Having just enjoyed another annual trip to visit my friend in Rockport, Mass., I looked back to reread a past post about my visits there. It’s still resonating, so I thought I’d share it again:
I’m in New York right now, participating in Teachers College Summer Institute for Reading. What a week of learning this has been! I’m always inspired to write by the sights and sounds of the city around me, but it’s tough to find time and mental energy to devote to it. Here are a few in-the-works poems inspired by the sights and sounds of NYC.
Broadway buzzes by
he curls around his black bag
a sleeping question
©Molly Hogan, 2019
A Subway Moment
swept into the subway
by torrents of rain
and arcs of lightning
I stumble onto the train and stand
pressed against passengers
a humid mass
of bedraggled humanity
through the window
I see a man
sitting on the platform
his hands dance gracefully in the air
drumming an inaudible tune
against an invisible drum
his bag of belongings behind him
he sits in his island
taps and beats until
his hands agitate
as if tripped up, bumping up
against microscopic motes
cocks his head
his hands still
Until…in a moment
his face smooths and
above us thunder booms
rain pummels the city
my train pulls away
Molly Hogan ©2019 (draft)
(Note—I edited this after first posting)
A man slept on the street
his naked feet
pale and surprisingly pink
peeked from beneath
a dingy blanket
Who washed these feet
when they were small?
Did anyone count and kiss
each precious toe?
Chase the little piggies
all the way home?
wee wee wee
What a journey
Molly Hogan ©2019 (draft)
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by children’s author, poet and wonderful photographer, Buffy Silverman at her blog (here). She’s sharing a peek into Helen Frost and Rick Lieder’s book “Hello I’m Here” and a wonderful original advice poem. What a delight!
My husband and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past Monday. I wrote him this, my first love poem, in honor of the occasion.
If I wrote a list of my favorite things
owls would perch there
as would the seed heads of dandelions
with their wind-wild confetti parties
I’d jot down twisting wisps of dawn-lit fog
dew-bedecked spider webs and
the first chorus of the spring peepers
along with bloom-laden stalks of hollyhocks
the scents of balsam and cinnamon
and the echoing cry of a loon
Then, above them all,
there’s that spot on your neck
beneath your left ear
and your scent that rises as I lean in
to press my lips there
the constellation of freckles on your shoulders
and the solid warmth of you beside me
at the close of every day
Molly Hogan ©2019
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Mary Lee Hahn at her blog, A Year of Reading . She’s sharing a wonderful original poem entitled “I Am Not”, inspired by a Naomi Shihab Nye prompt. This week many others are also sharing poems with a Naomi Shihab Nye theme. Stop by to check them out!
Conversation about the weather is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
Like many others in my neck of the woods, I’m a bit obsessed with the weather these days. Overall, it’s been a pretty miserable spring. Chilly, drizzly and grey. I’ve tried to talk myself into appreciating it. All this rain sure makes everything green! or Well, it’s easier to still be in school when the weather’s not so nice. or …. Well, honestly, I can’t think of much else. Maybe, At least you won’t get a sunburn?! Clearly, I’m reaching here.
So, I’m terribly sorry, Oscar, but I’ve decided to grab onto this silver lining: The crummy weather gives me something to write about. It inspired my first dizain last week (Rainy Spring Lament) and today I’m lodging another poetic complaint.
Yo, Springtime, why you gotta be so rude?
It’s April showers in that platitude
May’s for sun and blossom amplitude
This weather smacks of nasty attitude
My sunscreen lotion cap is still unscrewed
My pallid winter skin is still unhued
Can’t you gift us with an interlude,
a patch of sunny day to up the mood?
Folks down here are gettin’ kinda rude
This weather is a major downer, Dude!
©Molly Hogan, 2019
This morning I listened to the spring peepers before the sun rose, and pulled four paint chip colors that turned my thoughts to fall: Mystical Shade, Surprise Amber, Autumnal, and Summer Day.
What mystical shade marks the shift
from summer day to autumnal eve?
Is there a surprise amber
that stealthily permeates leaves,
tints the tips of tallest trees,
then tilts the balance
toward wintry breeze?
©Molly Hogan, 2019 (rough draft)
I picked another three random colors today in my on-again-off-again NPM Poetry Paint Chip play. When I saw the first selection, I thought I was doomed. “Rice Paddy”? Really!? Then I pulled “Topiary Tint” and “Searching Blue”. From some dark corner of my brain, a dim memory surfaced–a life line. Don’t beta fish live in puddles in rice paddies? Hmmm….
Below the surface
of the rice paddy pond
does the beta fish wonder at
the verdant topiary tint
of green seedlings
ever searching blue?
Or does he merely circle,
content with his own rainbow of colors
in his own boundaried world?
©Molly Hogan, 2019
This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Karen Edmisten at her blog. She’s sharing a wonderful poem by John Ashbery there. You can also find links to dozens of other poetry-related blogs. Check it out–It is National Poetry Month (NPM) after all!
