Category Archives: Poetry

THE APPLE FACTORY

She told me her story on a fine spring day.

Across the long miles of all the Russias,
Into the Manchurian cold,
They went to build a railroad.

Raised up a native in Chinaland,
She asked her daddy,
Where is the apple factory?

Summer of 1914,
He sent her to find the apples.
Back to the Caucasus,
Where Grandpa lived to a hundred and thirteen,
Where fruit trees grow,
Where the family founded itself.

Homeward bound, an archduke died.
Forty-five days is a long train ride.
Making room for soldiers,
The apples turned to mush.
Daddy, what is a war?

Ninety-nine years and the lease was up.
Railroading in Manchuria,
blaSplitting of rails and family,
Lost addresses, lost lives.
For forty years they were scattered.

She learned the other war
Took Daddy and Brother, too.
Sister found her in harsh January,
To say, Mother died just last October.
But, what of all the years before?

And now she stands,
Looking out from her California kitchen
At her own apple factory.
Tangy Gravs and Red Delicious stretching
To the Russian River beyond.

And she remembers the flavor of 1914
When war was a delay in the timetable.

FROM THE LAND OF SKY-BLUE-PINK

At sunset tonight, a special treat of sky-blue-pink skies lasted brief moments before turning to candle-orange and magenta and the dark of daylight-murdering skies. So many things in life go fleet-footed away from us in moments, hours and even years that can be too short. A whispered endearment. A smile on granddaughter’s face on receiving balloons.  A breeze sending autumn’s leaves scurrying to the ground.

Today had many such moments for me. Several came as my friend Robin Moore (aka Robin Cleary) read from her NANOWRIMO piece. You know, the 50,000 words in thirty days that leaves writers exhausted, perhaps frustrated and definitely brain-irrigated. Her words leapt about with emotional tension as horse and, then, man, fought to overcome nature’s fierce destructive path. I was there in the eye of the storm, wanting to make things right for the animal and horrified when the man intervenes to the detriment of both. This was very powerful writing: descriptive, bold and energetic. I didn’t gasp for breath but could have easily if the writer had gone on reading her work.

Returning Light: After the Storm by Sandra Merwin

Such is the power of words. To terrify,to entertain, to challenge. To make us laugh, cry,  frown in consternation. To cause us to argue, sympathize or become confused. And to do so much more.

When Mom’s car wouldn’t start this morning, Allie pronounced that it was out of gas…not so with this Hybrid  but how clever of the five-year-old to come up with those words to explain the problem…another function of words.

Swimming through words of confusion later, I finally understood what was being asked of me…a simple request for help. With my globetrotting daughter, briefly back in Chicago, we caught up on our mutual happenings over her glass of good wine as I did so vicariously. Our words mixed, flowed and sometimes had to be spelled out for the lousy connection we had. But, we waded through the morass of clicks, rattlings, and electronic buzzes until we reached clarity and understanding.

Words, words and more words. They make us, berate us and hammer sense out of us. Floating as sounds through the brain. Visual images to our closed eyes, landing on page or computer site until they finally evolve into sentences, paragraphs, letters, chapters, books and we think we are communicating. We speechify, narrate, listen and contemplate.

About then, a sky-blue-pink sky happens on the horizon and we are at a loss for words, It is too magnificent, transitory and there is no way for us to hold onto the magic. Except in words when we try to share the impact with others. When the poet combines images with emotions and finds the words to capture the essence of the event. The poet records it, we read it and recognize the import of his words.

And so, Robin captured moments from her experience or her imagination, fit them together with words and enticed us along for the ride, actually and figuratively. This is the epitome of the writer’s gift: to bridge reality and imagination with sparkling, emotion-ridden and exquisite language.

TRAVELING ON

 

I got out of Dodge very quickly after the HNS conference and headed toward the Huachucas and Cochise County, AZ, one of my favorite places in this marvelous country. Temperatures quickly climbed as I left  fog-cooled coastal San Diego. I’ve spent time here before and enjoyed the sights, friends and culture of this sparkling village. This time, I had more urgent business calling me east.

 The farther I went, the hotter it got. My first destination was Yuma, home of the Arizona Territorial Prison. After two weeks of intense palaver with friends, most of whom write, and strangers of the same ilk, I entered into a period of virtual isolation. Well, not “virtual” for I Skyped with my son and granddaughter regularly, as in “When are you coming home, Grandma?” followed by either giggles or tears. Calls to others and from my dirt-digging daughter (the archaeologist) broke my silences as I tried to figure out if I could go to the Huachucas. Reason prevailed, helped by heat edging toward 115 degrees and  the Monument Fire in the Huachucas that started after I left home. Well, so a fire broke out near Yuma, crossing both state lines AND the Colorado River on my second night. I soon turned north and west to seek out the welcome chill of the Pacific where a sweater is a summer must-have.

