Just a Bear in the Woods

Last night I came into bed late, as I often do, and my early- to- bed husband was chuckling, mumbling something to me about dreaming about his best friend Tommy who passed away in 2005. He told me the entire dream from start to finish and I will remember it. My husband was trying to help Tommy get home from the “hospital on the lake in the woods”and his friend kept hiding or getting stuckin a big hollow tree that had fallen down. This friend always had a wry smile on his face and it wasn’t clear to my husband if he was fooling around, being playful like when they were kids, or if Tommy was in some type of danger. Somehow he got stuck in this tree and was all covered with twigs and dirt. My husband was chuckling as he talked about it, for his friend was like a big hairy woodland creature,and I thought of how we process grief in different ways.

My husband is not a talker, and I am. I have talked and written about my grief of losing a number of loved ones, talked about it in therapy grief groups, written about it in my blog, written poems about it. Grief is an ever present companion for me, and I do verbalize it. I sometimes cry, I often talk to my grief.

My husband is very different in that respect. He’s never mentioned his mother, his dear friend, his brother, or any other loved ones who have passed. Not even his father who passed away not too long ago.

Do I dream about any of my loved ones or friends who have left? Rarely. Most of my dreams are still about trying to find a classroom or trying to find my teaching materials or about trying to find time to use the bathroom. (The teaching baggage is left over, even into retirement.). I wonder if other teachers dream about the bathroom!

I’m very touched by my husband’s dream of trying to help his friend in that big log. I’m glad he was able to chuckle about it. His friend did remind me of a big bear in many ways, and I could just see him in a big downed tree covered with leaves and dirt. I can hear his deep voice always making jokes. Tommy was the eldest in a huge family, and was the boss, the elder brother and always had what my husband called a shit-eating grin on his face.

And I wonder how our dreams will be changed by our shelter in place/quarantine of the 2020 pandemic? In the future, will we have many more dreams of hiding, being caught in tight places, of suffocation?

I continue to talk, write, sometimes even cry. My dear husband, the person I love most in this world, dreams about departed friends in big hollow logs covered with leaves, twigs and mud, and chuckling.

Thank you for reading.

(Image from the Siberian Times, public domain)

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

 

 

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

On a day I lost my sister, I received an acceptance of a poem about grief. I will miss my sister more than I can say; we were close in age, spoke most days, and saw each other a lot.

We laughed, we argued, we accused each other of being stubborn.  But always, we loved each other and shared decades together.

The poem, “The Three Month Sentence,” will be published in The Esthetic Apostle on October 13th.  I will post the link to the 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.

 

This was a poem written during another time of grief.

Thank you for reading.

Laura

Brief Bio

laura gym picture    Hello, readers.  I never added a bio here, so–better late than never!

I am a reading specialist; reading, English, and ELL teacher as well as a poet and fiction/ nonfiction writer.  My graduate coursework is  in Reading, Education, and ELL.    I’ve attended many colleges and universities, including:

* Elmhurst College (Bachelors degree, English, Sociology, Psychology, Education)
* College of DuPage (English, Spanish, music, writing, and more–over many years–as part of being a lifelong learner)
*National-Louis University (graduate degree in Reading and additional coursework in ELL and Education)
*University of Chicago (creative writing and art)
*De Paul University (started a Business degree program–what was I thinking?)
*St. Xavier University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Benedictine University (graduate coursework in Reading)
*Concordia University (graduate coursework in Reading)

I think I am missing some; needless to say, I am a lifelong learner.

I began my professional life working in publishing (minimum wage!), banking, and insurance–those student loans had to be paid off! Eventually I was able to pursue my dream of being a teacher and writer; by then I was well into my “late” middle age years. I never regretted this decision to leave a well-paid business job to enter teaching and writing. Not one regret.

Not too many years ago, I “retired” from full time teaching.  I now teach at the college level part time and write part time.

I love nature and people and literacy.  Lifelong passions!

I’m also a volunteer adult literacy tutor with Literacy DuPage.  I also volunteer with Elmhurst College and work with English majors to help them navigate college.

One of the most meaningful things I’ve done is to be a Mentor Coordinator for a high school with a significant gang presence,  matching youths who had been arrested for or received discipline warnings for in-school gang activity and then completed a gang avoidance program with adult mentors.  This mentor program helped our students stay in school.  For me, I used to wonder out loud: What am I doing? I have no training in this field? What if I mess up?  But I learned that I had considerable skills in interviewing people and predicting who would get along/ work well together.

I’ve been married to my college sweetheart for decades.  I am very fortunate.

Thanks for reading.

Laura

PS For a list of my publications, look here: Publications.

 

 

“They Left the Bed” Published at Willowdown Books, Poetic Bond VIII

This poem was inspired by a photo in an ekphrastic poetry contest.  While I did not win the contest, I thought it was a good poem so submitted elsewhere.    You should have see the photo!  Desolate, reminiscent of something vaguely wartime.

 

Willowdown Books published the poem in Volume VIII, Poetic Bond late in 2018.   As rights have reverted to me, I post it here just because.

 

Thanks for reading!

Laura

They Left the Bed

They left the bed, he said
As I was thinking the same.
And wonderful
TV, one chair,
a painting.

Sometimes
we made up names
for each other
on cold nights on strange floors
but knew better than to know.

What’s that on the bed, he said?
And we were afraid to look
blood spatters or bone dust
police matters or lone lust
we’d seen it all by then.

I’ll take the floor, he said.
I wish I hadn’t seen the bed.
Moved closer to the painting:
A Renoir? I know I knew
In another life.

Not romantic enough,
he said,
a Monet is my guess
but the colors are all off.

The colors are all off
cold nights on strange floors
blood spatters or bone dust
police matters or lone lust
we’d seen it all by then.

Publications, Updated

 

pexels-photo-997721 Publications, Laura Lee

Some of my poems, short stories, and nonfiction articles are included online and in print books and magazines published in the UK, Greece, India, New Zealand, and the United States. Many thanks to the staff at these publications. 

“Devastation,” a poem, August 2019, in Headline Poetry.Details to follow. 

“Havishammed +1,” a poem, August 2019, High Shelf Press.

“Where You Are Not,” a poem, June 2019, Esthetic Apostle.

“Swamp Pearls,” a poem, May 2019, here at: Prometheus Dreaming.

“Not Sleep,” a poem, in Cagibi: A Literary Space, April 2019, here: Cagibi.

“The Professor and the Gravel,” a poem, 2019, at Wingless Dreamer.

“Saltwater Faces,” an ekphrastic poem inspired by paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, High Shelf Press, 2018, https://www.highshelfpress.com/saltwaterfaces.

“Click,” “The Night is our First Language,” and “They Left the Bed,” poetry published in The Poetic Bond VIII print issue, December 2018. Available at Poetic Bond VIII.

“Moving Gravel” a short story at Crack the Spine – Themed Anthology Submissions, “Routine”, print edition, 2018. Available at Crack the Spine Anthology.

“Walk with Child” at https://www.snapdragonjournal.com/  September 2018 Issue, “Here and Gone.” http://pub.lucidpress.com/9b90935e-82ec-4edd-a09e-725a9cf574b8/#Vu72fBijlewR

Coffin Bell Journal,2018, “Herstory,” October 2018. https://coffinbell.com/herstory-lesson/

Spillwords Press, “Stopped,” 2018, http://spillwords.com/stopped/.

Tuck Magazine, June 2018, “Teach to Kill” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/06/poetry-1528/.

Tuck Magazine,  May 2018, “Refuge,” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/05/29/poetry-1511/.

 Southernmost Point Guest House (UK), poetry.

Journal of Modern Poetry 21 (Volume 21), “Hell, No,” a poem at JOMP Volume 21 Dear Mr. President.

Journal of Modern Poetry 20 (Volume 20), “Moonlit Awakening,” JOMP Volume 20 Poetry Writer’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Journal of Modern Poetry 18 (Volume 18), The Official Poets Guide to Peace, two poems: “Open” and “After Poetry Class.” 2015. Purchase here.

Journal of Modern Poetry 17 (Volume 17), JOMP Volume 17. 

Cram Volume 12: “White Board Clown,” 2011. Chicago Poetry Press 2011.

Magazine (New Zealand) , Raewyn Alexander, Publisher, nonfiction and poetry.  Raewyn Alexander NZ.

Fiction in: http://staxtes.com/2003/ “Between the Sunlight and the Skipping” in English Wednesdays

Poetry in: https://poetsagainstthewar.org/ archives.

Illinois English Bulletin, a publication of the National Council of Teachers of English, nonfiction article about teaching in an alternative education program.

 Poetry in Marginalia, Elmhurst, IL.

Submitted Nonfiction Today

img_3954I submitted a piece of nonfiction today; it felt very scary. No hiding behind poetic license. It was an essay about grief, something we all know about as we get older.

But even though submitting nonfiction was very scary to me, I was able to enter this essay title and information on the excel sheet I created after learning from another writer; I followed his suggestions for creating a submissions excel tracking sheet. I added color coding for Rejected, Accepted (that’s in green), Pending, Withdrawn, and Unknown. Too many unknowns, it seems!   I am learning to sort by these categories as well.

I am having fun working with this!

I don’t think I will become a nonfiction writer now, for I really need that poetic license and I do tend to look at the world through a poet’s eyes.

But I am still trying to grow as a writer.

Thanks for reading.

Measuring a Year By What I’ve Published in the Last Twelve Months

antique-clock-face-pocket-watch-280392  As I get older, it is interesting  to me how time passes quickly and slowly and quickly again. And for the first time, I can “measure” a year with what I’ve had published.

One fine journal, Tuck Magazine, recently and suddenly closed down.  That is sad, for Tuck Magazine published fiction, nonfiction, and poetry with social justice themes.

In any case, here is what I’ve had published the past year, thirteen poems and one short story. (I seemed to have lost a short story somewhere…)

“Where You Are Not,” a poem, June 2019, in Esthetic Apostle, here.

“Swamp Pearls,” a poem, May 2019, here at: Prometheus Dreaming.

“Not Sleep,” a poem, in Cagibi: A Literary Space, April 2019, here: Cagibi.

“The Professor and the Gravel,” a poem, 2019, at Wingless Dreamer.

“Saltwater Faces,” an ekphrastic poem inspired by paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, High Shelf Press, 2018, https://www.highshelfpress.com/saltwaterfaces.

“Click,” “The Night is our First Language,” and “They Left the Bed,” poetry published in The Poetic Bond VIII print issue, December 2018. Available at Poetic Bond VIII. 

“Moving Gravel” a short story at Crack the Spine – Themed Anthology Submissions, “Routine”, print edition, 2018. Available at Crack the Spine Anthology.

“Walk with Child” at https://www.snapdragonjournal.com/  September 2018 Issue, “Here and Gone.” http://pub.lucidpress.com/9b90935e-82ec-4edd-a09e-725a9cf574b8/#Vu72fBijlewR

Coffin Bell Journal,2018, “Herstory,” October 2018. https://coffinbell.com/herstory-lesson/

Spillwords Press, “Stopped,” 2018, http://spillwords.com/stopped/.

Tuck Magazine, June 2018, “Teach to Kill” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/06/06/poetry-1528/.

Tuck Magazine,  May 2018, “Refuge,” http://tuckmagazine.com/2018/05/29/poetry-1511/.

 

**Thanks for reading.