September: Give me your hum

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1.
I’m writing postcards to summer:  Wish you were here. Miss you already. Come back soon. 

This is metaphor. And not. For years I’ve fought this season with the same refrain: not ready, not ready, not ready.

2.
And all at once, summer collapsed into fall, wrote Oscar Wilde.

3.
 
It's the sharp shadows of September that pull me down, how the light both leans in and tilts away from beauty. Into these shortened days, dampness moves too quickly.

4.
It's always too soon. I'm never ready. If autumn is the season of letting go — heat, light, leaves — then summer is the blast of energy I briefly harness and just as my trust reaches full speed, summer falters and slips away.

5.
I married in September, and spent Septembers at a high mountain lake where I learned to embrace the language of change: cloister, clarity, crystalline, warmth, nourish, now.

I know autumn brings good things, but slowly, quietly, and with shadows of doubt.

6.
Now I am older and see everything as it was, and as it wasn't.

7.
Happiness is just the patina of memory. Even patina — a soft wash of time and wear — is cousin to sepia, which surely belongs to September.  

Was I born longing? It's melancholy I know best.

Invocation At The End of Summer

I call on the spirit of summer’s end,  
of tangled roots and the earth’s 
mold. Give me your hum.                               

I call on things that thrive in byways—
snakeroot, aster, dock. The teasel 
that pricks, the pod that slips away. 

 Give me light, charged with a flush 
of quick shadows—the sun stretched
flat across the grass, sullen, satisfied.

Let me feast on the overripeness of things,
the spice of apple that dazzles wasps 
and spins deer in drunken staggers
over the field. Give me your heat.

I call on things that sweeten and fall— 
butternut, pippin, the fluttering hearts
of rosebud—the luscious drip of evening,

 a shuddering of birds rising up 
and settling, the last secrets of the katydid.

 Let me put my head among the leaves. 
Let me listen.

— Shirley McPhillips
from Acrylic Angel of Fate


Thankful Thursday: Terroir

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In the vineyard


mahogany vines hang heavy 

against a wide blue sky


the day spreads a feast     just for us

say       yes     now

 
drink the mystery 

of cedar and soil

 
taste the dark gloss 

of plump summer fruit

 
know the terrain 

of this generous world 

— Drew Myron
from Thin Skin

Please join me for Thankful Thursday, a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things and more. Joy expands and contracts in direct relation to our sense of gratitude.

What are you thankful for today? What makes your world expand?

Note: Terroir - noun - ter·roir
The combination of factors, including soil, climate, and sunlight, that gives wine grapes [ and people ] their distinctive character.


On Sunday Sadness

Be Still, an erasure poem by Drew Myron

Be Still, an erasure poem by Drew Myron

Wasn’t it a great weekend, full of sunshine and good times, friends and fun? Yes, for me also.

But then Sunday evening arrives and a sadness creeps in. Always something lonely about a Sunday night (or a Monday holiday that feels like a Sunday).

It’s not just me. Go ahead, google “Sunday sadness” and see the pages pile up.

Sunday sadness is so common it’s made the Urban Dictionary: “a feeling of fatigue, depression or anxiety felt on Sunday.”

The quasi-authority on modern life, Real Simple, backs this up: “Even after the best of weekends (or especially after the best of weekends), there’s a cloud that descends.”

This vague edgy-melancholic state is more than dread for the workweek ahead (I like my job! I love structure!). This is not depression, but more of an existential fugue, a spiritual restlessness, a distant cousin to malaise.

On Sunday nights, I find myself reading poems and writing long searching letters to faraway friends. I try to write my own poems but my thoughts are scattered, too loose to pin, too pinned to let loose.

Given that this day is widely set aside for spiritual nourishment, maybe this sadness is God giving a nudge. But instead of encouraged, I feel the familiar gnaw of church and faith: ache and sadness, relief and weight.

Late Meditation (excerpt)

Do you think His arms
are going to make
a cradle

for your head

so you can finally
fall asleep?

The yellow crocus just outside the front door is not a miracle of light

But pretty close
in its papery
stillness

The only color in the entire yard

We are trying
very hard

to be alone

— Michael Dickman
The End of the West


Thankful Thursday: Abundance

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Because attention attracts gratitude and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday.

