Category Archives: Judy Dykstra-Brown poems

I Hear the Distant Music

 

I Hear the Distant Music

The midnight bells toll languidly—their sequence slightly varied
to tell the stories of the hours—or those soon to be buried.
Behind them swells the music of a local band.
On the platform in the plaza, for hours more they’ll stand
pumping out their music to the crowds who gather there.
After their days of heavy labor, these hours are without care.

The oom pah pah of distant music stirs my curtains like the wind—
the notes, first stiffly marching, change their minds to dip and bend.
The banda tunes a bit off-key, loud in their origin,
by the time they lift to me are strained out soft and thin.
Living miles above the town, I’m spared soreness of ears
as from assonant cacophony, the music shifts its gears.

What I hear is joyfulness far into the night.
The music meant to call to action releases its bite
and becomes a happy background as I slip into dreams.
Others have not given up on the day it seems.
Behind my lids I see them–lovers in their clenches,
grandmothers slowly nodding as they watch them from the benches.

It may be that daylight hours are for labor and for strife,
but far into the the morning hours, the village lives its life
in the night-shadowed plaza, far below where I
shift upon my pillow, content to simply lie
listening to the village—all the stories that it tells.
The laughter and the music and the tolling of the bells.

(In Mexico, church bells are a sort of village clock.  They toll the hour, half-hour and quarter-hour, but also announce church services and deaths.)

Today’s word was “distant.”

Deep Voice

Retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown, jdb photo

 

Deep Voice

How do the lessons go when the student is the teacher, too?
That deep self writes clues in poetry
using a dream world to reveal the truths of day.

I trace its verity around my mind—
a well-known pattern
that has worn a groove I can’t escape.

Still hoping for a new ending, I pace the same old trail.
They are a fantasy, my hopes,
I must be taught the facts in Braille.

 

 

 

The prompt word today was trace.

Afloat

Afloat

A hand releases mooring lines and I go floating free.
Unmoored and unamóred, I float upon the sea.
Each time I find a tether, it lets loose of me,
for nature seems to be at odds with propinquity.

Nothing lasts forever or even long enough.
Each time the tattered sleeve of time shakes me off its cuff,
I am again amazed that the rules won’t change for me.
Each time I am newly surprised by mortality.

So many friends and lovers, so many family members
who once were bonfires in my life, flicker down to embers
then fade to ashes in a jar sitting on a shelf.
and once again my tether becomes only my self.

It is a cruel truth of life, this ephemerality
that severs every hawser as ones we love go free.
No matter what allegiance, what solidarity
is promised, still the vow that lasts is mutability.

 

The prompt today is “unmoored.”

If I Follow the Wandering Poet

jdbphoto


If I Follow the Wandering Poet

Who cares
if I swim naked in my pool?
All other human occupants
have left this neighborhood behind,
leaving more room
for possums, skunks,
birds, scorpions, spiders
and me.

I keep a closer company with them
than I do with any human these days.
This week, I talk to the large caterpillar
who seems to sprout two crystals from his crown
as he sits for a day on the Olmec head
that guards my swimming pool.

Back and forth, back and forth I pass,
adding a look at him to my lap routine.
For one long afternoon,
he sits still—like Alice’s caterpillar,
but hookah-less,
meditating in this grey place.

If he were on my Virginia Creeper,

I’d be repositioning him
to the empty lot next door, but here
he seems to be a guest; and so some etiquette
keeps me from altering his placement
as he sits on stone, moving his suction cups in sequence
now and then only to alter his direction, not his territory.

Perhaps I’ve stayed too long
in this one place.
That wandering poet within me
may have somewhere it thinks I need to go.
If it creates a good alternative, 
I might follow in much the same way
that I have come to this point
in my poem.
Blindly, in a maze of words,
open to what comes next.

The prompt word today wasmaze.” This is an extensive rewrite of a poem written three years ago.

“Unexposed”

It is the difference between that present handed to you by a person who says, “It’s only a tie,” and a package under the tree squeezed and prodded at—perhaps a corner loosened or a hole poked in through supposed accidental handling, pondered like a good detective show. Who wants these mysteries revealed before their time? What value in the present whose contents you already know for sure?

