New poem for #WorldPoetryDay

World Poetry Day

Breaking

I can count my broken bones

like milestones

like clean breaks

like short stories

maybe Lorrie Moore’s—

funny

but also kind of sad.

 

First-grade nightmares and hardwood floors

driveway basketball with two bare feet

recklessness and dank river air

missteps on a solo mountain hike

impatience in a Target parking lot.

 

But my heart?

You can’t really count

the fragile

hairline

fractures

on a fault line—

eventually spreading

 

like what happens

from the weight of beating

monsoon rains

on long-weathered wood,

rotting, wearing down

strength.

 

moments after days

after weeks after years

 

chipping love and naivety

into what must resemble

rubicund ceramic shards

scattered on an unswept,

linoleum kitchen floor

 

too many unkind boys

and unkind girls,

playground pranks,

and no way to measure

root-scraping betrayal

in familiar trees

or insecure men and unsuccessful lies

or the gradual creep

of a mind-tangled disease

or conversations I’ll never unhear.

 

My bones healed, I suppose

some smoother

and stouter than others,

some reminding me

on the last mile of a long day

that healing takes a long time.

 

But my heart?

It just figures …

that’s the way things are now.

 

 

New Poem: Invincible Ignorance

I I’ve been dabbling in poetry lately. While several of my poems have been published through the years, and one even placed in a literary contest here in Colorado, I don’t consider myself a poet, really. I’ve not studied the genre like I have fiction and creative nonfiction. But something about it has been calling me. I think I like that I can play around with language and punctuation and flow and metaphor in ways that you just can’t with other types of writing. And I can swoop in and out of thoughts and imagery on the page.

Here’s one of my latest poems, dedicated to Mom and Dad’s daily challenges as they work through their early 70s.

Invincible Ignorance

Her hair dark, shining, beyond her shoulders

thick as three horses’ manes

legs perpetually tanned

sure-footed

in the garden

on the sawdust dance floor

carrying her sharp-tongued wit

wherever it wished to go,

taking her children along

for the bright lights of

the Ferris wheel ride.

 

His hands rough,

capable

of moving livestock

and minds,

holding dogs

and the dreams of little girls;

his shoulders, those shoulders

carrying us

and keeping all things steady,

the shelter of reason

the home of

it’s all going to be okay.

 

But now

her hair,

turning a corner

to spun silver —

where there is no planting

on uneven ground,

and the fair

with its lights spinning

at the pink of dusk

is likely

leaving town.

 

And his hands,

those shoulders,

they’ve turned on him

with knots like centuries-old

live oak branches,

creaking in a South Texas

night wind,

and swollen joints

no amount of tools

from his truck

can fix.

 

Uncertainty creeps in

like a rattlesnake

slipping

through tall dry weeds

for a strike.

 

pain overtakes

the laughter

 

meds don’t mix

with beer

 

mornings

are a crap shoot

 

and

reaching for anything

is just too much.

 

Me? I can’t, won’t

wrap my head

around the present

or how it fits with the past

or how it shapes the future.

 

Yet I do know

invincible natures

live longer

than those

who are not

 

bone and muscle

are a fallible

source of direction,

salvation

 

and, mostly,

ignorance remains

a nice place to visit.

 

After all

their truth

is not my truth

 

and the state of

all matter

is relative

anyway.

 

 

Four Really Good Books I Read in 2014

Just in case there aren’t enough “best books of 2014” lists out there for you this time of year, I thought I’d gather just four of my favorites from a year of reading, as well. Because, well, EVERYONE wants to know what I’m reading, right? <sarcasm>

My brief list below is a little weird, though, (no comment necessary) because it contains not only two new books that came out this year, but also “old” ones I picked up again to reread. I think it says a ton if, out of all the books I read in a year, some of the best are ones I’ve read before. Oh, and the reason it’s only four books? Four words: Too busy to live.

Here you go:

How to Build a Girl by Caitlin Moran. This book came out in September, and I read it in October. Today, I still think of the main character and wonder what she’s up to. The publisher’s description says: “Imagine The Bell Jar — written by Rizzo from Grease.” I think that’s fairly spot on. The writing is lovely and poignant and provides so much to think about beneath the surface of the story. The storytelling is excellent; one of those rare instances where a character-driven novel, with no real driving plot, makes me can’t wait to turn the page. It’s a coming-of-age story about a young British girl, and I usually have issues with coming-of-age stories where the character’s voice feels far older than than the fictional age. But Moran makes this one work. And work oh so well. I laughed out loud repeatedly, which is always a good sign. (It should definitely have an “R” rating, though, so be ready for some shagging and fagging, as they say in the UK, and a rather overly descriptive scene involving a man named Big Al.)

Where Rivers Change Direction by Mark Spragg. This is one of those books — a memoir — that left me breathless about 12 years ago. Spragg’s stories beautifully capture a boyhood spent on a ranch in Wyoming and a deep, spiritual connection to animals and the land. Some people think the book is too slow. Too much focus on the landscape and not enough action. And I would agree it’s not a book that you’ll want to plow through. It’s one to be savored in hardcover or paperback. So you can dog-ear those pages and underline those sentences that speak some essential truth that you always knew was out there, but couldn’t put your finger on before. This book will change a small part of you, if you stick with it.

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. My son and I have been reading this classic together, and I’m amazed at his young age, that he’s as into the story as I am. I think I didn’t read this novel for the first time until junior high school. Of course, he loves the idea of sneaking out of school to fish, of trading frogs for a slingshot, and tricking friends and adults on a daily basis. It’s also a great conversation-starter about race issues in America’s past and present. If you haven’t read this in a while, take another look. It’s free as an Amazon Kindle book. And for the record, we don’t say the “N” word out loud in this house, but we do read the original, unedited version.

Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones. This is poet Jones’ debut collection, and it’s moving and touching and oh-so-brilliant. The poems capture tenderness and harshness. They are fierce and hope-filled. The collection has such energy and such a story to tell about the connection between one’s history and one’s identity. Some of the poems are difficult to read, yes. But they hit you somewhere between your heart and your intellect, and that’s somewhere, as a reader, I want to be hit every now and then. This is probably one of the best poetry collections I’ve read in a long time. A sampling of why (from Postapocalyptic Heartbeat):

After ruin,

after shards of glass like misplaced stars,

after dredge,

after the black bite of frost:                you are the after,

you are the first hour in a life without clocks;   the name of whatever

falls from the clouds now is you (it is not rain),

a song in a dead language, an unlit earth, a coast broken–

how was I to know every word was your name?

 

What were your favorites of 2014? Please share in the comments below!

Poetry and Irony

I was looking through some old writing files tonight and found a poem I wrote back in 2003. Sadly, it reminded me of the recent catastrophic flooding folks here in Colorado experienced last month. Isn’t it sad that sometimes everything you know has to be ripped away from you before you can begin to rebuild?

Bed Unmade

Drying, cracking, ribbon like,

a creek bed unvisited

by the very one who owns it.

Aching, looking, a young girl’s search

timelessness, quietness, seeping in.

Rocks and mold, age-old formations,

pebbles between her middle toes,

insects crawling among the lines.

Then rainfall arrived

and arrived, and stayed late;

foaming clay-mud swirls

filling a crisp canvas

and erased the lines

betrayed the ants

silenced the quiet

and swallowed the land,

unmade the bed,

sheets all torn

pillows swimming

only to slip back and taunt again.