PF: Jane Kenyon

I stumbled upon this poem recently, and I have come back to it again and again. Jane Kenyon sure knew how to say it.

In the Nursing Home
by Jane Kenyon

“She is like a horse grazing
a hill pasture that someone makes
smaller by coming every night
to pull the fences in and in.
 
She has stopped running wide loops,
stopped even the tight circles.”
click here for the rest of the poem.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Carol Varsalona at her blog . She’s unveiling her most recent autumn gallery, an extravaganza of fall-inspired poetry and imagery. Be sure to stop by and check it out.

Fleeting

I heard the geese before I saw them, and the sound drew me across the room to the french doors. I looked into the sky over the pond and spotted them immediately. They flew low, a disorganized cluster, their calls loud and mournful. My mind reached for lines from a favorite poem, pulling up only a few of them.

“Something told the wild geese
it was time to fly.
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.”

As I watched, to my delight, the geese wheeled and turned, and then headed back toward the pond. Feet first, wings spread wide, they touched down in the water with great splashes. About a dozen of them paddled to shore and clambered up onto the snow-covered grass. I leaned against the cool glass, watching them. Every so often one of them would rise up and flap its wings, then settle back down. They ambled about socially. I wondered if they were cold. How long had they been traveling? Where were they bound? I thought idly that I could simply watch them all day long. Their presence soothed me.

I thought about my visit here three or four weeks ago. Then temperatures had been in the high 70s and low 80s and I’d been picking late-blooming flowers in my father’s garden. The geese had visited during that time as well, only a few, but still I’d enjoyed watching them until they flew away, their calls so evocative– Time is passing. Winter is coming.

So much had changed since then.

As I watched from the window, a neighbor from across the pond strode down the lawn, newspaper in hand, gesticulating at the birds.

Oh, no.

I straightened at the door, aware there really wasn’t anything I could do. I was a visitor in this neighborhood and her message was loud and clear. She flapped her arms vigorously and the geese heeded the warning. In a flutter of feathers and scrambling feet, they scrabbled into the pond. Within moments they had taken flight and moved out of sight. So quickly were they all gone, leaving only ripples of disturbance which quickly ebbed as the pond settled back into stillness.

I watched the neighbor trudge back up to her house, wondering what she felt she had accomplished. Sometimes I really don’t understand people. Geese are easier.

I remained by the window for a while, hoping the geese might return. Of course, they didn’t, but soon enough the sun shone through low clouds and lit the remaining foliage, dazzling my eyes. Within moments clouds prevailed again.

But oh, how beautiful the moment was while it lasted.

Something Told the Wild Geese
by Rachel Field

Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered,—‘Snow.’
Leaves were green and stirring,
Berries, luster-glossed,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned,—‘Frost.’
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,—
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.

PF: Stepping out of my comfort zone

Sometimes it can be hard to choose what to share on my blog. When I’m struggling or trying to work through something heavy, lingering in that space in my writing can help me. Having a sort of distance from the maelstrom of my emotions allows me to process them from a safer vantage. I still feel the impact, but I’m exploring them with an eye toward expressing them. I can’t explain it well, but it works for me–even if the results typically just live in my notebooks. But when is something too personal or perhaps worse, overly sentimental? Sometimes when I’m in the thick of something, I lose my objective eye and it’s hard to gauge that. Today I’m stepping out of my comfort zone a little bit, sharing two poems that carry a lot of emotional weight for me right now.

Landslide

Under the weight
of their accumulation
the years have finally
given way.

An avalanche
of aches and pains
pummels his frame.

After each strike
he staggers
struggles to regain
his balance.

Braces for the next blow.

©Molly Hogan

There’s a Hole in that Bucket

We step carefully 
along the path 
into the cancer center
as if we can sense
the scattered debris
of dreams and wishes
swept away
in a slow flow
of inexorable loss.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Matt Forrest Esenwine at his blog Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

What do you remember about watercolor water?

I still remember swishing my brush in the water, and watching the swirls of color leave the bristles in curling ribbons and gradually infuse the water. How the water turned a beautiful shade of blue or purple or maybe red. Sometimes instead of focusing on the paper and my watercolor creation, I’d turn my attention fully to the water. I’d dip my brush into those dented colored ovals and add a bit more of this hue or that, then watch the change. Inevitably, I’d end up with a murky glass of water and no matter what bright color I added next, the end result was…murky water.

I’ve been feeling like my life is a bit that way lately. No matter how much I try to focus on the joyful moments, of which there are many, I can’t change the overall tone. I’ve begun to start my day with a gratitude list, to push myself to stop and really enjoy moments of this blissful autumn weather, to notice and celebrate small successes, etc. But, it’s like adding yellow into that pigment-laden jam jar of watercolor water. The overall tone remains unchanged. Dark.

Then, this morning I read a post in a new-to-me blog that was referenced in Austin Kleon’s newsletter. The blog is called Affirmation Chickens. Kleon’s endorsement and the blog name drew me in. One thing the author included in that post was a section titled “Here’s What I Loved This Week.” I loved that title and the idea and it made me think. What did I love during this past week? As soon as I asked myself that question, I knew the answer.