The magic of Christmas for some is that faith that the girl, untouched by human lover, gave birth—and it is that sort of faith that “saved” the world. If we knew the whole truth of that story would all it prompted fall into the hole covered all these years by mystery? The whole world seems to be standing more on what we don’t know than on what we absolutely know empirically—what we can prove.

Unexposed

And so I look at the picture of my young mother
in her cotton housedress and saddle shoes
holding her baby in front of her in her stroller,
whole contraption, child and carrier,
a foot or two above the ground,
and there is mystery in the reveal.

I do not hear what transpired to cause this pose––

whether my father caught her carrying me
from the porch to sidewalk and said,
“Here, Tootie, turn around,” and snapped the picture,
or whether my older sister planned the pose.
Perhaps some movie star was snapped in a similar scene
and my mother and sister, like two conspiring fans,
planned the shot to steal the glamor formerly reserved
for “Photoplay” or “Look” or “Life.”

There would be no reel-to-reel
in any normal person’s life for years.
No movie camera to tell me exactly what my mother and I were like
 before my memory took hold and even then,
what I remember of childhood is
more like reflections in a lake that color and change
depending on the clouds or rain,
distorting the light like moods.

My Aunt Peggy’s house,

always remembered as feeling like
the color chartreuse,
and I will never know why––
that smell of a friend’s house that became associated
with her memory more than any concrete proof of
the spinning film of a movie projector.

I do not know my mother’s voice at thirty.
I did not witness myself since birth
by either sound or sight.
There is a different mystery
to a past caught
in boxes of Kodacolor prints
curling and yellowing in a closet
than one documented like a science experiment
with every event taped and filmed.

Where does the mystery of you reside when you see yourself
so clearly, as others have seen you all along?
What does it leave for you to try to discover?
No tapes.
No film.
No Internet.
No Skype.
No YouTube.
No home movies.
All of our pasts were once wrapped up forever
with only our fingers poking in the edges.
Only our voices asking,
“What was it like the day when I was born?”
What do you remember about the day when. . . .?

(This is a rewrite of a poem I wrote three years ago.)

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/exposed/

Planting Seeds: NaPoWriMo 2017, Day 22

Planting Seeds

My father planted row on row,
straight furrows where the wheat would grow
nourished by the winter snow.

He knew the how of planting, and when.
He’d watch for all the signs and then
plant his yearly crops again.

Though farming’s in my family tree,
the seeds I plant are furrow-free.
I scatter seeds, then let them be.

Fanned out by an erratic hand,
they grow wherever they may land,
or thirst and wither where they stand.

If planting were a matter of need––
if I’d a family to feed,
of course, I’d plow and water and weed.

But as it is, the mystery
of what might grow means more to me
than the science of agronomy.

And though he worked from dawn to dark,
Dad’s life was anything but stark.
He paused to watch the meadowlark

and trace its flight from post to limb.
He watched the clouds catch light, then dim––
and a single drop course down one stem.

 

The NaPoWriMo prompt today had to do with planting a garden.

New Foal

IMG_9512 (1)jdbphoto 2016

New Foal

From his mother’s teat, the new-born colt
raised his head with a sudden jolt,
his new world noisier than before
as the truck drove up with its engine roar.
A small boy sat with his window down,
surveying the scene with a subtle frown
as the older man jumped out to walk
slowly toward him, lest he balk,
and reached a hand to touch his coat,
fingers exploring, as though by rote,
feeling bones, sinew and muscle.

“This one here will have some hustle,”
he said to the boy who stood beside,
thinking of his horse who’d died.
“You want to name him?” his father said.
The boy’s toe shuffled. He hung his head.
The tiny colt looked up and snorted—
edgy now, but well-deported.
He moved to the boy to butt his arm.
His nose was soft and smooth and warm
as it nudged the small boy’s skin.
His father watched the pact begin.

 

I saw this unusual colt alongside the road almost a year ago.  I pulled off as soon as possible to snap a few shots and have been waiting for a chance to use them  Not exactly a new-born colt, but close.  I’ve been waiting long enough!

The prompt today is “jolt.”