In Memoriam

Inheritance

he gave me my love
of words written and spoken
though not his blue eyes

[First published in Four and Twenty, Volume 3, Issue 4, April 2010]


my father’s orchard—
tending his fruit trees
reaping the harvest

[first appeared in Caribbean Kigo Kukai #14, June 2010]

August moon
what would have been
his ninetieth birthday

Stanton Cohn
August 25, 1920 – April 28, 2008

Rest in Peace, Dad.

Pineapple Summer

This week’s Big Tent Poetry prompt was a wordle. The words that jumped out at me were pineapple, silk, and summer. I wrote this at four in the morning, when I couldn’t sleep anyway. Maybe that’s the trick to writing poetry that springs from the unconscious mind– I certainly never consciously think about pineapple upside-down cake, or corn silk either, for that matter!

Pineapple Summer

The secret of pineapple upside-down cake
is that the pineapples have to start at the bottom
in order to end up on top. Eventually.
Life can be like this. Or not.
Some things start at the bottom
and stay at the bottom. Like fish.
Some start on top and fall. Like Humpty Dumpty.
Others just drift. Like milkweeds on the breeze.
Or summer days, which slide one into the next,
smooth as corn silk.

More poetic response to this prompt can be found at the Big Tent website.

His Legacy

Come One, Come All Fridays keep rolling around at Big Tent Poetry. Monday’s prompt was to write about possessions. The first thing I saw when I looked up was the picture hanging over my desk, and so I wrote about it.

His Legacy

In the picture, one elephant
Six blind men
The first pulls at the tail
A rope, he thinks
The second feels the leg
Aha, a tree trunk
No no, a wall, says the third
With his hand on the side
A fan, muses the fourth
Grabbing the ear
Obviously a garden hose
Declares the fifth, of the trunk
You’re all wrong, it’s a spear
The sixth vehemently protests

More than sixty years have passed
Since he drew this pen and ink sketch
It used to hang above his desk
Now it hangs above mine
And I have to wonder
Did he see himself
As one of the one of the blind men
Fumbling for the truth
Or was he the elephant
Completely inscrutable
Someone different, to each of us.

Death… and Life

It doesn’t seem like it should be so hard to write a brief review of every book I read or movie I watch, but somehow it has been. My latest thought is to write a post whenever I have read/watched three items that are related in some kind of way. Today’s post is on death… and life.

Last week I read The Weed That Strings the Hangman’s Bag, by Alan Bradley, the second in the continuing series of Flavia de Luce mysteries (the first being The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie). Flavia is an 11-year-old amateur chemist/sleuth, with a predilection for poison. Death and murder figure prominently in this tale, at times a bit ghoulishly, but this is hardly intended to be a philosophical treatise on death. Rather, it is a clever whodunit, set in a small English village in 1950, and the strength of the story for me was in the characters, not the mystery. I’m looking forward to the next book in this series, scheduled to be released in February 2011.

After waiting about two months for it, I finally received my hold copy of Departures from our local library. I was a bit hesitant to watch it, not sure quite what to expect. I knew only that it was a Japanese movie about death. I always try to avoid reading Amazon reviews before I watch a movie, since so many reviewers feel compelled to do a book report type review, giving away the entire plot, and so I don’t want to give spoilers for the movie. I’ll only say that the main character is an “encoffiner”, one who prepares bodies for burial, and this movie was a beautiful and moving affirmation of life.

Completing the trio is the novel Hello Goodbye, by Emily Chenoweth, a Portland author who will be appearing at Wordstock this fall. In fact, it was from the Wordstock Facebook page that I learned about this novel. I have to admit that if I was hesitant about watching Departures, I was even more so about reading this novel, as it is about a teenage girl losing her mother to a brain tumor. It hit a bit too close to home, having lost both my parents to cancer two years again, and I wondered why I would want to re-live the pain of my loss.

In the end, it was an Oregonian article that made me decide I had to read this novel, when I discovered that the story was based on Chenoweth’s own life, and the novel had almost been marketed as memoir instead of fiction. I am a big proponent of “honoring by listening” and although the story was obviously sad, it was also life-affirming. I found it very powerful and moving, and extremely well written. Interestingly, the handful of reviews on Amazon are split. Those who lived through a cancer experience found it very realistic and moving, the rest thought it was unrealistic or boring. One reviewer even complained that nothing ever happened. Nothing happened? Hmm. Dealing with the impending loss of a loved one sure seems like something to me.

As I Was Saying

Several years ago, in writing group, I learned to go with my first thought after a prompt. Of course there it makes a lot of sense– we have a short (usually 10 minute to 20 minute) window to write– but I’ve discovered it works equally well with poetry prompts. This little ditty jumped into my head the second I saw this week’s Poetic Asides poetry prompt, I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s my new life philosophy. 🙂

As I Was Saying

Fish can swim, but pigs can’t fly
Ask me a question, and I’ll tell you no lie
You can’t ever win, if you don’t even try
And things will get better, by and by