Good Graves

Photo Credit: Woodlawn Cemetery

Since today was my first “official” day of summer vacation, I decided to do a free write of sorts. I combed through my notes, I read poetry, I scoured some essays, and I made lists of solitary words that sounded good to my ear. As I did that, I began to group random words together to form phrases that I thought sounded pleasing when read aloud. This process took some time, but it was worth the effort because at the end, I had a pretty lengthy list of words and phrases from which to choose.

Then I let the Poetry Faerie take over my imagination. I arbitrarily chose words and phrases from my list and started writing my poem. While this seems so very random, something magical always seems to happen.

As the poem emerged, a pattern of eight syllable lines and quatrains began to take shape. I stood, slack jawed as always, in wonder as to the poem that emerged. Somehow, in the writing process, an idea unfolds and a poem takes shape out of nowhere.

I can honestly say, this process always amazes me. I can also honestly recommend this crazy method to anyone who thinks they cannot write.

It works.

Every time.

Trust me. You won’t regret trying it. Let me know if you do. 🙂

Good Graves

Unthinkable suffering happens
in spurts—seasons turn and shadows
sustain the night like mourning songs
bellowing sorrows to the stars.

Come morning, fresh-washed and brilliant,
I no longer believe in babes
or bathtubs or the heady hum
of brass bugles rousing the sun.

I play in the dry dust behind
the barn and near the water jar
and wash my soul clean as a voice
whispers: You no longer believe.

My wandering soul has found rest
under the distant black gum tree,
who flashes fiery and fulgent
in the humid heat of summer.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Gone Girl

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Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/ka8s6fgtXwc/

I’m not sure how to preface this poem. It’s funny how writing “overtakes” me, and some things just write themselves.

In saying that, I don’t mean to oversimplify the process—as though the writer is some kind of medium just repeating what the “writer spirit” says. This poem took me the better part of a full day, and I rewrote it completely three times—crossing out words, changing rhyme scenes, rearranging the form. It was a poem birthed in struggle.

And yet, the poem chose to be born from my pen. It wasn’t a topic or prompt or something that I was told to write about.

This process of writing everyday has been cathartic for me. Since I borderline on OCD whenever I commit to doing something, there is a certain compulsion now to write everyday.

Quite frankly, I’m loving this compulsion. It feels freeing even as it commits me to a task. Crazy, huh?

With all that said, this poem is dedicated to a long time family friend who lost a daughter eight years ago this week. The heartbreak never ends.

In her own words, “No matter how many years go by, our arms never forget the babies we are no longer able to hold.”

Gone Girl

I laid my weary bones in the spot
where your heart beat for the last time;
I wondered at the peaceful sky—
how life has been such a hard, hard climb.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

My eyes cried tears dried up by grief
as I danced to the tune of woe
like a puppet poised on a string
moving in ways I didn’t know.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

The past isn’t past until we say,
but I don’t know what you need now.
You exist in all who loved you—
I feel the soul lingers on somehow.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

Yes you are with me though you’re gone—
in everything, it’s you I see.
I feel your presence in my life song,
casting a sweet spell over me.

Life works out that way at last—
the present lives in tandem with the past.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

A Pantoum For My Pops

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My Pops

Happy Father’s Day to all the Pops, Dads, Daddies, Papas, Papis, Babas, Role Models, Mentors, and Step Wonders!

Today is Father’s Day, and so naturally I wanted to honor my dad. My Pops was hands-down the best dad on this planet for me.

I chose a new-to-me form called a “pantoum” (a Malay form from Indonesia) because pantoums are about memory and usually compare the present to the past in some way.

Pantoums are made of quatrains of any meter (though syllables are typically regular between stanzas), have no set rhyme scheme, and are really dependent on their repetition of whole lines.

The repetition looks like this: 
The first stanza
A
B
C
D

Second stanza
B
E
D
F

Third stanza
E
G
F
H

Fourth stanza
A
I
C
J

The pantoum carries this continuous pattern until, typically, it ends with lines A and C repeated in the last stanza. (For my pantoum this was the fourth stanza)

Here are some good examples: “Pantoum of the Great Depression” (Justice), “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” (Dischell)

For Pops

Pops loved the simple things in life;
he loved God, his family, his wife.
Music was part of his being—
healthy, whole, and utterly free.

He loved God, his family, his wife—
walking alongside with kindness,
healthy, whole, and utterly free—
a man of solid conviction.

Walking alongside with kindness,
he had a gentle demeanor—
a man of solid conviction
and eyes with a hint of mischief.