On this Thankful Thursday, I am flush with abundance.

And neighbors. And fresh food. And kindness.

My neighbor, whom I don’t know well, brings me a bag of peaches.

And a bag of tomatoes the next week.

And another bag last week.

Before she shared her garden bounty, we would occasionally wave at each other from across the street. Now, I’m eager to see her cheery face, and we cross the road to chat. We might even be friends.

Another neighbor, whom I have shared only waves from the car, brings a bag of apples. The tree is really producing, he says, I can’t keep up.

I make an apple pie. A few days later, he calls to me. Want some more? Yes, I say, yes!

All week I feel neighborly and good-natured. I am full of fresh food, and filled with an abundance that swells from kindness. How simple this feeling, yet how very grand.

A Song for Merry Harvest

Bring forth the harp, and let us sweep its fullest, loudest string.
The bee below, the bird above, are teaching us to sing
A song for merry harvest; and the one who will not bear
His grateful part partakes a boon he ill deserves to share.
The grasshopper is pouring forth his quick and trembling notes;
The laughter of the gleaner’s child, the heart’s own music floats.
Up! up! I say, a roundelay from every voice that lives
Should welcome merry harvest, and bless the God that gives.

The buoyant soul that loves the bowl may see the dark grapes shine,
And gems of melting ruby deck the ringlets of the vine;
Who prizes more the foaming ale may gaze upon the plain,
And feast his eye with yellow hops and sheets of bearded grain;
The kindly one whose bosom aches to see a dog unfed
May bend the knee in thanks to see the ample promised bread.
Awake, then, all! ’tis Nature’s call, and every voice that lives
Shall welcome merry harvest, and bless the God that gives.

— Eliza Cook, 1818-1889

Known as a poet of the working class, Eliza Cook wrote poems that advocated for political freedom for women and addressed questions of class and social justice, according to the Academy of American Poets. Despite her popularity, she was criticized for the ways in which she bucked gender conventions in both her writing and her life; Cook wore male clothing and had a relationship with American actress Charlotte Cushman, to whom she addressed a number of her poems.

It's Thankful Thursday. Joy expands and contracts in direct relation to our sense of gratitude. What are you thankful for today? A person, a place, a possession? A story, a song, a poem? What makes your world expand?


Note to (blurry) self

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Reminder, a series by Drew Myron

This is no. 11 in a series of reminders that serve as notes and poems to myself — and now you. Is your head as crowded as mine? It’s okay, jot a note and take a rest.

You don’t have to linger  

 in a loneliness that makes you blurry.      

 You can fill in blanks           make up a story   

sound out the silence with something 

more than understanding, 

stir the understanding with something more than tears, 

stir the tears with something more than surrender.  

 
In the math of wanting, 

you can contradict your self 

           praise the grace of quiet things

  the malignant sadness and 

surprising sweetness of 

                                                         every day.

— Drew Myron

 

Love This Line: "We pretend . . . "

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“We pretend to want things we don't want so nobody can see us not getting what we need.”

Lisa Taddeo, author of Three Women

Don’t judge a book by its cover, they say, but even more pressing is don’t judge a book by its marketing campaign.

Three Women has been billed as a “groundbreaking portrait of erotic longing in today’s America.” But that wasn’t my experience. Rather than a comprehensive examination of female desire, this work of literary nonfiction offers a deep and engaging view of three complex and frayed women. Taddeo is a journalist who writes like a poet, telling stories with extraordinary empathy and nuance.

This book wasn’t what it said it would be — it was better.


Thankful Thursday: Catalog of Cures

Writer tries drawing, with help from Lynda Barry and Writing the Unthinkable.

Writer tries drawing, with help from Lynda Barry and Writing the Unthinkable.


