Thursday, February 19, 2009

Poetry Friday: Thinking About Poetry

One of my goals this year was to read more poetry written for adults. I finished Jane Kenyon's Constance today. What I liked most about this collection is that I connected with the poems about losing loved ones. There were also many poems about her depression. I've been there many times so I could feel her words.

I'm also a little concerned that I didn't "get" some of the poems. That happens to me sometimes.
Maybe my mind isn't deep enough to understand. It always reminds me of how it was in school. I never seemed to get the meaning right, at least not the meaning the teacher/professor said was right. I guess I'm not someone who likes to pick a poem apart and try to analyze it like it's some scientific theory that needs to be debated and proven.

I never thought I actually liked poetry until I became a mother and teacher. That's when I first met Langston Hughes, Lucille Clifton, Gary Soto, and all the poets I've come to love (too many to name here).

As I write this post, I realize that I love music (county, rock, pop, soul, etc.), but I don't like every song I hear on the radio. So maybe it's okay if I don't get or even like every poem. Maybe it's more important that I have found poems that I love and carry with me.

One of my favorite poems from Constance is also the title of the final collection Jane worked on before her death, Otherwise. It reminds me to enjoy and appreciate what we have because nothing is forever.


I got out of bed

on two strong legs.
It might have been
otherwise. I ate
cereal, sweet
milk, ripe, flawless
peach. It might
have been otherwise.
I took the dog uphill
to the birch wood.
All morning I did
the work I love.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Over at Miss Rumphius Effect , the Poetry Stretch this week was to write a love poem. My mother has been on mind so much recently. Her battle with cancer goes on, but she's beginnng to give up. Although she'll never see this poem, I hope she feels the love behind it.

Thinking About Her Life

Alone in her tiny apartment
she sits at the kitchen table,
stirring a cup of cold coffee—
daylight slowly fades.

Her friends are gone.
Beloved husband gone.
Children grown, gone.
Her soft dark hair— gone.

I visit on Saturdays,
we talk of the past
we talk of the present,
avoiding the future—

She says she’s afraid.
I’m afraid too—
but I don’t tell her
I can’t, not yet.

Instead I take her hand,
like she once took mine
helping me cross a busy street—
Now I must help her cross
over this wake of tears.

She looks to me for hope,
and I give it to her, a last gift
wrapped in a smile, a hug,
and a prayer
for my mother—

soon gone.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Poetry Friday

Singing Lessons

Every Sunday after supper, Grandpa
takes out his banjo.
A rush of music fills the empty air
like a flock of blackbirds—
and he asks me to sing.

Together, on the porch swing, we sing.
Sitting there with Grandpa,
our song calls out to the blackbirds
while his fingers fly across the banjo
sweetening the air
with family music.

As sunlight turns to starlight, the music,
the laughter, and the bright way we sing
warm the chilly air.
I slide closer to Grandpa,
one with him and his banjo:
"Bye, bye blackbirds."

We serenade the blackbirds.
The fluttering sound of music,
strumming the banjo,
and voices that need to sing
surround Grandpa
and me in ribbons of air.

Protecting us from the cool night air
like a nest wrapped around two blackbirds
covers me in music
teaching me to sing
even when there's no banjo.

A worn out old banjo,
the taste of words soaring through the air,
a chance to clap my hands and sing,
cherishing a gathering of blackbirds,
the freedom of music:
gifts from Grandpa.

Just an old banjo and some blackbirds
replenish the air with music
as I sing, still, for Grandpa.