Monday, May 14, 2018

A Mother’s Day Without My Mother



This was the first Mother’s Day without my mother.  I tripped when I wandered by mistake into the grocery aisle with all the cards, the candy, the flowers, but I soldiered on and browsed at all the pretty things, knowing some other Mommy would be enjoying all those little trinkets.
I always bought childish cards for my mom though I haven’t been one in a long, long time.  She would get a kick out of my nonsense.  She would giggle and show it off over and over. “Aye, que muchacha.”
These last few years I stopped buying her presents and enclosed money, cold hard cash, into her envelope.  We never said it out loud, but we both knew she wouldn’t live to see things wear out, so why not spend it NOW, since she couldn’t take it with her?  I also learned my lesson the year I spent hours and hours (and a big chunk of change) selecting a present only to find it on her sales table at a garage sale two months later. We laughed about that and her audacity at trying to sell it back to me “for a price.” “Te lo doy barato.”
I loved my mom.  I miss her, but I do not wish her back. She is where she needs to be, and I am here.  She is at rest and enjoying glory.  
My loss does not keep me from celebrating Mother’s Day. Almost every woman I know has been a mom or a parent or a caregiver at some point in their lives, so why not enjoy the day, besides I don’t really believe in waiting to tell folks how much we love them on only one designated day of the year.
You see, my mom and I did it right.  We fought with each other, yet afterwards, we asked each other’s forgiveness and made up. There were times we hurt or disappointed each other, but yet again, we asked for forgiveness and made up. She wasn’t perfect and neither am I, but she was my mother, my strongest ally, my truest friend.
On the day before she passed away, she asked us to honor her DNR. She also asked us to celebrate her life, so we made sure to do what she asked.  “Gracias, hija.”
The day she died was our last Mother’s Day. She was a strong woman and taught us to be strong, so we said our goodbyes like the grown women we are.

Monday, May 7, 2018

White Carnations



          When I was a child, I remember the men’s society at our church would sell carnations before and after Mass on Mother’s Day weekend. My dad, always the gentleman, would buy a carnation corsage for my mother and another for my grandmother (his mother-in-law), and they would in turn buy him a carnation boutonniere. They would fuss and giggle as they pinned them on each other.
          I always asked for a carnation, either a tiny corsage with a sprig of baby’s breath or a long-stemmed beauty, but my mother would scold me that they “were for grownups only” and hurried us into the church for Mass.
          One year, as we walked out of the last service for the day, the men’s society announced that a few flowers hadn’t sold and were free to anyone who wanted one. I ran to claim a freebie before my mother could hold me back.  While others chose a corsage or boutonniere, I plucked a lonely, long stemmed carnation that sat by itself in a bucket filled with water. I would have preferred a red beauty but I was happy with my white carnation.
          As I walked back to my parents, I noticed that my flower had tiny red speckles on the edges of the petals.  This may have been why it hadn’t sold.
My grandmother said that wearing a red carnation on Mother’s Day meant you honored a mother who was still living and a white carnation meant you remembered a mother who had passed away. To help me remember, she said mothers in heaven wore angelic white gowns, and that was why she and my dad wore white flowers and my mother’s was red.
My mother scolded me for taking off without permission and – horrors! - for choosing a white carnation. I should have gotten a red one. I defended my choice, saying it looked abandoned in the bucket by itself.  I wanted it for all the mommies who didn’t have someone who remembered them that day.  I was allowed to keep it but not without a scowl.
This Mother’s Day, I am going to buy bunches of white carnations.  They will probably be the least expensive because everyone will fight over the reds or the most colorful.  I am going to trek out to the cemetery where we buried my dear grandmother, then my handsome dad, and just a few months ago, my formidable mom. I want them to look down from heaven and know I haven’t forgotten them. 
I am going to cover their lonely graves with white carnations.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Inside This Pencil



