Getting to the “REAL POEM”

Last year, I decided to write a poem about having a tooth pulled.  My first tooth extraction ever had been scheduled.  I was resistant and working hard at de-stressing.  I wanted to arrive at a place of resolution and peaceful acceptance.  I wasn’t close.

“Why not write a poem about it?” I thought.  So I set myself up on the back porch, a cold yet sunny landscape stared back through the sliding glass door.  Beauty.  I write.  It’s not long before I realized that it’s going to take some time for me to get to the real poem behind these first words.  It’s good that I’m getting things down on paper.

The Gap
© by Christine O’Brien

Do I have a tooth to spare?
A sacrificial tooth–
could it be an offering?
In service to what?
This tooth, 2nd molar, upper left
staunch beside my wisdom tooth
once gone–makes a space–a gap–
reminders of losses that must be grieved
perhaps healed, but always missed.

The pink cow stares at me from the
painting below the window
on the south-facing back porch.
I want to be brave
I have been brave
I remind others to be brave
I am brave.

But I need something.  What?
Does anyone ever release a tooth,
gladly?  Not likely.
To keep all of my teeth in my mouth
intact has been a desire, a hope, a goal,
an impossible dream.
Another vanishing dream.
Bye, bye tooth.

Once pulled,
I’m going to keep it.
A shrine.
In it’s place,
plant a spirit tooth.
What is the language of tooth?
Does it have a message for me?
Louise Hays had
complementary analogies
(or is it metaphors)
for physical conditions
throughout the body.

Tooth SPEAK!  Upper,
beside the wisdom tooth,
hard-working,
yet a little less wise, perhaps.
Better if it had been the last tooth
on top–now a gap.

Tooth SPEAK!  What do you have to say?
“How taken for granted I’ve felt.
All these years of devoted service.
Clenched jaw, biting nails, kissing
careless men with poor dental hygiene
(not too many).  Chewing, grinding, nuts and seeds–
the tougher jobs
reserved for the back teeth.
I’ve been a reliable little soldier…”

****

See, you can write a poem about anything.  Of course, this is a work in progress.  Or is it?
I can’t count how many poems I’ve written to help me through a challenging time.
Have you turned to poetry to express such things?  I recommend it.

 

Bobbing

2018 was the year of too much loss, continuous.  Since I didn’t come with an owner’s manual, I couldn’t flip to page 274 and find a rule on how to cope with such circumstances.  Instead, I finally resorted to writing this poem…

****
Right Now
© by Christine O’Brien

Things are breaking loose.
Demeanors are cracking.
Boulders crumbling.  Hairs
out of place.   There is no
holding it together.  No
brave facade or
pasted on smile.  No pretense
of being fine.
Mismatched clothes
–who cares, right?
A hole in the toe of my
favorite socks–
wear them anyway.
A slip with a worn elastic,
waistband slid to my ankles
in the grocery store
the other day.
I stepped out of it
stuffed it in my purse.
The somber clerk
at the checkout noticed
as a sideways smile
tugged at the corners
of his straight mouth.

“How are you?” people ask.
“Everything” seems to be
the most honest
answer.
Anger, fear, sadness, confusion,
love, hate, acceptance.  Each
emotion, a wash of color
over a desire for
balance.  Whatever that is.
What to do
when worlds collide
when there is too much
loss, grief, uncertainty.
When Grief is an actual ocean
and I sit in the middle of it.
There’s nothing wrong,
nothing to fix,
no best thought,
neither perfect world
nor religious panacea.
I just sit here in
my little craft, bobbing.
I have declared bobbing
a state of being.
North, South, East West
no direction at all.
Bobbing is an up and down and sideways
motion.
This is my life right now.

****
Writing a poem at least helped to name things.

 

 

Aftermath–a poem

Aftermath
© by Christine O’Brien

Home from war
victory won
not we get to have some fun.

Heroes return
banners wave
look at our soldiers
so very brave.

Out of the trenches
returned from the sea
the American dream
peace and harmony.

A hero’s welcome
a wife’s lament
the unspoken trauma
finds no safe way to vent.

We must get on
snag our piece of the pie
time is a wasting
no time to cry.

Lots of kids
a house and a car
he’ll rule them all
like an infamous czar.

How did that war
fought on foreign soil
reach the home front
where was the foil?

Between the sheets
undealt with grief
in the marital bed
finds no relief.

The warrior’s
unresolved strife
armchair casualties
the children and wife.

The bliss that was promised
the vow to be true
were rendered asunder
by the war numbered two.

****
It wasn’t until 1980 that PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) was acknowledged by the American Psychiatric Association as an actual disorder.  And even then, there was controversy around it.  Today it is widely acknowledged.

What if…

What if I’d been born a woman in a time and place where women weren’t allowed to read and write–illiterate.  It wasn’t that long ago, especially in the context of the whole of human literacy, that women were “granted the right” to get an education.  If you are interested, you can google the timeline of women’s education across the globe.  That it be debatable whether or not a woman should be allowed to get an education is mind-boggling for those of us who, in many ways, take education for women for granted.

I wonder if parts of myself would be permanently closed off, untapped because I couldn’t make this scratching on paper with a pen?  When I look back and recall how, at 27-years old, I started to write to save my life, I honestly couldn’t have had a better means to express what was going on inside of me and outside of me.  Or so it seemed.  Self-expression takes many forms.  I know that I’d have found another way.  However, writing has been so accessible, cathartic and freeing.  It has worked well for me in addition to other creative ventures.

Here’s another way to look at women and the advent of the alphabet.  According to author, Leonard Shlain in his book, The Alphabet Versus the Goddess, the alphabet has usurped women’s innate powers.  It has thrust women from an intuitive universe of imagery and symbolism into the masculine logic thereby making these feminine attributes less accessible, diminished and even superstitious.   Within myself, I can feel a deep desire and an inner-directed course towards reclaiming and re-valuing these women’s ways of knowing.  I make art and write poetry to foster the intuitive side of me.

In China, women developed their own secret language, NuShu, to communicate with one another across the miles.  Daughters sold off into marriage were taken distances away from their mothers and sisters.  They were strangers in their new village and sometimes not welcomed.  Many of them would never see their families of origin again.  They wrote their secret language on the folds of fans that were delivered to and from their families.

“The script [NuShu] was often used in embroidery, calligraphy and handicrafts created by women.  It is found written on paper (including letters, written poetry and on objects such as fans) and embroidered on fabric (including on quilts, aprons, scarves, handkerchiefs). Objects were often buried with women or were burned.”
by Jone Johnson Lewis
from NuShu, a Woman-Only Language of China

Stamping out women’s illiteracy across the globe isn’t complete.  Belinda Jack’s well-researched essay, The Right to Read:  Belinda Jack on the History of Women’s Literacy, concludes:

“For many women readers today it’s easy to think that the history of women’s reading as a distinct story has come to an end. But in some parts of the world women continue to risk their lives reading material which those in authority have forbidden.”

I’m grateful that I can read and write.  That said, the re-valuing of a woman’s deeper intuitive ways of being, seeing and knowing is likely the antidote to a world that is steeped in a masculine logic gone awry.

What do you think?

 

 

Sitting at a Counter

Sitting at a counter
© by Christine O’Brien

“Here you go…
I’ll bring your soup out…
Do you need a fork…”
A muttered thank you.
Hum of the refrigerator case…
“Would you like butter for your bread?”
No…thank you.
So polite and not wanting to be.
Why did I get French onion soup
with cubed bread
with bread and butter on the side
and hot tea (with soup)
and a turkey berry sandwich with more bread?
Feeling sad
and lonely
because I can’t call and tell you
I broke up with my boyfriend
who was like my best friend
who felt like me at times
as if we shared the same skin
that housed a kindred soul.

For months,
we were one another’s universe.
It’s spring and everyone I see
belongs to someone.
Sadness holds me softly
and life goes on.
There is a busyness here
that makes me forget loneliness
briefly.
It works that way in big cities.
Passers-by like ocean waves–continuous.
All that motion,
a part of the stream.
Uniqueness blends into the many
and I’m oddly comforted.

In a small town, loneliness erupts–a sore thumb.
Everywhere I turn, there are reminders of us.
We laughed too hard in the video store
mimicking all our old favorite films.
Danced down the aisles,
in the bookstore,
snuck a kiss and a feel
in our cafe.
The trails we hiked together
through a snowy winter…

I’m glad there’s one trail
I haven’t shared with you.

****
Think about how poetry helped you through a tough time…

Reflections

Reflections
© by Christine O’Brien

A whole forest has tumbled over
and lies, bottom side up
in the water!
A horizontal duck skims
the surface of the forest
and its twin follows upside down.
The crags promenade
above and below
snow sifted on their high points.
Ripples distort the reflections.
A bird call sounding like
a squeaky wheel
although no bird is in sight.
I promised to sit here
for one hour today
witnessing
what I see and hear.
An invisible dog’s bark.
One noisy motor boat passes
not at high speed.
The surface of the lake responds,
disturbed,
waves, the wake, plowing hard to the shore;
silt at the bottom by the shore
rises to the surface.
everything is affected
including me
It takes awhile for it all to
settle down.

Castle Lake.1a.jpg

****
When was the last time you took an hour (or half an hour) to witness your surroundings?  Something shifts when I take the time to do this.

The Stone’s Story

I do not for a second believe it when someone says to me: “I don’t have a creative bone in my body.”  Or, “I didn’t get that gene.”

Like anything that one values, your own brand of creativity needs attention.  If you show up and pay attention, inspiration is everywhere and the point where you and inspiration intersect is a creative opportunity.  Creativity isn’t about perfection or making a painting or drawing like someone else.  It’s about tapping into your own unique expression.  And it takes DARING.  Especially in the beginning.  Below is an invitation to you to dare to be creative in a way that is unique to you.  Yes, you get to foster your own creativity!  Have fun.

In her book, Freeing the Creative Spirit, artist/author Adriana Diaz, offers a guided meditation, drawing and writing exercise with a stone or river rock that you select
as your object and subject.  She calls it “The Counsel of Stone.”  Have you ever journeyed with a stone?  Have you considered the stories it holds, the messages it conveys?  I have.  You are invited to follow suit, if you choose.

Stone Consciousness
© by Christine O’Brien

I know loneliness
a stone separated
from it’s streambed
My particular glamour
is less appealing here
Or, residing here for nine years,
have I become part of the wallpaper
unseen, too familiar
Like this displaced stone
am I commonplace
or too old
This stone a misshapen buddha
solitary bodhisattva
witness to its own cleaving
remembering the whole
What dissension shattered humankind
into this separation
Lonely and separate as this scarred stone
praised for its cool detachment
who cares to hear
the untold encrypted story

A star has fallen
to the bottom of the sea
fossilized
while a starfish rises into
the darkening sky
alternating realities
God is in us
is all right with the world
Has the stone learned compassion
Is that the panacea for such loneliness

****
Go ahead and find your  stone and seek its counsel.  Study it from every side, notice its angles and curves, any markings, hold it in your palm, draw it, meditate with it, write about what is revealed to you in a poem or prose.  Just do it!

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