One of Those “Presence” Poems

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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.

Renascence

When I first read, Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay, I was dumbstruck.  Millay was about twenty years old when she wrote this epic poem.  It seemed to touch on so many things that I had experienced over the course of my life.  The first two stanzas follow:

Renascence by Edna St. Vincent Millay

“All I could see from where I stood

Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked another way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I’d started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see;
These were the things that bounded me;
And I could touch them with my hand,
Almost, I thought, from where I stand.
And all at once things seemed so small
My breath came short, and scarce at all.”
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When I reread Renascence over ten years ago, I responded to the question “What binds you” in five pages of journal-type writing.  I titled it “Hemmed In.”  Reading this piece of my own writing ten years later, many things have changed and many things have remained the same.  It reminded me of one of those time capsule writings that you reopen all those years later and rediscover yourself in another time and perhaps another place.  And, I could respond to the same question again today and see where my writing goes.
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Writing Prompt:
Using the line “These were the things that bounded me,” write your own Renascence style poem (or prose).  Start with your physical surroundings.  What is in your immediate environment?  Expand your writing outwards and follow where you are lead.

There is always a project (to write about)

A Strange New Cottage In Berkeley
by Alan Ginsberg

All afternoon cutting bramble blackberries off a tottering
brown fence
under a low branch with its rotten
old apricots and miscellaneous
under the leaves,
fixing the drip in the intricate gut machinery of a new toilet;
found a good coffee pot in the vines by the porch, rolled a
big tire out of the scarlet bushes, hid my marijuana;
wet the flowers, playing the sunlit water each to each,
returning for godly extra drops for the string beans and daisies;
three times walked round the grass and sighed absently:
my reward, when the garden fed me its plums from the
form of a small tree in the corner,
an angel thoughtful of my stomach, and my dry and love-
lorn tongue.

Isn’t there always a project?  One thing checked off the daily list and ten more crowd into view.  Just walk from one room to the next and see what you are confronted with.  The endless to-do list.

Ginsberg takes us on a garden tour as he cuts back the blackberries and makes his discoveries.  He ends his poem with delight.

Writing Prompt:
Write your own prose or poetry describing something that you did today, a project from your list.  Is there a reward in it?

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When I was the Forest

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When I was the Forest
by Meister Eckhart

When I was the stream, when I was the
forest, when I was still the field,
when I was every hoof, foot,
fin and wing,
when I was the sky
itself,

No one ever asked me did I have a purpose, no one ever
wondered was there anything I might need,
For there was nothing
I could not
love.

It was when I left all we once were that
the agony began, the fear and questions came;
and I wept; I wept.  And tears
I had never known
before.

So I returned to the river, I returned to
the mountains, I asked for their hand in marriage again,
I begged–I begged to wed every object
and creature.

And when they accepted,
God was ever present in my arms
and He did not say “Where have you been?”
For then, I knew my soul,
every soul has always held Him.

Writing Prompt:
Over the course life, there are things that we lose and things that we  find.
Perhaps we’ve been left and/or we’ve left others at times.
Is there something in your life that was “found” then lost and was there a yearning and then a returning?  Describe it in prose or poetry.

 

Possible, Impossible

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Living in a somewhat “remote” area, there can be a tendency to imagine that we are unaffected by what goes on in the outside world.  This is definitely a false bubble.  The decisions that are made by those in roles of leadership trickle down to affect everyone.  Following is the third poem in my hexalogy of poems.

Sonnet #3 in the hexalogy of poems.

Possible, impossible, a constant weave
Do we have control over where we go?
When the powers that be cause us to grieve,
Can we grab the reins, redirect the flow?

When so-called leaders don’t know how to lead
When ambassadorship, isn’t their forte
Why do we entrust what we hold sacred
to those who lead us to certain “muerte“?

Resources are finite, global warming, fact
Denial has been a way of life too long
We are coming up against our earth’s lack
How can she provide when we ignore her song?

This regime cannot withstand the earth’s dream
She will have her way as they sit and scheme.

****

It can feel scary to hold views that oppose the systems that are in power.  Poetry written and then poetry that is shared are creative ways to express our views.

Writing Prompt:
Are you more comfortable voicing your concerns or discontent in a poem or prose than in your daily conversations?  Then write the poem or prose and share it (or not) when you so choose.

In Retrospect (2)

Knoxville Tennessee
by Nikki Giovanni
I always like summer Best
you can eat fresh corn
From daddy’s garden
And okra
And greens
And cabbage
And lots of
Barbeque
And buttermilk
And homemade ice-cream
At the church picnic
And listen to
Gospel music
Outside
At the church
Homecoming
And go to the mountains with
Your grandmother
And go barefooted
And be warm
All the time
Not only when you go to bed
And sleep
Writing Prompt:
What season did you like best while a child?
What stands out in your memory as inherent
to this season?  Notice how the author uses “listing”
to write her Memoir Poem.
Connect with your “inner child.”
Write your poem or prose.
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Firewood Delivered

There are certain harbingers of a season.
In the mountains, one such winter’s messenger is the delivery of firewood — a cord of oak or lodgepole pine cut to size, left in an unwieldy pile in the driveway near the house.  Below is an unpolished, unedited poem from my writing journal.  I don’t have a woodstove now…I have another type of heat.  But I remember very well that sense of gratitude and a feeling of wealth when the firewood was delivered.  These were my poetic thoughts while stacking wood.

Stacking Wood
© by Christine O’Brien

I don’t know what it is
to witness a tree falling
toppling hard upon the earth
vibrating with a thunderous curse.
Was it ready to give up life,
spirit sap, seamless strife,
surrendering to weapons
which sever, protest unheard.
Who will house that lonely bird
which once kept home within these leaves?
Does the bird fly to another hovel or
descend with the tree in a graceless flutter
like flower petals
though not so gently.
Perhaps they remember
the earth from which they’ve come
and rise again in a new form.

****
Now I stack it in imperfect piles
heat of my hearth
blazing and wild
challenging me
to be so used
The wealth of all that one life can be
standing small am I beside this tree

Writing Prompt:
What is a harbinger of the season in your hemisphere?  Choose one thing and write about it uncensored in poetry or prose.  Be real, be silly,  be serious, be ridiculous, be imperfect, just be.

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