Happy Friday, Poetry Friends! In spite of but also because of all the dire and drastic news from around the world, I wish for you tiny moments of respite, such as the ones we’ve been blessed with recently when the hummingbird comes to the zinnias and sweet peas in our garden.
If you’re up for a challenge, here’s what the Poetry Peeps are working on for next Friday.
Ten Beautiful Things by Molly Beth Griffin illustrated by Maribel Lechuga Charlesbridge, 2020 review copy via the public library
FIRST THE PICTURE BOOK Lily doesn’t want to live in Iowa with her grandmother, but as they drive, they play a game where they try to find ten beautiful things, which brings them home. I love that this book doesn’t explain why Lily needs to live with her grandmother, and it doesn’t even get them inside the front door at the end, so we don’t know for sure what her new life will be like in Iowa. This is very much a book about focusing on the present, and mindfully finding beauty around us, in spite of what might be going on inside us.
AND NOW THE POEMPAIR This book with its list of ten beautiful things seemed to want a list poem as its pair. An excellent mentor text for list poems is, of course, FALLING DOWN THE PAGE: A BOOK OF LIST POEMS, ed. Georgia Heard. This poem was inspired by our recent drive from OH to CO and back.
It’s important to remember that the privilege of a road trip has not been/is not now equally accessible. After spending some time enjoying this book, make sure to explore the history of The Green Book, or The Negro Motorist Green Book. This guide was published (starting in 1936) during the Jim Crow era until just after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (in 1967) to give African American travelers a list of safe places to get gas or service, eat a meal, or spend a night. Jim Crow was a system of open and often legal discrimination against African Americans, who were frequently refused by white-owned businesses the selling, servicing, or repairing of their cars (often bought to eliminate the segregation experienced on public transportation). African American travelers were denied food or accommodation, and their safety was at risk in “sundown towns” where there was a possibility of physical violence. The Green Book gave Black travelers the same kind of safe path through the United States (and later abroad) that earlier publications provided for Jewish travelers.
Christie has this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering, along with a FANTASTIC crowd-sourced “Poetry Is” poem (facepalm…I forgot to submit a line).
It’s August, and retirement is getting real. My brain is not filled with thoughts of classroom organization, community building, lesson planning, or safety mandates. And that’s okay. Time to move on to new adventures.
This poem was the first villanelle I attempted in July as I prepared for the Poetry Sisters’ challenge. I used my clunker line from Linda Mitchell (I shake the flame out of my matchstick) but I never intended for it to be a poem about retirement. The best poems are the ones that surprise even the poet, right?
Christie, who has next week’s roundup, is gathering lines for a community “Poetry Is…” poem she’ll post next week. Be sure to check out her post and contribute a line!
The Poetry Sisters’ challenge for this month was to write a villanelle on the theme of dichotomy. Have you ever noticed that villanelle begins with villain (almost)? This is a doozie of a form and the added challenge of a dichotomy…whew! I started one with the repeating lines
In early May, on a whim, I chose zinnia seeds to plant in rows.
I managed to make it all the way through a villanelle with those lines, but it fell apart in revision. Luckily, I wrote several villanelles in July! I’m not sure there’s any clear dichotomy in this one (stormy/sunny?), and I definitely bent the rules a bit with my last line, but I had fun with enjambment!
Check out what the rest of the Poetry Sisters came up with:
Uncle Bob was not my uncle. He was my dad’s cousin, but the closest thing to family we had. He also was not a cowboy, but if you saw his slow, bow-legged saunter, his cowboy hat, his blue jeans and western snap-fasten shirts, that’s what you might think. You wouldn’t know by looking that he was the canniest dry-land farmer in the Great Plains of Eastern Colorado. He was born and raised in the part of Colorado without mountain peaks and rich soil. His landscape was wide and flat and dry. Dirt roads with thistle in the ditches marked the edges of native grassland pasture and wheat fields. Uncle Bob had a deep understanding of the land he farmed, never succumbing to “the grass is greener” mentality of irrigation. He was a dry-land farmer whose harvest depended on the land and the weather. There were good years with enough moisture, and plenty of years with dust devils and tumbleweedsbefore the rain came…or didn’t come. In the summer, many a cumulonimbus cloud appeared on the horizon, only to take its rain elsewhere, but perhaps also its hail. A winter blizzard was a mixed blessing of wind that carried topsoil away and brought moisture that did or didn’t cover the fields to nourish the winter wheat. Uncle Bob secured his success by collaborating with the land and the climate, but he allied with another of the vast natural resources of Eastern Colorado for his final venture — harvesting the wind with graceful lines of enormous turbines.
In my mind, it is night. I stand in the dusty yard where I played as a child, rusty tractors along the fence, the Milky Way a bright smear across the impossibly dark sky. Uncle Bob is in it all — land, sky, and wind.
This prose poem was written in 2019 using cards from “Paint Chip Poetry.” I learned yesterday that Uncle Bob passed away last weekend. I was looking forward to seeing him next week when we’re back home. We’ll drive past the home place and I’ll savor my memories.
Back in May, I learned that one of my poems on YDP (Your Daily Poem) made the cut for 100 chosen as “the best of YDP!”
The collection is titled POEMS TO LIFT YOU UP AND MAKE YOU SMILE. It’s not up on Amazon yet, but can be found at Parson’s Porch & Company. Here’s that poem, which I wrote back in 2012. It kind of describes my day yesterday!
At the end of the day, they agreed: they were both happy. Gathering the right tools, never rushing, paying close attention to all of the details, enjoying the process almost as much as the product. Installing lights or baking a cake. They were both happy at the end of the day.
Can you still call it home if you’ve lived elsewhere longer than all the years you spent growing up there? Can you still call it home if there are no living relatives there, just some boxes in your mom’s friend’s barn? I hope so, because I do.
It’s home because the sidewalk I scuffed along from the back screen door to the little building where my bike was stored is there. The little building that sat in the shade of the ash tree that turns a glorious yellow in the fall. The ash tree that shared the yard with a weeping birch with fronds that grew down to the grass making a cool and shady secret hiding place in the summer. (We cried when that tree had to be cut down. Perhaps the ash tree is gone now, too. I’m not sure I want to know because I remember how much it hurt to see that mom’s iris had been dug up. Will the maple in the front yard be gone?)
I’m going home at the end of the month, and it will be both home and not home in the same way that I am both the child who grew up there and not that child at all. There will be change and constancy, differences and similarities, familiar and unfamiliar. In the wind, I will hear echoes of my mother’s voice and my father’s laugh and on Main Street, I’ll be greeted by people who remember me but whose names I either never knew or can’t remember. And it will be okay. It will all be okay. I will be at home.