Here’s What I Loved This Week

Sunday, on yet another gorgeous fall day, Kurt, Lydia and I walked along a trail to the Presumpscot River. Despite the date on the calendar, there were still quite a few amber and russet leaves clinging to the trees. They cast dappled shadows on the tree trunks and the path. Those that had fallen rustled and crunched beneath our feet. We talked idly of this and that, greeted other hikers as we walked, and admired the scenery. Then, as we rounded a corner, off to the side was a split pumpkin, and sitting neatly inside was a little red squirrel.

“Oh My Gosh! Stop! Look!” I said. The squirrel darted away briefly as we came to a sudden stop. It halted by a nearby tree, eying us. “Oh, no!”

“It’ll come back,” Kurt said confidently, and within mere seconds it had done so. It darted right back into the pumpkin and thrust its hands into the pulp. Red squirrels are nothing if not bold! Soon it was gobbling pumpkin to its heart’s content, ignoring the three of us.

“I wonder who put the pumpkin out here.”
“It looks like it’s eating spaghetti!”
“Oh, it’s so cute!”

We stood for several minutes and watched it eating, making all the appropriate admiring comments, laughing as it grabbed and ate more and more pumpkin. It was such a delightful, unexpected moment.

Eventually we moved on toward the rest of the trail and the waterfall. But that moment was something I truly loved about the past week. So many things had to come together for it to happen–the timing of our walk, our choice of destination, the squirrel’s lunch hour, and above all, someone’s decision to share a pumpkin with the wildlife. So often I find myself aghast and stymied by the choices that humans make on a daily basis. There was an inherent generosity to the placement of the pumpkin, and I felt connected to that beneficent donor, whoever it might have been. It was so comforting to know that there are some people out there who are doing random, kind things in the world.

Remembering that moment makes me feel just a bit lighter.

Now, thinking back to that watercolor water jar, I remember another thing I learned long ago. One way to change that dark color is to empty the jam jar and start with fresh water. Then, be careful not to insert too many dark tones. The squirrel moment is a nice bright beginning. I’m hoping to work with it.

PF: Confounded

Linda posted this month’s challenge. She said, “Percentages are all around us in recipes, prices, assessments, statistics.” She then asked us to write a poem that “includes the idea of percentage/percent in some way.” When I first read this, my thought was What!? This seemed like such a random prompt and a bit foreign to my ELA-inclined brain. As always though, when pushed into exploring new territory, I found the journey rewarding. Thanks, Linda!

Confounded

  1. In my college statistics class
    I learned all about variables:
    dependent, independent,
    confounding.
    The rogue nature of the word,
    confounding,
    fascinated me.
    The way it transformed fact
    into uncertainty.
    Transformed causation
    into correlation.

  2. Last week I saw a bumper sticker
    “Make The Truth Great Again!”
    Did you know that
    60 % of people
    can’t complete
    a 10-minute conversation
    without lying?
    But how do you define a lie?
    And how often do we lie to ourselves?
    Is there a percentage
    to capture that?
    I just said
    “Fine, thanks” in response
    to the last three people
    who casually asked,
    “How are you doing?”

  3. I recently read
    that 80% of Soviet males
    born in 1923
    did not survive World War 2
    and that 99% of all species
    that ever lived on earth
    are estimated
    to have gone
    extinct.
    Such despair,
    encapsulated
    in numbers.

  4. We turn to percentages
    as if to gospel,
    spouting them
    with the fervor of converts.
    As if a number
    can help us
    make sense
    explain
    tidy up and tuck away
    all the messy realities.
    Forgetting the variables
    forgetting the nuance
    forgetting to think.
    Wondering why
    we still feel
    utterly
    confounded.

    ©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A(nother) Year of Reading. She’ll be sharing a wonderful percentage poem there. To see what the other Inklings have done with this challenge, click on the links below:

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

When interrupted sleep is a gift…

Something disturbed my slumber. I stirred and heard a layered cacophony– a rich, raucous nighttime noise drifting in through our window, along with the chilly autumn air. What is that? I wondered blearily. Beneath my nest of blankets, I turned toward Kurt, sensing he, too, was awake.

“What’s that?” I murmured.

“Coyotes, I think,” he whispered. “Did you hear the owl, too?”

Oh, I thought, in surprise. I did.

With Kurt’s words, the sounds had shifted in my memory. I had heard the owl, but hadn’t quite realized it. It was like one of those moments when you don’t quite hear what someone says, and you ask,”What?”, and then, right as they answer, you realize you actually did hear their words, but it just took a second for them to come together in your mind. The owl’s call, closer to the house, had floated on the wave of coyote revelry. I knew it was there, or knew something was there, like a flavor or scent I couldn’t quite identify. Altering the whole experience, subtle but significant. Now it all fell into place.

We laid still and listened intently. Captivated. The ruckus didn’t last long. The coyotes carried their revelry further afield or simply quieted. The night slipped back into silence.

Then the owl called again. One long, low “hooooooot.”

Clear and true. A gift or a farewell.

Or perhaps both.

Slowly, contentedly, I closed my eyes and fell back asleep.