“Inside this pencil
crouch words that have never been written
never been spoken
never been taught

they’re hiding”
W. S. Merwin

I’ve enjoyed blogging this month about poetry.  It is a nice respite from my usual form, and I hope you have enjoyed our attempts at penning verses.
To end this jaunt, you might browse your public library or a bookstore.  Find the kind of poetry that speaks to you and add to your library. 
Buy a journal, something fun and inviting, and emulate the poems you enjoy, stretching your creative muscle and drafting a few poems.
Read a poem or a Psalm from the Bible.  Use them for meditation before the start of each day. Journal using words, phrases, verses that call to you.
Introduce poetry to those around you. Besides those I referenced in my April 9, 2018 blog, try Shel Silverstein, Jack Prelutsky or Ogden Nash for the younger people in your life.
To explore the male or female point of view, read Judith Viorst, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, or Emily Dickenson; or Pablo Neruda, Billy Collins, or Robert Frost.
For the crafter in you, refer to George Ella Lyon, Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Georgia Heard, or Dunning and Stafford. Their suggestions are enlightening.
There are so many books out there, waiting for you to discover them and add them to your library. Enjoy what is crouching inside your pencil, waiting to be spoken, and try your hand at poetry. Best of luck.


Monday, April 23, 2018

The Six-Room-Poem: Flamenco


Writing poetry does not come easy for me, but that does not mean I don’t occasionally try my hand at penning a few verses.
My poetry collection numbers close to 100 books.  It intrigues me so some of those books are on the craft of writing poetry.
This week’s “how to write a better poem” suggestion comes from Georgia Heard’s Awakening the Heart.  It is a technique she uses with students called the Six-Room-Poem that I found amazingly helpful.
You take a sheet of paper and fold it into six boxes and position the paper landscape, three boxes on top and three boxes on the bottom.
In box 1: describe thoroughly an image or a memory you want to use as the subject of your poem. You are not writing a poem yet, so just fill this box with description. If you are stuck, hold on, since you might get more ideas as you fill the other boxes.
In box 2: describe the quality of light or shadow or colors about your topic.
In box 3: describe your topic/image using the following senses: smell, taste, sound or lack of, and touch.
In box 4: what questions does your image elicit, or what questions might it ask you? You could also use this square to note quotes or verses from other sources that fit your image/topic.
In box 5: what feelings/imagery come from observing or describing your topic?
In box 6: go over the five boxes and find an image, word, verse, sentence that stands out.  Write it in this box three times.
Go back over the six boxes and fill in more descriptions and images, build imagery using similes and metaphors or other figures of speech.
If you have been successful, you now have enough material to write your poem.

I have included a sample of what my six-room-poem looks like.

Flamenco
The sun gathers her skirts
          pinks and purples.
Her song over  
          she steps off the stage.
Blinding brightness
          shafts of light
          cling to the end of her dance.
A magnificent spectacle
          Her beauty on mute.
She throws her arms into the air,
smiles,
And darkness follows.
         


Monday, April 16, 2018

A Found Poem Using Psalm 91



 In my previous two blogs for the month of April about poetry, I gave two suggestions: trying your hand with a “found poem” and imitating a favorite poem or poet by copying one example and substituting its form with your own words to practice “writing a better poem.”

To illustrate how a found poem works, I took a favorite Psalm from the Bible and did the following:
1.     I copied words, phrases, or verses from the psalm that I really loved unto a sheet of paper, one example per line, then I cut them into movable pieces with a pair of scissors.
2.    In a found poem, you are not allowed to add or change ANYTHING; you can only work with the words, phrases, or verses you have chosen. You cannot punctuate differently or add punctuation where it might be needed, but you can repeat words, phrases, or verses to create a refrain or make transitions or to emphasize images.  It will look very “modern.”
3.    I took my bits of paper and moved them into different positions, paring phrases down to single words if necessary and creating line breaks where I wanted.   
It is always best to show an example so below is my version of Psalm 91. I hope it inspires you to try your hand at a found poem. Happy April is Poetry Month!

Psalm 91: I Will Be With You
I will protect those who know my name
You will not fear the terror of the night
I will be with them
When they call me, I will answer them
command angels
                     find refuge
                     bear you up
          no evil shall befall you
guard you in all ways
                     from the snare of the fowler
You will tread on the lion and the adder
You will not fear the terror of the night.