May 19th Workshop – A Poem by Rita Dove

Please join us on Wednesday May 19th at 3pm Pacific / 6pm Eastern for a close reading, discussion and writing exercise on a poem by former poet laureate Rita Dove

Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.

I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on.  – Rita Dove

To register (no charge) click on the Register link at the top of this blog.

 

4/21/21 Workshop – Two Readings from “13 Suits: A Mother’s Monologues”

First Christmas: A Paradox

MOTHER

Christmas tree… decorated by neighbors and friends. Christmas cards… not sent… sympathy cards received. Christmas decorations… a garland of tears… wreaths with red bows… in a cemetery.

Christmas lights… offer only shadows in my darkness. Christmas music… mocking me, making me cry…I am out of tissues.

Christmas flowers… funeral arrangements refusing to die. Christmas cookies… made by sweet mothers.

Christmas candles… will be lit in church with a prayer… in memory.

Christmas dinner… that was a joke takeout pizza on paper plates.

Oh but the Christmas gift for Maura… Patrick’s gold chain… links to his love for his sister.

Christmas gift for Patrick… bought before… given to his

friend.

Christmas gifts for Michael, Jenni, the grandkids…

exchanged with melancholy.

He will “Be Home for Christmas… only in my dreams.”

On St. Nicholas Day… when we celebrate generosity and compassion.

“Through the years, we all will be together.”

No. We won’t.

Year after year my family will not be together.

My emotions are too fragile…I am too fragile to go to church much less sing festive hymns about ‘Joy to the World’ and ‘Come All Ye Faithful.’ Christmas Mass would only add to my heartache.

I cry by myself in the bathroom so nobody will hear my despair.

Merry Christmas. No. No it is not.

I’m just trying to get through this endless day… pretending with forced fake smiles for the benefit of my grandkids.

I think they know of my charade.

Tragedy, loss and sadness are the lyrics of my life during

what should be the “most wonderful time of the year”…

As the world waits for peace on earth to be born once more…

my son died. Alone.

May he now “sleep in heavenly peace,” singing forever among

the heralding angels.

 

Reflective writing prompt: Write about the lyrics in your life

 

New Year’s Eve – One Year Later

I can’t believe it has been a year without my son,

days threaded together on a calendar of heartache,

I know this year will be anything but happy.

Friends hover close,

keeping me company, easing my endless sorrow.

I will share dinner with my close circle – Italian food, did you know it was his favorite?

For me eating has become merely mechanical.

Only grace sustains me

in these deep trenches of anguish that seem without end.

My New Year resolve is to do

what I need to do to care for my shattered self,

or else, I will surely die from the grief cascading through me.

Early bedtime, covered with his New England Patriots blanket,

tossing and turning, praying, crying, tormented until sleep overcomes my

perennial exhaustion.

When I wake in tangled up covers, greeted by glimmers of morning hope

I know I made it through one more haunted night,

while the enormity of an entire new year beckons before me.

Another year without my son,

days threaded together on a calendar of heartache

will be anything but happy.

 

Reflective writing prompt: Write about what sustains you

 

 

4/7/21 Workshop – A Poem by Ada Limón

Instructions on Not Giving Up

by Ada Limón

More than the fuchsia funnels breaking out
of the crabapple tree, more than the neighbor’s
almost obscene display of cherry limbs shoving
their cotton candy-colored blossoms to the slate
sky of Spring rains, it’s the greening of the trees
that really gets to me. When all the shock of white
and taffy, the world’s baubles and trinkets, leave
the pavement strewn with the confetti of aftermath,
the leaves come. Patient, plodding, a green skin
growing over whatever winter did to us, a return
to the strange idea of continuous living despite
the mess of us, the hurt, the empty. Fine then,
I’ll take it, the tree seems to say, a new slick leaf
unfurling like a fist to an open palm, I’ll take it all.

