musings in mayhem

writer, mom, tutor, superwoman

Archive for the category “poetry”

vintage, also weekword:simplicity

When I was a kid, I collected things, such as wheat back pennies.  Somewhere along the way, I got it into my mind, either my mother mentioned it or someone else, that if a thing was 45 years old, it was officially an antique. I became obsessed with examining coin years. This habit still lingers, on the rare occasion I handle coins in the age of the debit card.

I’m definitely more than retro.  These days that seems to be applicable if something is even 10 years past due.  There are a couple of cans in my pantry that may qualify.

I think it is safe to say I am vintage.

I don’t quite qualify as an antique, even if I am a bit lopsided and rickety these days. At least my drawers don’t stick.

Should I make a list?  I won’t make a 45 item list. Should I write a poem for my birthday?  Some time ago I used to write a poem as many lines as years on my birthday.  That habit stayed in the past, when the poems were shorter.

I guess my one thought on turning forty-five is that I am glad, if a bit surprised by the number. I am glad because the more I hang around, the better I feel in my own skin. I am no longer trying to be something other than what I am.  I am no longer an idea of myself. Or a hope of something else to be. I have been the yearning poet.  I have been the bohemian. I have been the mom, and still am, I have been the student, teacher, lover, writer, cynic, optimist, enthusiast and quiet.

Yes quiet.  When I am around others, I am a talker.  I really am, I don’t know why I feel the need to fill silence in so many situations.  Because in other circumstances, I really do love the quiet.  If I hang around a situation long enough, I start to quiet down and listen better. Honestly, these days, I don’t tend to stick around long enough.  When no one else is around, I really enjoy the quiet, especially these days, because rarely am I ever alone.  But here’s a neat thing I’ve found:

If my family is hiking or at the beach or some other adventure together, after the hustle and bustle settles down, after the things and stuff and directions are taken care of –

When we get together and just are – not eating dinner, doing homework, laundry, trying to get to school, work, the day, the usuals,

when we step outside of that and stop – or walk,

We get quiet.  And listen  –

the waves on the shore.

the laughing gulls.

the scuttle of a squirrel through the brush in the woods around a lake.

the fall of a branch. 

the crow surprised, taking wing.

the red flash of a cardinal.

the changing light of the sky.

the wind’s direction.

and there,

in that quiet

I find love

and everything I ever needed.

And that’s why I am happy to be turning forty-five today.

York River, Coleman Bridge, my dog and kids, 10.2.2010
Addendum: Weekword is a weekly creative challenge that bops around the internet. On Friday go to Silver Linings 4 Me to see a wide variety of people’s responds around the world.  Enjoy!

weekword prompt: synesthesia

Joye at Joyefulart chose this week’s prompt: synesthesia:‘the production of a sense impression relating to one sense or part of the body by stimulation of another sense or part of the body.• the poetic description of a sense impression in terms of another sense, as in “a loud perfume” or “an icy voice.”

My initial thought was yay!  Perfect for a poem, which is my first love in writing, and the second was, holy crap what a week I have lined up, and then other things threw themselves into it, but still others dropped away.

Isn’t it something how the Universe can so easily realign according to need?  Well, I still need it to line up a bit lighter. The cold I have been ignoring/battling since mid last week has hit me full force.  I am at the end of anything resembling inspiration.  Still, I want to take a stab at synesthesia, because it is what informs my sensibility as a writer.  Get it?  Sense-ibility.

a tortured luncheon screams from my schedule
as my throat chafes.
my sinuses blanket a mask in my face
too close for comfort, it strangles my eyeballs.
The wintery air crisps my fingers
and the grasses grow furry frost.

Eh, not so great, but better than nothing. Not sure I really got that sense of the opposing sense in my descriptions.  Okay, time for me to steam out my head in hot shower. But that’s my result after being too busy and my health crashing because of it.

Please click on the link at Joyefulart at the top of this post to see many more wonderful participants’ tasty arts.

this morning

I slipped from room to room,

opening curtains and windows

for a breath of fresh air.

In first son’s room,

he who loves the dark,

I drew back the yellow curtain.

Dark of early morning mid fall, I

looked down to the deep grass,

wet dark fence,

jasmine vines still green tangle,

one burst of red among the leaves,

a cardinal alarm to wake the day.

Later, I return from drop-offs,

I find myself still alarmed,

want movement and more air.

I find the bicycle tires flat,

Forego resuscitation, and grab the leash.

I ran, the dog ran, too.

She wondered what to make of it –

rare beyond rare –

through the traces of fire in the trees.

The sky greyed up

more so than that early hour,

and the black birds repudiated

the gifts the sky brought in fat wet drops

to wake relief in the dank morning.

pure jack poetry

Jack Powers, 1937-2010
image source: www.artseditor.com 1999
Jack Powers is a Boston Institution. He was the founder of the long running poetry venue, Stone Soup Poets. Unfortunately, at this time, I can’t find an obituary to link to his name, because I am not going to write one here for him. When I find one, I will attach it. He passed away yesterday.

I am just going to share with you the ways that Jack personally influenced me. I would be lying if I said anything of this man that did not reflect how he influenced literally every aspect of my life. I absolutely would not be who I am today, personally, professionally as a writer and as an educator if I had not met him.


September 1989, not even completely fresh out of college, as I was still working on my thesis, I arrived in Boston, a 23 year old intent on making it as a poet and fiction writer. I spent a lot of my Western, MA college years in Boston but had not sought out the arts community until I arrived and unpacked everything I owned into a small apartment on the frat block of Beacon Street near Kenmore Square. In my first week there, I bought a Boston Globe and a Phoenix, and scoured the Events section for poetry venues. One called Stone Soup Poets called to me from the newsprint pages of both. The following Monday evening, I ventured across the river into Central Square and down a side street. Other than walking into a temp agency, this was really the first time I navigated my way around Boston and Cambridge and the T completely on my own. It felt epic. I felt as though I were the young hero of a novel about to be written, and it was my life. Little did I know that walking into Charlie’s Tap, an unassuming backstreet pub, and up its back stairs into the closed restaurant night would make me.


I was shy then, nervous, sitting at a corner table out of the way by the bathrooms, wondering if I was at the right place, because I was the first to arrive. Slowly the room filled with an odd assortment of people, young, old, gruff, quiet, smelly, clean and passionate. It seemed every facet of the character of this metropolis walked up the stairs into that small, smoky, covered in paintings of jazz musicians space. I wrote them down in my little notebook as I kept to myself. Eventually, a towering, salt and pepper haired man blew up the stairs and took command of the room and set up the microphone. I watched as everyone approached him, wrote their name in his book for the open mic, and chatted him up. He graciously, if somewhat distractedly paid attention to each of them with his frenetic, barely containable energy. He was obviously the man in charge. But also, his spirit was huge and filled the room. Jack Powers.


Months later, after attending the venue weekly, I finally worked up the nerve to walk into his orbit and sign up to read one short poem. I was in a sweat. My leg shook like an earthquake long before he called my name from the sheet. He still didn’t have any idea who I was as far as I knew. I barely made it through that poem without breaking the mic stand because of my right leg’s violent shaking.


The next week, when he read the list of upcoming dates and features, I heard my name cross his lips for the second time. I had no idea, except that a little bird name Gary Hicks had kind of taken me under his wing and wanted me to spread mine, so he convinced Jack to give this little nervous unknown a featured reading. The rest is a smidge of poetic history around Boston in the first half of the 90s before I started having kids. Because of Jack, I eventually became comfortable and confident reading my poetry in front of an audience of fellow poets. Because of Jack, I got a reading at the Cambridge Public Library. Because of Jack, I began to have a bit of public recognition. People on the street, in stores, on the T walked up, said “Excuse me, aren’t you that poet I saw read at [such and such venue]? I love your work!”


Because of Jack Powers and Stone Soup Poets I met my closest circle of friends for many years in Boston. I met still one of my dearest friends, Joe, who prefers a bit of anonymity. I met my now ex-husband, and father of Mr. Cynic and Captain Comic. We had a long, albeit half-life relationship. I met and was mentored by the poets Wally Butts, Peter Kidd and Bill Kemmett. Poets Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ray McNiece, Billy Barnum and Brother Blue, just to give a range; songwriters Jan Luby, Jim Infantino, Don White, again, a range all influenced me greatly, including storyteller Raelinda Woad. Jenny Harrison from Australia amazed me more than most, she wrote of my life before I lived it as a mother, and I felt that when I heard her read.


At some point I found myself as part of an inner circle around Stone Soup that met periodically at Jack’s little apartment on Joy Street in Beacon Hill. Lots of laughter and deep conversations occurred there, running the gamut from politics and good works, to beauty, life, the nature of poetry, and always the rich well of stories from Jack and all his years around Boston. From that, I babysat his two boys a number of times.


I tired of temping early on in 1990, and amazingly, and I’m not exactly certain how this came about, but Jack Powers wrote me a letter of recommendation to begin working for the Boston Department of Education as a substitute. He gave a way in to the world of education, I always felt drawn to, yet simultaneously was unsure I could do. I remember distinctly all these years later, what a glowing recommendation it was, even though I felt we didn’t know each other well. He was much more confident in me than I was in myself. “She thinks well on her feet and has a good eye for the Big Picture.” I still remember that line from the letter and it is what gives me my confidence as I walk into every new situation. Professionally, I basically have done something in education ever since, if you just ignore my 3.5 years as a law firm receptionist.


