For those who are struggling with loss . . .

Sometimes, this time of year,
we struggle to stay in the present.
Memories intrude ever so gently
or sometimes harshly,
like a kick in the gut.
We may gasp. We may wail.
Loved ones lost. No. Wrong word.
Loved ones gone.
Gone from our sight, our touch,
our living space.

Tears they say, are cleansing.
A release. Well . . . perhaps.
But must we be staid while others carol?
Granules of being have disappeared,
theirs and thus some of ours.
So we reminisce. Sometimes ache
as waves of emotion flow through us.
Whisper aloud I love you,
though the room is empty,
save for us.

This Christmas season shall pass
and we shall live on.
Beyond the celebratory gifts,
beyond that sweet gospel
of an infant born one miraculous morn.
Our treasured memories still intact,
just shelved, perhaps a bit farther back.
But still there. Always there. Always with us.
Available for the taking out, the reexamining,
at any time we wish.

Today, we shall step into the sun,
feel its rays and warmth.
We shall smile through gentle tears.
Our tongue shall linger on our lips,
taste sweet saltiness,
a gift of remembrance.
We shall walk another day
but we shall always know one truth.
The empty space beside us
is not indicative of an empty heart.

I am about to celebrate Christmas with our home warmly decorated, and my spouse of fifty years by my side. I am however, cognizant of the many who have lost loved ones in the past year or two…whether to Covid, addiction, cancer, accident, any myriad of other reasons. Many people have difficulty during this season as they face the starkness of their loss. My poem is dedicated to all of you. May you all be blessed with gentle memories, serenity, and a new year that brings hope and health to all.

Memories

Black and white television set with tubes
inside blonde console in our little den.
My Lone Ranger lunch box.
Watching Gene Autry at Junie’s house
after playing dress-up with her mother’s things.
Hankies with lace edging, rummage sales,
and pettipants under culottes.
Hooking nylon stockings to suffocating girdles.
Mother dressed for Sunday church
wearing hat and gloves, carrying her pocketbook.
Green Reader’s Guides to Periodical Literature
and card catalogues in oak drawers.
Typing on a portable Smith Corona,
frustrated by holes in paper from erasures.
Skimming small print in thick telephone books.
Hoop skirts under prom dresses
and stretch pants with foot stirrups.
Looking at my grandma and thinking
Wow, she’s seen a lot of changes in her life!
When did I become her?

Homestead

I drove for hours, listening to oldies on the radio. Six lane highways shrunk to two. My speed decreased for maybe three minutes at a time, as highway turned into Main Street in rural towns.

I found the cemetery first. Scuffed through fallen leaves until I found their headstones. My eyes blurred reading the dates. All just one year apart.

Back in the car, two miles down the road, left at the fork. I found the house. Shingles half gone; flaking paint and boarded up windows. Mama’s rusted clothesline poles still there. The stones we lugged and stacked to separate mama’s garden from our play yard were half-gone. I peered over what was left, imagining Gina swinging and laughing. But there is nothing behind the wall except a space where the wind whistles.

You can never go back. They warned me. But I didn’t listen.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets where today Merril is hosting Prosery Monday.

Prosery? We’re given a line from a poem, and we must use it exactly as it is worded (punctuation may be changed) within a piece of fiction that is exactly 144 words in length. It is similar to flash fiction except it must include a specific given poetic line. The line we must use is “There is nothing behind the wall except a space where the wind whistles.” It is from Liesel Mueller’s poem Drawings by Children. Photo from Pixabay.com

Rubicund Me Rosy Red

Christmas is red,
with or without snow.
I am tone deaf but rosy carols come naturally.
Heart blooms musically as cheeks blush rouged.
Passed in ’98, mother’s memory crimson bright,
tinsel lover carefully silvered red bauble balls.
Red skirt paled beneath gauzy apron always smudged
snowy confectioner sugar streaks and gravy tracks.
Life’s red blood stopped as father’s bubble lights died.
Mulled wine evokes spiced rubicund scent.
Red hot ire most of the time creamsicles to softer pink.
Passion flames blend to ever-companion,
berry bright books and lover in my bed.
Down comforter snuggled save cold red nose,
which brings me back to Rudolph.
Christmas is red.

Today Grace hosts dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. She is teaching us about synesthesia, a “neurological phenomenon in which stimulation of one sense leads to automatic, involuntary experiences of a second one.” Today, we are focusing on Grapheme Color Synesthesia, the most widely studied and common type of synesthesia.

For today’s prompt, we are to write about color from the perspective of a synesthete. Pick one color or several colors and create our own dictionary of color. What I chose to do was write in a stream-of-consciousness format, reacting to the color red. Photo is Christmas tree of my childhood. My mother loved tinsel.

Children through the ages . . .

Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less.
From Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

These were precious moments ~

holding you upon my shoulder
napping with you upon my chest
holding you to my breast

lifting you back up to walk again
reading together, you sitting on my lap
skipping lessons, hand in hand

sharing hugs on grade school days
combing hair and straightening shirt
and wiping tears as you tumbled.

Now you have growing children
and as their independence grows,
touching them is lessening too for you.

But between you and me
at this stage in our lives,
hello and goodbye hugs
seemingly last a bit longer.

Perhaps because we know
time passing, means less time left
and we treasure more
these moments of staying in touch.

