25 April 2014

Grave Number 95

I used to know my name, sometimes
I almost remember it, hear my mother
calling me in a dream, but it's gone
come morning. Nurse tells me she
remembers it always and will tell me
anytime. Mother put me here young,
thought I got auntie's sickness or maybe
some badness from grandfather's brother
who ran away. Nurse says it's brain wiring
gone awry and I'm not to believe it's my fault.
Fragmented, fuzzy memories of the man
in my room at home float in and out in ways I can't grab.
Nurse says the treatments scramble things a bit
and keep me from remembering. I wonder
just who that helps? Somedays I worry
they'll forget my name when nurse is gone.

Margaret, at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads, has a stunning, moving story of the Willard Asylum in New York and two projects to photograph its remains. One by photographer, Lisa Gordon, who has photographed the buildings after their closure in 1995. The haunting photo above is hers of a Willard grave marker with only the number 95 to identify the person buried there as was the case in 5,776 out of 6,000 patients who died at Willard from 1869- 1995.
And the other project is by photographer Jon Crispin who is photographing the 400 suitcases and their contents that were discovered in the attic of the Asylum after it became a prison in the mid 90's. It's called "The Willard Suitcases". Follow Margaret's link to see some of them.
Margaret also included some poems from the Diary of Anna Anderson who was hospitalized at Willard. Please go and read Margaret's post- you'll be glad you did. It's important that we not forget these people who did nothing more that have a mental illness outside their control or behavior deemed unacceptable by their families.

22 April 2014

Arms Race

In stores a story's told:
hands down, hands off,
hands up, hands on,

an arms cache, arms haul,
arms repair, an arms dealer
with arms akimbo in the arms factory
for arms trade with smuggled armament.

We stand powerless in its midst,
throw up our hands and lament
this isn't the story we want told.

For Lolamouse at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads who published her photos and asked us to write about one. It's also a friday fiction 55 for Mama Zen.

18 April 2014

Working on That

The circle of life holds
all within its hoop,
the story danced in ritual telling,
hoop formations surround the body,
butterfly, eagle, coyote, snake,
all our relations danced with hoops
as wings and tails, moving, swinging,
dancing us as one.

Marian, over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads, introduced us to a wonderful singing group, Donna the Buffalo, who sang "Working on That" about working on peace. In the background were Native American Hoop Dancers and this poem focuses on them. Google 'hoop dancers' to see more of these amazing dancers and their dance stories. The photo is from wikipedia.

14 April 2014

Nothing to Say

"I have nothing to say and I am saying it, and that is poetry."
 John Cage

The pivotal transgression-
to stifle the stories
that are only mine to tell
in some fear that I have
nothing to say.
Say it anyway. Open
my mouth, open
my heart and speak.
a person needs stories
more than food
to stay alive."*
to live.

* Crow and Weasel by Barry Lopez.

The full quote is gorgeous: "Remember on this one thing, said Badger. The stories people tell have a way of taking care of them. If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. That is why we put these stories in each other's memories. This is how people care for themselves."
I was again reminded of this truth today when Fireblossom of Shay's Word Garden posted a stunning poem telling a deep part of women's story. It was a case of me not knowing I needed a story until I read it. And it fed my soul.
Time to give up the myth of nothing to say- offered for Open Link Monday at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads hosted by grapeling who graciously shared the opening quote to this post.

12 April 2014

Watch Out for the Fishes!

Watch out for the fishes!
They swim where they want, act bold
and eat what they wishes.

Don't think you can out swim 'em
with your floaties and fins green like mold
'cause nothing moves as fast as them.

They look colorful but don't be fools,
no matter what you think or've been told,
they've sharp teeth and swim in schools.

So learn this well my little sweeties
and keep your distance too far to hold
or they'll nibble on your toes and feeties.

Offered for Margaret's challenge to write a children's poem using the amazing kids' art pictures she posted on Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads. Check out the art, you'll be surprised and delighted. Also offered for Gay at dVerse Poets Pub who challenged us to devise a new poetry form. This one is simple - verses of three lines each with the first and third rhyming with each other and the second rhyming across all verses. Does this exist already, Gay? Others came up with fun and creative forms worth perusing.

11 April 2014

The Girl

the girl with petals in her hair
died smelling sweet but in despair

the girl had lightening in her eyes
and thunder struck her lovers' cries

the girl whose name is sugar and spice
drips honey for lovers then kills them thrice

the girl who added moon to sky
loved thirteen times before she died

the stout-stemmed girl refused to shout
but thrashed about and threw other girls out

Today, Hedgewitch, over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads posted some intriguing pictures by the French artist, Odilon Redon and gave us an ekphrasis challenge. I chose the mysterious Head on a Stem, a 'noir' by Odilon Redon. The form was inspired by Shay, AKA Fireblossom, who did a poem awhile back that was a series of 2 liners using 'the girl' to start each couplet- I loved it and use it here with all credit to her.

08 April 2014

triune goddess

maiden's tender wheaten shoots 
still stiff bend the earth,
stand at the threshold
ready to jump boundaries 

mother's cerulean love triggers life,
new precise coordinates join
tribe's unconscious
in tensioned struggle to name meaning

crone's penumbral time of collective forgetting,
cryptic umbral perceptions of life's wheel,
impulses at length deflected
oscillate, amplified, to the divine

For Fireblossom over at Shay's Word Garden who asked us to write a Flash Fiction 55. This prompt is combined with a previous wordlist of Hedgewitch from Jung and a poetry request from Mama Zen for a 37 word poem which I couldn't manage to do but started this. Here they all are in 55. I took the photo in the west of Ireland.

