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

The Shape of Ideas

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Photo Credit:
Thank you and shoutout to Rui Xu.


The Shape of Ideas

Every morning I wake up
stretch my still tired bones
hoping for middle-age creaks
to have magically disappeared

Overnight I dream of sun—
basking my skin in the warmth
twirling in my swivel chair
trying to guess every time

I pass the sun and feel her rays—
my flowers blooming, my grass
greening beneath her glow
and then I wake up to mud

Everywhere the thick black muck
stuck to everything, even
my swivel rocker needed
to be put away and covered

Up to my ankles the mud
rises and enters my soul;
I wonder if, like the lotus,
I will ever emerge to life

From under the mud I begin
to rise and grow; soon I am
wading at the edge of beauty
not thinking about the hard

Hard work has followed me here,
but it’s the mud in my bones
that fortifies, birthing beauty
and wonder from endless rain.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

The New Road

the new road

i wonder...

emily says dying is a wild night and a new road.
i say dying is sort of like walking too close to the rails when the chicago el whizzes by--whooosh!
nowyouseeme nowyoudon't!
dying tastes like a quiet color
in explosive rainbow proportions.
i hear the clacking coming,
i feel the rush of wind,
i touch the steamy air
just before that silver bullet train starts whizzing toward me.

i wonder if the actual moment of death feels like being a rider on the train watching the people stare as i pass by them.

i wonder if death feels like new life.

i wonder if becalmanddie would make a good slogan on a billboard advertising dying.

perhaps emily is right after all;
perhaps there should be a billboard sign
lit in blinking neon lights,
guiding the way home on the new road (which just happens to pass a tad too close to the Chicago el tracks)--whooosh!


—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Playlist

Photo Credit: Photo by Andrés Gómez on Unsplash

Today’s prompt was to take any random song play list and use the next five song titles on that randomized list in a poem.

I…um…well… I had so much fun with this prompt, I couldn’t stop at five. You can check out my classic random shuffle playlist below. Enjoy!

birds of a feather: we

i shall soon 
be lost--
withoutatrace.

my head knows 
i will be ok,
but my heart supposes
that a thousand inches
measured in distance 
feels like a thousand years.

as a long time traveller 
and a long time seeker
in royal pursuit of better things,
i have my eye on it--
this distance between us,

this great 
chasm of space--
even though i can 
find home in your heart,
i am already missing
your sunshine smile 

over coffee, 
the cheery words
of your morning person ways
filling the silence 
with pure joy.

i am certain you will
forget me not--
and even if i feel lost 
withoutatrace,

a look at the stars
and rising moon
(theoneandonly)
will allow me
to hang out 
in your heart
by proxy.

how
sweet
it
is.


  --by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan
Playlist I used:

Birds of a Feather, The Civil Wars
Be OK, Ingrid Michaelson
A Thousand Years, Christina Perri
Long Time Traveller, The Wailin' Jennys
Royal Pursuit, from Frozen Soundtrack
Better Things, JJ Heller
Eye on It, Toby Mac
Find Home, The Honey Trees
Forget Me Not, The Civil Wars
Stars, Fun
Hang Out In Your Heart, Chely Wright
How Sweet It Is, James Taylor

Muddy Waters

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Photo Credit: Thanks and Say shoutout to Ben Wicks.
Muddy Waters

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?

Tasting Enough

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A view from my window.

I spent some time reflecting today. I don’t get time like that very often, and so I cherish it all the more.

I wish you a lifetime of tasting enough, my friends.


Tasting Enough

Set wide the window
and I shall not wonder—

I will drink the day
and sip the evening—

I will listen
with each swallow

how the weight of the world
feels in my mouth

like names and places
like memories

that look away
that look ahead

layering the moments
one on top of the next.

Set wide the window
so I can taste enough.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Heatwave

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Photo Credit: Thanks and shoutout to Bryan Hanson 

I’ve been taking some time to regroup after a grueling year and a half-is of teaching. I didn’t think relaxing would be as hard as it has been. I don’t think I realized just how taxing a year of virtual work and life was until I started to slow down.

Given that Trace needed her spinal fusion immediately, her recovery has been our primary concern this summer. We had already booked plans to head down south and camp in Laurel, Mississippi, navigating our way down to Folly Beach and maybe even New Orleans, but we had to cancel all those plans to concentrate on things closer to home.

We found out in the early spring that our beautiful big red maple was causing foundation damage to our home, so out it had to come. This meant tearing up our beautiful wood deck out back. But we had to do what we had to do, so I decided if the deck was getting ripped out anyway that we would replace it with concrete. We would enjoy our summer vacation from the luxury of our own new patio. Win-win!

With the hope that all construction work would be done by the beginning of June, we ripped out the deck and threw tarps down so the dogs could still use the backyard. Well, those of you near us know the massive amounts of torrential rain coupled with brutal heat we have had this summer. Now the back yard is one muddy lake and the dogs have to be walked on leash out in the front in order for them to take care of their business.

And the construction work has yet to begin.

Except now we have an excavator taller than our house in the backyard and the contractor is heading off to vacation next week.

Sigh.

My poem today is in honor of the tiny gold finch bathing in the mud lake that is now our backyard, the late great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and staycations.

Heatwave

Summer came on steamy winds of spring
the torrid heat belied the month of June;

summer storms raged like May shower
bombs of heat detonating in waves.

All that remained come muggy morning
was the mucky mess of mud called garden

and one tiny goldfinch preening in a puddle
making me wish I had been born a bird instead.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Magic In The Ordinary

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌 and shoutout to ShengGeng Lin.

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
bubbling champagne
one sugar cube
Santé!

Three frothy fronds of dill
one fresh cucumber
a splash of gin
Skål!

One yellow pineapple
amber rum
a squeeze of orange
Salud!

Red bell peppers
a handful of cilantro
Don Julio Blanco Tequila
¡Al centro!

Valentine vodka
a bit of ginger beer
one squeeze of lime
Prost!

A few drops of Angostura bitters
rich ruby port
a dash of orange curaçao
Saluti!

A wee bit of superfine sugar
two ounces of cachaca
freshly squeezed lime juice
Saúde!

Dark black coffee
a tip of Teeling Whiskey
fresh whipping cream
Sláinte!

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Live With Gusto

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌
and a great big shoutout to Chilli Charlie

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.

Dry Bones

She loved

near the edge of the world
with gusto
if not lunacy.
she chose unity
with herself.

She lost her vision
from living in the darkness—
the rose colored glasses
foggy from flashes
of light.

A ray of hope
in no man’s land
she teetered on the edge
of the cliff. The sedge
a sign

of her dry bones.
the moon rose
unbidden,
nearly hidden
by love.

She loved
wild and reckless—
in the light
no danger of flight—
I think.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

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