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.
Fourteen years ago today, I gave birth to a perfect and beautiful son, David Carl.
My third son.
My heart’s desire.
When a child is born still, our state writes no birth certificate and signs no death certificate.
It is as if the child never existed.
But no worries.
The hospital gave me a stuffed bear to carry home.
As if the gaping emptiness of my heart could be so easily filled.
You can read the whole story here.
It happened again.
I hate October—
My chest hurts
I try to forget.
But the accuracy
of the body
what the mind
wishes to forget
I kept looking
at the clock,
it would end.
watching the clock
as my body strained
it would end—
knowing how it would end.
Wishing it would just end.
Trying to remember,
hoping to forget.
But that’s not how it works;
I had to learn how to work
the angles of grief.
I fall into myself
like cliff diving
and I measure my worth
in treasures of memory.
I wonder if he would have eyes the color of the sea.
I wonder if he would devour books instead of read them.
I wonder if he would prefer running outdoors or playing legos indoors.
I wonder if he would like mushrooms and tomatoes and mashed potatoes.
I wonder if he would be a music lover and a story teller.
I wonder if Evan would be different with a sibling close in age.
All I will ever do is wonder.
I never saw the color of his eyes or read him books or cooked him a meal or sang him to sleep or heard his voice.
Even so, David lives.
He lives in my memory as an unfulfilled dream--
a set of wonderings--
until I see him again one day.
He lives in my heart
as the eternal hope
of my Eternal Hope.
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
When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.
I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.
But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.
The list of rules for girls was quite long:
- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.
- Nakedness was something to cause shame.
- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.
- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.
- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.
- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.
- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.
- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.
- Only men have strong sex drives.
- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.
Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.
Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
No one likes
A brassy woman
Women are responsible
For the lusting found
In the hearts of men.
I tell myself
I have grown out
I have moved on
From such foolish
I tell myself
I have deconstructed
Whatever that means
I have separated
The truth from the lies.
Until something happens
And all of it comes
And Burning Shame.
At the end
There remains a giant
Pile of rubble, one
Mess of mortified me.
But I own
Every last piece
Of senseless shame
Every tiny bit
Of damning guilt
I own my story
I own my future
I alone own
to rebuild my life.
i'm not certain
i will not own
like second hand shoes,
they never quite fit
the shape of my feet.
—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
People like me belong to the rain—
soaking in joy breathing out sorrow,
tending to the dark roots and pain—
a slow broadening of mossy green
spreading wide after the summer storm.
I stay alive in muddy waters
when the verdant swaddle of meadow
is drowned in brown. It’s there I sought her
to teach me the wisdom of the rain
and to not be afraid of the dark.
It is with her I learned where I belong
and how to navigate in a world
reeking with sunshine and sappy song.
Bring on the rain, for how else do I
stay alive when dusk darkens the light?
—By Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
I read a story this morning about the death of a lovely young Australian woman who was a farmer, ecologist, and inspiration to many on her TikTok.
Her family didn’t give details about her death, but her father said “every day should be ‘R U OK? Day,” a reference to an Australian holiday when people are encouraged to have conversations about mental health and suicide prevention with one another.
I absolutely agree.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone if they are Ok. Don’t be afraid to push a little to encourage them to reach out to a professional.
There is no shame in needing help. Or asking someone if they need help.
It’s ok to not be ok.
How else can we stay alive when the rain comes and dusk darkens the light?
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.
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
I took an old prompt and did some stream of consciousness writing. Interesting the things that hide out in our sub-conscious.
I started with a list of eight words and a task. Being a (sometimes over) achiever, I relish the accomplishments of tasks. So I set about this challenge with gusto.
As I have often said, poetry is one of the more uncontrolled writing options. Deep inside of each one of us, there are feelings and thoughts that we seldom give voice. Too often we bury how we really feel in exchange for what is expected of us to feel, or we respond how we are expected to respond by our circle of family and friends.
These words, and perhaps the book attached to the words, brought out some feelings buried just beneath the surface. I have spoken and written before about my complete disgust with platitudes. Too much of my childhood was spent listening to them in sermons or from well meaning members of that religious community. This poem reflects those feelings.
