Those summer nights of hide and seek where we were willing quarry,
our efforts to make curfew were too often dilatory.
Our neighborhood adventures stretched out under the stars—
those shadowed venturings abroad, hiding behind cars,
in barrow pits or hedges, darting through the dark,
avoiding passing car lights and the dog’s insistent bark.
Bigger kids the kingpins of this nightly sequestering,
lying still as death with our fears of capture festering.
That titillating strain of remaining undetected,
somehow in our memories has made us more connected.
How we so consistently lay spread out on the ground
cowering, but secretly hoping to be found
by that special someone who, in our pre-teen flush
even then, in passing, could bring about our blush.
All this search and parrying that we called summer games
very soon would fill our lives called by other names.
It was at that age
of worrying about others
of feeling not enough
of looking for a pattern that was myself
that I put words down
or if not them, fearing those who read them.
At that age when I didn’t know what I thought,
I was astonished that the hand that wrote
knew more than I did
and taught that I must be brave,
fearless on the page in a way I had not yet learned to be in life
so that I became a writer to teach myself.
To have someone I trusted as a guide.
It was at that age when I wanted to be admired––
that age when I sought to be loved––
that age when I yearned to be thought a thinker,
important, listened to––
that I somehow was led to listening to myself.
There are these times we are led to by life
that become turning points
so long as we continue.
That sentence. That first sentence stretching
into the future, into now.
I found this poem on my desktop, and although I vaguely remember writing it, I can’t find any evidence of having posted it on my blog. For some reason I feel it ties in with today’s prompt and so I’m going to post a second response to the prompt today. Happy 2016 to all. I hope we all come closer to discovering our best selves in the year to come!
Young at Heart
If I walk always looking back,
I only see what I now lack;
but if I look in front of me,
I’m aware of all that I might be.
Staying young? A matter of eye, not heart.
Remembering at the day’s fresh start
to train my eye on what’s to be
and never ever in back of me.
That excitement of the unexpected––
that future formerly undetected––
is what keeps life fresh and new.
Who will deliver your next clue?
Your script in life has not been written.
Life is an apple still unbitten.
Each bite or line is yours to make.
Each day a freshly uncut cake.
Dawn is a gift that’s given us
to start anew with lesser fuss
and more acceptance of what’s there
awaiting us in the open air.
The world unfolds to all who seek,
banishing old and stale and meek.
To spend each day in a world that’s new
is how to keep your youth with you.
The Prompt: What are your thoughts on aging? How will you stay young at heart as you get older?https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/young-at-heart/
When he asked me to marry him
and when we had to bury him–
these times inevitably set
wherein we find that we must let
nature have its way with us.
It does no good to rant and fuss.
Life’s made to reward, then abuse.
Its vagaries we can’t refuse.
All is part and parcel to
the next thing that we’re meant to do.
Good comes from bad and bad from good.
Birth, courtship, marriage, parenthood
fill our lives in marching order,
but every joy must have its border.
Birth leads to death. Love’s often lost.
To release life’s pleasures is the cost
of having and enjoying them.
Coal under pressure becomes a gem.
Remembering this must get you through
the next trial that’s set up for you.
Every day’s an offer you can’t refuse–
another pleasure to gain, then lose.
Life’s losses are also its seeds.
We lose our wants to gain our needs.
The Prompt: Set the timer for ten minutes and then tell us about an offer you couldn’t refuse.
The Prompt: Be the Change—What change, big or small, would you like your blog to make in the world?
I’d like my blog to be Grit magazine, Ann Landers and the funny papers—all rolled in to one. I’d like it to be the first love comic grabbed off the shelf, the thing everyone wants to read, hot off the presses. I want it to be true, uplifting and fun to read. Entertaining. A collection of words that make people feel better after reading. I want it to be the thing you go to after reading of the last cuts to social services for the poor, the latest fool elected to public office, the last school massacre or child who mistakenly shot an adult with a gun provided to him by an adult. The thing you read when you’ve had enough of police brutality, plane wrecks, financial crashes, reverse Robin Hoods, pit bulls attacking humans, humans abusing dogs, cartels, corporations, slanted news agencies, corrupt rulers, crimes against women, drought, Ebola, HIV and dengue.
Yes, all of these ills exist and we need to know about them, but do we need to know about them ad nauseam, day and night, hour after hour? Do we need them served with our morning coffee, our evening meal, our drive to work? Need we dream them, fill our thoughts with them every hour of the day? And need those thoughts be hopeless and without remedy?
It is not that I want to avoid reality, but rather that I’d like to give that reality my twist and I’d like one major strand in that twist to be optimistic, another to be humorous, another to gentle the cruel realities, another, if it is of any influence at all, to be a catalyst to understanding and a feeling that something may be done in this world.
If you don’t remember the Grit magazine mentioned earlier in this piece, Google it. You will learn that it was formerly a weekly newspaper popular in the rural US during much of the 20th century. It carried the subtitle “America’s Greatest Family Newspaper.” It was full of human interest stories, usually with an uplifting slant. I can’t remember whether it came in the mail or whether we purchased it in the grocery story or in Mowell’s Drug, but I do remember grabbing it out of Mom’s brown paper bag when she got home from a trip down town and making off with it to my room or a grassy place in the shade of an elm tree to be the first to read it.
Perhaps you will label me as superficial if I admit that the first things I read in The Mitchell Republic—that “real” newspaper actually delivered to our front door—were Ann Landers, the comics (We called them “the funny papers”) and the crossword puzzle. I guess I wanted to be entertained, but I also wanted that assurance that something could be done about the bad things in life. Dick Tracy could solve the crimes. Mary Worth could be of worth in helping out. Ann Landers could find a solution to the ache of love and every puzzle could be eventually solved with hard work and perhaps a peek at the dictionary.
Now Google makes puzzle-solving a snap, so long as one is not shy about cheating and using that larger universal brain to solve the Sunday Cryptic Crossword, but in revealing so much, Google causes bigger problems—mainly, what to do with all of this knowledge of the world. For me, what I do with it is to write about it and within the world of my creation, to try to alter it enough to put a bit of hope into the world—to tinge it with a sense of humor or a sense of creation or a stab at a solution—however fanciful or impossible or romantic or homespun or illogical it may be.
This blog is like the biggest purse in my collection of very big purses indeed. In it lie jumbled together all my memories, dreams, hopes, heartaches, genius, stupidities, foibles, schemes, assurances, doubts, mistakes, successes, affections and affectations. The clasp I leave open for all to dip inside to see what they might find. One day, draw out a ditty, the next a tirade, the next a soggy handkerchief, soaked with my tears or an unused Kleenex to dry your own tears that were soaking your pillow when you woke up.
I want to be that thing you sneak off with before the rest of the family cottons on to its presence and take up to your bedroom to read with your back pressed up against the bolster on your bed or roll up and stick up your sleeve as you make off to the hammock or that shade in the grass beneath the tree.
And when you finish reading, it would be neither the hugest compliment nor the hugest insult you could give if you just thought, “That girl’s got grit!” I think a knowledge that she had prompted that statement would make the little girl or teenage girl who snatched that weekly magazine from the grocery sack very happy.
The Prompt: All Grown Up—When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?
It stretches forever in front of me.
There, no future happens until I create it.
And that is the power of words
that rub like pieces of gravel in my shoe.
I become less of a child in bearing them,
grow to adolescence as I pry them from my shoe.
In storing them on the page, I become my own creator—
writing a new world with each decision of word.
On the page, I can, if I so choose,
grow up again and again.
Each page filled or every edit of the last
becomes another part of me
that tells the same story:
that growing enough to fill the space inside of me
When my father died forty years ago, it was in Arizona, where my parents had been spending their winters for the past ten years. They maintained houses in two places, returning to South Dakota for the summers. But after my father died, my mother never again entered that house in the town where I’d grown up.
Our family had scattered like fall leaves by then—my mother to Arizona, one sister to Iowa, another to Wyoming. Both the youngest and the only unmarried one, I had fallen the furthest from the family tree. I had just returned from Africa, and so it fell to me to drive to South Dakota to pack up the house and to decide which pieces of our old life I might choose to build my new life upon and to dispose of the rest.
My father’s accumulations were not ones to fill a house. There were whole barns and fields of him, but none that needed to be dealt with. All had been sold before and so what was to be sorted out was the house. In that house, the drapes and furniture and cushions and cupboards were mainly the remnants of my mother’s life: clothes and nicknacks, pots and pans, spice racks full of those limited flavors known to the family of my youth—salt and pepper and spices necessary for recipes no more exotic than pumpkin pies, sage dressings and beef stews.
Packing up my father was as easy as putting the few work clothes he’d left in South Dakota into boxes and driving them to the dump. It had been years since I had had the pleasure of throwing laden paper bags from the dirt road above over the heaps of garbage below to see how far down they would sail, but I resisted that impulse this one last run to the dump, instead placing the bags full of my father’s work clothes neatly at the top for scavengers to find—the Sioux, or the large families for whom the small-town dump was an open-air Goodwill Store.
It was ten years after my father’s death before my mother ever returned again to South Dakota. By then, that house, rented out for years, had blown away in a tornado. Only the basement, bulldozed over and filled with dirt, contained the leftovers of our lives: the dolls, books, school papers and trophies. I’d left those private things stacked away on shelves—things too valuable to throw away, yet not valuable enough to carry away to our new lives. I’ve been told that people from the town scavenged there, my friend from high school taking my books for her own children, my mother’s friend destroying the private papers. My brother-in-law had taken the safe away years before.
But last year, when I went to clear out my oldest sister’s attic in Minnesota, I found the dolls I thought had been buried long ago–their hair tangled and their dresses torn—as though they had been played with by generations of little girls. Not the neat perfection of how we’d kept them ourselves, lined up on the headboard bookcases of our beds —but hair braided, cheeks streaked with rouge, eyes loose in their sockets, dresses mismatched and torn. Cisette’s bride dress stetched to fit over Jan’s curves. My sister’s doll’s bridesmaid dress on my doll.
It felt a blasphemy to me. First, that my oldest sister would take her younger sisters’ dolls without telling us. Her own dolls neatly preserved on shelves in her attic guest bedroom, ours had been jammed into boxes with their legs sticking out the top. And in her garbage can were the metal sides of my childhood dollhouse, imprinted with curtains and rugs and windows, pried apart like a perfect symbol of my childhood.
Being cast aside as leftovers twice is enough for even inanimate objects. Saved from my sister’s garbage and cut in half, the walls of my childhood fit exactly into an extra suitcase borrowed from a friend for the long trip back to Mexico, where I now live. I’ll figure out a new life for them as room décor or the backgrounds of colossal collages that will include the dolls I’m also taking back with me.
Mexico is the place where lots of us have come to reclaim ourselves and live again. So it is with objects, too. Leftovers and hand-me-downs have a value beyond their price tags. It is all those lives and memories that have soaked up into them. In a way, we are all hand-me-downs. It’s up to us to decide our value, depending upon the meaning that we choose to impart both to our new lives and these old objects. Leftovers make the most delicious meals, sometimes, and in Mexico, we know just how to spice them up.
The prompt: Hand-Me-Downs—Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.