H is for Haiku

HI figured we all needed a break from mental health for a day. So, since April is not only A-to-Z Blog a Day Challenge Month, Poetry Month, BUT also NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), I’m trying to write a poem a day, following these prompts. I’ve done a few, not in order, however, but whenever my muse taps me on the shoulder and drops a few good lines into my lap. Enjoy!

April 1/Day One (which I just wrote today, April 12):
Write a lune, a poem with a 5-3-5 structure (either words or syllables):

I, too, run here blindly
Trusting my feet
Since cataracts cover my heart

April 3/Day 3
Write a poem that is a fan letter to a hero or celebrity. Martina Navratilova’s autobiography, published in the summer of 1985 gave me hope and courage when I felt very alone.

Dear Martina Navratilova,

Love. Love.
That’s the score, right?

Add.
Add-in. Add-out.

Out. Let.
Long.

Rush the net.
Backhand.

Overhead
Smash.

Summer.
1985.

I learned a new language.
Reading you.

Thank you.
Sincerely.

April 4/Day 4
In the spirit of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land, write a poem about the cruelest month.

March is the cruelest month.
I am drenched
In fish and scales–
Watery.
Nearly asphyxiated
Then. Pulled
From the warm
Sloshing where I could
Hear your heart swish,
my own steady with
your beat.
My surrogate,
You cut the cord
And left me to
To nourish myself,
To find breath
On my own.
With gills.

April 5/Day 5
We were supposed to write about heirloom seeds—I wrote about weeds and how what we see isn’t always what it seems. Heirloom seed-like-ish.

Monsters skulk at the garden’s edge
Ten feet tall and hairy

Momma said I shouldn’t cry—
He wasn’t really scary

Dangers lurk in the fertile ground
And nourish dormant seeds

Fallow fields lie quiet now
But soon there will be weeds

I’m currently working on a Family Portrait poem so I can cross Day 2 off my list and move on to Days 6-12. Stay tuned for another mental health break in the not to distant.

Shadows, Poems, & Projections: Just a few haiku

It’s one thing to say I’m going to start writing the truth, as I did in my previous blog. Actually doing it? That’s quite another matter, but here’s a first attempt. When I write these haiku, whom am I speaking to? Who is the “you” in my poetry? As I was reminded in one of my classes last week (rather inelegantly, but still), whenever we point our finger at someone else, we are really pointing back at our shadow selves, those parts of ourselves we are at war with. We are always projecting our fears and hopes, desires and needs onto those around us. And so it is with my poetry. Sure, these may be inspired by a particular person. There’s a muse, to be certain, but on deeper reflection, I am “you.” You are me, and to paraphrase the Beatles, we are all together. Goo goo g’joob.

I loved the way you
Swept the door open and bowed,
Welcoming me in.

We had a language–
an undercurrent, riptide.
I drowned in your words

You bequeathed to me
This gift of desperation
Exquisitely wrapped

Stop outguessing me.
Just walk your way, and I’ll run
mine. We’ll meet midway.

You do walk alone.
Were you breathless, keeping up
With my racing heart?

I’ve been your hostage
Since I read that first poem–
Enslaved by those words.

I am the blue sky
And you are the deep green sea
Breathe the air between

Writing Trouble: A Few Words on Distractions and Truth Telling

Every writer I know has trouble writing. —Joseph Heller

Nearly every night I sit down with my laptop and open it to a blank Word document, convinced that this is the night I will begin my masterpiece, my opus, my version of the Great American Novel. And then I get distracted: laundry, dinner, cats, a funny lump behind my earlobe, the stupid TwoDots game on my phone. Words with Friends. Something. Anything to keep me from putting my thoughts down. There are a million things I will do before I finally succumb to that little voice, that growing voice, that roaring voice, the one that pushes and pulses behind my eyeballs, that makes my heart pound faster. I have to, at some point, listen to that voice, give in to that voice or I will explode. Maya Angelou is credited with saying that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside. I agree.homework

Another trouble with writing, with being a writer, particularly if one is a writer of nonfiction, memoir, creative nonfiction, is that telling the truth, or our version of the truth, is bound to offend someone. Probably we will offend someone close to us, a family member, a good friend. And we may throw lots of other folks under the bus—there’s an entire cast of characters from which we can choose: teachers, grandparents, doctors, lawyers, therapists, the barista who forgot your regular order. The waiter who seated you near the kitchen. Really. This is an endless list.

And there are so many reasons we need to keep the peace with all of these folks. We need them to like us. And, what we often forget is that the chances of anyone actually reading what we write is slim. Oh sure, our writing group might, and a teacher, if we’re in school. But Grandma? Uncle Ed? The barista? Not likely. So, really, this is not a good excuse to suppress the urge to write.

Never mind the friends and relatives, though. When I think about writing, about what I want to write, an overwhelming sense of responsibility immobilizes me. I can’t write anything frivolous, I tell myself. What I write should be Serious. And Thoughtful. Well considered. And I should have read as much as possible on the topic. I don’t want to offend anyone. What I write should have a moral, a takeaway, but subtly. I don’t want to be too didactic. My prose should be poetic and authentic. My metaphors had better be spot on. My grammar and punctuation, impeccable. Most importantly, I don’t want to be misunderstood.

mass-distraction-rrv33nNo wonder I freeze up. No wonder I’d rather play gin rummy on my iPad.

But no more. This year I resolve to write the stories. And if you happen to be a character in my life, oh well.

You’ve been warned.

X is for April Haiku Review

I cannot believe that April is almost over and I’ve spent another month writing haikus (and daily blogs). Again, so many of these haikus defy explanation—I will try to give some insight into as many as I can. Some, though, just pop into my head fully formed. Others I get pieces of and have to then work out the remaining syllables. Occasionally, I will sit down with a topic in mind—generally these poems turn out to be the ones that sound the most forced, the least authentic.

So, as promised, here’s a haiku that begins with the letter X (which is the letter for today’s blog):

X—a crooked cross,
Sideways marks the spot, and, drawn,
Erases me gone

X can stand for so many things—ex, as in former. A place to stand. A place to dig. A spot. A signature. X’d out, as in erased.

My heart’s flame burns white-
hot blue tongues arise, dancing,
Seek your oxygen

Poetry sparked and
Ignited passionate fire–
Stark truth doused that flame

This one came directly out of Jake Ballard’s mouth on Scandal one night a couple of weeks ago, after Olivia tricked him into sleeping with her so she could get her hands on his phone. I just wrote it so that it lined up 5-7-5:

Tell me you felt it
Too. Tell me I’m not crazy.
Tell me you were there

The Little Woman and I were born under the same sign—we’re both Geminis, so when I read my horoscope in the morning, I’m reading hers as well:

Every day I
Read my horoscope and yours–
Astral projection

This year I seem to have a huge amount of pent up energy that I keep trying to expend through running and writing and now, school. So I wrote these:

I’ll sleep when I die–
Til I’m exhausted, weary.
Sounds good in theory

Wet sneakers pound through
puddles, toes shriveling, cold.
Insidious rain.

I woke up on Easter morning and this came to me, fully formed. It is one of my favorites:

Whatever tomb has
You trapped–Push away that stone,
Step into the light

I woke up another morning just wanting to write a haiku in Latin. I’ve never even studied Latin, but there it was, this desire I think to break out of the limits of the language I know, the desire for more meaning, maybe. I had to resort to Google, and it’s not exactly the right amount of syllables, but good enough:

Verba volant
Cor ad cor loquitur
Clavis aurea

(spoken words fly away
heart speaks to heart
golden key)

I struggle often with what to write, what parts of my story, my life belong to me and what parts of my story belong to others. I’ve written blogs that have upset people in my life—these haiku deal with finding that line, that balance between speaking my truth and revealing someone else’s:

Truths stuck on my tongue
Peeled off, now forced to drain through
The nib of my pen

I beg forgiveness
again for speaking my truth—
Is my story mine?

