Friday, July 10, 2020

Poetry Friday: It's a Party at Ruth's Place!



Ruth, at There is No Such Thing as a God-forsaken Town is hosting the Poetry Friday party today and she's focusing on — you guessed it — parties. 

I miss parties. 

Well, I didn't actually go to a lot of parties pre-COVID. My INFJ/Enneagram 4/Melancholic/Introverted self didn't exactly seek them out on a regular basis. But, hey. I miss having the option to go to a party. I miss having a few people over for dinner. And mostly, I'm sad that we didn't get to throw the big bash we'd planned for Ramona, who graduated from our homeschool this year.

It would have been the kind of party that John Brandi sums up in this haiku. I can imagine our most beloved friends and family: meaning to leave, but lingering, having one more beer, just another glass of wine, a few more minutes of talk and laughter, moments that stretch into a few more hours.

We'll have that party for Ramona someday.

In the meantime, friends, there's poetry.

Thursday, July 02, 2020

Poetry Friday: "I, Too" by Langston Hughes



I, Too
by Langston Hughes

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.
They send me to eat in the kitchen
When company comes,
But I laugh,
And eat well,
And grow strong.

Tomorrow,
I’ll be at the table
....
(Read the rest here, at The Poetry Foundation.)

~~~~~~~~~~



Friday, June 19, 2020

Poetry Friday: A Small Needful Fact, by Ross Gay




A Small Needful Fact
by Ross Gay


Is that Eric Garner worked
for some time for the Parks and Rec.
Horticultural Department, which means,...


(Karen here ... it's such a short poem that I can't share much without violating copyright, so let's jump to the final lines, which are heart-wrenchingly — again, and again, and again, and again, and again — relevant.) 

... like converting sunlight
into food, like making it easier
for us to breathe.

(Read the whole thing here.)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Friday, June 05, 2020

Poetry Friday: Lucille Clifton


As per usual, I couldn't decide what I wanted to post this week. (I guess I'm a mood-poster. I'm a mood reader, too, which is why I never do well with "book challenges" or other people's reading lists.)

Late last night, I picked up the Anne Lamott book Atticus gave me for my birthday. 2018's Almost Everything: Notes on Hope opens with Lucille Clifton's poem, "blessing the boats," followed by the words, "I am stockpiling antibiotics for the apocalypse, even as I await the blossoming of paperwhites on the windowsill in the kitchen."

And I knew I had my poem for this week. Thank you, Lucille Clifton; thank you, Anne Lamott.


blessing the boats 
by Lucille Clifton

(at St. Mary’s)

may the tide
that is entering even now
the lip of our understanding
carry you out
beyond the face of fear
....

(Read the whole short and perfect poem here, at Poets.org.)

~~~~~~~~~~

Margaret is hosting the round-up this week at Reflections on the Teche.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Poetry Friday: Billy Collins and John O'Donnell


I was in the mood for some Billy Collins so I went in search of my hero. 
He mentioned a poem called "When," by John O'Donnell
so obviously I now have to share that with you. 
So, what was going to be a Billy Collins post is still 
a Billy Collins post, but now it's Billy+. 
Plus a little heart-wrenching, but that's Poetry Friday in a pandemic. 

(The transcript of the interview is here.)


When

And when this ends we will emerge, shyly
and then all at once, dazed, longhaired as we embrace
loved ones the shadow spared, and weep for those
it gathered in its shroud. A kind of rapture, this longed-for 
....
(Read the rest here.) 


~~~~~~~~~~

Carol Varsalona is hosting the round-up at Beyond LiteracyLink

Friday, May 08, 2020

Poetry Friday: Instructions on Not Giving Up, by Ada Limón


I felt this way last week: the sudden greening of the trees, spring's sneaky way of springing itself on me. There's always a day, every year, when a sudden burst or bloom makes me catch my breath. 
A beautiful and needed promise. 

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
....

(Read the whole thing here, at Poets.org.)

~~~~~~~~~~

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes has the round-up this week at Today's Little Ditty

Thursday, April 30, 2020

Poetry Friday: Time, by Janet Norris Bangs


I don't know about you, but — well, yes, actually, I do know about you. I suspect you're a lot like me regarding time these days. We're all in this together and we're all experiencing time in similar and discordant ways, yes?

My time, your time, the concept of time, the passing of time, the tyranny of time, the luxury of time, the burden and the gift of time.

