Category Archives: Self-portrait

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.”

NaPoWriMo 2015, DAY 14: The Holy Apewoman of Mexico

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The Prompt: Write a poem that takes the form of a dialogue. My dialogue takes place between my 7 year old self and my 67 year old self who, ironically, is writing this in Mexico.


Childhood Dreams

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The mysteries
of Grandma’s barn
and basement–
whole lost worlds down there.
Our own attic–that door held down
by a gravity never challenged.

I wanted to see
the hanging gardens of Babylon,
Mexico and Africa–
all these places from books,
their pieces jumbled together
like puzzle pieces
in the deep recesses of my closet,
scattered,
but ready for assembly
some day
when I would
make my future memories
happen.

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I crouch with myself at seven–
sharing imagined dangers
in deep closets,
trying to conjure the world.
So many small town stories
overlooked
while I dreamed of living
in those fairy tale places
of Bible stories
that stood on a shelf
sandwiched between
the Bobbsey Twins
and Tarzan.

Some of us spend our lives
trying to be like books,
then spend our old age
trying to remember childhood,
mainly remembering
childhood’s dreams.

*

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

Odd Little Saturday Morning Poem

I lie in bed, flat on my back, head raised by pillows,
computer raised to eye level
by a wadded comforter over bent knees.
I listen to raised voices in the village down below,
the staccato of an inadequately mufflered car revving up,
a hammer falling on wood, birds in the coco  palms.
A pianissimo chorus of dogs spread
over the surrounding hills swells to a frenzied crescendo,
then falls silent but will swell again.

I have dropped obligations
like clothes shed for a lover.
My Saturday morning pool aerobics and zumba,
I slipped out of years ago.
Group luncheons hang from doorknobs and chair backs.
Committee meetings lie sloppily abandoned in the hall.

I have retired from the running of the world
to run my own small universe on paper.
Saturday morning is my brainstorm session
with “Me,” “Myself” and “I.”
“I” suggested feeding the dogs,
but they are quiet now, so
“Me” suggested we let them lie.
“Myself” laid out some words to dry
in the heat of the fire of our communal
inspiration, laying them smoothly on the page,
rumpling up others in her fist to send them sailing
to join the crumpled singles event invitations in the corner.

This slow Saturday morning dressing of pages
and stripping them bare
is a sort of ceremony celebrating seizing time
and making it my own.
Pages  fill up with passion, angst, anger,
irritation, joy, laughter, camaraderie.
There is more than one word for each.

Imagine such control over your world–
not having to live the world of any other.
If you could have any life you wish?
Imagine a Saturday morning  building it.

 

The Prompt:  Me Time–What do you like to do on Saturday morning?  Are you doing it now?

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.

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

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What do you see in these beach finds?

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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.



Our Own Little Universes: Pains, Rips, Stars, Itineraries and Insights

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Our Own Little Universes: Pains, Rips, Stars, Itineraries and Insights

Yolanda and Pasiano must have thought I was crazy when I started packing a week ago for my 2 month trip to the beach. First, all of my clothes piled on the bed in the spare room, then art and jewelry-making supplies piled on one end of the other bed, computer and photography needs piled on the other end. Bags full of other art supplies. Then two days ago, little piles of spices and kitchen tools, canned goods, disinfectant for fruit and veggies, bags of papers I’ve been wanting to sort for 13 years. (There will be time at the beach, where I know no one.)

But now it was the night before and with the car mostly packed with suitcase and bags, I still had hours more of sorting and packing to do. I knew it would probably mean a late night, and I’d have 5 or 6 hours of driving to do. Could I get enough sleep so I wouldn’t be driving sleepy, by myself, with no one to spell me?   I have been rushing around trying to get dozens of details finished before I leave and I was so tired last night, with still a half-dozen things to do, that it occurred to me that there was no law decreeing that I have to leave today!!!  So, I’m putting off leaving until tomorrow morning. That way I can finish packing at my leisure, sort out what I’m doing re/ the illustrations for the book and whether to take the scanner or not and get a full night’s sleep before driving to La Manz.

I don’t know why I get these mind sets about how things “have” to be done.  Such a relief and so glad I decided to do this because I was up three times with severe leg cramps during the night–sometimes both ankles, once my inner thigh and opposite ankle…Such agony that a hot shower couldn’t ease. If I had neighbors, they’d think I was either having the best sex of my life or that someone was killing me, because I was moaning and screaming out at great volume!  Then I thought to get in the hot tub and they eventually eased.

The third time this happened, about an hour ago, I almost fell asleep in the hot tub, but woke up, thought I needed to get out, and glanced up to see the quarter moon perfectly centered through a tear in the umbrella I’d positioned over a side of the hot tub.  You know what happened.  I had to get up, naked, dripping, cold, and go get my camera and then back into the hot tub to try to capture that phenomenon.

Dozens of shots later, with flash and without, I’d gotten a few barely effective shots, but realized how these pains of life sometimes lead to highly personal insights and experiences, so although the camera did not catch exactly what I’d experienced, my mind and memory had, and it might be that thing I remember in my last hour or last moment and gain strength or hope from.  So intimate, these night experiences with ourselves.  Those times when we realize we really are our own universes.  Our own little gods, having the final power over ourselves.

In short, although if I thought I had to drive alone to La Manzanilla today, I’d be so worried that I would fall asleep at the wheel, instead I don’t have to worry.  I can do my final packing today and then get a good night’s sleep.

I’ll leave tomorrow.

HOLLOW E’EN

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The Prompt: Trick or Trick—It’s Halloween, & you just ran out of candy. If the neighborhood kids (or anyone else, really) were to truly scare you, what trick would they have to subject you to?

Hollow E’en

They pound upon my door and wait outside my wall.
One climbs a tree to peer within. I hope he doesn’t fall.
I cower here within my house. Perhaps they’ll go away.
Though I am not religious, eventually I pray.

Their little voices raise a pitch. They start to bay and howl.
There’s a flutter in my heart region, a clutching in my bowel.
I purchased Reese’s Pieces and miniature Kit Kats
just for all these masked and costumed little brats.

My motives were unselfish. The candy was for them,
for I don’t eat much candy in efforts to grow slim.
And yet that bag of Reese’s, those small Kit Kats and such
called to me from where they were sequestered in my hutch.

It started with a whisper, hissing out their wish:
“We would look so pretty laid out on a dish!”
I knew that they were evil. I knew it was a trap.
I tried hard to resist them, my hands clenched in my lap.

I turned up my computer, listening to “The Voice.”
Those candy bars would not be seen till Halloween—my choice!
My willpower was solid. No candy ruled me.
(If that were true, no kids would now be climbing up my tree.)

Yes, it is true I weakened. I listened to their nags.
I took the candy from the shelf and opened up the bags.
Their wrappers looked so pretty put out for display
in one big bowl so colorful, lying this-a-way

and that-a-way, all mixed and jumbled up together.
No danger of their melting in this cooler weather.
I put them on the table, then put them on a shelf,
so I would not be tempted to have one for myself.

When people came to visit, I put them by my bed.
Lest they misunderstand and eat them all instead.
Then when I was sleeping, one tumbled off the top.
I heard it landing with a rustle and a little “plop.”

I opened up one eye and saw it lying there
just one inch from where I lay, tangled in my hair.
Its wrapper was so pretty—foiled and multi-hued.
Some evil force took over as I opened it and chewed!

This started a small avalanche of wrappers on the floor
as I ripped & stuffed & chewed & swallowed more & more & more!
This story is not pretty but has to be confessed.
My only explanation is that I was possessed.

They pound upon my door and wait outside my wall,
but I have no candy for them. No treat for them at all.
Surrounded by the wrappers, bare bowl upon my lap,
I think I’ll just ignore them and take a little nap.

I hear them spilling o’er my wall and dropping down inside.
I try to think of what to do. Consider suicide.
They’re coming in to get me. Beating down my door.
They are intent on blood-letting—the Devil’s evil spore.

I guess it’s not the worst death a gal could ever get.
I’ve heard of much worse endings than death by chocolate!

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Coffee with No Ceremony!!

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All dressed up for the coffee ceremony, but what is missing?

The Prompt: Dictionary, Shmictionary—Time to confess: tell us about a time when you used a word whose meaning you didn’t actually know (or were very wrong about, in retrospect).

Coffee With No Ceremony

I lived in Addis Ababa adjoining Mexico Square.
I ate injera every day. Had cornrows in my hair.
I thought I knew it all, and though my language skills were poor,
I knew enough Amharic to get by in any store.

Seated in a circle, on low stools around a flame,
We watched Demekech fan the fire—this ritual the same
in every house and every village all throughout the land.
The thick and sludgy coffee was always ground by hand.

Boiled in a clay carafe, then set aside to brew
as in another little pot, some corn kernels she threw.
The popcorn taken from the flame, the colo nuts were next.
Except—we found that we had none, and we were sorely vexed.

The coffee jug was sealed up with a fresh-wound plug of grass
ready for the pouring, but one aspect of our mass
was missing, so I said I’d go to buy some at the souk,
lest our hospitality give reason for rebuke.

These little shops were many, lining both sides of the street;
and at each one, I knew the custom—always did I greet
the owner with proper respect, and always, he said, “Yes!”
when I asked if he had colo, but I couldn’t guess

why no one ever seemed to want to sell any to me.
Always the same reaction—first the shock and then the glee.
So, finally, I walked back home. My failure I admitted.
Departing, I had felt so smart, but now I felt half-witted.

What had I done wrong? I knew that every shop had colo.
The problem must have been that I had gone to get them solo!
Returning empty-handed, I felt I was to blame.
Coffee without colo was a pity and a shame.

But my roommate and our guests and cook were really most surprised.
I must have asked for something else than colo, they surmised.
What did I ask for? When I told them, they dissolved in laughter.
They said that I was lucky not to get what I asked after.

For colo had two meanings, depending on the stress
put on the first syllable, and I had made a mess.
Instead of nuts, they told me (and this was just between us,)
­I had asked each souk owner—if he had a penis!

(This is a true story of only one of the gaffes I became famous for in the year and a half I taught and traveled in Ethiopia in the period leading up to the revolution that deposed Haile Selassie.)