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?

 

 

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?

 

 

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…

Conscious Ceremony

In our workaday world, it isn’t often possible to slow things down.  Depending on the demands of your life, your stage of life, where you live, etc., it may seem to be infeasible.  However, years ago, in the midst of a growing family and work outside the home, I began to claim time apart.  I converted a space in the roughly finished garage as my art, craft and sewing studio.  Giving myself this physical place, A Room of One’s Own, facilitated both my creative and contemplative process.

Back to the idea of Conscious Ceremony…Did I mention that I love the morning?  Especially on a day when I don’t have to rush out the door.  I’m working at minimizing adrenaline rushes.  This morning, before I get caught up in the momentum of the day, I’m going to harvest cherries from the cherry tree in my backyard.  This fleeting seasonal gift from the earth–if I don’t pick them soon, they’re going to be overripe or for the birds.  Then I’m going to blend the best cherry smoothie.  Sip it slowly, now, as I greet this day.

When I move into the day, sloooowly, I am able to bring a feeling of ceremony to my activities throughout the day.  Surprisingly, when I start the day in this way, I seem to “get more things done” if that is the goal.

As poets, writers and artists, we deepen into another level when we take such time apart.  Not something crammed into an already jammed schedule.  But truly A TIME APART.  There is a leisure to this  non-ordinary time, as if we had all the time in the world and could actually savor the moment.  This is how we deepen and evolve as creative beings.

This morning offers time enough to write my blog, to write in my journal, to practice drawing, to make my list for the day.  And, to be a witness to the determined sun rising over Quail Ridge.  All of this is ceremony!

Expressing the gratitude I feel for the beauty and appreciating the many wonders is ceremony.  Sipping this amazing smoothie, reveling in the generosity of a tree that shares its gifts with me–this nourishment to my body, mind and spirit.  Such a pure gift.  Deep awareness brought to the morning activities–this is ceremony.

cherries.2.2019.jpg

Taking Time Apart, Conscious Ceremony, can take five minutes or as long as you choose for your busy life.  It’s really the pause that you invite in as you move into your day.  Awareness, gratitude and presence do seem to be the key ingredients of this pause.

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.