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 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 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 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 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