Musings from My Younger Self: In a Grown Man’s Suit

Photo by ShonEjai on Pixabay

Sometimes, I look at my early poetry and wonder where in the world it came from. I led a rather sheltered life. I wasn’t on lockdown, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to run wild and free. Everyone had a telephone, so my parents knew where I was at all times. My subject matter came not only from what I experienced but for the most part from things I observed or heard–directly or indirectly.

I wrote the poem below shortly after I turned 16–or made 16, as we say in New Orleans.

All these little boys walking around
trying to be grown men.

Smoking grass,
shooting dice,
dropping out of school,
making love, unloving
makes a man.

Employed
by their egocentrism,
they are first
in the unemployment line.

Gambling in the streets
with ill-gotten money.

They are “kool,”
but their tempers are hott!

They have no goal in life,
not an aim
or a dream.

They only want to live
well enough to get by.

They know nothing of
struggling up
a ladder of success.

Success to them is survival.

Sure, I was aware of guys who hung out all day and didn’t go to work or school, but these guys didn’t have girlfriends, “lovers,” or “hott” tempers [that I knew of]. I didn’t know them to shoot dice or smoke marijuana, so I’m not sure where this poem came from–perhaps from the books I read. I was very much into Richard Wright, Ralph Ellison, and James Baldwin during my teen years, but I don’t think this came from them.

Now that I think about it. . .maybe the influence was Gwendolyn Brooks’s “We Real Cool.”

My friend, Cy, “wishes [she] knew more of what [I] was thinking when I wrote this because it is not such a positive picture.”

wish I could go back and tell my younger self to take notes on the poems I write, so decades later I wouldn’t have to respond, “I wish I knew too!”

Mini Lesson in Creative Photography

During my hour-long escape from my office last week, I ran into Amanda, a photographer friend who does amazing work. Naturally, we started talking about photography. She exclaimed she needed motivation and inspiration. I remarked that I wanted to do “creative photography.” In that instant she gave me a one-minute lesson on adjusting my position and camera settings and using the sun to “light” an object. After a few failed attempts with my iPhone, I nailed it with my Canon. The DSLR for the win!

After “containing” the sun, I shot again to leave space for words.

After Mary Oliver’s “The Uses of Sorrow”. . .

and a bit of post-processing. . .

Voila! A few looks I like…

and of course, the last one…because it’s purple.

Amanda’s own sun-fired dandelion is amazing (linked).  If you have a moment, click over and check out her IG feed. Lots of beauty for your soul.


Today marks the beginning of NaBloPoMo. I haven’t quite committed to writing blog posts every day this November because I have other pressing writing goals. However, since I was anticipating using this month’s posts to get caught up on pretty mail [and such], I have already drafted at least 10 of them. I figure I can manage posting daily if I can find a few minutes each day–outside of my designated “serious” writing time and away from the general madness of the end of the semester.

We’ll see. Tomorrow [and the next 28 tomorrows] will tell. 😉

Musings from My Younger Self: Somewhere Along the Way

I intended to share a different “musing from my younger self” today, but cannot remember where I placed the sassy poem. As I was looking through one of my poetry notebooks, I happened across the short poem below. It was hastily written on a sheet of paper from a yellow legal pad and was dedicated to one of my high school best friends and her sweetheart. They were inseparable and shocked all who knew them when they ended their relationship.

You ask of me what you cannot give,
and I do not understand.
I walked with you.
I held your hand.
You became a part of me,
and now,
it’s over–
not because I stopped loving you
or because you stopped loving me
but because somewhere along the way
you forgot who I am. 

I do not recall the details of the breakup, but the line that ends the poem is telling. I’m sure my friend and I talked about the whys and hows of the relationship’s ending, and the point of his “forgetting” must have compelled me to write the short poem.

I wrote this when we were teenagers. I am slightly awed by our youthful understanding of the complexities of love. What really strikes me is that my friend–as young as she was at the time–realized the soul-damaging potential of remaining in a relationship with even a man she loved when he no longer valued her.

Light and Miracles

My friend Kemi gave me a handout on navigating grief written by Chrystal Evans Hurst. One of the tips is to “keep going;” another is “get to work,” to keep doing life. Although it seems easier to curl into a ball and hide under the covers till the worst of the grief passes, the reality is the longer I stay down, the more difficult it will be for me to get up. Besides, too much life requires my actual presence. In an effort to “keep doing,” I’m at work seeing students and working on a report that’s due in less than a week.

In that same effort, I’m blogging today because “Microblog Mondays” are part of my normal, and writing and blogging provide healing and escape, when necessary.

As part of our “Brothers’ and Sisters’ Tribute” at my sister’s “Celebration of Life” service, I read an excerpt from e.e. cummings’ poem, ‘i carry your heart with me’ and a brief “statement” about Lori’s gift. Many people asked for a copy, so I decided to share here so that they–and any others–can read it whenever they wish to do so.


