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 Our Lady of the Garden

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Hummingbird right: Photo by Kelly Colgan Azar/flickr/CC.

Today’s prompt was based on the aisling, a poetic form that developed in Ireland. An aisling recounts a dream or vision featuring a woman who represents the land or country on/in which the poet lives, and who speaks to the poet about it.

Today’s challenge was to write a poem that recounts a dream or vision, and in which a woman appears who represents or reflects the area in which I live.

We shall see how this goes today. We shall see what form my dream-visitor takes.

Happy reading!

Our Lady of the Garden

In the garden
a tiny, perfect
bird landed
on my shoulder.

Jewel-toned
and stunning,
the bird
morphed into a
beautiful woman
right before
my eyes.

The trumpet vines
flashing brilliant
orange flowers
shone in the sun
like a halo
around her head.

My angel with
her flaming crown,
and delicate hands,
she felt
born of spirit,
born of dream.

Sing, she told me
Sing of the Universe.
Sing of the beauty
of the earth.


In my dream-state
I sing her song.

I see in her
the land and sky;
she connects me
to water and earth.
The waves roll
in her laughter;
the plants flourish
under her hands.

From my heart
I sing of us.

We become
a tapestry,
woven together—
garden and bird,
woman and earth.

When I wake,
it is daylight.
I look out
my window
and see
a hummingbird—
wings whirling
without resting—
sipping nectar
from flaming goblets
shaped like
trumpet flowers.

—cjpjordan




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 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 19

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Thank you to Mikołaj who made this image available for free on Unsplash

Today’s challenge was to write a poem that starts with a command. It could be as uncomplicated as “Look,” as plaintive as “Come back,” or as silly as “Don’t you even think about putting that hot sauce in your hair.”

By the time I started writing today, I was completely exhausted. I had so much work to do after I got home, and by the time I sat down to write, it was 8:20 pm.

Short and sweet is what the day demanded.

The Story

Open the book
Read the prologue
And you’ll know
All my intent

Open the book
Read the epilogue
And you’ll know
Where I went.

Open the book
Read the chapters
And you’ll know
What I meant.

—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 13

Today, in honor of the potential luckiness of the number 13, I was challenged to write a poem that, like the example poem here, joyfully states that “Everything is Going to Be Amazing.”

Sometimes, good fortune can seem impossibly distant, but even if you can’t drum up the enthusiasm to write a riotous pep-talk, perhaps you can muse on the possibility of good things coming down the track.

As they say, “the sun will come up tomorrow,” and if nothing else, this world offers us the persistent possibility of surprise

Hum of Hope

I heard
the low steady,
insuppressible hum;
it was always running
like a droning dial tone
from days gone by.

Many people
looked curiously at me
because they heard
only silence.

But I am a gatekeeper
with a finely tuned ear.

The cadence careens
down the halls,
dashing into rooms,
echoing with memories,
with experience,
and with desire.

The hum of hope,
is my song;
it is the vibrance
of being alive—
my joy
that cannot
be hushed.

—cjpjordan