PAD 2019 – Day 13

I was super excited to see today’s NaPoWriMo challenge asking for a “spooky” poem in honour of the 13th day! I decided to mix it with the Poetic Asides call for a poem about a “view.” The combination easily brought to mind a creepy family story that I begged to hear over and over again when I was a child.

 

From The Kitchen Window

 

Every family has their ghost stories.

My parents often talked about their first house together.

Haunted, said my Mom. Rundown, said my dad.

Cold breezes in the middle of rooms,

creaking and clacking from the attic when they tried to sleep,

and that feeling Mom couldn’t quell,  an unexplainable, eerie

presence hovering behind her whenever she stood at the kitchen sink.

 

She’d stare out the window while she washed vegetables or dishes,

focusing on how quickly the neighbour’s sunflowers grew, watching

kids play ball hockey on the road, waiting for my Dad to pull up

in his Chevy, come inside for supper, ask her about her day.

Waiting for him to convince her of her own vivid imagination.

 

Then the day they returned after two weeks away.

Pulled up to see a lawn in need of trimming, newspapers stacked on the step,

a few puddles offering proof of recent rain.

When their eyes seemed lured toward that square kitchen window,

they saw the curtains pulled back by some unseen hand,

then a swish of movement as the curtains quickly fell closed.

You had to have seen that, Mom said, frightened but relieved to have something

not reasoned away by a trick of the eye, old pipes, or a brain set spinning by loneliness.

I did, Dad replied, voice nearly a whisper.

Guess it was wondering when we’d finally be home.

PAD 2019 – Day 11

Another prompt mix, taking the NaPoWriMo suggestion to write a poem of emotional, physical or geographical origin, and the Poetic Asides call for a dedication poem.

 For All The Feline Confidantes

 

In the smallest bedroom

with the brightest carpet

I remember sunlight waking me

before I was supposed to leave my bed.

Then by the squeak of a door, left open a crack

to tame the night dark, I knew our black cat,

had entered to offer a morning greeting.

 

Strange to say a cat could be your first real friend,

but there he was — my playmate, consoler, the best listener.

On nights when my parents’ arguing spilled under closed doors,

their raised voices disturbing so much more than my sleep,

the cat’s warm body, steady purr, comforting me.

 

This morning I find my daughter, damp-eyed and tense,

running over worst case scenarios about a spelling test she thinks she’ll fail,

a friend who doesn’t seem to like her anymore, whether she’ll have time

to practice her drums well enough before her next lesson.

Big worries wracking a small body.

My  words of reassurance interrupted by our grey cat, pushing into the room,

jumping on her bed and curling up on her belly. She asks me to leave,

tells me she’ll be out in a minute, and as I close the door, I see her lean over,

whisper into his ear. Grateful she has a safe soul to help carry her fears.

NaPoWriMo – Day 26

Following the NaPoWriMo.net prompt today to write a poem using the five senses. Was a bit short on time due to traveling, but did get some sense memory inspiration to write this short poem.

Inserting Our Daughters Into Memories Again

Even when they’re not with us, before they even were,

we remember them. Today it was on a plane, the last

time we flew to our once-home. The stench of jet fuel

filling the back of the cabin on take-off — how we worried

it might induce our youngest’s asthma. The sweet taste

of cold orange juice on our dry throats — remember how

our oldest called it orandu? The high-pitched shrieks

of a toddler, three rows back, tired and scared  — we held

our girls, too. One on each of our laps. Their soft, warm

cheeks against ours as we intoned shh shh shh shh

like a prayer. And look, out the window. Those plush

clouds below. The sun’s spinning them into gold. Hurry,

take it all in before we blink and forget.

NaPoWriMo – Day 17

Another natural fit day for the prompts. NaPoWriMo.net asked for a family anecdote poem, while Poetic Asides suggested a love or anti-love poem. I went with love, based on a memory of my brother and our cat.

Mistaken Identity

 

What convinced a bellicose boy of sixteen

to walk towards the chain link fence,

unprompted, but with a heavy head,

shovel in one hand, box in the other,

ready to gather what remained of our

orange tabby from the edge of a freeway?

 

It could only be love.

 

There it glistened in his reddened eyes when,

just as he was about to climb the fence,

he heard a croaky meow from below,

felt the nudge of our adventurous Rusty,

who’d been missing for three days,

pushing his head against my brother’s boot,

asking to be taken home and fed.

NaPoWriMo – Day 10

Got a late start today to the poem creation, and when I finally got there, I let my tired mind experiment. I attempted to follow the NaPoWriMo.net prompt calling for a poem of  simultaneity – in which multiple things are happening at once.

 

Mind Exercises

 

Imagine a mahogany dinner table, a family of five around it.

Forget it, if you can, the nightly rituals you’ve seen and lived.

 

See the pea green plates, a wedding gift to the parents

The dull eyes of those parents who once made each other

 

the wife has always hated, but they are good quality and not

tingle, who used to bite each other’s lower lips during kisses.

 

yet cracked or chipped, even after 18 years of use. Funny, right?

There was once an entire month where they didn’t touch at all.

 

How the things we care least about can be so steadfast? Like the

Shell, it was like a shell, growing over each of them. House beetles,

 

meal the husband made, because it’s Monday, and that’s his night,

black and prone to hiding in their own corners. Quiet, creeping

 

so the kids expect something simple, mostly pre-packaged — spaghetti

life. After awhile they didn’t have to try to forget, it boiled away

 

with a jar of bought sauce, or hot dogs with a side of carrots because

on its own, down to the dry bottom of a saucepan, the sickening smell,

 

you gotta have some vegetables, right? And after they’ve eaten,

smoke, clouding up the kitchen, choking down the hall to the kids’

 

it will be the wife who cleans up, while the others take to screens

rooms, though the parents didn’t notice because it was all so grey.

