Marengo Years

How did a city girl end up a high school English teacher in rural Iowa? From graduating in a class of eight-hundred-fifty, quick-stepping to Pomp and Circumstances so the procession wouldn’t last an hour; to senior class sponsor of thirty-two, holding students back until the prior one was all the way down the aisle and seated – so the band could play the entire song.

Town square on Main Street. No traffic lights. Elementary school kids on decorated trikes and bicycles in the high school homecoming parade. Future Farmers of America, 4-H, and drama club. Six-on-six girls’ basketball and a superintendent who sometimes wore bibber overalls. Houses with unlocked doors and party-line telephones.  Church cookbooks and pot-lucks. Friendly people always willing to share, listen, and lend a helping hand. My second time in high-school. More special than the first.

ten foot drifts that year
folks hunkered down waiting for plows –
farm cats warm in barns

fullsizerender-24

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. It’s Tuesday Poetics and Amaya is hosting, asking us to remember our school days. Photo: Our rented farm house in rural Marengo, Iowa.

Come Inside My Haibun

He was an immigrant. A painter. A Swede who arrived at Ellis Island many years ago. I was privileged, as were many, to experience his journey in a most unlikely place. A basement room, in Chicago, Illinois.

Entering that underground space, we stepped onto a ship sailing across the mighty Atlantic. Sky cerulean blue overhead, dipped to meet the horizon, forever brightened by an invisible sun. Gulls hovered above waves rolling with white caps, dabs of paint that never splashed. We sat in the midst of many family celebrations, our chairs backed up against basement walls, as if leaning on Grampa Hallberg’s painted ship rails. A lifeless life preserver hung never-used, drawn not quite round.  It was a room like no other. It was the USS Sweden, frozen in time.

young beaver crosses pond
gathers sticks and stones and spring time mud –
journey revealed in lodge

IMG_1484

It’s Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets and I’m hosting today – asking everyone to delve into the traditional … and at the same time, take us on a trip into an interior they remember from their past. A room they can recall.

The Haibun must include 2 or 3 tight paragraphs of prose describing the interior (cannot be fiction); followed by a traditional haiku: 5-7-5 or short-long-short in syllabic form; must be about nature; must include a kigo (reference to a season) and a kireji (a cut achieved by a hyphen, ellipsis, or punctuation mark, that shifts to an added insight within the haiku.

Photo: Grampa Hajalmer Hallberg on the left in 1972, two years before his death. He immigrated from Sweden in 1906 at the age of 22. He’s sitting in the basement he painted to remind him of his journey to America on the USS Sweden.

Dad, You’re in my Haibun

What is a venial sin? What is the Immaculate Conception? What are the Ten Commandments? What are the seven mortal sins?

As a young child, I had to memorize answers to Catholic Catechism questions before I could make my first holy communion. One of the greatest benefits I gained from my early Catholic education was the ability to memorize. I spouted off those answers quickly and matter-of-factly as my father patiently sat in his big green fake-leather chair, asking the questions. He never went to church – except for mother’s day, Christmas and Easter. Yet he sat patiently, testing me on my catechism questions.

I remember my father as undemonstrative. I don’t remember being hugged or hearing him say, “I love you.” But I understood years later. He showed his love in different ways. For example, listening to me spout off doctrine he didn’t believe. The one answer I parroted, but could never ever understand, and never dared to ask a nun or priest about, was the one that basically told me my father would go to hell because he didn’t believe. No way. He had the patience of Job. He was a good man. And he was my dad.

huge white pelican
rules of gravity be damned –
soars in autumn skies

white-pelican-1926545_1920

The White Pelicans migrate every fall to Florida. With a 9′ wingspan, they are one of the largest birds in North America. And they soar.
Amaya hosts dVerse today, the virtual pub for poets. She asks us to considerthe 7 deadly sins, and/or the 7 virtues. We may consider our relationship to them — or how they affected us at some point in our lives. I’ve written a haibun: 2 or 3 tight paragraphs of prose (must be true), followed by a traditional haiku.
Missing my dad….

Tale of the Hats

Two men, not brothers
married two women, not sisters.
One man brother to one not-sister.
If you’re counting, that’s four in all.

Christmas means a family gathering
cousins and those two not-brothers,
Bob the wee man, wicked funny
Bud a big man, comic not,

Laughter, carols, dinner done,
friends and family sit to leave.
Expectantly they wait,
tittering they anticipate.

Bob and Bud step forth all clad
coats, galoshes, mufflers too.
But to hats the family looks
as Bob and Bud, snicker not.

Bob stands small, beside big Bud.
Simultaneously they seriously say,
We’re ready to go dears
as all guffaw at what they see.

Bud looks sheepishly at Bob.
Bob’s small hat sits daintily,
perched
on top of Bud’s big head.

Bob cannot see Bud,
his eyes covered by Bud’s big hat
sitting precariously balanced
atop two pencils
protruding from Bob’s ears!

hat-157581_1280

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where Mark Walters guest hosts Tuesday’s Poetics. He asks us to write humorously about something humorous from our lives. The Tale of the Hats is absolutely true! My Uncle Bob (very small head and a very fun-loving guy) and my dad, known as Bud, (a much more serious guy) exchanged hats every year at the end of our big Christmas gathering. Uncle Bob made sure he had two pencils in his coat and they’d come out looking absolutely ridiculous! No matter how many times they did this, we always laughed and laughed. Family lore now….I miss them both. 

 

 

Bud’s Daughter

I have
a morning mirror routine.
Mine for sandman’s deposits.
Eyes clear, smile appears.

There it is,
thick wavy hair.
Left side front
waving, brow-over.

Morning mirror bud,
dad’s reflection waves.
Cascading silver,
my inheritance.

IMG_9004

Written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets, where it’s Poetics Tuesday. Kim hosts and challenges us to write a poem in the first person about a body part we’ve inherited. Yep, that’s me and my waves. My dad, affectionately called Bud by his friends and relatives, had a full head of hair – beautifully silver and always wavy, till the day he died. I miss him.
PS:  did you read that last line aloud? It’s all about hair.
Also posted as off-prompt for Napowrimo Day 24.

 

Mother’s Junk Drawer

Teeth-gnawed yellow #2 pencil stubs.
One Avon Coral Pink lipstick.
Rosary missing crucifix.
Emery board. Eleven rubber bands.
Antique roller skate key.
Three packs Juicy Fruit gum,
never opened.
One white Sunday glove.
Thirty-two S&H green stamps.
A gathering of . . . what?

Green-Stamps

Written for dVerse where I’m hosting Quadrille Monday, asking folks to write an exactly 44 word poem (sans title) that includes the word, or a form of the word, gather.  Junk drawers: quite a gathering place. Do you have one?

Enigma, Mother Dear

There once was a woman named Helen Cecile
married and happy, her life surreal.
Many an escapade made us laugh,
silliness multiplied gaffe by gaffe.

I remember a day we spent at the zoo
where she created quite the to-do.
On the visitor’s side of the animal’s moat
she suddenly blanched and cleared her throat.
Shaking she stood near the pacing jaguars
knee red and swollen, stuck between bars.
Zookeepers rushed to embarrassing scene,
saving the day, they applied vaseline.

Seeking calm and less to-do
we headed to the petting zoo.
She laughed out loud patting the goats
who gathered round her petticoats.
Closing time near, she strolled through the gate,
stopped short and turned, sensing less weight.
Waving at us, with her once-flowered purse
she swore at the goats. You are perverse!
Her purse, you see, was now quite bald
they’d nudged and ate, till it was mauled.

My mother’s name was Helen Cecile,
life with her was surely surreal.
In between faults lie love and gaffes
missing-her-tears, softened by laughs.

IMG_9978

I’m behind here….written for day 17 of Napowrimo: Prompt was to write about a family anecdote. Need to catch up with days 18, 19 and today, 20.  More to come.

Love Letter, Long Overdue

Strewn on the floor
stacked on a spindle,
my teenage love affairs.
Sometimes lying on my bed,
smile plastered on my face.
Sometimes gliding slowly,
watching in the mirror,
arms hugging waist.
Paul Anka, Johnny Mathis,
Harry Belafonte,
and Fabian too.
That plop-down sound.
Then needle stuck in groove,
spun round and round.
Forty-five RPM respite
from teenage angst.
Black vinyl disks,
I adored thee.

Note_lines_horizontal
NaPoWriMo starts tomorrow — April is National Poetry Month. The challenge is to write a poem every day. We begin a day early with an early-bird prompt to write a love letter.

Impatient in Iowa

Elusive spring
buried beneath snow.
Monotone whitened rural scene
minus crocus, lilacs,
and red breasted robins.
Brightened only by weathered barn
and newly painted crimson birdhouse,
daredevil cheerful bracelet
on snow laden tree limb.
Old man winter,
still balking at retirement.

Photo by Sari Hacker, my former Iowa Valley High School student. Fond memories of our days in Marengo, Iowa.