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.
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 proseand 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?
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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!
When it’s very still
and my soul’s at rest,
I see shadows nearby,
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.
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!
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!