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

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

Post Purity Culture

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Photo edited by Mariah Wilson; photo courtesy of Charles Deluvio/Unsplash

When I was growing up in the fundamentalist evangelical church, I was taught that I was too loud, too bossy, too brass and too crass. I was chubby and wore half sizes in children’s sizes which was the plus size version for kids. My best friend was skinny, flat chested, and sporty. I was chubby, developed breasts early, and quite clumsy.

I wasn’t allowed to date until I was 16 and then only Christian boys because the Bible said it was a sun to be “unequally yoked”. I couldn’t see PG rated movies, use playing cards, listen to rock music, or use “crass language” including “substitute” words like gosh, darn, golly, shoot, poop, or (Heavens to Betsy!) crap.

But it was the messages I heard about sex and my body that have been the toughest to overcome. Sex outside of marriage wasn’t even an option. Should I do such a thing, I would be forever ruined, someone else’s trash.

The list of rules for girls was quite long:

- Bodies should be covered up, even when swimming.

- Nakedness was something to cause shame.

- Virginity is what gave women value; it’s was her gift to her future husband.

- Sex is shameful, don’t do it… unless you’re married.

- Once married, women won’t want sex as often as men, but never refuse your husband.

- Always keep yourself looking good for your man.

- Put something pretty on just before your husband comes home.

- Women should submit to the authority of men for their own protection.

- Only men have strong sex drives.

- If women have sex before marriage they are damaged goods and no one will want them—they are like a crumpled rose.

Deconstruction is a process that I am still experiencing. It’s amazing how quickly the teaching and indoctrination of my youth comes back to bite my enlightened feminist modern soul. I find it difficult to separate the good from the bad of my upbringing. But I am determined to continue this work.

Purity Culture

Men are visual
Or so I’ve been told
So many times
It is woven into
my DNA.

Be careful
Watch what you wear;
Watch how you walk
don’t be forward or loud
or brassy.

No one likes
A brassy woman
Women are responsible
For the lusting found
In the hearts of men.

I tell myself
I have grown out
I have moved on
From such foolish
Patriarchal nonsense.

I tell myself
I have deconstructed
Whatever that means
I have separated
The truth from the lies.

Until something happens
And all of it comes
Rushing back—
Guilt, Anger,
And Burning Shame.

At the end
Of deconstruction
There remains a giant
Pile of rubble, one
Mess of mortified me.

But I own
Every last piece
Of senseless shame
Every tiny bit
Of damning guilt

I own my story
I own my future
I alone own
The power
to rebuild my life.

—cjpjordan

Heatwave

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Photo Credit: Thanks and shoutout to Bryan Hanson 

I’ve been taking some time to regroup after a grueling year and a half-is of teaching. I didn’t think relaxing would be as hard as it has been. I don’t think I realized just how taxing a year of virtual work and life was until I started to slow down.

Given that Trace needed her spinal fusion immediately, her recovery has been our primary concern this summer. We had already booked plans to head down south and camp in Laurel, Mississippi, navigating our way down to Folly Beach and maybe even New Orleans, but we had to cancel all those plans to concentrate on things closer to home.

We found out in the early spring that our beautiful big red maple was causing foundation damage to our home, so out it had to come. This meant tearing up our beautiful wood deck out back. But we had to do what we had to do, so I decided if the deck was getting ripped out anyway that we would replace it with concrete. We would enjoy our summer vacation from the luxury of our own new patio. Win-win!

With the hope that all construction work would be done by the beginning of June, we ripped out the deck and threw tarps down so the dogs could still use the backyard. Well, those of you near us know the massive amounts of torrential rain coupled with brutal heat we have had this summer. Now the back yard is one muddy lake and the dogs have to be walked on leash out in the front in order for them to take care of their business.

And the construction work has yet to begin.

Except now we have an excavator taller than our house in the backyard and the contractor is heading off to vacation next week.

Sigh.

My poem today is in honor of the tiny gold finch bathing in the mud lake that is now our backyard, the late great Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., and staycations.

Heatwave

Summer came on steamy winds of spring
the torrid heat belied the month of June;

summer storms raged like May shower
bombs of heat detonating in waves.

All that remained come muggy morning
was the mucky mess of mud called garden

and one tiny goldfinch preening in a puddle
making me wish I had been born a bird instead.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Letting Go

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌 and shoutout to Максим Степаненко.

I took an old prompt and did some stream of consciousness writing. Interesting the things that hide out in our sub-conscious.

I started with a list of eight words and a task. Being a (sometimes over) achiever, I relish the accomplishments of tasks. So I set about this challenge with gusto.

As I have often said, poetry is one of the more uncontrolled writing options. Deep inside of each one of us, there are feelings and thoughts that we seldom give voice. Too often we bury how we really feel in exchange for what is expected of us to feel, or we respond how we are expected to respond by our circle of family and friends.

These words, and perhaps the book attached to the words, brought out some feelings buried just beneath the surface. I have spoken and written before about my complete disgust with platitudes. Too much of my childhood was spent listening to them in sermons or from well meaning members of that religious community. This poem reflects those feelings.

You can try this kind of stream of consciousness writing, too. I highly recommend everyone journal in some way. For me, it can be as cathartic as a good therapy session. (Sorry Kelly.)

Here is what you can do:

Grab the closest book.
Go to page 29.
Write down 10 words that catch your eye.
Use 7 or 8 of those words in a poem.
For extra credit, have 4 of them appear at the end of a line.

My word list included these gems:

Supersaturated
Concede
Let go
Strong shouldered
Wayward
Empty
Need
Achieve

Once you have gathered your list of words, see what they say to you and put your pen or pencil to the paper or your fingers to the keyboard and start writing! I hope you enjoy the process as much as I did.

Let It Go

Suck up the sorrow like a sweet
slurpy through a straw, head resting
in hands as if to catch the pain.
Let go. Empty yourself of need.

Go on, give in, concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit—
It is the Lord’s will after all.
He is Sovereign over our pain;

we are supersaturated
in the spirit and strong-shouldered;
we are weak-kneed, walking wayward.
We are walking in the true light;

Let go. Empty yourself of need
go on, give in—concede body
mind and spirit to the Spirit.
It is the Lord’s will after all,

for God is in control, sister;
and he will never give you more
than you can bear. You can trust him
with all your heartbroken pieces.

You need to trust in letting go
and letting God. No one else but God.
But you see, I stand here alone,
in pain, and straining to maintain

any remnant of dignity. How?
Tell me, how did we believe
all of the crazy platitudes
undermining good common sense?

How is grief less of a burden
thinking that it is for our best,
believing that God allowed this
pain for our growth and his pleasure?

I let go of sorrow, let go
of dignity in heaving sobs
with incoherent words that say
just how much I don’t understand.

I stand up, cry out, stamp my feet
shout out loud how ruthless and cruel
life can be. I don’t shout at God;
I acknowledge the suffering

and let it go. I breathe out and
release the pain; but when I can’t,
I concede. There isn’t always
a reason—don’t suck in, let go.

—a draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Live With Gusto

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Photo Credit: Thanks 🙌
and a great big shoutout to Chilli Charlie

This particular writing challenge was to write a poem that stretches my comfort zone with line breaks. Well, this poem stretched my comfort level with many things.

At first I thought perhaps I’d write a poem with very long lines, or maybe one with very short lines. Or a poem that blends the two? Who knows what that might look like? I vacillated between all of these ideas.

Maybe breaking apart lines to emphasize (or de-emphasize) sounds or rhymes, or creating a moment of hesitation in the middle of a thought might be the way to go.

My method was to read several different poems, and then I began to write. Every poem and its process brings out some different part of myself. Even the story poems that are outside of my personal experience have a piece of me woven into them.

Before posting this poem, I was reading the story of a sweet friend who has deconstructed and reconstructed the faith and religion of her youth. I could totally connect with all that she shared.

For each one of us the process is different, but I hope for each one of you that you love and live near the edge of the world with gusto.

Dry Bones

She loved

near the edge of the world
with gusto
if not lunacy.
she chose unity
with herself.

She lost her vision
from living in the darkness—
the rose colored glasses
foggy from flashes
of light.

A ray of hope
in no man’s land
she teetered on the edge
of the cliff. The sedge
a sign

of her dry bones.
the moon rose
unbidden,
nearly hidden
by love.

She loved
wild and reckless—
in the light
no danger of flight—
I think.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

A Pantoum For My Pops

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My Pops

Happy Father’s Day to all the Pops, Dads, Daddies, Papas, Papis, Babas, Role Models, Mentors, and Step Wonders!

Today is Father’s Day, and so naturally I wanted to honor my dad. My Pops was hands-down the best dad on this planet for me.

I chose a new-to-me form called a “pantoum” (a Malay form from Indonesia) because pantoums are about memory and usually compare the present to the past in some way.

Pantoums are made of quatrains of any meter (though syllables are typically regular between stanzas), have no set rhyme scheme, and are really dependent on their repetition of whole lines.

The repetition looks like this: 
The first stanza
A
B
C
D

Second stanza
B
E
D
F

Third stanza
E
G
F
H

Fourth stanza
A
I
C
J

The pantoum carries this continuous pattern until, typically, it ends with lines A and C repeated in the last stanza. (For my pantoum this was the fourth stanza)

Here are some good examples: “Pantoum of the Great Depression” (Justice), “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” (Dischell)

For Pops

Pops loved the simple things in life;
he loved God, his family, his wife.
Music was part of his being—
healthy, whole, and utterly free.

He loved God, his family, his wife—
walking alongside with kindness,
healthy, whole, and utterly free—
a man of solid conviction.

