Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 112

To Happiness

 by Carl Dennis
If you’re not approaching, I hope at least
You’re off to comfort someone who needs you more,
Not lost wandering aimlessly
Or drawn to the shelter of well-lit rooms
Where people assume you’ve arrived already.

If you’re coming this way, send me the details—
The name of the ship, the port it leaves from—
So I can be down on the dock to help you
Unload your valises, your trunks and boxes
And stow them in the big van I’ll have rented.

I’d like this to be no weekend stay
Where a single change of clothes is sufficient.
Bring clothes for all seasons, enough to fill a closet;
And instead of a single book for the bedside table
Bring boxes of all your favorites.

I’ll be eager to clear half my shelves to make room,
Eager to read any titles you recommend.
If we’ve many in common, feel free to suggest
They prove my disposition isn’t to blame
For your long absence, just some problems of attitude,

A few bad habits you’ll help me set to one side.
We can start at dinner, which you’re welcome
To cook for us while I sweep and straighten
And set the table. Then light the candles
You’ve brought from afar for the occasion.

Light them and fill the room I supposed I knew
With a glow that shows me I was mistaken.
Then help me decide if I’m still the person I was
Or someone else, someone who always believed in you
And imagined no good reasons for your delay.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Now this isn’t some kind of cry for help.  I’ve had this poem stashed away, waiting for a good Wednesday, and I had no other poems for today, so here you have it.  But it occurs to me that I’m not really after happiness.  I’m after joy.  
Happiness is fleeting and flighty.  One day you have her, the next you exchange words and she huffs out of the house, staying gone for far too long.  I’d rather have joy settle in and become part of the furniture.  Always there. 
To say I am after joy implies that she is not here.  Oh, she’s here.  In the busyness and stresses and messes of life I forget to be happy all too often, but underneath, holding us all up, there is joy.  There was joy when we celebrated Pascha with our Orthodox friends.  Yes, I thought, when we did that third? fourth? hundredth? endless singing of “Christ is risen from the dead, trampling down death by death…”  Yes.  This is joy.  Christ is risen and He is risen indeed.  Joy.
There is joy when the husband walks in after a long day.  Seeing his face come through the door wipes away my worries and frustrations, I forget why I was so irritated moments before.  Oh don’t worry, I will remember.  But underneath everything there is joy. Knowing we are traveling through life together brings deep joy and contentment.  
There is joy in my silly kiddos, in their antics.  I complain, but there is the always an undercurrent of joy.  What would I do without them?  Who would I be?  
Of course I will sweep and tidy for happiness, but I will furnish a room for joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Advertisements

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 111 (The story of our lives)

Prayer

Every day I want to speak with you. And every day something more important
calls for my attention—the drugstore, the beauty products, the luggage

I need to buy for the trip.
Even now I can hardly sit here

among the falling piles of paper and clothing, the garbage trucks outside
already screeching and banging.

The mystics say you are as close as my own breath.
Why do I flee from you?

My days and nights pour through me like complaints
and become a story I forgot to tell.

Help me. Even as I write these words I am planning
to rise from the chair as soon as I finish this sentence.

~~~~~~~~~
I don’t have much to add to this poem, except to say I must sign off and get ready for co-op.  
Truly the story of my life.
~~~~~~~~

