Quasi Ghazal

downloadA couple of weeks ago, life felt more than a bit out of control. I don’t need to go into details again, as I’ve already written about it here. At any rate, in the midst of it, I decided to try to write a ghazal (pronounced more or less like “guzzle”). Honestly, I don’t even know why that form occurred to me except that I knew it was complicated and I’d never attempted to write one.

Ghazals have a lot of requirements (here) and if you know anything about ghazals, you’ll see that I have definitely not met all of them.  Regardless, this turned out to be a fortuitous choice for me.  It was so helpful to take my big blob of anxiety and manipulate it into a structured form. Somehow the requirements of the form gave me some necessary distance from the intensity of the events in my life, but also allowed me to process them.  Since I’m missing some components and some of the stylistic elements, I’ve decided to call it a quasi ghazal.

Here We Are

After we got home from the ER,
we said to ourselves, “Well, here we are.”

Still, our heartbeats skitter, struggling
to find a new rhythm. As we are.

Already road worn on this unchosen
journey, we’re uncertain where we are.

This landscape is inhospitable–
shadows threaten wherever we are.

Destination unknown, there’s no map
guiding us onward from where we are.

With stuttering steps, we move ahead,
aware the ground may shift where we are.

Coiled serpent of anxiety
slithers out to greet us where we are.

Unwanted, persistent companion,
it slides along wherever we are.

As each day ends, we’ve traveled further
from where we once were to where we are.

Though the persistent rattle echoes,
I cherish each moment. Here we are.

Molly Hogan ©2020 (draft)

This week Poetry Friday is off to Australia again!  Poet Kat Apel is hosting at her blog. She’s sharing updates on the situation in Australia, the happy news of some rain and fundraising success, a delightful opossum photo and poem, and a back-to-school poem in a new-to-me form, a trimeric. Make sure to check out her post and find links to others while you’re there. When the events in the world weigh you down, there is solace to be found in poetry. Treat yourself to a moment or two. It’s time well spent.

 

I could write about…

slice-of-life_individualI could write about the text I got that morning at school. About the frantic follow-up phone call. About throwing things in my bags, tapping someone to cover my class, and racing out the door.

I could write about the drive to the Emergency Room. About saying aloud to myself over and over again, “It’ll be okay. Just drive carefully. It’s snowing. Don’t go too fast. Everything will be okay.” About how my heart was lodged in my throat, my hands gripped the steering wheel and my pulse raced. Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!

I could write about the large crow I saw as I drove past. Or maybe it was a raven. It sat atop an isolated tree by the road, hunched over, feathers ruffled, vaguely menacing. I swear it looked directly at me, and I actually wondered, “Is that an omen?” Then shook the thought off. Mostly.

I could write about arriving at the ER, seeing him, being with him, spending the day there. Hour after hour. Eight long hours. Beeping monitors. Medications. Scans. Tests. Fear. And once again, no answers.

I could write about going home. Waking to listen to him move restlessly from room to room. Watching him sleep. Listening to him breathe.

I could write about the next few days. The follow-up appointments. The ups and downs. An anxious early morning conversation with the on-call doctor. The support of friends and family. The ever-present fear. The ever-present questions. The bone deep weariness.

I could write about my first day back at school. How I felt sick to my stomach leaving. Terrified to be away. Apart. The ever-present visceral tug toward home–toward him–pulling tighter as the distance grew, knotting my stomach. About how at school I carried my phone everywhere I went, checked it obsessively. Jumped at slight sounds.

But instead, I’ll write about coming home after school at the end of that first day back. Driving quickly to get home as fast as I could. Then walking into the house and seeing him there–still breathing. Fine. Anxious, but fine.

And I exhaled.

Dropping my bags, I walked over and sat beside him on the couch. I pulled my legs up under me and tucked my head against his chest. He put his arm around me and pulled me even closer, resting his cheek on my head. I could hear the steady swoosh of his heartbeat, and it both unnerved and comforted me. We sat that way for long minutes, our eyes closed, leaning into each other. We didn’t say a word.

One precious moment carved out of all the chaos.

Yes, that’s what I want to focus on.

Bombardment

downloadI wrote this poem a few weeks ago and hoped that soon it wouldn’t be relevant. Sadly, it still is.

Bombardment

The voice on the afternoon radio
intones relentlessly:
“Australian bushfires continue to rage…
hundreds of koalas incinerated in the blazes…”

My mind shies away,
maneuvers back
to the gentle glow of the waning moon
limning our snow-covered barn roof
this morning.
To the stark angles and edges
of roof and sky,
transformed by moonlight.

“…successful airstrikes on militant targets.”

Words drum, pierce.
A relentless aerial assault.
My mind retreats to the glory
of an incandescent sunrise–
two deer grazing, a squadron of geese
layers of kindled mist
shifting, shimmering.

“…two students killed and three others injured…”

Strings of words strafe.
I scan the shadowy terrain
The skies are a deep indigo blue.
Thick charcoal clouds scud along,
barely visible.
There’s nothing else to see.
Winter is on our doorstep.
Already it’s dark outside.

©Molly Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Australian poet, Sally Murphy, at her blog.  She’s sharing what she’s doing to respond to the ongoing bush fire tragedy in Australia, news about a bibliography of verse novels she’s working on with Kat Apel, and a cover reveal for her soon-to-be published verse novel.

Wild Midnight Magic

slice-of-life_individualI’m still not sure which woke me first–Kurt whispering intensely, “Molly, do you hear them?” or the sounds themselves. Stumbling up through layers of sleep, I half sat to listen. Kurt leaned closer to the window. The air around us seemed to vibrate with yips and howls. I recognized the sound immediately: Coyotes. But, I’d rarely heard them so loud before. They must have been close. Really close.

I still remember the first time we heard coyotes after moving to Maine. How we wondered at first what they were. How they sounded to us then– like a pack of drunks spilling out into the streets after last call at the bars. Howling and yipping. Wild with revelry. I smile now thinking how our city life translated into country.

We’ve heard them many times since, and last night, decades later, we listened to them again.

“Just listen to them!”
“They’re so loud. Are they down in the field?”

We whispered back and forth, as outdoors, the volume rose and then stayed steady, never receding. I’m not sure why we whispered.  Was it instinctive?  A need to stay unnoticed by this roving pack of predators? Or perhaps we whispered in deference to the wild magic of that midnight moment. 

Still listening, I imagined the coyotes moving through the snow. Slipping through shadows. Their breath frosting in the frigid air. Their strong, lean bodies dark silhouettes. Loud, fierce and free.

And then, just like that, their calls stopped. As if a switch had turned. The sudden silence felt like an echo.

After a moment, I lay back down, pulling the blankets up around my shoulders. I wondered if coyote prints outlined a path across the field, or perhaps even a circle in the side yard beneath our window.

So close. So loud. So fierce and free.

I tumbled back into sleep, thinking of coyotes.

 

 

Weighing Words

downloadA new year, a new challenge! This month’s Swagger challenge came from Heidi Mordhorst. After we’d been discussing whether or not we each were going to choose a One Little Word (OLW) for the year, she announced that “To Word or Not To Word” would be our group’s January challenge.

OLWs. I’ve chosen one before…maybe two..or three? I know I didn’t choose one last year. Did I the year before? Scrolling back through blog posts, I find that I have chosen OLWs two times. In 2016, I chose “Choose” and in 2018, I chose “Pause.” It seems to be an even-year sort of phenomenon–which makes me feel like I’m due in 2020.

As I reread those posts, I enjoyed reconsidering the reflective process I went through to select the words, and where I was in my life when I wrote them. I remembered that I always liked the focus of OLW, how it pushed a word or an idea to the forefront my mind. I enjoyed the process of  considering words and their shades of meanings. So, did I want to choose a word this year?

As we head into 2020, even without regarding the state of our world, our nation, I’m feeling a bit out of kilter. My youngest graduated from college last month, and my oldest is getting married in May. My middle child lives a rich, independent life more than a day’s comfortable car ride away. The chicks have not only emptied the nest, they’re now building their own. Which leaves me, mama bird, looking around wondering, “What’s next?” I have many interests, but sometimes they pull me in different directions. All too often, I feel scattered and unfocused.  Could OLW help me with that?

Weighing Words

I ponder words
some heavy, some light
examine nuances,
unexpected meanings,
surprising depths.
I weigh words in my mind
sift, sort, and shuffle them,
consider the possibilities,
reflect on my recent lack of discipline–
list after unfinished list– and
my new unfortunate tendency
toward procrastination.
Again and again,
I return to one word:
“focus”
a powerful contender.
I turn it over in my mind
pleased by the layered meaning,
the nod to photography.
Could this be it?
But, what about bokeh–
that much desired
out-of-focus
photographic effect?
And don’t seeds widely flung
lure flocks of birds
more surely than a concentration
at a single feeder?
Clearly, a steady focus
can accomplish much,
but an eye fixed on the destination
can also miss
the beauty of the journey.
For ultimately, isn’t it scattered light
that creates rainbows?
©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

So, apparently I’ve talked myself out of adopting a OLW this year, though I don’t rule out that one may find me later. It’s a process, right?

Hmmmm….process….Now, there’s an interesting word…

Note: If you’re interested, here’s Wikipedia’s definition of bokeh:
“In photography, bokeh (/ˈboʊkə/ BOH-kə or /ˈboʊkeɪ/ BOH-kay; Japanese: [boke]) is the aesthetic quality of the blur produced in the out-of-focus parts of an image produced by a lens. Bokeh has been defined as “the way the lens renders out-of-focus points of light”.

And here are two of my photos that demonstrate it.

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The year’s first Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Carol at Carol’s Corner. She’s sharing a wonderful poem by Maya Angelou, and I highly recommend that you stop by and read it. And then read it again. And again. (And here’s the link to the Roundup!)

Then, visit my fellow Swaggers’ sites and see how they responded to the “To Word or not To Word” challenge. Just click on the links below:

Linda at A Word Edgewise
Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret at Reflections on the Teche, and
Catherine at Reading to the Core

Sneak Peek: “On a Snow-Melting Day”

Screen Shot 2019-12-22 at 7.49.48 PM.pngI’ve long been a fan of Buffy Silverman’s poetry and photography, admiring her clever word play and focus on the natural world. Years ago, even though I didn’t know her, I sent her an audio of my first grade class reciting one of their favorite poems, her poem, “Toad Serenade.” (I would share it here except my plan won’t let me. 😦 ) This fall, I was delighted to hear that she has a new book coming out in February. Then, lucky me, I had a chance to preview it! 

 “On a Snow Melting Day: Seeking Signs of Spring” captures that wonderful moment when everything shifts and tips from winter toward spring. There’s a lovely energy to this book, a  momentum that is enhanced by the structure and by the interplay between poetry and photographs (three of which are Buffy’s). The words and images are paired together beautifully!  The photographs are gorgeous–bright and vivid–and the language is wonderfully engaging with clever rhyming, powerful verbs and creative adjectives.There’s even additional information at the end of the book to fuel discussions about natural changes as spring approaches. 

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One of my favorite pages…though it was SO hard to choose just one!

This book is sure to delight Pre-K- 2 readers, its targeted audience, and makes me yearn to visit my old first grade classroom to read it aloud. It would also serve as a fabulous mentor text for both younger and older writers. I can imagine shared writing sessions with younger classes and great explorations of word choice and the power of hyphens with older students. Congratulations, Buffy, and thanks so much for the opportunity to take a sneak peek. My only complaint is that I read the book on a snowy day in December, and it reminded me how far away spring really is! 

Poetic Crumbs

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December and the holidays lured me away from my notebook and to a different kind of poetry making—one that resulted in luscious chocolate fillings, crisp crusts, cinnamon-layered swirled sticky buns, and plush cakes. Yum!

I’ve gathered up some of the spare crumbs from my more traditional poetic efforts this month to share today.  Here are two haiku, a something else, and then a silly double dactyl.

last minute shopping
waltzing through crowds
reeling from sticker shock

©Molly Hogan, 2019

 

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Vibrant blossoms
spark December reverie
memories of mom

©Molly Hogan, 2019

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one wild fox
calls from an icy shore
one human listens
captivated

©Molly Hogan, 2019

After enjoying far too many holiday goodies, I played around with a holiday double dactyl. (Update–I just put two and two together and realized that the idea for this double dactyl was greatly inspired by Michelle Heidenrich Barnes and her Santa-inspired double dactyl!  Who can resist “Jolly Saint Nicholaus” as a double dactyl? Thanks for the inspiration, Michelle! )

Snickety Snackety
Jolly Saint Nicholaus
tests out his Santa seams.
No room to spare.

Too many cookies and
overindulgences.
Sleigh’s flying lower now.
Reindeer despair.

©Molly Hogan, 2019

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Michelle Kogan who, as always, is lifting her voice in support of our planet. She’s sharing a nonet called “2020 Raise your voice!” and two related videos. Be sure to stop by and check out her post and visit a few others. Ring in the New Year with some poetry!