 I’m writing to the music of Enya on Pandora Radio.  I hope you enjoy my fragments.

            YUMA                                                      READING JEFFERS

Blistering heat beats down                       His poetry sings of the land

To meet fire’s great flames                       Finding the graveyard of

In pungent gusts of                                       Deer bones old and newer  

Severe black smoke,                                      He brings us into the

Skyscraper high.                                              Scene and the life now gone

                                                                                 His words create images of emotion.

Ash flittered about

Raining all around                                        MONTEREY BAY

A small maelstrom                                   Storm clouds gather

Imitating its elders.                                   to the North and West

                                                                            Sun huddles in

Homes evaporate at                                   cumulus blanket

Monument and Wallow                             While kayakers stream      

Hero firefighters  sleep                                around and through

Wherever they can flop,                              Kelp beds brown as

Dreamless, to revive.                                    burnt toast on a gray table.

                                                                                              The otter rests.

Trees succumb

Shaving mountains and desert

Shear to the stony base,

Rage devours all.

I cannot go farther………..

NATIONAL POETRY MONTH

                                               

The 2011 National Poetry Month poster designed by Stephen Doyle.

The Academy of American Poets (www.poets.org) instituted National Poetry Month in 1996 to encourage the love of poetry among Americans. Each year a designer is asked to contribute a poster to the celebration and this year it was Stephen Doyle whose work is seen here. The quote “Bright objects hypnotize the mind” is from the poem “A Word with You” by Elizabeth Bishop. Go to the website to see what Doyle has to say about the poet and her work as it inspired his design…”illuminating.”

“Under the spreading chestnut tree, the village smithy stands…”  may be the most “memorable” of Longfellow’s poems simply because of the numbers of schoolchildren made to memorize it. Was it your first poem?  Probably not.  After all, our nursery rhymes and prayers were poetry.                         

Now I lay me down to sleep,   

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

If I die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take.                                                                  

                                                              OR

                                                                                      Mary, had a little Lamb,

                                                                                       Its fleece was white as snow.

                                                                                        Everywhere that Mary went,

                                                                                         The Lamb was sure to go.

 As we grew, the most dominant exposure to poetry probably shifted to the songs of our teen years, whenever that was.  Words of love, imagined, lost or savored, reflected the angst of our age and our emotional state. In thrall, we may have composed sonnets or dedicated words to our love, or poured out our misery when denied.  We use poetry in our commitment ceremonies, in remembrances, and in greeting cards. Poetry surrounds us in advertisements, music and, increasingly, on the printed and on-line page. The quality varies, as does the form, style and impact.

 Chapbooks are thriving, perhaps as never before. Workshops on form and arousing the muse are more frequent. Writers who may never have tried poetry find themselves delving into the process. Haiku, story-poems, sonnets, rhyming or non-rhyming forms, epics or free verse are finding their audiences in readings, newsletters, chapbooks and larger tomes

For me, poetry is becoming more and more important as an expression and examination of mood, feelings, incidents and the complexities of life.

 WHAT IS THE ROLE OF POETRY IN YOUR LIFE?

DO YOU READ POETRY REGULARLY?

DO YOU WRITE POETRY?

JAPAN SUFFERS

Devastation scares, intimidates and forces us to take stock. I watched the hour long march of the tsunami late Thursday evening in shock and dismay, hardly believing my eyes. Then, came all the later stories of the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods until the World Figure Skating Championships folks asked the question about canceling this week’s competition in Tokyo.  Excuse me, I think the Japanese will be otherwise occupied for a considerable time to come!

 JAPAN SUFFERS

Earth shakes

Fear presides

Breathe, breathe

don’t forget how

Panic rules

Flames incite

Shocks continue

Into the night

Mud rushes in

Capturing the land

Roof becomes basement

Debris swims by

Where are the people

Turned upside down

In seconds, in minutes

Life flows apart

All that water

None to drink

Brother, mother, child

Dead or lost

Shattered earth

Shattered home

Shattered life

Shattered future

Nuclear rods

Hot to let go

Float in the abyss

Of afterglow

Fear runs amuck

Chaos has its day

But shall we skate

The world asks anyway

AD  March 2011