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 110

Contentment
Fragile, provisional, it comes unbidden
as evening: the children on the block
called in to dinner that for tonight
is plentiful, as if it had cost nothing
either in money or worry about money.
Then evening deepens and the street
turns silent. There may be disasters
idling in driveways, and countless distresses
sharpening, but all that matters
most that must be done is done.
~~~~~~~~
“Mama?  What is covet and what is content?” asked the Mikey as we were driving one day.  We had been listening to a bible song CD, I had only been half listening, thinking about all we had to do that day. After my explanation, he leaned back, thought a while and asked, “But what if what I covet is at the resale?”
That elusive contentment.  We’ve been working on that in our house.  Being happy where we are right now.  I threw a fit yesterday.  A big, ugly tantrum.  Directed at the children, of course.  I work, and I clean, and I wash, then I clean some more, but do you care?  NOoooo, you don’t care!  You only care when I will give you the next thing, when I will buy you the next toy, how much candy you can get away with eating!  I clean up, you destroy!  You don’t care about your mama!  She’s just here to serve you! There may or may not have been some throwing of books, some pitching myself on the bed in hot angry tears.  There may have been some door slamming and just a little bit of stomping around.  
In my defense, although, does that kind of ugliness deserve a defense?, the last few days the children have been especially crazy.  Waking up grumpy, whining over each and every little thing, destroying all that is in their path.  It is as if I have given birth to a miniature horde of Vikings, intent on pillaging the entire house.  I tidy the living room, leave for two minutes, only to return and find chairs overturned, books spread from one wall to the next, blankets shoved in odd places, open markers staining the rug and floor, candy wrappers and sticky messes puddled on the couch cushions.  And the odd thing is, there is no one in the room.  Why?  Because, task complete, they have moved on to the next room!  The room I tidied immediately after the living room!  To the ships!  Steal the women, take the horses, burn what you cannot carry!  
In the past I have stated that laundry is my Sisyphean task, but maybe keeping chaos at bay could be rolled into that laundry boulder.  It’s not as if I expect total cleanliness at all times.  If you stopped in unexpectedly you would more than likely find a destroyed living room, natch, me wearing an apron and cooking something, and the children bouncing off the walls.  Literally.  Off of every single wall.  And sometimes the ceiling.   
It is just spring, I know.  They have renewed energy, I have a new schedule which makes me more tired and a little grumpy sometimes, the days are longer and warmer.  Soon enough we will find our rhythm again.  More often than not, the house is put back together by bedtime.  More often than not, we have snuggled and read, exchanged kisses and hugs, along with sweet endearments.  So today when I walk into the bathroom and find water running in the plugged up sink, toilet paper unrolled all over the floor, and the entire contents of a gel stain stick spilled and hiding under all of our clean washcloths, I will grit my teeth and say, I am content.  That’s right, content.
And with that, I am done whining.  Colorín, colorado, este cuento se ha terminado.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 106

Three Dog Night

In the old days, before houses were warm,
people did not sleep alone. Not even
widows went by themselves into

the cold sheets of night. Rooms were
lit with lanterns and children were
encouraged to jump on their beds,

warming themselves, before they
crawled inside. You might sleep with
your cousin or sister, your nose

buried in the summer of their
hair. You might place a baked potato
in your blanket to help it remember

warmth. A fire would be lit but, after
awhile, it would smolder down
to the bone silence of ash. Everything

was cold: the basin where you washed
your face, the wood floor, the windows
where you watched your breath

open over the framed blur of snow.
Your hands and feet were cold
and the trees were cold: naked,

traced in ice. You might take a dog
to bed or two or three, anything to lie
down with life, feel it breathing nearby.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~
So I’ve really been enjoying knitting.  You can find me at any free moment, needles in hand, making the newest project.  Right now I’m making a little shawl for the girls, pictured above.  The pattern I’m using is for a 2-4 year old, but I’m just making it bigger and longer and hoping it will work out.  Much like everything I do.  
One thing knitting is doing for me is helping me appreciate the work that went into being a woman many years ago, and for some even today.  For me, this little shawl is a leisurely project, something I do while I sit a the library while the boys are in their class.  I knit in the evenings while the husband and I sit on the couch watching a show.  Other than my impatience to get it done there is no sense of urgency to this knitting.  Nobody will be cold because I didn’t finish the project.  For mothers in years past knitting was done, maybe in the evening, but it was done by the light of a fire, after she was done mending, cooking, butchering hogs, churning butter, weaving, burying a child, nursing another one sick with the pox, etc., etc.  If you didn’t knit, there were no warm sweaters for winter, no warm socks.  
I can also understand, to a small degree, why children were beaten for ruining clothes.  If kids were lucky they had play clothes and church clothes.  What mother would not become just a little irate at the sight of a rip or stain in the nice church clothes she had just spent forty hours weaving/sewing/knitting?  I get crazy when I find a clean folded-up piece of laundry in the basket under a pee soaked pair of undies.  All I have to do is dump both in the washer.  I don’t have to haul out a washtub, heat the water and scrub with the precious soap we made from our own rendered lye.  Ridiculous the amount of work it took to just live.
Knitting is soothing as I’ve already told you, but it also puts things in perspective.  It helps me remember that many of my problems are only small irritations.  Sometimes I wonder if it really is easier living with so much convenience.  The ease of my life allows me to think too much and make small irritations into gigantic problems.  What is wrong with working hard day in and day out, falling exhausted into bed in the evening?  You might get that day of rest and worship on Sunday, but I can assure you, that rest was probably as much work as my busiest days are now.  When you are busy you don’t have time to think, only to do.  I know there are problems with that as well, but right now I think too much.  Right now I need to just do.  I need to knit while praying, knit while loving on my family, knit.  I need to understand that my work as a mother is important to my family, just as it was to families in the past.  Sure, my shawl isn’t the only thing covering my little girl’s backs, but my physical work takes care of their needs and their hearts.  My willingness to do the many little daily tasks to care for my family is a form of worship.  My faithfulness to their needs, even if it doesn’t involve shearing the sheep and making the wool for each sweater is as important now as it was then.  My work shows them love, even the less essential work of knitting.    
Work, Worship, Pray, Do.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
If you have a poem you would like to share, we would love to read it!  Just link on up.

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 105

So I spent the last four days working at my favorite Chicago flower shop for Valentine’s Day.  It was lovely.  Not lovely in an I’m in the movies and prance around whilst artfully placing sweet little flowers into vases which just happen to be resting on the latest designer desk and pausing between each blossom to step back and admire my work kind of way.  More in an I’m in the basement slamming flowers into vases placed on hollow doors which are placed on workhorses while WXRT blares in the background so I can hear it over the noise of the four cooler compressors which also happen to be in the basement with me.  I did that for three days, then spent the fourth upstairs, blinking like a day blind troll and slamming arrangements into the hands of impatiently waiting men who are sure that I am ripping them off.  Hey, buddy, I told you to get the tulips, you choose the dozen red roses, not my fault you buy into what the commercials are selling you.

Speaking of commercials, I listened to commercial radio for the first time since, well since last Valentine’s Day.  I really enjoy the music on XRT, but the commercials I do not enjoy.  Listening to all these commercials really opened my eyes and taught me about myself.  I realized that I have been going about this all wrong.  I haven’t maximized the potential that is The Most Romantic Day of the Year.

I realized that if I, and by extension the husband, was going to be truly happy, that I would need fleece leopard print pajamas with a hoodie,  Twilight Breaking Dawn on DVD, hand painted Fannie May Chocolates, and something, anything, from Meijer and Jewel-Osco.  So of course I told the husband.  I told him that if I was  going to be truly happy on The Most Romantic Night of the Year I would need ALL of this stuff.  And if I didn’t get all of this stuff, then I wouldn’t be happy, and then he wouldn’t be happy, in the Romantic sense, if you get my meaning.  In fact one of the commercials had told me to have him sleep on the couch all week if he didn’t come through with the Twilight DVD and a bottle of wine.

