NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 30 Grief In Four Parts

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Photo Credit: Marcus Ganahl who made this image available for free on Unsplash

The final prompt of NaPoWriMo was a challenge to write a cento. This is a poem that is made up of lines taken from other poems. If you’ve never heard of one before, join the club. I hadn’t either.

Here is an example from John Ashbery: “The Dong with the Luminous Nose,” and here it is again, fully annotated to show where every line originated. A cento might seem like a complex undertaking – and one that requires you to have umpteen poetry books at your fingertips for reference – but according to the folks at NaPoWriMo, I didn’t have to write a long one.

In spite of “tips” to help me “jump-start the process”, this was a considerable bigger undertaking than I originally thought. 

Because my friend lost her daughter (and my Lizi’s best friend) on this date, I often write a poem dedicated to her on the last day of NaPoWriMo. This poem is in memory of Jacy Lynn Dettloff and in honor of my friends, Susan, Steve, and Mick Dettloff who lost their beloved daughter and sister 21 years ago today. 

This year (in August) Jacy would have been 30 years old. I know this because she and my son Aaron were born just a few days apart.

The grief tears at my heart as well.

Grief In Four Parts


1.
The River

Grief is a river you wade in until you get to the other side.
I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless.
When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.
          The air around you fills with butterflies.
I do not know how to hold all the beauty and sorrow of my life.
The morning air is all awash with angels,
and are we supposed to believe she can suddenly talk angel? 

2.
The Desert

          Little petal of my heart,
I didn’t know where I was going.
I was always leaving, I was
desolate and lone.

3.
The Night

If but I could have wrapped you in myself
I would I might forget that I am I--
a smile of joy, since I was born.
Things change on the morning of the birthday— 
          the hope is in wakening to this your last dream.

The shadows of you are around me;
the evening shadow has sunk
gleaming. So I can
come walking into this big silence.

4.
Hope

A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent;
she's light and also passage, the glory in my cortex.
Dare the deliberately happy to butterfly the gnarled roots of life—
Grief dies like joy; the tears upon my cheek—
          “Hope” is the thing with feathers.


--A Cento poem by cjpjordan
Grief in Four Parts (Annotated)


Grief is a river you wade in until you get to the other side.
              Barbara Crooker, “Grief”

I tell you, hopeless grief is passionless
              Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Grief”

When grief comes to you as a purple gorilla
              Matthew Dickman, “Grief”

then maybe—just maybe—the hours will carry you
into June, when the roses blow.
              Gottfried Benn, “Last Spring”

The air around you fills with butterflies--
              Katherine Garrison Chapin, “Butterflies”

I do not know how to hold all the beauty and sorrow of my life.
              Cynthia Zarin, “Flowers”

The morning air is all awash with angels
              Richard Wilbur, “Love Calls Us to the Things of This World” 

and are we supposed to believe she can suddenly talk angel? 
               Mary Sybist, “Girls Overheard While Assembling a Puzzle”

Little petal of my heart!
               Hilda Conkllng, “A Little Girl's Songs”  

I didn’t know where I was going
              Robert Vandermolen, “Flowers” 

I was always leaving, I was
              Jean Nordhaus, “I Was Always Leaving”

Desolate and lone
              Carl Sandburg, “Lost” 

If but I could have wrapped you in myself
              D.H. Lawrence, “Grief”

I would I might forget that I am I--
              George Santayana, “I would I might Forget that I am I” 

a smile of joy, since I was born.
              Emily Bronte, “I Am the Only Being Whose Doom” 

Things change on the morning of the birthday
The hope is in wakening to this your last dream
              Theodore Holmes, “In Becoming of Age” 

The shadows of you are around me
              Kathryn Soniat, “Daughter”

the evening shadow has sunk
              D.H. Lawrence, “Daughter Of the great Man”

gleaming. So I can
              Jennifer Richter, “My Daughter Brings Home Bones” 

come walking into this big silence
              Josephine Miles, “Dream” 

A daughter is not a passing cloud, but permanent;
              James Lenfestey, “Daughter” 

she's light and also passage, the glory in my cortex.
              Carmen Gimenez Smith, “The Daughter”

Dare the deliberately happy to butterfly the gnarled roots of life—
              Amy King, “Butterfly the Gnarled” 

Grief dies like joy; the tears upon my cheek—
              Henry Timrod, “Sonnet: Grief Dies” 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers.
              Emily Dickinson, ““Hope” is the thing with feathers”


NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 16

Thanks to Greg Rakozy @grakozy for making this photo available freely on Unsplash.

Whew! Today’s prompt was a doozy and just what I needed to recharge my brain.

Today we were challenged to write a curtal sonnet. A curtal sonnet is a variation on the classic 14-line sonnet. The curtal sonnet form was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and he used it for what is probably his most famous poem, “Pied Beauty.”

A curtal sonnet has eleven lines, instead of the usual fourteen, and the last line is shorter than the ten that precede it. The rhyme scheme is 11 lines rhyming abcabc dcbdc or abcabc dbcdc with the last line a tail, or half a line.

