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 27 That Day

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Thank you and shoutout to Silas Baisch who made this image available for free on Unsplash.

Today’s prompt was the challenge to write a “duplex.” A “duplex” is a variation on the sonnet, developed by the poet Jericho Brown. Here’s one of his first “Duplex” poems, and here is a duplex written by the poet I.S. Jones.

Like a typical sonnet, a duplex has fourteen lines. It’s organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line (or two) of the poem is the same as the first.

This is based on a true story. One day, if the mood seems right, over coffee and croissants, I will share the rest of the story with you.

Come on by and let’s make a date for coffee.

That Day

What I remember most is the ocean releasing—
crisp, cool breezes and a bevy of blues.

You left me there by the stony beach—blues
and greens assault my senses, I cannot look away

A way off in the distance your boat lurches
But not as much as my heart when she slips

Slips slowly under the water, eyes wide open
Open arms floating just beneath the surface

The surface of the water explodes
With my crazed frenzy. Panic rising

Rising until bile is all I taste, but somehow, somehow…
My memory is blurred but I remember—

crisp, cool breezes and a bevy of blues;
what I remember most is the ocean.

—cjpjordan


NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 24 Of Certainty

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Thanks and shoutout to Tim Marshall for making this image available for free on Unsplash.

Dedicated to my dear friend who has so graciously allowed others to experience with her how she has processed the religious environment in which she was raised. She is smart and witty and writes so articulately about how she has grown and changed through the years.

I was also raised in this sort of religious environment and can relate on many levels to her story of deconstruction and reconstruction. It is here I find myself in wild-waters, the waters difficult to navigate with grace.

All the stages of grief live in this space of deconstructing and reconstructing—denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. They don’t follow a natural progression and sometimes even after I think that acceptance has settled over my bones, denial and anger can revisit.

You know, just for old times sake.

I didn’t follow a prompt today, instead I let my spirit wander over words until they settled into a poem. This poem and life is a process of growth. My only hope is that I continue to grow and change until I take my last breath.

Of Certainty

She looked as certain
as the sky without a cloud
never questioning life,
never doubting God.
Her life was as settled
as her eternity,
and she liked it that way—
without a glimmer of mystery
and brimming with the loveliest
of certainties. After all,
on what could she rely
if not that certainty?

She found out unexpectedly
that it wasn’t the destination.
it was the journey
that mattered most.
When the unthinkable happened,.
the restorative property
of a palliative remedy
moderated more than mere words.
In the middle of her misgiving,
she plucked some half-dead daisies
and put them in her favorite vase
while she quietly waited for certainty.

She found instead the pull
of the undertow was so much stronger
than the weight of her will. In the end
it was the absence of nothing
and everything that was the final blow
to her certainty. It seemed
the questions came, all at once,
wrenching and pulling her apart
before slowly reconstructing her heart.
All that remained certain
was the presence of uncertainty
and a lingering regret for years lost.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 23 Ghosts in Late Summer

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Thank you and shoutout to Ashkan Forouzani who made this image available for free on Unsplash.

Today the challenge was to write a poem in the style of Kay Ryan, whose poems tend to be short and snappy – with a lot of rhyme and soundplay. They also have a deceptive simplicity about them, like proverbs or aphorisms.

Once you’ve read a few, you’ll see what the poetry task was all about. You can read them here: “Token Loss,” “Blue China Doorknob,” “Houdini,” and “Crustacean Island.”

I’m not sure if I accomplished it, but here is my poem for today.

Happy reading!

Ghosts in Late Summer

Words hung
softly, but still
too loud
for a dead
thing. All that
remained of summer
seemed spent, so
I ran straight
away into
the chill
of autumn
nipping. Never mind
the plotted hours
of living where
we found
stolen strength
to see past
what was
in front of
our eyes. When
I heard
your last
whisper through
the wall, I
wasn’t ready
to face winter
alone. I felt
lost, for we
loved deeply
and without
many words. Imagine
then my surprise
at the loud
voice of
your ghost.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 17

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Thank you and shoutout to Tamas Pap for making this photo available for free on Unsplash. This photo isn’t exactly the way that Carmen looked, but she had a similar coloring. She was really a sweet girl.

The daily prompt was different today. It was a prompt developed by the comic artist Lynda Barry, and it asked us to think about dogs you have known, seen, or heard about, and then use them as a springboard into wherever they take you.

I made Trace do it with me because I think it’s always good to write. Also, this prompt was so specific and timed that even those who don’t love writing (is that even a thing?!) could do it. I’d love to read your dog writings.

Don’t be off put by the time. You can half the time and get just as good a result. In fact, this is what I did with Trace. Here is your chance to experience NaPoWriMo for yourself and to do something more than scrolling on your phone.

Here are the instructions:

Set up a a 5-10-minute timer and briefly list as many dogs as you can think of. These can be childhood pets and just dogs you came across one day and never saw again. List as many dogs as you can, but try to get to at least ten.

Underline the one dog you're not surprised to see in the list—the obvious dog (because the dog was your first pet, or a family favorite, or one you just saw right before you began the exercise).

Circle the dog that surprised you--the one you didn't remember until you began the exercise.

Set up a 10-15-minute timer and write, to begin with, about that dog. Don't stop writing. Tell where you were, what you were doing.

Write about the dog but also around the dog. What else was going on? Let the writing take you where it wants to take you.

I hope you give it a try. Mine is below, and I post it with a Trigger Warning.