If I have learned one thing during our short time of married bliss, it is that the husband responds well to threats. So I threatened with no Romantic happiness and lots of couch time, then left him to decide how to proceed.  Proceed he did.  And in grand fashion.  I won’t go into lots of detail, lest all you ladies get jealous and threaten your husbands with loss of Romantic happiness and extended couch time, but lets just say it involved a home made heart, lots of watching the children while I worked, rearranging his schedule to make my life easier and no complaining that my days of work made his all ready busy schedule that much busier.  It involved packing up kids and taking them to and from his parents house, making sure the kids had some valentines to open from the both of us, rubbing my hands after a long day of work, listening to me blather on about whatever instead of sleeping, and making me tea in the morning.  It was perfect.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all of you.  I hope it was your version of perfect.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
I am posting a musical poem, that makes me smile every time I hear it.  It makes me think of the man who introduced me to Billy Bragg, and that man makes me smile.  (It’s the husband, in case you were wondering.)




(here’s a better video, my favorite, but it would not allow me to embed it – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Goxm0x4dTw)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 103

Crying
Galway Kinnell


Crying only a little bit
is no use.  You must cry
until your pillow is soaked!
Then you can get up and laugh.
Then you can jump in the shower
and splash-splash-splash!
Then you can throw open your window
and, “Ha ha! ha ha!”
And if people say, “Hey,
what’s going on up there?”
“Ha ha!” sing back, “Happiness
was hiding in the last tear!
I wept it!  Ha ha!”

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 101

Turtle Toward Bethlehem

Norma Farber

I’m slow as molasses
That’s me, that’s my nature.
From every last creature
Bethlehem -bound who passes,
I’m begging for a lift.
Lion sweeps by,
Lamb right beside him.
Camel comes loping. 
I holler.  I’m hoping
he’ll ask me to ride him.
Please get me to the manger on time!
I need to be there
while the baby’s still new.
Next summer won’t do.
He’s in the stable today.
Tomorrow who knows?
Amazing how fast
an infant grows.
Please get me to the stable on time!
Hello Ram, with horns in your bonnet.
How tempting your back!
I wish I was on it.
Please get me to the manger on time!
Galumphing Baboon.
Big Bull, Brown Beaver, Cinnamon Bear.
Not none with a second to spare —
not Cony, not Coon.
Who are these three?
They’re Kings!  They’re stopping. And stooping.  For me?

I’m getting to the manger on time!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
While waiting in the back of the church for girls in their Christmas Choir practice last night, the boys and I read When It Snowed That Night, a series of poems about the Christ child being born and all the imagined characters around him.  Cute, whimsical little poems, accompanied by cute, whimsical drawings.  It didn’t keep their attention much longer than the time it took me to read the poetry, but it was a sweet diversion from using the pews as a jungle gym as my antsy boys waited (im)patiently for their sisters to be done.  
This is the closest I’ll come to publicly admitting that I am struggling.  Struggling, dear ones.  While Mom and then my sister’s family were here, I could forget in all the busyness and traveling my inner thoughts.  While in Pennsylvania it was easy to become wrapped in the happiness of seeing long missed family.  But on my way home, it was just me, the kids and my thoughts.  I was feeling so weighed down with all the people I know, dear to me who are hurting.  I was wondering how to help them.  How do I lift them up?  How do I save the world?  I spent time thinking up new directions to go, new ways to help those around me, different ways to reach out and show love.  Through my love and my actions alone I would help them all!  Of course.
Something happened, though.  We came home and through a series of incidents, both large and small, most of them my own doing, I was forced to confront the fact that it isn’t me who can save the world.  It isn’t me who can make the people I love feel better.  It is, in fact, me who needs help. 
 It is me who needs saving.  
All I can do is fall to my knees and beg, “Lord have mercy on me.”  Not on that person there, not on the other person who seems to be worse off than us, not on my loved ones who need His grace.  
No, Lord have mercy on me.  Because what I can do for those around me is directly related to what God has done in me.  What I have allowed him to do in me.  His saving grace is the only thing I can focus on right now.  I can’t change the world.  I can’t even change myself.  
Right now it is hard.  I feel like that turtle.  I need to jump on some one’s back and have them take me to that manger.   Not because I am so excited and moving too slowly, but because I am moving too slowly and am lacking the strength to make it on my own.  So pray for me, for us, will you?  Lift me on your back in prayer, carry me along to the manger.   Lord have mercy.  

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 101

Turtle Toward Bethlehem

Norma Farber

I’m slow as molasses
That’s me, that’s my nature.
From every last creature
Bethlehem -bound who passes,
I’m begging for a lift.
Lion sweeps by,
Lamb right beside him.
Camel comes loping. 
I holler.  I’m hoping