I accepted Mary Lee Hahn‘s invitation to spend this NPM, or at least some of it, Playing with Poetry. I had access to a collection of paint samples, so have focused my efforts there. So far, it’s been a fascinating process. I’m only five days in, but I’m having such fun! My first effort (here) still makes me giggle, and every day yields challenges and surprising outcomes. Some names come together immediately and others just won’t play nicely. I love the way the paint chip names encourage me to make new and unexpected combinations.
I’ve been varying the game each day. Today, I decided to pull one random color strip and choose from amongst the seven possible color names on that strip. I chose these three: Meander Blue, Cloudburst, and Raindrop.
As Winter recedes
she withdraws her white cloak
revealing the flowing river
reborn in full meander blue glory
with cloudbursts dancing on its liquid surface
birds swimming in reflective depths
and rising fish creating raindrop ripples
that expand into infinity
©2019 Molly Hogan
I also was tickled by the thought of enthusiastic poets swarming their local hardware stores to score some paint chip samples. With that in mind on Day 3, I wrote this poem highlighting the colors: Sensible Hue, Manitou Blue, and Angora. I’m sharing it here again (with a few changes–it’s still drafty and I’m still playing!).
Meanwhile at the local hardware store…
“Here comes another one,”
sighs the exasperated clerk.
“No sensible hues,” she announces
“I’m looking for exotic names,
or at least some rhyming potential.”
Her eyes skitter across the rainbow
of graduated color samples
Moving closer, she pushes back the sleeves
of her bedraggled angora sweater,
her ink-stained fingers hover, twitch
Lost in thought, she mutters,
like a fledgling incantation,
“Perhaps enlightened lime, euphoric lilac
or maybe this brilliant Manitou blue?”
©Molly Hogan, 2019 (draft)
March 2019 SOLC–Day 25
A huge thank you to Two Writing Teachers for all that they do to create an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write, learn, share and grow.
When I’m looking for inspiration, sometimes I go diving into my drafts, looking for a spark. It’s interesting to do and often I feel like I’m visiting some alternative me. I have to work to get into the mindset or mood I had when I started the post. Often it’s a jumble of sentence fragments, half-finished thoughts and photos, like a puzzle that needs to be solved. What was I thinking? Why had I started writing it? Why had I never finished?
Today, draft diving seemed like a good plan for finding a slice. I found the beginnings of this one. I’m not sure exactly when I started writing it, but it must have been a couple of months ago….although the beginning sentence sounds a bit too familiar! At any rate, here goes:
I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately–or perhaps unsettled. At any rate, yesterday morning was a cold, cold start to the day. I went out to the car to warm it up and pulled my arms close around me. What coat to wear today? I suddenly thought, Oh, I want to wear mom’s coat. I rarely wear it, as it’s a full length wool coat, but today that extra warmth and comfort of my mom around me felt like a good idea. In more ways than one. I had to go dig it out of the attic and even though it was stiff with cold, I stuck with my plan.
Once in my classroom, I opted to play music. Soon “The Rhythm of Love” by the plain white tees filled the room. I smiled. This song sends me back to the first time I heard it–or at least the first time I remember listening to it. It was December 2017 and Kurt, Lydia and I had traveled to Philadelphia to spend Christmas with Adeline. The four of us were in a neighborhood restaurant eating a delicious breakfast. I remember the song coming on the radio and one of the girls commenting how much she liked it. I listened and the music linked irrevocably to that moment. Now whenever I hear that song, I feel connected to my daughters, to that trip, to that bubble of warmth and companionship in the midst of a cold winter day.
Then I picked up my phone. I can’t get Facebook Messenger at school, but the notifications still pop up. There was an unexpected text from my daughter, Adeline,
and a notification that a photo had also been sent. I couldn’t see the latter until later, but the spontaneous heart was so welcome. Like a hug. I felt myself settling into the day, feeling less at sea.
When I got home after school, I remembered the photo Addie had sent and clicked.
I responded, and Addie answered promptly.
I ended the day feeling so much better, settled and connected, and oh-so-thankful for all the love in my life, past and present.
I have a lot of odds and ends posts in the draft folder on my blog. Some are a few words. Others are a picture or two. Some are prose. Some are poetry. Some are almost complete and many are far from it. With the grandest of new year intentions, I recently decided that I’m going to dig into those drafts (all 100 of them) and trash or publish them. I may not be cleaning my house, but, darn it!, I’m going to try to get my blog in order. With that thought in mind, it felt particularly appropriate to revisit and finish this draft from last spring….
We’ve been cleaning house lately. Well, to be more precise, Kurt has been cleaning house and I’ve been protesting the process. It goes a bit like this:
“Molly, we have way too much crap! We have to get rid of stuff. Who needs all this stuff?”
“But I like this (insert item name here)! I might want it some day.”
What is this some day I’m waiting for?
So, we’ve been going through some closets and drawers and finding all sorts of things. Some pleasant, and some not so much (here). I pick and poke through things and Kurt fills boxes and bags with wild, frightening abandon. (And if you know Kurt, you’ll know that I am NOT exaggerating!)
