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 29 The Origin of Bees

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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 28 My Trees

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Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash.

Hello again! I can’t believe that there are only two more days of this year’s NaPoWriMo. I’m sad to say the least. Today’s prompt was to write a concrete poem. Like acrostic poems, concrete poems are a favorite for grade-school writing assignments, so this may not be a first time at the concrete-poem rodeo.

In brief, a concrete poem is one in which the lines are shaped in a way that mimics the topic of the poem. For example, May Swenson’s poem “Women” mimics curves, reinforcing the poem’s references to motion, rocking horses, and even the shape of a woman’s body. George Starbuck’s “Sonnet in the Shape of a Potted Christmas Tree” is – you guessed it – a sonnet in the shape of a potted Christmas tree.

So, my concrete poem proved difficult to post without the shape shifting when previewed via mobile phone or desktop. What you will find is that I have posted an image of my poem for those reading from mobile apps and a regular copy for those reading from a laptop or desktop. Either way you are reading it, I hope you will be able to detect my “tree” form.

Happy reading!

                                                                     My Trees


                                                                   My                                                      childhood
                                                                                                                   memories
                                                         are                                               full     of 
                                                 trees                                         like the
                                          giant                                      willow
                                    who                                      grew 
                          in the                                      middle
                    of the                               little grove 
             of trees                          hidden 
         behind                      the new 
     condo            development
    It was            there that
I dreamed  of spending 
my adult life
chain-smoking 
cigarettes and 
clacking the keys of 
my old typewriter 
as I cranked out
my next best-selling
novel. Then there was 
the colossal oak on the 
playground--the one whose 
ground roots held me like a 
comforting mother as I watched 
the other children run and play 
together from a disassociated 
distance. The oak was my friend—
my best friend—and I loved her.   
In later years, there was the young
sapling who gave its life to save mine.
It happened when the canoe tipped over,
I slipped quietly into the swirling river, and 
I thought I was dead at sixteen--until I spotted 
my father uprooting a small sapling from the bank.
He held the tree across the river and told me to grab on;
It was then I knew I was safe in the strength of the tree and
my father.        Safe in my childhood memories         safe in the arms       of    trees.  

--cjpjordan

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 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