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 9

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Thanks and shoutout to Dahiana Waszaj who made this image available for free on Unsplash.

Todays prompt asked us to write in a specific form—the nonet.

A nonet has nine lines. The first line has nine syllables, the second has eight, and so on until you get to the last line, which has just one syllable.

Maybe this is the time you want to try your hand at poetry writing. The nonnet is a form that doesn’t have to rhyme, so for all of you not-into-rhyming friends, this is a great form.

I hope you choose to have some fun with writing today.

First

The birds warmed their feet on the long wire—
some thought about hot summer days,
others gossiped about how
Gini’s Gang was taking
over Town. I mean,
the absolute
nerve! Go! We
were here
first.

—cjpjordan

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

A Septet of Lines

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Photo Credit: Shoutout to Annie Spratt on social.

The poetry challenge I place before you today this: I’d love for you to try writing a lune.

A lune is a sort of English-language haiku. While the haiku is a three-line poem with a 5-7-5 syllable count, the lune has two different options.

The first option for a lune is a three-line poem with a 5-3-5 syllable count. The second variant is based on word-count instead of syllable count. This means the poem still has three lines, but the first line has five words, the second line has three words, and the third line has five words again.

I chose this latter form to write my poem. Today I give you a Septet of Lunes. Try your hand at it and share it in the comments. I look forward to reading your take on the lune.

dinner on the deck

the cardinals always come--
strutting red coats,
snapping seeds in a single crunch.

the dark eyed junco hops
tentatively to feed,
nervously glancing side to side

the chickadees flit over lightly
with great decorum
landing lightly on the feeder.

sparrows hide in the bushes
waiting their turn,
hanging out in patient packs.

the house finch dines together
with the others--
sparrows, chickadee, cardinal and junco.

when the blue jay plows
in to feed,
the sea of birds part;

but the noisy starlings arrival
clears everyone out--
iridescent bullies chasing away friends.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Game of Shame

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Photo Credit

Sometimes things happen, and I respond with a very quick knee-jerk reactions. Other times, I respond slower, but from a deep level of understanding and personal experience.

This week I was triggered by a parent not allowing their male child to buy a pink graphic t-shirt because he was a boy and wearing pink might offend the grandmother. Since when is a child responsible for someone else’s reaction—to a color, no less?!

I say nay nay.

Keep your oppressive shame to yourself. Don’t heap it on to a child who happens to be quite comfortable in his own skin. Don’t try to cram someone else, especially a child, into a box that you have chosen for yourself.

Thanks, but no thanks. That’s a hard pass for me.

F*** shame.

The Game of Shame

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

Please tell me
you know about this—
saying to a child
he will be remiss
if he wears something
grandma won’t like.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Generational cycles
repeating and repeating.
Don’t you know
that fashion is fleeting?
Colors don’t reflect
“manliness” or sexuality.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

It’s not ok to place
that weight upon a child
to tell him he’s responsible,
to make him feel exiled
all because he’s comfortable
inside his own skin.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

I’m sure I did it,
I know that I lived it,
but I’m breaking that cycle
because I can admit it.
I can share my story
and overcome the past.

It’s oppressive,
it’s aggressive,
it’s obsessive
and regressive.
It tears at a child’s heart.

Oppressive shaming
Gotta get gaming
Passing out naming
Labeling and framing
Really just aiming
at a child’s heart.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Rest Trumps Tired

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Thanks to Clément Falize @centelm for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/WZ2V1j2a1K8

A “golden shovel” poem is a poem within a poem—like a puzzle or a mystery. Oh and puzzles and mysteries are challenges that I love.

A poem within a poem? How does that even work? I’m so glad you asked.

First I had to choose a poem to “hide” inside my poem. I chose David Whyte’s poem “Enough” because I love it.

You can check out my “golden shovel” like this: first, read my poem as a complete unit. Then read it again using only the last word from each line and you will read David Whyte’s beautiful poem, “Enough”.

After the week (or three) we’ve been experiencing over here I really felt the need for rest because somehow I can never seem to get enough rest.

Trace is walking really well. We are both amazed at how straight her shoulders have become. She can raise both arms straight up high (she hasn’t been able to do that in years) and her shoulders are even and no longer slumped.

Another benefit since surgery is that her CRPS foot pain has subsided a little. She is so grateful for that!

Lizi is still struggling with pain and trapped gas in her body from the surgery. We are praying it is absorbed into her body or released out one way or another. Ev has been staying with her to help with Little E, and she has been really grateful for his help.

The dogs are finally home, and we are continuing on with their training.

As for me…well…

I. Am. Exhausted.

Sometimes overwhelmed.

Anxious.

Well, you get the idea.

Perhaps you feel the same?

It’s ok to not be ok.

It’s ok to decide to rest.

rest

I find it enough.
moments like these
when sounds are few
and fewer still are words
these moments are
enough.

no space for what if
or worries about what not
to do or say. Yes, in these
moments I find soul words,
I find space within this
time to catch my breath.

if only, if
only this time were not
just like this
life--a fading breath

if only this
space for sitting
for being here
and present in this
life of wondrous opening
would allow me to
receive the
joy of living life
in the present. we
know the places we have
said no--where we refused
to live again;
where we struggle and
strive again.

I find it enough until
pressures of the now
rage against the still; until
again I rest in the still now.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Is It Really Ok To Not Be Ok?

