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

Post Purity Culture

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Photo edited by Mariah Wilson; photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

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.

Purity Culture

Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
my DNA.

Be careful
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
or brassy.

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
Patriarchal nonsense.

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
Rushing back—
Guilt, Anger,
And Burning Shame.

At the end
Of deconstruction
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
The power
to rebuild my life.

—cjpjordan

Vacation

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Photo by Evgenia Stergioula on Unsplash

The hardest thing about vacation is the preparation. We are trying desperately to get away for our first family trip since last August. That middle of pandemic trip where a fluke fire consumed our truck, camper, and Evan’s bike in a single night.

We were awakened from a deep sleep to a neighbor banging frantically on the doors, walls, and windows of our camper. When we opened the door, the wall of orange flames threw us backward with their heat.

“Get out! Get out! The gas tank might blow!”

Those terrifying words shocked us in to action. We had to wake Ev and get the dogs, before running as far away as we could from the camper.

The whole experience left us shell shocked and bereft of vehicle and camper.

So you can imagine how the memory of that night one year ago drags on us as we pack to leave on our first camping trip since the fire.

I decided to use the triolet with its tight repetitive structure to speak the words we are all feeling.

Vacation

The list growing by the minute
works us hard so we don’t forget;
we try harder just to win it.
The list growing by the minute
has us seeking virtue in it
to make sure we do not regret.
The list growing by the minute
works us hard so we don’t forget.

—Carla Jeanne Jordan

A triolet is a poem of eight lines, typically of eight syllables each, rhyming abaaabab and so structured that the first line recurs as the fourth and seventh and the second as the eighth.

Sounds like some weird crazy poetry torture device, doesn’t it?

Well, I finished off my coffee and found this helpful cheat chart.

Triolet Lines:
1. A
2. B
3. a Rhymes with 1st line.
4. A identical to 1st line.
5. a Rhymes with 1st line.
6. b Rhymes with 2nd line.
7. A Identical to 1st line.
8. B Identical to 2nd line.

Oma

Photo Credit: Thanks to CDC @cdc for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/F98Mv9O6LfI
Oma

She smelled of lilacs,
Baby Magic lotion,
and summer-misted air—
cool as the color
of her snow white hair.

Every summer
we looked for miracles
and found them everywhere—
seed to bud to flower,
violets blooming purple.

Write hope on your heart
meine liebchen—she whispered
as we worked side by side—
write hope over fear.
Get lost in wonder.

—by 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

Cheers To The Queer

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌
and shoutout to Wil Stewart

I chose another Balassi Stanza nine line poem today and combined it with the one sentence poem because… I can. 🥰

Cheers! 🍻

Cheers To The Queer

It was a very queer
time or maybe it was here
that I realized the plan
had gone terribly wrong;
maybe I wasn’t strong
hearted when I first began—
all things have their season
minds must yield to reason—
life lasts but a finger span.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Gathering

Photo Credit: https://unsplash.com/photos/vzFTmxTl0DQ/

Being completely accepted and loved is something that most humans desire. When you find that person who gathers you in, who pulls you together when the world is pulling you apart, you hold on to them.

If you haven’t found your person, my hope is that you do. And if you already know who your special person is, reach out and gather him or her to yourself.

Maybe it’s a sibling or parent, maybe it’s a friend or spouse. Whoever it is, hold on to them tightly.

Tell them how much you appreciate them.

Remind them how grateful you are for their presence in your life.

The Gathering

You gather all the pieces of me—
You gather all the dark places,
You gather all the light places,
You gather my fears and beliefs.

You weave them together and prove
our souls are made of the same cloth.
Let’s not forget this, You and me,
we find beauty in one another.

When the quiet crumbling comes
(and it always comes) we simply
move in closer to each other;
we gather our single-soul cloth

and drape it to cover us both.
We gather underneath the weight—
we gather all of our pieces—
and we hide in one another.

—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