“Pray with Bones” to be Published by High Shelf Press in October

I am pleased to learn my poem, “Pray with Bones,” will be published in High Shelf Press, online and in print on October 15th. I work shopped this poem in a class this summer, and must thank my colleagues there.

I’ve always liked this poem, but could not find a home for it for a long time. It is weird–but I admit to liking it. Grief and elephants–how could I not like my own poem?

In a fit of gloominess, I was just about the withdraw ALL my submissions everywhere–to match my mood.

Glad I didn’t. And once again, I hid grief in a poem.

Thanks for reading.

#poetry#amwriting #HighShelfPress

HAIBUN for the (NOT)-SPRING OF 2020

young grain
Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

 

 

Today, the smell of the fresh cut grass reminded me of early spring, when students sit in school and begin to get spring fever. They still have a few months to go before summer break, but they feel the fever deep inside—they need to be outside. What I sometimes would tell them is that we teachers also felt spring fever, and that it is so hard for us to keep teaching adjectives and adverbs, Macbeth and Les Mis, and that we dread the testing season in April because we too need to be outside.

Every head turns to the windows if we hear the roar of that first spring motorcycle, and I have to turn my face away from the students when I hear this, for the gray skirt and muddy boots and salt stained old leather shoes and the puffy coat are just too much to deal with when I need spring as well, but I must say, “Students, settle down. We have to get ready for the big tests coming up.”

This year was the Pandemic spring of 2020, the not-spring. I had planned to write down each day of spring news: what date did the rolled up green open to leaves? What day did the first hint of crepe paper yellow show on the witch hazel? What day did the snow drops bloom? And did the trout lily survive, did the daffodil bulbs make it through the squirrel’s hunt? What’s the earliest date the chipmunks emerge, their metabolisms too fast to survive winter while awake?

 

This year, there was

no spring, only a season

of trying not to breathe.

On Turning the Big 65/ Joy and Grief During the Pandemic

On 7-21-1970, I was walking to work (one hour walk there, one hour walk home…to work two hours…) and thinking, oh man, I have to work until I’m 65? I was flipping burgers, cleaning tables, working with the public.

Folks, I am 65 years old today. To say I am stunned would be true, for how did this happen so quickly?

Wait, there were many long days and nights–but so much went so quickly!

I had a business career and then a teaching career. I am still teaching after retirement and loving it. I am tutoring, writing poetry, and living as well as I can.

***As to grief, picking up a bottle of Aleve yesterday had me crying over my sister. I miss having a sister so much. I would send her or bring her Aleve for she was in pain for so many years. I looked at the long list of things I brought to her and ordered for her and could almost chart her decline that way. At first they would just be gifts or nice things for her apartment. And little by little they became necessities to keep her from excruciating pain. How horrible to live for 40 years in excruciating pain. I’m very sorry that happened to her and I miss her a lot.

Looking back now I can see she knew that her end near and that she had made peace with this.

Towards the last half year of her life, my sister wasn’t able to read, drive, walk sleep. She had a series of agonizing painful days. Towards the very end, she forgot how to use the telephone. She kept losing things such as her phone and would be on the floor for days. She wanted to stay living alone on her own and refused living with anyone else. That was her right. That’s how she wanted it. Adamantly. Still, it was very sad seeing her not able to use the phone, remember her phone number, or even remember that if she touched the number on her phone screen she could dial her number. She got very afraid at the end because she knew she couldn’t remember things. We think it was brain cancer or loss of oxygen to the brain.

My sister was not very compliant with hospice wishes. She wanted to live on her terms and then die. And that’s what she did.

Still, she did manage to go out for coffee one last time and flirt with the wait staff. She wanted one more Christmas holiday but that was not to be, so I will make sure to celebrate for the both of us.

And life goes on on my end. I’m retired but still teaching. Tutoring. Writing poetry.

I am now the age she was when she passed away last year and I will soon be older than my older sister ever was.I know it was horrible pain for her at the end especially, but I miss my sister very much.

(Photo taken by me at the Chicago Windows, the Art Institute of Chicago, artist Marc Chagall.)