A Tragic Tale in Three Parts

I. The Prologue

Sometimes the ones
we love the most
get hurt the worst
by our own foolishness.

Carmen was such a pretty girl.
Caramel colored little pup—Vizsla-like(no wonder I loved her)
We all loved her, even mom,
and she never loved any dog
after our perfect Pepper passed.
But Carmen wasn’t our dog,
she was yours, and I think
you loved her most of all.

II. The Story

The night was dark and rainy
(Don’t most tragedies begin here?)
The street was mostly deserted.

Most would say
being downtown Detroit
at 2 am
in a souped up car
on deserted streets
is foolishness,
pure and simple.
Every one knows
the underworld
comes alive
at 2 am.

The gall
and puffed up pride
it takes
to believe you’ll be fine
where others weren’t
is enough to blind
or to get you blinded
or to get you blindsided.

You never saw them coming.

How could you not see them coming?

When you saw the car
with darkened windows
pull up behind you,
what did you think?

Hit the gas!
Drive away!

But, no.

Six guys got out
and you thought
you would be ok.
How could you?

III. The Epilogue

In the end, your face was unrecognizable,
but Carmen,
Poor Carmen—
She paid with her life.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 7

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Thanks to Dylan LaPierre @drench777 for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Today’s prompt was the challenge to write a poem that argues against, or somehow questions, a proverb or saying.

They say that “all cats are black at midnight,” but are they really? Surely some of them remain striped. And maybe there is an ill wind that blows some good. Perhaps that wind just has some mild dyspepsia. 

I chose a phrase from Emily Dickinson who had become my muse for this poetry writing month. It’s rather a metaphor than a proverb but that’s close enough for me today. I’m feeling the joy of tweaking a piece I wrote some time ago when Ryan was still living directly underneath the Brown Line “L” Train in Chicago.

when death comes

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 “l” 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 whizzes 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
to advertise 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 l tracks—

whooosh!

—cjpjordan

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

Life In The Middle

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Thanks to Damian Patkowski @damianpatkowski for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/T-LfvX-7IVg

Watching the first episode of the Netflix Original “High on the Hog”, listening to the news stories of the fighting between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and reflecting on the documentary of the Holocaust in Hungary, my heart became weighted down.

The grief was real. And heavy.

But I know the importance of wading through the ugly parts of history. We must know where we’ve went been to know where we are going.

We remember the past, so that we don’t make the same mistakes again.

Life In The Middle

A story has no beginning
and it has no end, which leaves me
living somewhere in the middle.
Though I’m not one who came before,

I’ve no breath without the exhale
of my ancestors. I come home
to the place they left; I hold on
so that place is not forgotten.

We must know where we have been,
and where we are in order to
understand where we are going;
if we choose to ignore the past,

we ignore a part of ourselves.
Light shines in the dark, and sunshine
chases away the dim shadows,
but where do the memories hide?

Where does the past leave the present?
In the stillness of the night skies,
there lives the anguish in our blood—
fragments of a lost memory.

If we don’t valorize the past,
who will? I’m not the beginning
of the story, and I am not
the end. I sit here with you in

this moment, knowing who we are,
understanding our connection,
convening with our ancestry—
and choosing never to forget.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

NaPoWriMo 2021 Day 20

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The prompt for the day was to write a sijo. This is a traditional Korean poetic form. Like the haiku, it has three lines, but the lines are much longer. Typically, they are 14-16 syllables, and optimally each line will consist of two parts – like two sentences, or a sentence of two clauses divided by a comma.

In terms of overall structure, a sijo functions like an abbreviated sonnet, in that the first line sets up an inquiry or discussion, the second line continues the discussion, and the third line resolves it with a “twist” or surprise.

For more on the sijo, check out the primer here and a long list of examples in English, here.

Loss

The startling blue sky woke me from my slumber; I begged for sleep.
The old dreams returned at dawn, stifling the sun with their darkness.
Eyes open, the daylight blinds me with reality; you are gone.

-a draft poem by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Let me know what you think in the comments below.

NaPoWriMo2021 Day 13

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Credit: contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2019), processed by ESA, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

https://phys.org/news/2020-01-image-japanese-archipelago-western-pacific.html

Today’s prompt was to write a poem in the form of a newspaper article you wish would come out tomorrow.

I’m not sure this was the idea they had in mind, but I wrote a poem from an NPR news report that came out this morning.

Let’s just say it’s my twist on the subject. ☺️

Open Your Eyes

The quake and tsunami
contaminated water,
crippled plants.
next summer, they
will run out of space
for wastewater.

Environmental groups
remain skeptical
of broken promises,
of 20,000 dead or missing,
of empty assurances
of safety.

The danger is real;
oceanic release imminent.
Protestors rally
on uninhabitable land.
The black rockfish
tells the story in its flesh.

Don’t worry,
the diluting effects
of the vast ocean
will neutralize toxins.
Don’t worry,
poison won’t seep

into our shores.
Anyway, tritium only
slightly increases
the risk of cancer—
just a tiny little plop
of poop in your dinner.

Go ahead, eat up!
Enjoy! Who cares
if it poisons someone
else’s fish? I guess
that life and water
don’t matter to everyone.

Some express
deep regret—
so sorry
your life
is threatened
by our greed.

We are so sorry,
but we...
we don’t see
any other way,
we just don’t.
see.

-A Draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Share the love, write a poem, appreciate a good friend. Each moment is a new beginning.