Category Archives: Self-Image

Hide-and-go-seek

One often used technique is to take your photo in the bathroom mirror, but oops.. remember not to put the camera in front of your face.

Hide-and-go-seek

She enters my hideout and calls it her own.
Now I’ll have to move on, for my cover is blown.
I try to go deeper into my lair
but still she follows, finding me there.
I cannot escape her. She has all my keys.
She blows through my memory like a fine breeze,
usurping my details to make them her own
so I can’t reclaim them, wherever they’ve blown.
From a full-body mirror, she stares back at me.
My elbow’s her elbow. My knee is her knee.
She alters my hairdo and rouges my cheeks.
She searches my memory, looking for leaks,
then piles the lost parts up in her poems,
through her underground railroad, gives them new homes.
When I see myself spread out here in these pages,
some private part of me protests and rages,
but she doesn’t listen. She finds me too fussy.
She leaves herself open, the ungrateful hussy.
Does she not realize that it is me
who has made her whatever she’s turned out to be?
She should listen more closely when I say to stop.
Allow me to be her poetry cop.
But she doesn’t mind. She says what she wishes.
She dines out on me and leaves me with the dishes!

The prompt word today was “hideout.”

 

At Fourteen

There is a whole world out there and you’ll see it soon enough.
It is the world inside of you you’ll find especially rough.
Try to write about it, and try to tell the truth
about the things that happen that you find uncouth.

Write about what hurts you, and hurts that you have done–
all those shadows in you brought into the sun.
Ask those around you why they act in ways that might seem cruel
and try to live your own life by the golden rule.

Take chances and do not be cowed when you achieve less
than what you might have hoped for, and when you’re wrong, confess.
Don’t just do what your friends do. Don’t act before you think.
However strange the ones around you, try to find a link.

The world has enough meanness. Try not to add to it.
Try harder in environments where you seem not to fit.
People who are petty will cut you like a knife,
but the chances that you take will be what will make your life.

Other people’s rules pinch like a too-small shoe,
so don’t let other people dictate what you do.
Do not fear to step aside and go out on your own.
The fields that yield the sweetest crop are those that you have sown.

Post this advice up on your wall and read it now and then.
Use it as a means to reassess where you have been.
Then when you are older, and your life grows thin,
do what I am doing now. Consider it again.

 

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “From You to You.” Write a letter to your 14-year-old self. Tomorrow, write a letter to yourself in 20 years.

F

Re”tire”ment

When I was younger, my mind turned on a dime.
I did what I had to do in very little time.
But now that I am older, I find things don’t go so fast.
I’m not “spur-of-the-momentish” as I was in the past.

I don’t throw big parties as I did in former days,
for dealing with the details just puts me in a haze.
I can’t do many things at once without getting confused.
Now I simply write my blog while once I danced and boozed!

At first I felt ashamed of how my life is slowing down,
hating that I do not seek the company of the town.
But then I noted patterns in nature around me
and saw that this is simply how our lives are meant to be.

Each thing in its season and each thing in its time
is how our lives are ordered–to accept this is sublime.
Why do I need to live my youth and middle age again?
Why not just accept that this is how my life has been

and go on to the next stage without sadness or regret–
going on to see just how much better life can get?
Yes, it is the pits to get arthritic, slow and hazy;
but we are compensated by excuses to be lazy!

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Heat is On.” Do you thrive under pressure or crumble at the thought of it? Does your best stuff surface as the deadline approaches or do you need to iterate, day after day to achieve something you’re proud of? Tell us how you work best.

Ollie Ollie Oxen: NaPoWriMo 2015 Day 18

The NaPoWriMo Prompt: write a poem that involves an urgent journey and an important message. The WordPress Prompt: Karma Chameleon–let’s pretend that science has proven that karma is a thing. Your words and actions will influence what happens to you in the future. How (if at all) will you change your ways?

Ollie Ollie Oxen

Dreams are the playground of the day.
It is time to take that avoided journey
that sends me out
in pursuit of myself,
then gives me morning
to come in free.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/karma-chameleon-2/

Mr. Cole

Mr. Cole

He lurked out in the hall as we all took our seats and came to order.  He took a drink from the water fountain, putting down what looked like a new briefcase as he did so.  He picked up the briefcase and made for the door, then turned and walked back to the fountain, putting his briefcase down as he took another drink.  He started for the door again.  Changed his mind and returned for another drink.  Then he squared his shoulders, picked up his case, re-rounded his shoulders and entered the room.

He was a little mole of a man—sniffy and hunched with scrunched-up eyes behind thick glasses.  When he entered the classroom, he looked straight down at the floor, as though he wasn’t sure one foot would follow the other without great attention.  He maneuvered his way to his desk and stood with his back to us.  He slammed his briefcase onto the desk, then removed it again, as though in indecision over whether he really wanted to stay at all.  Then he slammed it down again.  Removed it.  Slammed it down.

Finally, he moved around to face us and assumed a more teacherly demeanor.  He actually looked at someone in the front row for two seconds, before retreating back around to the back side of the desk, perhaps seeking some protection.

It was the first day of my freshman year in college. Next to me was a very new friend who not only lived in the same dorm but who also had just pledged the same sorority. We sported our bug-like black pledge pins on the fronts of our sweaters, a hand’s distance above the nipple, as we’d been instructed to wear them.  It was a bit like being in enemy territory, for we had already learned that the English department and the dormitories were not the best places to display our new status as Greeks so openly.  Our sitting together was a bit like circling the wagons on a westward journey.  We had each others’ backs.

“My name is Mr. Cole,” the dwarf said. “This is the honors section of Freshman English 101.”  He had facial ticks and a way of floating off into dreams.  Sometimes the end of a sentence just sort of wandered off, as though some other matter of greater importance had intruded upon his thoughts.  We did not disturb him in these reveries.  My new friend Linda and I would exchange looks and she would giggle the sexy little laugh that was her only laugh.  We both admitted, finally, to having a bit of a crush on him.

It was my first of many crushes on “different” men.  Men who had facial ticks or personality disorders that made others look on in horror or disgust just seemed to intrigue me, and my new friend was someone who gave validity to my strange behavior.  She, too, thought he was intriguing.  When we invited him to be a faculty chaperone for our pledge dance, he asked if he would be expected to function in the capacity of a bouncer and I assured him that no, it was more of an honorary position. To our surprise, he accepted, showing up with a tall willowy English department assistant who seemed herself to be of a literary bent.  I don’t remember if they danced, but I believe they dated for the rest of my college career.

You can see by my relation of these details how little I really knew about this man. On that first day in Freshman English, I remember being frightened and feeling inferior to the big town kids in the class.  If the truth were told, most of them were probably small town kids themselves, but coming from a town of 700, I thought of a town of 6,000 as a city , and I was sure that my own excellent academic record was more a result of comparison (there were 15 in my graduating class) than of true prowess.  Mr. Cole explained that instead of studying grammar, sentence and paragraph construction, that as honors students we would be expected to write an essay or story a week which would then be read in class and commented upon.

The night before our first writing assignment was due, my insecurity had kept me from committing a single mark to paper.  We had been given no topic and no direction.  This paper was to function as a sample of where we were on the continuum of writing skills.  This was to be my introduction to the strange gnomish man who had studied under Roethke.  Although I had no idea who Theodore Roethke was and no easy way of determining who he was in this pre-computer, pre-Google age, I had made one of my rare forays into the college library and found a whole section dedicated to his books in the poetry section.  So, I was about to be read by the student of a very important American poet.  And, I didn’t know what I was doing, really.  Our composition efforts in high school had been for the most part limited to essays and term papers.  I’d once written a humorous sonnet about Goldwater and Johnson and that was about it.  How did one go about writing a vignette, which as I recall was our assignment?  Midnight, one a.m., two a.m. ticked away on the smoking room wall as I sat looking at the blank page.

A fly, brought back to action by the hot light of my study lamp, worried my ear before buzzing off to pin itself to the wall. The smoke of my cigarette curled between us, and suddenly, in a sort of astral projection, I was that fly on the wall getting high on the fumes of a doobie that smoked in the ashtray beneath it.  The room was filled with the imaginary bodies of stoned kids splayed out on the floor or with headphones on their heads.  I started to write.  Forget that I had never smelled or seen marijuana, let alone smoked a joint. It was easier for me to imagine that fly getting high than to imagine myself doing so, but within a half hour, I’d completed the essay, set my alarm clock and had joined the fly in its herbally-induced sleep.

The next day, I placed my own sheet on the pile of papers on his desk.  Mr. Cole entered as usual, slamming the briefcase, removing it, slamming, slamming.  I had never been introduced to the term “Tourette’s Syndrome,” but many years later I wondered if perhaps this accounted for some of his oddness.  He would stand at the desk and crane his neck upwards, roll his eyes.  Sometimes he would look at one back corner of the room and then at the other, as though he were privy to some world and audience we had no access to. Seeing a film on Roethke, I wondered if he had patterned some of his odd behavior on his former teacher. This is just a scrap of a remembrance, so perhaps I dreamed it.  In this era of YouTube it would not be hard to check out.

Three days later, he was ready to discuss our vignettes.  There were many in this class, he revealed, who were able to put words down on paper but who were not writers.  There was one student, however, who had portrayed the truth in a way that the others had failed. This student had displayed courage in telling about a part of themselves that no one else had been willing to be vulnerable enough to display. He then read my essay as an example of superior writing to the entire class.

What I felt? Relief, certainly.  Pride?  Sorry, but yes.  I enjoyed being singled out.  After the class, other students came up to me saying they would not have had the courage to write the truth like that or to admit they’d smoked pot and applauded my success in exactly expressing what it was like to be stoned.  On the way back to the sorority house to do our pledge duties, my friend giggled and admitted she had never smoked pot.  “Neither have I,” I confessed, with a sideways grin at her.

I took three classes from Mr. Cole. In Honors Freshman English, I earned an A.  When I took creative writing from him a year later, he seemed to have me completely confused with another student who had taken a class from him the semester before.  He kept calling me Jenny and commenting on how my writing had improved.  The next semester, I took another class from him and in the margin of one of the first poems I wrote for him, he said, “Not quite up to the sudden fine standards you set for yourself last semester!”  I knew then that he was still thinking of me as Jenny and was disappointed that I’d returned to my former standards of mediocrity.  He’d given me a B+ on the poem.  I tried harder for the remainder of my last semester in his class, earned another A and would like to believe I lived up to his expectations. Of Jenny.

We do not always stand out in the memories of those we admire with the same clarity that they stand out in ours. What happened to Mr. Cole, I do not know.  As with many in our lives, when his importance in my own life ended, so did his existence.  I tried Googling his name once and found nothing, which may mean his own poetry books were published in a pre-computer era.  When I Google my own name, there are 209,000  entries listed, probably most having to do with some other combinations of my name, but most of the ones really referring to me have to do with writing. Probably all of those entries deserve a footnote of thanks to Mr. Cole, who was the first to find merit in my words and also the first to be deceived by them.

(You can see a 25-minutes YouTube video on Theodore Roethke here. Other than his reading style, he really doesn’t have much in common with Mr. Cole at all.)

The Prompt: Teacher’s Pet—Write about a teacher who influenced you.

Under the Skin

The Prompt: New Skin—If you could spend the next year as someone radically different from the current “you” — a member of a different species, someone from a different gender or generation, etc. — who would you choose to be?

Photo on 7-3-14 at 11.35 PM #2 - Version 3

Under the Skin

Like the ugly oyster creates the lovely pearl,
I’ve made starts at being a better sort of girl.
I’ve starved and exercised until I made a brand new me,
hoping that a siren was what I would set free.
But no matter what I look like, whatever I could be,
At the end of all of it, I find I’m only me.

To The Island

The Prompt: We’ve all been asked what five objects we’d take with us to a desert island. Now it’s your best friend’s (or close relative’s) turn to be stranded: what five objects would you send him/her off with?

To the Island

If I sent you to an island, it would be for your own good.
It wouldn’t be unwillingly, with chains and ropes and hood.
I’d lure you off to be with me, surrounded by the sea.
You wouldn’t have to talk or walk or be in love with me.

The objects that I’d give you are a camera, notepad, pen
and a computer with no wifi to connect to where you’ve been.
You’d live in the present with the details of your life,
examining where you have been without the daily strife.

With no Internet distraction, no ringing of the phone,
sometimes you find a part of you that you have never known.
There’s something that is lacking in what’s crowded in one’s brain.
It’s hard to find ourselves when we must live the whole world’s pain.

In the morning, you would walk the beach, move inward with the tide,
examining what treasures the waves conceal inside.
A stone shaped like a check mark or a continent or heart–
it’s hard to suspend looking, once you’ve made a start.

You may take photos of them or collect them in your pocket—
something to make art from, or a picture for your locket.
Another way to get inside is what you write about them.
If you have secrets, it’s inevitable that you’ll out them.

The sea’s part of something larger and each treasure is a clue
connecting the whole universe to something within you.
This is why each object plucked up from the sand
is part of you that you’ve reclaimed—there within your hand.

What you see in what you find is what you have inside.
Perhaps it’s something you don’t know or that you know and hide.
The very fact that it is here revealed for you to see
may mean that you are ready to finally set it free.

The sea with all its treasures and its recurring tide
is also found within you—safely tucked inside.
So look into a mirror—a metaphor, more or less;
if you are wondering if you’ve changed, you won’t have to guess.

You’ll look for things within yourself as closely as the sea
and find out more of who you are and who you want to be.
You’ll see the changes on your face that say you’ve become wise.
Deep worry lines around your mouth and laugh lines by your eyes.

And once that you have found yourself, you’ll find yourself again;
for you are always changing—refining what you’ve been.
Tucked off on an island like a wallflower on a shelf,
perhaps you’ll find the whole wide world there within yourself.

And when you see the world within, you’ll want to live in it,
for it’s a world that you have power to change as you see fit.

DSC09967

Just a few of the more than 30 heart-shaped rocks I’ve found. I’ve photographed many more than that.

DSC09972

What do you see in these beach finds?

DSC09976

This check mark shaped stone was one of my favorites today. I also found one in the shape of Africa, which is alluded to in the poem, but didn’t take a photo.