Sometimes, Poems/ A Grandfather with his Grandchildren

800px-The_Favorite_by_Georgios_Iakovidis    Sometimes, Poems

Perhaps it was his apology to his children, after all, his gentleness with and joyful love for his grandchildren.

Or perhaps it was the lessening of pressures due to not having a direct responsibility for the lives of little ones.

Whatever the reason, it helped his children and hurt them at the same time to see what might have been, what they longed for but did not have. While they did not want the grandchildren to have a lesser life with their grandfather, they felt openings, more holes in their own lives witnessing what might have been.

Some holes became filled with bad habits and some remained unfilled like Langston’s open sore, weeping then crusting over, and sometimes exploding. A breakdown. A prayer. An addiction. A hesitance. More holes.

And sometimes, poems.

 

Image in the public domain, The Favorite – Grandfather and Grandson, by Georgios Jakobides (1890)

Sparrows and Specular Poems–Just for Fun

Image result for sparrow images creative commons Attempts at specular poems, and yes, I probably need to leave the sparrows alone. They appear too often in my poetry; however, I do love sparrows since they STAY ALL WINTER and provide some color, sound, movement even during the dull dreariness of November, December, January, and February.

Specular poems are a form where halfway through the lines repeat themselves in a mirrored order.

Image of the American Tree Sparrow from the Creative Commons.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

 

“Not Sleep” Published in Cagibi, a Literary Place

Since my sister died last month, I’ve been re-experiencing grief in different ways than when grief last visited.  Before, I was filled with sadness.  Now, I am experiencing sadness, but also regret and dread.  I think of what a cliche comparing depression to having a black cloud hanging over your head, but that image is strong with me now.

I am older now than when the others died so quickly, one after another after another, 15 years older.  And my sister and I had a complicated relationship. We were estranged for some years, as is common in families where the abusive parent tries to keep the siblings apart by telling lies about each other and sewing discord.  Nevertheless, my sister and I found ourselves to become much loved dear friends for most of our lives.  We were such different people, but we shared a long history of trauma and grief, but also humor, laughing, and a love of nature.  After my sister had her children, who are now in their 40s, we became dear friends.

Fifteen years ago I wrote more poetry than ever, as I converted grief into words.  I wrote about divorce, break ups,winter, sicknesses, illnesses, aging.  I had to warn my husband that divorce was code for grief, as I could not write about death then.

It was a time of great creativity, and looking back, I can feel that grief again–a purer type of grief, perhaps, since those lost then were never other than positive in my life, family and friends who shared only positive emotions in my life.

One of the poems I started writing back then, “Not Sleep,” I finished much later and have recently had published in Cagibi, a Literary Place.

NOT SLEEP PUBLISHED IN CAGIBI

 

I do like this poem, and could only write it many months after the death of my mother.  I could return to it then only years later.

I wonder how my sister’s death will affect my poetry writing.  I would give up writing poetry forever if I could have her alive again and healthy and happy, but that cannot happen.  Writing about her would be very difficult, for we had a complicated relationship.

I felt sorry for her.  I pitied her sometimes.  I had great sympathy for her suffering.  I loved her, and felt I understood many of the seemingly unfathomable things she did to drive others away.  I wasn’t married to her, was not raised by her–we had the relationship of peers who reacted to our shared traumas in very different ways.  I found her very brave.

I am still too raw to talk much about her or write much about her, since she has only been gone a month.  We are entering winter weather already here and it’s dark so much of the day.  All these, blended with a recent injury and job change have me a bit bewildered at times and needing to step back, check my thinking, and affirm this: although I sometimes feel great dread lately, that does not make things dreadful.  I need to question my automatic feelings and force myself to perceive, love, enjoy the many beauties in life.

My husband asked me the other day if I am feeling mortal; yes, I told him, that’s a great way to put it. No matter what, my sister is still dead.  No matter how many times I pick up the phone to call her, she’s still dead.  No matter how many times I think I want to tell her something, she is still dead.   No matter how many times I think of something that could have made her last months better, she is still dead.  No matter how angry or sad, outraged or fearful, she is still dead. No matter how much regret I feel for things I should have done or should have done differently with my sister, she is still dead.