he’ll ask me to ride him.
Please get me to the manger on time!
I need to be there
while the baby’s still new.
Next summer won’t do.
He’s in the stable today.
Tomorrow who knows?
Amazing how fast
an infant grows.
Please get me to the stable on time!
Hello Ram, with horns in your bonnet.
How tempting your back!
I wish I was on it.
Please get me to the manger on time!
Galumphing Baboon.
Big Bull, Brown Beaver, Cinnamon Bear.
Not none with a second to spare —
not Cony, not Coon.
Who are these three?
They’re Kings!  They’re stopping. And stooping.  For me?

I’m getting to the manger on time!
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
While waiting in the back of the church for girls in their Christmas Choir practice last night, the boys and I read When It Snowed That Night, a series of poems about the Christ child being born and all the imagined characters around him.  Cute, whimsical little poems, accompanied by cute, whimsical drawings.  It didn’t keep their attention much longer than the time it took me to read the poetry, but it was a sweet diversion from using the pews as a jungle gym as my antsy boys waited (im)patiently for their sisters to be done.  
This is the closest I’ll come to publicly admitting that I am struggling.  Struggling, dear ones.  While Mom and then my sister’s family were here, I could forget in all the busyness and traveling my inner thoughts.  While in Pennsylvania it was easy to become wrapped in the happiness of seeing long missed family.  But on my way home, it was just me, the kids and my thoughts.  I was feeling so weighed down with all the people I know, dear to me who are hurting.  I was wondering how to help them.  How do I lift them up?  How do I save the world?  I spent time thinking up new directions to go, new ways to help those around me, different ways to reach out and show love.  Through my love and my actions alone I would help them all!  Of course.
Something happened, though.  We came home and through a series of incidents, both large and small, most of them my own doing, I was forced to confront the fact that it isn’t me who can save the world.  It isn’t me who can make the people I love feel better.  It is, in fact, me who needs help. 
 It is me who needs saving.  
All I can do is fall to my knees and beg, “Lord have mercy on me.”  Not on that person there, not on the other person who seems to be worse off than us, not on my loved ones who need His grace.  
No, Lord have mercy on me.  Because what I can do for those around me is directly related to what God has done in me.  What I have allowed him to do in me.  His saving grace is the only thing I can focus on right now.  I can’t change the world.  I can’t even change myself.  
Right now it is hard.  I feel like that turtle.  I need to jump on some one’s back and have them take me to that manger.   Not because I am so excited and moving too slowly, but because I am moving too slowly and am lacking the strength to make it on my own.  So pray for me, for us, will you?  Lift me on your back in prayer, carry me along to the manger.   Lord have mercy.  

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 99

We rushed home a day early from Michigan because we were tired of being without him and wanted to see him.  His happy face as the kids greeted him at the door was well worth the surprise, even if he doesn’t like surprises.  I am happier with him, I am a better mother when we are together, more relaxed, nicer, more patient.  In two weeks the kids and I will be heading out again for a week without him.  While I am really looking forward to seeing my sister and her family, I’m not excited about a week without our Papi.  He is the Coke of our family.  Things go better with Papi.

What We Need is Here
Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes.  Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here.  And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear.  What we need is here







*NOTE: if you would like to see pictures of our time in Michigan and all the fun we had there, just pop on over to my Mom’s place and check us out!

Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 99

We rushed home a day early from Michigan because we were tired of being without him and wanted to see him.  His happy face as the kids greeted him at the door was well worth the surprise, even if he doesn’t like surprises.  I am happier with him, I am a better mother when we are together, more relaxed, nicer, more patient.  In two weeks the kids and I will be heading out again for a week without him.  While I am really looking forward to seeing my sister and her family, I’m not excited about a week without our Papi.  He is the Coke of our family.  Things go better with Papi.

What We Need is Here
Wendell Berry

Geese appear high over us,
pass, and the sky closes.  Abandon,
as in love or sleep, holds
them to their way, clear
in the ancient faith: what we need
is here.  And we pray, not
for new earth or heaven, but to be
quiet in heart, and in eye,
clear.  What we need is here







*NOTE: if you would like to see pictures of our time in Michigan and all the fun we had there, just pop on over to my Mom’s place and check us out!