Call Back the Bees

His feet are shod with gauze,
His helmet is of gold;
His breast, a single onyx
With chrysoprase, inlaid.

verse from Emily Dickinson’s poem, The Bee

It’s been in the news for several years now…that we are losing our honey bee colonies.  In some parts of the world, humans hand-pollinate the fruit-bearing trees due to the loss of bee populations.  One big reason for this loss is the use of pesticides.  The resultant disease is called Colony Collapse Disorder.Sunflowerwithbee..jpg

In late spring, I revel when I see bees pollinating my 100 year old cherry tree.  When I stand close, I hear the hum of bees doing their work.  I love the sound of this “machinery.”  I also love to see bees dallying in the bed of sunflowers or anywhere in my garden.  Everything feels right with the world on these special days.

Even if you think you are honey bee savvy, take two-and-a-half minutes to watch this short youtube about this amazing and necessary insect.  I learned something new.

Writing Prompt:
What can you do to “call back the honey bees?”  Write a poem perhaps?  Then share it.

 

The Versatility of Poetry

This is one reason I love poetry.  It can hold any subject.  Poetry is both amorphous and  it can claim a form.  It’s a perfect container for a variety of human expression.

the fog weaves through city streets
in and out of the avenues
twining round golden gate bridge towers
dampening moods and refreshing spirits
what season is it, I ask
summer you say, summer in San Francisco
coaxing one to build a fire on the hearth and cuddle
fog deceiving one into false seasons
Is it love I feel for you or
simply lust
long shrouded desire
and you the sun that penetrated my dark nights
stripping me of my clothes, my inhibitions,
tricking my hormones into believing I was unseasonal
everlasting
and so sexy

© by Christine O’Brien

In this short verse excerpted from a poem I wrote entitled Weather Report, notice how a story is told using place and mood.

Were you drawn into the story via the setting?

Each and every poem has a point of entry.  As does any story.  The writer and/or poet gets to decide what that entry point is.

Writer’s Prompt:
Experiment with using a place as the point of entry to your own poem as you write about an emotion you are feeling.

Follow the flow of your writing.

 

Who Do You Consult for Wisdom?

Truthfully, my parents weren’t my wisdom teachers, except perhaps through reversal.  And, reversal offers us some powerful lessons.  I didn’t go to them for guidance.  Throughout my life, I’ve gleaned wisdom from my own experience and through books and other teachers.

In contemplating who I consult for Wisdom, I discovered the term Wisdom Poetry.  It is  defined as “the type of poetry that contains some sort of moral or lesson, often written by an ancient scholar.”  Wisdom poetry is more of a theme rather than a branch of poetry itself.

Wisdom is sometimes personified, elusive creature that she can be.  Is she within?  Or dwelling in a cave on a mountain top far from where I live.  Tibet?  Nepal?  Or is she in the desert?  Zimbabwe?  Xanadu?  In the sky?  If only I could pinpoint the place, might I then be able to visit it, if only in my imagination?  Can I access her through my dreams?  Does he have a long white beard?  Do his eyes stare beyond the horizons of our own limited sight?

Is wisdom cumulative…I have these experiences and I hopefully learn from them.  I think that “real” wisdom is born of experience and that we integrate the lessons learned into how we live our daily lives.  And, perhaps wisdom has nothing to do with a person’s age although this wisdom poem below considers otherwise.

Wisdom
by Sara Teasdale

When I have ceased to break my wings
Against the faultiness of things,
And learned that compromises wait
Behind each hardly opened gate,
When I have looked Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange my youth.

Writing Prompt:
Who do you consult for wisdom?

Is this then…

Is this then
© by Christine O’Brien

Is this then what Armageddon looks like?
The face of the moon has turned red.
She peers through a window of gray smoke.
Tonight her expression is one of concern.
Did she realize that things would come to this?
Has the world savior raised her hands, surrendered
and retreated to some far off secret cave, irresolute
about how the story of humanity concludes?

I’ve been praying for a friend for the end of the world.
He literally showed up on my doorstep
a couple of weeks ago.
To paint my house.
I dreamed of him first…
that he would come
that I would ask for comfort
that he would oblige
then want more.
That I would send him away
that his drug-lost son
needed him.
“Away, go away.”

The air quality is unhealthy again today.
Another day indoors
sipping teas and taking herbal remedies
to soothe the throat and lungs.
There are things I have yet to say
to offer to a weary world
the one we continue to create
through our indifference.

Yet…

Even when we rise to smoky skies and
fires that aren’t easily quenched–
Even when the fire is battling back
and only 41% contained
and we are dependent upon
the direction of the wind.
While firefighters use the elements
to battle one against the other
coupled with chemical pollutants
because we are desperate
to protect all that we built
even when we know that life is
transient.

Even when the old dreams go up in smoke and flame
and we finally fall to our knees
and join the world savior in surrender
(for you too are her)
we feel the flutter in our secret heart caves
that something is going to be born,
something better, truer.

We hold vigil
while finding ways to speak
ways to act.
Even while we are uncertain,
we understand that there is now
and we can do this,
for now.

sunset.aug.2018.jpg

Grieve Deeply, Laugh Loudly

pic2We’ve heard this, right?  In order to feel the joy, you have to feel the sorrow.  If you shut off one part of yourself, you are shutting off being fully alive.  How you relate to your emotional life is going to affect your writing and creativity.

Poetry has been the greatest facilitator of the big emotions for me.  Journal writing and painting are close seconds.  I’ve learned that as I’m able to be present with an emotion, I then pass through that territory.  I come out the other side intact and a bit more integrated.

To be an effective writer, finding a way to say “I feel sad” without explicitly stating “I feel sad,” comes with practice.

Below is an excerpt from a piece I wrote in 2011.  My parents had died six months apart following several years of their decline and concurrent family disruption.

“I stopped at Burger Express.  It seemed like a burger was called for.  Single patty with cheese, no special sauce, no onions.  Yes to catsup.  Yes to small fries.  No book to read.  Waiting for my order.  Staring out at the falling snowflakes.  Staring out at nothing.  Squinting and staring at signs across the street.  Staring.  The wait person calls my number.  I take the red tray and head towards a little tucked-away table.  A man sitting at the counter asks “Are you going to share half of that with me?”  I recognize an acquaintance’s warm voice.  I stop to say hello and tell him that my Mom died last week.  I am telling everyone it seems.  Now, the cook, cashier and waitperson at Burger Express know too.  He is sorry.  His Dad died a year ago.  His Mom, 84, lives an hour south of here.  Everything is so tentative.  He gives me a big hug in his bear arms.  “If there is anything I can do, let me know.” He adds “Seriously.”  I thank him.  How I’d like to be held in strong arms for half a day.  I think that would really help.  It gets old, this wrapping my own arms around myself all the time.”

In this short excerpt, do you get a sense of my grief?  Did writing about this help me?  In some odd way, yes.  I wasn’t in denial of these feelings and I found refuge through writing these words.

WRITING PROMPT:
How do you write about the feeling of sadness?  Typically, this type of writing is only for you.  Do you allow yourself to fully express your sadness in writing, poetry or painting or any other creative outlet?

 

 

One of Those “Presence” Poems

nature1

It’s so easy to drift off into the past.  There are those encounters we have during the course of a day that trigger a memory and send us back there whether or not we want to go.  Sometimes, we have a welcome memory.  And choose to linger there or share it with another.  Of course, if you’re writing a memoir, you intentionally revisit this landscape.

However, when the past has too much of a tug…

Today
© by Christine O’Brien

The hummingbird hovers
its elongated tongue
goes right to the core
of the flower.
It sips the nectar,
collects some pollen,
then, onto the next.
Purposeful life.

I linger in the depleted soils
of the past
wandering in and out of memory doorways
like a vagrant
trying to find a friendly hearth.
There is nothing there.

Today, the bulbs have burst into flower.
Today, the sun is warming.
Today, the blossoms are gathering
like a choir,
lifting their throats heavenward
in sweet, scented song.

The hummingbird darts
close to my ear.
I hear the rapid thrum of wings
I hear the wakeup call, “Now.”

Writing Prompt:
Today, notice what tugs at you from the past.  Then, find something in today that brings you back into the here and now.  Write about it in a poem or prose.

Have a nice day.

What Do You See?

As a writer, how do you PRACTICE describing what you see?

Following is one of my favorite poems that illustrates deeply seeing and then portraying what the poet observes.

Nude Descending a Staircase
© 1961 by X. J. Kennedy

Toe upon toe, a snowing flesh,
a gold of lemon, root and rind,
she sifts in sunlight down the stairs
with nothing on. Nor on her mind.
We spy beneath the banister
a constant thresh of thigh on thigh;
her lips imprint the swinging air
that parts to let her parts go by.
One-woman waterfall, she wears
her slow descent like a long cape
and pausing on the final stair,
collects her motions into shape.
I appreciate this poem because it not only succinctly describes a nude woman walking down the stairs, it creates an imagery whereby I, as the reader, also see her.  And, in her descent of the staircase, I note the action of her walking, the movement.  This is a great feat in poetry.
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We’ve seen artists with their pencils and art journals sketching what they see.  As a writer, do you practice writing word sketches?  These word sketches can be used later on in other writing that you do or to simply facilitate your ability to observe.  Either way, it’s not time wasted.
Writing Prompt:
Here’s  fun exercise.  Take yourself outdoors to a park bench and sit with your pen, a  journal and notice people, your surroundings, the array of dogs?  Find the precise words to describe the flowers, trees, any movement.  What adjectives or metaphors come to mind as you allow yourself to really see someone or something?  Jot them down.  Practice doing a word sketch…or several.
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Thank you to X.J. Kennedy for permission to print his poem.
“From In a Prominent Bar in Secaucus: New and Selected Poems (Johns Hopkins University Press), copyright 2007 by X. J. Kennedy.  By permission of the author.”