Catalog of Cures

Wild sweetpeas grow along abandoned curbs

At 4am, roused by birdsong

Try to draw, try to sing, try a new you

Along a chain link fence, a clutch of roses grow in a perfect bouquet 

In the distance you see a runner gliding, as if weightless,
as if ease is for anyone who believes in light

A friend brings bubbles

A thrush of balsam root on a slope

The ting ting ting of ice in a glass

I find a recipe in my mother's scrawl 

The letter we keep writing ourselves 

Twilight, dusk, dawn — the hush of changing light

Ghosts fade, and memories are made and remade
What we recall depends on us

We would give anything for what we have, writes Tony

Some days in summer, when you are tired and aching
and if you are lucky and looking 

the world offers to you a cascade of cures 


— Drew Myron

It’s Thankful Thursday. Please join me in a weekly pause to express appreciation for people, places, things & more. From the small to the immense, the world contracts and expands in relation to our gratitude. What are you thankful for today?

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Epidemic of Loneliness

“ From Grief,” an erasure poem by Drew Myron

From Grief,” an erasure poem by Drew Myron

Dear S.

I share easy banter with a cheerful resident at the nursing home.

How are you? I’ll ask, and he’ll break into a full smile and say, Great as cake! or Fine and dandy!

But this morning he takes a long pause and his face is a grim fixed line.

I've got my hurts all stored up here, he says, motioning to his head. And if I keep walking, if I keep moving, it doesn't hurt so much. 

I hope he means a headache but his eyes say heartache.

Can I walk with you, I ask? And so we move slowly down a long hall.

No one visits, he says, but I don’t care anymore. You get to a point, he says, stopping to look me in the eye, that you just don't care anymore. I guess that's where I am. 

* * *

Some weeks, some days, maybe right now, I don't know what to do with this grief like a collection of rocks. Doesn't it feel so heavy? It's death, but not just death. It's carrying all the little losses — of age and health and hurts. 

How did we live before we live now? How did we once tread lightly and still manage to make the days matter? I'm thinking of you, and me, and so many yous and mes. 

I don't know what I'm writing, or feeling, but I know these words are a reaching out in love.

* * *

All day I think about the loneliness that circles this man and nearly everyone I know.

“We’re living in an epidemic of loneliness,” a colleague tells me.

* * *

A few hours later, a seemingly tireless volunteer leads a small group in song. Thin frail voices sing old fashioned hymns, and though my office is down the hall, the sound wafts my way and nearly breaks me apart.

Walking past, I hear her end in prayer:  You know our hearts. We all desire healing.

Amen, I say, again and again, all the way home.

With love,
Drew


Strangerhood

I was going to share a favorite line from my latest favorite book. But as I began to type, I couldn’t stop. One line turned into paragraphs and then into pages:

Every now and then and in the right circumstance, I really do like people. I better come clean, and admit that the right circumstance, the essential circumstance, is strangeness. Strangerhood seems to be what I need in order to see people clearly and be touched by them. . . .

My problem, if that is how it should be termed, and it probably should, is that I am never lonely on my own, but I often feel estrangement when in company . . .

“You seem to be able to talk to everyone. And they want to talk to you,” she said to me. “You have a way with people.”

I didn’t say: only in the company of strangers who are guaranteed to disappear back into their own lives.

— Jenny Diski, from Stranger On A Train

Stranger on a Train is a called a “travel book” but it is less about place and more about people. The landscapes offer interior views, rendered tight and sharp with keen perception. Part travelogue, part memoir, there’s a beautiful thread of longing here.

Reading, like traveling, offers great passages of time and self. I couldn’t read fast enough, and yet wanted to slow down and savor the turn of phrase, a sideways glance, and every stop along the wandering path.


Satisfied from Pleasant View

Satisfied by Drew Myron, excised from “Poems” by Mary Baker Eddy, 1910.

Satisfied by Drew Myron, excised from “Poems” by Mary Baker Eddy, 1910.

In my first-ever poetry workshop (with nerves and hope in 2003), the dynamic instructor said to me: “I see your words on the wall.”

This, I was sure, was a nice way of saying “not good enough for books.” I slinked away.

But then I began collaborating with artists — Tracy Weil, Senitila McKinley, Valerie Savarie — and suddenly my words were on the wall, and it felt better than a book (and Judyth said: See, I saw this!)

I like the combo of words & image, poem & art, type & design. And so I gravitate to blackout poems, write-overs, erasures, cut-ups. Over the years, I continue to crave visual writing.

This is my latest piece, inspired by my favorites in this field: Sarah J Sloat, Mary Ruefle, Austin Kleon.