Walking alongside with kindness,
he had a gentle demeanor—
a man of solid conviction
and eyes with a hint of mischief.

Pops loved the simple things in life—
a lake, a dock, his fishing pole.
Music was part of his being—
my life the refrain for his song.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Lady Godiva

Thanks to Food Photographer | Jennifer Pallian @foodess for making this photo available freely on Unsplash 🎁

I haven’t felt much like cooking since Trace went into the hospital, Lizi had emergency surgery, and Uncle E left to stay with her for a bit and help out with Little E.

At first I didn’t want to cook because it was just too hot, and now, it seems I’ve lost my mood altogether. That seems an impossible and improbable situation given what I know about my own love for cooking, but it is absolutely true.

I think life just caught up with me, and I pooped out. What can I say? 🤷🏼‍♀️ It happens to the best of us.

However, my adoration for all things sweet has not abated one iota; so today, I found a prompt based on one of Lauren Russell’s collaborative poetry exercises. The exercise required that I write a poem based on a secret shame, or a secret pleasure.

I think perhaps I had as much fun trying to think of a guilty pleasure as I did writing this sultry, smoking hot ode to my true love.

What is your secret guilty pleasure?

lady godiva 

can i taste
your sweet succulence,
your crisp-cookie,
your bark without a bite,
your gooey caramel pull,
your coconut cream,
and your milk chocolate chew
melting in my mouth?

can i taste
your dark chocolate,
your milky way wonder,
your sea salt sprinkles
that tease the tongue?

meet me
in my bed;
slip into
my mouth
and melt away
the sorrows.

meet me
in the dark
where we can
change the world,
or at least
the moment.

last night
your siren song bewitched
and i succumbed.

this morning
i looked both ways
before returning
your golden box
to the cupboard
and slipping silently
back into bed.

—Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

Stories Start Somewhere

Photo by Zbynek Burival on Unsplash

Each day, Tracy gets a little stronger, pain is not her friend. Today her goal is walking to the restroom. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but it’s that many steps closer to home.

Her nurses over night and this morning have been super pleasant and helpful. She’s had her gradual weaning off of the pain pump, and so far, she is doing well. Of course, the goal is to get her off completely, but right now, they are helping her to move with lesser pain.

We are so grateful for all the great words of encouragement. I know Trace is really feeling disappointed that she cannot move as well as she was moving before surgery. She has pain and numbness in her left leg, which is typically her good leg. This also adds to her anxiety, and anxiety can increase pain levels.

I share this so you can know the hard, bare truth of our story. I know we are not alone. Many of you have gone through similar difficult circumstances and overcome.

Any words of encouragement you can send to Trace—music that is groovy or cool, any neat videos that might be distracting, words of positivity—all of this will be much appreciated.

Thank you friends, we are grateful for each one of you.

Stories

Before I can read 
stories in the clouds
I must know my own story—
a story rolled out
slowly over time.

I must understand
how I found my place
in the universe—
how that rolling out
finished all my edges.

I must understand
how my own story gives 
weight to the words of myths 
and purpose to the memory 
of legends.

The signs are there
waiting in the clouds;
they don’t appear
by magical conjuring—
they reside in us.

Every story
begins somewhere,
so I will begin 
with the song
inside of me.

--Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

What difficult circumstance have you overcome?

The Daughter

Photo by Colin Watts on Unsplash

The prompt for today was to write a fourteener. Fourteeners can have any number of lines, but each line should have fourteen syllables. Traditionally, each line consists of seven iambic feet (i.e., an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable, times seven). The fourteener was popular in 16th and 17th century England, where it was particular common in ballads.

My brain was tired and fourteens didn’t come easily today. Actually, not much came easily today; so instead, I wrote my fourteener in two lines of 8 and 6, and then I strung them together and shaped them into quatrains. Since the lines also equal fourteen, I’m going to call this a win.

It’s not exactly the prompt, but I still had fun writing it. The visuals were taken from my memories of traveling to places that looked just like this one in the picture.

The Daughter

The full moon watched from western sky as stars began to fade, 
and ghosts rose from the water smooth and danced within the glade. 
The wispy trails of dancing tails hung low beneath the trees 
and disappeared into the sun who smiled with rapturous ease. 

The glass that looked like honey comb glowed rosy in the light, 
the dawn breathed a collective breath preparing to ignite. 
For past and present intertwined to weave their tapestry—
a strand of golden thread shone through glinting with majesty.

And hope was whispered on the breeze so boisterous the mirth, 
the favored queen now labored hard anticipating birth. 
Just as morning broke into day the princess graced the land. 
born to rule with joy and wisdom— compassion now at hand. 

And so the kingdom all rejoiced with grateful dignity;
peace settled deep within their bones: Welcome sweet Charity. 

-A Draft by Carla Jeanne Picklo Jordan

May your day be filled with anticipation, joy, and sweet charity.