Mortal, yes.  Feeling very mortal, which has also prompted me to clean closets, read books, write poetry again, sign up for a class.  If I feel I need to turn on ALL of the lights at home, I do so.  If I want pumpkin pancakes, I get them.  I am pushing myself to exercise more, for I know good health is so important to loving life.  I am resisting the urge to get another job, because I have recognized that long term, this gift of time off is a precious gift.

What will I do with my life?  It’s exciting yet scary to imagine! Sometimes I envision myself staying in bed, jaws clenched, covers pulled over my head, in some dramatic made for TV movie of the week about death and depression.  Other times I think–April will come again, chorus frogs will return, I’ll get that storage room cleaned out, I’ll read another great novel, I will make new friends and develop new skills and wonder.

*   *   *

 

Thanks for reading.  Interesting how I can be succinct when writing poetry, such as “Not Sleep,” while I am so wordy with prose.

And a Literary Journal Survives… Phew

Addendum: I am pleased Coffin Bell Journal IS publishing again.  Always glad when literary journals survive.  It can be read here: Coffin Bell.

two red candles beside plant in pot

  Two LOVELY journals I was published in during the last year have closed their internet doors/ sites. I am sad about this, for each brought a different  point of view to the world. One was very political and one was very psychological. Sad about this, but hoping their words last out there.

Good bye (for now?) to Tuck Magazine and Coffin Bell. The first published some of my political poetry and the second a feminist poem disguised as a horror story.

Writing Sideways Poems/ “Where You Are Not” in Esthetic Apostle

Back in 2001-2005,  I suffered the loss of several loved ones, both families and friends.  Before then, I sometimes marveled how I had not experienced the death of anyone I cared about and I was nearly 50 then.  I knew that would end, and it did as friends died from freak accidents (falling on ice in a church parking lot and having a bone fragment reach the bloodstream–RIP Ruth) to dying while sleeping and choking (RIP Earl), to the death of my godmother from heart disease, my mother from dementia from a terrible head injury to my father to a stroke he suffered while we were on the phone–and so on.

All of this emotional and body memory is being resurfaced by the death of my only sister last week.  I remember grief, what it feels like (shock, anger, grief, disbelief, pain), what it tastes like (tears), what it sounds like (choking, crying, silence). And then the permanence, the inability to touch the loved one anymore.

I wrote a lot of poetry about grief before then because of childhood losses that did not involve death, during this time, and afterwards, for my sister was diagnosed with terminal illnesses, one after the other after the other.  She lived an amazing 15 years after the first terminal diagnosis–truly amazing.

But I rarely wrote directly about the one who died, except for about my best friend Susan who died young, before age 40, from colon cancer.  We were such close friends I was shattered.  When someone told me I should get over it, I snapped and wrote a very harsh poem titled NOTOVERIT, full of profanities.

You may have heard that writers used everything in their life to write, and that is true of me, but not in a direct fashion. I write sideways poems.

Sideways?  I usually wrote about the death of a spouse or a divorce, telling my dear husband it was how I could deal with the grief, to write about it sideways, obliquely.  Since we are still married, he just gave a puzzled look.  But it helped me to write about grief in a way others could understand without battering me further.

This poem, “Where You are Not,” was written to explore the empty feeling of not being able to touch, to feel, to see the loved one anymore. I am blessed to have my spouse with me in my daily life, but grief is grief I think, and while I could not yet write about the many others since they came too close together, I could fictionalize my losses and take poetic license.

I really appreciate Esthetic Apostle for publishing this poem in their June 2019 issue.

where you are not poetry at esthetic apostle June 2019

 

 

“Three Month Sentence” to be Published Tomorrow in The Esthetic Apostle

Capture I am pleased that my poem, “The Three Month Sentence,” will be published in The Esthetic Apostle tomorrow.  I will post the link to the published poem after that day.

But for now, these are some of the words from the poem; I do need to let the journal publish the complete poem first.  But…

We had not wrapped nights
in tender sighs under stars.
Our nights
were wasted in worry.

Thank you for reading.

Laura