Pops loved the simple things in life—
a lake, a dock, his fishing pole.
Music was part of his being—
my life the refrain for his song.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Game of Shame

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Photo Credit

Sometimes things happen, and I respond with a very quick knee-jerk reactions. Other times, I respond slower, but from a deep level of understanding and personal experience.

This week I was triggered by a parent not allowing their male child to buy a pink graphic t-shirt because he was a boy and wearing pink might offend the grandmother. Since when is a child responsible for someone else’s reaction—to a color, no less?!

I say nay nay.

Keep your oppressive shame to yourself. Don’t heap it on to a child who happens to be quite comfortable in his own skin. Don’t try to cram someone else, especially a child, into a box that you have chosen for yourself.

Thanks, but no thanks. That’s a hard pass for me.

F*** shame.

The Game of Shame

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

Please tell me
you know about this—
saying to a child
he will be remiss
if he wears something
grandma won’t like.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Generational cycles
repeating and repeating.
Don’t you know
that fashion is fleeting?
Colors don’t reflect
“manliness” or sexuality.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

It’s not ok to place
that weight upon a child
to tell him he’s responsible,
to make him feel exiled
all because he’s comfortable
inside his own skin.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

I’m sure I did it,
I know that I lived it,
but I’m breaking that cycle
because I can admit it.
I can share my story
and overcome the past.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

I Reckon The End Will Come


Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

A poem for the earth…

I Reckon The End Will Come

I reckon that the end will come
one summer day for all of us
sooner than we can imagine—
but who will be left here to care?

I reckon the once vibrant seas
will overflow with the carnage,
that is sadly vacant of life,
but who will be here to care?

I reckon no longer will we pass
our heirloom treasures on to those
generations who come after—-
but who will be here to care?

I reckon decay will someday
over take us, who are scattered
by the reckless without regard,
but who will be here to care?

I reckon when the last tall tree
is felled by careless apathy,
then the forests will lie barren,
but who will be here to care?

I reckon the poison of greed
will birth the realization
that life is not grown with money,
but who will be here to care?

--a draft by cjpjordan

Lady Godiva

Thanks to Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian @foodess for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

I haven’t felt much like cooking since Trace went into the hospital, Lizi had emergency surgery, and Uncle E left to stay with her for a bit and help out with Little E.

At first I didn’t want to cook because it was just too hot, and now, it seems I’ve lost my mood altogether. That seems an impossible and improbable situation given what I know about my own love for cooking, but it is absolutely true.

I think life just caught up with me, and I pooped out. What can I say? 🤷🏼‍♀️ It happens to the best of us.

However, my adoration for all things sweet has not abated one iota; so today, I found a prompt based on one of Lauren Russell’s collaborative poetry exercises. The exercise required that I write a poem based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure.

I think perhaps I had as much fun trying to think of a guilty pleasure as I did writing this sultry, smoking hot ode to my true love.

What is your secret guilty pleasure?

lady godiva 

can i taste
your sweet succulence,
your crisp-cookie,
your bark without a bite,
your gooey caramel pull,
your coconut cream,
and your milk chocolate chew
melting in my mouth?

can i taste
your dark chocolate,
your milky way wonder,
your sea salt sprinkles
that tease the tongue?

meet me
in my bed;
slip into
my mouth
and melt away
the sorrows.

meet me
in the dark
where we can
change the world,
or at least
the moment.

last night
your siren song bewitched
and i succumbed.

this morning
i looked both ways
before returning
your golden box
to the cupboard
and slipping silently
back into bed.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Bop BeBop

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Thanks to Alec Douglas @alecthenomad for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/iuC9fvq63J8

The prompt for the day: the Bop. The invention of poet Afaa Michael Weaver, the Bop is a kind of combination sonnet + song.

Like a Shakespearan sonnet, it introduces, discusses, and then solves (or fails to solve) a problem. Like a song, it relies on refrains and repetition. In the basic Bop poem, a six-line stanza introduces the problem, and is followed by a one-line refrain.

The next, eight-line stanza discusses and develops the problem, and is again followed by the one-line refrain. Then, another six-line stanza resolves or concludes the problem, and is again followed by the refrain.

Well, I’ve never written a “bop” before, but I’ve listened to bebop. (Maybe that will help me…) Here is my first (very rough) attempt.

at the intersection

the bus line passed right in front
of her window every morning--
a new opportunity
and a lost hope for breaking free.
the dying happens slowly,
she mutters into the glass pane.

the fear of death is a powerful aphrodisiac.

he bundles up to ward off
cold days and even longer nights.
the gnawing hunger never
waning; any sort of food will do.
traversing alleys, seeking,
always longing for the next door.
yellow lights flicker inside
the neighbor's kitchen reflecting...

the fear of death is a powerful aphrodisiac.

...a table full of food, scents wafting--
oh for once to not be hungry!
catching her eye he smiles
stomach growling, indecisive.
death is a friend to no one,
he thinks, and slowly turns the knob.

the fear of death is a powerful aphrodisiac.


—a poem in progress by Carla Picklo Jordan

Who Am I?

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Thanks to Lorenzo Nucci @lorenzonuccipe for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/VrfGS6S86uo

On a day when I just don’t know what to write, these are the words that come to me.

Some days I am quite certain I know the answer to the owl’s question, but other days I am no so sure.

I am always me.

True to myself.

Essentially me in every year and place.

But sometimes I hide in plain sight so no one can see the me I wish to be when I’m all alone.

Who Am I?

Today I heard an owl
Singing in the summer trees
Such a plaintive cry had he
the branches bent in the breeze
I searched the trees high and low
my heart broke to hear him sing,

Who, who am I, oh who am I?
Who, who am I, oh who am I?

I know a single moment
Cannot define my story
But this entailed glory
of bird, flight, and song for me
Whittled words on my heart’s wall
that always will bear my name—

Who, who am I, oh who am I?
Who, who am I, oh who am I?

—draft by Carla Jeanne

Rest Trumps Tired

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Thanks to Clément Falize @centelm for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/WZ2V1j2a1K8

A “golden shovel” poem is a poem within a poem—like a puzzle or a mystery. Oh and puzzles and mysteries are challenges that I love.

A poem within a poem? How does that even work? I’m so glad you asked.

First I had to choose a poem to “hide” inside my poem. I chose David Whyte’s poem “Enough” because I love it.

You can check out my “golden shovel” like this: first, read my poem as a complete unit. Then read it again using only the last word from each line and you will read David Whyte’s beautiful poem, “Enough”.

After the week (or three) we’ve been experiencing over here I really felt the need for rest because somehow I can never seem to get enough rest.

Trace is walking really well. We are both amazed at how straight her shoulders have become. She can raise both arms straight up high (she hasn’t been able to do that in years) and her shoulders are even and no longer slumped.

Another benefit since surgery is that her CRPS foot pain has subsided a little. She is so grateful for that!

Lizi is still struggling with pain and trapped gas in her body from the surgery. We are praying it is absorbed into her body or released out one way or another. Ev has been staying with her to help with Little E, and she has been really grateful for his help.

The dogs are finally home, and we are continuing on with their training.

As for me…well…

I. Am. Exhausted.

Sometimes overwhelmed.

Anxious.

Well, you get the idea.

Perhaps you feel the same?

It’s ok to not be ok.

It’s ok to decide to rest.

rest

I find it enough.
moments like these
when sounds are few
and fewer still are words
these moments are
enough.

no space for what if
or worries about what not
to do or say. Yes, in these
moments I find soul words,
I find space within this
time to catch my breath.

if only, if
only this time were not
just like this
life--a fading breath

if only this
space for sitting
for being here
and present in this
life of wondrous opening
would allow me to
receive the
joy of living life
in the present. we
know the places we have
said no--where we refused
to live again;
where we struggle and
strive again.

I find it enough until
pressures of the now
rage against the still; until
again I rest in the still now.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Is It Really Ok To Not Be Ok?

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Thanks to Stefano Pollio @stefanopollio for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/ZC0EbdLC8G0

I’m not ok.

And I’m repeating the mantra “it’s ok to not be ok”, and all the while I’m still asking myself: But is it?

So much has happened. 

Is happening.

Still needs to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if curses are real. 

Or if the stories in the Bible are actually true. Perhaps like Jonah, I should jump out of the boat to save everyone else inside. 

At best, I’d like to find a wee corner and wait out the apocalypse.

Quiet

I’m not sure what is wrong with me
but something clearly is;
through skin so thin I see the wind
bubbling up like gin fizz.

I’m not sure what’s wrong or what’s right
and no feelings surprise;
I feel like I’m dead and hollow--
my body a disguise.

I suppose I know this is real
by my response to life—
“deadpan” gets a brand new meaning
when I am keeping strife

with everyone and anyone
who thinks to come my way;
angry-tongued I slash at those dear
until I’m wished away.

So here in the quiet I sit
with silence as my guide
while people still call out my name—
if only I could hide.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan