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?

 

women’s review of books

The current issue just arrived from Wellesley Centers for Women on my computer screen. An impressive collection of serious writing about thought-provoking issues, from academia, tenure and feminism to historical and current events, criminal justice,  sex museums, marriage equality, and so much more. Including poetry. And on the last page (32), two poems of mine.

When I first received the invitation to submit poetry to Wellesley College’s Women’s Review of Books, the call was for pairs of related poems. The challenge intrigued me, as I was just assembling a new collection about my sister. Of the three or five poem pairs I submitted, they accepted “Late Spring” and “Early Spring.” You can read them here.

The Wellesley Centers for Women, according to their website, “is a premier women- and gender-focused, social-change oriented research-and-action institute at Wellesley College. Our mission is to advance gender equality, social justice, and human wellbeing through high quality research, theory, and action programs.”

The Women’s Review of Books is one of their significant publications, and I am beyond honored to have been published by them twice now. (see my author’s note for HEAR ME, SEE ME).

journey to peace

JOURNEY TO PEACE

Hope is not a strategy
but a way of living,
letting loose what lives within
into a wanting world

a way of living rising
from roots planted
in the soil of love, twisting
outward to bear lessons

from all those years
of unfurling and return,
the unknown entered
in trust blessed

by seasons of rest
and ripening, their light
illuminating the one
thing that matters –

trust in our instincts
as nature’s creatures
sending peace ahead
of every breath.

swb

With thanks to sister-blogger and supportive reader Philippa Rees for her recent comment in which she shared a phrase that inspired this post:

The mighty tree is alive with its roots deep in you…
Let what it sees guide you.

I spent the better part of yesterday – and it was the better part, I can assure you! – creating the collage and afterward, the poem. Thank you, Philippa, for the encouragement from afar that resonated so deeply within.

she just wants

source unknown – but I do wish I could have drawn this!

SHE JUST WANTS

She does not want to fit into anyone’s box.
She just wants to love the earth, her fingers deep in spring soil; to remain strong
and engaged; to let her words spill onto the page.
She doesn’t want a product to justify her day, or to defend or explain herself.
She just wants a walk by the lake, creativity in process, evening wine; to snuggle in front of a winter fire with a good book and her dog by her side.

She does not want to go forth into tumultuous throngs.
She just wants to touch the hearts of those few she calls friend, or to whom
she extends the pen of discovery.
She does not want to listen to discord or chaos.
She just wants to live simply, choose silence or animated conversation
or Bach cello suites.

She does not want additives, modifications, directives or exclusions.
She just wants to ensure the health and well-being of living earth and her creatures.
She does not want to see the world collapse around her offspring.
She just wants to speak up for what she believes, for what is morally right and just.

She does not want 50 years of social progress burned in one moment of fevered frenzy.
She just wants people to listen to/treat/learn from one another with respect.
She does not want self-serving skeptics to destroy natural connections.
She wants us to re-member our humanity and shared responsibility toward our world.

She does not want to live in division, hate, falsehood.
She just wants to lift up what is beautiful and true with.

She does not want it to end quite yet.

3.7.17 fastwrite in ‘writing outside’ group, prompted by ‘Employed,’
by Beverly Rollwagen, from She Just Wants. Nodin Press, 2004

at the crossroads

hecate-1

‘Hecate’ by Claudia Olivos, olivosartstudio.com

For the past six weeks, I participated in an on-line course with Mary Pierce Brosmer about making meaning of our post-election world. Accordingly, I suspended my plan for a multi-part ‘divided we fall’ series here. Instead, I have spent the intervening weeks reading a wide range of texts including but not limited to John McCain’s February 17th remarks at the Munich Security Conference; selections from Leonard Cruz and Steven Buser’s A Clear and Present Danger, Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark, and Ken Wilber’s Trump and a Post-Truth World, among others.

We spent six weeks reading, sharing remarkably relevant poems written long since, writing and sharing our words, discussing, questioning, opening our hearts to difference and our minds to ‘what next.’ During this same six weeks, I traveled twice to southwestern PA to be with my sister in her final days; welcomed my third grandchild into a family filled with February birthdays; and sat with several of ‘my’ prison writers through unimaginable trauma and personal tragedy.

Clearly, this has been a time rich with change on so many levels, transformations both anticipated and not. Above all, it has been a time to open up, expand information sources, broaden opinions and challenge my role in the larger world. While a continuing work in progress, I did not want to remain silent any longer on this page. As a result, I share here my final writing for that life-questioning course of words and ideas – and intentions for going forward. Next time I will return to ‘divided we fall – 2.’

Thank you for reading. And as always, I welcome – no, encourage! – your thoughtful responses to what you read here.

AT the CROSSROADS
That November crossroads stemmed from the tangle of tarnished truths
but I was slow to go there, lost as I was in the thicket of win-lose
when the multi-faceted is what I believe. Now we are offered
loyalty or disdain, history or ignorance, hope or despair.

How can this be our only choice? We have arrived at a crossroads
of morality. And though multiply manifest, it is the voice
of truth that must prevail, the voice of compassion
for us all – earth, sea, sky, collective spirit and soul.

I knew the night birth and death converged that we are in
for deep transformation, needing not to ‘get over’ or past
but to spell truth – yours, mine, ours. A time to speak out
past the divide and into the void, to speak without ceasing.

Thus am I pulled to provide all that I can – insight
and light to help guide the lost from personal hells,
reunite torn-apart mothers with daughters, guarding
ground and reason until mutual respect shall

in deed reign, parting the darkness of derision and disgust.
We must persevere until light seeps through every crack,
shattering false divisions to reveal the common bedrock
of our shared humanity.
swb (c) 2017