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Thanks to Stefano Pollio @stefanopollio for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁 https://unsplash.com/photos/ZC0EbdLC8G0

I’m not ok.

And I’m repeating the mantra “it’s ok to not be ok”, and all the while I’m still asking myself: But is it?

So much has happened. 

Is happening.

Still needs to happen.

Sometimes I wonder if curses are real. 

Or if the stories in the Bible are actually true. Perhaps like Jonah, I should jump out of the boat to save everyone else inside. 

At best, I’d like to find a wee corner and wait out the apocalypse.

Quiet

I’m not sure what is wrong with me
but something clearly is;
through skin so thin I see the wind
bubbling up like gin fizz.

I’m not sure what’s wrong or what’s right
and no feelings surprise;
I feel like I’m dead and hollow--
my body a disguise.

I suppose I know this is real
by my response to life—
“deadpan” gets a brand new meaning
when I am keeping strife

with everyone and anyone
who thinks to come my way;
angry-tongued I slash at those dear
until I’m wished away.

So here in the quiet I sit
with silence as my guide
while people still call out my name—
if only I could hide.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

When Worlds Collide

Coffee in a styrofoam cup—not my favorite, but I am happy we are able to enjoy our coffee together.

What a day!

At 7 am the nurse (under doctor orders) ripped Tracy off her pain pump without making sure her pain was managed.

I probably don’t need to tell you how awful the day was. We spent most of it trying to get back on top of the pain. Trace was crying and her pain all day was largely unmanageable. It was dreadful.

Friends, even I had a hard time.

More than once the tears spilled over in my eyes out of sheer helplessness. At one point, I realized I wasn’t helpless; I had power to help her because I still had my voice.

And one voice has power.

I teach my students this at school, and I believe it to be true. You have a voice, use it wisely. So I made a choice to use my voice and made some phone calls to her surgeon; I also reached out to the hospital case manager.

Once I started reaching out, I found many folks with empathy. The pain management doc isn’t usually at this hospital on Wednesdays, but when he heard what was going on, he came all the way from his Novi clinic after a full work day, just to see Tracy. He reordered the pain pump—administered and weaned differently—and she found some relief.

We finally (both of us) (mostly) slept.

She is up, asked for coffee and her phone and is looking at a breakfast menu. First time she’s wanted to do any of that.

Thank you God for answered prayer and (finally) a pain pump returned!

When Worlds Collide

When worlds collide,
life changes in a way
that is never quite
the same again.

Our path lies
where we choose to
walk (or fly)—not
the beaten path

and maybe not
even the road less
travelled, but where we
establish our rest.

We choose life
near the cool waters
feasting on simple rhythms—
sunrise and sunset,

morning and evening.
One giant living hum—
peace amidst the chaos—
in the middle

of every thing.
We sing our stories
rejoicing in each moment
when worlds collide.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Trust the Wait

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Today is surgery day. I am still in the surgery waiting room and she’s been in there for four hours already. To distract myself from the bile creeping up into my throat, I wrote.

It’s what writers do.

It’s what poets do.

It’s certainly what I do.

I will keep you all posted as soon as I know something.


Trust The Wait

There’s a breathless expectancy
in the hospital waiting room.
I feel it in the man in blue
speaking nervously on his phone;

I feel it in the woman dressed
in coral slacks and matching bag
as she rushes past with purpose—
a faint hint of lillies wafting.

Trust the wait; live in the question—
beauty is becoming in us.

Doctors and nurses bustle by
eyes cast downward even as I
earnestly hope one brings me news.
The darkness of waiting covers

me like a cocoon; I hate this.
I hate the persistent nagging
of worry, the lingering doubt—
the waiting and the not knowing.

Trust the wait; live in the question—
beauty is becoming in us.

I am longing for this darkness
to burst into glorious light;
I am waiting for certainty
in the middle of misgivings.

So I will close my eyes and long
for days when sunshine kissed the waves,
and I will set foreboding fears
aside to dream of unknown shores.

Trust the wait; live in the question—
beauty is becoming in us.

Denial? Perhaps there is some;
I prefer resigning to rest.
Not dispassionate, but rather
prepossessed to my pact with peace.

Trust the wait; live in the question—
beauty is becoming in us.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

It’s Gonna Be Ok

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Tomorrow is Tracy’s surgery. She is having a spinal fusion, which is a pretty serious surgery. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous and a little scared about the unknowns.

But I am choosing to breathe positivity and healing and a full recovery into this day. So many folks have reached out and called to encourage us.

Their words have not gone unheeded.

I have taken them to heart and allowed them to remind me of what is important. I am so very grateful to God for good friends, for a supportive church community, and for a workplace that allows me to take time off.

I know it’s gonna be ok.

It’s Gonna Be Ok

They say it’s gonna be ok;
They say it’s ok to be terrified—
that everything will work out,
but right now I’m not so sure.

One breath at a time,
one foot in front of the other
even when the path is dark
and looming with uncertainties.

I am strong and brave,
I am a force of nature,
I am connected and whole—
vibrating like a horsehair bow
scraping against violin string.

Who could imagine the beauty
created from that tension?
Who could imagine how music
bravely brings back life—

bringing light to the darkness
breathing beauty into the ashes
bowing a beautiful harmony
into the lonely melody?

I have known defeat and
I have known struggle,
I have borne the weight of loss
and nearly drowned beneath it.

So I will lean into that knowing—
how to climb out of the depths,
and how to cling to gratitude
like a lifeline of hope.

—by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan