Sunday, March 22, 2009

I Come From


[Sunday Scribblings prompted us to write "I come from..." and I took them literally.]

I come from a family that valued learning and hard work. We practiced both, being told that if we didn't do enough of the former, we'd surely have plenty of the latter.

I come from the Midwest, and I like to think I absorbed a kind of practicality from there. I get my "horse sense" from my mom's side of the family.

I come from a long line of stubborn women.

I come from a long line of family comedians, where at family dinners we said, "the first liar doesn’t have a chance." One wisecrack was just an invitation for someone else to top it.

I come from savers. My parents lived through the Great Depression and a waste-not want-not sensibility was expected of us all.

Urban Perspicacity


[In the current project at Cafe Writing is a prompt to consider the following quote,
Weather means more when you have a garden. There's nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.
then use it as inspiration to write a poem about weather meaning more. This isn't what I set out to write, but some days I don't get to choose.]

Urban Perspicacity

I live with selfish city-dwellers,
who dream a stream of endless sunny days,
each rainless golden day melting into the next.

I hear the plants whimper with thirst,
and steel myself against their desperation.

I commute to work with urbanites,
who wish away winter and the cold and snow,
and delight in January thaws.

I crave the soft, white, insulating blanket back,
to tuck in around the tender feet of my shrubs.

I work with blinkered pedestrians,
who delight in suddenly unseasonably warm days,
amidst the slow crawl from winter to spring.

I pray the tree buds stay locked tight
against the cold days still to come.

I toil in air-conditioned isolation,
with those who dread umbrellas cluttering the hall,
and wet floors and spots on the newly-washed car.

I smile at the relief of parched plants,
and my mouth waters in anticipation.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Beginner


[I was browsing my regular haunts (see the right column for my current list) and on Mad Kane's Humor Blog I found a link to info on a robot violinist. My muse was waiting at my shoulder and I thought about some beginner days of my own. I have long since given up on the instrument, but my family still remembers, I'm sure...]

The instrument took quite some wrangling.
I blew it and set nerves a-jangling.
The oboe was shrill.
My big brother stopped still,
And he asked was I playing or strangling?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Clerihew Take 2


[This week Totally Optional Prompts encouraged us to rewrite. I looked for something I could stand to look at again and my heart wasn't in it.

Last spring I took a challenge to try my hand at the clerihew. I posted a couple then and decided that for my "rewrite" I would write another. It's late, but I did come up with one. I should try more of these when I'm awake.]

Jay Leno (host),
seen coast to coast,
competed with sleep and yawns (ours)
so will soon be on earlier by hours.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Three Women


[This week Read Write Poem encouraged us to write about eating, cooking, dreaming about eating, and more.
keep a running list of what you eat, what you cook, what you dream about eating, what you refuse to cook, what you wish someone would cook for you. Then, come back next week and tantalize our taste buds.
This has been spinning around the back of my mind this week. If some of the references have you a bit lost, look for information on the Jewish holiday, Purim.]

Three Women

Folding circles of dough into triangular cookies
I think of Esther, Queen Esther in long-ago Persia,
and I think of Ethel, my grandmother,
whose Hebrew name was Esther. I didn't know
either woman, I just heard stories.

As I fold soft dough over apricots
or almonds I think about the apron I used
as a child, the one my dad said belonged
to my grandmother. Now it is folded
in my closet, and I think it was not much used
by her, no old stains or repairs. It must
have been one of many, or folded away
to keep it nice.

I don't have her recipe for hamantaschen,
though she must have made them. She did,
after all, run a kosher household in Crown Heights.
I gather scraps of information like scraps of
dough, hoping to press together enough pieces
to make a whole. Surely she folded
and pressed edges over prune or poppy seed filling,
and surely she thought about Queen Esther.

I doubt Queen Esther made cookies,
but doubtless she ate ones filled with
apricots or almonds, like the tender, golden
triangles I take from the cooling rack, and pack
between folded layers of wax paper.

Monday, March 09, 2009

A Taste of Grapefruit


[Don't forget to go see the other folks who have posted at the Monday Poetry Train Revisited. Some cool stuff there each week.]

A Taste of Grapefruit

The sweet-tart taste of red grapefruit
can't conjure sunny southern orchards
for me.
The sticky juice on my lips
doesn't recall its warm Texas tree.

No, the soft spray as I bite
takes me to Quebec City's winter carnival
with the city socked in with a blizzard,
and my delight at finally being able
to order part of my breakfast in French.
Demi pamplemousse, s'il vous plait.

Friday, March 06, 2009



We had a lot of trees in our yard when I was a girl. Daddy believed we should have a large variety so that if a disease infected one type we would still have shade. He and Mom started from scratch. The lot had been a field before they built the house, but I only know that from pictures.

I remember the locust tree out front. It had tiny little leaves grouped together in fronds. It was not a honey-locust or a black locust, but I don't know exactly what variety it was. I do remember that the cicadas liked the bark of that tree. They would anchor tight and then shed their old shells, flying away and leaving behind fragile empty cases. We would gingerly pull them off the tree and anchor the ghosts onto our sweaters. All the neighborhood boys loved it, but very few of the girls. Most shied away and some even shrieked.

Next to the locust was a clump of paper birch. The white bark was always shaggy and oh so tempting to pull. The branches hung down like a beaded curtain. My favorite memory of the birch is when a flock of goldfinches converged on the trees, feasting on the seeds and creating a flickering riot of golden yellow.

On the west side of the house were two gum trees. I didn't know if there were any other gum trees in town. I had never heard of gum trees. When I became a Girl Scout I learned the song about the Kookaburra bird from Australia, "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree..." I was delighted to discover that maybe gum trees weren't so unusual after all. They were a pretty tree, but I must say I didn't like them much. That was because of the seed balls that were prickly. Once the birds had their way, what was left was a stickery round skeleton that hurt to step on. That was only one of the reasons Mom didn't let us go barefoot in the yard.

There was a red maple on the west side of the house too. I loved the burgundy color of its leaves, standing out from all the other trees.

In one corner of the yard was a dwarf sour cherry tree. It was originally in another location but was moved when my parents added an in-ground pool. The sour cherry tree didn't seem to mind. It was quite prolific, giving us gallons and gallons of cherries, even after the birds got some. Daddy tried all kinds of things to keep the birds from eating the bulk of the crop. I think what he finally settled on most years was lengths of cheesecloth draped over large sections, and several aluminum pie pans spinning and dangling from branches to scare away the critters. Even though it was a dwarf tree, we still needed a ladder to pick most of the cherries. A fair number went directly into our mouths, but there were still plenty left to cook with, as long as we helped to pit them. Mom would give us each an old, large, worn-out shirt to wear as a smock and we would sit on the back porch with the buckets and bowls lined up on the picnic table. Mom didn't make pies, but Daddy made jam. Yum! And some would be saved for later by freezing them in square plastic boxes.

In the back of the house, next to the dog run, was a tulip poplar tree. Its leaves were such a pretty shape, but the flowers were a bit showy for me. And the bits that remained from the flowers included a kind of spiky bit that was another thing to avoid with bare feet. The shade from that tree was terrific and I know the dogs we had loved to lie in its shade when the temperature soared in the summer.

At the north-east corner of the house was a pinoak. Mom kept cutting off the lower limbs to keep the view clear. I remember how straight its trunk was.

To the east of the pool was another cherry tree, though I don't remember getting more than two or three cherries off of it. I don't know what variety of cherry it was supposed to be, but I always called it a "weeping cherry tree" because its branches drooped. It was never really happy in our yard, but my parents seemed to want to give it more time.

In the north-east corner of the yard were three pine trees. I remember when they were planted, in a triangle in the corner of the yard. They were slightly different sizes so I thought of them as papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear trees. They grew quickly. Before long, they were big enough to hide in. My brother and I took bricks left from the house remodel and used them as pavers to create a floor in the space between the trees. It was a great area, like an out-door playhouse. I can still smell the pine.

In the south-east corner of the yard was an apple tree. Daddy bought it because it was a Jonathan Apple tree, but when it finally got big enough to have fruit we discovered that it wasn't a Jonathan after all. I don't know what he decided it was. He didn't like to the spray the trees and the apples always ended up buggy. More landed on the ground to rot or go into the compost pile than made it into the kitchen.

In front of our carport and shed was a copper beech tree. Mom loved seeing the giant beech trees when we vacationed in Massachusetts and decided they should plant one. Beech trees grow so slowly that it always seemed like a small tree to me. For years it was small enough for me to put my hands around. I think that by the time I was in college it was finally big enough my hands could not span the trunk. I would like to think that beech tree will be there for decades to come, but I can only hope it is still there.

Between the shed and the house was a sycamore tree. The bark on this tree seem to flake off, but that's what it is supposed to do. The seed balls were the same size as the gum tree's balls, but the sycamore ones were not stickery and didn't hurt. I now know that sycamores like to have "damp feet" and there are some gorgeous specimens along the Charles River near Harvard in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This was another tree that no one else in my hometown seemed to have. When I was little the only other place I'd heard of one was in the Presbyterian church. They taught us a song about Zaccheus sitting in a sycamore tree (the savior for to see), and something about "come down" from the tree.

There were other trees in my childhood, but these are the trees of my yard. I hope you enjoyed the tour. Maybe another day I'll tell you about the other trees, the ones in Gramma's yard, or in the park next door, or the other handful of special ones around my childhood town.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009



[Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect gave us the following challenge for the Monday Poetry Stretch this week:
write a personal ad about your favorite animal or historical figure
So here's what I came up with. Check out the links afterward if you can't figure it out (or if you just want to see some cool pics!]


looking, i am,
for just the right guy,
with colors like mine,
and who really can fly.

i hang by the lake
but would move to the marsh
if the right guy would ask
and be mellow, not harsh.

i surf on the breeze
and i'll give you a clue
how to find me up there:
i'm a shocking-bright blue.

a stick for a figure,
i'm perfect, you know
but i'm missing a mate.
life is too short, you know.

so find me and show off,
i like a good dance,
you know that you're lonely
now come take a chance!

picture 1
picture 2
picture 3

Monday, March 02, 2009



[This was sparked from the Weekend Wordsmith prompt "ripped." Once I started thinking of all the ways that word might be used, I couldn't stop.]

Ripped from the Headlines

He is ripped, and goes shirtless
to show off his six-pack and
shoulders, and the powerful arms that he slowly
grew with dedication and weights.

His jeans are ripped at the knees
and stained with oil and paint,
manly stains that prove he doesn't
care about his appearance.

He grits his teeth as he rips
the adhesive bandage off his shin,
tearing out leg hairs by the roots,
and pretending the sting
in his eyes is from
grit blown in by the wind.

He tosses the bandage in the trash,
on top of the ripped shirt,
ruined beyond repair, and tainted
with the memory

when they ripped off his store
while he flexed his muscles
and stared down the barrel
of guns held by skinny-armed cowards.

For the Monday Poetry Train


[If you haven't stopped by the Monday Poetry Train (Revisited) yet, please do so and check out the links to some cool work.]

The Internet Doesn't Know Everything

I googled the name
on the trophy in my closet,
presented to me at my
high school graduation
to acknowledge my achievements
in fine arts,
and in memory of
a young woman
gifted in the arts,
who died in a fire at college.

I'm sure her family remembers
and I remember
but the Internet, at least for now,
doesn't know her name.