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 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 21 Sleeping

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Thanks and shoutout to Simon Infanger for letting his photo be used for free on Unsplash.

Today’s prompt was one gleaned from the poet Betsy Sholl. This prompt asked me to write a poem in which I first recall someone I used to know closely but are no longer in touch with, then a job I used to have but no longer do, and then a piece of art that I saw once and that has stuck with you over time. Finally, I was to close the poem with an unanswerable question.

Happy writing to me! Happy reading to you!

Sleeping

When the sun is laid to sleep,
Darkness drips in desperation
The universe shifts and suddenly
I become your enemy.

Wordless and wry, my will resolves
into Nothing that will matter.
But why then does hunger remain?
Hunger is hereditary—

I read that once in a poem,
At least I think I did. I can’t
Seem to separate the silk sails
from the flagpole standing still

But my strong knees and stiff back
Can carry the weight of my will
So all is well. Or is it?
When the inky black beckons me

To lie down among the lilies,
I resist. I draw all that is good,
but the leaves still fall. Tell me why
do the leaves insist on falling?

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 20 The Blossom

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Thanks to Eleni Trapp @elenies for making this photo available freely on Unsplash.

Today’s prompt challenged me to write a poem that anthropomorphizes a kind of food. I’m not sure I really accomplished this, but I certainly managed an idea to the cherry blossom.

Can you tell I’m longing for spring?

My bones miss the energy of the warm sun on my skin. Each morning they beg for mercy from the chill of frost and bitter wind.

My nose misses that honey sweet scent mixed with the musty wet earth that accompanies the spring blooms.

Please come quickly!

The Blossom

Born in boggy sorrow, blossoms
billowing in the breeze after
the harrow of heavy spring rains.

Sunshine and spring leave their stamp on
stained fingers and lips sealed with a
kiss of ruby goodness. Juicy

life carefully cultivated
from the bitterness of winter—
the making of a miracle.

I raise my cupped hands to drink in
sweet almond and honey fragrance—
so delicate that it’s nearly

indiscernible. The secrets
of spring in a solitary
word: cherries are a metaphor

for life—the taste is tart, the scent
is sweet, the process leaves its mark
lingering on our skin for days.

I am certain the Cherry knows
the full weight of power possessed
for it returns year after year.

Hope comes alive in each blossom;
otherwise we would waste away
in a world of constant winter.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 16

Thanks to Greg Rakozy @grakozy for making this photo available freely on Unsplash.

Whew! Today’s prompt was a doozy and just what I needed to recharge my brain.

Today we were challenged to write a curtal sonnet. A curtal sonnet is a variation on the classic 14-line sonnet. The curtal sonnet form was developed by Gerard Manley Hopkins, and he used it for what is probably his most famous poem, “Pied Beauty.”

A curtal sonnet has eleven lines, instead of the usual fourteen, and the last line is shorter than the ten that precede it. The rhyme scheme is 11 lines rhyming abcabc dcbdc or abcabc dbcdc with the last line a tail, or half a line.

There is some mathematical formula Hopkins used to precisely curtail the typical sonnet, but the real cog in the works is the sprung rhythm that breaks away from the traditional iambic pentameter of Shakespeare or Dr. Seuss.

To be completely honest, I have no idea at all what I am doing. I researched and read a number of examples, but each one was different from the other in some critical form/stylistic way.

So, I’m not sure if this is really a curtal sonnet or not, but it is my poem for the day. I chose to use 12 syllable lines and the abcabc dcbdc rhyme scheme.

Happy Saturday!

Mottled Soul

Over all, under and through, the mystery lasts.
Look how I trust and hope even after I rolled
Down the hill with darkness closing in on all sides.
I realize now the truth of how light contrasts
With hope invisible and her friend harrow bold.
Oh the tragedy of how disaster divides!

Loneliness overstays; isolation befriends—
And I am left wondering how the earth provides
For everything missing or lost at the threshold.
Look with wonder at how simplicity amends

and instinct bravely guides.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 14

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Thanks and shoutout to Annie Spratt who made this luscious lemon photo available for free on Unsplash.

Today’s challenge was an interesting one. I was to write a poem that takes the form of the opening scene of a movie depicting my life.

This year the prompts have all been similar in some ways. There’s not much focus on form. Instead, the focus is just on using words to paint pictures. It’s been a challenge and has tightened my connection with words (or the lack thereof).

I don’t always know where the ideas come from. As I fall asleep, I prick my fingertips and they bleed onto the page. When I wake, the words have formed a poem.

When folks say things like “it’s all about the journey”, believe them. Every word is true.

Here is what I have learned halfway through this month. It is nothing new or even particularly profound, but it is the story of my journey: embrace the past (you can’t escape it), face the future (it’s coming so you might as well face it), and live in the now.

Lemon Groves

I turn off
Main Street
and head south—
top down,
breeze blowing.

I push
my hair back,
and suddenly
I can see.

Behind me
lemon groves
bear fruit;
my trunk
full of lemons
as proof.

With the heat
of midday,
I smell
delicate decisions—
citrus songs,
fermenting fruit.

Intersections
define direction;
not all roads
lead back home.

I suppose
home lives
in the trunk
with the lemons,
fermenting
into luscious
limoncello.


—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 6

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Today’s prompt was a welcome relief from the one from yesterday. I found that one very challenging. But today, I was challenged to write a different kind of acrostic poem.

In this variation, rather than spelling out a word with the first letters of each line, I had to write a poem that reproduced a phrase with the first words of each line.

I chose to use a snippet from one of my most favorite poems by Mary Oliver. I chose to use two or three word acrostic beginnings instead of a single word or letter.

If you read the bold italic words, you will see my favorite lines from this poem. If you read the poem as is, you will see my poem. It’s a bit of “poem in a poem” on this rainy and dreary Wednesday morning.

Excerpt from a Mary Oliver poem:

“Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

— Mary Oliver, The Summer Day
Tell Me

Tell me, does the journey get easier with time;
what else is there to do?
Should I be the one to pull the stars? I
have done greater things, l think.

Doesn’t everything decompose in time,
die at last, shrivel to dust,
and too soon? Too soon. Much too soon.

Tell me, about your great
“What is it”—I certainly do not know;
you plan, but life twists and turns.

To do great things doesn’t require planning
with your head, it requires simply
one wild dream, a singular hope,
and precious night skies full of stars—

Life lived to the fullest.

-cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 5

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Thanks and shoutout to Sean Thomas for making this image available for free on Unsplash.

Today the challenge was to write a poem about a mythical person or creature doing something unusual – or at least something that seems unusual in relation to that person/creature.

I tell you the truth, this one threw me. So I turned to my friend Jennifer Kautz, an expert in mythology. She suggested I do a dragon who serves food instead of fear, so all the credit goes to Jen for that brilliant idea.

I used a six line poetry form with an ABABCC rhyme scheme and a meter of 10, 10, 10, 10, 14 and 10. Not sure if it works in the epic way I thought it might before I started, but I wrote, which is always the most important thing for me this month.

The Horse and The Dragon

The horse met up with the dragon one day
To discuss her plans for a coffee
shop;
With a great aplomb (and a rare Beaujolais)
Horse methodically let her vision drop.
Thus began the legend of their fine collaboration
Cloaked in love and honest admiration.

The dragon shifted shapes from salty beast
To honest hard-working entrepreneur;
Slowly the vision saw steady increase
as a conifer cone became a fir—
dragon opened up and learned to serve food instead of fear,
and shared with horse a miraculous year.

—cjpjordan

NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 3

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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