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.

 

Sometimes, it is just practice

a bright idea, a rush of enthusiasm…these spark you and you begin to write and then…nothing…flat…blah…halt.  a false start.  the flow is gone and you put the poem or manuscript in the bottom drawer of your file cabinet…the shame pile…more unfinished work!

what if it was just a momentary thing.  not meant to be a love affair of any note or a long term relationship.  can you accept that?  could you even shred it?

For me, these false starts are a way of moving the energy.  As a writer, especially one who writes almost daily, I am open and available to ideas that zoom in…and then often they zoom out without coming to fruition and completion.  Not every idea has to be developed.

One question to ask of yourself is…”Do I always need a product?”

Sometimes, writing is just practice to facilitate your process.  You jot down the bright ideas, but you’re already working on something that is going somewhere. When you get to a stuck place in your life’s work writing, you can get easily distracted by yet another brilliant idea.   You then get waylaid from your story that has to be told, the one that you deeply desire to complete in this lifetime.  These engaging nova star ideas that race across your mind are a way to keep the channels open while you wait for what’s next in your great work.  You follow the star–and then, it plummets.  Nothing.  Nowhere to go with it.  Oh yes, where were you with the project at hand?  Get back to it.

These fleeting ideas show me that I’m in the flow, receptive and available.  I wrote it down, followed its lead and then realized that it is going to land in the bottom drawer of my file cabinet.  Perhaps I’m going to pick it up again one day and follow it further.  Or, I’m going to shred it immediately after I write it although the temptation to keep it is there as what I’ve written so far is, to my thinking, splendid.  These little writing flings…sigh.

 

 

Remembering the Connection

invitation.2019

This is another theme of mine that replays itself.  Truly, I don’t understand how anyone (me included at times) canNOT see that everything affects everything.  When my daughters were young and watching Sesame Street, there was a cartoon that they replayed frequently.  It went something like this…If I pop my little brother’s balloon, he’s going to cry.  Mommy is going to come running.  He’s going to point his finger at me.  I’m going to get into trouble.

An effective example of actions with consequences.  So it is with our earth.  We are invited to share in the beauty and the bounty provided by nature.  And, it’s a wise thing to live sustainably and reciprocate in ways that we are able.  How we impact our planet, “our carbon footprint” for one, affects not only us, but the other creatures with whom we share this earth home.  And also, the generations to come.

This painting invites us into the forest and to receive the healing salve of being in nature.  It is an invitation requiring reciprocity.  Please respect this earth–home to many.

 

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.

 

 

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?

 

 

A trip on a train…

A trip on a train with a group from my Spanish class.  I sit on a big chair that glides.  Someone I don’t know sits across the aisle.  She is asking me questions about what I’m going to see.

“Do you speak Spanish?” she asks.

Her inconsequential questions flood the air between us.  I can barely hear her over the clatter of the train and other chatter.

I don’t have adequate answers to her questions.

“I’m just taking a train ride with my classmates,” I answer.

She’s not happy with my answer.  The conversation lags.

****
At some point, I’m in a car.  Cecelia is driving and two people are in the back seat.  I am talking, she is listening.  At times, she looks directly at me with with great interest.  She holds her intent gaze for a long moment.  She’s taken her eyes off of the road which makes me nervous.  Sometimes the road narrows, men are at work and we funnel down to one lane.  She seems oblivious to the road condition.  I am not oblivious.

The next thing that I know, I’m back on the train again wondering if Cecelia’s car is being transported by rail or if she continued to drive and if we’re going to meet at the next juncture.

Afterthought:  This all seems like a trip without a particular destination.  And it seems okay to just be traveling without having a terminus.

****
For a period of time, I kept a dream journal.  Sometimes, I noted a question in the journal before bed.  When I woke in the morning, while the dream was fresh, I wrote it down and then looked within the surreal images and narrative to see if there was an answer.

Have you ever kept a dream journal?

Dreams can be a launching point for your writing.

The Gold in Your Journals

You witness your daily life experiences on the pages of your journal.  You share your reflections, fears, hopes and dreams.  Your feelings of the moment.  Your encounters, reactions and more.  This journal is not only a confidante, it is the keeper of your records.  As a journalist, you follow yourself around with pen and pad writing down the details of your experience(s) firsthand!  You describe place, person, thing, incident, occasion, a vista, your own feelings, reactions, goofiness.  You write down dialogue and phrases caught on the wind in a cafe.  You really don’t skimp on writing down these details.  They could be useful in your blog, a book, an essay, a poem, whatever.

Your powers of recall are amazing.  But what you recall is typically a feeling or an image, sometimes a smell.  You don’t remember the specific details, the exact feeling, the precise colors, your immediate reaction or the words of a conversation or your thought process.  As was noted in an earlier blog, it is through the image details that your writing rises out of the ordinary into the authentic and believable.  Writers paint word pictures.  Therein lies the gold in your well-kept journals.

Excerpt from an earlier journal…

“Once you lose the ability to speak, you really appreciate it,” my father slurred following a stroke.     (Having been a girl and woman without a voice for most of my life, I thought but didn’t say–tell me about it)

He tried to recite a poem Elegy in a Country Churchyard.  I couldn’t understand a single word of it!

My mother wore his yellow bathrobe, his watch on her wrist.  His wallet was in the bathrobe pocket with two medications that he was taking.  Like a high-schooler wearing her boyfriend’s lettered sweater.

When the doctor mentioned the question of life supports, her face screwed up as she tried not to cry.

****
I wouldn’t have remembered these details had I not written them in my journal.  As a writer, have you mined the gold in your journals?