PAD 2017 – Day 21

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt asked poets to pick an object and use that as the title of the poem. The NaPoWriMo prompt asked for recollections of things overheard, a snippet of speech or a phrase remembered from childhood. While I didn’t come up with one specific saying, I was reminded of all the things I overheard when I visited my Dad while he recovered in hospital last summer.

 

Privacy Curtain

 

They call it that,

but it offers none. Worse,

an illusion that what happens

behind it, what’s said,

has no will to wander

through the gap.

 

Third day at the hospital, watching Dad sleep.

I make guesses about the other three patients in

this room by the sound of the people who visit them.

Learn by what’s said and what isn’t.

Overhear the doctors, who rarely lower their volume,

even for the worst news.

 

I can see feet under the curtains, swollen and bare

or cloaked in blue paper slippers, hospital issue.

So slippery that even a younger woman mimics

the mumble step of an old man on old legs.

 

How often do they wash these curtains?

When someone goes, before someone comes,

I’ve seen the efficient mop of floors, swabbed mattress,

every knob and rail on the bed wiped clean.

But the curtains left untouched. Germs lurking,

a bit like me, but more at home.

 

A pregnant nurse peeks through Dad’s curtain,

belly first, then smile, nodding to me as she

attends to him while he sleeps.  Checks the IV line,

his catheter bag, the incision on his stomach,

the one he proudly showed me.

Like he needed a witness

to his own survival.

 

He’s so still now, really resting. Reprieve

from the fitful tossing, twitching of yesterday.

That moment when his eyes fluttered open,

and neither of us recognized each other.

I started to sing a lullaby then,

something Mom used to sing to me.

Didn’t even care who might be on the other side

of the curtain, listening to each exposed note.

 

Today’s Alberta poet is Shawna Lemay from Edmonton. I have had the pleasure of reading several (though not all) of Ms. Lemay’s books, and look forward to her frequent blog postings, which always seem to contain such wisdom, and inspire a sense of serenity. Her poems often evoke the same feelings, though there is humour, and truth and fragility in them too. One of my favourites is “Skinned“,  from the book Blue Feast.

PAD 2017 – Day 20

Some days prompts push me into unexplored places, and sometimes they just inspire something easy and fun. Today the Writer’s Digest assignment called for a “task” poem, while the NaPoWriMo prompt suggested using the vocabulary of a particular game or sport. The first thing I thought of was Monopoly, a game I’ve always loved, even though I’m not much of a capitalist.

Building a Monopoly

Always be the banker
because she who controls her money gets ahead.
Resist the temptation to race straight to Boardwalk.
Build your empire, but know that sometimes
the biggest payoff is the one earned gradually.
Ride the rails, find adventure. Pass go, but go slow.
Look out the window and breathe.
Imagine your first house, the land its staked on,
what kind of flowers you’ll plant in your yard.
You can do it alone, virtue and vision,
but two to six players make it fun.
Shut your eyes and see the people
inside your little green house, the ones
who make this repeat trip around,
around the square worthwhile.
Imagine the hotel upgrade
when you’ve cornered the market
on your Lovopoly. Happiness,
a get-out-of-jail-free card
that never expires.

Yesterday I gave the Alberta Poet shout-out to Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Today I point to the immensely talented Micheline Maylor, Calgary’s current Poet Laureate.  Whenever possible I think it’s great to hear a poet reading her own words. I’m sure that on the page, Ms. Maylor’s “Mercury” would still be stunning, but there’s so much power conveyed in the pace and tone she reads it with here, and the images that accompany it.

The Edmonton Poetry Festival hosts Ms. Maylor today, along with Gisèle Villeneuve, Kimmy Beach, Lisa Martin and Douglas Barbour for Literary CocktailsI am sad that I can’t attend this, but if you’re in YEG and free, you most definitely should.

PAD 2017 – Day 19

The Writer’s Digest prompt today asked for a poem based on a memory. I think memory has a huge part to play in many poems, but my specific stroll was influenced today by the NaPoWriMo prompt to write a creation myth poem. While not a creation myth, the idea did help me recall a specific moment in the creation of my family.

Skin-to-Skin

 

At the hospital so many nurses telling us

to keep her warm on our naked chests.

It’s important for Dad too, the older nurse

said, unwrapping her from her swaddle,

and setting her in your arms.

Sapped of energy, bleary-eyed

you somehow pulled off your yellow t-shirt

with one hand, held our daughter tight

with the other. I shifted over in my bed,

making room for the two of you.

You  touched her downy head

then whispered in my ear

Where else could she possibly fit,

except right up here by our hearts?

 

Today’s Alberta poet is Kris Demeanor, Calgary’s first Poet Laureate. Here he is performing an electric spoken word piece from a a few years ago.

PAD 2017 – Day 18

The peeps at NaPoWriMo central are trying to spark invention today with a prompt to write a poem that incorporates neologisms. Seemed a good fit with the Writer’s Digest two-for-Tuesday prompt to write a poem about either life or death, or both. My mind went to creation thoughts, of love and words.

Tip of the Tongue

To beatify is to make blessed. I, ungodly, search for it in you. Exalted. Blissful. Words as comely as their meaning. Feathery sounds, like your eyelashes brushing against my thigh. Our names together, sapid on tip of the tongue. Utter the euphonious and climb closer to harmony. Say something into being. Create a word like a life. Melodianic. Symphonosis. Ecstoxication. How many words get us higher in languages we don’t know? In tonguepaths we haven’t traced yet?

 

Apparently it’s spring, but today’s looking pretty darn wintry in my parts. Thinking about an Alberta writer to highlight today, and wishing for warmth, I thought of this poem, “First Hot Day” by Edmonton-based poet Claire Kelly.

PAD 2017 – Day 17

Today is Haiku Day, planted on the 17th day of National Poetry Month to note the (traditional) 17 syllables in a haiku. The Writer’s Digest prompt today called for a dancing poem, and the NaPoWriMo site suggested writing a nocturne. My micro poem today is neither haiku nor a nocturne, but maybe reminiscent of both. I did get the dancing in there.

Anniversary

 

Clear August night

dancing under the stars

by himself.

 

Because it’s Haiku Day, it seems a like a good time to mention the wonderful online journal Daily Haiku. Though the site is currently closed to submissions, the archives are a treasure trove of some of the best haiku from contributors around the world. The journal was created and edited by Edmonton poets Patrick M. Pilarski and Nicole Pakan.

PAD 2017 – Day 16

I woke up to snow where I am this supposedly spring morning. It made me a little grumpy at first, as I’m ready for spring, but it also seemed like good inspiration for the Writer’s Digest  prompt to write a poem with the title “______ System.” I decided to try to combine it with the NaPoWriMo letter-poem prompt.

Replying to a Note From a Weather System

Dear Keeper of the Clouds,
You’ve been busy this morning.
Busy making rain and snow,
reminding us that as much
as we wish for change — a slow
smile of green taking over the
trees, a peak of purple crocus
pushing through the grey dirt
— you are in charge. You set
the tone. I wonder, Keeper,
if you’re sending us a message.
Writing as clear as the crystalline
flakes falling. A raised eyebrow in
our direction. We’ve been
shirking our jobs as stewards
of this land, we know, Keeper.
We’ve been chasing more dollars
than dreams, stuck ourselves in the
dirty mud of the past, instead of
looking ahead — up, to you — to
see that we can be more, for
each other and for the earth
we share. I wonder, Dear Keeper,
if we’ll catch a whispering snowflake,
quiet our simmering voices,
and listen?

Today is also a beautiful day in Edmonton because it’s the start of the Edmonton Poetry Festival! The line-up of featured local and Canadian poets is as amazing as ever. I thought I would mark the day by linking to a great poem from current Edmonton Youth Poet Laureate Nasra Adem. Please take a minute to watch, listen and enjoy “Blush.”

PAD 2017 – Day 15

Today marks the halfway point, and the NaPoWriMo site called for participating poets to celebrate by writing a halfway poem. I took inspiration from the Writer’s Digest prompt to write a “one time” poem, and meshed them to write a small something about gratitude.

More Than One Time

Halfway through
an average life,
I’ve spent many moments
eyeing those who have
more than I ever will,
but more than one time
I’ve looked with eyes
less green and seen
many more
who will never have
nearly as much.

 

Sometimes I’m a little envious of, but mostly impressed by, the talents of prolific poet and spoken word artist Sheri-D Wilson. As wonderful as her writing is, her performance is even better. I’ve always loved the vibe in this video for “Spinsters Hanging In Trees.”

 

 

PAD 2017 – Day 14

Today’s Writer’s Digest prompt called for poems inspired by popular sayings. I’m feeling a little “under the weather” and couldn’t muster more than a few micros today. I think the idea of taking an old saying some place new certainly has potential for fun and interesting wordplay, on a day when I have a little more “get up and go.”

*****

tug of war

the news pulls

my heartstrings

*****

Mom’s recipes

everything’s easier

than pie

*****

air grows thin

with time

on cloud nine

*****

editing the poem

I become a woman

of few(er) words

I’ve admired the writing of Alberta poet, and former Edmonton Poet Laureate, Anna Marie Sewell for a long time, but I just discovered today that she’s doing wonderful things on her website for National Poetry Month. I’ve enjoyed all her daily offerings so far, but especially her poem for April 4, which begins with the line: “it reeks a hirsute, ursine pong.” Awesome.  Check out the 30/30 2017 poems here.

PAD 2017 – Day 13

The NaPoWriMo prompt today asked for a ghazal. I’ve never written one before, though I’ve enjoyed reading many. Sometimes I find repetition in forms off-putting, but that’s not usually the case when I read ghazals. I used the Writer’s Digest family prompt to give me my subject, and kind of free wrote from that. This seems so far from done, but I do think (hope) it will be something I come back to.

 

Ghazal: Sister Memory

 

Take me there again, with a nose full of home memory,

puff of lemon dish soap, cigarette smoke haze in my memory.

 

Each of us carries one, sometimes many, clenched in our fist,

moulded by pressure, the certain shape of our memory.

 

My sister recalls an action scene, shot wide in CinemaScope,

a drama I can’t recall, or one I’ve scrubbed from my memory.

 

Another moment, snipping wild baby’s breath from a roadside,

holding bouquets too big for our hands, sun bleached memory.

 

One we both need, smudged like a fingerprint, we try to recover with dust.

Using our own sharpened pencils to colour the edges of the memory.

 

I tend to write a lot of family poems. Awhile ago I had the extreme pleasure of receiving feedback on some of my writing from Red Deer poet and author Kimmy Beach. I showed her a poem about my Mom, with towels being a sort of symbol for comfort. She said it reminded her of a poem she’d written for a friend, called “Most Trusted Remedy.” The emotion in it is just beautiful, without being too familiar or sentimental. I love this poem.

PAD 2017 – Day 12

Guilt is the theme of the Writer’s Digest prompt today. As bad as it feels sometimes, guilt is also one of the most wonderful of emotions in its ability to help us be loving, kind people. It’s a regulator of the heart and the head, which is maybe why my micro poems today all used “heart”, though I didn’t set out for that to happen. Did a bit of combining with the NaPoWriMo prompt to use alliteration and assonance too, though not as overtly as I sometimes do.

Guilt

1.

heavy heart

keeps heavy eyelids

wide open

 

2.

gulped down

then bubbling up

like heartburn

 

3.

pacifist heart

patters with pleasure

when the tyrant takes one

to the face

 

4.

sharing the burden

the heart

the mind

 

Jenna Butler is one of my favourite Alberta writers. I was fortunate enough to take a workshop with her last fall, and was amazed at how she seems to speak in poetry, even when she’s just telling a story.  There is some effortless alliteration in her short, stunning poem “This Rain.”