Straws

Our lives are made of moments, some plain, some filled with awe.
Looking back I was surprised how many included sipping through a straw!

My mother showed me how to sip orange juice to go with grahams;
Then coca cola and ice cream sodas helped make me who I am.
Chocolate milkshakes, creamy and thick should be against the law.
The memories sweet, of all those times sipping through a straw.

In college I learned about Scotch Mists, served with straws black and thin;
As were those Mai Tai’s with rum and gardenias that almost did me in.
Anything sipped through a straw was yummy. To me a special treat,
Until the memories of hospital stays I do not wish to repeat.

When your lips are cracked, your mouth is dry and your body feels so raw
There is no better thing the nurses can bring than water to sip through a straw.
It’s funny the things that come to mind; the adventures, the things you saw.
My life’s special moments have often come when sipping through a straw.

Straws is written by Lindsey Ein: wonderful writer, wonderful friend, and mother to our dear son-in-law. She shared this poem with dVerse LIVE on Thursday – I’m just a bit late posting it.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

Every time I see them
it creates an image in the present
which in seconds or hours
or a day or years,
depending on recall,
is always in my past.

We gathered to honor the matriarch.
From Texas, Illinois, California, Wisconsin,
Minnesota, North and South Carolina,
Massachusetts, Tennessee, and Virginia too.

She was the rock, the foundation.
Granddaughter of Swedish immigrants,
upholding the traditions.
Her life, lived for so many.

A career in nursing, a ministry of sorts.
She offered healing to the afflicted.
From surgical assistance to the elderly’s pains,
to the scrapes of school-age youth.

She taught her children compassion.
Lessons passed on to grandchildren
and their children. To nieces,
extended family, friends and neighbors too.

She faced the depths of loss and pain,
courageous and resilient.
Sustained by faith in God and love of life,
she taught us even through her death.

Family gathered to pray, to sing,
to share a meal. Tears and smiles comingled.
Yesterday’s emotional today,
so filled with love and caring support.
That is the essence of this family,
what we share and treasure most.

Those moments of yesterday’s today,
far too quickly in our past.
But still they give us hope and strength,
to face all of our coming tomorrows.

Written in memory of Janice Stewart. The family gathered on Saturday, December 11th at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Wheaton, Illinois to celebrate her life. She will be missed by so many.

PHOTOS:
Hjalmer Hallberg immigrated from Sweden. He and his wife, Anna, settled in Chicago, Illinois. The photo on the left shows their five grandchildren. From left to right: George Hallberg, Nancy Jahnke, Lynne Gehrke, Janice Stewart, Donald Hallberg. Neil Netherton, Nancy’s brother, passed away many years ago. He was Hjalmer and Anna’s sixth grandchild. The second photo was taken immediately following the celebration of Janice’s life at St. Paul’s Church on Saturday, December 11th.

That special time of year . . .

. . . packed away memories
slowly, carefully unwrapped.
Mother’s paper-thin pink glass bell.
Father’s airplane ornament
one clipped wing, hangs askew.

Brother’s cardboard Santa.
Crayoned red suit and black boots,
thinning cotton-puff beard and cuffs.
His first grade art project
crafted near eighty years ago.

You three sleep eternally
warmed in earth’s loving arms.
But each holiday season
you live with me again,
if only atop my Christmas tree.

Merril hosts Tuesday Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for global poets. Her prompt for today: “write about any object – a family heirloom, a museum piece, a monument, or a palace. The choice is yours, but there must be some link to history and the past.” The bell and airplane are 90+ years old.

Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us!