You can try this kind of stream of consciousness writing, too. I highly recommend everyone journal in some way. For me, it can be as cathartic as a good therapy session. (Sorry Kelly.)
Here is what you can do:
Grab the closest book.
Go to page 29.
Write down 10 words that catch your eye.
Use 7 or 8 of those words in a poem.
For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.
My word list included these gems:
Once you have gathered your list of words, see what they say to you and put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and start writing! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did.
Let It Go
Suck up the sorrow like a sweet
slurpy through a straw, head resting
in hands as if to catch the pain.
Let go. Empty yourself of need.
Go on, give in, concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit—
It is the Lord’s will after all.
He is Sovereign over our pain;
we are supersaturated
in the spirit and strong-shouldered;
we are weak-kneed, walking wayward.
We are walking in the true light;
Let go. Empty yourself of need
go on, give in—concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit.
It is the Lord’s will after all,
for God is in control, sister;
and he will never give you more
than you can bear. You can trust him
with all your heartbroken pieces.
You need to trust in letting go
and letting God. No one else but God.
But you see, I stand here alone,
in pain, and straining to maintain
any remnant of dignity. How?
Tell me, how did we believe
all of the crazy platitudes
undermining good common sense?
How is grief less of a burden
thinking that it is for our best,
believing that God allowed this
pain for our growth and his pleasure?
I let go of sorrow, let go
of dignity in heaving sobs
with incoherent words that say
just how much I don’t understand.
I stand up, cry out, stamp my feet
shout out loud how ruthless and cruel
life can be. I don’t shout at God;
I acknowledge the suffering
and let it go. I breathe out and
release the pain; but when I can’t,
I concede. There isn’t always
a reason—don’t suck in, let go.
—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
Ok so… my dearest Tracy Jo told me that my writing has been rather dark lately. It’s entirely possible. I write to lay the darkness down in the light, and once the light hits it, it’s no longer darkness.
I dunno, though.
Maybe she’s right about too much, even if I do consider it a good thing.
Maybe I just need some magic in my ordinary days. A little “boost” in the form of a beverage. A little boost in the form of being with friends and family. Don’t we all need that kind of boosting after the crazy year we’ve had?
I’m hoping to have a summer filled with little boosts from family and friends. Maybe I’ll even follow some of the recipes in this poem to boost the magic the extra mile.
Magic in the Ordinary
Two ripe strawberries on the vine
one sugar cube
Three frothy fronds of dill
one fresh cucumber
a splash of gin
One yellow pineapple
a squeeze of orange
Red bell peppers
a handful of cilantro
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
a bit of ginger beer
one squeeze of lime
A few drops of Angostura bitters
rich ruby port
a dash of orange curaçao
A wee bit of superfine sugar
two ounces of cachaca
freshly squeezed lime juice
Dark black coffee
a tip of Teeling Whiskey
fresh whipping cream
—Carla Picklo Jordan
This particular writing challenge was to write a poem that stretches my comfort zone with line breaks. Well, this poem stretched my comfort level with many things.
At first I thought perhaps I’d write a poem with very long lines, or maybe one with very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two? Who knows what that might look like? I vacillated between all of these ideas.
Maybe breaking apart lines to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or creating a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought might be the way to go.
My method was to read several different poems, and then I began to write. Every poem and its process brings out some different part of myself. Even the story poems that are outside of my personal experience have a piece of me woven into them.
Before posting this poem, I was reading the story of a sweet friend who has deconstructed and reconstructed the faith and religion of her youth. I could totally connect with all that she shared.
For each one of us the process is different, but I hope for each one of you that you love and live near the edge of the world with gusto.
near the edge of the world
if not lunacy.
she chose unity
She lost her vision
from living in the darkness—
the rose colored glasses
foggy from flashes
A ray of hope
in no man’s land
she teetered on the edge
of the cliff. The sedge
of her dry bones.
the moon rose
wild and reckless—
in the light
no danger of flight—
—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan