PF: Pandemic Morning

 

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Pandemic morning

i.

I wake briefly
leaden
longing for tranquility
drift back
into uneasy sleep.

ii.

My eyes open to
amber beauty–
antique glass
transforming sun rays
into wavery blocks–
an ephemeral Mondrian canvas
painted on my wall.

iii.

Outside
in the garden
a warbler lies
unblinking.
Cupped in my hands
his speckled breast and
olive feathers
fade.
No echo of warmth.

iv.

From within the apple tree
the hermit thrush
sings a haunting melody
then hovers
beneath the suet,
wings outspread.

Benediction
or crucifixion?

© Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

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Jama Rattigan is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea and settle in for a delicious post!

PF: Poems of Presence

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This month Michelle Heidenrich Barnes shared a wonderful interview with Margaret Simon on her blog, Today’s Little Ditty. At the end of the interview, Margaret posted a challenge to “Write a mindful poem about the present moment.”  Then, Mary Lee Hahn and Heidi Mordhorst created a Twitter hashtag #PoemsofPresence and invited poets to write small poems for each day in May. I’ve been playing along, and here are a few of my poems from this past week.

May 1:

May arrives
I fill the hummingbird feeder
Sweet anticipation

May 2:

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overhead
osprey wheel and glide
surf the currents

May 3:

Unexpected Beauty

beside the old train tracks
one bleached skull
fragile, yet whole

May 4:

lemony finches
dot the apple tree
a cherry-red cardinal
perches in the birch
brilliant blue jays
swoop down
like bits of falling sky

May 5:

glowing sun peeks
into striated skies
another day dawns

May 6:
Investment

an afternoon walk
grudgingly taken
still yields
rich rewards

May 7: looking to linger on the light side here…

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This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by none other than, Michelle Heidenrich Barnes of Today’s Little Ditty fame. Make sure to stop by and enjoy an interview with Nikki Grimes and a sneak peek into her newest book, “Southwest Sunrise”, plus a bonus poetry challenge.

PF: Epistolary Poem

downloadLong before I knew the word “epistolary”, I loved epistolary novels. There’s something about reading a book written in documents, especially letters or diary entries, that appeals to me on every level. Perhaps it’s the guilty pleasure of reading some one else’s correspondence? The change in perspectives? I also love that the form is so versatile and  works well in so many sub-genres–children’s literature, fantasy, historical fiction, contemporary fiction, young adult literature, etc.

download.jpgI don’t remember the first such novel I read, but I distinctly remember being fascinated in college by the literary sensation “Griffin and Sabine.” (Does anyone else remember this book? It’s kind of like “The Jolly Postman” for adults.) In more recent years, I’ve read and loved 84, Charing Cross RoadSorcery and Cecilia, The Martian, The Perks of Being a Wallflower,  The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, and Breakout, among others. Please send your favorite epistolary suggestions my way! Reading always appeals to me, but legitimately settling down to read someone else’s letters is especially delightful.

This month it was my turn to select the Swagger challenge, and my thoughts turned toward epistolary poems. A nice challenge with plenty of room for choice! Hopefully my fellow Swaggers agreed.  According to poets.org, “epistolary poems, from the Latin “epistula” for “letter,” are, quite literally, poems that read as letters. As poems of direct address, they can be intimate and colloquial or formal and measured. The subject matter can range from philosophical investigation to a declaration of love to a list of errands, and epistles can take any form, from heroic couplets to free verse.” (see more here)

We share our challenge poems on the first Friday of the month. While on the one hand April seemed to last an eternity this year, on the other hand, I completely lost track of time. May 1st snuck up on me and I found myself scrambling to create an epistolary poem in time to share today. To whom did I want to write? Did I want to write as myself or from a different perspective?

As I so often do, I turned to nature for my inspiration. One of the most welcome harbingers of spring for us is the blossoming of the Siberian squill, or scilla, on the hill up to our home. It’s an early blossoming flower and we look forward to its arrival every year. This year it’s been especially beautiful and we’ve been especially thankful to see a sign that spring is indeed coming.

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To the Unknown Gardener,

Early each spring
scilla spills,
flowing over the hill
in lush cobalt waves.
I often imagine you,
on a long ago day,
sifting soil through your fingers,
toiling beneath the trees.
Did you foresee
this future luminous river of blue
or did you simply glory
in the fall breeze on your skin,
the crinkling tissue
encapsulating each bulb,
and the satisfaction
of planting them
one by one?

Generosity thrives
in the soul of the gardener
who plants today
to gift tomorrow.
Each spring
we thank you.

Molly Hogan ©2020 (draft)

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You can find this week’s Poetry Roundup at Elizabeth Steinglass’s blog. She’s sharing a video of herself reading several poems from her fabulous book, Soccerverse:Poems About Soccer, along with some activities to do at home.

To see how my fellow Swaggers responded to this challenge, click on the links below:

Heidi Mordhorst–My Juicy Little Universe
Catherine Flynn–Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon–Reflections on the Teche
Linda Mitchell–A Word Edgewise

If I Were Goddess of the Ocean

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This past week, Laura Shovan wrapped up her Water Poem Project and the final bonus prompt came from author and poet, Aida Salazar. She wrote,  “Imagine you are the goddess of the ocean. Write a poem about what you have to do during an ocean storm to keep all its creatures safe.” I saw the first half of this prompt, ignored the rest, and went on a mini-rant. I vacillate between feeling frustrated, angry and scared these days, and the idea of being a powerful goddess of anything is very appealing.

If I Were Goddess of the Ocean

Hell!
Some people would feel my wrath!
I’d rage through DC,
sweep wild waters before me,
send towering waves
thundercrashing
through the Oval Office,
channel cascading currents
through Congress
purging it of sycophantic cronies,
then surge forth
to scour away
self-righteous hypocrites
clothed in a veneer of Christianity
who have forgotten the meaning
of compassion
and willingly play
Russian Roulette
with others’ lives.
I’d tumble them about a bit
shake them up.

Unwilling to further
foul my domain,
I’d pull back the tides,
toss these sodden creatures
back onto land.
Bedraggled and drenched,
perhaps they’ll reconsider
their self-serving stances,
their callous calculations,
their disregard for truth
and consequences.

I’ll settle back down
to the ebb and flow
yet whisper warnings
with my surf…

Don’t mess with me!

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Christie Wyman, birder, naturalist, poet, teacher,  is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at her blog, Wondering and Wandering. She’s been making the most of National Poetry Month with her fabulous ThoreaulyInspired Poetry Project and also shares her contribution to the Progressive Poem.

Non-standard Units of Measure

slice-of-life_individualI’m measurement challenged. I simply can’t envision distances or lengths well. You say 10 yards, I say, “What?” Sure, I can do the calculations and translate to feet–10×3=30 feet– but that still doesn’t mean anything to me. So then I always translate to Kurts, my non-standard measurement unit of choice.

Let me explain. Kurt, my husband, is about 6 feet tall. After 37 years by his side, I have an innate understanding of what 6 feet looks like. So, I translate all measurements into mental images of Kurt lying down or standing one atop another. You can laugh, but it works! You say 10 yards…well, that converts to 5 Kurts. Oh, now I can envision it. 20 feet? About 3 1/2 Kurts. I got it!

At any rate, call me slow on the uptake, but I just realized that the most touted Covid 19 social distancing length is 6 feet, or one Kurt. I’m not exactly sure what to make of that. With all my practice, I’m certainly well positioned to determine a safe 6-foot distance now, but it’s a bit unsettling to have it linked to Kurts, my own personal measurement system, not to mention my for-better-or-for-worse life partner.

Just a random thought on this random morning…

Mea Culpa!

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Oh,  no! In my excitement  over successfully linking a link party with Inlinkz on the first try, I messed up the ending time. That means I inadvertently excluded later-posting folks. I’m trying to figure out how to add any  missing links to the party, but for now I’m sharing a link to Susan Bruck’s post here. On her blog, Soul Blossom Living, she’s written about the three little kittens who lost their mittens:

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(Click on the photo to go to her site.)
In her post, she shares photos of some delightful sock puppets she made, tips for making puppets at home, and a video of herself performing a puppet play.  Please stop by to check out her post!Also, if you wanted to post a link and were closed out, please let me know.

Yesterday Ramona had one of those oh-too-full days that we can all relate to right now. She just sent in a link as well:

Here’s Ramona’s link with her poetic remembrance of our super moon:
https://pleasuresfromthepage.blogspot.com/2020/04/poetry-friday-remembering-super-moon.html

 

Poetry Friday’s Here!

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One day early on in these Covid days, I shut my computer, stopped working early and decided to make bread. This isn’t something I do often, and I always start with some trepidation. Yeast holds so much potential for triumph and for tragedy. Is there anything sadder than a lump of dough that gives rise only to questions? Was my water hot enough? Was it too hot? Was the yeast old? What’s the meaning of life anyway? 

I needed a visceral experience and bread making is exactly that.  I wanted to lose myself in measuring and mixing–in creating. I yearned for a sensory immersion  — dusting puffs of flour, the rich, fungal scent of yeast, the pull of muscles in my arms, and the dense weight of fingers shaggy with dough. The feeling of dough becoming more springy, more elastic, as my working hands and arms wind up its potential.

And then comes the wait…holding my breath…anticipating…worrying…

There’s a true understated elegance to a loaf of homemade whole wheat bread. Tied to the fields with grain yet aspiring to the sky, bread transcends its humble fungal and grain origins to become much more than merely a sum of its parts. I was looking for that miracle, and on this particular day, I found it.

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Making Bread

Yeast blooms
as surely as buds blossom
unfurling
its rich scent
with the elixir
of temperature
and time

Bread rises
transcending
its origins
of root-bound grains
and tiny fungi
a marriage
of earth and sky
everyday miracle

©Molly Hogan, 2020

The only thing better than the smell of bread baking is the taste of it, toasted and spread with some homemade jam.

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Jam Gratitude

I’m
grateful
for jam jars
in my cupboard.
Summer concentrate.
Each taste a reminder
of warm sun, sticky fingers
of laughing, picking, gathering,
preserving berries and memories.
Saving the sweetness for a darker day.

©Molly Hogan, 2020

Thanks to Liz Garton Scanlon and her video about gratitude etherees for inspiring me to try this new-to-me form. I love the look–here it reminds me of spreading jam across my toasted homemade bread.

Thanks so much for stopping by Poetry Friday this week. To join in the fun, add your link below!

NOTE: I inadvertently set the time wrong in the party and as far as I can tell, there’s no way to undo that now that the link party is over! I’m so sorry!!! (If someone knows how, please let me know.) Let me know if you tried to link and couldn’t do so, and I’ll add you here!

Here’s Susan Bruck’s post about the three little kittens who lost their mittens: https://www.soulblossomliving.com/three-little-kittens-with-sock-and-glove-puppets/

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Balancing the View

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Looking at downloaded pictures the other day, I realized that I hadn’t taken any scenic views recently or even pictures that gave much context by including surroundings. In fact, during the past few weeks, I’ve been using my zoom lens almost exclusively.  It struck me suddenly that this reflects my experience of the world these days.

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I mean, honestly, who wants to spend a lot of time checking out the bigger picture right now? It’s pretty daunting. So, I’ve been choosing to deliberately narrow my focus rather than look at the big picture. My survival strategy, in large part, has been to focus exclusively on what’s immediately in front of me. Getting through the days, moment by moment.

By necessity, we’ve all done this a bit. Most of us are at home most of the time, and seldom head out. At our house, it was noon today before we even noticed that a tree had fallen and blocked our driveway during last night’s winds. There was no sense of urgency about taking care of it. I mean, who’s going anywhere?

Apparently this limited lens has transferred to my photography as well. So now, even when taking pictures, I’m avoiding looking at the bigger picture.

As I pondered this, it struck me that when you look only at what’s right in front of you, you might lose your perspective. You might also lose track of the journey, or the path you’re taking and its ultimate destination. That struck me as problematic.

So, when we went for a walk on Saturday afternoon. I purposefully changed lenses, literally and figuratively. I challenged myself to look at the big picture. Not to ignore the fascinating and distracting small details, but to lift my eyes more often to the bigger view. To keep an eye on the trail ahead and pay attention to the scenery around me.

Ultimately, I suppose, it’s all about balance. We don’t know what the future will bring, but living life exclusively on zoom seems a bit limited and maybe not too healthy. It is helpful to have some idea of the approaching landscape, after all. So, I’ll begin with my photography and see if it transfers over to my daily life. Then, if I get really brave, maybe I’ll start listening to the news again.

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Water Memory

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Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, today’s Poetry Friday hostess extraordinaire, recently posted a daily prompt for Laura Shovan’s Water Poem Project. She suggested writing about a water memory. I haven’t had much opportunity to respond to prompts lately, but this one caught my fancy.

Once

Once
I stood
beneath a lacery
of leaves
woven
by towering trees
bedecked
in dappled sunlight.
A brook
threaded its way
down the hill
around and over
moss-covered rocks,
its crystalline waters
burbling,
spilling,
running free,
their song
as refreshing
as a cool breeze—
A gift
from the forest
to me.

© Molly Hogan , 2020, draft

Make sure to visit the PF Roundup at Amy’s amazing blog, The Poem Farm. You can also check out Amy’s National Poetry Projects, both current and past. Set aside some time and prepare to enjoy yourself!

(Please forgive the formatting—we’re going on 24 hours without power and I’ve never used my phone to post before! I’ll need to add links later too! Update: 36 hours later and we just got power back! Woot!)

PF: Glowing Mist Day

downloadThis month, Linda Mitchell was in charge of our monthly Swagger writing challenge. Initially, she’d asked us to create a poem based on a hand-written recipe someone had given us. As last month unfolded, Linda opted to revise the challenge in response to the changing times. She shared the Academy of American Poets new initiative called “Shelter in Poems.” Last month, they invited readers to share a poem from the Poets.org collection that was helping them at this time, along with an explanation of how it was helping. Linda encouraged us to respond to their prompt and to interpret it as we wished. I’ve chosen to interpret it relatively broadly. In fact, my poem doesn’t even come from the Poets.org collection.

On the first day that we left school, uncertain if we’d be returning, I grabbed several picture books “just in case.” One of the first ones I grabbed was “I’m in Charge of Celebrations” by Byrd Baylor. It’s a book that I love, but not one that I’ve shared with my classes recently. Grabbing it felt instinctive.

If you don’t know this book, I highly recommend it. It’s a luscious prose poem–a love song to nature and a reminder to choose the lens through which you view the world. In this particular book, the narrator, a child who lives in the desert, shares lyrical descriptions of days/events that have been remarkable to her, and she describes how she turns those memories into lasting celebrations.

Days later, when I was trying to create some online connections with my class, I decided to share part of the book with my students. During such uncertain times, I wanted to encourage them to find moments in their daily lives to celebrate. I wanted to nudge them to get outside and explore and pay attention. To notice and find comfort in the natural beauty that surrounds them. Little did I know that reading this book to them would offer those same comforts to me.

I read the first couple of pages in a video and then invited them to write their own “celebration” poem, using Baylor’s work as a mentor text. As I was recording for them, I realized that I had witnessed just such a moment earlier that day, so I wrote a poem,  Soaring Eagle Day, and shared it with them as another mentor. Then, I was inspired to revisit memories of a summer morning in the marsh and wrote this poem.

Glowing Mist Day
(inspired by Byrd Baylor’s “I’m in Charge of Celebrations”)

Sometimes people ask me
why I get up so early,
why I rise to meet the dawn.
It’s hard to explain,
so instead,
I just tell them about
the Day of Glowing Mist.

That morning
the sun lit the mist
over the marsh
so the air blazed
in undulating waves
of gold and amber,
a glorious light
furious
yet gentle.

A deer slipped from the woods
and another followed
into the marsh,
into the glowing mist.
They raised their heads
and looked
toward the rising sun.

I looked toward the deer
and that moment,
that very moment,
grabbed me by the heart
and squeezed
until joy bubbled
in my veins,
a fomentation of wonder
like the liquid sunrise.

I couldn’t decide whether
to whoop and holler
and crow
with delight
or drop to my knees
and whisper
to the universe,
“Thank you.”

It was that kind of moment.

My heart swelled
with the marsh,
the glowing mist,
the two deer
and the flock of geese.

I don’t think
it’s ever gone back
to its original size.

©Molly Hogan, 2020, draft

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the real life inspiration

Apparently visitors to poetry sites have sky rocketed during this time. People are turning to poetry for solace and comfort. I was lucky enough to have Byrd Baylor’s book remind me that nature is full of celebrations if I choose to see them, and it offers me both shelter and inspiration. Remembering this has been a balm and a blessing.

This week Heidi Mordhorst, wordsmith extraordinaire and a fellow Swagger, is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup. She’s sharing her response to Linda’s challenge. If you want to check out what the other Swaggers are doing, click on the links below:

Linda Mitchell, A Word Edgewise
Catherine Flynn, Reading to the Core
Margaret Simon, Reflections on the Teche