 

or books, for the daughter. In the kitchen the wife will sigh, and

The windows didn’t open anymore, or no one thought to try them.

 

the cat will meow, almost in response, but mostly because he’s hungry.

Fish, in an aquarium, floating limp at the top, but inside the tank, green

 

Tomorrow, or 6 months, imagine it again, but cracked, chipped and with

real plants, the son insisted on it. They swayed when the filter glugged.

 

a gleaming blade, because reality can slice you in half if you let it.

They started to flower, bright red buds everywhere, if you can believe it.

NaPoWriMo – Day 9

Today I tried to combine the NaPoWriMo.net  prompt to write a poem in which something big and something small come together, with the Poetic Asides prompt calling for a “Battle __________ ” poem. Took a conversation with my Dad as inspiration, and used the writing to help tame my own burgeoning worry.

Battle the Weather

 

Morning phone call.

You start with the temperature,

-5 still, but better than yesterday. Supposed to

be in the pluses again by the weekend.

This damn province.

 

Then you give me the real headline,

preface of Don’t worry, but…

 

It could be nothing. Seeing the doctor tomorrow.

Probably lots of tests. We’ll know when we know.

 

I parrot it back, you don’t worry either.

Child counseling parent, or maybe

both of us

just saying what’s said. Rote words.

Learned eventually.

 

But I know

how even a small worries

bloat so big

fueled by the constant hot puff of

whatifwhatifwhatifwhatifwhatifwhatif

 

Mine’s already growing. I feel it,

hollow balloon in the chest, rising.

Little brain ember, taking hold,

starting a fire that will keep me burning

all night long, working to throw

drops of reason

on a fear inferno.

 

But hope builds too, or can.

In quiet places. The same spot

softened each day with silence.

Faith flourished, not with expected words

like Don’t worry, but with something true

and lived.

Remember six years ago, Dad,

leaving the hospital? December.

-31 with the wind chill.

You told me the sky

looked too blue to be that cold.

Damn this province! If the cancer didn’t kill me

this weather surely will.

But I saw you take a breath, deep,

zing of cold filling your lungs.

You shut your eyes and smiled.

 

NaPoWriMo – Day 2

Combining  the NaPoWriMo.net prompt that suggested a poem that played with voice and the Poetic Asides prompt asking for a portrait poem. Today would have been my Mom’s 75th birthday, and I have been thinking a lot today about birthdays past, as well as the tendentious nature of memory.

Birthday Memory

1.

I remember another birthday, Easter weekend too,

thirty degrees above zero and all of us sticky

in the K-Car on the long drive to Auntie Deb’s.

 

I remember your face, Mom.  Soft.

Young, though I didn’t recognize it then.

You hummed when Tom Jones came on the radio.

 

I remember the conversation between you

and Dad, farm kids gone city, speculating

on the state of the fields, the summer ahead.

 

I remember you holding a bouquet of pink tulips.

We asked Dad to buy them from all of us.

Afterthought gift  from the gas station.

 

2.

If you could feel the heat then, daughter

from the sun and family, too close.

Even affection can be stifling sometimes.

 

If you could paint my portrait

there’d be lies in the brushstrokes.

Smoothed over wrinkles and anger.

 

If you could hear only what was said

and not what was meant, I wouldn’t

blame you. Your optimistic child’s ear.

 

If you could see my fingers rubbing

the plush flower petals. Not meaning to

wear a hole in something I loved so much.

November PAD – Day 13

The prompt today asked for a city as the title of the poem. I have purposely been leaving my poems untitled for now, but jammed the necessary info in the first line instead.

13.

Fredericton, New Brunswick’s Capital City. You see the sign announcing you’re there fifteen minutes before the edge of town breaks out of the woods. So many road trips in and out that you became familiar with the trick, but every time driving back, you’d feel that same strange mix of anticipation and annoyance. You are here, but you are not here yet. But then the turn off, the striated chunks of Canadian shield bordering the road as you drive past the car dealerships and fast food restaurants, the three-storey office buildings and that odd lighting store with too many bright chandeliers crowding its window — luxury and opulence so out of place in this straightforward town. The first time you came, you came to stay. To make it count, for your husband’s first big job and your baby’s first weeks of life. You had never even visited, never even seen the house you’d make a home for a year, yet when you pulled into the driveway and saw the old wooden steps and big picture window, you knew the place would fit. Like Cinderella’s slipper made of soft yarn instead of glass. The kind of house, the kind of city, where a family takes root. And how perfect, just across the street, a huge natural park with trees so tall and green, you forgot to miss the sky.

 

November PAD – Day 8

The prompt today called for a “thing” poem  — an ode of sorts to an object. The first thing I thought of was the very thing  (and people) supporting me while I write.

8.

The back is made of honey brown slats that cross over one another. A number sign, hashtag dining room chair. Cushion stuffing crushed and pushed to the side after several years of wear. We chose these chairs for the forgiving upholstery. The kind of nondescript mottled brown and burgundy that can hide squashed tomatoes, glops of spilled yogurt and marks left by tiny, greasy fingers. Our  daughters have spent many hours on these chairs, and I’ve spent much breath telling them to sit, not stand, because it’s time to eat. Time to be together. Reinforced by your handiwork — extra wooden blocks supporting the bottom, though it still cracks and wobbles when we sit down, fragility forgotten and confidence heavy. Not built to last, but we are.