Taken too soon . . .

My friend, Louise.
Gregarious, always moving, always engaged.
She strode through life like she owned it
doing good for others, singing, laughing.
Pain from a pulled muscle slowed her a bit,
but she kept hiking, bicycling,
eagle watching along the Iowa River,
until she could ignore the pain no longer.

Cancer. A word. Not a sentence in her mind.
She fought. God how she fought.
Refused to be forced over the edge.
She took everything they had
and asked for more. Bring it on!
She told me, “I’m not afraid of dying.
I just don’t want to.”
Steps slowed. Belly bloated. Scalp exposed.
But she trekked on. Reached the fringe of living.

She  never acknowledged it. Would not let it win.
“My head’s freezing but doesn’t this hat look divine?”
She grabbed every filament of hope
no matter how thin. She held on for dear life.
Until one night as the household slept,
a kind ethereal spirit appeared beside her bed.
It spoke gently, words riding on the breeze
that floated in from her open window.

“It’s not like a high mountain top towering over a rough sea.
It’s simply a turn in the road.  
Hold my hand and I’ll walk you there.”
And quietly, in the middle of the night, she did.

Written for Tuesday Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where today our prompt is to consider the edges and the fringes. We may if we wish, write a poem that contains the word “edge.” Photo is of my dear friend, Louise. She died in 2018 after a 2+ year battle with ovarian cancer.

Junie’s House

I remember Junie’s house. She was my best friend until we moved away when I was in third grade. I remember her house as comfortable. A heated enclosed front porch held all her well-used dolls and dress-up clothes. Her grandma always sat in the living room in an old wooden rocker. She was tiny, silent and mysterious to me. Junie’s big dining room was crammed full by just three things: an old upright piano with lots of sheet music on its top, a huge dining room table covered in papers and books and magazines, and a large sidebar that had mail on it and a mish mash of other things. The kitchen was huge. I was entranced by the modern washing machine and dryer next to the big gas stove. That was the only washer and dryer I’d ever seen – until we moved to our new house. Junie had a special white metal chair at the table. It sat her up high and was battered and dented. I was always jealous of it when I had to sit on a regular chair on top of books. Junie’s mother, Bertha, was my mother’s best friend. I remember her in the kitchen, wearing an apron around her ample waist, always happy. She made yummy pb&j sandwiches and cut off all the crusts for us. Junie shared a bedroom with her older sister. First door on the right when you got upstairs. There was a dressing table between the two twin beds, covered with Auberdeen’s lipsticks, dried corsages, and fingernail polish bottles. And strangely, I remember the doorknobs in her house. They were big and white and looked like china to me. I have no idea what the doorknobs in my own house looked like.

I have no photos of Junie’s house; nor did my mother. I find it interesting that I remember it in so much detail. And that I use the word “comfortable” to describe it. But that’s in juxtaposition to my mother’s tiny glass animal collection on display in our dining room and my collection of story book dolls kept on glassed in shelves in my bedroom.

winter storm rages –
farm cat beckoned into house
turns back to old barn

Written for Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today I host and ask people to “travel down memory lane” with a simple exercise. Close your eyes for a few moments and go back in time to your earliest memories NOT recalled by virtue of a photo or family lore. Now start jotting them down. You’ll be surprised what you come up with. When I first did this exercise, I actually drew out what the first house I lived in was like: rectangles for rooms. Then I labelled them: my room, parents’ room, brother’s room, living room, dining room, linen closet in hall — and suddenly I remembered climbing up in there to hide from my mom! After jotting things down, choose one memory to share.
Remember, a haibun is: 2 or 3 paragraphs of succinct prose that must be true (cannot be fictional), followed by a haiku that is somehow related to the prose and includes a seasonal reference.

Photo is one of the few I have of me and my friend Junie. Junie is on the left. An interesting fact we found out about 5 years ago when we reunited after some 60+ years, we were married on the same date! That’s a Tiny Tears doll she’s holding. Anyone remember those?

Willow’s Tale

“I am the bud and the blossom, I am the late-falling leaf.”
from Paul Dunbar’s The Paradox

Led down the primrose path
they succumbed to The Flatterer’s guile,
followed him to their death.
All but her,
the youngest one.

Willow, he assumed, was gullible too.
Small in stature, she wisely hung back.
Saw angry rolling brine ahead
slipped into a shrub and hid,
covering herself with leafy fronds.

Her sisters sang as they followed him,
not seeing Willow’s gesticulations.
She waved desperately to alert them,
but they walked on under his spell
eyes only on him.

Surely his scepter, his magical skills,
would keep them afloat they thought.
They danced o’er waves. Waded deeper still.
Alas, only a devastating result,
one by one they disappeared.

He counted each beautiful head
swallowed by guzzling salty foam.
“One is missing!” he screamed.
Looking backward toward land
he saw nothing, heard nothing.

