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

Lost in Time

Gold pocket watch clasped shut
sits unnoticed.
Dust dims its luster,
unseen though visible
on antique store shelf.

Faded smiling visage
carefully snipped
by someone’s loving hands,
nestles inside the old time piece.
Exactly fits within its rim.

Opposite those softly staring eyes,
wire hands mark five till twelve.
No sound. No movement.
Dead in time past.
Someone’s treasure cast aside.

Posted for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where today I am hosting Open Link Night. Folks can post any one poem of their choice: no particular topic, prompt, form or length. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us!

The Old Farmstead

It struck with a howling fury. High winds. Snow so thick it obscured the view outside the kitchen window. Tool shed. Abandoned teetering barn. Rusted ancient Deere. All swallowed in a swirling mass of white.

I climbed the well-worn steps, carpet long since removed as a tripping hazard. Climbed into what we’d called their sleigh bed. Oak veneer now peeling. Loneliness was my only companion. Empty rooms down the hall. Memories jostling in my head: childhood tasks in overalls; mom and dad, steaming mugs of coffee in hand, engrossed in quiet whispered conversation about next year’s crop, Jimmy’s ever-growing feet, the upcoming school board meeting. Sleep finally came, in the midst of stuffed, sealed packing boxes.

I woke to a still, darkened house and padded my way down the familiar but different hallway. No giggles or doors slamming. Bare walls waiting for a new owner’s decorative touch. Melancholy seeped into my body. How did time take over my life so completely? Gloss over so many years so quickly, that my visits here shortened in length, but lengthened in days and months and sometimes years between? How could I not notice their slower steps? The peeling paint. The hired hand plowing the fields.

The kitchen window was partially covered by frost on the inside. Like an etching on fine glass. Dawn slowly revealed familiar rolling hills, glistening white in winter’s cold. Snow drifts obscured the woodpile while a small portion of the drive, somehow windswept in last night’s gale, revealed gravel and bits of dried leaves. Nature gifted the land with uneven blessings, just as life did us.

My coffee began to percolate in mom’s old stainless steel pot, plugged into the wall next to the small curved hook where her potholders used to hang. I’d leave this house in a few hours. Say my final goodbyes to what once was . . . birthday celebrations; the bright yellow school bus lumbering down our dirt road; mom gathering sheets from the line outside; dad coming in from the fields.

Looking out that glazed window, my eyes suddenly focused on a spot of crimson red in the blanket of snow. Two cardinals sat beneath the old wooden birdfeeder, long since bereft of seed. They sat patiently, as if belonging to the scene. Bright living color in the midst of all that visual cold. Just as I began to notice the aroma of fresh brewed coffee, their wings began to spread, elongating their shapes. And they rose together, disappearing into streaks of sun now blinding my eyes. Snow glare. The new day was here.

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Written with memories of winters in Iowa. Prose fiction . . . but I imagine many folks face the leaving of their old farmsteads as generations pass, land is bought up and farms become more “corporate.” Photo is of a country home we rented in Iowa; either the old Folkman or Voitman house….down the road from the Bean’s farmstead. They were very special years for us…..over forty years ago.

In the midst . . .

of headline news
frenetic must-dos, should-dos,
buy-this-sales and shopping bustle.
Before the dawn of daily busyness,
Christmas shimmers and gleams.

Candles glimmer,
tiny white lights shine.
Treasured ornaments hold memories –
children grown, loved ones passed,
moments shared.

There is a serenity to the season,
if only we pause to savor.

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A blessed Christmas season to all.  The pink reindeer ornament is actually one of the pieces that hung on my children’s mobile, over their crib when they were infants. They are now in their 40s and both have a wooden animal from the mobile on their own Christmas tree. The pink bell, just barely showing at the top of the final photo, was on my mother’s girlhood tree. 

Her Leaving Time

She’d been left behind by her son and husband many years before. Left to grow old without them. Legally blind. Too much effort to live. Too many pills to remember each morning. Each night.

Now, this cold autumn afternoon, lying in a hospital bed, she simply said Lillian, I’m tired. And I knew. I bent down, leaned close to her ear and whispered. I told her it was all right. Find the light, mom. They’re waiting for you. And she suddenly sat up and smiled. Eyes bright. A broad big smile. And then she flopped back and lay still. The kind male nurse who’d been at her side looked across the bedside at me. He simply nodded. And I nodded back.

golden amber leaves
blow off trees, hit closed windows
nature’s death displayed

Haibun written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Merril is our guest pub tender and asks us to write about a transition. A haibun is two or three short succinct paragraphs of prose (must be true) followed by a haiku that, in the traditional sense, contains a kigo (reference to a season).