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On the occasion of a 50th college reunion

Go forth to seek old friends.
Rise to the occasion as you step into your past.
Play at remembering faces until a
spark of recognition ignites, and memories
flow as smiles grow.
Crush each other in hugs, abandon inhibitions.
Defy years that added stiff knees, sagging skin and sometimes balding heads.
Love simply that you stand with one another, however changed by time.
Wander campus, so different but somehow still the same.
Shine in celebration of life, fifty years later still here . . .
and here again.

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Victoria is host at today’s dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. She asks us to consider the world of pop art: think Andy Warhol’s Campbells Tomato Soup Cans. Several suggestions for poems arise from her prompt, including using a product as the subject of a poem. This cereal box resides within our kitchen cupboard so I’ve used its words to begin each line of my poem. And oh yes…..the Class of 1969 at Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois was indeed an original and unique one. Photos from this past weekend’s 50th college reunion below. What a wonderful time we had renewing old friendships and taking a walk down the proverbial memory lane!

Shadows

When it’s very still
and my soul’s at rest,
I see shadows nearby,
waiting patiently.

An ethereal background
hovers . . .
seemingly through them.
As if a thinning fog.

Shadows of people,
all of them gone.
But here they stand,
their profile or back to me.

My brother, leaning in.
My father with wavy hair.
My mother, skirts lifted,
swaying to music I strain to hear.

Time intrudes and eyes focus,
reality presents itself.
Wedges its way into my mind
until I question what I saw.

But everybody sees shadows
on bright sunlit days.
They dance beside us,
follow, or lead the way.

So who is to say these shadows,
appearing to me when I am alone
are not at least as real
as those we see on sunny days?

Perhaps these shadows also lead me.
Quietly waiting.
Unobtrusively.

I’m hosting Open Link Night at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, and folks are invited to post any poem of their choosing. These photos taken this week in Provincetown, at the very tip of Cape Cod….and they got me to thinking about shadows.
Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us!

Ah, Sweet Iowa Summer

Kitchen counter line-up:
sealed mason jars
filled with stewed tomatoes,
green beans, chunky apple sauce,
Harvard beets and pickled too.

Freezer shelves of season’s best.
Umpteen zuchinni breads,
apple pies and butter corn.
Blueberries, tagged in bags,
waiting to grace a cold morning’s stack.

Fresh mown grass, delicious scent.
Orange tiger lilies, shasta daisies,
farm cats mewling with swollen teats.
Sheets flap in hot summer breeze,
fireflies dance as sun departs the scene.

My Marengo memories . . .
ah, sweet Iowa summer daze.

Photo from our Iowa garden many years ago! Posted to dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. We lived in Marengo, Iowa from 1970 through 1974 and then Iowa City until 1997. Had amazing gardens! Learned to can and freeze much of our homegrown vegetables and fruits. Somehow, our zucchini plants seemed to explode and we ate zuchinni bread all winter long! Lavonne Heitman’s recipe for freezer butter corn was delectable and oh those bread and butter pickles that took up so much refrigerator space! Our apple trees filled many a frozen aluminum pie tin. Blueberries graced sourdough pancakes on cold winter mornings. One year, I even canned homemade ketchup! Fireflies were always the magical part of Iowa summers – sorely missed in Boston. Ah sweet Iowa memories! Deserving of the title, Heartland!

We Gather Again

Fifty years ago,
we wore bridal veils.
Walked past the elders’
with a cursory but loving nod.

Then family reunions,
joyful raucous gatherings
at the twenty
and thirty-something’s table.

Then babies appeared on hips,
high chairs crowded table seatings,
crayons joined forks and spoons
and the elders watched lovingly.

Too soon,
teenagers rolled their eyes,
talked about whatever they do,
made lists for Santa’s exchange.

Someone tried to reproduce
Auntie Maia’s meringue cookies.
Papa Milt’s son took over
his carving-the-turkey role.

Beloved faces,
grandparents,
uncles and aunts
disappeared from the scene.

And now, tomorrow,
we gather again,
a new generation
gracing a bridal veil.

And just for a moment I see their faces.
Generations
who instilled love of family,
no matter the distance or age.

Then quietly
we walk into the room,
smile knowingly and take our seats.
We now, are the elders’ table.

For Kenji

‘Tis legendary
not ordinary,
‘cross sea.
Firm friendship, nary
time’s adversary.
To be
older, not wary.
Smiles luminary,
esprit.

Inspired by my recent visit in Yokohama with Kenji Kojima. Photos of Kenji and I in our 1965 senior high school album. And a new photo of us taken together last week in Yokohama, Japan.

Kenji was an AFS exchange student from Japan during our 1965 senior year at Waukegan Township High School in Illinois. We had not seen each other since 1965! The years didn’t matter. The distance didn’t matter. The friendship held true and we enjoyed two wonderful hours together reminiscing, talking about our families and grandchildren. What an absolute privilege to see him again.

Poetry form is the Lai: 9 lines with the following syllabic and rhyming restrictions:

Line 1: 5 syllables, rhyme word a
Line 2: 5 syllables, rhymes with a
Line 3: 2 syllables, rhyme word b
Line 4: 5 syllables, rhymes with a
Line 5: 5 syllables, rhymes with a
Line 6: 2 syllables, rhymes with b
Line 7: 5 syllables, rhymes with a
Line 8: 5 syllables, rhymes with a
Line 9: 2 syllables, rhymes with b