I have felt blessed in my life to feel that I have two professional raison d’etres: writing and education. In writing, I never would have found my voice without the influence of Jack Powers and the faith he had in me. I never would have built the confidence I have in my writing if I had not stood by his holding me up in front of an audience for the first time, completely on faith and the continued support he gave me after. I never would have found my second raison d’etre, my career in education, such as it has been over the past 20ish years, if he had not suggested it and written that letter of recommendation.


And more importantly than both of those, I would not have my boys, my heart, if Jack had not created Stone Soup out of thin air, had not that place existed in that upstairs smoky back room above a bar where I first met the father of my boys.


I am terribly remiss in that I did not maintain contact with him as I moved on in my life after having the boys and moving into other directions and places. But when I heard of his passing this morning via a message from the boys’ father, I immediately broke into tears as the memories of all he did for me, as well as his laughter and energy came flooding into me. I honestly would not be who I am today in all aspects of my life, if not for Jack.


Jack Powers left many legacies, not just for me, in his wake when he left this earthly world yesterday. The reason for this is the passionate heart of a man who continually put the success of others before himself, providing at the very least, a place for new voices in Poetry and the Arts of Boston to bloom and be heard.


May he truly rest in Peace. His work here is done. But I bet he doesn’t think so.

image source: stonesouppoetry.blogspot.com

Obituary Update: Boston Globe

Happy September

“The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.”

– John Updike, September

fun prompt: weekword

I’m a new convert to the weekly prompt project that Aimee at artsyville seems to have generated.

Every Monday, she posts winners and who is hosting the prompt among the participants from the previous week.  The blogger posts a word to inspire for the week, then other creative bloggers post on their blogs their own endeavors from the prompt on the following Friday.

At least that’s my understanding of how it works.  I hope I’m right. This is my real first go at it.  Last week, Aimee had posted her prompt ‘flavor’ when I had just posted the perfect shot of Toots eating watermelon on the 4th which happened to fit the prompt well. 

Peggy Fussell is this week’s host and her Weekword is Number.  Here’s my response, a haiku and photo pairing:

home isn’t only
a number to calculate
location, but heart

dream state

Toots did not want to go down for a nap yesterday.  So I lay down with her to help.  I was tired anyway after the weekend of furniture schlepping.  As her flip flopping subsided, words and images I really liked began to fill my head.  I thought, as soon as she settles, I have to get up and write this down. 

Next thing I knew, I caught myself snoring, poem gone.  I never nap.

About an hour later, I began to recall the initial images of the opening line and end lines, but not all the others in between with as much clarity.  Then I thought, did I really need them?

So here’s what I captured from the ether of dream land’s edge forest:

Another love poem

He said I love you like a cold beer and pocket knives.
She answered I love you like chocolate ice cream.
He said Honey, I love you like blueberry pancakes.


She said I love you like ice tea, potato chips,
and the sweet tang of bread and butter pickles
on a hot summer day.
He said But those are all side dishes, there’s no sandwich.
She answered Honey, you are the sandwich.

Summer Green

Everything is so green,
so very very green.
It’s easy to take
all that green
for granted
because it’s everywhere.

In all that big green,
one pink or purple
or yellow flower
or one blue and white
butterfly
suddenly makes you say
to yourself,
“OH!”

But it’s not really the butterfly
or the little flower.
It’s that there it is,
against all that green,

And not so long ago,
the green wasn’t even there.
It was drab,
maybe little hints of green
here and there
to make you happy and say,
“Oh! Spring is coming!”

But now everything is
so very very green
and just a little while before,
mere hints of green to tease you,
and just before that,
no green at all.

Just drab and blah,
and if you thought at all,
you thought of ghosts
among the bare branches,
or walking through the dull
dull ghost grass,
maybe you felt like a ghost yourself,
nothing at all worth a hill of beans.

But now everything is
so very very green.
Beautiful lush, thick and green,
so you just have to sit back and enjoy it.
“OH!”

And if you don’t,
pretty soon it won’t even be green,
and you will miss it,
again.

wishing ocean

I am wishing ocean
the weather is there
and then it is not
the summer glimpsed
then the wind picks up

the ocean the ocean
the summer breeze
the ocean the ocean
calls to me
the rain threatens
the temperature drops

please summer come
and all this teasing stop

the ocean calls
and I must swim
the ocean calls
and leads me in

the swirling waters break
around my ankles
and come together again
rise to my knees, my waist,
I dip my hands in

take a deep breath
and plunge wholly in,
holy in the water
fresh salt on my lips
the scent of the tide
as I break surface for air

the ocean ebbs
the ocean flows
and with it
all of my woes.

she takes me in,
and out I rise again.

If only this were mine!

Jacqui Robbins’s proscratination tactics are so much more productive and creative than mine. 

At least she got a poem out of it.  And what a wonderful one for me to hear.  Yes, I need to put all else aside to write.  I need to tell the world I am working. Mostly, I need to tell that to myself.

Any writers out there need to hear it, too?  Please click on the linkipoo around her name.  It’s worth the extra one and a half minute distraction.

Trust me.

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