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 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

(Global) NaPoWriMo 2022 Day One

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Thank you 🙌
And a shoutout to Kristina Flour who graciously allowed this photo to be used through Unsplash.

Today’s prompt is based on Robert Hass’s remarkable prose poem, “A Story About the Body.” The idea is to write my own prose poem that, whatever title I choose to give it, is a story about the body. The poem should contain an encounter between two people, some spoken language, and at least one crisp visual image. Here is my attempt.

For me, holding things in has been a way of life. The natural outcome of this internal action has been the external result of packing on the pounds.

I was never allowed to talk about anything negative, especially any sort of family issues in front of anyone else. And I learned that habit young.

Only recently have I learned to express myself in healthy ways, holding others accountable for their words and actions. Only recently have I been able to consistently begin to shed the weight of those secrets, and along with it, has come actual weight loss.

Fifty-two pounds, to be exact.

There is no more holding of secrets, and I don’t plan to pass this on to the next generation. It can stop with me.

Holding Secrets

“Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” Only the perfect blush of color is allowed in our flawless family tree. No embolus of evil, no skeletons here. No binges of beer or illegitimate broods. No family feuds. “Sssh. Hush hush. Don’t say that. It’s taboo.” And so my story begins: I'm not allowed to show disappointment or speak pain into the air. “Surely it wasn’t quite that way. Anyway,it all happened yesterday.” I must move on. Get over it. Suck it in. Suck it up. So I suck up everything I can find until my body swells with the excess weight. My feet slow, my spirits droop, and even in my sluggish state, I hear her voice, “But don’t you dare spit it out.” So I shut my mouth—I suck it up like a Hoover vacuum, like the vortex of a tornado, like a slurpee through a straw, and all I'm left with is one colossal brain-freeze.

—cjpjordan

Thirteen Years

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Today is my Little Wonder’s crossover birthday. The one where we enter into the teen years.

I blinked.

That’s all.

And here we are.

Little Wonder you continue to amaze and astound me with your keen emotional intelligence and quick wit.

I could only dream of being as brave and genuine as you are at your age. Please never change. You are perfect the way you are.

Thirteen Years

Time goes by
like whip cream on hot chocolate
melting one into another
until the blend is all that is
Left my soul at your doorstep
the moment I heard your heart
Beat a steady rhythm
your small quick pace
syncing into my slower one
And now I want it all to slow down

I want you to slow down

I want the years to

S
l
o
w

d
o
w
n

Not to stop all together
But to slow just long enough
to prolong the precious
Time we have left together.


I love you,
Mama

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.

Be the Voice of Change

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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

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

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