Saturday, August 23, 2008

A new poem

As the subject line says, I wrote a new poem. As usual, this shouldn't be considered a final version, as I may decide to change any or all of it in future.


My head got stuck in the jaws of anger
today; crazy hijacked my afternoon.

It doesn’t last, I say, it doesn’t last –
and I pretend to listen and believe,

as though I were a creditable source.
And that’s the truth, it doesn’t last – but damn,

it always, always crashes back – and ten
by twenty thousand times, it kicks me down.

But I am sitting here, I am alive.
I try to find some solace in these words,

some meaning in the pain, again, again,
a measure of protection … for next time.

The roaring storm is no more than a sigh
when set against the years that fly away.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Life = Multitudes of Poems

I've been working on a project for my mother's birthday - though clearly I haven't been working hard enough at it, because her birthday is in two days and I'm not even done with it yet, so who knows when it'll get packed up and into the mail. But it's this: I have a few poetry books from which I'll select a handful of poems to read aloud into my voice recorder (a feature on my Creative MP3 player, and yes I've been quite pleased with both of the Creative players I've purchased), and then I'll transfer the files to computer, and burn them onto a CD for my mom. I might include a few of my own poems in the group as well (the one below, called "Weight," being my first candidate). I'm hoping to get the readings done this evening, while Jeff and the boys are at Ryan's football practice; after that's done, the rest (the techie part) should be easier...she said confidently, ha ha.

My mom has never been a big "reader," and I don't think she's ever been a poetry fan, but since it will be my voice reading them, and I'm being fairly selective about the ones I'm reading, I think she'll appreciate it. I wanted to read some Mary Oliver to her when I visited in April, but she didn't want to hear it. Since she's better now, I thought she might get a little enjoyment out of them, whereas she got little enjoyment from anything in the spring.

Although she didn't read poetry, I often read my new poems to her in my late teens and early 20s, if I thought they were halfway good. I always knew if she liked one, because as soon as I finished reading, she would say, "Oooh!" Not "Oh," like the letter "o," but "Oooh," to rhyme with "new" or "true," the little pleased and surprised exclamation that says, "That's kinda neat!" Nothing deep or intellectual, no "constructive feedback," but just an "Oooh!" Or, no "Oooh." I really liked those times my poem would get an "Oooh!" from my mom. I think we understood each other pretty well, those times.

(Originally posted on MySpace on July 19, 2006, soon after it was written)


In college, there was a poster
stuck up on the living room wall
depicting women of all sizes and shapes
floating, drifting across the sky.
"Celebrate your natural sizes," it said.
When Lori and I considered this message,
my response was quick, and practical:
"But I can’t fit into my natural clothes!"
This is only one moment from the ongoing story
of extra weight -- so rarely lost,
and far too often found.

At full term with my first son, I weighed
one hundred ninety-seven pounds;
with my second, two hundred ten.
It’s difficult to comprehend
having a second belly, one that kicks.
During the third trimester, I carried
a weight I could never put down.
Such exquisite relief I felt
when the doctor lifted my firstborn from me:
I was instantly, refreshingly lighter.

Last evening, my second son,
almost four, fell asleep on the drive
to the library. I unbuckled him,
put his lollipop in my mouth, picked up
his heavy sleeping weight, his head
almost slipping off my shoulder.
Inside the building -- blessedly cool
on the hottest day of the year --
I dropped off our videos, and threw
the lollipop away. I quickly found the book
I wanted, brought it and my son
to the self-checkout. I imagined myself
laying him down at my feet,
but I didn’t. I juggled my wallet,
my library card, the book, and my kid,
then took everything out into the heat.
My shirt had scooted up my tummy,
and Ryan’s shirt was higher still.
My arms were weakening, my mind
recalling a pregnant belly, the weight
I could never put down.
My sleeping son is no longer
that same bundle of joy, but a boy
who’s been calling me "Pretty Mommy."
I open the door, and gently put him down.
I start the car, then softly strap in
my handsome son, this wondrous, precious weight.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Random thought

The old saying goes that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. My own great affection for food notwithstanding, I had a thought recently that the best way to a woman's heart is through her mind.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Finished another excellent book

Today, I finished listening to the audio version of The book thief by Markus Zusak. I just wrote this in my "50 Book Challenge" list on LibraryThing:

30. The book thief - finished listening to it this afternoon, crying near the end, but not quite sobbing, as the boys had a couple of friends over, and the last thing any of the kids needed was to see me looking like a wreck with red splotches and tears in place of my regular face. (My sons are too familiar with the sight to be surprised, but could have been VERY embarrassed had either of the friends seen me.) I wasn't doing housecleaning as I listened to the last sections, I was eager to just HEAR it, to find out what happened.

It's not really a sad book, but there's a good deal of black comedy in it. It takes place in Nazi Germany and is narrated by Death, but is also populated by rich and interesting characters. It's both a tribute and a cautionary tale about the power of words, reading, and books. It is magnificent, and I love it. In a way, it reminds me of To kill a mockingbird, in that it seems like a story set free into the world, whole and complete, each sentence just as it should be, all parts perfect and necessary.

Next audio - I don't know. It's a bit like when I finished Middlemarch in the spring (though it's not even half so long!) - I don't want to let go of the book thief and her friends.

There are so many wonderful books in the world, and a good number of marvelous books in my own collection that I haven't read yet. I wanted The book thief for several months before I bought it (maybe last December), and the same with The glass castle. When my book group chose to read Middlemarch earlier this year, my one-dollar copy from the Smith College book store still had the receipt inside...from 1994. I've fallen in love with these three books this year, three books that I had already bought with no immediate plan to read them (an understatement in the case of the George Eliot novel!), that brought me great pleasure when I made time to read them, whether months or years after they came into my bookcases.

To read an excellent book is sometimes to live within it, to even breathe it, to hold it to your heart at the same time that you offer it to others: "This book is great, you just have to read it, it's amazing!" But for me, there's also a kind of tension that comes with a wonderful book: to want to go back to Middlemarch (for example), while my real life requires me here in Topeka. In spite of that, I know I'm so lucky - my real life is pretty good, and so many people have never been to Middlemarch at all! For those who love to read, the world is so much larger, no matter the miles they travel (or not) in "real life," and my shelves are full of places I haven't seen yet, that I'll be honored to visit, and glad to keep in my mind ever after.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

"It's Hot in Topeka"

The past several days have been hot, hot, hot. We took the boys swimming on Saturday, and Jeff and I both got a bit sunburned. I barely left the house on Sunday, and was only too glad to be in the AC at work yesterday. There was a heat advisory for all three days. Last evening, at 930pm, it was still 90 degrees, and the heat index was maybe 96 - just dreadful. Today we're having a "cooldown," sort of, expecting a high of only 92 degrees. And maybe some rain soon, if we're lucky.

We saw this on the Cartoon Network a year or so ago. The show is called "Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends," and in this bit, Bloo hears the weather forecast for Topeka, and then runs with it.