Rising

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Last day of seventh grade.

What a ride it’s been!

Self-discovery.

Maturity.

So much growth.

Rising

The wind picks up
swirling bits of cut grass,
blowing dew-laden petals,
calling out for all things living

to lift their heads
toward the sun.
Listen to the warmth
and growth and new life.

The earth tilts on its axis,
shifting the seasons,
reveling in the dance
of summer solstice.

All is change.
All is cyclical.
All is growth.
All is good.

Even the dying
decomposes into
nutritious soil—
sufficient and alive.

Beauty rising up
like my Phoenix,
my bright and brilliant star,
my rising eighth grader.

—cjpjordan

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 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 17

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Thank you and shoutout to Tamas Pap for making this photo available for free on Unsplash. This photo isn’t exactly the way that Carmen looked, but she had a similar coloring. She was really a sweet girl.

The daily prompt was different today. It was a prompt developed by the comic artist Lynda Barry, and it asked us to think about dogs you have known, seen, or heard about, and then use them as a springboard into wherever they take you.

I made Trace do it with me because I think it’s always good to write. Also, this prompt was so specific and timed that even those who don’t love writing (is that even a thing?!) could do it. I’d love to read your dog writings.

Don’t be off put by the time. You can half the time and get just as good a result. In fact, this is what I did with Trace. Here is your chance to experience NaPoWriMo for yourself and to do something more than scrolling on your phone.

Here are the instructions:

Set up a a 5-10-minute timer and briefly list as many dogs as you can think of. These can be childhood pets and just dogs you came across one day and never saw again. List as many dogs as you can, but try to get to at least ten.

Underline the one dog you're not surprised to see in the list—the obvious dog (because the dog was your first pet, or a family favorite, or one you just saw right before you began the exercise).

Circle the dog that surprised you--the one you didn't remember until you began the exercise.

Set up a 10-15-minute timer and write, to begin with, about that dog. Don't stop writing. Tell where you were, what you were doing.

Write about the dog but also around the dog. What else was going on? Let the writing take you where it wants to take you.

I hope you give it a try. Mine is below, and I post it with a Trigger Warning.

A Tragic Tale in Three Parts

I. The Prologue

Sometimes the ones
we love the most
get hurt the worst
by our own foolishness.

Carmen was such a pretty girl.
Caramel colored little pup—Vizsla-like(no wonder I loved her)
We all loved her, even mom,
and she never loved any dog
after our perfect Pepper passed.
But Carmen wasn’t our dog,
she was yours, and I think
you loved her most of all.

II. The Story

The night was dark and rainy
(Don’t most tragedies begin here?)
The street was mostly deserted.

Most would say
being downtown Detroit
at 2 am
in a souped up car
on deserted streets
is foolishness,
pure and simple.
Every one knows
the underworld
comes alive
at 2 am.

The gall
and puffed up pride
it takes
to believe you’ll be fine
where others weren’t
is enough to blind
or to get you blinded
or to get you blindsided.

You never saw them coming.

How could you not see them coming?

When you saw the car
with darkened windows
pull up behind you,
what did you think?

Hit the gas!
Drive away!

But, no.

Six guys got out
and you thought
you would be ok.
How could you?

III. The Epilogue

In the end, your face was unrecognizable,
but Carmen,
Poor Carmen—
She paid with her life.

—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


NaPoWriMo 2022 Day 7

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Thanks to Dylan LaPierre @drench777 for making this photo available freely on Unsplash

Today’s prompt was the challenge to write a poem that argues against, or somehow questions, a proverb or saying.

They say that “all cats are black at midnight,” but are they really? Surely some of them remain striped. And maybe there is an ill wind that blows some good. Perhaps that wind just has some mild dyspepsia. 

I chose a phrase from Emily Dickinson who had become my muse for this poetry writing month. It’s rather a metaphor than a proverb but that’s close enough for me today. I’m feeling the joy of tweaking a piece I wrote some time ago when Ryan was still living directly underneath the Brown Line “L” Train in Chicago.

when death comes

emily says dying is a wild night and a new road.
i say dying is sort of like walking too close to the rails
when the chicago “l” whizzes by--whooosh!
nowyouseeme.
nowyoudon’t.
dying tastes like a quiet color
in explosive rainbow proportions.
i hear the clacking coming,
i feel the rush of wind,
i touch the steamy air
just before that silver bullet train whizzes toward me.

i wonder if the actual moment of death feels
like being a rider on the train
watching the people stare
as i pass by them.

i wonder if death feels like new life.

i wonder if becalmanddie
would make a good slogan on a billboard
to advertise dying.

perhaps emily is right after all;
perhaps there should be a billboard sign
lit in blinking neon lights,
guiding the way home on the new road,
which just happens to pass a tad too close
to the Chicago l tracks—

whooosh!

—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