Grief

Poetry Friday--snowThis month I’ve been participating in Laura Shovan’s 8th Annual February Daily Poem challenge. This year ‘s theme is “Water”, and each day someone posts a related prompt. We share our fledgling poetic responses on a Facebook page, with the emphasis on idea generation and drafting, not polishing.

Earlier this month Kara Laughlin shared a video and pictures of slurpee waves. Whoa! How did I ever miss these? When temperatures get so cold that ice crystals start forming in the ocean, you have slurpee waves. They’re rare, rather unworldly-looking and utterly fascinating.

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Photo credit to Jonathan Nimerfroh

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New York Times photo

Looking at the pictures, and thinking of a recent tragedy in the life of a friend, sparked this poem.

Grief

The very ocean
has transformed—
free flowing-waves
congealed to slushy surf.
My pulse rolls slowly
with this strange tide.
How do such things
come to pass?
I would have said
it was impossible.
Yet, here I stand
at the shore.
Without you.

Molly Hogan ©2020

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Cheriee at her blog Library Matters. She’s sharing a fascinating interview with Canadian poet, Avis Harley.  Be sure to stop by and check it out. You’ll absolutely come away richer for the experience.

A Quiet Morning at the River

slice-of-life_individualIt’s a quiet morning at the river. High overhead, a flock of birds flies by. The caw of crows drifts in from far off in the distance, and from a bit closer, I hear the faint rise and fall of a bird song I can’t identify.

Most mornings, the river ice groans and creaks with the tidal flow. There are intermittent cascades of tinkling shards as it shifts, breaks, and falls. Occasionally, it emits a loud startling boom. Today all is quiet. Perhaps it’s slack tide.

I wander along the edges of the waterfront park, watching the subtle changes in light on the horizon.  There’s no real path for me to follow, just the contours where the land meets the river.

I know to look down river to the tall pine, a favorite perch for local bald eagles. This morning two of them are there, silhouetted against the lightening sky. Another one flies in, then disappears into the nearby trees. I watch them for a long while. Sometimes they fly off as dawn breaks. Today, they seem content to remain where they are.

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Turning, I scan the point at the turn in the river. Earlier this winter I saw a fox there. I listened to its piercing cry. Today,  it doesn’t appear. I look back along the banks where at other times I’ve seen beaver and mink. A lone squirrel scampers along for a bit, then darts up a tree and out of sight. Nothing else stirs.

As I do most days, eventually I walk through the parking lot, onto the road, and then out onto the bridge. Beneath me, in the limited open water, the common mergansers swim, their colors muted in the low light. Some days they power through the water, diving over and over, amusing me with their energetic fishing. Today, they placidly glide through the icy water.

DSC_0514.jpgI take only a few pictures. Walk a little bit more. Look. Listen.

Everything feels slower down at the river today. There’s a peace and an intimacy to the hush.

as dawn tiptoes in
the river welcomes me
morning meditation

Riffing off a Facebook Valentine Quiz

Poetry Friday--snow.jpgLinda Baie is hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at her blog,TeacherDance. Make sure to stop by. You’ll find links to other poetry posts there, but her blog is also a fabulous place to get a sneak peek into recent releases.

I’ve been participating in Laura Shovan’s February poetry challenge, and I’d intended to share a poem I’d written during the past week. Then, with snow day time on my hands, I happened to get on Facebook today. I spotted a Valentine quiz someone had shared, and this poem happened. It’s a bit schmaltzy but it’s timely at any rate. 

Riffing off a Facebook Valentine Quiz

We met in high school.
He sat behind me in class,
two years older,
a senior to my sophomore.

Our first date was a snow day hike
through Towner’s Woods.
He picked me up.
(I couldn’t drive yet.)
Little did we know then
that one fine May day,
seven years later,
we’d marry there.
Three years after that
we’d scatter the ashes
of our firstborn child.

For better. For worse.

Now after thirty years of marriage
and three more children
we’re irrevocably intertwined.
He’s the loudest.
I’m the most stubborn.
He’s a better cook, but
I’m the better baker.
I fall asleep first
and he has the worse temper.
Hands down, he’s crazier.
I suspect I’m more sensitive.

We cleave unto each other.
In sickness and in health.
We love and we cherish.
Most days we’re both certain
that we’re better off
simply because
we’re together.

Molly Hogan ©2020

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Then

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Now-ish

Bonus: A Valentine squirrel. See how his hands make a perfect little heart?

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How to Bathe Your Baby

slice-of-life_individualI’m participating in Laura Shovan’s daily poetry challenge this month. Each day someone posts a prompt around the theme “Water.” Yesterday’s prompt was for a How-to poem that included a reference to water. I considered a few ideas and one by one, rejected them. Then my mind, in that random way it has, flew back to one of my favorite memories–the first time my husband and I bathed our son, Connor.

It’s a memory that never fails to make me smile. I look back and see us standing by the kitchen sink, Connor in our arms. We were so earnest, so nervous, so determined to do it right.

I had a book. (Of course I had a book!) It was probably “What to Expect the First Year” or some such thing. I distinctly remember we had read and reread the section “Baby’s First Sponge Bath” in anticipation of this event. I’m pretty sure I’d even read it aloud. (If I remember correctly, my husband didn’t even roll his eyes. In fact, he may have been reading over my shoulder.)

Now the time was here. The counter was littered with the requisite items: bath towel, cotton pads, Q-tips, washcloth, baby soap, and whatever else was called for. I may have actually had a thermometer there to check the water temperature.

I look back at us in that long ago kitchen and feel such a huge affection for the two of us, so young with this beautiful new baby. Oh, how we already loved him. Oh, how much we wanted to do it all right.

I distinctly remember the book, open on the counter, and reading aloud step by step through the book as we bathed him. My husband, who was an RN, made no protest. We took turns holding, washing, soothing. We were starting from square one together. Doing the best we could. 

How to Bathe Your Baby

Before beginning,
read the appropriate section of the book–
once or twice.
(Okay, maybe three times.)
Gather required supplies.
Place them carefully on the counter.
(Do you have them all?)
Check.
(Double check.)

Gently undress your baby
bit by bit.
Reveal small sections of his perfect skin.
Soothe his cries.
Marvel at his delicate fingers and
their gentle exploration of the air.
Press a kiss at the nape of his neck.
Smooth your hand over his head of dark hair.
Let your fingers linger.
Moisten the washcloth with warm water
Gently smooth it over his skin–
Learn the universe of his curves.

Follow the directions in the book–
step by careful step.
Handle him like fine china.

When done,
wrap him in a soft towel.
Cradle him between the two of you.
Keep working as a team.
Do the best you can.

©Molly Hogan, 2020 (draft)

Acquainted with the dawn

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This month Catherine Flynn posed a bold challenge for our group: Write a terza rima. A terza what? I honestly had no idea what that meant and I had to educate myself. It’s been a process!

Let me tell you, this form is not easy. It’s been an interesting and engaging challenge, but be sure to put the emphasis on challenge.  Eek! The structure is so interwoven that any change sent ripples throughout the entire poem. At various times in the process, I ended up with repeated rhymes (Oops!), messed up rhyme schemes (Ugh!), and/or little meaning (Ouch!). At this point, it really needs to marinate a bit and go through another critique session, but the timer has gone off, and it’s time to post.

Acquainted with the dawn
(inspired by Robert Frost’s Acquainted with the Night)

I have been one acquainted with the dawn
who wanders through the trailing hours of night
compelled as if a thread through needle drawn

to marvel at the seeping glow of light,
bold skies batiked with streaks of reds and blues,
brocaded clouds, bird shadows stitched in flight.

Night’s worries dim as morning light debuts
and Nature’s peace suffuses, bringing ease.
I walk, admiring the changing views.

Webs, dew-bedecked, bedazzle in the breeze
and sun, with Midas touch, turns light to gold,
embroiders veils of diamonds in the trees.

Dark whipstitched boughs help earth to heaven hold,
create a living frieze where eagles fly,
and every day unfolds as if foretold.

Yet even as the sun climbs through the sky,
reflected in the river’s satin glow,
discarded trash lies ‘neath the brush nearby.

Within the water, plastics swirl and flow.
And changing seasons come with prickling fears.
How long can Nature brave each wielded blow?

My solace and my comfort through the years
is jeopardized with every passing day.
I listen to the news through veils of tears.

How long can Nature hold the tide at bay?
What can I do to shield this world I love?
What can we do to mend a world so frayed?

For now I hold it close and journey on.
I have been one acquainted with the dawn.

Molly Hogan ©2020 (draft)

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by the vivacious and prolific Laura Purdie Salas at her blog, Writing the World for Kids. Also, be sure to check out what my fellow Swaggers did with this terza rima challenge:

Linda Mitchell
Catherine Flynn
Margaret Simon
Heidi Mordhorst

To the heron who is wintering over

slice-of-life_individualDSC_1064.jpgI’m fascinated by great blue herons and have spent hours watching them. Typically they leave Maine for warmer climates by November or so. This year, a local heron appears to be intending to winter over. While I delight when I see it, I’m also quite concerned about its chances of survival.

To the heron who is wintering over

How do you fare, fair heron 
when snow dusts your feathers
and cold seeps into your bones?
When frigid winds buffet you,
and fish are locked away
beneath ever-thickening ice?

Why did you linger
when autumn light turned amber
and cast long shadows?
Why didn’t you spread your mighty wings
and soar?

Instead, each day
you step into frigid shallows

keen eyes scanning
for elusive fish.
Intent predator with stiletto stealth–
walking that thin slippery line
toward survival.

©Molly Hogan, 2019 (draft)

Jone Rush MacCulloch is hosting this week at her blog, Jone Rush MacCulloch. She’s sharing some beautiful poetry postcards and offering a giveaway. Go check it out!

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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.