A is for: A day late

Yesterday was the 24 Hour Project, and I was lucky enough to have my friend Raivenne join me! I’ll put my pics together to share later this week. Suffice it to say that I am exhausted today, beat to the last thread of my socks. And my knee has so many unprintable things to say about me right now. Taking on that challenge was fun, though, and the pain will pass. But, because I was so wrung out yesterday, so other things fell by the wayside. Hence my “A day late” title.

It’s April 2nd, and that means I’m a day into National Poetry Month … and nary a poem written. I thought I might manage one yesterday while I was out and about for the 24 Hour Project, but that proved too much for my super-tired self, so I let it go. And now here I am, trying to catch up on day 2 … not just with my 30/30, but with the A-to-Z challenge as well.

Because I need more writing challenges in my life.

I haven’t made any decisions about a form for this month. Today I have a Zeno that I started on the bus yesterday. Around 5am, Raivenne and I went to my office — we needed to charge our phones, sit in warmth, and use the facilities. The security guard on duty when we arrived, had some beautiful yarn in front of her, and — although she’d given us quite the fish eye when we first walked into the building (it was 5am, after all) — the moment we started exclaiming over her pretty work, we had a very different conversation! After Rai and I parted for the morning, I was on the bus and this poem started trying to be something in my already-sleepy brain.

(A Zeno has a syllable pattern of 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1 and a rhyme scheme of a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.)


She is stitching for her mother.
Unspooling yarn,
her hands
through soft colors,
twist and
braiding beauty
and love.

She was sweet, the security guard, told us that she used to make cards for her mother with artwork and pretty designs, and that she hadn’t made anything in a while and so decided to make her a scarf. And the yarn was some really fun, slubby, multi-colored business that her mom is sure to love.

And, because today on Robert Lee Brewer’s page the prompt is to write a “not today” poem and that fits with how I’m feeling after my 24 Hours, I’ve scribbled up a little tanka for my second poem:

Not Today

Sunday plans cast off —
laundry, errands, all the things.
I am not moving,
not thinking, not doing, not.
Focused inward, refueling.

And I’m all caught up with my poems!


Last breath of April …

Should you be concerned that the last you heard from me was on 4/20?  Should you?  No, really not.   The day passed with no out-of-control homage from me.

No, instead I’ve just been leaving this posting business for way too late, and instead of sitting up and falling asleep on the computer, I’ve just put myself to bed.  The result is that I’m feeling much more rested (finally), but I also haven’t posted in days.  I think I might put the post I wrote on Saturday up tomorrow because I liked it.  We’ll see.

Tonight, however, I have other business.  Tonight I have to talk about last Tuesday, which was all about … me!  (Big surprise, I’m sure.)  Not just me, but me and the eight other women who were the featured readers/performers at a book party.  An essay of mine is included in a collection of writing about women’s literacy.  I’m excited about the book and was really happy to have the chance to read.  I was incredibly nervous about it, however.

I used to read all the time.  I was always nervous those times, too, but Tuesday was different.  Not only have I not read in years, this essay was very personal and it was hard to think of how I’d manage to read it to a room full of strangers, how I’d survive reading to a fair number of people I have professional relationships with … and even harder to imagine reading it to the half-dozen or so of my friends who were in the room. But I read and read reasonably well. I didn’t hyperventilate, didn’t shake so badly I couldn’t hold my papers still, didn’t suddenly forget how to speak. I was magically able to mostly be myself.

The essay grew out of the My Body Politic post I wrote here two years ago. There is much more in the essay than in the blog post, however. Much more focused on things about my life that I don’t generally talk about … such as growing up so “other” in my small, homogenous town that I felt I had to erase whole parts of myself to find a way to live under the radar … such as completely internalizing the cues that inspired that erasure.  It was strange to read all of that out loud to anyone. 

But it worked.  People laughed at the parts that are meant to be funny, gasped at the parts that are meant to shock, let me feel their warm resonating hum in the moments when they were feeling what I was feeling.  I wish I had been brave enough to invite more people.  There are at least another half dozen friends I would have liked to see in that audience.  Next time!

And, despite my silence here, I kept up with my Zeno writing over the last ten days.*  I even wrote one for Tuesday:

flowers in sun on a cold night.
wild, talented
voice. eight women
hidden, held back.

And thus concludes my month of the Zeno.  Thank goodness!  It wasn’t awful, but it was definitely work.  Now it’s time to move onto the next challenge.  Yes, I’ve already taken one on.  Maybe I’ll talk about that tomorrow …


*  A Zeno is a 10-line poem: syllables = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhymes = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.

A Love Supreme

There is an adolescent boy who rides my bus in the mornings. He’s maybe 13? Maybe 12? I’ve been watching him grow up the four years I’ve been living in my neighborhood. He boards with his mom. They are beautiful in a sharp, austere way. They sit together and talk about his homework, or the book he’s reading, or whatever.

Lately, though, I’ve noticed that he boards and finds a seat, not looking around to see if there’s a seat for his mom. She accepts and sits or stands near-ish. They don’t interact. I get the wanting to sit separately. God forbid one of his friends should catch him enjoying the ride with his mother … or worse, what if some girl saw him? I get it, but I’m sad for the loss of those heads-tilted-close conversations.

More, I’m sad to see that he is often visibly angry with her and not wanting to have anything to do with her. And I get that, too, I guess. He’s hit that age, right? The age where you are always and always angry with your parents and don’t want anything to do with them (I know this from books, from TV and the movies, you understand … I never actually moved through that phase myself … no, I’m serious).

I get it, but I feel for his mom. She takes it all in stride, never betraying even a hint of sadness or betrayal.

This morning was an angry morning. He got on, his face closed and pinched, walked to the back and sat in the one seat. She found a place to stand midway through the bus and grabbed a pole. A few stops later, a seat opened behind her and she sat …

And before we’d gotten back up to speed, he was in the aisle next to her seat, half-leaning on her, his face calm again, his hand on her shoulder. By the time I left the bus, they were “talking like old times,” no hint of his anger, of his desire to be seen anywhere but with her.

Does it work that way? Is that why she can look so calm when he snubs her, because she knows there will still be those moments when he lets himself remember that he loves her, that he wants to be next to her, wants the physical contact of her next to him? Can mothers tell? Do the know that it’s going to be alright,? Is there something they watch for in this angry phase that clues them in, lets them know the child they love is behind the closed, pinched mask?

no other love is like this love.
not one other
there will be loves
and love’s
but this first love
will still

Yeah, still feeling a little forced, even with the inspiration of my neighbors. But I’m less troubled (must be the exhasution). Happy that I got to write “love’s thrall” and let myself get away with it! That was actually the first rhyme I thought of. What does that say about my brain, that the first rhyme for “all” that came into my head was “thrall”!

* A Zeno poem: 10 lines, syllables = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhyme pattern = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d

Playing Catch-Up: Running Circles Round Myself

a circle closes, tight and smooth —
a seamless join.
leaves no
of storms, struggles,
the between. leaves

I have found that, when I’m in a place where everyone is speaking a language I don’t know, if I stop trying, stop working at understanding what’s going on, I often magically begin to understand what people are talking about. I can’t respond, of course. I don’t, after all, speak the language, but I can follow the general idea of the conversation. I’ve had this happen with both Russian and Hungarian. I’m sure this has something to do with body language, with tone and inflection, with eye contact. Who knows? But the fact remains that understanding dawns when I stop trying to force it.

Yes, of course this is about my work with the Zeno.* A few nights ago I had decided that I’d met my match with this form, that I just couldn’t figure out another one. That was silly, of course, but that’s what I thought. So I wasn’t even going to bother trying. Then Monday night on my way home, the poem above pretty much fell into my head, nearly whole. I won’t pretend that the poem means anything, that it says something or taps into a feeling I’m having. It just is the poem that happened. A poem that happened of its own accord, randomly. Not good. Certainly not great. But anatomically correct.

And then I tried to post it and fell asleep. (My utter exhaustion continues.)

But the strange ease with which that poem made itself made me think maybe it was the same as my experience with Russian and Hungarian, maybe I’d reached some critical turning point in my Zeno writing. Yeah, not so much. On my way home last night, a poem started falling together in my head and then stuttered to a halt at line six. Feh. I forced an ending that didn’t feel right, and as I sat there staring at it … I fell asleep.

This window opens fully, wide.
A gentle nudge.
It wants
Wants a soft hand,
An easy reach,
Not too

So no magical linguistic crossing-over for me with the Zeno, but I keep at it. As for my inability to stay awake long enough to get anything published, I don’t know. Maybe if I sleep away my day on Saturday I’ll catch up with myself. Oh, and maybe if I start eating dinner every night instead of just the nights when I happen to remember …

* The poetic form I’m working with this month is the Zeno: syllable counts = 8/4/2/1/4/2/1/4/2/1, rhyme pattern = a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.

Good night, sleep tight.

Here’s the poem I fell asleep in the middle of typing last night:

This decision breaks decisions.
Choices shifting
who I’ll
how I’ll live. I’m
scared but moving —
from, to

Wonder what I’ll fall asleep without publishing tonight?  That’s the second time this week I’ve conked out in the middle of trying to post. I’m not sure why this week has been so exhausting, but it has.  Hopefully the weekend will bring a little time for sleeping.

As for the Zeno-writing,* I’m still not feeling fluid.  A couple have come easily — the first one I wrote (the one Heidi turned into a song) and the “lilac memory” one — the rest not so much.  The rhythm is still alluding me, feeling forced rather than free, and something about the 4/2/1 lines always reads too sing-song-y to me.  I kind of like this one, but can feel that there is still a very long way to go.

For now, the only place I have to go is the Land of Nod.  Just realizing that there will be no time for sleeping in this weekend, that I have early-day things planned for both Saturday and Sunday.  Alas.


* A Zeno is a ten-line poem.  Syllables: 8/4/2/1/4/2/1. Rhyme: a/b/c/d/e/f/d/g/h/d.