PAD 2022 – Day 27

The NaPoWriMo.net prompt for the day was to write a “duplex.” A “duplex” is a variation on the sonnet, developed by the poet Jericho Brown. Here’s one of his first “Duplex” poems, and here is a duplex written by the poet I.S. Jones. Like a typical sonnet, a duplex has fourteen lines. It’s organized into seven, two-line stanzas. The second line of the first stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the second stanza, the second line of the second stanza is echoed by (but not identical to) the first line of the third stanza, and so on. The last line of the poem is the same as the first. Completing this was tough for me, partly because it’s an exciting, but challenging form, and partly because what emerged in the writing was a difficult topic. I’d say it’s definitely not ready, but my opening and closing line to share are:

Some memories are fluid, like water taking the shape of what holds them.

PAD 2022 – Day 21

Today’s NaPoWriMo.net prompt is exactly the kind I love, because it got out of my usual poetic paths. Inspired by poet Betsy Sholl, the prompt asks you to write a poem in which you first recall someone you used to know closely but are no longer in touch with, then a job you used to have but no longer do, and then a piece of art that you saw once and that has stuck with you over time. Finally, close the poem with an unanswerable question.

What I wrote is still a work in progress, but I will share these lines:

Have you ever seen Frida Kahlo’s What the Water Gave Me? The scar across the right big toe?

The strange and intricate renderings of life and death? A maze of tendrils and shoots,

invading — the bathwater and perhaps her skin? Sometimes you feel like this to me —

What the Water Gave Me, Frida Kahlo, 1983

PAD 2020 – Day 28

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked poets to describe a bedroom from their past. It served as a good prompt to combine with the Poetic Asides call for a “look back or don’t look back” poem.  The first place my mind looked back to was the room I slept in when I visited my grandparents as a child.

 

Visiting

 

Four of us

crammed in the small bedroom at the Cook Street house,

afterthought lined with wood paneling.

Adjunct to the crowded porch where Grandpa kept his freezer full of meat

and Grandma kept her boxes of unused Avon products,

bought to appease her persistent neighbour.

My brother, notorious snorer, got the living room couch,

but Grandpa and Grandma thought they were treating my sister and me

to the thin mattress on the floor, giving Mom and Dad the luxury

of the spare double bed in the very same room. A small window

that opened halfway, only deliverance from the stale space.

I couldn’t stay on my side of the mattress, so my sister kicked. We both yelled.

Mom scolding us to be quiet, while Dad slept on. Oblivious.

They lived too far away to make quick trips,

so we’d spend a week of nights in that tiny space, darker than my dark

at home, I was even a little grateful for my sister’s closeness.

In the morning, awoken by chickadees in the caragana shrub,

the scent of Grandpa frying last night’s ham, I liked being the first

one to open my eyes. To sneak off the mattress, navigate the

tiny path, strewn with off-cast blankets, my Dad’s slippers,

to make it to the door. Opened it slow as syrup, to quiet the creak.

 

 

Door Knob

 

 

 

 

PAD 2019 – Day 4

Today I combined the Poetic Asides prompt to use an artist’s name as a title, with my local Stroll of Poets prompt to make a “10 Things” poem. I’ve always been inspired by Monet’s art, and especially love the “Camille Monet et un enfant au jardin” painting (image below). As I’ve aged, I have come to see the painting differently than I once did.

10 things about Monet’s “Mother and Child”

 

It’s the flowers I always remember.

The beauty in shades of red, and all the white that suggests an ideal day.

The mother is Monet’s wife, Camille.

No one else appears in his paintings as often as Camille.

The Child is only identified as “Child.”

I imagine the texture of the grass, the feel of Camille’s dress, the softness of the child’s hair.

I wish I knew what book the child looks at.

I see my  own mother in Camille, never attending to just one thing.

I stare at the faces of mother and child, obscured in indistinct brushstrokes.

I wonder why it’s the flowers I always remember.

Ruth’s Pancakes

Ruth’s Pancakes

I adore Pancake Tuesday, and not just for the obvious reason that it gives me an excuse to indulge in tasty, tasty pancakes.  It’s a day that also brings back warm childhood memories for me. I didn’t grow up in a religious household, but we did partake in many of the Christian traditions that have become the norm in Canada — Christmas, Easter and Shrove Tuesday (though we certainly never gave up any vices for Lent). My Mom made the best pancakes. I know everyone probably thinks that about their Mom, but “Ruth’s Pancakes”, as they were called by the many friends and family members who had the chance to taste them, were something special. We didn’t need Pancake Tuesday as an excuse to eat them, because the delicious cakes were also on the menu for many weekend brunches and even random breakfast-for-supper days. She’d make them into fun shapes, long before pancake art was a thing, and always let me eat way more than was necessary.

My Mom died just over four years ago, and since then I’ve realized just how many of my fondest memories of her, and of childhood, are ones that incorporate food and cooking. Food was love for my Mom, and it is for me too. Trying out a new recipe with my kids, or telling them stories about my family as we make a tried and true classic, is important to me. Emotion, nostalgia, that feeling of comfort and security that is especially treasured once you lose someone so close to you — all of these are ingredients in my best food memories. So of course I’ll be making “Ruth’s Pancakes” for supper tonight, to keep the tradition alive with my kids, and to feel just a little closer to my Mom.

Ruth’s Pancakes

4 large eggs

1/4 cup sugar

1/3 cup oil

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

2 cups milk

2 cups flour

Separate eggs. In a small bowl, beat egg whites until stiff and stand in peaks. An electric hand mixer works best. Set aside. In another large bowl, beat egg yolks, sugar and oil until light and fluffy. Add baking powder, salt, flour and milk. Beat only until mixed. Fold in egg whites. Let stand for 5-10 minutes. Spoon batter into desired size, or fun shape, on to hot griddle and bake until bubbles begin to form on surface. Flip and bake until golden brown.

 

 

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 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 10

Today’s prompt asked for a “going somewhere” poem. My brain went back to the future and I followed.

10.

I woke up believing that time travel was possible, but only backward. A chunk of memory, pulled out  and placed in a snow globe, but don’t shake it too hard. Does a memory darken when you view it too many times? Smudged, like a window at the zoo, because everyone wants to get nose-to-nose with a tiger. Visited too often, does a memory change, shift colours in certain lights, or curl at the edges? I woke up thinking of Marty McFly, going back — no, really, physically back — the precursor to his being. What a dangerous place to be, the before. Consequences of every possible outcome compressing your brain. You going somewhere? Yeah, whether we want to or not. And hey hey, just like Jay sings, I know all we’re doing is travelling without moving. The body doesn’t have to go to enjoy the slick hook, the synth-fueled ride. The mind catches the beat, dances us behind the curtain, into the dim-lit back room.