I’m not sure where this is going, but I’m enjoying the process. Maybe it’s a warm-up, an exercise, a diversion. Or maybe it’s a fresh start and there’s more ahead on a new wall waiting just for me.

Overwriting

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With apologies to Rudyard Kipling, I offer this poem / prose / moment.

I don’t know why this appeals to me — writing over text, or, what I’ve been calling overwriting.

It’s something about paper, smooth but with tooth, and the way the pen rides across the old printed page. Newsprint shares this quality, and I sometimes write on old newspapers too.

It’s something about how the hand and pen feel at ease, so that the mind relaxes too. And it’s something about text as art; when repurposed, how it can shine as a form of design.

Maybe this overwriting is writing without thinking (my favorite kind of writing). Maybe writing over a previous text enhances the temporary feel, so that the pressure to “write good” is lessened.

The page opens, the pen allows, the words roll out and over, layered against another story, another meaning, connected to a newness that is rooted in oldness. Who knows what will surface, what will emerge?

An Habitation Enforced

It isn’t always birdsong here

but the steady song lulls you

into a new faith that says

this is how it always is,

and so you believe the

birds travel your path and

fish swim close just for you, and

the waves, they are but a

gentle roll, a reminder of

what you have to lose.

On the shore, you see

a man waving.

You think

this is love

calling you home.

— Drew Myron


Thankful Thursday: Literary Compass

After a tough slog through a sludge of books, what a relief to find light.

You’ve felt it too, right? Book after book leaves you listless and bored, or even worse, annoyed. You think you’ll never read a good thing again. You’ve lost your literary compass. You can’t tell so-so from super.

And then, like love, you try again, pick another, and stumble upon a striking line, a moving passage. You race through chapters, stay up all night, and wake wishing work away so you can stay in and read.

On this Thankful Thursday, I’m grateful for the turn of literary luck, the golden page. Sometimes just a passage, or a single poem, is all it takes.

These books recently restored my bookish faith:

Don’t Let Me Be Lonely
by Claudia Rankine

Before her award-winning book, Citizen: An American Lyric, Claudia Rankine wrote this mixed-genre collection thrumming with power, politics, observation and heart. Defying containment, this is a work of essay, image, memoir and poem. Passage after passage resounds; I’ve marked nearly every page.

“Sometimes,” she writes, “I think it is sentimental, or excessive, certainly not intellectual, or perhaps too naive, too self-wounded to value each life like that, to feel loss to the point of being bent over each time. There is no innovating loss. It was never invented, it happened as something physical, something physically experienced . . . [she] said the poem is really a responsibility to everyone in a social space. She did say it was okay to cramp, to clog, to fold over at the gut, to have to put hand to flesh, to have to hold the pain, and then to translate it here. She did say, in so many words, that what alerts, alters.”

Pulp
by Celina Villagarcia

With roots in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, Celina has penned a slim collection and a strong debut. She drew me in with this poem (the linebreaks are excellent):

Outside

At ten,
I felt and
heard things

differently. This
knowing — made me

live — like I was
on the outside

always looking in.
I felt I was

walking—
without skin—

vulnerable to
every thing

—every
one.

When I write—

these words protect
—when I write

these words
give me skin.

— Celina Villagarcia

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The Do-It-Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big Motherfuckin’ Sad
by Adam Gnade

No larger than my hand, this small book packs a punch of candid, funny, touching truth. In a series of lists — DIY Guide to Navigating Youth Without Going Bitter, or, Guide to Not Freaking Out All The Time — the advice sometimes veers toward sap before making a tight swerve to tough love.

Irksome Particulars
by Matt Cook

I found this treasure (and the book above) tucked in a corner of small-press gems at the mammoth Powell’s City of Books. This is a pocket-size collection of irreverent prose poems, each no longer than a page and most just a few lines long, from the former poet laureate of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Rinky Dink Press
On a mission to get poetry back into the hands, and pockets, of the people, this Phoenix, Arizona-based micro press is small in size but big on quality. Each palm-size gem is handcrafted from one sheet of paper into a book that “marries a DIY attitude with skilled poetics and fine-art aesthetics.”

I love this poetry-for-the-people vibe. Write on!



It’s Thankful Thursday. Joy expands and contracts in direct relation to our sense of gratitude. What are you thankful for today? A person, a place, a possession? A book, a song, a poem? What makes your world expand?


Fast Five with Theresa Wisner

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"I have a dogged determination to keep going; to not be a quitter." 

— Theresa Wisner

Welcome to Fast Five, in which we ask a writer five questions to open the door to know more.

Theresa Wisner lives on the central Oregon Coast and works aboard Oceanus, an Oregon State University research vessel. Hailing from a family of commercial fishermen, as a young woman she went to sea to both continue the family tradition and prove her own fortitude. In her memoir and literary debut, Daughter of Neptune, Theresa blends seafaring adventure with family dynamics in a story of personal and professional self-discovery.

1. 
Daughter of Neptune is a powerful story of family, addiction, and perseverance in an industry dominated by men. What prompted you to tell your story?

I sometimes think that the goal was to write a story, and the events came along to give me a story to write about. I don’t know that I ever thought, I’m going to write a book about this one day, but from my earliest memories I’ve wanted to write. 

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2.
In your memoir of working at sea, you reveal the fears and insecurities that led to your alcoholism. Why was this important for you to share, and in the face of struggle, what keeps you going?   

Quitting drinking was, by far, the biggest challenge of my life. There were people who showed me it could be done. I wanted to be brutally honest in my struggle, and in so doing, let someone who might be struggling know there is hope, even in the darkest time. I wish I could say that there was something inspirational in me that kept and keeps me going. I think it’s solely a dogged determination to keep going; to not be a quitter. 

3.
What’s the best writing advice you’ve received?

Write. Really. Just write. Sit my tail in a chair and write. It seems so easy, but it’s difficult to practice. There is always something that can, and often does, call me away. Even if I have nothing to write, the act of sitting in front of the computer or paper brings the story to me, it doesn’t come from living my life. It comes from having the intent to write. More dogged determination!

4.
What books or authors have shaped your life? 

Although I don’t read him much any more, Stephen King shaped much of my desire to be concise about description, and evoking emotion from it. The Stand, in particular. Theodore Dreiser and Tolstoy were big in my early years. More recent work is Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy, and Veronica Roth’s Divergent trilogy. I love the simplicity of these works. Isabel Allende is simply brilliant. There are so many more, but these come to the top of my head. 

5.
I’m a word collector and keep a running list of favorite words. What are your favorite words?

As a Pacific Northwest gal, I love a couple of words:

Pluviophile: one who loves the rain.

Petrichor: the smell of the first rain. 

Bonus Question:
What question did I not ask that you wish I had? 

I’m currently working on a book of fiction that puts a young woman on Ernest Shackleton's failed Antarctic Expedition. I don’t know if I’ll keep Shackleton’s name, but the story has intrigued me since I worked in Antarctica. 


• Buy Daughter of Neptune at Amazon

• Learn About Theresa:
Coming to terms with being the Daughter of Neptune - Oregon State University magazine


Thankful Thursday: Spring, and other triumphs

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Dear C,

Looking back, everything takes on a patina glow. I don't trust my perceptions, and realize lately how much of my life has been a lucky stumble. Do other people map out their lives? Were they given a map or a menu? I mean, how did they know the choices ahead?

All of which is to say I'm okay. You asked, which was thoughtful, and I got your note on a particularly low day so I hesitated to answer. You know how it is: when you feel low it seems you've always been low and will always be low. But it's not true, and I forget and remember every damn time. 

Sometimes it seems this internal gnaw will grind me away. And yet I return again and again, without will or intention, to this place and space I know so well: Oh yes, here we are again at the corner of lonely & sorrow

The routine is both inexplicable and familiar. The bed is made, lights are dim, and every hush and holler says, hello, make yourself uncomfortable

But today is new, and the sun is shining. The lilacs are about to burst and I'm cheering on this small triumph. 

 At the nursing home, I lead a writing group. It’s an assorted collection of sick and frail old people with a tough batch of challenges: dementia, stroke, paralysis, loss of hearing and sight . . . and I love it. At a recent writing session, Betty*, who has suffered one loss after another, wrote: I am thankful for all the springs I've had. 

 I just about cried. 

 So, yes, I am here and thankful.

With love,

Drew

Because attention attracts gratitude and gratitude expands joy, it's time for Thankful Thursday. Please join me in a weekly pause to reflect and express appreciation for people, places, things & more. What are you thankful for today?

 * as always, names have been changed.


How to Play With Your Words

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It’s National Poetry Month, but don’t tell anyone.

Nothing ruins a happy buzz like the announcement of “poetry.” The poets may cheer but the non-poets — which, face it, is almost everyone — groan.

“I don’t like poetry.”

“I’m not a poet.”

“I don’t get it.”

Stick with me, I say. Poetry is just word play. Let’s have fun. Like sneaking veggies into sweets [as in: carrot cake], I slip poems into the everyday. You don’t even know all the goodness you’ve absorbed.

For National Poetry Month, I’m celebrating in some covert ways:

1.
Share a Poem
Poem In Your Pocket Day is on Thursday, April 18, 2019. Pick a poem (or write your own), carry it with you, and share it with others. I like to mail poems to friends & family, combining my favorite things: poetry and the personal letter. Sometimes I place poems on car windshields, randomly. Or slip them into my water bill. Or tape them to the bathroom mirror at Fred Meyer.

2.
Write About You
Almost every (normal) person will say they can’t write — but of course they can! Because almost everyone likes to tell about themselves, the Six Word Memoir is an excellent gateway to Poetry World (a real place, in mind). It’s fun, easy, and sorta addictive. Once you start, your mind seems to sort everything into six word increments.

3.
Listen to Poems
Like playing a piano or singing a song, cadence and pace make a poem. Poetry shines with the music of language. When you listen, rather than read, the experience can shift you out of critical mind and into a playful, often more powerful, experience. Try it!

4.
Start Now
Writing is free. No license, permit, or permission required. Write a line, read a poem, imagine a story. No rules or regulations, no excuses or explanations. Don’t think you can? Waaay back when, this book got me started (and keeps me going): Writing Down The Bones: Freeing the Writing Within.

Start now.

Make something.


Try This: Word Catching

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Get out the pen and paper, let’s write!

Yes, I said pen & paper, writing by hand. The physical act of fingers gripping pen against page is an elemental process that stirs mind and words. You want to think, but not too much. Hand and touch keep it real and close. There’s a time for keyboard and making sense — it’s called editing. Right now we’re writing. Kick your editor (and laptop) to the curb.

I like writing prompts and gimmicks, any path that gets me out of my right mind and into my write mind. I can fill up pages with direct writing — this happened, that happened, I feel, blah blah blah. That’s not writing, that’s a diary.

When I want to write — indirect, sideways, with a slant — I need an approach that tricks my mind into low-pressure and all fun.

Here’s my latest way in: Word Catching

1.
Find an audio recording of a poem.
Go here, or here, or find your own.

2.
Listen — not for content but for words.

3.
Write down words & phrases as fast as you can. You won’t be able to write them all but you’ll catch a few here and there. It won’t make much sense, or maybe it will, and that is the magic.

4.
Assemble your words and phrases. See what fun, insightful or unexpected connections you can make.

5.
Refine. Go into Editor mode. A poem doesn’t have to make sense. Sometimes a poem is music and play. Do what feels right and true for you.

Tada! You have exercised the mind. Maybe you have a poem, or a good workout. Maybe your next great poem is peeking, waiting for you to begin again.

Side Gate

Warnings are chewable. 

We cannot feel touch, cannot know ourselves

without looking between the space we lost. 

You have a before that is part of the now. 


What at first is a condition of knowing

is his body too close.

Absence came to you. 

Nothing is a complex space. 


Somehow a center disappears, 

sensation is erased. 

You feel your body wince. 

You are in the dark. 

You wanted to stop. 

Keep walking.

 
Trauma is a side gate, 

a back entrance, locked. 

You press firmly. 

You are wound. 

Everything pauses. 

Everyone is always sorry. 

— Drew Myron


Don't Wanna Lose You

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With age, comes a lift. Yes, you’ve noticed — this website got a facelift.

