a lake we can only view through trees bereft of foliage,
from an upstairs window —
I grab my camera to document the thrill
of this single moment.
One in millions throughout my lifetime,
each observed and stored in its own place inside my head,
to be retrieved later (if I can find it) and enjoyed again.

Remember this? I’ll ask myself.  Wasn’t it spectacular?

In truth, it’s not likely I’ll remember
this particular sunset
any more than others I’ve seen,
or the thousand other moments
that caught my eye or my breath,
and made me pause to savor it.
Like our seasonal lake view,
obscured by the fullness of nature,
the brevity of moments like this
get lost
in the plenitudes of life.

That’s what the camera is for.

n.b. April is National Poetry Writing Month.  If you’d like to try your hand at the form, or just read good words, check out these links.  Here and Here.

Lost

photo (3) sig

My father threw me in a river once and said, this is how you learn to swim.  I don’t remember if I was scared.  Only gliding through water so clear I could see everything the world might be made of.

The weightlessness thrilled me.  And the cold that warmed me the longer I wore it.  I glued my legs together with the wish for a fish tail and propelled my mermaid self through uncharted waters and forgot all the things I thought I knew.

*Inspired by today’s daily prompt.  Also appearing at Mod Mom Beyond IndieDom.