PF: SPLAT!

I didn’t think I’d post today and had nothing planned. That kind of brought me down, because participating in PF grounds my writing in so many ways. Then, last minute this morning, I was inspired to combine two prompts: Inktober’s word for Day 25 “splat” and the Poetry Princesses’ invitation to write a “Word Play” poem. (For more information on “Word Play” poems, look here.) It’s definitely still drafty, especially in terms of rhythm, and I think there’s room for some robust excising, but I enjoyed playing around with it.

Splat

Splat is a soft word,
an oh-dear-oh-my word,
a muffled-curse-or-worse word.

Though born from collision,
it’s rarely a catastrophe.
Hard to take seriously,
splat can be a pratfall
or a prelude,
à la Pollock,
a rollicking rhyme
a really fun time.
It bounces around in picture books
rat-a-tat-tatting
with cats, rats and bats.

Freewheeling splat
doesn’t have boundaries
doesn’t respect them
goes where it likes.
A quirky explorer
of blouses and floors
where people wipe it away
but splat is persistent
a misstep
or twist of the wrist
and its back.

Lover of children
and colorful condiments,
splat proves gravity
still
works.

©Molly Hogan, draft

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Linda Baie at her blog, Teacher Dance. She’s sharing Halloween-themed poems spiced with a bit more.

PF: Limping Through #Inktober

It’s Parent Teacher Conference Week. I’ve heard some schools have conferences during the school day. Or half days. Or something. Apparently there is an alternative to a full week of teaching and shoehorning in conferences before and after school. Or so I’ve heard.

#17 Collide

Parent Teacher Conference Week

Crash!
Bang!
Kaboom!
Life and job collide
Brace for impact
Count on casualties

©Molly Hogan

#18 moon

Some days
my sanity dangles
from the merest sliver
of crescent moon

©Molly Hogan

#20 sprout

A tendril of energy
takes root,
sprouts,
withers away.

©Molly Hogan

The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Jama Rattigan’s blog, Jama’s Alphabet Soup. Jama always provides a feast, so be sure to stop by and check out this week’s offerings!

PF: More Inktober poems

The daily Inktober prompts are a great low-stakes way to keep the creative juices flowing and a wonderful distraction when one is needed. Here are a few of my recent efforts. (I will apologize in advance for #12 though I had great fun writing it!)

#10 pick

Mystery in the Garden

Yesterday I picked a pumpkin
where I thought I’d planted melon.
I can’t figure how this happened
and the pumpkin isn’t tellin’!

©Molly Hogan

#11 sour

Her words sour the air
transform the moment’s
fleeting sweetness
curdle it
like lemon in milk
into a bitter corruption
so sharp and biting
it lingers on the tongue

©Molly Hogan

#12 stuck

Economics in Action

The teacher droned on endlessly 
about wants versus needs.

“Ugh!” Bea thought, “This econ. stuff
is putting me to sleep!

The sun is out and I am stuck
in this most dull of courses.”

So she jammed a finger up her nose
to check her own resources.

Bea didn’t think about it much
just dove into her task,

more invested in her treasure hunt
than in doing well in class.

After intense exploration
she finally withdrew,

content to sit and contemplate
her own gross revenue.

Then casually she licked it off
restoring her good humor

while embodying those econ. terms—
producer and consumer.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday is hosted by Bridget Magee at her blog, Wee Words for Wee Ones. She, punster extraordinaire, is sharing news of the release of her anthology, 10•10 Poetry Anthology: Celebrating 10 in 10 Different Ways. I’m delighted to have a poem included in this anthology and can’t wait to have a copy in my hands. Congratulations, Bridget!

PF: #Inktober

I’d forgotten all about #Inktober until last week when I read Michelle Kogan and Ruth Hersey’s #Birdtober posts and they nudged my memory. Was Inktober still a thing? A quick Google search reassured me:

Rules & Prompts — Inktober

Initially, #Inktober started as a challenge for people to make a drawing in ink in response to a daily prompt word and then tweet it. Some poets opted to respond with poetry instead (#Poemtober). I thought this might be a playful exercise for me this October, so I started participating–at least in my notebook. I haven’t shared my responses on Twitter, but here are a few of my efforts:

Day One: crystal

If I had a crystal ball
for future-gazing
would I lose
day after present day
gazing into its depths?

Or would I drape it
in plushest black velvet
swaddle its mysteries
content to linger
in ignorance?

©Molly Hogan

Day 2: suit

For Kurtis

You’re my #1 guy
You suit me to a T
Without U
Where would I B?
O U Q T*
You’re my A to Z!

©Molly Hogan

*In case you haven’t experienced the wonderful book CDB, this translates to “oh you cutie”

Day six: spirit

Come October spirits rise
Take to the air
Spook and surprise

Fright us!
Delight us!
Open our eyes!

The world is much larger
than many surmise.

©Molly Hogan

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Irene Latham at her blog, Live Your Poem. She’s sharing a wonderful autumnal harvest of goodies including exciting news, a Neruda poem and her latest Artspeak duo. Make sure to check it out along with other Poetry Friday offerings linked there.