There is some mathematical formula Hopkins used to precisely curtail the typical sonnet, but the real cog in the works is the sprung rhythm that breaks away from the traditional iambic pentameter of Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss.

To be completely honest, I have no idea at all what I am doing. I researched and read a number of examples, but each one was different from the other in some critical form/stylistic way.

So, I’m not sure if this is really a curtal sonnet or not, but it is my poem for the day. I chose to use 12 syllable lines and the abcabc dcbdc rhyme scheme.

Happy Saturday!

Mottled Soul

Over all, under and through, the mystery lasts.
Look how I trust and hope even after I rolled
Down the hill with darkness closing in on all sides.
I realize now the truth of how light contrasts
With hope invisible and her friend harrow bold.
Oh the tragedy of how disaster divides!

Loneliness overstays; isolation befriends—
And I am left wondering how the earth provides
For everything missing or lost at the threshold.
Look with wonder at how simplicity amends

and instinct bravely guides.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 14

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Thanks and shoutout to Annie Spratt who made this luscious lemon photo available for free on Unsplash.

Today’s challenge was an interesting one. I was to write a poem that takes the form of the opening scene of a movie depicting my life.

This year the prompts have all been similar in some ways. There’s not much focus on form. Instead, the focus is just on using words to paint pictures. It’s been a challenge and has tightened my connection with words (or the lack thereof).

I don’t always know where the ideas come from. As I fall asleep, I prick my fingertips and they bleed onto the page. When I wake, the words have formed a poem.

When folks say things like “it’s all about the journey”, believe them. Every word is true.

Here is what I have learned halfway through this month. It is nothing new or even particularly profound, but it is the story of my journey: embrace the past (you can’t escape it), face the future (it’s coming so you might as well face it), and live in the now.

Lemon Groves

I turn off
Main Street
and head south—
top down,
breeze blowing.

I push
my hair back,
and suddenly
I can see.

Behind me
lemon groves
bear fruit;
my trunk
full of lemons
as proof.

With the heat
of midday,
I smell
delicate decisions—
citrus songs,
fermenting fruit.

Intersections
define direction;
not all roads
lead back home.

I suppose
home lives
in the trunk
with the lemons,
fermenting
into luscious
limoncello.


—cjpjordan

Thirteen Years

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Today is my Little Wonder’s crossover birthday. The one where we enter into the teen years.

I blinked.

That’s all.

And here we are.

Little Wonder you continue to amaze and astound me with your keen emotional intelligence and quick wit.

I could only dream of being as brave and genuine as you are at your age. Please never change. You are perfect the way you are.

Thirteen Years

Time goes by
like whip cream on hot chocolate
melting one into another
until the blend is all that is
Left my soul at your doorstep
the moment I heard your heart
Beat a steady rhythm
your small quick pace
syncing into my slower one
And now I want it all to slow down

I want you to slow down

I want the years to

S
l
o
w

d
o
w
n

Not to stop all together
But to slow just long enough
to prolong the precious
Time we have left together.


I love you,
Mama

The Holiday Throwdown

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The Holiday Throwdown

My heart is full to the brim
of baking with the ancestors,
of cooking with the children;
throwing down laughter

with chutney and roasted salsa.
Ice clinks in glasses as we
sip apple rum and dip
our fries in cashew cream.

A healthy dose of family
with boisterous boys
and bellies full of burgers.
Horseplay and memories

sautéed until golden sweet.
We are channeling the past—
hands guided by the greats
and hearts rooted in love.

Cjpjordan


Partial Fam Photo. Missing our loved ones in Arizona.

Be the Voice of Change

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Musings on the International Day of Peace and the first weeks of school:

Here I am teaching in-person for the first time in a year and a half. It seems funny to even use the words “in-person”; I mean, how else do you teach?

But now many of us understand words Ike virtual learning, zoom calls, and home office from firsthand experience. This past year and half we learned the value of hunkering down and staying home to “be safe” and the sheer joy of being able to gather together with friends and family. We found peace and made peace and offered peace where none was given.

We saw conflict, felt tension, and recoiled from verbal combat every time we opened a social media app.

But just like teaching, living in peace with one another is less about relaying information or our point of view and more about building relationships. It’s less about building fences and more about building bridges.

So with these thoughts in mind, I taught the students the song “With Just One Small Voice” this week, and we talked about what it means to use your voice together with others to speak out for or against something. I asked the students what things they would speak out about if given the chance.

A fifth grader said he would speak out against homelessness, another said they would raise awareness about hunger, a third grader said she would want to use her voice to encourage others to clean up the environment, and a second grader raised her hand and shared her heart for the plight of Haitian immigrants so passionately and articulately, I thought I had been transported to middle school.

These are the future peacemakers and bridge builders of our world. These are the thinkers and change makers.

And I get to work with them every day.

I will bind myself willingly to this kind of work–to peacemaking and restoration and love because I believe this is what will ultimately change the world. Respect, cooperation, listening with empathy, being willing to change your mind: these are the heart of hope for our future.