And somehow Janet Norris Bangs' short poem, which appeared in the February, 1933 issue of Poetry magazine is a perfectly appointed reflection on the paradoxes of Time in the time of coronavirus.





~~~~~~~~~~



Photo credit: Jordan Benton

Thursday, April 16, 2020

The Coronavirus Diaries: Bits and Pieces of Our Days

* I have no idea what day of social distancing we're on.

* I guess you could say ours started on March 7th, when Betsy was diagnosed with influenza A. Since she has asthma and a compromised immune system, we all rallied to start our social distancing before social distancing was a thing here. (All I could think was, "Is Covid-19 here, in our town? How disastrous could it be for Betsy if she contracted that on top of the flu?") By March 12, she needed to go back to the clinic. I went with her, and as we approached the front door, I had one of those moments. You've had those moments, too. The moments when you felt the seismic shift? Like you're now living in a movie you didn't want to see? On the door of the clinic was a sign that hadn't been there just two days before when I'd taken Ramona in for an influenza test. (Yeah, she had it, too.) The new sign told us to STOP. Call ahead if a cough is present. Wear a mask. Because I knew Betsy was dealing with influenza, we went in anyway. Should I have done that? I don't know. Shift.

* The first shift I remember was when Atticus and I went to Costco the day before Betsy got sick with the flu. March 6th. The employees were furiously wiping down carts at the entrance and I thought, "This feels weird. It's not really even here in Nebraska yet, is it?" It felt important, though, to stock up on a few things. They still had toilet paper at our Costco, but they were running low. Seeing Costco running out of things? A shift.

* It turns out that March 6 was the day the first Nebraska case was confirmed.

* I can't even remember what day it was in the midst of all this — early on — when I was at Target, thinking, "Maybe I should grab a bottle of hand sanitizer. We might be a little low." (Gone. Nothing. But you knew that.) I saw a man wandering back and forth, in and out of the aisle that normally held Purell or Germ-X. He looked bewildered. As I picked up a bottle of liquid soap, I said, "Washing with soap and water is better than hand sanitizer anyway." He looked grateful but disoriented.

* It's disorienting to have the ground shift beneath your feet. Especially the familiar ground of Target, which is supposed to feel so safe and mundane. 

* We're watching Lost with Ramona.

* We all feel lost sometimes. Other days are better.

* Some days I wish I had started a daily diary from Day 1 but I'm just not capable of that right now. It's not how I process, however much I wish it were. Sometimes I need to retreat, be silent for a time. Some days I need to journal about gratitude, other days I need to journal about fear. But I'm not doing either one every single day.

* I try to read, but it's hard for me to concentrate on a book. How did Sawyer concentrate on all those books he read on the beach?

* Working from home is such a blessing and a gift right now. I am so grateful to be a freelancer and also to work for Brave Writer. My work contacts and colleagues and students are a gift to me, now and always.

* I'm grateful for Zoom, and for my friend introducing me to the Marco Polo app.

* I'm grateful for all the people who are still working, providing us with groceries, trash pick-up, mail delivery, boxes from UPS and Fed Ex.

* My girls recently asked what I'll look forward to the most when things are "normal" again, when we can go wherever we want to go. I couldn't really even think of a specific place. It was more of a desire for a feeling. I want to feel like I can run to Target when the only thing I need is dishwashing soap or some Advil. I want to stop in at the store for lettuce. I want the whole world to not have to think about toilet paper. I want everyone to know how brave health care workers are, as well as grocery store clerks and mail carriers. I want people to care about people who are less fortunate than themselves ... people with asthma, and compromised immune systems, people who are in their 60s, people who might die from something that 80% of the population doesn't have to worry about. I want people to stop saying that we should just let this thing run its course so that herd immunity will handle it. Herd immunity might be the ultimate goal, but mass graves being dug in New York tell us that herd immunity doesn't happen overnight. I want decent, compassionate, human, federal leadership. I want to know that everyone believes that every human life is valuable and precious.

* I have no idea how many days of social distancing we have left. But I know that I will do whatever I have to do to protect the people I love, and people I don't even know, and people who are invisibly vulnerable. Because that's what decent human people do.

* It's disorienting to have the ground shift beneath your feet. But regaining balance is what human beings do. We just need to shift our weight a little. We can do this. We can shift.


Thursday, April 02, 2020

The Coronavirus Diaries: Shelter in Poems

Poets.org is hosting the "Shelter in Poems" project:
This National Poetry Month, we ask our readers to share a poem that helps to find courage, solace, and actionable energy, and a few words about how or why it does so. As responses continue to arrive from across the globe, we invite you to continue sharing poems from our Poets.org collection on social media with the hashtag #ShelterInPoems or by writing to us at shelter@poets.org. Whether you’re writing in or tagging to us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, we will select some of your responses to feature on this special Shelter in Poems page. 

I've always taken shelter in the poetry of Richard Wilbur, so today I'm sharing "The Beautiful Changes",  especially for these lines:

... the beautiful changes   
In such kind ways,   
Wishing ever to sunder
Things and things’ selves for a second finding, to lose   
For a moment all that it touches back to wonder.


The beautiful changes.

What's beautiful to me in these strange days are the moments that show me the best of humanity. I would not have predicted, only a month ago, that I'd cry over the beauty of a man giving away toilet paper and hand sanitizer, and over the beauty of a young man who, despite the sign, still knocked and made sure it was okay to take some. I love both of these men.





These are days "for a second finding" of what is beautiful, days that can take us back to wonder with the realization that we can be good to one another, take care of one another, and live our lives for one another.

