Archive for June, 2012

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Ever since this old oak fell more than a week ago, I knew it had a poem to give me. I have learned and continue to learn to wait for writing. First, I walked down to the empty lot where it lay and took pictures. I played with Instagram for the one here. Then I sat with a favorite poet, Mary Oliver. Mary doesn’t fail me. I felt like we were writing side by side. I opened her book, Red Bird, to the poem Night Herons, and one line jumped off the page, “what do we know/ except that death/ is so everywhere and so entire–” Using her form of four lines per stanza and borrowing this line, I wrote a poem about the tree.

An oak tree
fell in the night
while we were sleeping,

Its body broken
by invisible flames,
trunk separated
from leaves, from life.

Happy resurrection fern
clings, even as
clouds form
rain again.

This keeper of stories,
survivor of hurricanes,
fell in a summer storm,
just tired, I guess.

That was the end of growing
as we know it, yet
what do we know
except that death

is so everywhere and so entire–
culling and clearing,
sometimes taking
an old friend.

One strike, one boom,
and the lot fills up
with sprawling branches.
How long

will we walk by
and watch the decomposing?
How long until the chainsaw

Until then, I will stay
pray to this sacred sculpture
and to its sculptor:
Rise and sow again.

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On the Lake

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

I spent the weekend on New Castle Lake with my parents. I never get tired of this place. Every night the sun set is new and beautiful. There is a great blue heron that hangs out on the peer fishing and guarding. Canada Geese, an unwelcome invasion, litter the far side of the lake while a mother duck swims by with her brood of five in a perfect line behind her. This place is inspiration for relaxing, reading, sleeping, and writing.

Because I was at home for a book signing at Jackson’s landmark independent bookstore Lemuria, conversation often turned to writing.

At lunch on Sunday, my father offered this wisdom, “When you don’t know what to write, WRITE.”

Mom echoed that Hemingway said there is no such thing as writer’s block.

Minka, their friend and priest, said, “I sometimes have to write, ‘Stay, Minka.'”

We all value the time and commitment writing takes.

At church, I was asked by a former high school classmate, “What possessed you to write a book?” I had to laugh out loud at the question. As though to be a writer one must be possessed.

I am possessed by a love of language.
I am possessed by the belief that a teacher of writing should be a writer.
I am possessed by the story, the poem, the words that want to be written.
So, yes, I guess I am possessed.

The great blue heron guards this lake
standing on wrought-iron legs firm and tall
while his blue-grey wings fan the breeze.

Mother mallard leads her paddling through
the canal, picking at the grassy border,
feeding class for the day.

At sunset, I fish with my brother.
His casts are smooth and long,
Mine awkward and clumsy.

Cast on this side
Don’t release your thumb until you swing,
Fishing class on the dockside.

In the distance, a boat anchored with a father and son
creates a silhouette on the horizon.
We cast and draw in silence.

It has taken this long life to learn
fishing is not about catching fish.

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On my early morning walk today, I was alone. My cell phone came along to track my mileage and pace, but it ended up recording my poem. Later when I checked the text, I discovered some funny misinterpretations. “High in the sky” became “Pie-in-the-sky.” “Workday” became “birthday.” The words didn’t really work with the poem I was trying to speak-write, but I had to smile at the idiosyncrasies of language.
After I worked on it, the poem became a grossblank, 12 lines with 12 syllables.

If you want to study the skeletons of frogs,
take a walk after the storm when the sun comes up.
Listen to the mockingbird song, high-pitched grating
like fingernails on the chalkboard. I walk the path
of the fallen limbs and clustered puddles of leaves.
We are washed yet still unclean. New day sun breaks
deepening the green, solid, and strong earth. Red spots
glitter after I glance at the spotlight. God’s eyes
peak through the ghost of a waning moon. Wren gathers
twigs for nesting, flutters off like a thief with goods.
No need for imagination here; all life breathes.
The beat of my footsteps become my prayer.

After a storm, resurrection fern fluffs up and becomes a green blanket on the live oaks.

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Here I go on another writing adventure with teacher bloggers. Today’s prompt was to write about a place, then go there and add details from what you experience. What was suppose to be a quick writing exercise took me all afternoon. I wrote about The Goat Lady’s Farm in St. Martinville.

On the way there, I stopped by the Farmers’ Market downtown, visited with a few people I knew, and bought a bunch of veggies: eggplant, snap beans, tomatoes, bell pepper, and cucumber. All for $6, such a bargain.

I traveled about 15 minutes down Highway 31 to Belle Ecorce Farms. I can never remember the name, so I just call it The Goat Lady’s Farm. I think I like taking field trips for writing. Here is my short piece:

Nestled down a gravel road off the Main Highway is a farm of sorts, an exotic farm, not the usual run of the mill pig, cow, and sheep farm. A South Louisiana farm down by the Bayou Teche, the goat lady’s farm where goats gather on an old tire to rest in the shade. A visitor is greeted by the Amazon Parrot who calls out, “Hello” with his head cocked upside down. The crown of yellow shines above his lime green feathers. “Hello,” I answer. He gurgles out something that sounds like, “Whatcha’ doin?”

Wanda Barras, the owner and head caretaker, shouts to a couple walking from the barn with a small goat, “If you have any more questions, just call me.” She turns to me as I write under the canopy of draping oak trees, “I’ll be right with you.”

I sit a while longer listening to the background sound of the country music and the trickle of a nearby fountain. In this small piece of heaven, Wanda makes God’s goat cheese, smooth as silk. She flavors it with herbs that grow in pots near her little shop. I’m thinking I may have to come back for some more research on another day. Wanda tells me, “Next time, bring some friends and we can pull out the table cloth and have a picnic.”

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I get a weekly writing prompt from Poets and Writers called The Time is Now.  This week’s nonfiction prompt was as follows:  “In Bird by Bird (Pantheon, 1994), Anne Lamott’s classic instructional treatise on writing and life, the author writes: “Writing a first draft is very much like watching a Polaroid develop. You can’t–and, in fact, you’re not supposed to–know exactly what the picture is going to look like until it has finished developing.” Keeping this in mind, write the beginnings of an essay whose direction and ending you don’t yet know. Start small, focusing closely on a single place, person, or incident, without thinking ahead. Then keep going: Allow the writing tell the story, and see what develops.”

This morning was a beautiful summer morning.  After walking my dog, I sat on the back deck eating my breakfast and drinking coffee.  A cardinal hopped into a nearby tree and starting singing loudly.  I wrote as I listened.

The red bird calls
from the crape myrtle branch
while the cat prowls,
Tee who, tee who, tee
who, who, who, who

He flutters higher into the cypress tree.
The cat jumps in, crouches
in the valley of trunk and branch.
The cardinal call is echoed across the water–
a conversation for soul mates
staccato notes in harmony
with the rising song of cicadas

As the breeze blows, the wind chime
joins the tune. I am the audience only
writing alone while
June rises with the sun
dancing with patterns on the bayou.
Cerulean sky domes the shapes of trees,
a horizon to this landscape.

Thich Nhat Hanh tells me to be mindful of the moment,
to tune in to my breath, in and out.
This moment of mindfulness
full of sounds, the cardinal and his mate,
makes me wonder
of the Almighty Hand
who created my world and guides my breath.
How am I so privileged to be here?
I hear this song so clearly;
I feel the breeze so softly,
an embrace from God,
my everlasting mother.


Audio of Morning Song

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