Long Weekend (A Remodeled Poem for dVerse Poets)

Long Weekend

Her shoes on the floor next to the pot-bellied stove
do not have holes in them, as her father said,
but rather triangles and rectangles
and everyone is wearing them
laced up to below the ankle.
Her friend Marjorie, who has lots of shoes
but no boots, has pink ones
and Sheryl has a white pair
and even my new stepdaughter’s real mother has shoes like this.

Her used Band-Aid lies in fetal position
on the new white sofa cushion,
her hair twister on the kitchen counter
along with a handful of pens grabbed from my desk
and then abandoned,
her clothes like crumbs of her
scattered down the hall.

She is asleep in the loft of my study,
in the nest she has chosen
for a place to stash herself, along
with those collected objects of my past
that have captured her fancy as she helped
with our unpacking of boxes.
With them, she has created a little world within our world:
a painted blown egg from the Tucson street fair,
assorted brushes and antique hair rollers,

hair combs I bought in Peking, African baskets to put them in,
a beach chair, a sheepskin rug, and her stuffed dog.

Stealing into my study to find paper and my one remaining pen,
I hear her gentle pre-teen snores from the high space
at the top of the ladder on the wall behind my desk.
My new daughter––with us for our first weekend
as we open boxes in our new house.

The bouquet of wildflowers on the bookcase––
California poppies, creeping Jenny, sprays of honeysuckle.
She has learned all their names, along with moss roses, aloe vera and lobelia,
collecting them in her sorties out to the deck to scare away the jays
and feed their peanuts to the squirrels.

She loves this house and wanted to unpack one more box
before bedtime—my bathroom box that held handy hair rubbers
and the tiny Chinese combs ––both of them speedily added to her purloined collection.

She calls me Mom, her knee sticking through her Christmas tights.
She is a girl I can’t keep together—
already a hole in the turquoise top we bought together yesterday—
four tops, four pairs of tights
and a pink jacket.
Socks, next visit.

When she leaves to go back home, I plant Dahlias and purple Salvia.
I find the hidden box of toothbrush, toothpaste, and acne medicine
she has secreted in her loft above as though staking her claim.
I find cups to put them in,
put them on the counter in the bathroom next to ours.

 

For dVerse Poets. Here is the challenge:

  1. Pick a poem you’ve already written — a favourite, one that needs a second look, one that never reached its full potential (maybe a shorter one for tonight’s exercise). This is the ‘before poem’.
  2. Make a copy and give it the “Bök test” – highlight all the nouns – could they be more concrete, more specific? now do the same with the verbs — can they be more active? Now do the same with the adjectives & adverbs…
  3. Look for the uncanny – can you find a ‘rainforest of chandeliers’, ‘a sky as blue as a car accident,’ ‘a speech as hard as a machine gun’?
  4. Publish both poems – the ‘before’ and ‘after’ – on your blog.
  5. Did anything surprise you? Did the poem lurch off in an unexpected direction, like a body laid out in a mortuary suddenly sitting up and asking for a cheese sandwich?

And here is the original poem, written in June of 1987:

Long Weekend

Her shoes on the floor next to the pot-bellied stove
do not have holes in them, as her father said,
But rather triangles and rectangles
And everyone is wearing them
Laced up to below the ankle.
Marjorie, who has lots of shoes
but no boots, has pink ones
and Sheryl has a white pair
and even her real mother has shoes like this.

Her used Bandaid curled on the white sofa cushion,
Her hair twister on the kitchen counter
Along with a handful of borrowed pens,
Her clothes like crumbs of her
Scattered in the hall.

She is asleep in the loft
in the nest where she has collected my lost belongings,
captured from their packing boxes–
the painted blown egg from the Tucson street fair–
the hair combs from Peking––baskets to put them in––
a beach chair, sheepskin, her stuffed dog.

Stealing into my study to find paper and a pen that works,
I hear her gentle pre-teen snores
from the high space
at the top of the ladder above my desk.
Our new house, my new daughter –with us for our first weekend
as we open boxes.

The bouquet of wildflowers on the table__
California poppies, creeping jenny, sprays of honeysuckle.
She collects them in between the squirrels
and saving peanuts from the jays,
learning all the names of moss roses, aloe vera and lobelia.

She loves this house and wants to unpack one more box
Before bedtime—a bathroom box that might hold hair rubbers
and the tiny Chinese comb missing from her purloined collection.
She calls me Mom, her knee sticking through her Christmas tights.
She is a girl I can’t keep together—

Already a hole in the turquoise top we bought together
Yesterday—four tops, four pairs of tights
And a pink jacket.
Socks, next time.

When she leaves, I plant Dahlias and purple Salvia.
I find a better basket for her hair curlers and brushes,
I find the hidden box of childrens’  toothbrushes, find cups,
Put them under the sink in the guest bathroom.

 

 

 

This entry was posted in Uncategorized on by .

About lifelessons

My blog, which started out to be about overcoming grief, quickly grew into a blog about celebrating life. I post daily: poems, photographs, essays or stories. I've lived in countries all around the globe but have finally come to rest in Mexico, where I've lived since 2001. My books may be found on Amazon in Kindle and print format, my art in local Ajijic galleries. Hope to see you at my blog.

46 thoughts on “Long Weekend (A Remodeled Poem for dVerse Poets)

    1. SAM VOELKER

      I went back and read them both again, several times, and came away still saying that I liked them both…The first one had sort of an intended ambiguous state of the room and situation at hand, that of a young girl in a strange place with a “not very well known person” having to decide whether she was going to be happy there or not, though she had new “gifts” etc. As I have said before, painting a verbal picture of the rooms and all that was in it, including her and you.