~~~~~


Friday, March 27, 2020

Poetry Friday: Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye


There is so much fear, dread, and uncertainty in the world right now (and so much ugliness in the form of cavalier disregard for "the only ones") but I have seen — I'm sure you have, too — so much kindness, too.

So, Naomi Shihab Nye's "Kindness" seemed fitting for today.

Kindness
by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,

(Read the rest here, at Poets.org.)


A couple of bears who are hanging out in our dining room window, ready to wave to passersby. 
#GoingOnABearHunt

~~~~~~~~~~

The round up this week is being hosted by the incomparable Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Bits and Pieces of Our Days: Starting the Coronavirus Diaries

Saturday night we would have gone to Mass, as per usual. Then, on Sunday, we would have been on the road to see Dear Evan Hansen, which my girls and I had been looking forward to for months.

Those were the plans. Before everything started to shift.

At a certain point, when a few things had been canceled and toilet paper was getting scarce, I knew I'd have to be the bad guy, the one who suggested that we not go to an event as packed as a Broadway show. Not a wise move for a family with people in high-risk categories. But just a couple of days after I had that thought, the theater canceled the Dear Evan Hansen run. I didn't have to be the bad guy. The virus is the bad guy.

So here we all are, hunkered down together, working from home, teaching from home, taking French class from home. Nothing feels normal (as I know you all know.)

What did the past weekend look like instead of Broadway and Mass?

Well, I worked, of course. (I feel lucky to already work from home. I will never take it for granted again.) I'm in the midst of The Writer's Jungle Online, one of the Brave Writer classes I teach. (I'll be teaching another one in April. The writing must go on!) I listened to a talk by a priest I'm working with on a book. I mailed some essentials to a friend. I walked the dog. We had to call a plumber on Saturday morning because a bundle of roots somewhere out there chose this weekend to cause a back-up in the bathroom. I turned to God, Atticus, and podcasts whenever I was feeling too anxious. My daughters baked a gluten-free chocolate cake. We had an art session together, and watched an episode of Gilmore Girls.

Because all public Masses have been canceled, we were home on Sunday. It's a sacrifice to not be able to receive the Eucharist, but the Church absolutely made the right decision in light of this public health crisis. And it's a sacrifice that I willingly make for my daughter, my parents, and so many other people who fall into vulnerable categories. (I don't want to become a silent carrier. What if I am right now?) "No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends." And I will willingly lay down my own spiritual comfort and the sustenance I receive from the Eucharist for the sake of my daughter and others.

(I keep forgetting that technically at our ages Atticus and I also fall into the "Stay home, you're vulnerable" category. I'd like to think that his half-marathons and my efforts to take care of myself put us in the "strong, healthy" category, but who knows?)

So, on Sunday we all gathered around the kitchen table and Atticus read the Mass readings for the fourth Sunday of Lent to us. John 9:1-41 is the story of the man born blind. I've written before about the significance of this story for Atticus and me. And as he was reading, he choked up, and couldn't quite finish. Anne-with-an-e took over the reading.

"One thing I do know is that I was blind and now I see.”

I was a little breathless at the scene before me. My husband, filled with gratitude for the gift of his faith, our eldest daughter stepping in to read a wondrous bit of beauty for her dad.

Then I reminded our girls  that before his conversion, their father had thought that he'd like to take the name of the man born blind as his Confirmation name. I don't think anyone spoke for a moment.

Then I was in tears. So many memories flooding over me, so much beauty and so much pain over the years of our marriage, our conversions, our commitments and re-commitments to one another, our newfound commitments to a God who was once a stranger to us both.

And so, on this Sunday, when church buildings everywhere were closed, God lavished graces on five little people sitting around a kitchen table in a small town in Nebraska.

"The Gospel of the Lord," says the priest.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ, the people reply.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Big weekend plans? Oh, you're staying home? Me, too. Because we're all in this together.

As I recently said on Facebook:

When people say, "This coronavirus hysteria is silly," or, "Healthy people don't need to worry, the only ones who will die are old people or those with underlying conditions," I kind of want to scream. It appears to be true that healthy people will probably not suffer much from Covid-19. But the people who could suffer greatly or die from complications? Those who are immunocompromised, have chronic illness, heart disease, lung conditions including asthma, those who have diabetes, and the elderly. There are people in my life -- people I love with all my heart -- who have these conditions or are elderly. "The only ones." No human being is an "only one" and no one's life should be so casually dismissed. So please, if you are healthy, do all that you can to help keep vulnerable populations safe. The vulnerable population is sitting right next to you.
And some of that vulnerable population is right here in my house. It is of the utmost importance that as many of us as possible stay home as much as possible.

Here are a few things we found this week that can help:


A few things to do:

50 free classes at Creativebug

Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems

Browse the Metropolitan Museum of Art or visit the National Gallery of Art or the Musee d'Orsay

There are nightly Met Opera streams.

Take a virtual tour of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History

Animals! Live Cams at the San Diego Zoo



Reading for free: 

I love the Libby app, which I use through my local library.

Get 30 days free at Scribd.



Do you homeschool? Or do you currently have your kids at home? 

Free ideas from Brave Writer

Homebound: free, online conference, co-hosted by Julie Bogart and Susan Wise Bauer (March 23-27)!


If you're anything like me: 

Reading some of the many, many, many, many books in my home library that I've been meaning to get to.

Watch Gilmore Girls with my girls (because Ramona hasn't seen it all yet. It's been an ongoing group watch for some time now. We're on Season 5, but we might get further faster in the days and weeks to come....)

Getting outside for walks. It snowed last night and it was cold today, but I'll be back at it tomorrow.

Stay tuned for this work-in-progress. Working title: "One Day at a Time."

Poetry Friday: The Peace of Wild Things


I haven't shared this one for a while, but it's definitely time to share it again. Wishing you peace, friends.

The Peace of Wild Things 
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
....

(Read the rest here.)

~~~~~~~~~~





Thursday, February 27, 2020

Poetry Friday: February 29 by Jane Hirschfield


Last week I was quite insensitive to poor February, complaining and griping and generally being indifferent to its potential charms. So, this week I'm making it up to the month that so many of us love to hate.

My peace offering is this lovely poem from Jane Hirshfield, "February 29." There is, after all, something magical about the gift of an extra day every four years. February 29th is the Brigadoon of days, and even I, with my callous disrespect for a month that can't help being what it is, can appreciate what is ephemeral about it.

~~~~~~~~~~

An excerpt from

February 29
by Jane Hirshfield

...

An extra day—

With a second cup of black coffee.
A friendly but businesslike phone call.
A mailed-back package.
Some extra work, but not too much—
just one day’s worth, exactly.

(Read the whole thing here, at Poets.org.)

If you'd like to know more about Poetry Friday, here's the scoop

~~~~~~~~~~

I'm hosting this week!
Mr. Linky awaits your poetic offerings.
And unlike Brigadoon, he won't disappear after 24 hours.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Poetry Friday: Oh, February



Oh, February.

You have a terrible but well-deserved reputation. You are the longest shortest month; we all complain about you. You're the insufferable supervisor who constantly calls unnecessary meetings that drag on hours after everything that needed to be said was said. We can't wait for you to adjourn.

If you're having that kind of February, check out Jill Osier's "February."  It captures the essence of the month perfectly. My favorite lines:

Oh, I am sick. I fade, I fall, 
I curse this month, all it wants 

to be. Its lot is the same 
each time, unthawed.

Honestly, though, I can't complain much about our February this year. (And yet I do.) February 2020 is, overall, warmer than normal (if you don't count that -4 degree reading yesterday morning, and you ignore averaging.) There's only a week and a day of it left (not that I'm counting.) And at least Ash Wednesday didn't fall on Valentine's Day this year. (There's always something to be said for that.)

Still.

It's almost over, thank goodness, other than that tricky extra day next weekend. (It seems a cruelty to tack an extra day onto February, of all months, doesn't it? Whose warped idea was that anyway? Why don't we get an extra day in June??)

I'm reminded of a February haiku I wrote years ago:

February fades,
Like a guest who stayed too long.
Shut the door, and sigh.

Just one more week! (And a day.)

~~~~~~~~~~