Betty

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 85th birthday. As an awkward 20 year old newlywed, I didn’t know what to call her. Mrs. Bell felt too formal. Didn’t know if I should call her Mom. So I didn’t call her anything. It took me years to be able to call her Betty.

She loved me and loved on me. As a mother of three boys, I think she was glad to have a daughter. She always remembered birthdays, anniversaries, Mother’s Day. She bought Key Lime pie when I visited. When she hugged me she would tell  me I smelled good. This poem is for her.

 

August 21, 2017

 

The phone rang early in the murky sleep-state of morning

Packed a bag, boarded the dog, headed home

Into the day-darkness of that solar eclipse

Alabama to  Florida

Ominous shadowed light dimly glowed all around me

Driving home to say goodbye

To someone who loved me unconditionally

Pulled off at a rest stop

Where a stranger loaned me his glasses

To behold this obscurity of the sun

As I looked through bleak eyes

To a future without her

 

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PAD 2019 – #3 – Thanks to Rudyard Kipling and Teachers Everywhere

if-3-logo-png-transparent

by Compello

Day 11 was a dedication poem.  I based this on Rudyard Kipling’s poem “If”.

 

Thanks to Rudyard Kipling and Teachers Everywhere

(this is for those who choose the high road)

 

If you can keep your head when all

– the government who has no clue

– parents who put blame on you

– media who love to prey

– colleges who lead astray

— test companies who line their pockets

about you are losing theirs

– the solution is common core

– and what’s more

answer this heard to read, complicated word problem and you know math

 

If you can trust yourself when they tell you

you should be in another field

(don’t yield)

If you can wait for supplies that never come

and feed the hungry with snacks brought from home

or be hated by that one kid

for something you know you never did

yet be wise, but not a know-it-all

 

If you can dream but know

dreams don’t all come true

If you can think for yourself

not just on cue

If you can meet with fire and intruder drills

and keep the children all around you calm

 

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

twisted by students in their parents’ ears

or watch the pencils you gave your money for, broken

but continue to build up skills with broken tools

If you can make a heap of all your earnings

plus a little extra on the side

 

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

to hold on when there’s not much to hold on to

If you can talk to crowds

or walk with principals and not lose the common touch

If all kids count with you

no matter size or hue

 

If you can fill an unforgiving hour

with sixty minutes worth of all you have

and repeat

your’s is the job and everything that’s in it

then – which is more – you’ll be a teacher, my friend!

 

 

 

Mom

80a

April, 2016

 

Mom was born April 9, 1936. She would have been 83 today. It’s been 14 months since she died. So many little things happen throughout the days that knock me back, that remind me over and over that she isn’t here. I wrote the following poem in April, 2010. It was the first year I completed the PAD Challenge. I never really shared my poetry with her. Haven’t really shared it with anyone much in my family. Perhaps I should apply these words of Ray Bradbury…

“Self-consciousness is the enemy of all art.”

 

Mother

There at the end of the line
The hand of my dear mother
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Never a woman so fine
There is not another
There at the end of the line

Her spirit, gentle, kind
None else would I rather
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

Growing round her like a vine
Myself, my brothers
There at the end of the line

So lovely, so divine
No, there is no other
Her sweet comfort, it was mine

For days of old I pine
Yes, one after another
There at the end of the line

PAD 2019 – #2 – Mary Cassatt

Day four’s prompt was to write about a painter. I chose Mary Cassett.

 

Thank You, Mary Cassatt

 

no need to be a mother

to portray the loveliness

tender and soft

of mother and child

but her woman’s touch

and child’s heart

has given us a glimpse

of a love so real

her courage as a woman

in a man’s world

has given us beauty

has given us joy

in the high calling

of motherhood

PAD 2019 #1 – Worst Case

OStock Inventory

graphic-OStock Inventory

So, PAD started on Monday. Poem-A-Day for those of you who don’t know. This is my 7th or 8th year participating – I’ve got to check on that. Anyway, I am super excited and motivated now because for the first time I’ve had a poem accepted for publication in a literary magazine. More on that later.

Tuesdays during PAD are always Twofer – two prompts to choose from or to combine, whatever suits the fancy. This Tuesday it was Worst Case/Best Case. I’ve been reading a lot of stories lately where there is much hardness, tough times, sadness – scenarios I cannot always relate to.

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines

Hannah Coulter by Wendell Berry 

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

 

I began thinking about what to write for “worst case”. I’ve worked many different jobs over the years: babysitter, fast food, retail, home daycare, customer service representative in a credit department, house cleaner, freelance writer, janitor at a school, teacher, substitute teacher, tutor, general office worker. Plus mothering. I remember the worst job I ever had. It didn’t last too long. I found something else, but I don’t remember what. I worked for a company that went into retail stores and completed an inventory. That job inspired my poem.

Worst Case

that time she worked for the inventory company

left her babies to ride in a van

full of people she didn’t know

who laughed over last night’s escapades

and told dirty jokes

for an hour and a half

to a hardware store

in a podunk town

with dust covered shelves

where she counted boxes of nails

and smelly bicycle tires

she couldn’t hold it any longer

so went into the dirtiest

bathroom she’d ever seen

used all her muscles

to not touch the toilet seat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vaccinate yourself right into the streams…of the people

Daniel Frese

Photo by Daniel Frese

“The worst thing that can happen to you is to cut yourself lose from people. And the best thing is to sort of vaccinate yourself right into the streams and blood of the people. To feel like you know the best and the worst of folks that you see everywhere and never to feel weak, or lost, or even lonesome anywhere.” – Woody Guthrie

 

I was in the library a few weeks ago. This happened…

 

Sisters

 

Two sisters twirl on the twirly chairs

as Mom sits nearby on her phone

at the back of the library

 

One ashy blonde. one curly brunette

perhaps ten and eight

in library quietness they don’t disturb

 

Gently gliding on the tabletop

and plopping on the comfy couch

entertaining each other in silence

 

The elderly man in brown slacks

and a pale yellow button-down shirt

sits reading a large-print western novel

 

When he stands to leave he wobbles

trying to get his cane and legs in sync

without dropping his book

 

The blonde rushes over to assist him

though he is steady by then, but she hovers

just in case

 

Mom never notices

and I want to tell her

you’ve got lovely daughters, kind daughters

but as they leave her phone is at her ear

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pre-PAD Poetry

memomkat

I look forward to April every year. It’s like a magical month that kickstarts my poetic creativity, thanks most especially to Robert Brower over at Writers Digest.  This week I was subbing in a middle school class that had to complete a metaphor poem. I tried my hand at a writing a few. Here’s the first one…

Tightrope

Motherhood is a tightrope walk

Between birth and death a mother balances,

shifting her weight just slightly

to accommodate the ever changing tension

Swaying on her soft shoes, she grips with all she’s got

Trying to maintain her center, she walks

high above in terror and love,

without a safety net

 

And Adam called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. Genesis 3:20