      By cleaning up the second one, in my opinion, you lost some of this “haphazard” part of the picture, in your effort at disambiguation. So because in a poem, as I usually feel, my first interest is always “does a poem tell me a story or give me a word picture of what the poet is trying to paint” regardless of pretty words or proper tempo and rhythm.

      Using this approach, I guess I still like both, but the first one had a stronger feeling for me, disregarding what you may have felt was not proper structure, in your eyes using “the rules”. (you know I often don’t) I have seen many poems full of pretty words and neat phrases which left me flat, if it said nothing to me. Both of yours did~!!!
      PS: I bet she became your favorite,,,,,Your description of her seems so much like what I see in you~!!!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. SAM VOELKER

        Sorry to keep talking, but I made a mistake, when I refer to “the first poem” I am speaking of the (one written long ago, in 1987) and the second one as the new rewrite, not the first one numerically in the order on the page. sorry bout dat~!

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  1. peterfrankiswrites

    Just lovely portrait of this pre-teen and the love of a parent. I can picture the nest, the trinkets and guess at the emotional needs that drove all this (I’m guessing that’s her in the photo). As to the before and the after revision? I like the mess of the before poem – it reflects the disorder of a house not yet unpacked – a daughter not yet settled – (and ‘stashed’ is a great word); The revision is a more reflective piece but also more about her. For example, by removing “She calls me Mom…She is a girl I can’t keep together’ – you’ve stepped back and let the daughter remain the focus of wonder in this poem. Bravo and thanks so much for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      My husband was always devising ways to keep the squirrels from eating all the bird food. He finally took a bamboo pole and nailed a plastic dish to the end and extended it out from our big porch that hung out over the mountain slope. Bids would light and it was fine, but when squirrels ran out the pole and sat on the side of the dish, it would dump them out onto the slope of dense rosemary. They weren’t hurt but learned it was futile to try. We’d have to fill the dish again, and occasionally another squirrel would try it so we had a healthy crop of birdseed growing down below as well.

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      1. Mister Bump UK

        Yes, we discovered that birds were very fussy eaters, and seeds that they did not like the look of, they would throw onto the ground. Consequently we had loads of bird-seed on the ground below. It became a problem when the local rats discovered it. We stopped feeding the birds in the end.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          Ah, the sad realities of the world. When I leveled and cleared and cleaned up the lot next to my house, I told Yolanda, my housekeeper, that her family could plant a plot of corn on part of it. The weeds had grown up around it because things grow incredibly fast in the rainy season here, so Pasiano, my gardener, had started weed whacking but not in the area where the corn was planted. I asked her how it was doing and she said, “No corn!” I said, “Didn’t Oscar plant corn?” and she answered yes, but that the mice and rats and squirrels and moles had dug up all the seed corn! There are now about six stalks of corn standing up in the middle of the green of the grass and weed-whacked field.

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    2. lifelessons Post author

      We didn’t have any squirrels in my town in South Dakota, so I was fascinated by them when we visited my aunt in Idaho and I saw them running over the telephone wires. We had plenty of them when we lived in the Redwoods in California, and have them here in Mexico, but sadly the dogs keep them at bay.

      Liked by 1 person

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      When I met my husband he had 8 children–4 of them under the age of 8. After we married, by the end of the first year, this little girl had come to live with us permanently. They had each come separately for their first “visit,” and this was Jodie’s. That’s why the toothbrushes are in the plural in the first rendition of the poem. I simplified in this poem since I wanted to concentrate on Jodie alone.

      Liked by 3 people

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    1. lifelessons Post author

      Thanks, Writer. My tweaks had more to do with making the reader more clearly understand the story of the poem than with the imagery, as that’s where I felt the weakness in the poem lay. I did’t follow the prompt precisely, but used it as an excuse to dredge up some old poems. I appreciated that prod.

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        1. lifelessons Post author

          No.. not correcting you on that. I felt motherly toward her, but things changed after she went back to her mother, who was very different from Bob and me…hard to explain. Some day I’ll do it in person.

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  2. msjadeli

    She sounds like a flower-child. I bet she’s still connected with flowers. I really enjoyed reading about how she acclimated quickly to the surroundings. I like the revised version as it more clearly lays things out.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
  3. Victoria Stuart

    I love how you bring such tenderness in both versions. In the newly revised version, this line just grabs my heart: “her clothes like crumbs of her
    scattered down the hall.” There is a gentle respect as you simply state the details without embellishing or explaining significance, which gives so much weight and love to it. And what I love about the earlier version is that it clearly reflects an earlier, different perspective. Both of them a reflection of such a loving reflective heart. These were a pleasure to read, Judy.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. lifelessons Post author

      Aw, Dale. You softie. Actually, Jodie responded to the poem. I didn’t know she read my blog–via Facebook. That was fun.She, too, remembers the lofts fondly and remarked that she even got her brothers to play Barbies!! I had forgotten that. She and her friends brought all their Barbie stuff and created an entire world up there. I think she even had a convertible.

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      1. SAM VOELKER

        Your current inter banter of the results of the poem brings on a story in itself. I was at first sad that you said that Jodie was lost in correspondence, then finally read this post with the good news. I had hoped that she somehow got a renewal of that long ago “first day” because it said a lot about both of you, if not enough about Bob. Welcome back Jodie~! I hope you named one of those Barbies Judy… because there was a deep love there which should be able to leap any barriers that such a relationship so often brings.

        Liked by 1 person

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