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 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 22 The Owl Sees

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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 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

(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

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

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

Tanaga for June 2021

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Two Tanaga for June 2021

1.
June left me feeling beige-dead
One raining gloomy-bleak thread
Mud with ankle deep tire tread
Give me lucent day instead

2.
Anthracite grey wild-storming
Humid sauna air warming
Buzzing mosquitos swarming
Climate change life transforming

-draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

The Tanaga is a type of Filipino poem consisting of four lines with seven syllables in each line. Traditionally, each line ends with the same rhyme; however, sometimes this will be varied.

A Tanaga looks like this:

7-7-7-7 Syllabic verse with an AAAA (traditional), AABB, ABAB, or AAAB (modern) rhyme scheme.