Tweetspeak Poetry: Reading in the Wild: June’s Pages

Still catching up!

 

published July 7, 2017

 

Reading in the Wild: June’s Pages

Tweetspeak Poetry: Reading in the Wild: May’s Pages

I’m in the process of linking to my recent articles at Tweetspeak Poetry. If you missed it the first time, here’s some titles for your reading list.

 

published June 6, 2017

Reading in the Wild: May’s Pages

 

Tweetspeak Poetry: Reading ‘Thomas and Beulah’

I’ve been writing more at Tweetspeak Poetry lately, and I keep forgetting to share those posts. Today, I start playing catch-up. But don’t just go there to read my stuff — every weekday is filled with inspiration and delight. 

 

published January 4, 2017

 

Reading Together: Rita Dove’s ‘Thomas and Beulah’

6 September 2017

Birds & Bees

“The bees are stirring — birds are on the wing”
Samuel Coleridge, “Work without Hope”

You are not a Bee
and I am not a
Bird, so why do we
say they fall in love?

Not with each other,
they don’t. They don’t eat
the same things. It’s a
mixed metaphor, at
best, at worst, it’s a
cautionary tale.
(Some birds do eat bees.)

But if we want hope
and work and a spring
like Coleridge’s
then let’s let you be
a Hummingbird and
I then will be a
Butterfly. We’ll bump
into each other
as we sip nectar
in our own backyard.

Empty Nest

This poem comes from Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems by Kristine O’Connell George. I took a photo of the poem’s painting, an empty ficus tree under a full moon, and it’s been on my phone all summer. 

 

Empty Nest

Kristine O’Connell George

 

No sign of them.

The time finally came.

My hummingbird family moved

away.

 

Tonight

the dark seems filled

with cold and cat and owl.

Pocket-sized birds, sleeping, alone,

out there.

 

This is how

it’s supposed to be.

So why do I keep watching

this empty nest in this empty tree?

 

 

23 August 2017

This is how it goes with poems.

I wanted to write something about the solar eclipse. It took a couple of days, and honestly, I’m still not sure I’m done.

First I tried to write from a Tweetspeak Poetry prompt about a flying machine from the point of view of the machine. So I wrote a series of haikus about a plane seeing the solar eclipse, thinking about my friend Laura Brown, who was flying during the eclipse. Laura’s pictures were great—my poem wasn’t. I erased the whole thing.

Then my husband sent me a map of the next solar eclipse in 2024, that will pass directly over Texas. I tried to write another series of haikus about that, mainly because I’ve never seen a national map noting both Piedras Negras and Killeen. That one didn’t do much for me either.

As I was falling asleep, I typed a single haiku into my phone.

It was not the end
of the world. Only darkness
only for a time.

I wrote it out by hand the next morning in my journal and thought about the obvious symbolism of darkness and light. About circumstances that seemed to be the end of the world, but weren’t. And then I thought about how after the temporary darkness I found the sunny side of my life and have been shining along, for the most part, until recent events conspired to block my brightness. Then I wrote a new series of haiku (with a few forays into Google, to doublecheck astronomical facts and the exact wording of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise”). I still may like my single haiku best, but here ’tis.

Most days I shine — sun
set in slow orbit (by time
not speed). I let them

think I rise and fall.
But today, briefly, you crossed
me, dimmed, blocked my bright

with totality —
blunt and brusque totality —
Still I’ll rise. I rise.

 

16 August 2017

Landslide
 

Antennas pick it up, sense it first,

the slight shift in the atmosphere.

She stares into the distance. It makes no difference,

the smooth curve of grass, the design of a ditch.

Taxes are useless to stop

this landslide, the seasons of my life, those snow-covered hills.

There is no fix, no

precise design to stem the tides.

Take my love, take it down.

‘The Turquoise Table’ by Kristin Schell

I’ve watched Kristin Schell’s Turquoise Table journey from afar (not that far — we only live 75 miles apart), and I was inspired. I wrote a column about her turquoise table and my neighbor, Smokey Joe for the WACOAN. Then my husband built our own table, and I painted it turquoise .

Kristin and me, summer 2015.

Sadly, we had to leave the table when we moved. But I knew was in good hands when the new owner saw it and said, “Front Yard People!” (I checked on the table, btw, and it looks great.)

In June, Kristin released her book, The Turquoise Table: Finding Community and Connection in Your Own Front Yard. This book isn’t one I’m setting aside or passing on to a friend. No, this one is going on my cookbook shelf, so I can grab it often. The shelf already has many, many printouts of Kristin’s recipes from her blog.

