Anxious Days

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Some days, trees are not trees

and I am not me.

I am a misplaced thing-

a small pile of sand on the second shelf of the china cabinet

next to a stack of teacups;

a single goosebump upon the arm of a woman sunbathing;

a nit on a bald man’s head.

I am contrary to the order of things-

a vortex running counter to its designated direction-

and everything pulled into my universe becomes contrary too.

Mothers tell bedtime stories about the souls’ of the damned.

The whispering breeze becomes the discordant notes of the organ master.

Day becomes night

and trees become demons.

*

On anxious days

everything stands in defiance of God

and fear prevails.

 

 

 

 

Summer’s Burden

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This poor life-we demand so much of her.  Give me happiness.  Give me success.  Give my children happiness and success.  We place upon life’s shoulders the burden of impossible expectations, expectations that she cannot possibly fulfill, and then we, feeling so entitled, label her a disappointment.

We have divided every year of life into four seasons, each functioning to help us achieve fulfillment. Autumn must bring vibrant beauty to inspire us and cool temperatures to prepare us to head indoors and begin creative projects and academic pursuits.  Winter, with her storms and frigid air, isolates and keeps us inside.  She rids us of all distractions so that we may keep our heads down and continue working undisturbed.  Then spring comes to tease us with her sweet air and gentle breezes, letting us know that the time has almost come to move away from our desks.  Her’s is a balancing act-keeping us focused on our work with just enough wet weather and gray skies to finish what we have started, but also alerting us with her blossoming flowers and vibrant greenery that the days of toil are coming to a close.  Then summer…..

Summer, the happiest of all seasons, has the greatest responsibility-to give us rest and in giving us rest allow us recharge. By lying out on sandy beaches and listening to waves lap upon the shore, we are supposed to quiet or minds, yet, at the end of ten weeks, we also expect to emerge better, clear headed and knowing how we should march forward into the coming year.

Sometimes, however, life does not cooperate and sends summer to us a bit weaker than we remember her in the past.  We lie in the sun, but our bellies still quiver with worry.  We sit quiet, but our minds do not rest.  Summer’s long days seem to race faster than winter’s short ones.  And now August has arrived.

August has arrived, reminding us how quickly time moves.  We are now faced with the task of figuring out the answers to all the questions-the answers that summer was supposed to bring. We now must race to the sound of the cricket’s song, which will grow increasingly louder with the passing days, and find the answers before fall is upon us-all the while hiding our disappointment in summer, in life, and perhaps if we have leaned anything, in ourselves.

 

Poem About My Mother Written at 11:26 Last Night

 

Last night, I recalled a beautiful moment from my childhood between myself and my mother.  This memory seemed to come from nowhere.  My husband had returned late from work, and we were standing in the kitchen, talking about something I cannot even recall, and suddenly, there it was, this memory.  It was so vivid; I abruptly (and rudely…I am sorry Giorgio) broke away from our conversation, opened the computer and began to write it down.

I don’t often remember the happy moments with my mother, so I felt an urgency to record it, to find a way to preserve it, so that the day my memory fails it will not be lost forever. I wrote about a time so long ago, but that last night felt so close. As I wrote, I felt and heard my mother as she was then.  I felt myself  as a small girl, cradled in the arms of her mother.

I wrote with longing for my mother as she was in that moment and with sadness for what could have been and was not-she had so many dreams for how her life would be.  Mostly, I wrote with love. As I wrote, I felt the same love I had for my mother when I was so little.  It was pure, not tainted by anger and resentment.

When I was done and just before I hit publish, a thought struck me.  Once I hit publish, once I send this out into the world, into the blogosphere, what if the memory disappears?  What if I had just transferred it from my mind to the computer?  The brain’s capacity to retain and retrieve is limited.  What if our minds are inherently lazy, unwilling to fight to keep memories that have already been wrapped up neatly into text and boxed into notebooks and computer screens, happy to free up space for the lifetime of more memories that will clamor for a place in the mind’s limited storage facility?

And what of recalled and recorded memories? No matter how hard we strive to remain true, the written word is never as pure, as real as the actual memories and feelings we hold within us.  Those are invariably filtered as we strive to match feelings to words and translate the unspoken into a code of letters and commas.

Last night, I did not want to lose that memory of my mother, to send it away in a document that couldn’t possibly express what really was and what I really felt.  I prefer to keep her, as she was that night so long ago, close to me, in me, in my memory.  Perhaps, years from now, when my capacity to recall becomes so diminished that my memories begin to escape, then I will hit publish.   Until then, I will remain the keeper of that moment.

Late Autumn Visit to an Old New England Home

The quaint New England village

in mid-October.

Antique shops, country stores.

White-steepled churches

set against the backdrop

of fall’s spectacular display

of crimson and gold foliage

And the old New England home.

Her porch adorned with cornstalks and pumpkins.

Her flowerbeds full of yellow and rust-colored mums.

Arrogantly she stands.

She knows her admirers.

How they delight in her unassuming

beauty.

So simple.

Tasteful.

Smart.

She leaves her admirers to wonder

whether she is listed in the registry

of historic homes.

No one

not even she

acknowledges that her charms will fade

with the dropping of the leaves.

*

Be patient.

Wait a bit.

Four weeks perhaps.

Then visit again.

This time

go on in.

Meet her.

Push open the door that doesn’t quite want to give.

She’s not easy, you know.

Hear the creak of the plank floor as you step inside.

Smell the mothballs

and the scent of doorknobs

touched too many times

by so many hands

that the odor

that’s permeated their surfaces

can never be removed.

Smell the faint aroma

of dried out pot roasts

from dinners that stole away days.

Feel the lifeless still

of 4:00

on a Sunday afternoon

in November.

Sit in the chair by the window

and see the world

from that filmy view.

The gray sky.

The skeleton trees.

Now, turn your gaze back inside

and watch the dust

dance

in the late autumn sun

that streaks tauntingly through the glass.

And watch

as a single particle

settles itself atop one of the many knickknacks

that sits lazily

upon the mantel.

Hear the clock.

Each tick

reminding you

of how very long

a day can be.

In the sickening stillness

feel the unbearable loneliness.

Catch your breath.

Breathe in deeply.

Push the air past

the knot

in your throat.

As you sit, feel the house.

The weight

of her past.

So close, really.

What’s 200 years?

Certainly not enough time

for the departed

to resign themselves

to their fate.

 

* This piece was originally published on Quirk N Jive on October 24, 2015

 

Contrasts

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Dark, Light

Cruel, Kind

The juxtaposition of the golden maple with this gray November sky-

the leaves illuminated, not by light

not by anything other than the contrast between her and the ashen curtain in front of which she stands.

Like this long ride through the country to see you.

The fear of what lies ahead.

The sadness of what is.

Perhaps it is the contrast between what I see

and what I feel

that makes this landscape so beautiful

that makes these trees so magical

that brings the awareness that in the darkness

there is light.

 

 

Autumn Writing

There is something about the season of fall that lends itself to writing.  I can think of many reasons why this is, but, for me, it is the quiet.

Summer with her symphony of fireworks and lawn mowers has ended, and now we are left with the gentle whispers of  crickets as they pass from this place to another. We are now left in the stillness of a season that comes between the summer’s obligatory happiness and the winter holidays’ forced merriment.

Autumn seems to grant the writer permission to feel deeply and express the broad range of emotions that we sometimes subconsciously suppress. It allows us to be present amidst the great beauty of amber and gold leaves as they fall to the ground, to sense the nervous excitement of the animals as they rush to gather the food required for survival during the long winter and to feel the sadness that comes from the loss of life that once thrived  in the warmth and light of summer.

I hope that this fall yields you a bountiful harvest of writing-poems, stories, songs, posts, articles.  For me, throughout this month of November I will be posting new and older pieces inspired by the season.

Happy writing!

An October Morning

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Fear finds you at night.

It rushes under your skin

and makes its way towards your heart

where it constricts,

slowly strengthening its grip

like a thread tied around a finger-

pulling, making it ache

until the finger pulsates.

The tip, increasing in size,

turns purple.

So the heart

caught in fear

pounds upon the door of sleep

and awakens you, the dreamer

who, finding yourself cold and wet,

must now decide whether or not to rise.

You must decide

whether you should try to rest in a dream where fear waits outside the gates of sleep

or awake to a nightmare

or, perhaps, awake to life.

You get up-coffee, face, teeth, dress.

You walk outside into a gray October morning,

quiet-but for the crickets chirping, singing their desperate song,

hoping that if their voices continue so too will they

or, if the song is beautiful enough, at least the memory of them will remain.

You see that the trees are losing their leaves

and you catch sight of one golden maple leaf

floating to the ground,

the curtain closing upon its final act.

You listen and -in the silence of the early morning-

you hear it land.

You feel the closure

that comes from hearing a last breath,

that comes from bearing witness to one reach his final resting place.

And you feel strong.

You are alive.

Still alive.

 

 

 

 

 

Can you blog and still be a decent person?

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Lately, I have not posted much on my blog-not because of a lack of ideas or motivation.  I am not blocked.  I have written plenty of pieces.  It’s just that much of what I write is about the people I know-my daughter’s teacher, people I meet at the park where I take my children, family members, friends… My draft folder is full of pieces, some of which are not fully flattering representations of the people in my life.  I am afraid to share this work because I don’t want to hurt anyone.  Well, that’s partly true.  The other part of it is that I also don’t want to face the consequences of calling people out. So what happens is that I write and never publish.

As a writer I am feeling the burden of self-censorship.  When I hold back, the work is not true, not authentic.  When I let go and write without restraint, I feel uneasy, guilty and fearful that I have been hurtful and cruel.

This brings to mind a novel I read over the summer-Elizabth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton.” There is a moment in the story when Sarah Payne, a writer and teacher tells the title character, “If you find yourself protecting anyone as you write a piece, remember this: You’re not doing it right.”  If this is true, which I suspect it is, how do you write and remain a decent person?

Do you sacrifice feelings and relationships at the altar of good writing?  Is telling your story worth it? 

Blogging is a particularly tricky business because it is so personal. Usually, family and friends follow you. They read your posts and know who you are writing about.   Yes, I suppose that you can change the names of the people and places to protect their identities.  Really though, if I write about a teacher who gives too much homework but am careful to change her name, people who know me, who know my children, will be able to figure out who I am talking about or, given that I have two children, will be able to at least narrow it down to one of two people.

And while we’re on the subject…How do I write about my children and not steal their stories?  Of course our lives are inextricably linked, but aren’t their stories theirs to tell?  How much right do I have to discuss their lives, their struggles, their mistakes?   I do not feel that just because I am their mother, that I am in any way entitled to use their lives to further my writing. At what point am I stealing what is theirs?  The internet is full of mommy bloggers.  Sometimes I read what is out there and I wonder what their children will think when they grow up and read the stories their mothers posted about them.

Can we as writers find a balance between speaking truthfully and protecting others?  Should we?  Or should we just tell our stories, the truth as we see it?  Should we release ourselves from the shackles of censorship? If we do, can we still write and be decent people?

 

Weeds

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You were so beautiful once.

Both delicate and strong.

No storm

be it wind nor snow

could harm you.

No drought nor torrent

could quell your spirit.

Nothing could destroy you

until the weeds slowly encroached upon your ground

and invaded your place

your peace.

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They sprouted up

taking root

upon your roots

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and weaved themselves

around you

through you

above you

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and strangled you

like thoughts

dark and fearful.

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Thoughts as real as weeds

strangling the rose bush.

 

 

 

 

Silver Buck Moon

I saw you , Buck Moon,

holding court with the stars.

You were dazzling-

a cold silver queen

on a July eve.

Seated at the gates of eternity,

your radiant beams

like arms outstretched

touched the ground beneath my feet,

and I wondered-

if I were to join you for but a moment

to let you carry me to your realm

where I could stand at the entrance of eternal night

and look down to where I had been

and see the world

as you see it,

what would I learn?

To see it all from afar

would understanding come

with the clarity of a bolt of light

cutting through the black night?

And when I returned to this place,

how would it all be different?