Cristina M. R. Norcross, Founding Editor of Blue Heron Review has published one of my new poems in the new issue of the journal. The theme is Heart Source & Haven. In these dark, anxiety-ridden days, what a wonderful issue to read. My poem is about a magical place I found when I was a kid. It was in the woods across the narrow rural road near Caledonia, Michigan.
A Very Specific Opening in the Woods Near Caledonia
The road lilts through the thick woods on either side. There are no mailboxes to denote location, but that heart-shaped patch of lupines marks the entry if I remember to balance across the moss-covered log and bend down to pass under the sugar maple leaves. Follow the burbling creek down past the grasses nestling the tree trunks and saplings and when I’m lulled into the rhythm of the path, it appears in front of me—an open meadow sparkling with sunlight on the kaleidoscopic array of poppies, Sweet William, and phlox—hummingbirds and butterflies—even dragonflies—rising amidst the motes of pollen and seed, a bluebird’s chest pumping its song, and an alert squirrel scolding. At the top of my basket is the tablecloth—red and white checkered, natch—and I lay out the wine and chocolates, the ginger cake and oranges. Later, I drowse with my head on my doubled sweater. That’s when they arrive in their gossamer tutus and green tights, with their silvery voices. In the haze of my half-opened eyes, I watch them for memory’s sake. I will paint them later, as if they are a dream.
I wrote a tanka with Dia de Los Muertos as the kigo word for #TankaTuesday.
[Topic: First Frost]
Before winter’s here
on Dia de Los Muertos
we remember ones
we have lost to the Reaper
and celebrate life and love.
Although we are not in danger of a frost in Phoenix, the days and nights are cooler than they were. When I wake up in the morning, we are in the low 50s. I’ve been walking in the morning to take advantage of cooler air.
BONUS: to use Trick or Treat. Here is my lune:
Trick or treat, smell my
feet, give me
something good to eat.
(stolen from the childhood jingle)You can’t improve on a classic!
Here are reviews of some non-poetry books I’ve read recently. If you’re one of the authors, feel free to drop your website and/or blog links in the comments!
SEXY ROMANCE & MYTHOLOGY
Heart of a Warrior, by Eden Robins, is the super steamy romantic adventure of a mortal contemporary Arizona woman, Dora, who meets an immortal from the time of Greek mythology and is awakened to knowledge of a past life she never knew she had. Dora, or Pandora, as she once was called, needs all her empathic healing powers and strong warrior qualities to deal with the evil Silvers. The immortal, Philoctetes, joins forces with Dora—or does he? Is their relationship destined for war or will their ignited passions result in the love-making Dora fantasizes? A question is implicit throughout: What if loving someone could kill you?
The contrast of the realistic Arizona setting that includes cacti, caverns, cars, and computers with the mores and ethics of the gods and goddesses, past intrigues, and the evil machinations of the Silvers makes every plot event and character trait believable. The plot moves quickly, but a sense of suspense kept me engaged throughout. In fact, the suspense is whether or not Dora and Phil will achieve success against the Silvers, but also what they will do about their outlawed attraction for each other. I was surprised by a cliffhanger ending, and then I realized that this is the first in the Gold series planned by Robins. I can’t wait for book 2!
D.L. Finn’s middle-grade short story collection, Tree Fairies and Their Short Stories, is a charming read. I think young children would be able to understand, as well, and this adult reader certainly loved it. The tree fairy world that Finn has created is delightful, the characters–both fairy and human–are well-drawn, and the environmentalism that underlies the book is important to the health of humans, animals, and our planet. I’m so glad I read this book, and in my imagination I can still see the fairies flying in the forest and visiting the Wise Trees!
MURDER MYSTERIES WITH A UNIQUE TWIST
I always enjoy reading Carol Balawyder’s books. The Lilac Notebook is no exception. In fact, it might be my favorite. When I first heard that it was a mystery, and that the “detective” character at the center of the book was a woman, Holly, with early onset Alzheimer’s, I was intrigued but not sure that the book could really work. After all, if Holly was losing her memory, how could she put together a proper answer to the question “who done it?” Well, Balawyder imagination, knowledge, and knowhow accomplished the seemingly impossible. I was fully enmeshed in the tragedy of Holly’s life, watching her go through the agony of starting to lose pieces of herself all the while she had to create a new life for herself after her husband left her. I cheered for her when she joined a poetry class and began to do what she wanted, rather than what her husband wanted. I cried for her when she couldn’t remember—and most especially when she didn’t know if she was missing a memory or if someone wanted her to think so. Ultimately, Holly does solve the crime, although perhaps not in the manner we expect out of a murder mystery. This book, though, is so much more than a murder mystery. It is a caring, compassionate look at early-onset Alzheimer’s and a person faced with it. It is bound to generate more compassion in its readers for future encounters with those suffering memory loss. You won’t want to miss this wonderful book by Carol Balawyder.
Fractured Oak: This hybrid genre of fantasy and murder mystery is well-written, engaging, and a joy to read. I don’t know how Dannie Boyd (Carrie Rubin) does it, but she manages to have a tree as a detective! This is no ordinary tree, though, but a 19th century woman who has turned into a tree. From her vantage point she witnesses murder, and she does all she can to try to bring the murderer to justice. Another aspect of the book I really liked is that the tree-woman was the first female medical school student at her school in Ohio. This brings in the author’s medical training and adds to the realism and intelligence of the novel. The writing is sensitive and lyrical, but smart and, when needed, even tough. I have enjoyed several books by the author under her own name, and this one is my new favorite.
ADVENTURE AND FANTASY
John Howell’s novel The Last Drive, the sequel to Eternal Road, well satisfies my curiosity in the continued journey of Sam and James as they try to accomplish their heavenly tasks amidst interference from the powerful and disgusting Lucifer. In this narrative, the angelic duo enlists the help of Eddie Rickenbacker (a historical figure) to save the soul of his charge, the newly dead Ryan. The four time travel between historical events, such as the Holocaust, the sinking of the Titanic, and WWI. As in Eternal Road, Howell is adept at merging the fantasy of time travel with the details of history. Sam and James are adept at following God’s plan for Eternity and his angels. This book is a thoroughly enjoyable, engaging, and rewarding read.
What happens when you’re given a diagnosis of a very rare and fatal cancer, but there is a horrible experimental treatment being offered to you? In The Winding Road, we learn what Miriam Hurdle decided–to undergo the grueling chemo and radiation schedule–and how she copies with it. She set her daughter’s still unfulfilled life mileposts of marriages and children as a goal–she wanted to see her daughter married and to meet her future grandchildren. The reader knows from the beginning of the story that Miriam will overcome the cancer because she has written her memoir about it. But life is in the details, and this book provides many. I loved getting the inside information on how her illness affected her job, as well as seeing the loving support she got from friends and fellow church members. Because I lived for over twenty years in the same general geographic location, I could picture all the hospitals and other places she talks about. But that knowledge isn’t necessary because we all know what hospitals and medical care can be like. When a doctor ignores a referral for three weeks when Miriam has no time to lose, it is so easy to imagine her visiting the office, being completely ignored by the fools at the counter, and sitting there in the waiting room until someone takes pity on her after hours and tries to help her. This is a short book, and you will want to read to the finish in one or two sittings.
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.