writing about flowers

It has been months since I posted here, for reasons far too numerous to mention. In any case,  today’s Poem-a-Day from Academy of American Poets spoke to me so deeply that I decided to break my silence by sharing it here.

This question of writing about flowers is in fact very near and dear to my heart. The need arises in all of us who live close to the earth, to the heart, to what pulses through and connects all of life. As a poet, I love the idea of writing a bouquet of poems arising from a common seed. I also love the sublte metaphor and its shift through the poem. It draws me into multiple layers of meaning. [Clearly, my weeklong poetry workshop wtih Marge Piercy is still with me!] And, of course, I love how a simple experience can evoke such a powerful poetic response.

How Can Black People Wriet About Flowers at a Time Like This,
by Hanif Abruddaqub

dear reader, with our heels digging into the good
mud at a swamp’s edge, you might tell me something
about the dandelion & how it is not a flower itself
but a plant made up of several small flowers at its crown
& lord knows I have been called by what I look like
more than I have been called by what I actually am &
I wish to return the favor for the purpose of this
exercise, which, too, is an attempt at fashioning
something pretty out of seeds refusing to make anytning
worthwhile of their burial. size me up & skip whatever semantics
arrive to the tongue first, say: that boy he look like a hollowed-out grandfather
clock, he look like a million-dollar god with a two-cent
heaven. like all it takes is one kiss & before morning,
you could scatter his whole mind across a field.

The poet writes of this poem:

I was at a reading shortly after the election, and the poet (who was black) was reading gorgeous poems, which had some consistent and exciting flower imagery. A woman (who was white) behind me—who thought she was whispering to her neighbor—said ‘How can black people write about flowers at a time like this?’ I thought it was so absurd in a way that didn’t make me angry but made me curious. What is the black poet to be writing about ‘at a time like this’ if not to dissect the attractiveness of a flower—that which can arrive beautiful and then slowly die right before our eyes? I thought flowers were the exact thing to write about at a time like this, so I began this series of poems, all with the same title. I thought it was much better to grasp a handful of different flowers, put them in a glass box, and see how many angles I could find in our shared eventual demise.

Does it speak to you in some way?

 

coming back

credit -

credit – sonja parfitt

Like many of you, I have been cocooning from public life for many months. It has been hard to figure out what to say. The cross-currents in my head and heart have managed to keep my fingers from the keyboard.

But that is changing, here, now. Time to emerge and start writing. Again. Because this is what I do, and this is what needs to be done. Luckily for me, I have regular gigs writing inside our local women’s prison, which gives me plenty of fodder to jump-start this blog. So here goes – writing done last Thursday to a mixed prompt. You may recognize the first part as being a line from Mary Oliver’s beloved ‘Wild Geese.’ The second part is from Barbara Sher, Refuse to Choose!

Perhaps you, too, have pondered the image of the ‘soft animal of your body’ and considered responding to it in some way. I’d love to see your words.

“Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves… Stick with it. Start now.”

Just who is the soft animal of my body?
Is she the white belly who never sees
light of day, who loves dark chocolate
and feels the quiver of anxiety at the sea change ahead,
that ‘gut brain’ I have come to trust but slowly?

Or is she the soft brain, whose hard shell
holds in protective embrace the myriad thoughts
coursing through the veins of my life, pulsing
alarm while quashing them with the knowing
that I must go on, be strong, reach out, take in.

Perhaps she is the heart of mine that beats
with so much love and compassion for each of you,
for all of us so divided and categorized and walled off
from truth, from feeling, from the very humanity
that will save us all, earth included.

Because my heart does love what she loves
and fiercely – truth, fairness, opportunity,
kindness, compassion, the need to offer my hand
or a hug, to cast beauty
and healing upon these tumultuous times

one circle, one poem, one dream,
one good conversation, one day at a time.

swb
11.10.16

 

 

no more taking sides

Aside

Photo: Frank Micelotta

Photo: Frank Micelotta

Robi Damelin lost her son David to a Palestinian sniper. Ali Abu Awwad lost his older brother Yousef to an Israeli soldier. But, instead of clinging to traditional ideologies and turning their pain into more violence, they’ve decided to understand the other side — Israeli and Palestinian — by sharing their pain and their humanity. They tell of a gathering network of survivors who share their grief, their stories of loved ones, and their ideas for lasting peace. They don’t want to be right; they want to be honest.”

Each time I read about them, I weep for the possibilities open to us all. Their actions are not only awe-inspiring and honest. They model the only way forward in a world torn by dissensions of every sort; by a false sense of we vs them; by trying to create a simplistic world of either/or.  We are all made of the same human stuff. That is reason enough to listen with the one thing that unites us all –  the heart.