Monday, March 30, 2009

Explaining Easter to My Three-Year-Old

Imagine your marshmallow Peeps devoured by your brother
without one lick of sticky sweetness, the giant chocolate rabbit
melted in the sun. Even your mother and father –
those great false gods – have eaten every jelly bean,
taken away the pastel colored eggs. You hold your basket,
empty, save for some stringy plastic grass.

This is how Good Friday feels, like waiting
to be taken to the playground all day and then
it rains, like wanting to wear pink but all that’s clean
is gray. And then you are sent to time-out, told to sit still
for three minutes, which is almost more than you can bear.

This is more than you can bear, but be still,
consider how much you had hoped for that delicious
candy basket, how you had dreamed to wear
the most beautiful gown, to hold the bunny’s cotton paw,
to savor those puffy, yellow Peeps.

Now, my daughter, let us rejoice – time-out is finally over,
see the basket overflowing, Cadbury eggs, Reese’s pieces,
pastel M&Ms, more chocolate bunnies
and sugar-coated marshmallows than you could ever eat,
sweetness you can share with the whole starving world.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


It has been a great week of a forced fast from the computer, kind of - with mobile uploads and Twitter's mobile connect to Facebook, I have been able to give the appearance of an online presence ;) Thank God for Twitter and its ability to make sure everyone knows what normal and uninteresting things I am doing on a day-to-day basis.

I had three days off from work this week so that Brandon could go on a baseball road trip. The excellent husband and father needed the break from full-time dadhood, so it was a good time for him; plus, he was just offered the head coach position for next season! Hooray! This is great news for him - his dream job is coaching full-time for a college, and this is one more step in the right direction.

While he was gone, I spent lots of quality time with the kids and also prepared for the Shape in a Misshapen World Arts Festival, which was a great event - the readings went very well and the art on display received many compliments. It was a wonderful weekend event that left me just a bit exhausted, but nothing too stressful.

OH and the BEST news this week is that my chapbooks arrived on Saturday! Hooray!

I received some more good news this week, too - The Fourth River selected my poem, "Stumps" for publication in the Spring 2010 issue, and my poem, "The Angry Gardener" was given an honorable mention in the Akron Art Museum's New Words 2009 Poetry Contest - it was one of eight finalists out of 395 submissions! I will be reading with the other finalists and featured reader on April 19th at the Akron Art Museum.

I am still buzzing about all of this. It is such a good feeling to know that you've found what you were made to do. Or at least to feel like you've found what you were made to do. I am acutely aware of what success can do to one's ego. I do not want to forget that poetry, or any work I do, for that matter, is not about me and my success but rather what God can accomplish through it. One of my friends in our small group Bible study said this week, in response to my concerns about being overly confident, said that there is a fine line between confidence and pride, and that fine line steps from serving God to self-serving.

In many ways I don't know what to do next, in regards to poetry. I am working on a draft of my first full-length manuscript right now, getting feedback from poet friends on order and arc and what-not, but what I don't know is whether I should be thinking about going for my graduate degree, either MFA or something else, or whether I am right where I need to be. Another thing my friend said on Thursday that really struck a chord with me is that often, once we've found our niche and begin to succeed, we have a tendency to be rewarded or promoted straight out of that place that God put us - the sweet spot where we are most productive. Even though some pursuits may seem like good ideas, they might not be God's idea, or God's timing. This is something I've been thinking a lot about with my career as a poet (if you can call being a poet any sort of "career"). Is going for a higher degree right now or in the near future a good idea, God's idea, both, or neither?

When I think about it in terms of my family, I think going back to school right now would be putting myself before every other member in my family. It would be a seriously selfish move - especially since Brandon has been planning to go back to school for a few years now. I don't think it is right or fair to him or my children to take on yet another project, especially when I am already over-committed with work, church, and my poetry as it is. I think in a few years, once the kids are in school and the husband is almost done or finished with his master's, the timing will be better. And who knows where we will be a few more years down the road? I certainly never predicted we'd be here.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Calling Hours

2 Samuel 14:14

Cry, but know your tears will not help
carry me down the Yellow Creek,
where I will meet so many other
happy rafters in the Ohio River –
kick our feet and let our fingers

dangle in the waters. We will tie
our rafts together as we swing
into the Mississippi, hold hands,
anticipate which way the current
turns and ride the stream with glee.

Your grief will dampen the soil,
trickle through the earth to crease
a way from tributary to the slated
river bed, swallowed by waters
rushing to the broadest sea,

where I will sink into the depths
of light, dive beneath the surface,
like so many others, to be free.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Cascade Valley

Look, my daughter, the pine tree
dropped its seeds, and here
a fragile sapling braves the forest floor.
This used to be a birch tree
but maybe lightning sliced it,
wind heaved its heavy breath against it
and now the trunk is rust.
Sticks used to flirt, flare
their skirts of springtime buds,

but now we throw the broken limbs
into the rushing floodwaters to see
how quickly we could be carried away.
We are always a hair too close
to the edge, send pebbles skittering
into the river. Let's find our way back
from this spring rage, out of the valley
that catches what used to cling above.

Climb this mountain with its muddy paths,
deer trails, tread marks, hoof prints,
decomposing oaks - we are not the first
to grow and fall. But see the way the leaves
return to earth, the way the dust collects.
Crocus blades emerge from crumbling stumps
as if this growth does not take more than soil,
light, and rain. Reach down, my child,
bring a pine cone home to show
how miraculously we are carried.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

The Homecoming

Tuba bells catch stadium light in the end zone,
flash it to cymbals, who wait at attention
in the percussion section. In the stands,
parents bundle under blankets, wave to friends.
Elementary boys wear oversized jerseys and blue jeans,
chase girls with bags of popcorn and fruit punch.
Their older siblings gather in corners, drink Pepsi,
eat pizza, go out into the night with fragile confidence.

The director paces the goal line, then signals
Instruments Up! and the crisp fall air
fills with "The Old Colonial March," low brass
and bass drum escalating into squeaks and trills
from clarinet and piccolos as the band steps off,
an eight-in-five march down field. The audience claps
a dutiful round and waits for the invitation
to rise to their feet. The director cues the snare
who rolls off - O Say, can you see?

Stars and stripes flap steadily in the late evening,
all heads turned, all hearts covered. Some sing,
but most have forgotten the words, hum along,
or hold tight to caps - and the home of the brave.
Then the cut-off, three taps into the fight song.
Now the crowd is giddy with cheers, yelling,
"We're gonna fight fight fight for every score!"

After the procession to the bleachers, the coin toss,
the kick off, all boo when the ref throws a yellow flag.
Cheerleaders chant DEFENSE and prance, pom poms shining,
swishing down the track. Dads lean against the fence
and count the seconds their sons get to play,
tally tackles and fumbles for post-game breakdowns.
Moms sip hot chocolate and gossip under their blankets.
Daughters walk in huddles and whisper five feet behind
an oblivious pack of boys - fingers in their belt loops.
The girls giggle when one turns and smiles.

And the younger children zig between,
learn their lessons well, never wonder
at the simple patterns, calculated plays,
choreographed routines. The chill will grow deeper
as the season of passion swings to a close,
home team victorious, or not. We all return to that year,
that night, when the lights hit the field and made it magic,
the way the band played, the extra point into overtime,
words exchanged in the bleachers, the unbeatable defeated.
We all come home to this Friday night.

Back to Health

I took a leave from blogging/reading/writing/thinking for about a week due to sinus infections and roto viruses which amounted to a lot of nasty bodily fluids in our house in the last few weeks. Ew. I will spare the blog world every grotesque detail. Suffice it to say, it was a sort of comedy of tragedies - sick kids, sick mom, and lots of Purell.

Now that I feel human again, it is almost as if I could take on the world. I'm feeling really energized and glad that the weather turned a bit to complement the mood. Lydia and I went on a two mile hike in Cascade Valley Metro Park yesterday, which was a thoroughly enjoyable experience. We went shopping with Grandma Rose in the morning and ate lunch at Chick Fila (hooray for Chick Fila! - love it.). In the evening, Brando and I went to the Zips/Bulls game at the Q with some friends... and the Akron Zips won! Another hooray - for good ole' fashioned date night at a basketball game - and for a Northeast Ohio team winning some sort of championship. Always cause for celebration.

Today there are very few plans except for me to head back to Ashland tonight for small group. We're currently studying David and Bathsheba's affair, David's plot to kill Bathsheba's husband Uriah, the confrontation from Nathan, the confession from David, and the immediate death of the infant son born of Bathsheba, followed by the conception/birth of Solomon. QUITE a time in David's life!

I have a few poems brewing that I plan on getting out in the next few days - one on paper now that I think I'll type in here in a minute. Most of writing happens in the experience away from the desk, and I've had some time and experiences to start that work of writing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Stealing Ideas and Old French Language "Roots"


In the words of a poet friend of mine, *poof!*
So, I have a secret I need to spill. I rob Wikipedia, Google, and the Bible of all their good ideas. I am a thief. I admit it. This poem is a good example and an easy entrance into confession.

First, I have been trying to write all. Day. Long. Well, here and there anyway - it has been really busy at work lately and SURPRISE SURPRISE there hasn't been time for me to fiddle with my own poetry. I know, sad story. But even though I can't actually sit at my desk and type the poems, I usually have something I'm writing simmering in my head, or trying to latch on to an idea that could become a poem. I'm not pleased with either of the two versions of "A Voice in the Crowd at Capernaum," but I think it's probably a little bit because it was forced inspiration. I don't do well when I try to tell the Holy Spirit to inspire me.

On that note, I decided to try a new activity and opened the Bible to any random section. The first verse I read began, "Can a mortal be of use to God?" (Job 22:2). I thought, "How fortunate! I didn't land in Leviticus!" But this got me thinking about whether we can affect God - with worship, with prayer, etc. In one of my small group Bible studies, we just read about David and his fervent prayers for his infant son who God struck ill because of what David did to Bathsheba's husband, Uriah. The discussion guide (Beth Moore! Woo!) led us to think about why we pray - if God can be swayed by prayer - and the short answer is, yes, but it is up to God if, when, and how he will answer.

So I started to think about what my prayers feel like sometimes, and for some reason, I decided that it's like blowing the seeds off of a dandelion head. I don't know why. It just is, okay? Which made me look up dandelions. I found this one website - on the Common Dandelion - that gave me some really good facts to build a poem on. A few of my favorites that I "stole" --

They're so deeply toothed, they gave the plant its name in Old French: Dent-de-lion means lion's tooth in Old French.

And, this:

Each flower head consists of hundreds of tiny ray flowers.


The flower head can change into the familiar, white, globular seed head overnight. Each seed has a tiny parachute, to spread far and wide in the wind. The thick, brittle, beige, branching taproot grows up to 10" long. All parts of this plant exude a white milky sap when broken.

How great is, "the thick, brittle, beige, branching taproot?" Thank you, "Wildman" Steve Brill, for your uber-descriptive dandelion webpage. I could not resist, of course, the lion reference.

So that's how this poem came to be. If I ever win a Pushcart for it, I will stand behind the podium in my living room and thank God, Google, and Wildman Steve Brill publicly for their generosity.