07 April 2014

Employ the Wind (in April for John)

When I sing of you I will employ the wind
and be schooled by wind in how the world sounds
then shout stout-stemmed your praises.
The silent roar of the vast

stretch of indigo sky gathers March gales,
zigzags twisted leaves here and there
to trumpet your eager energy harnessing
turbine gusts for family and friends,

shunning idleness headlong into spring
when winds shake the meadows awake,
air scented with bergamot from tawny trees.
You, too, stir your aromatic medicine

sweet scented. I breathe you in and sketch
myself larger than before. We cluster together,
whisper winds gentle above our heads, thorns
blunted, sadness a shallow thing as elder roots grow down.

Summer steals the sun and tells the story
of the grasses, strong waves of wind rush,
thrust and pummel stalks that sway in response,
force dampened not cursed, is this not your way?

And in the fall when flowers will not
wait for snow's howl, wind swoops and
swivels, wakes death to claim its rightful
place, blows change lashed to life, unafraid.

You wander and wend, my love, sail near
the four winds, use breath for resonant sounding.

One Wednesday, a long time ago, the guest contributor over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads was De Jackson of Whimsy Gizmo who had us choose from a list of intriguing words and phrases in a botanical book to construct our poem. It took me until now to finish it. April is my Honey's birthday month. Posted for Real Toads Open Link Monday.

06 April 2014

Long Slow Distance

Sundays are all about long
slow distance,
recommends runs by the sea for one,
longest of the week, limb loosening
easy runs for an hour or two
depending on the next race date.

Reading brings long slow
distance as well, immersion
in other lives, other worlds
provides distance from mine,
lets me see it from new
perspectives, mind loosening
easy change, fresh view.

Afternoon delights feeds
long slow distance
in yet another way, travels
of a different kind along
the planes of familiar skin,
far away from days cares toward
soul loosening easy meeting.

Posted for Kenia over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads who asked us to write about Sundays in our lives. Sundays are favorites for so many reasons...

04 April 2014

Dear Mary Fran

Dear Mary Fran,

What a brave girl you are. You see injustice and jump in to right the wrongs. You let bullies know that they won't get away with picking on younger or weaker kids. You've gone to school on how to fight by watching the bigger boys carefully and learning their moves. You've kept yourself from getting hurt in your fights that way. Good for you. Your brothers and your girl friends are a little safer because of you. I admire you, your spunk, your loyalty to those you love, your belief that if something needs to be done then you'll do it. I can tell you that you're setting the foundation for our future.

I'm sorry about the change in messages that happened when you were 10 and moved to Malden Highlands to live with two aunts. All that stuff about being a good girl and a  proper young lady got you mixed up, mad and sad for quite awhile. I know you had lots more freedom in the Projects, that you got to do things more your way there. Mom was depressed and unable to be very present in those years and Dad was more focused on our brothers. It gave you the chance to call your own shots. You watched those around you and learned how to take care of yourself. And others. You came and went as you pleased without much adult interference. I know how much you liked that. You did a good job growing yourself up. 

Here's what I know now, that's it's also okay to lean on others, to even expect them to take care of you sometimes. Adults are supposed to do that for their kids. You ended up thinking you could do a better job in the taking care department than anyone else. But here's the thing, you were only 5 or 6 or 7 or 8 or 9 and too young to have that burden on your small shoulders. Remember the feeling you had every once in awhile when you didn't know what to do? Or that time when Uncle Joe came to the house after you had had an argument with Mom and he wanted to hug you?  You couldn't allow that although you wanted to be comforted, and finally, since your back was to him, you leaned your head back on his chest. Remember how good that felt? It's like that to share your burdens with someone who loves you. 

I know Mom and Dad love you but they're a little overwhelmed by their circumstances and they think you're doing just fine. Only you can tell or show them differently. You'll get better at that when you get older but I want you to know that I see it was hard for you and you had your reputation to uphold. You took on a lot. It will become your strength of character later and allow you great and tenacious compassion for the underdog. You'll build a career around those strengths. You'll also have a lot to learn. I know you don't feel smart because you don't do as well in school as our brothers, but, girl, you are smart! You'll come to believe that later in life.

You're going to have an amazing life- you'll meet and marry the most loving man and the best friend imaginable who'll love you totally. You'll have a daughter (yes, just one, although you want more now) who you'll love like crazy and be great friends with when you're both adults. You'll have two grandkids that you'll fall utterly in love with and who will challenge and delight you. You'll have a career in nursing (just like you want now) that you'll cherish, get your master's degree (yes, you!) so you can learn what you need to know about how to care for those with mental illness (don't worry, you'll feel right at home). You'll have four great girl friends who'll remain friends all through the years and enrich your life immensely (just like yours do now). You'll travel (just like you want) and get to know people all over the world, you'll get back into running  and love it (just like you do now) and you'll get back to loving your body (like you do now) after some goofy years of not liking it. See? You're already my teacher in so much. I'll have to remember a lot what you already know.

All that you've done so far will be a BIG part of allowing our abundant life to happen (with a lot of help from friends along the way). So relax a little, be a kid, have fun. You're a terrific girl. I like you lots and love you dearly. I appreciate all you've done to try to care for yourself. I'm coming. I'll help.

Love always,

A letter to my young self after sifting through photos recently for an ancestors book I put together and stirring up some very old memories. Posted for Fireblossom in Postmark: Poetry over at Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads who asked us, among other things, to write an old fashioned letter.