And with change, annoying glitches can arise and you may get lost in the shuffle. In this change, I don’t wanna lose you. Stay with me. Don’t miss a minute. There are many ways to read this blog.

You can:

1.
Subscribe to this blog by email. Just provide your email address here. (No spam, no sharing, I promise). If you’re already receiving these blog posts by email, no need to resubscribe.

2.
Click on this link, below:

3.
Follow this blog on Feedly, another handy organizer of your favorite sites.

4.
Show up here anytime. Feel free to wander in and out.

However you find me, I’m happy to have you. Life is nicer when you’re here.



On Eleven

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Eleven is long limbs and inbetween.

Eleven is a master number, signifying instinct and intuition.

Eleven is not quite noon and not yet midnight, an almost there.

Eleven is over a decade, veering toward old.

Is 11 vintage?

Eleven is an angel, symbol of spiritual enlightenment.

At 11, I was rolling around Skate City, a suburban disco ball as my guide. I was eating Capn’ Crunch by the case. I was riding a bike for what seemed like miles but was probably just blocks.

And now, this month, this blog turns 11.

“And so, let’s go,” I wrote that first day in 2008, “not with the thunder of the self-absorbed, but in the same way a single word, spoken softly, carries great weight.”

And here we are. Still.

Thanks for skating with me.

Witness to the Wounds

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When you ask how I'm doing, I don't know how to answer. 

I mention the weather, how the gray has finally, just today, peeled away to reveal a swell of blue like some kind of hope. The weather inside me is barometer of every fresh pressure.

It's not what you want to know, and yet isn't it? We speak in signs and symbols, trusting we share a common language. 

-----

"Later I will try to recall the names of all the places I went, the spaces I passed through and passed through me, their location, their feel, like a gouge in the granite of some northern mountain,” writes Natalie Singer, in California Calling: A Self Interrogation. “But I remember so few details, so much feeling and so few facts.”

-----

Now, more than a year has passed and still I must convince myself: Of course she loved you. 

There were pedicures and phone calls, banter and laughs. There was a shorthand of love, wasn’t there? There was, right? Yes, yes, of course. But so few photos. I have no evidence, no photographic proof. 

But yes, of course. After the storm and silence, after the thaw, there was understanding. There was love. 

I envy those who love easily, to whom love is a given, an “of course.” Those who don’t think, just know. I envy that ease, the key that fits and locks, the tidy closing. No jiggle or grease, no certain angle or point. The key slides in, turns and opens, or closes. All done. 

-----

At the nursing home where I work, a small woman with a small voice looks to me with wide eyes: Do you know me, she asks. Do you like me?

My words are quick and easy. Yes, I say, tucking my hand in hers. I like you very much. 

-----  

"Gouge, the word," writes Singer, "is so close to gauge, as in measure, as in witness, as in all the minutes and hours and days spent silently gauging my own level of comfort, or discomfort. My belonging. Gauging the likelihood of my voice catching in my throat.”

-----

Adele is crying softly when I stop in to visit.

Family, she tells me, her voice reaching for firmer ground. “My daughter doesn't understand me. I would never do anything to hurt her.” 

I lean in to give a hug but she waves me away. She will not take comfort, so we sit together in the quiet, each of us holding our hurts. Sometimes, still, I have no words for all our aches. 

“Family,” I say finally, “sometimes knows us least of all.” 

* Names and identifiers have been changed to protect privacy. 



 

Landscape as Metaphor

Absence, photo by Drew Myron

Absence, photo by Drew Myron

Keeping Things Whole

In a field

I am the absence

of field.

This is

always the case.

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

 

When I walk

I part the air

and always

the air moves in   

to fill the spaces

where my body’s been.


We all have reasons

for moving.

I move

to keep things whole.

 

— Mark Strand

 

I have absence on my mind. A sort of seamlessness. Land meets sky with no distinction. Someone called this blur an ordinary loneliness.

Somewhere is a center, then a horizon as a single grounding line — of fence or hill or endlessness — holding us in or keeping us out. I'm not sure which. 

As often happens, I discover a poem that holds what I feel but can't articulate. Poem as map, as landmark, as grounding and center. Thank you Mark

 

What's in your (emotional, physical, mental) landscape?