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 29 The Origin of Bees

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Photo Credit: Aaron Burden on Unsplash.
The Origin of Bees

A significant factor
in the origin of bees
and my relationship
with them
is the nonstop
hum of fear
immured within me
by the bonnie buzzing
of their wee wings.
Mama always said
Grandma made me afraid
because she was afraid,
and so I learned
to be afraid.
She and Daddy said
I was overreacting,
repeating what I saw.
Just stop, they said,
as if fear was a faucet
I could control
with strength of will.
But when I found
myself grown
and at last alone
with the bees,
instead of running,
all I could do
was stop
and wonder
at the nonstop
hum of life itself.

—by cjpjordan (a draft)

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 28 My Trees

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Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash.

Hello again! I can’t believe that there are only two more days of this year’s NaPoWriMo. I’m sad to say the least. Today’s prompt was to write a concrete poem. Like acrostic poems, concrete poems are a favorite for grade-school writing assignments, so this may not be a first time at the concrete-poem rodeo.

In brief, a concrete poem is one in which the lines are shaped in a way that mimics the topic of the poem. For example, May Swenson’s poem “Women” mimics curves, reinforcing the poem’s references to motion, rocking horses, and even the shape of a woman’s body. George Starbuck’s “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” is – you guessed it – a sonnet in the shape of a potted Christmas tree.

So, my concrete poem proved difficult to post without the shape shifting when previewed via mobile phone or desktop. What you will find is that I have posted an image of my poem for those reading from mobile apps and a regular copy for those reading from a laptop or desktop. Either way you are reading it, I hope you will be able to detect my “tree” form.

Happy reading!

                                                                     My Trees


                                                                   My                                                      childhood
                                                                                                                   memories
                                                         are                                               full     of 
                                                 trees                                         like the
                                          giant                                      willow
                                    who                                      grew 
                          in the                                      middle
                    of the                               little grove 
             of trees                          hidden 
         behind                      the new 
     condo            development
    It was            there that
I dreamed  of spending 
my adult life
chain-smoking 
cigarettes and 
clacking the keys of 
my old typewriter 
as I cranked out
my next best-selling
novel. Then there was 
the colossal oak on the 
playground--the one whose 
ground roots held me like a 
comforting mother as I watched 
the other children run and play 
together from a disassociated 
distance. The oak was my friend—
my best friend—and I loved her.   
In later years, there was the young
sapling who gave its life to save mine.
It happened when the canoe tipped over,
I slipped quietly into the swirling river, and 
I thought I was dead at sixteen--until I spotted 
my father uprooting a small sapling from the bank.
He held the tree across the river and told me to grab on;
It was then I knew I was safe in the strength of the tree and
my father.        Safe in my childhood memories         safe in the arms       of    trees.  

--cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 3

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Thanks to Joshua Earle @joshuaearle for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Today’s prompt was a bit complex. The challenge was to write a Spanish form called a “glosa” – literally a poem that glosses, or explains, or in some way responds to another poem.

The idea is to take a quatrain from a poem that you like, and then write a four-stanza poem that explains or responds to each line of the quatrain, with each of the quatrain’s four lines in turn forming the last line of each stanza. Traditionally, each stanza has ten lines, and here is a nice summary of the glosa form for anyone who is interested.

I chose a poem by Rumi found in a book of his quatrains (Rubaiyat) put together by John Moyne and Coleman Barks. I love reading Rumi anyway, so I was delighted to find this book in an online format, easily accessible to all.

This is the quatrain or rubyaiyat I chose:

“The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.
We must get up and take that in,
that wind that lets us live.
Breathe, before it's gone.” —Unseen Rain: Quatrains of Rumi

And here is my response to Rumi with each line of the Rumi quatrain woven in to complete my verse of ten lines.

The Wind That Lets Us Live

I am so small
a twinkle in the starry night,
a single ray of light
escaping from behind a cloud.
I do not know
the strength I own—
Like the scent of salty air,
I permeate the taste buds.
I am alive, breathe in—
The morning wind spreads its fresh smell.

I am fearless
in my tiny state
I know not when or where.
I know not how
or what’s to come,
yet move ahead
without an inkling
of tomorrows’s fright.
I am alive, breathe in—
We must get up and take that in,

I must get up
with brave resolve
not filled with dread or doom.
Tragedy might tear apart,
yet I choose to stand—
to look in the eyes
of wailing winds
whipping wildly lash and cheek.
I am alive, breathe in—
that wind that lets us live.

I sing of life;
I dream of death.
I fear not either one.
I see eternity among the stars,
still choose to shine my light.
Not everyone can see the rays,
I find contentment there—
moving forward, arms outstretched;
I am alive, breathe in—
Breathe, before it's gone.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo (Global) 2022 Day Two

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Thanks to Katelyn Greer @katelyn_g for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

The daily prompt today was a challenge to write a poem based on a word featured in a tweet from Haggard Hawks, an account devoted to obscure and interesting English words.

I chose the word WINTERCEARIG. It is from an Anglo-Saxon poem written in the late 10th century and essentially means ‘winter-sorrow’, and was likely meant to describe a feeling of downheartedness or despondency caused by, or as desolate as, the depths of winter. In other words, WINTERCEARIG is Seasonal Affective Disorder identified 1,000 years before the term was used (1984) by Norman Rosenthal and colleagues at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, MD.

Obviously, the sky outside my window inspired this poem. Michigan in winter (because Michigan doesn’t recognize March 21 as the first day of spring) is nearly always gloomy.

For my poem form I chose the sevenling because it seemed unnecessarily difficult and fit the mood of “wintercearig” perfectly. 

Simplified, the sevenling poem is a seven line poem. Lines one to three should contain three connected or contrasting statements; lines four to six should similarly have three elements connected directly or indirectly or not at all. The seventh line should act as a narrative summary or punchline or an unusual juxtaposition.

Simple, right?

Well, not as complex as some form poems, but certainly not without its challenge. I connected two sevenling stanzas in this poem. I’m not sure I did it exactly right because I am still unsure whether each line must be a complete sentence. There are conflicting definitions online. Perhaps one of you is more familiar and can educate me.

Also important is the fact that according to the Anglo-Saxon scholars on the Twitter account, the word that I chose (WINTERCEARIG) is pronounced  “winter-chee-arry” or “winter-cherry”, so you will see the cheery/cherry play on words come out in my sevenling poem.

SAD

I dread the moment the first picture perfect snowfall ceases to glimmer,
when the gray slush of snow matches the gray slush of sky overhead,
and when last vestige of green is covered with frost.
The sorry and sorrow of winter sets into my bones,
my mood matching the graying skies,
and cheer quickly dies.

Wintercearig sets in.

Not every color is lovely: gray strips away the energy,
beige removes any hint of excitement,
and black resembles my soul full of rage.
I long for skies of cerulean blue,
aqua waters of the Agean variety,
and the vibrant orange of tiger lilies in bloom.

Summer cherries make me cheery, but "winter-cherry" grows me weary.

--cjpjordan

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.

Fall Wonderings

Photo Credit: Shoutout to Alex Motoc

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.

Fall

It happened again.
October.

I hate October—
acrid leaves,
dying,
death.

My chest hurts
from breathing.

I try to forget.

But the accuracy
and tenacity
of the body
to remember
what the mind
wishes to forget
holds on.

I kept looking
at the clock,
wondering when
it would end.

I remembered
watching the clock
as my body strained
wondering when
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.

Every October
I fall into myself
like cliff diving
without water,

and I measure my worth
in treasures of memory.

—cjpjordan

Wonder

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.

I wonder....everything.

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.

—cjpjordan

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