And so with this fullness of hope in my heart, I pray that peace finds its way to you wherever you are and in whatever you do.

We are what the world is becoming, so with one small but collective voice let’s sing so our voice is heard.

#bethechange #peacemakersunite #tryalittlekindnessinstead

Late Summer Evening

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Thanks to Vincent van Zalinge @vincentvanzalinge for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/CchPqypO8nE

The backyard has been a minefield of mud for the entire spring and summer months. The contractor we hired the end of April has used very excuse you can imagine as to why the work wasn’t complete.

As a teacher, I have heard many an excuse in my day as to why work wasn’t finished, why books weren’t brought to class, and why one child needed to insult another child. Often I have reminded students to simply stand tall and own their truth, even if they think they might “get in trouble” for it.

In my own life I have found that honest self reflection leads to growth.

Unfortunately, this contractor wasn’t interested in self reflection or growth. He was a poor communicator and gave excuses instead of owning his truth. Nearly four months later, he finally poured our patio. All the roots still aren’t trimmed around the edges of the patio, and the attention to finish details simply aren’t anywhere to be seen there, but we have a poured patio.

For now this is enough.

After the concrete patio was set, we hired these young men (with better communication skills, respect, and follow through than the older contractor) to build the gazebo kit we bought. They communicated clearly the dates they were available (all within the week’s time) and showed up right on time. When they finished there wasn’t so much as a scrap of paper lying about the yard. The job was finished above and beyond our expectations.
The work ethic and follow through of these young men restored my hope in builders.

Tonight Trace, Ev, and I sat out on the patio with our dear friend Jen, listening to the thrum of cicadas and watching the dragonflies dance in the evening sky.

Peaceful rest is what Jen called it, and I quite agree.

In those moments, I rediscovered my muse; it was the magic of the late summer garden at sunset.

Late Summer

Swarming dragonflies,
honking geese heading south—
they left me wondering how
the summer waned into fall
without word or warning.
All I did was blink.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Fourth of July

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There’s this girl, you see, born on the Fourth of July. She erupted on the scene at a military base and grew to love all things military precision-like—minimalistic living and spartan saving with exacting expectations of herself—yet exploding with all the vibrant color of a rainbow. She’s an out of the box thinker—MacGyver’s met his match in her.

This girl, you see, is a firecracker, whip smart, and loud about things that matter like injustice, inequality, and freedom for all. She’s the yang to my yin, the bang for my buck, my soul sister, twin flame, and best friend. Happy Birthday, Tracy Jo! 🥰🎉🎊 💥

4th of July

It is hard to say when or where
Although why is not quite as hard
(synchronous orbits)to declare
that mysterious tidal heat
where in wonder science we meet.
Life whisks away what’s not needed,
brings the ebb and flow, completed
we move while the stars stand their guard.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Mama

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Mama
Mama

Leaning on my momma
used to be
as comforting
as slipping
into a good story
(and hers were the best)

like the time
she took a train
across Czechoslovakia
in 1956—-a wide-eyed
young bride boldly

braving new worlds,
baring her teeth
at armed guards
who dared dump
her unmentionables,

changing a tire
at 12,000 feet—
even the Alps
didn’t scare mama;

now little mama
leans on me,
her fragility
a reckoning of age,

and so we measure
this middle
in the luxury
of not rushing.

I see
our new season,
as one of priceless pause;
this time demands us
to rest
in the beauty
of now.

—A draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Dreamers

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Photo Credit: Thanks and shoutout to Dan Smedley

Lately I have been reading through the Poetry Foundation website like a novel. Sometimes I search a theme, sometimes I just read through the site recommendations.

By doing this, I have discovered some amazing poets who were previously unknown to me, and I have also discovered some interesting forms of rhyme and meter.

I experimented today with a rather unusual rhyme scheme in an eight line stanza. It’s been so refreshing to take time each day and write. I’ll tell you, it does something good for my soul.

Never stop dreaming big dreams, friends—it’s the only way you’ll ever attain them.

Dreamers

On small boats, through the long canals, they came
settling in the lowlands, digging ditches
building dykes and drains, trying hard to tame
the water running uphill. They resolved
to change their thinking; new habits evolved
and soon sleek dwellings began to appear
great in hope and greater in scope than fear
until the gleaming wheat claimed their riches.

Tell me why it is that hordes of locust
love to swarm in the warm, wet month of May.
Sudden rain like the mind keenly focused,
calls and corrals a throng of living things.
And so folks lived like paupers on shoe strings
eating barley grass and growing green beans
while listening to the constant humming
of water flowing and tymbal thrumming.
None too soon, the greedy beasts flew away.

And then more dreamers came, some in sleek boats
skimming through the canals, seeking reprieve
from the mundane and stale in hull-less oats;
some carting a lifetime of hopes and dreams
in broken barges with leaking seams.
But come they did with courageous fervor,
to be farmer, builder, and observer—
full of faith, hope, and the power to believe.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan