Click on any photo to enlarge all.
Click on any photo to enlarge all.
As usual, when I showed Forgottenman this little house I made for Yolanda’s daughter, Yoli, he insisted there must be a poem in it. Since this day’s prompt is about gifts, it seemed preordained. This is the little house fashioned by a man from clay as we sat eating our lunch in Tlaquepaque and listening to mariachi music. They were for the taking for a tip, so I chose one, brought it home and painted it. I had to add a few people and animals and flowers just to make it happier for Yoli, who always makes me happy.
Everyone should have a child around
now and then
to shake out the wrinkles
and lighten up the predictable.
That lighthearted humming on the patio,
tuneless and joyful?
That Barbie doll world
set up for the hour or so
before she goes
to find tennis balls
in the garden with the dog?
Someone else’s child.
What gift could she treasure as much
as I have treasured this last hour’s
spontaneous distraction ?
under the terrace table.
One cookie vanished off the plate.
One giggle listened for.
NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem of gifts and joy. What would you give yourself, if you could have anything? What would you give someone else?
Since I was a little girl, trying to construct my own one-dimensional classically-shaped kite out of tissue paper and raw wood sticks, I’ve always been fascinated by kites. Kites were a bonding medium between my husband’s youngest son and me and I remember once taking a new boyfriend up on the hill to fly a kite after our first amorous encounter and actually, never seeing him again. I’m sure I’ve become the subject of one of his scornful “weird chick” stories.
Kites eventually evolved into more exotic shapes than those first fragile little assemble-it-yourself kites that came as paper and string tightly wound around a disassembled skeleton of unsanded sticks sure to provide a number of slivers during assembly. In my twenties, I bought a lovely cellophane kite in the shape of a jellyfish that actually traveled with me to Mexico twenty years later. It was the kite I’d sailed off the pier in Huntington Beach, in the sand of beaches near L.A. and from a campground north of San Diego.
I can’t remember what has become of it since I moved to Mexico eighteen years ago. Perhaps it is in a box somewhere or perhaps it eventually disintegrated and was thrown away, but my fascination with kites did not expire with it and so when I saw the kite vendor next to the road that runs between Ajijic and San Juan Cosala, I immediately pulled over, turned around and went back to examine the glorious three-dimensional fabric kites. They were in the shapes of birds of prey, dragons, fish, and other fanciful creatures. I chose a hawk and a dragon and bought both.
I couldn’t wait to get home and go up to my roof to fly one. Ground level at my house furnishes too many places for a kite to get tangled up in: bougainvillea vines, palm trees, roof tiles and phone lines. I went up the stairs to the second level terraza and unfurled the hawk kite. It was a windy day and it did not disappoint, but soon rose to the full extension of its string. Real birds occasionally circled around it, wondering no doubt what weird bird was this. But after a few minutes, when I looked down from the mesmerizing sight of my own kite hovering far above, I noticed in amazement a similar kite soaring high above my neighbor’s house down below.
Not one but two men were up on the high dome of their house flying a kite! Now I must say that I had lived in my house for sixteen years and had still never met these neighbors. There is an empty lot between us as well as high walls surrounding both of our properties, as is the norm in Mexico. Tall trees and weeds have grown up between us and they are just occasional weekend visitors to their vacation house. We share a gardener, Pasiano, and that has been the extent of our relationship for the now 18 years I’ve been residing here. But they seemed to spot my kite the moment I spotted theirs. I waved from my high perch. They waved from theirs, further down the hill. And I think we both felt a momentary sense of unity.
Since then, that kite has resided, rewound into a tight bundle, in my umbrella stand, along with its fellow kite, still a virgin and as a result, more tightly and professionally wound. I don’t know why I’d never thought to fly either of them since then, but as I was packing to go to the beach last January, my eye fell on the umbrella stand. No need for an umbrella at the beach, but a kite? Yes! I chose the more flamboyant red dragon kite. I would finally see it fully extended! The cord was stuck into the cellophane sheath that surrounded it–a flat plastic structure with the strong braided nylon cord wound tightly around it. Into my fully-packed car it went.
Once I arrived in La Manzanilla, the kite took up residence with my art supplies, sticking up out of a large plastic box that sat on the dining table bench behind the table, which was never used for dining but instead became my computer table and art center. There was much to do–greeting old friends, working on music for CD’s to go with my children’s books, writing groups and readings, planning art activities for friends, swimming, beach combing, dining, dancing, observing the nightly parades that streamed by my house, dealing with the all-night LOUD music from nearby bars, coping with the muffler-less motorcycles that streamed by my house at 3 in the morning.
It was a month after I’d arrived at the beach that my eye fell on my long-overlooked second kite. It was a nice windy day on the beach. I’d seen at least one other kite flying–something I’d never witnessed in the ten years I’d been coming to this relatively sleepy little town. Here were no high-rise hotels or swinging discotheques like the ones in Puerto Vallarta or Mazatlan. Here were little restaurants and night spots frequented by the ever-increasing number of American and Canadian writers, musicians, actors and artists who swelled out the population of the little town for 6 months of every year—those months before the humidity and heat grew too intense to bear.
So, finally, I took my wonderful kite out for its inaugural flight. Assembly required only crossing two long slender plastic spines and slipping their ends into pouched slots on the snout, tail end and two front legs of the dragon and attaching the cord to a center ring. The long expanse of the cord was wound around a flat plastic spindle that had been packaged up with the kite. I slathered on sunscreen and went out to my back porch that overlooked the beach, descended the stairs and began to unwind the cord. The kite rose immediately into the air, born by the strong coastal breeze. It shot upwards and upwards and upwards and––then it was soaring up and over the long line of vacation rentals and restaurants that lined the beach and I was holding the cord winder to which, it seems, the cord had not been attached!
Within seconds, my beautiful kite was gone with the wind and out of sight. I ran quickly down the beach to a small restaurant that furnished ingress to the main street of the little town that fronted the house I rented every year. I ran out onto the street, madly looking up and down for my kite, fearing to find it plastered against the windshield of a wrecked car or in broken splinters, shards and rags after being run over. I looked up and down, up and down, then ran to the center of the street to finally see it, a block away, held streaming behind the form of a small girl on the back of her mother’s motorcycle, speeding down the brick-paved street into the distance. I ran after it, shouting, creating quite a spectacle of myself, then stopped, realizing they would probably make the circuit around the plaza and come back again, as all the other motorcycles always did. But alas, I never saw the motorcycle or the little girl and mother or my beautiful new kite again. They had vanished into the labyrinthine sand streets of the little town.
For another month, I looked for it in the skies above the beach. The house I rent is only one building away from the main paved entrance to the beach and the hub of beach life, but alas, it never appeared. I console myself with the thought of the astonishment of the little girl as it soared over the rooftops and within her reach—her delight as she held it streaming out behind her, her other hand securely clutching her mother as they created a beautiful spectacle witnessed by everyone watching that day from sidewalks, benches or the inside of stores, restaurants and galleries along that main thoroughfare. Witnessed by me, standing center-road, regretting its loss. But at night, before I fall to sleep, as I look for the ten thousandth time at the paintings that cover the walls of my bedroom, I imagine that little girl in her room, my splendid red dragon kite tacked to the adobe wall in front of her bed. Her little miracle. Her treasure, perhaps, for the rest of her life.
Prompt words today were kite, scorn, labyrinthine and instant. Here are the links:
Click on any photo to enlarge all and read captions.
“Ring Around the Rosie” for my sister’s birthday & a backyard production of “Cowboys.”
“Annie I Over,” ” New Orleans.”
In shorts or dresses or cutoff jeans,
we ran and threw and played and shouted.
our pent-up energy thus outed.
“Send ‘Em,” “Ditch ‘Em,” “Cops and Robbers.”
“Poor Pussy” turned us into sobbers.
Do you remember these childhood games?
All vastly varied, with different names?
Before TV or internet,
games were as good as one could get
for transport from reality.
Back when we were cellphone-free,
“Drop the Handkerchief” we knew well
along with “Farmer in the Dell.”
“London Bridge” went falling down
each birthday party in our town.
All the long-lit summer nights
“Cowboys and Indians” staged their fights.
“Cops and Robbers” led to searches
of school ditches and behind churches.
The whole town our playing ground,
each chid lost, each child found
in hours long games of “Hide-and-Seek.”
Count to one hundred. Do not peek!
In childhood games of girls and boys,
imaginations were our toys.
Does such magic now reside
in minds of children safe inside
their cushioned worlds of rumpus rooms,
sealed safe within their houses’ wombs?
For dangers real now lurk in places
that formerly hid playmates’ faces.
Safety dictates different measures
for insuring childhood pleasures.
But oh, I remember so well
joyful flight and heartful swell
of friends pursuing through the dark
back then when life was such a lark.
Now children seek play differently
on cellphone screens and Smart TV,
scarce imagining a world
with internet not yet unfurled.
Our world had not yet been corrupted
with connections interrupted
with wireless servers on the blink,
for we needed no further link
than friends pounding upon our door
to come outside and play some more!
This is a rerun of a piece from two years ago.http://www.napowrimo.net/day-sixteen-5/
The prompt: write a poem that prominently features the idea of play. It could be a poem about a sport or game, a poem about people who play (or are playing a game), or even a poem in the form of the rules for a sport or game that you’ve just made up
Want to see these little faces better? Click on any photo and then on right arrows.
This little girl is Ilsa, the daughter of Ellie, the young lady who comes to clean my rental house once a week. Last year Ilsa was very shy and either hid behind her mother or sat in a corner playing with her phone whenever I tried to talk to her. This year, however, at the mature age of 4, she is an affectionate chatterbox, following me around, chatting me up, smiling a lot, even before I gave her the red licorice that she seemed not to realize she could chew and swallow. An hour after I gave it to her, she was still sucking on the end,, her lips stained with what looked like a very unskillful application of red lip gloss Staying near. When I heard her humming, I asked if she knew any songs. She proceeded to sing a very involved song that lasted at least five minutes. Either she was making it up or has an excellent memory. It was in Spanish, so I didn’t follow it as my mind tunes out and I forget to listen closely enough to try to make out the lyrics.
Afterwards, we talked about cars and dogs and cats and crocodiles and I showed her photos of Morrie on my computer. Her mother called her in twice, telling her to let me work (on blogging) but each time she eventually came back out to stand near and smile and talk and smile and play cocoon with the hanging towels and sheets that hung all around me on lines strung across the porch. Finally, she wrapped herself in a damp-sheet hanging on the line near me and started singing the same three-word line over and over again. I strained to hear it. It sounded like “Hunta para siete,” so I Google translated, but got no answer. She came close, touched my arm and continued to sing it, over and over. When I asked her mom what it could mean, she had no idea. Then, suddenly, I heard it correctly and with the correct spelling. She was singing “Junta para siempre”—“Together forever.” How sweet is that?
When she and her mom left, almost immediately, another little girl walked up to the steps leading up from the sand and climbed up to my porch. Fresh from the ocean, still in her suit, she dripped water from suit, hair and body. In one hand she held a strand of long black hair, sucking on the tip.
She is the little girl who last year had entered the house, poured four cups of dogfood into Morrie’s dish and locked him inside his cage with it. She was also the little girl who would let him off his long lead every time she walked by the porch, freeing him to come play with her on the beach. When their play ceased, she left him to run free, with several potentially dangerous situations arising. So, it became necessary for me to never put Morrie out on his own. It was a very limiting plan–for me. I ended up not going on any of the day excursions Tess and Rita and John planned because… I had to stay home with Morrie
I gave Elsie the sad news that Morrie wasn’t here this year and neglected, on purpose, to tell her I had a cat with me and she eventually climbed down the stairs and slipped away like the accomplished little cat burglar she is. No, I didn’t tell her I had a cat along with me this year.
Sharing Mr. Teddy
Caught in baby’s neck creases, clinging to Grandpa’s cuff,
escaped from Mr. Teddy are these little bits of fluff.
These airborne little clumps of fuzz go anywhere they please.
They catch in Daddy’s nose hairs, causing him to sneeze.