The scales tip toward
truth, and compassion falters–
Elusive balance

How does the writer
tell her story, pen her truth?
Dull the sharp edges?

Truth wants to vibrate
up and out in minor chords.
A sharp dissonance

Warrior woman
Draws her word sword, aware it’s
Double-edged, dang’rous

More on writing—this first one seems pretty self-explanatory. Here’s a whole series of haiku on writing into silence. Sometimes all I want from my writing is a reaction, feedback, someone on the other end to acknowledge my words. I don’t need cheers and accolades always (though occasionally that sort of feedback is awesome), but it’s difficult to write into silence, day in and day out. I don’t care for it much. My frustration seems pretty clear here:

Some days the words must
be pried piecemeal from dry earth
dusted off, washed clean

Looking for Divine
but finding only silence–
The great unlearning.

I have to escape
great silences, vast chasms
echoing within.

I can’t keep birthing
Words into silence. These are
Boisterous children

I’m pushing my words
Into silence and meeting
Resistance. Friction.

Your silence echoes
Through my canyons of desire–
Freshly gouged and deep

My words like wafers–
communion offered, received,
Ingested. Some Truth.

My sentences, like
Wine. Drink from the blood rivers.
exanguination

These paragraphs, my
soul. Transubstantiation.
Sacrifice. Rebirth.

These poems take a little liberty with the haiku form:

(Sorry–)
I just meant to tug
that one thread, not to make the
whole thing unravel

(Can we–)
Mend this ragged edge
Knitting word bones together–
Follow this thread home?

Please do not invite 
me in and then abandon
me at the threshold

What lives behind the 
sets we construct, the masks we
wear? Step off the stage.

Mudslide

Nature knows no bounds—
Follows her own path toward
wreckage, renewal

Oso Strong. Forty-
three gongs of the bell between
Amazing Grace and Taps
.

This last one also came to me one morning, after I woke up from a vivid dream and starting writing about how someone so far in my past could occupy any space in my head while I was sleeping. It didn’t seem fair. This is the haiku I ended up writing, not quite where I started, but it turned out to be a favorite:

See this hotel in
My heart? Revolving door for
Itinerant guests

 

Dash of Dysfunction. Pinch of Crazy

I’ve started working on my proposal for my memoir, and one of the features of said proposal is a list of competitive titles. You know, books that might be similar to mine, books that might share a theme with mine. Books that might share shelf space with mine—when and if . . . I came up with this short list off the top of my head:
The Commitment by Dan Savage (Gay marriage)
The Kid, by Dan Savage (Gay parenting)
Kramer vs. Kramer by Avery Corman (quintessential acrimonious custody battle)
Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott (unexpected parenting)
Why be Normal by Jeanette Winterson (adoption, religion, lesbianism)
Jesus Landby Julie Scheeres (religion, cross-cultural adoption)
In each of these books, I can find one thread of my story, but I couldn’t think of a single book in which two white lesbians adopt two racially diverse children, split up when one mother decides she can no longer send her daughters to daycare and so quits her job, a move that gets her kicked out of the house, and forces her to spend the next 16 years and tons of money on therapy trying to remain relevant in her daughters’ lives.
I think I may have found a niche in the market, Dear Reader. Throw in some subtext about fundamentalist Christianity, add a dash of dysfunction and a pinch of crazy. I think I just might have a winner.
The thing about writing a proposal . . . the proposal goes out to agents with the intent of wowing an agent who will then sell the book to a publisher. Selling the book to the publisher means the story will be, uhm, published. For the entire world to read. For family and friends to read.
What if family and friends find the book distasteful? Objectionable? Disastrous, even? Then what? What if our words change the way people see us? What if our words reveal our deepest truths and our families and friends and co-workers reject our truth? Unfriend us? Treat us differently? What then, Dear Reader?
Experience tells me that some will be upset when I speak my truth and that some will find me brave. Some will admire me and others will turn away. But I will be able to face myself, and that, I think, matters the most.