Today I took inspiration from the Writer’s Digest prompt to write a poem with a “_________ Story” title, and the NaPoWriMo.net prompt from Juan Martinez. It asks you to think about a small habit you picked up from one of your parents, and then to write a piece that explores an early memory of your parent engaged in that habit, before shifting into writing about yourself engaging in the same habit.
She moved through the small space
too quickly for me to keep track of her hands,
mother magician with a whisk for a wand,
tea towel for a cape,
throwing the threadbare plaid cloth
over her shoulder with a flourish
when concentration was at its highest.
I feel it now too, the furrowed expression
of attentiveness on my face, a meditation almost,
kitchen work. Poring over a recipe, looking
for the unwritten instructions that will make
for a close imitation, if never as good as hers.
The way, I too, wipe my hands, then throw
the towel across my left shoulder, as though
the ritual will result in big reveal:
here she is! Again, all along.
Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt asked for a poem that features forgotten technology. I immediately thought of the cassette tapes of my youth. I still have some kicking around, with absolutely nothing to play them on.
Plan ahead. Write out the songs, then make your shortlist.
Abandon any that are too similar. Too off vibe. Think about
the mood you want, from start to finish. Each melody its own
chord in the brand-new track that is this mixtape. Start loud,
heavy, something to get the blood flowing and the ears perked.
Massage in the slow jams for aural relief, but don’t put ‘em to sleep.
Find a story and tell it. Think of your audience, always. Let ‘em feel
what you feel when you press play, when you hit the high notes,
when you belt out the chorus with your eyes closed. Dedicate it —
this passion project made of plastic and magnetic tape. Grab a good pen
and write out the track list. The start times too, if you’re really in love.
Draw a heart on the paper insert. Put their name inside. Use your best stickers.
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.
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.
Last Day! Maybe that’s why I had high school on my mind…sort of feel like I used to at the end of a school year — happy it’s over, but a little sad to be leaving the daily comfort/routine/adventure/terror/awkwardness. Today’s prompt called for a “bygone” poem, which fit nicely with my nostalgia. Though, I think what I actually wrote is a “boygone” poem.
There was a boy I needed. Flannel shirt, black glasses, skinnier than his walk and taller than my dad. A boy who kept jack-in-the-boxing into my life, even though he went to a school way across town. A rich kid, probably, but I didn’t hold it against him. He liked drama. He liked Stone Temple Pilots. He liked rye and coke. He liked Anne Rice. This seemed like enough. We danced to Madonna’s ‘Rain’ and said we both hated it, but it’s gilded now. When I hear it, I can still feel the heat of his hand on my lower back, the smell of his Speed Stick, and the prickle in the place I wanted him to kiss.
Today’s prompt asked for a “What I meant to say” poem. I recycled/added to an older poem I had started, because it seemed to fit the prompt quite nicely.
No one ever believes the unwatched candle will burn down the house. Or things not said can turn to tumours. In his garden, knees to the dirt, the sting of thistle on his thumb, he remembers why he started that kiss all those years ago. Remembers the why, not the kiss itself. Heat beneath her maroon sweater, but not her tongue. Something festers. Some things fester for the better, he used to think. Last he heard, she was living in California. He wonders if she’s growing anything other than older.