NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 30 Grief In Four Parts

Image

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

Image

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 22 The Owl Sees

Image

Thank you and shoutout to Richard Lee for making this beautiful photo available for free on Unsplash.

The prompt for today was in honor of today being the 22nd day of Na/GloPoWriMo 2022, and they challenged me to write a poem that used repetition. I was invited to repeat a sound, a word, a phrase, or an image, or any combination of things.

So, here you go fellow poetry loving friends. Not as repetitious as some poems I’ve written, but there is that element throughout.

Happy Weekend to you!

The Owl Sees

Where the mind ends, the owl sees—
through Ominous golden eyes
It breathes in stealth and exhales
darkness gliding through blue-black skies.
Underneath the fern unfurls,
shivers in the windy wake.

Where the mind ends, the owl sees—
with certainty of vision
and a clarity of mind;
she free falls into the darkness,
her mournful cry resounding
into the boundless cosmos.

Where the mind ends, the owl sees—
the wilderness unconstrained,
the weeping child whose wailing
seeps into the warping twilight.
Inside echos of sadness
the owl and child grieve as one.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 7

Image

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

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 3

Image

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

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

Be the Voice of Change

Image

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

Image

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

Vacation

Image

Photo by Evgenia Stergioula on Unsplash

The hardest thing about vacation is the preparation. We are trying desperately to get away for our first family trip since last August. That middle of pandemic trip where a fluke fire consumed our truck, camper, and Evan’s bike in a single night.

We were awakened from a deep sleep to a neighbor banging frantically on the doors, walls, and windows of our camper. When we opened the door, the wall of orange flames threw us backward with their heat.

“Get out! Get out! The gas tank might blow!”

Those terrifying words shocked us in to action. We had to wake Ev and get the dogs, before running as far away as we could from the camper.

The whole experience left us shell shocked and bereft of vehicle and camper.

So you can imagine how the memory of that night one year ago drags on us as we pack to leave on our first camping trip since the fire.

I decided to use the triolet with its tight repetitive structure to speak the words we are all feeling.

Vacation

The list growing by the minute
works us hard so we don’t forget;
we try harder just to win it.
The list growing by the minute
has us seeking virtue in it
to make sure we do not regret.
The list growing by the minute
works us hard so we don’t forget.

—Carla Jeanne Jordan

A triolet is a poem of eight lines, typically of eight syllables each, rhyming abaaabab and so structured that the first line recurs as the fourth and seventh and the second as the eighth.

Sounds like some weird crazy poetry torture device, doesn’t it?

Well, I finished off my coffee and found this helpful cheat chart.

Triolet Lines:
1. A
2. B
3. a Rhymes with 1st line.
4. A identical to 1st line.
5. a Rhymes with 1st line.
6. b Rhymes with 2nd line.
7. A Identical to 1st line.
8. B Identical to 2nd line.

The Shape of Ideas

Image

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