Diving deep, he swam to his maidens
now ashen, sinking dead weight.
Tying their hair together, he took the eldest’s hand,
pulled them to his kingdom,
far from shore.

Willow wept silently,
her small feet cold in tear stained soil.
Long curls hung wet round her cheeks.
“Help me oh Lord,” she pleaded.
“I am but the last alive of them.”

She cried in torrents
until a rogue cold breeze
whipped round her face.
Tears suspended in air,
her lean lithe body, solid froze.

Now something she was not before,
Yet she prospered over many years.
Pure happiness, mythologists would say.
Yet still she wept and weeps today,
especially amongst her kind.

Children play hide and seek,
joyfully tug those leafy fronds.
Sisters long gone, yet she has borne many.
Weeping Willow trees o’er the land,
her legacy to all.

Written for dVerse where today we’re asked to consider the element of paradox within our poetry and be inspired by one of several lines provided for the prompt. Line I’ve used is at the top of the poem as an epigraph. Photo from pixabay.com.

A Crayola History

Where have all the colors gone?
Long time passing.
Where have all the colors gone?
Long time ago.


Prussian Blue and Indian Red,
Blue Gray, Maize, and Green Blue.
Orange Red, Orange Yellow,
Flesh and Violet Blue,
Raw Umber and Mulberry too.
Long time passing. Long time ago.

Crayola’s first eight cost but a nickel,
presented in 1905.
Children were thrilled and color they did,
using Red, Green, Yellow, and Blue,
Black, Brown, Violet and Orange
Kids today need more to be tempted.

Enter Cerulean, Dandelion,
Fuschia and Bluetiful too.
Most clever and tastiest yet?
Yummy Jazzberry Jam.
My rose-colored glasses enjoy these hues
but one new color does confuse.

Ready for it? You’ll never guess.
It’s a bit strange, I do confess,
guaranteed to make you squirm.
The newest? And I do confirm,
it really, unbelievably is Inch Worm!

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets from around the globe where today Mish asks us to write from the perspective of colors. I’ve kind of gone off the beaten track with this…..but here’s some added history:
Cousins Edwin Binney and C. Harold Smith introduced the first box of Crayolas in 1905 and yes, they did cost a nickel. Over the years color names have come and gone….some in relation to societal attitudes. The color Flesh became Peach in 1962. Prussian Blue was introduced in 1949 but, figuring young children didn’t know anything about Prussia, it was changed to Midnight Blue in 1958. Indian Red was introduced in 1958 and it actually referred to a pigment that originated in India. The color’s name was changed to Chestnut in 1999….but soon after, a disclaimer was made warning children not to try to roast the color or any crayons over an open fire because they would melt and children could be burned. I suppose this warning was in reference to Nat King Cole’s popular The Christmas Song which opened with the line “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” And yes, Inch Worm is a real Crayola color!

I should also add, apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary for changing the words of their popular song, Where Have all the Flowers Gone. Image from Pixabay.com Information on the history of Crayolas mainly from the article “5 Times Crayola Retired Its Crayons” by Paul Davidson and from Wikipedia.

Horror in the Hazel Woods

I met her most nights – somewhere between  succumbing to sleep and waking fever-drenched at dawn. Unable to meet the woman of my dreams in reality, I’d created her in my mind. But she was not the image that came to me night after night. This was a half-woman, half-monster, chasing me through horror. There was always a knife. Next morning my bedding was always bloodstained from the self-inflicted scratching of old wounds.  

This night, whiskey drunk, I avoided my bed. Stumbled  instead into the moonless night. I went out to the hazel wood. Because a fire was in my head, I tripped over  roots, crazed to find this she-devil. I wanted to kill her. End these nightmares. Instead, I died that night, victim of her crazed claws  They found me in light snow, hazel tree branches clicking in winter’s wind.

Note: Hazel trees are noted for often having protruding roots. They can be either trees or shrubs.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today is Prosery Monday where we’re given a specific line from a poem, and we must insert it, word for word (although the punctuation may be changed) into a piece of flash fiction. We must have a beginning, middle and end to our story. It can be no more than 144 words sans title.

Kim is hosting today and asks us to include this line from Yeats’ The Song of Wandering Aengus: “I went out to the hazel wood, because a fire was in my head.”

Ode to the Aperture

Aperture, open-shut
time frozen in space,
minute details embraced.
Butter-colored flower filaments
crowned by mustard-yellow pollen.
Violas waving in purple-lemony shades.
Mother smiling back at me,
weeks before she died.
Father sits, infant twin
one-hundred years ago.
All long gone, but with me still.

Written for Quadrill Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Merril asks us to use the word “embrace” (or a form of the word) in our poem of exactly 44 words, sans title. Pub opens at 3:00 Boston time. Drop by! All are welcome.

Aperture refers to the opening of a camera lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. Around 1880 photographers realized that aperture size affected depth of field.

I have old black and white framed photographs on our living room shelf (some of them shown above). They are family treasures.

We take photography for granted these days….clicking away with our iPhone, deleting what we don’t want. Storing the rest in cyberspace. I remember when I had to take a roll of film to the drug store; wait a week or two to pick up my photos; and then be so disappointed in the quality of so many. What a world of convenience we live in! And thank goodness for the photographers of olden days!

Just sitting here thinking . . .

Reflecting today – don’t know why exactly.
Just am.
Wondering . . .
who has known me my entire life?
Requires they be older than me.
Parents, brother, grandparents,
aunts, uncles, five cousins.
But all departed from this earth.
Have I known me all my life?
Earliest memories,
not gleaned from photographs?
Me at age five.
So no,
I haven’t known me all my life.
Turns out, no one on this earth has.
Odd.
Life is just odd.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. I’m hosting OLN today. That means folks can post any one poem of their choosing: no prompt, form or topic requirements. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come on over and imbibe some words!

Photos in collage: Left to right top row – me with mom and dad; my folks and my brother Chuckie (I called him that all his life) in summer; me and my brother before his high school graduation.
Left to right middle row: mom and dad; my gramma the year before she died; me as an infant.
Left to right bottom row: my brother and I not too many years before he died suddenly at age 51; my brother and I with our grandparents; me, mom, dad and Chuckie at my baptism. He was nine years older than me.

The ravages of war are sometimes steeped in silence . . .

Orderly spaced headstones
gleam pristine in morning sun.
Blood stains and broken bodies,
beneath the verdant green.

Stilled smile in photo frame
clutched to breast each night.
Bereft widow lies in bed,
his voice only within her head.

Stanley, called to World War II,
assigned to stressful desk job.
Safe, his thankful family thought,
gentle soul far from battle.

But war destroys in different ways.
Pressure built. Commands grew harsh.
Time, country, lives at stake.
Stanley broke . . . mind imploded.

Other soldiers moved forward,
Stanley retreated inward.
Into the mind’s maze.
once in – no way out.

His world, one room. His eyes vacant.
No words. Only rare mutterings.
His way lost in the war,
once a brilliant mind, is where?

Weekly family visits
in his once was home.
Devoted family tried
tried to talk, to share.

You bring me to be with you
but Iamnot here

I amnotanywhere
Iwillneverbeeagain


The cacophony of war –
sometimes evident
in the silence we see.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets where today Bjorn asks us to consider the poetry of war.
My first thought when I read this prompt, was of Arlington Cemetery. And I thought of the hushed silence in that sacred space. And then I thought of my husband’s Uncle Stanley who came back from World War II a different person. I am of the mind that war is hell . . . no matter one’s role in it.

Image from Pixabay.com

Survival Tale

In 1978, US law declared the bald eagle a protected species and the results have been phenomenal. Between 1963 and 2006, the number of nesting pairs increased from 417 to 9,000. These magnificent birds live from twenty to thirty years and tend to mate for life. Their nests can be from seven to ten feet wide, ten feet deep, and weigh as much as two tons.

Winters are an important season for eagles. They must consume enough food and expend as little energy as possible to maintain their body heat. January brings scores of eagles to Iowa for winter nesting. When our children were young, if the weather was good, we’d take a January Saturday and travel to the quad cities area. We’d drive along the Mississippi in hopes of spying eagles soaring above their nesting areas. Bird watchers were indeed fortunate if they could spy an eagle through their binoculars, legs extended with talons ready to land upon a winter bared tree.

snow drifts impede path
human footsteps nowhere seen –
eagle’s glory reigns  

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where today Frank is hosting. He asks us to write a haibun that is somehow related to eagles. Factual information in the first paragraph of my haibun is gleaned from a pamphlet by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. Haibun: two to three paragraphs of prose followed by a haiku. The haiku must be traditional in terms of including a seasonal reference.

As We Dream . . .

Call me to lie down in the fragrance.
         – D. Margoshes, Seasons of Lilac

Bare brittle branches and snowless grey pallor,
this winter’s reality.
Night dawns starless as we slip into dreams.
Our bed afloat in riotous blossoms,
spring collaged in wildflowers
cacophony of colors and scents.
There is but one season with you by my side.
Calendared through so many years,
this season of love.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Laura asks us to write a poem inspired by a final line from a poem. She provides us with a number of lines and we are to choose one. We may use that line as an epigraph, but are not required to do so. The line can not be in the body of the poem; nor can it be the title of the poem.
Epigraph: a line from another source, inserted between the title and content of one’s poem. It should somehow complement the poem.
Photo: from a visit to Ireland’s Blarney Castle a number of years ago.