The book isn’t just about a picnic table. It’s about hospitality — from Kristin’s F in high school French to the Front Yard People movement.

Hospitality is one of those things: You know it when you see it. If you ever meet Kristin, you’ll see it.

There are two women in my family who consistently show hospitality. One is my Aunt Fayma. For years she hosted Drummond Christmas at her house in Hamlin, Texas. Her motto was, “Come early, stay late,” and we did. She never knew exactly how many people to expect, but she welcomed everyone. Throughout the year, when she found snacks or drinks on sale, she’d stock up. The person who bought her old house is extremely blessed.

The other person I think of when I think of hospitality is my sister-in-law, Amy. She has hosted many a Christmas as well, also to an unknown number of guests. But I think the moment she captured my heart was when she made her house the go-to destination during my mom’s funeral. One day she served everyone lunch, from both sides of the family. Family from Wyoming met family from Oklahoma and Alabama. She especially showed hospitality to me the week my mom passed away, as I wrote about in The Joy of Poetry.

“Amy is my sister-in-law, who did treat me like a sister that day and also that night, when she took me out to dinner and ordered exactly what I like because I was too upset to make sense of a menu. A week later, before my mother’s funeral, she arranged a mani-pedi, complete with a glass of white wine.”

Unlike Aunt Fayma and Amy, hospitality doesn’t come easily to me. (It does to my husband.) There was a time when I not only lost my few welcoming shreds of decency but also the entire ability to cook.

That’s why Kristin’s chapter “The Broken Table” was so meaningful to me. She describes when her turquoise table broke during an interview/photo shoot. One friend thought the picture of the broken table wasn’t suitable for the newspaper.

“No!” I jumped in. “Make sure to put the picture of the broken table in the paper. This isn’t a table for the perfect: this is a table for people with trials and flaws.” 

I told the photographer about the Turquoise Table. “It’s when we come to the table, broken and vulnerable, not hiding behind our perfection, that the realness happens . . . when we’re really human we connect.” (page 138)

For a long time our table was empty. Food became a weapon; the table, a battleground. The best I could do was to keep separate food stocked for each separate member of the family. Then there was the night we dared to order Domino’s and share it as a family. We survived. Finally, with Kristin’s recipes in hand, I braved the stove, the oven, the CrockPot. I wore an apron and played music in the kitchen. The table stayed broken, but the food began to build connection. Like Kristin’s broken picnic table.

Truthfully, I needed the visual reminder of the broken table. The cracked wood and splintered bench was hard-earned — weathering the hot Texas summers and two years of carrying the emotional and physical weight of those who gathered. 

Eventually the wood had to be fixed, but I know the table is stronger and more beautiful having been broken. And so are we all. (page 147)

We joined a small group at our church. We gather once a month for prayer and study … and a meal. Whatever my assignment was — salad, bread, appetizer — I’d bring a Kristin recipe. People started looking forward to my dishes, even to my desserts, which I rarely make.

Then we moved to a new house, one with space to actually put a leaf in our dining room table, and we started inviting people over. John loves to grill, so I cede the meat to him, and I make the sides. It’s kinda fun. (shhh!)

And it’s kinda vulnerable. When we make the table a place to, as Kristin says, Gather Small, Love Deep, we find out hospitality isn’t about matchy-matchy and Instagram-worthy dishes. It’s about a space where we can talk about our lives.

… the fragile marriage, the volatile temper, the compulsion to shop, the binge on Fritos, the loss of trust in a child.`(page 139)

Our new yard won’t support a turquoise table, but it will accommodate turquoise Adirondack chairs. They are built but not yet painted. On our new street, neighbors actually do come out and visit in the evenings.

But I think the bigger story is our table inside, the one we bought for our first home, 21 years ago. The one at which no one sat for a long time. The one that got broken but is again becoming a space where hospitality can happen.

I made the Turquoise Table M&M Cookies, recipe from Colleen Enos, for our family. No table was involved — I just placed them on cooling racks, and they got eaten up. Baking them was hospitality for us, to celebrate our new convection oven and the start of summer, perhaps our last one together because our youngest leaves for college this month. I told Kristin the cookies were a hit, and like all good hosts, she was gracious.

“It’s the shortening,” she said.

Colleen said this recipe was given to her years ago by her mother-in-law, who is remembered for her genuine hospitality.  (page 87)

If you want to check out other spots where Kristin’s been taking her turquoise message, check out the Turquoise Table Collection at Tuesday Morning, and the variety of outlets where she has done interviews, including the Today show.

 

26 July 2017

riffing on these lines from William Wordsworth’s”Tintern Abbey,” used in a Tweetspeak Poetry prompt:

Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye, and ear,—both what they half create,
And what perceive; well pleased to recognise
In nature and the language of the sense
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse,
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
(That’s Wordsworth, composed 1798)
Therefore are we still
Lovers of US Highway 83 South
And the bit near Leakey; and where it plunges
From what we thought was flat; now a flat top
Of hills and valleys,—both steep as the West
And we adjust; well pleased to recognize,
In ebb and the flow of the earth
The topography of our very soul, the geography,
The geology, the aqualogy of our heart, and mind,
Up and down, round and round, over and over and over again.
(That’s me, composed 2017, after a few trips to and from the H.E.B. Foundation camp. That aerial view in the video is what I’m attempting to describe.)

Alabanza a ‘In the Heights’

 

We took my dad to see “In the Heights” at the Zach Theatre in Austin, Texas, for Father’s Day. He loved it. We loved it. But best of all, this musical about a New York City neighborhood I’ve never seen gave me back my mom, both while I was at the show and each time I’ve listened to the soundtrack thereafter.

I can’t believe Lin-Manuel Miranda started writing this when he was in college. Doesn’t that mean it should hit the three Ds: dark, disturbed, and depressing? But “In the Heights” is none of those. We get “Paciencia Y Fe,” patience and faith. Also love and a profound sweetness.

How did he write Nina’s parents so well before he became a parent? My husband teared up at Kevin Rosario’s “Inútil,” the lament of every father watching a daughter grow up. And Camila Rosario’s “Enough” — don’t you think Linda Loman from “Death of a Salesman” seriously needs to sing along?

The character Miranda plays, Usnavi, is not the hot guy. (That’s Benny.) Usnavi is a little awkward— he can’t even open a bottle of champagne. But his love for Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood grandmother, causes the neighborhood to sing one of the most lovely songs I’ve ever heard, “Alabanza.”

Because my Spanish-speaking mama raised me, I think alabanza sounds prettier than “praise.” “Sunrise” is nice, but amanecer sounds musical, especially when Nina and Benny sing it as a duet. Even no me diga, as compared to “you don’t say” or “don’t tell me” is, well, mejor.

Ever since my mom died seven years ago, hearing Spanish or someone speaking with some sort of Spanish accent undoes me. (And I live in Texas, so it happens a lot.) Spanish means she’s here.

That’s because Merry Nell Drummond often spoke Spanish. She learned it during the summer she spent in Mexico City after high school, and she learned more when she met my father on a University of Texas student exchange trip to Chile a few years later. In the 39 years I knew her she was always happy to translate for anyone who needed a little help navigating a grocery store counter or a doctor’s office or what have you. When my parents wanted to say something they didn’t want me to hear — often something lovey-dovey — they spoke Spanish.

As I listened to “Breathe,” I felt like my mom was singing to me along with the community singing to Nina. She doesn’t anyone to know she’s dropped out of Stanford because she doesn’t want to let them down, especially not her parents. But while she’s singing this gorgeous, heartfelt ballad, the community shares their love and support:

Sigue andando el camino por toda su vida [Continue walking the path all your life]

Respira [Breathe]

Y si pierdes mis huellas que Dios te bendiga [And if you lose the way God gave/blessed you]

Respira [Breathe]

There was a note on Genius.com about that third line, that the traditional way to say “God bless you” is Dios te bendiga, so the line could read, “And if you lose the way, God bless you.” I like that. Because I did lose my way for a while when my mom died. The word huellas literally means “footprints,” and I can say that with Mom’s footprints gone, mine were no longer as steady. So I wrote 72 poems about her, and eventually I was able to continue walking on the path. I guess I’ll keep walking it for the rest of my life.

I’ve said here that the reason I wrote The Joy of Poetry was because I was asked to do so. But the process of writing it turned into an alabanza, a praise of my mother.

Alabanza means to raise this
Thing to God’s face
And to sing, quite literally: “Praise to this.”

from “Alabanza

So, yes. Alabanza a Merry Nell Drummond. Like Doña Claudia, “she was just here.” And alabanza a “In the Heights.”

Respira. Breathe.