3/24/21 Workshop – A Poem by Simon J. Ortiz

Storming Toward a Precipice

A diesel freight truck
roars toward us.
A precipice is no mirage
for its metal plunge.
It is headlong nevertheless.
“It carries its own storm,”
I say dryly, feeling
my tongue wet my lips.
Trapped steel storming,
the faint line just so,
just inches
just split time,
just nothing more
than luck keeps us alive.
The mirage of metal storming
is a precipice, no mirage.

Reflective writing prompt: Write about a time you dodged a bullet.

 

 

 

3/10/21 Workshop – A Poem by Meg Day

 

Another Night at Sea Level

– Meg Day

On the third day, I wrote to you

about the sky, its elastic way

of stretching so ocean-wide

that the only way to name it

was to compare it to Montana’s.

Lately, the sky is a ceiling

I wake to: broad & blank

& stubborn, stiff at the edges

like a fever cloth wrung out

& gone cold in the night, damp

with the wicking of latent ache.

But tonight I was walking

home along the coastline

& caught the huge moon

in my throat. There’s a man

somewhere on the planet

who has been to that moon,

who has stepped out of that sky,

& will never sleep the same

because of it. Will always be

sad or feel small, or wonder

how it is a person can be

a person, if being a person

is worrying about things;

whose eyes cannot see

what things are, but only

the slightness of them.

I think of writing to you

in this way—welcoming

the adventure of it—

& of being wrecked

Reflective writing prompt: Write about a time you welcomed an adventure

2/25/21 Workshop – Live Reading by Joy Cutler

My Beshert, or the Curse of the Stolen Potatoes (an excerpt) 

By Joy Cutler

It started on my 38th birthday. It’s raining buckets. It’s raining cats and dogs. It’s raining so hard that it’s raining buckets of cats and dogs. It’s also the day I have an appointment with a nephrologist to find out when I have to start dialysis. I might be the most pissed off person in New York City.

Coming out of the subway station I battle with my umbrella, the rain and wind join forces to attack my defenseless body, which is no way to treat the BIRTHDAY GIRL! Fuckshitgoddamnit!! My crappy black umbrella turns inside out, flips over and tries to escape down W. 66th St like a crow with a broken wing. When I catch up with it I wrestle it down to the ground and smack its pointy end on the sidewalk to teach it a lesson. Thwack! By the time I find the dialysis clinic I’m a sopping wet mess. The clinic is in the same building as the Alvin Ailey Dance Company’s rehearsal studios. As I soggily squelch my way towards the dialysis entrance I see gorgeous, young dancers smoking cigarettes while standing under a bouquet of colorful well-behaved umbrellas, their hands held in elegant poses as they talk. A dancer pliés as she smokes, her fuchsia umbrella bobbing up and down. Another dancer grabs his right foot and in one quick movement, swoosh!, lifts his leg above his head holding the pose as he exhales. They’re so damn perfect. I hope they all get emphysema.

(shouts) ”Don’t you know you’re mortal, you stupid idiots?”

No, I am not in a good mood.

I push the elevator button. When the elevator arrives an older guy in workman overalls gets on with me. He watches as I push “B” for the basement.

“Dialysis?”

I can’t believe he’d ask me something so personal, but I tell him the truth, “Not yet.”

The elevator lets out an arthritic groan and continues its painfully slow descent. Silence. My elevator companion pipes up.

“Hey, I just did a plumbing job at Charlton Heston’s apartment. And you know what? He’s a very nice person.”

In a voice as flat as a flattened flatworm I say, “That’s fantastic news. (big sigh) It’s my birthday today.”

I don’t know why I tell him that.

The elevator lets out a terrifying belch and stops. The door opens. I can see tired-looking dialysis patients lying on recliners with what looks like red tubing between each person’s arm and the churning squat machine next to them. Oh. Right. The tubing isn’t red, that’s their blood flowing towards the machine. Gross.

My elevator companion waves as I step out. “Happy birthday! And good luck!”