Photo by Soorelis

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;

[…]

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart) –e.e. cummings

After I told Ramona, one of my colleagues, about Lori’s being moved to hospice and my utter despair that her situation had so progressed, she suggested that I focus on the gift Lori gave. That instead of focusing on the possibility of her end, I hone in on the gift she gave me.

This was apropos because Lori loved giving gifts. She was particularly tickled by finding unique sister gifts. But, of course, I was to look for Lori’s intangible gift to me and to the world. As I contemplated Lori’s gift, I came face to face with it during our last visit with her, mere days before she expired. Lori’s cancer had metastasized and covered 90% of her brain, but there was so much light emanating from her that it gave me pause.

Throughout her entire ordeal, Lori kept her mind stayed on Christ. There were times when I’d check in on her and she’d tell me she’d just had a high time in praise and worship.

She was so filled with the light of Christ that I firmly believe that though we didn’t get the miracle we prayed for, we received a miracle of light. It was no less than divine intervention that allowed her to have such peace throughout her trial, no less than a miracle that she clung so fiercely to Christ, no less than a miracle that she trusted His Sovereignty above all else. No less than a miracle that with only 10% of her brain spared this dreaded disease she recognized us, acknowledged our presence, and responded with the little physical strength she had. No less than a miracle that as the life was waning from her body, she still reflected light. She still reflected Christ.

Lori’s gift was her light. She taught us how to walk in light through impenetrable darkness.

Raindrops and Perfection

He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. –Matthew 5:45 MSG

It seems appropriate to talk about rain today–this 13th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina–but I have no desire to revisit that horror today. The photo above features my favorite line from R.H. Peat’s poem “Perfection.” When I “encountered” it on the blog Sightseeing at Home a few months ago, I decided to create a series of photos using lines from the poem.

Every oak will lose a leaf to the wind.
Every star-thistle has a thorn.
Every flower has a blemish.
Every wave washes back upon itself.
Every ocean embraces a storm.
Every raindrop falls with precision.
Every slithering snail leaves its silver trail.
Every butterfly flies until its wings are torn.
Every tree-frog is obligated to sing.
Every sound has an echo in the canyon.
Every pine drops its needles to the forest floor.
Creation’s whispered breath at dusk comes
with a frost and leaves within dawn’s faint mist,
for all of existence remains perfect, adorned,
with a dead sparrow on the ground. –“Perfection” by R.H. Peat

The photo above is the first in the series. I even photographed a dead sparrow I happened across one afternoon. There was nothing poetic about that image, so we can probably forget about adding the last line to the series–unless I approach it less literally.

The incongruity between the poetic lines and the actual image of the sparrow reminds me of our tendency to use language to “pretty up” some really “jacked up” aspects of life. I’m learning that such language doesn’t minimize the ugliness and does little, if anything, to help. In some instances, what appears to be encouragement or inspiration is actually damaging. There’s nothing glamorous about struggle. Nothing to celebrate in being strong enough to withstand the blows. People who struggle with mental and/or physical illnesses don’t need platitudes. They need help. They need support. They need love. It is easier to come to grips with life when we realize, no matter how hellish, life is just that. . .life.

Isn’t that the point of Peat’s poem? Life with all its “stuff” happens to us all–whether we’re good, bad, nice, nasty, or somewhere in between. That is part of our messy, perfect existence in this world.

#ThursdayTreeLove | Chase the Light

Chase the light,
whatever
and wherever
it may be
for you.
Chase it.

Tyler Knott Gregson, Typewriter Series #586


Since I must “consider the trees” regularly to preserve my sanity, I am joining Parul Thakur every second and fourth Thursday for #ThursdayTreeLove. When I’m too exhausted for words, the trees speak for themselves.

About the Image: “Look to the Light,” New Orleans (my parents’ backyard), iPhone Photo

“Sunning” with Poetry

“Das Sonnebad. Sun-Bath. Bain de soleil.” Artwork by Anne Freidank, artist turned gardener and fundraiser.

“Sunflower” by Frank Steele

You’re expected to see
only the top, where sky
scrambles bloom, and not
the spindly leg, hairy, fending off
tall, green darkness beneath.
Like every flower, she has a little
theory, and what she thinks
is up.  I imagine the long
climb out of the dark
beyond morning glories, day lilies, four o’clocks
up there to the dream she keeps
lifting, where it’s noon all day.
——————————————————————————————————–
Note about the postcard: The Anne Freidank postcard above graced my mailbox yesterday.  It was sent as a “random act of kindness” by swap-bot Geraldine aka Nannydino who lives in Canada. How thoughtful of her to think of me. How cool that the mail gods had the postcard arrive during “Sunflower Week.”