Monthly Archives: August 2014

Mirror Fearer

The Prompt: The Mirror Crack’d—You wake up one morning to a world without mirrors. How does your life — from your everyday routines to your perception of yourself — change?

Mirror Fearer

Every time I walk past it, I look into the glass
and notice how my hair looks and then survey my ass.
I cannot help but look at it, every time I pass—
criticizing how I look, both fuzziness and mass.
And in my deepest feelings, despite my brains and sass,
I can’t avoid this feeling that men must find me crass.
And so I guess I really feel that it would be a gas
if you took away the mirrors from this self-critiquing lass!

Skyping: (Long after Midnight and 4 Margaritas)

The Prompt:  Pains and Gains—Do you agree with Jane Fonda’s favorite exercise motto, “no pain, no gain?”  Is it impossible to attain greatness without considerable hardship?

I think that it is possible to attain greatness without considerable hardship in that all the effort you go to to achieve what you achieve is often in an area where hard work becomes play.  I have sat up all night writing or doing art for most of my life  for the past thirty or more years and it wasn’t hardship because I loved doing it.  In fact, I was compelled to do so.  I’ll bet you anything that Jane Fonda enjoyed all that hard exercise.  I, on the other hand, prefer to exercise my hands typing on keyboards or maneuvering flex shafts or paint brushes!  And with my sort of exercise, an occasional Margarita doesn’t hurt!

Long after Midnight and 4 Margaritas:

She: What is the most dreaded disease of hockey players?
He.: i give
She: Chicken Pucks!!!
He: (facepalm emoticon)
She: What is the most dreaded disease of Narcissists?
He.: I give
She: Me-sles.
She: The most dread disease of martyrs? (Promise, last one.)
He: ?
She: You-rinary tract infections
He: (headbang emoticon)

Note: This Skype conversation actually occurred the same night as the 3 Margarita conversation posted yesterday; so no, I’m not drinking Margaritas every night.  Also, I mix very weak Margaritas, so they are not totally to blame for the silliness above.  Around one or two in the morning, my mind usually gets on a jag and the best way to deal with it is just to hang up on me, which happened soon after this string of unfortunate jokes.  Corny, but I still get a kick out of them.  Yes, they are all original.  I wouldn’t blame them on anyone but my own past-midnight mind.  Judy

Round upon Round

Click once or twice on photos to enlarge.

The nourishing environments of still water and the forest floor both bloom in circular beauty.  Whether the tiny orange “flowers” were flowers, mushrooms or another type of fungus, I couldn’t determine and I was too far behind our guide to ask.  The forest floor is in a Lacandon Reserve in Chiapas, where one of the few remaining members of this purely Mayan village led us though the forest. The cycle of nature is clearly portrayed as life springs forth from decay.  The still pond is actually a still inlet of an Amazon River tributary in Peru.

Weekly Photo challenge: Bring together two of your photos into dialogue. What do they say to each other?


On Skype (After Midnight and 3 Margaritas)

The prompt:  Tell us about what happened the last time you were up early (or late…).

On Skype (After Midnight and 3 Margaritas)

She: maybe I need to take Frida (the Akita) to the snore doctor.
She: Perhaps she has sleep apnea. She sounds like a lion when she sleeps.
She: Have you ever heard her snore?
He: Yep.
She: Do you miss it?
He: Miss your zzzz’s
She: You miss my snores? Sweet.
She: I miss snoring for you.
He: That’s the first line of a poem.
She: I’ll write a poem starting with “I miss snoring for you,” if you will, too.
He.: I’ll try to remember to do so tomorrow.
You Say You Miss My Snores

I miss snoring for you,
stepping on your shoe
when we don’t dance,
miss that glance
from your alternate self
you keep on a shelf
when you aren’t with me.
How can it be
that both of us choose
to leave our clues
in cyberspace
not face-to-face?
Alone together
with no tether,
our way
for today
perhaps forever
internetedly clever.

He: it just blows me away how you can come up with something like that, so achingly beautiful, in less than five minutes!
She: Ah. You inspire it.
He: I muse you whilst i amuse you
She: Ha. That is exactly it!
She: What you just said couldn’t have been said more succinctly or more briefly. It is the tweet
of poetry
She: sweet tweet of poetry—sweet bird of absurd

(After this, the conversation digressed.  No more shall be said.)

Update: “He” has written his version, as agreed. You can see it here.

The Listener


The Listener

I was having a conversation with a friend in a restaurant many years ago when it became obvious to me that the woman at the next table was taking in everything we said. She had that waxy glaze in her eye and that unmoving stance that just signalled eavesdropping. When I ceased talking and fixed her with a steely stare, she started, blushed, and immediately admitted, “I really wasn’t trying to overhear your conversation. I just sort of over-listened.”

The Prompt: Head Turners—We often hear strange snippets of conversation as we walk through public spaces. When was the last time you overheard something so interesting, ridiculous, or disturbing you really wanted to know what it was all about?

Poetry Competition: Help!!!!

I need to choose three poems to submit for a poetry competition. These are the 5 poems suggested by friends and bloggers as ones I should submit.  If you have the time, I would very much appreciate your telling me which three you would choose.  Or, if there is another poem that should be on the list, let me know.  I only have 3 days to do this.  Help!!!

Poem # 1

The Prompt: Some words really sound like the thing they describe. Do you have an example of such a word? What do you think creates this effect?

I’ve Always loved the word “flutter,” which was the original title of this poem. What better word could be used to describe the motion of moth wings? The moth described in my poem, however, was noticeable because of its lack of flutter. It landed upon my computer screen like a magnetized object to metal and remained there for over two hours. The moth pictured in the poem is the actual moth. Tiny and green, it became part of my writing experience. Since it had chosen to remain in one position, directly on my screen, I was forced (by choice) to write around it, which could not help but influence the poem that resulted.

Surrogate w pic 6

Poem #2

The Prompt: Middle Seat—Your neighbor on the plane/bus/train is very chatty. Do you try to switch seats, go for a non-committal brief small talk, or make this person your new best friend?


The book I’d chosen for the plane ride
sat open on my lap
as the stranger on the plane
opened himself—
his life pulled leaf by leaf from his family tree.
His words came faltering and sputtering at first,
like water from a tap newly opened,
then rushed out cool and even,
telling of a life that was a richness
of jobs held, wives loved, children raised.
He is going back to Mexico for the Saint’s day
of the small pueblo where he was born.
The parade. The effigies. The life-sized Santos
standing in their boats to tour the lake like kings.
I’ve been to this celebration; and as he speaks,
I sit like an honored guest beside him,
reading my memory as well.
“Come,“ he tells me, giving me directions and a date.
I do not tell him I have been to that fiesta years ago.
“Perhaps,” I say, sliding his instructions to his family’s house
to form a bookmark in the book now closed upon my lap,
then go on, listening.
What were we born for
if it was not to read each other?
In the rush from the plane, that old man falls behind
and it is you I see as I come out into the world of Mexico,
leaving the plane ride, immigration and customs
in its place behind the swinging doors.
This flower that you give me is a mystery book.
I read it—stamen, pistil and corolla—
as well as the hand that holds it out to me
and then the warm embrace that you enfold me in.

Poem #3

After NaPoWriMo was over last year, I missed the daily prompts and so asked friends and followers of my blog to send in topics. One friend asked me to write about my dogs and another suggested the topic of dreams. I combined their prompts in this poem.

The Dogs Are Barking

They break the morning––a daily rite.
It’s just a warning. The dogs won’t bite.
Two strangers talk but pass unseen.
I doze, they walk, with a wall between.
I lie here posed between thought and sleep.
My eyes still closed, I’m swimming deep.
I resist the trip––that journey up––
preferring to sip from the dreaming cup
whose liquid darker and bitter thick
reveals a starker bailiwick
than schedules, crafts, menus, schemes.
Much finer draughts we quaff in dreams.
I try to sink back into sleep,
once more to drink of waters deep;
but the dogs still bark. They leap and pace.
My dreams too dark for this morning place.
Those dreams lie deep and intertwined,
wanting to creep back up my mind.
But its slippery slope is much inclined
and provides small hope that I will find
again, that world well out of sight
where truth lies curled, still holding tight––
as oysters cleave and then unfurl
with mighty heave, the priceless pearl
of that other mind that slips the knife
beneath the rind of our daily life.
Time is a brew of present, past
and future, too—whatever’s cast
to stew and steep the story rare
that’s buried deep in dreams laid bare.
Dreams are stories we tell ourselves
that draw our quarry to bookstore shelves.
Pinned to the page, they reach their height
and bring our sage self to the light.
But the dogs are barking. They’re hungry, cross.
When I rise to feed them, the poem is lost.

Poem #4

The prompt: Write a poem making use of three of the five senses.

Moving the Divan

I don’t want to write a poem
using three of my five senses.
I want to move the large divan to a 45-degree angle
and throw away the love seat
to make room for another file cabinet
for my poetry.
It’s stacked all over,
stowed at least two times alphabetically
in boxes beneath my desk,
hidden in the custom headboard of my bed.

File cabinets fill the bottom of every closet.
I’ve come to cutting up poems to make collages
and selling them.
That’s how much I need another file cabinet.
So it’s either more poems in the future
or the love seat.
I don’t want to talk about
how the love seat smells.
It’s Jacaranda blooming time––
nothing smells like anything.
I will concede, however, that it is grained
like the crepe of my father’s neck––
like cowhide or whatever that leather is
that has impressions
like thousands of small rivers forming a network.
I don’t want to look up
exactly which leather it is on Google.
That one action
could divert me for at least an hour.
And I don‘t want to tell you any more about
what the loveseat is “like.”
I want to tell you that I bought it
when I found a pee stain on the fabric
of my old couch
after the last party a friend attended before he died.
I cleaned it, then sold it along with its larger brother
and bought a stain-proof leather sofa with matching loveseat.
I don’t want to worry about what friend sits where
or exclude anyone from my guest list on account of my divan.
This leather feels like hanging on to old friends for as long as you can.
This loveseat feels willing to be given up for poetry,
and I know exactly where it should go.
I want it to have a good life
in a coffee bar,
in the library section.
My loveseat will smell like espresso
and bear the crayon marks of children
who come to play there.
It will be made love on
by the young couple who
live upstairs.
It will have her homemade cheesecake crumbs
fall into its crevasses.
Its very fibers will soak up the music
that is played there
and the poetry that’s read there.
It will be worn out by life
instead of time.
It will predecease its matching full-sized sofa,
but it will be full of smells, textures, tastes and
when people sink into it, you will hear its sound––
that sigh of comfort or grunt of momentary
discomfort as knees bend in penance
for the comfort that is to come.
The rivers in the leather
will be smoothed out
by the bottoms of those
drinking espresso
and frappuccinos
and red wine and cerveza,
growing wider with the cheesecake,
settling in comfortably for conversation
and music and refreshment. Oh, and poetry.
And that, my friend, is how thinking about
rearranging furniture became poetry,
and how that very poem
may find a home.

Poem # 5

The Prompt: Is there a cause—social, political, cultural, or other—you passionately believe in?

The cause I most believe in is getting in touch with your authentic and true inner voice. Would that more people involved in making decisions that will alter our world would do so. This poem is really about the creative process where, when done right, there is only truth. It is also about all the things that get in the way of this process.

Let There Be Light

My mind is a growling dog.
While I stew and fuss,
fulfilling lists,
she jumps the screendoor,
Rude me, to turn my back
on the only playmate
who wants to play
the same games I do
every day, every hour,
because I fear that initial
plodding through silt
page after page
in search of the stream
of words.
Sometimes boredom
yawns so wide
that I have to enter it,
to wander its inner closet
where for decades
only cobwebs
have stirred.
In some dark corner
where I spank the dog
or search the bedside table drawers
of a lover called out at midnight,
I find the river’s source,
but then
the phone
rings and I’m off
gathering crumbs from a forest path,
leaving lost children
stranded in their own story.
Stray puppies—I collect every one,
wild orange funnel flowers
and guava
washed in an afternoon kitchen
just before the invasion
of five o’clock sunlight.
All of them I carry back
to hidden places
to rub against each other
and ignite
into the language of this place
where life goes in,
plays dress-up,
but emerges
like poetry.

If there is a different poem you think should be included, please let me know!  Just three days to do this!  Many Thanks for helping.  I value your opinion.

Waiting for the Bell

DSC07814Nine Minutes to Nine–Retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown ( 5.5 X 7 X 1.25 inches)

Waiting for the Bell

From my upstairs bedroom window, I could see it all:
who got to school early to be first for tether ball,
the teachers driving up the street, avoiding children running
some children in the sandbox, and other children sunning
stretched out on the teeter-totters, waiting for a ride—
their friend the perfect size to balance, still locked up inside
cleaning off the chalkboards and dusting the erasers
with others who’d been tardy, or perhaps desktop-defacers.

We could hear the school bell toll the warning for
just one more bite of Cream of Wheat—no time for any more.
I stood and watched as sisters sprinted out the door.
Going on without me, for I was only four.
I waited then for recess, spread out on the grass
waiting for the hours and minutes just to pass.
Through open windows, I could hear all the teacher voices
quizzing all the children and listening to their choices.

The teacher on piano, the class singing along—
long before my school days, I’d memorized each song.
At 10:15, the bell was rung and big doors thrown out wide—
one hundred children, all at once, released to the outside.
Some ran to claim the swings and slides, or lined up for the games:
choosing sides for “Send ‘Em” by calling out their names.
But the creaking of the swing chains and whoops up on the slide
could not reveal the mysteries of what was sealed inside.

Year after year I watched and listened, storing up the clues
for the day that I could put on my new school shoes.
I’d have my school bag at my side while mother curled my curls
and keep it with me as I ate my breakfast with the girls,
spooning up my Cream of Wheat but listening for the bell
that warned the time was getting short for me to run pell-mell
across the street and up the stairs in brand new skirt and blouse.
I knew which room to look for.  I could see it from my house.

And then perhaps my mom would stand under our big elm tree
and the singing that she listened for would finally include me!

 The Prompt: August Blues—As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school?

Please help

I need three poems for a competition and seek your help. Do you have a favorite poem I’ve published on my blog that you think I should submit? I can’t use one that has been published before, but if it is only on my blog, I can submit it if I take it off the blog and leave it off. So far, someone has suggested “When My Sister Plays the Piano,” but it was published in another publication so I can’t use it. Please, please give your thoughts. I’m hopeless at choosing what to wear and what to submit! — Judy

A Girl Like Me

The Prompt: What’s the best (or rather, worst) backhanded compliment you’ve ever received?

There was a guy in college who was the best friend of my best friend’s boyfriend. I had a crush on him but he never asked me out. Years later, I admitted this to my friend and she told me that he had told her boyfriend, “I want to marry a girl like Judy, but I don’t want to date one in college!” Hmmm. Want to speculate about what he meant?