Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested this prompt today: to write a syllabic poem about what you see out of your window.
The gardener and I were driving on the freeway in western Arizona yesterday, and I saw something unusual: two sheep were picking their way down the mountainside out in the “middle of nowhere.” So I wrote a tanka in the car.
My tanka topic is Scene Through a Car Window:
A hawk flies above
in yellow blossom
as two bighorn sheep descend,
their coronas glinting light.
This image at Pexels looks very similar to where I saw the sheep except that they were walking down a fairly steep mountain. At first I thought they were goats because they were so graceful and agile amidst the shrub and rocks. But their large curved horns seem to indicate that they were bighorn sheep (although slender for bighorns).
Kind of nerve-wracking for me, but yes, I am going to be reading via zoom through the Well-Versed Words poetry reading program, hosted by poet Alison Hurwitz. Saturday, April 8 at 5PM Eastern, which is 2PM at this time of year for Arizona (where I am).
Maybe it’s natural, considering the title of Rooted and Winged with its notable lack of fairies inside the book, but I am becoming obsessed with fairies. I’ve made my first fairy junk journal. I chose the colors green, blue, with some yellow because those are the colors I usually associate with fairies. By the way, my fairy haibun last week was not my first fairy poem. I have one coming out in Blue Heron Review next fall. I’ll use this journal to make notes of any fairy clues I find about the neighborhood. Any tips on what I should watch for other than actual living fairies or their skeletons?
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested this prompt today: to write in response to this Monet painting of his garden in Giverny. I decided to write a haibun as I had a story to tell.
Not Meant for Humans
The walkway seems to have no beginning, and so I tiptoe through the purple and blue blossoms to reach the rough path, feeling naughty and bold but safe for its proximity to a well-painted building. I circle the garden of Iris, the rainbow herself. Round I go three times and then spy a spot of bone under the willow. The sun ray has moved, so now I can see what I have missed. Or did it just appear? I step closer, into the flowers, careful not to crush the blossoms themselves, aware I might be harming stems. My curiosity draws me in. As I bend toward the ground, I part the plants and see a very small skeleton, as of an excruciatingly tiny human. Her shredded wings are faded with age, but once must have been the blue of Iris with yellow dots like bright and miniature suns. Perhaps she fell from the branch above when she was asleep. I understand now why the path repeats itself, an endless spinning trail, meant as it is for those with wings to fly above the garden and to rest in the shade of the well-nourished trees. Still, being human, I invite you to share in my experience.
Watch for tiny wings
hidden by goddess Iris
and her endless path.
I’ve been intrigued by fairies lately. And by the notion of fairy skeletons because, after all, what is left of them after they die?
As you can see from the poem, I also constantly worry over our human enjoyment of and curiosity about nature because we are such destructive creatures, even when we don’t mean to be.
When I first started this blog, near the end of 2012, I posted this blog post. Something Colleen Chesebro wrote reminded me of it, and I thought I would share it again. It’s about memory and how the line can be blurred between fact and fiction in memory.
I have a box of old photographs my grandfather gave me before he died. They are family portraits and snapshots dating from about 1890 to 1920. We sat in his living room and wrote names on the ones he could identify. Dozens of other photographs bear family resemblances, but they remain nameless and can’t assume their positions on the family tree.
My own mind houses memories in the same way. Many of my memories bear a resemblance to my life and my relationships, and while minute details might be clear, the facts are hazy or forgotten, perhaps unrecoverable. A memory illustrated by vivid details and accompanied by still-present emotion began on Trimble Street, in front of the next door neighbor’s house. I was two, almost three.
Mrs. Becker babysat me for my parents that day; she let her girls watch me outside. The day felt sun-warmed, with a slight cooling breeze rustling through my play clothes. The oldest girl, Donna, and a teenage boy were the ringleaders of the group. She wasn’t yet in high school and didn’t have her later characteristic beehive hairdo.
Her younger sisters, Susie and Denise were with us. All the children ringed a brown horse standing in the street looking very out-of-place. From my perspective down near the sidewalk, the horse looked like a city square equestrian statue—massive, gigantic, forbidding. Perhaps the boy had ridden the horse to our street. Donna turned to me, kneeled down to my level, and said, “How would you like to go for a ride?”
I shivered, though the sun shone down on my honey-colored hair. “No,” I said.
“Oh, come on,” said Susie.
“No!” I backed away.
“Honey, there’s no need to be afraid,” Donna said. She scooped me up and plunked me down on the saddle positioned across the back of the horse. From this height I looked down at the tall teenagers, feeling dizzyingly and irrevocably beyond their reach.
“Put me down,” I said.
The teens giggled and chattered. Suddenly I heard a loud SMACK, and the horse bolted forward. I swayed backwards for a moment and then righted myself by grabbing hold of the saddle horn sitting in front of me. The horse trotted up Trimble Street. We left the teens behind, just the determined horse and me. The breeze flew through my flimsy hair. I held onto the horn with every muscle I could harness to the aid of my hands. Both my hands and feet tingled and turned numb. My thoughts condensed into one little pinhole: stop stop stop! I couldn’t tell the horse to stop because the pinhole only allowed that one thought; I was beyond the power of speech.
The horse trotted up to busy Gull Road, a main artery without sidewalks, where he turned right. I expected to fall off his back into the path of an uncaring automobile. I clung on. He carried me swiftly to Henson Street where he took another right, and then onto Junction and back to Trimble Street. My powerful hands, drained of blood, were my only compensation for the utter loss of control I felt.
When he trotted to the front of the Becker house, the horse stopped short. I rocked again and almost tumbled. The teens laughed, and Donna’s friend tried to lift me off the horse, but my hands would not unclamp from the saddle horn. I realized then I had been crying; my cheeks, soaked with tears, seem to burn as if the saltwater seared the tender skin.
I couldn’t speak, not even that night when I saw my parents. All these years later, the details vibrate within me, but I’m missing one fact: I can’t be certain if the horse existed or came to me in a dream.
With my mother and the two younger sisters from next door
The names have been changed to protect people who may or may not have participated in this act of baby abuse.
Are you sure of your memories? Do you have any like this one, where you aren’t sure if it really happened or if you dreamed it? How do you handle a hitch like that in writing creative nonfiction?
Colleen at Wordcraft poetry suggested this prompt today: write a syllabic poem using synonyms for the words green and spring, but do not use those words themselves. I decided to use the form tanka because I am starting to really appreciate that structure.
Rather than a title, a tanka might have a topic. My topic is Arizona seasons.
March in the desert
is verdant, a vernal gem,
budtime under blue
and blossomy without freeze,
Phoenix repeats in the fall.
Vernal and budtime are both synonyms for spring. Verdant is a synonym for green.
In Arizona we tend to have two springs, meaning that some blossoming trees bloom twice a year and that we plant new annuals in both fall and spring. For this reason March and April—and October—are my favorite months in Arizona.
Masticadores USA has published a new poem, “Before and Again.” A big thank you to Editor Barbara Leonhard. I hope you like the poem. This one is a little heavy.
Here is the first 1 1/2 stanzas:
The we of my belief lived in a land
of easy comfort, brief and surface woundings,
even when tussled by history
that lasted a month on our portable television.
We swept the broken pieces into piles
Thinking our bonfires would destroy memories.