Adeline has been visiting and she’s cleaning her room out, settling more firmly into her new life in Philadelphia. I watch her sift through her belongings. She tosses out this and that, and I have to stop my hands from grabbing so many things. From pulling them out of the pile.
Is this growing up made visible? Choosing what things have value and casting aside others. So many small items are imbued with so much memory and meaning.
So, while Kurt is wildly throwing out, recycling, reorganizing, I’m dragging my feet. This feels like empty nest on steroids. Stop!!! There’s enough change going on around here!
But then, some of it’s unexpectedly…nice…even rewarding. My son’s room has now been shoveled out and binned up. (“Molly, I don’t think Connor threw away a single paper while he was in high school!”) The totes and boxes still sit in the hallway (update–maybe some of them are still there…) and we’ve moved upstairs into his freshly painted (Thanks, Kurt!) room. It’s lovely. I hadn’t realized…
How much do I miss because I’m allowing clutter to overtake everything? Am I limiting new experiences because I’m clinging to old ones?
But I don’t want to get rid of everything! And even though I know that no one is asking me to do that, that’s what it feels like at times. At the very least I want that special box–the one that holds all the best carefully selected stuff attached to the best memories–the one I can open when some imaginary grandchildren are visiting someday.
I imagine saying, “Here’s Bear. He was your dad’s favorite stuffed animal and traveled all over with us. He used to be white, but he got covered with love.” or
“Your dad used to make us read this dictionary to him over and over. He loved it! We always had to start at “a for abacus” because that was the first picture.” or
“This is John Smith. Your dad had so much fun playing with him. He made up all sorts of adventure stories.”
And in this imagined world, this imagined grandchild picks up the figure, or the stuffed animal, or the book, and completes a circle.
Perhaps my wild grab at all these “things” is an attempt to capture and hold on to the more elusive things–the laughter, the hum of young voices, their childhood years, my “youth.” Perhaps it’s an effort to be prepared for every future eventuality.
But perhaps the letting go is how I make room for more–for unexpected pleasures, for new realizations. And perhaps it’s also an acknowledgement that I can’t be prepared for every change that lies ahead. So, with all this in mind, I may continue to drag my feet, but I’ll also take another box or two to the recycling barn. And with every item we give away, I will still be aware of that link to the past or the potential link to the future. I’ll still hear those whispers in my mind: I remember when…These were my mother’s … I might want this…. I might need this. I might….But I’ll touch each thing and let it go. Slowly, but surely.
Addendum: Just this past Sunday, Kurt uttered those dreaded words again, “Molly, I’m going to start getting rid of stuff!” And so I cycle through the whole process again…
After years of good intentions and failed plans, we finally arrived at “Gardens Aglow”, the Coastal Maine Botanical Garden’s holiday light extravaganza. Bundled up against the biting cold, we entered the gardens, and bought cups of hot chocolate–more for hand warmth than for anything else. We opted not to use the map and followed the winding paths randomly, enjoying the variety of lights, the play of shadows, and the snowy scene.
The colors spilled out over the snow and a full moon shone overhead. Strands of brilliant blues, greens and purples twined around tree trunks. Glowing balls of gold, red and orange blossomed here and there. White bulbs outlined small outbuildings, and wee fairy houses were tucked hither and yon. Sparkling lights dripped off high branches in a continuous cascade and trail lights illuminated the ornamental grasses and dried flower heads. It was pretty spectacular.
As we wandered and “oohed” and “aahed” over the scenery, we wondered about all that was involved in creating this event. How many people did it take to do string the lights? How long did it take? And the ultimate questions: How much is the electric bill? How much energy does it take to power this display each night? Along with those questions came this niggling concern: Although this was creative and beautiful, wasn’t it fundamentally wasteful?
I’d read that there were over 650,000 lights in the gardens, and I could believe it. The “show” runs nightly from mid-November until New Year’s Eve. That’s a lot of power used to light up some garden lights! When there’s so much need in the world, is this show squandering resources? If so, by paying to attend, was I condoning that waste?
On the other hand, there are also definite positives to this light extravaganza. The event was family-oriented and fun. People of all ages were walking, laughing and spending quality time outside together. I’m sure there’s also a huge benefit to the local economy. Finally, isn’t it important to create and appreciate beauty?
So, how do you balance it all? There are such huge discrepancies in our country and in our world. Don’t I have a responsibility to consider these things and then to act (or not act) accordingly? On the other hand, I also want to live a rich, fulfilling life and take advantage of opportunities to see and do different things. I’m aware that’s a privilege that I have that many others don’t, but does denying my opportunity help anyone? But isn’t that what people say all the time to justify doing what they want to do? I’ve been stewing over this for a few weeks and I hesitated to share today, because my thoughts keep spinning in circles, shifting and changing. Sometimes I wonder– Am I just looking way too deeply into all of this? Yet, it does disturb me. I’m in a quandary, struggling to figure it out. Does anyone have some clarity to offer?