They wind up in the pancakes–an artistic swirl of blue.
A few of them are tracked outside under Billy’s shoe.
When he climbs onto the school bus, they go along with him,
and everywhere that Mommy goes, to grocery store or gym,
a piece of Teddy comes along to be left behind
somewhere in the wide wide world, but he doesn’t mind.
He has so many fluffy parts that he can share a few.
And when you come to visit, you can take some home with you!!
The prompt today was fluff.
I’d just received my school’s math prize and my Uncle Jimmy, after handing me a twenty dollar bill, had, in his usual self-effacing manner, proclaimed that I must have gotten my smarts from him. “How is it that you are both the pretty one and the smart one in your family?” He teased. My sister Eleanor was out of the room at the time. If she’d been there and I hadn’t, he would have been proclaiming her the prettiest. We all knew this about our uncle. He adored us, and was not above flattery in revealing the fact.
This time, however, he had overlooked both the precociousness and competitiveness of my two-and-a-half-year-old youngest sister, Stephanie.
“Elebben, eight, twenny, fiteen,” she recited proudly!
“Well, forgive me, Missy. Aren’t you a smart young lady, knowing how to count?” He reached into his lumpy pocket and tossed her a nickel. Amazingly, she caught it. Perhaps she was going to be the first athletic one in the family.
“Fohty-two!” she exclaimed proudly. “free, sebben-elebben, one, one, one.” This time he extracted his wallet, took out a one-dollar bill and handed it to her. Putting his wallet back in his back pocket, he turned one side pocket inside out. “But that’s it, Teffie. No more money. If you want to go on counting, it will have to be for free.”
His other pocket still bulged with its contents: coins, a rubber ball to throw for our dog Pudge, oatmeal cookie bits in a small plastic bag–also for Pudge. My Uncle Jimmy always proclaimed that doggie treats were a real gyp and that no self-respecting dog would perform for such a dry, tasteless mouthful. So, he preferred to bake his own dog treats.
My sisters and I agreed, and sometimes we would perform, hoping to be rewarded with one of Pudge’s treats. We were all constantly performing for our uncle, whom we adored. He was the one person who paid more attention to us than to our parents when he visited. He was our favorite babysitter, and our parents’ favorite as well, as he always waved away payment.
He would take us to Fern’s Cafe for strawberry malts, greasy hamburgers and mashed potatoes and gravy, since Fern didn’t have a French fryer. He took us for wild rides over cow pastures in his beat up old red Ford pickup. Once he took us to a matinee cartoon show in Pierre, sixty miles away, and got us home and in bed again before my folks got home. We were sworn to secrecy and so far as I know, none of us ever told. I know for sure I didn’t. My Uncle Jimmy had my undying loyalty. I would have borne torture before giving away any of his secrets.
Sadly, Uncle Jimmy died during one of those wild rides across the South Dakota prairie. This time he was flying solo over a dam grade and veered too far to the right, rolling the pickup. He drowned trying to get out of the passenger door, the pickup mired driver-side down in the mud at the bottom of the dam. We had always felt like such ladies as Uncle Jimmy graciously got out of his pickup to personally open the door from the outside for us. We didn’t know then, as we know now, that it was a peculiarity of that door that it would only open from the outside.
“Thank God the girls weren’t with him,” my mother sobbed to my father, as they sat side-by-side at the kitchen table, my dad’s arms around her. It was past midnight, and they were sitting in that room furthest away from our bedrooms, thinking we wouldn’t hear her sobs. But, unable to sleep, we had stolen out to the living room to listen––all consumed by that missing of Uncle Jimmy that would last our whole lives.
“Oh, he never would have driven that wildly if the girls were with him,” my dad said. But Eleanor and I and even Steffie just exchanged that look that we were to exchange so many times in our future lives together––that look that children exchange that would tell their parents that they know something their parents don’t know––if only their parents took the time to notice. Even Steffie understood. And Uncle Jimmy was right when he proclaimed her wise beyond her years. Even Steffie never told.
(This is a work of fiction.)
The prompt today was recite. (A repost of a story from a few years ago.)