I Surrender

THE POEM WON’T WRITE

That’s not the poem
I want to write
The words don’t rhyme
The tone’s not right
I cannot find
The rhythm’s soul
The poem won’t write
But won’t let go

I didn’t want June to end like this, with me sitting here, a pile of blank pages on one hand and a useless tangle of words on the other. Nothing’s cooperating, though. Ink and paper have declared war on one another, and I have been unable to effect a truce.

I blame myself, of course. I haven’t been writing every day. I have no excuses and all the excuses; none of them matters. This is simply where I am at the moment. Usually this is when I question the viability of the blog. If I’m not going to write, I can’t post. Simple. So I ask myself for the umpteenth time: Why am I writing at all?

The most honest answer I’ve fished from the pile of answers I’ve amassed from the thousands of times I’ve asked myself that question is this: I write because it’s fun. That’s it. I enjoy it. I like taking ink and spreading it around a page in dribs and drabs and seeing what picture emerges. Some days I like what I see better than others. Some days I’m positively elated, and others I just shake my head and move on. Then, on days like this, I crumple up the paper, toss it in the trash, and yell at the walls. Maybe not as fun, but funny, if I can back myself up enough to see the absurdity of my little tantrums. These days are simply reminders not to take myself so seriously. I’m no tortured artist. I’m just me. And writing little poems and posting little posts is a pleasant break from dishes and laundry and life’s assorted chores and aches and pains. It’s a tiny reminder that there’s more to me and more to life if I’m willing to step out of my own way once in a while.

Who’s Winning?

RAIN

Rain isn’t enough.
You fill your pockets
With thunder and drape
Yourself with lightening,
Bringing the storm
With you on the wind.
Deep puddles, swollen rivers,
Soaked and heavy ground
Aren’t enough for you.
No. You want the sky
Split open, trees uprooted,
And scorch marks
To prove your point.
But I bring rain
And let it pool
In all the empty places,
Softening the hardest ground,
Dissolving the clouds
From within on its way.
Still you claw at the clouds
Desperate to wring out
Every last bolt and boom,
Fighting with fire, while
My rain falls unafraid.
Let your storm howl.
Rain is enough for me.

Some Cats Are Better Teachers

SOPHIE

I woke and rose
Before you arrived
To remind me how
Important you are.
You don’t have to
Tell me. I know.
You are heaven sent,
Fierce ball of love,
Playfully vicious,
Warm rumble of love.
Disdainfully mine,
Self-sustainingly
All your own.
Slinky reminder
I’m here to serve.
Marked and claimed
By your soft paws
And sharp claws
And slow blink of love.

Some Lessons Are Harder Than Others

ONE TOUCH

My mother warned me
Not to touch.
One tiny prick, she
Said, can cause a
World of pain.
But I didn’t listen,
You looked so smooth,
And the splinter barely
Hurt as it penetrated
Deep into my skin.
I cried to my mother
When you festered there,
Deep under my skin.
I warned you, she said,
It’s up to blood and body
Now. Prevention’s worth
A pound of cure.
But I didn’t listen,
You looked so small.
If I could cut you out,
The damage would heal.
But you had penetrated
Deep under my skin.
Deep into my blood.
Sailing for my heart,
One tiny shard of you,
All you gave to me,
Slicing through me.
I beat at my chest
And cried for my mother,
Needing to say good-by
Before I died of you.
And she held me, saying,
I told you not to touch.

I’ve Got a Lot to Learn

HEAVEN SENT

Sophie starts at six
Kneading, purring, then
Whining from the window
Meowing from the doorway
From the bureau, on my chest.
I hear you. You
Know I hear you.
She’s learned what
Buttons to push
To ring my alarm.
I always feed you. You
Know I’ll feed you.
Today’s no different.
When I dare leave the house
To water the garden
She sits by the door
Paws at it and cries.
I haven’t left you. You
Know I haven’t left you.
When I’m not looking,
She sneaks off
To file her report,
Saying I don’t think
She’s learned the lesson.
Send another cat.

Monday’s Math

MONDAY’S MATH

What did I add to the day?
Was I light and laughter,
Making you smile for a moment
Or forget your fear of the dark?
Did I remember to say, at least once,
How much I love you? Did I love you today?
Did I hug or help or carry or simply
Step aside and let you go first?
Or did I cling too tightly to your full arms
Insisting you carry me along with the rest?

Did my noise chase the goldfinches from
The birdbath you keep so clean and fresh?
Did I splatter mud on your favorite shirt,
Stomping puddles made from my own tears and filth?
Did I claim my right to let off steam,
Not caring who got burned?
Or was I calm today and steady,
Merely a reflective pool, the still water
For your meditation? Was I
The freshly ironed shirt before movement
Calls back and sets new wrinkles?
Was I a frozen lake in January sun,
Not flinching as you drove over me?
Was I the laundry already hung to dry,
Swaying, sensuous in the breeze?

What did I add to the day?
A breath? a whisper? a smile? a cry?
Nothing?
Till tomorrow then. Let the night’s
Wind sweep away my mistakes,
And sleep scrub the failures from my mind.
Let’s try this again in the new light
With fresh chalk, and a clean eraser.
What will I add to this day?

I Wasn’t a Happy Student

METRONOME

Determined beat throbbing
Measure by measure,
Expected rhythms of thought.
Tempo decided not by players
But those wielding batons,
Rulers measuring length
And breadth of life.
Meting out fractions of hope
For the futures
Of those in sync.
Dissonance, unwelcome, must depart.
Flee or be painfully twisted,
Bent to the chord,
Resolved to be accepted
By the same who dare
Freeze poetry into prose,
Locked by dots and slashes,
Rigid acceptable forms
In the name of learning.
Creativity transformed
Into pale variations
On one ordered theme,
The school song.

I did well in school. Very well. I was an excellent student, but a miserably unhappy one (from first grade right through college). I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like if I had been homeschooled. It wasn’t an option, but I wonder. It’s not that I didn’t like how I was taught—we were expected to memorize everything, which suited me just fine. I enjoyed learning new vocabulary and practicing multiplication tables. We chanted our verb conjugations and preposition lists. Great fun. But I hated having to conform to the school’s social image, whether Catholic grammar school or snooty women’s college.

I never fit in. How I thought, how I dressed, what I valued…nothing about me ever lined up with the cherished ideals of the administration. So I was miserable. I didn’t connect well with my peers (most thought I was weird—I was—and many didn’t like my getting better grades than they did when I wasn’t one of them). While they played sports and led cheers, I did plays and sang show tunes on the school bus. I tried my best to project the attitude that I really didn’t care whether I was liked or not. In many cases, it was true. I didn’t like the popular crowd any more than they liked me, so I wasn’t seeking their approval. Still, I wasn’t happy. I hated being stuck in those settings with no options other than conform or be ostracized. This wasn’t as bad at the college level, but it was there in subtle ways.

Maybe I just projected it onto the situations, having grown up feeling it so intensely right through high school. Were the schools really at fault or was it me all along? Was I depressed because of the situation or did depression create the situation? I could successfully argue both positions, I think, but for today, I’ll leave most of the blame with them.