Shut Down

Friday night and the lights are low.
Tinseltown dimmed, marquees dark,
Broadway shut down.
Performers encased at home, mouths agape.
No words. No melodies.
No sound escapes their parched lips.
Feet stilled, faces bare. They sit, not in the wings,
but on couches and chairs. No audience.
Just the cat curled up on their feet,
surprised to find this comfort in these hours.
The night the music died and the curtain fell,
subways ground to a halt.
This, the night Covid came to town.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today I’m hosting Tuesday Poetics and delving into Sweden’s musical archives. I’m asking folks to include one line, and one line only, from the lyrics of ABBA’s Dancing Queen. The line must be used word for word within the body of the poem. You can find the lyrics to Dancing Queen, as well as some fun information about ABBA, in my prompt at dVerse. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time and full prompt will appear then. Image from Pixabay.com

Remainders

Cleaning out her grandmother’s home
she found only one mirror.
Hidden in the back of a drawer
buried under delicate handkerchiefs.
Some with embroidered flowers,
others with faded tatted edging.
It had multiple cracks
but the maple handle’s patina
still glowed.

The bouquet began drooping days ago.
Calla lily bodies downed,
long stems succumbed to gravity.
Sunflower heads
ruffled edges turning brown,
faces no longer meet the eye.
Nearby, on oak sidebar,
shriveled pink-veined orchid petals
ready to fall.

Retreated to their tents
they sleep encased in sleeping bags.
Bought on sale,
blue cloth on the outside.
Inside, cowboys ride horses,
stand with guns holstered by cacti.
Childlike Western print
on bright yellow flannel.
Embers pale in campfire ash.

Gathered for their fiftieth
they take the tour,
campus now lush with trees.
Three-story new student center
sports three dining options,
baristas in the Coffee Corner.
Library tables barren, minus green
Readers’ Guides to Periodical Literature.
Fossils still displayed in the Geology Museum.

Scientist by training, environmentalist by trade,
he took over cooking after retirement.
Meticulous shopping lists.
Weekly menu spreadsheets.
One recipe covers two nights.
Red aproned
in black and white tiled galley kitchen.
Meal cooked, served, eaten.
Leftovers stored for another day.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today Bjorn asks us to write a Cadralor. This is a relatively new poetry form. It is comprised of five unrelated, highly-visual stanzas. Each stanza must stand alone as a poem. Stanzas should be fewer than ten lines and usually each stanza has the same number of lines. Imagery is crucial – each stanza should be like a scene or a photograph. The fifth stanza is the crucible and should answer the question “For what do you yearn?” In the case of Remainders, I’m emphasizing that the leftovers, in each of the stanzas, has or has had value. In the last stanza, leftovers is taken literally.

Oh Glorious Day

This Iowa field, this Iowa day.
I stand in the midst of flowers
green grasses waving,
sun’s warmth soaking my skin.
Double hollyhocks stand tall.
Gaillardia faces blush,
edged in sherbet yellow ruffles.
Ethereal clouds float lazily,
cotton ball fluffs
like white misshapen dots
on seersucker blue sky.
Newly painted barn gleams
surrounded by emerald shrubs,
trees and hills.
Ah yes, Iowa,
you are indeed the heartland,
loved by so many.

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for global poets. It’s OLN (Open Link Night) and Mish is hosting.
We’ve not lived in Iowa since 1997, but oh the glorious memories we have of our days there. From teaching in a small rural high school, to owning our first home on 30 acres of land, to raising our children in a University town and earning my PhD there. Iowa is known as the Heartland – we surely found it that.

Photo is from Nancy Mast who often posts Iowa farm photos.

Lesson in Timing

Diapers, bedtime stories,
Christmas stockings.
Driving them to lessons,
reading report cards.
Wound up like a top
I whizzed through the arcane.
Now in my golden years
I think back and realize.
I should have paid more mind.
The arcane was indeed
the miraculous.

Written for Quadrille Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets around the globe. Today I’m hosting and ask people to include the word “wound” or a form of the word in a poem of exactly 44 words, sans title. Notice that “wound” is a homograph. There are two pronunciations and each has a different meaning: He suffered a wound in battle. VS She is wound up like a top. Folks are free to use either pronunciation/meaning or both! If using both, their poem must still consist of exactly 44 words, not including the title.

Photos are of our children who are now 45 and 46! And yes that’s me, about forty years ago!

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?