If the door hadn’t closed right then I’d have grabbed the screwdriver off his tool belt and thrown it at his head. Happy birthday my ass. This has to be the worst birthday of my entire life. Even though my kidneys are trying really hard to keep up with all their jobs, I’m exhausted. Lab tests confirm what my body knows already– walking more than a few blocks makes it hard to breathe, I’ve got anemia because my bone marrow stopped making enough red blood cells, my brain feels fogged in, it’s hard to sleep, my blood pressure is elevated and I hardly pee anymore which is just plain weird. I would love to hate this disease for doing this to my faithful kidneys, but I just can’t. Alport Syndrome is a part of who I am and I can’t hate it without hating myself too and I have enough crap to deal with without that. Right now I want to turn around, go home and watch Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood where no one has dying kidneys. I want Fred Rogers to wrap me up in his cardigan and sing to me and I don’t even like Mr. Rogers. My mother’s right – this is all her fault.

Reflective writing prompt: Write about your beshert.

 

2/10/21 Workshop – A Poem by Lucille Clifton

Fred and Lucille Clifton

_________

the death of fred clifton – Lucille Clifton

11/10/84

age 49

i seemed to be drawn

to the center of myself

leaving the edges of me

in the hands of my wife

and i saw with the most amazing

clarity

so that i had not eyes but

sight,

and, rising and turning,

through my skin,

there was all around not the

shapes of things

but oh, at last, the things

themselves.

 

Reflective writing prompt: Write about a time of clarity

1/21/21 Workshop – A Song by Sekou Sundiata

Forsaken Sea – Sekou Sundiata

Always go in low tide

                        High tide comes

Always go in low tide

                        High tide comes

We always go it seems

We always go to the ocean

We always go to the ocean at low tide.

 

We could walk

We could walk deep

We could walk deep into the sea and never be

in over our heads.

 

We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

that drowning is for us.

 

High tide comes out of the water the same way

for the last billion years.

There is nothing new.

 

We know when to swim, and when to wait.

We know when to swim, and when to wait.

The waves come in and go back out

                        For the last billion years

                        The ocean still emotional

                        Singing in our ears

                         Always go in

                        Always go in low tide, high tide comes

                        Always go in low tide, high tide comes

                       

 High tide comes out of the water the same way for the last billion years.

There is nothing new.

We know when to swim and when to wait.

In the car

In the car the road

In the car the road murmurs beneath the wheels

The ocean, so emotional, in our ears.

 

We seek without looking

The smallest token, passes and settles

into what music is about, music is about.

 

You could say

You could say we are dancing

And from this one thing we know 10 things

From this one thing we know 10 things

 

We always go in low tide

When high tide comes

 

We always go to the ocean

We always go to the ocean at low tide.

We see without looking at the music the water makes

                                                We know when to swim and we know when to wait

                                                We always go in low tide, high tide comes

                                                Always go at low tide, high tide comes

                                                We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

We do not believe

That drowning is for us.

 

High tide comes out of the water

The same way for the last billion years.

 

Yes, you could say, you could say we are dancing

And from this one thing, we know 10 things.

 

We always go in low tide

High tide comes.

Reflective writing prompt: We do not believe…..

1/13/21 Workshop – A Poem by Noor Hindi

Breaking [News] by Noor Hindi

We’ll wake up, Sunday morning, and read the paper. Read each other. Become
consumers
of each other’s stories, a desperate reaching
for another body’s warmth—its words buoying us through a world. We carry
graveyards on our backs and I’m holding a lightning bug
hostage in one hand, its light dimming in the warmth
of  my fist, and in the other, a pen, to document its death. Isn’t that terrible?
I’ll ask you, shutting my fist once more.
In interviews, I frame my subject’s stories through a lens to make them digestible
to consumers.
I  become a machine. A transfer of information. They  become a plea for empathy,
an oversaturation of feelings we’ll fail at transforming into action.
What’s lost is incalculable.
           And at the end of  summer, the swimming pools will be gutted of  water.
          And it’ll be impossible to swim.
Reflective writing prompt: Write about something lost