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 18

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I am grateful thanks to Eyasu Etsub for providing this image free of charge on Unsplash.

Today’s prompt is based on Faisal Mohyuddin’s poem “Five Answers to the Same Question.” I was challenged to write my own poem that provides five answers to the same question – without ever specifically identifying the question that is being answered.

It seems simple enough but proved to be quite challenging. This poem is definitely a draft and I will be revisiting to “tweak” for days to come.

I used the form and format-ish of Faisal Mohyuddin as a guide when I wrote this poem. It felt right to do so, and I enjoyed the clean look of the finished poem.

Five Answers To The Same Questions

I.
After breath
I found the wind
full of sorrow
and empty.

II.
The baby robin
perched still
as death before
taking flight.

III.
Girls dancing
unaware
(just yet)
of the rainbow.

IV.
The hoops
lit on fire
created quite
a spectacle

V.
of light. I tried
to wake myself
and found the face
of God.

—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 4

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Thanks to Josefin @josefin for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

The prompt for today was to write a poem . . . in the form of a poetry prompt. If that sounds silly, well, maybe it is! But it’s not without precedent.

The poet Mathias Svalina has been writing surrealist prompt-poems for quite a while, posting them to Instagram. You can find examples here, and here, and here.

And as always, you can read my spin on it below.

An Ode To Writing Prompts for Spring 2022

1. Come to the garden gate
2. And lie down in the patch of hydrangeas.
3. Write your name in the earth;
4. Remember how it belongs only to you.
5. Count the plants and name the blossoms;
6. Write their names in the sky like clouds.
7. Choose the most brilliant blue to mark this sacred place
8. and choose to remember (do not be fooled: this is the hardest part)—
9. Choose to remember where you alone have been.

—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

(Global) NaPoWriMo 2022 Early-Bird Prompt

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Thanks to Pierre Van Crombrugghe @vancromp for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Tomorrow begins the National/Global Poetry Writing Month—the day I look forward to all year long.

But today, we were offered an early-bird prompt based on the poetry of Emily Dickinson. The challenge was to write a response to one of her poems. I included the poem I used for inspiration below and also used a similar form and meter.

I hope you enjoy eavesdropping on my conversation with Emily.

Consulting summer’s clock,
But half the hours remain.
I ascertain it with a shock —
I shall not look again.
The second half of joy
Is shorter than the first.
The truth I do not dare to know
I muffle with a jest.

—By Emily Dickinson



A Response to Emily

I stand with the poet,
Stunned how steep the slope.
Beauty as we know it
Denies us all the hope.
Shorter joy I refuse;
The truth I choose to know.
The hues of life ensconced in blue,
and I in here and now.

—cjpjordan

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

Fireflies and Summer Skies

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Photo Credit: Thank you and shoutout to toan phan.
Fireflies

Every evening
as the sun dips
low in the horizon
a calm settles.

Fireflies blink
in dusky
summer skies
while the fire crackles

and laughter
breaks into the night.
If I am brave
and open my widening

eyes to see
into the falling
darkness, I can
picture tomorrow

I can dream
I can feel hope
rising in
my bones—

the kind
of hope
that speaks truth
but lives dreams.

Every evening
as the fireflies dance,
if you know how
to listen for the whispers

of tomorrow,
you can tell yourself
who you want
to become.

—Carla Picklo Jordan

Sunset

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Lake Isabella
Sunset

Orange ombre
tapestry covers
the sky-blue of day
until only a sliver

remains framing
the still life,
reflecting off
the tranquil waters

where a fruit bowl
of cantaloupe,
apricot, peach,
and tangerine

captivate my senses
so tangible
I can taste them
I can smell the earth

cooling from her
day’s work. As
the bee buzzes by
in his rush to get back

to the hive,
even he slows down
to savor the beauty.
Pause, Reflect, Savor—

a holy trinity,
a powerhouse,
an embodiment
of living well.


Mama

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Mama
Mama

Leaning on my momma
used to be
as comforting
as slipping
into a good story
(and hers were the best)

like the time
she took a train
across Czechoslovakia
in 1956—-a wide-eyed
young bride boldly

braving new worlds,
baring her teeth
at armed guards
who dared dump
her unmentionables,

changing a tire
at 12,000 feet—
even the Alps
didn’t scare mama;

now little mama
leans on me,
her fragility
a reckoning of age,

and so we measure
this middle
in the luxury
of not rushing.

I see
our new season,
as one of priceless pause;
this time demands us
to rest
in the beauty
of now.

—A draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan