Without Light ~ A Tanka Sequence

My very first tanka sequence was published in RIBBONS: Journal of the American Tanka Society, Winter 2016: Volume 12, Number 1. My thanks to editor, David Rice, for suggesting to me that these three tanka would work best in a sequence.

 

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Haiku…in Brass Bell

Another joy and honor this week–my first time having haiku appear in Brass Bell, a publication that is edited by the incomparable Zee Zehava. This issue was done with International Women’s Day (on March 8) in mind. In the editor’s own words:

 

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I urge you to visit Brass Bell (also here on WordPress) and subscribe to it. Be sure to read the back issues for some excellent poetry.

My three haiku in this issue are below:

 

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If you have a favorite, please do let me know. I’m always curious what readers think or respond to.

 

CallaGold

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Attic is Full

AUDIO COMES TO MY BLOG!

It’s time to try something new on my blog now that I’ve reached the one year anniversary. I’m adding an audio version of this poem, “My Attic is Full.”

 

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This week’s poem was written in 2011 for a friend I worked/taught with, Jean Sotelo Coene. Somehow we got to talking about cleaning attics and about all the treasures hidden up there and how hard it was to part with things. Jean mentioned her grandmother’s handbag and all the stories it held and that was it…a tiny seed of a poem was planted. I don’t know how those things come to be while others never take hold. I wrote the poem and gave it to Jean as a little present. I love to gift poems to just one person. For that reason, no one has read the poem except for each of us.

Today I was going through some lovely photos from a trip to Cornwall in 2013. [See Bedford Square +2, my travel blog for the whole story of that visit if interested.] We had visited a small manor house, Lanhydrock. [http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/lanhydrock/] Part of our wanderings allowed access to the attic. Of course it was beautifully staged as were all the rooms in the house, but seeing these pictures this morning was too hard to resist. I worked on the poem today, changing words here and there, adding in a whole stanza and then deleting it. In the end, I liked the first version best. Only a few words are different from the one I handed to Jean.

This poem is dedicated to the memories of all grandmothers who gave us so many wonderful stories to listen to, to dream about, and to share.

To hear the audio, simply click below. I am not much of a professional reader so please bear with me.

 

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My Attic is Full

The attic needs cleaning. It seems so simple,
but it isn’t easy to throw old things away.
There is always the worry we might forget
those we loved, the ones crossed over.

Old boxes hold memories and clothing.
Do you hear the stories held in the silence?
A flowery print dress of soft lawn cotton
holds the story of when it was freshly laundered
and worn in the days of the mid-summer sun.

An old leather purse might tell you where
she went and what she wore.
Inside, a handkerchief delicately edged
in tatted lace is tucked away.

How often she must have clutched it
in her hand to wipe away tears or sneezes,
stifle laughter or mop her brow.
Even now the linen is redolent of old
damask roses from the flower garden.

Beyond the piled boxes of her belongings
are clothes from her husband so long mourned.
She kept them up here all those years,
the only way to keep him near.

Don’t you wonder how often she came up
into this dark attic, pulled the light string,
unfolded a crisp white shirt
and held it to her nose, eyes tightly closed
longing for the scent
that had faded from his pillow?

Lovely tatted edging-22maids-of-honor22-by-mary-konior.jpg

Lovely tatted edging-22maids-of-honor22-by-mary-konior.jpg

Two Tanka slip into Ribbons

I’ve had the good fortune of having two tanka published in RIBBONS, the journal of the Tanka Society of America: Ribbons–Spring/Summer–2015, Volume 11, Number 2.

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lost in the pages

of a book my mother loved–

a sly narrator

speaks volumes of truth

while skirting the end

 

Tanka Cafe, Ribbons–Spring/Summer, Volume 11, Number 2, 2015

 

what I thought was a bird

flew past

casting no shadow–

I wonder

if you are near

 

Ribbons–Spring/Summer, Volume 11, Number 2, 2015

 

It is always a thrill for any poet to open up a journal and find her/his  own poem nestled in among those of gifted writers. The truly excellent online journals of poetry in both tanka and haiku are really schools of learning for me. I go there to read, to fall in love with poems, and to learn from the very best writers. There is no better way to learn. Read, read, write. So, on the rare occasion, one of my poems makes it into those pages (paper or virtual), my heart is filled with joy.

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June Haiku 2

weathered wood—

memories of youth

drifting away

 

 

Old Boat ~ Photograph by Mike Keville, (c) 2015

Old Boat ~ Photograph by Mike Keville, (c) 2015

The theme of old, worn wood (see June Haiku 1) continues in this poem. Amazing how beautiful things retain their magic despite age.

My thanks to photographer, Mike Keville, for allowing me to use his gorgeous boat photograph for this haiku. The textures and colours of this photo inspire many poems.

Once

Old home in Eland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Once

The door is ajar, waiting for someone to come in,
But no one comes now except for you, you who
Climbed through overgrown grasses circling the house.

Wanderers like you come sometimes, looking for things
They once knew, remembering those they have lost, and
Places that they once loved, places they called home

Once this was home. Families lived here, died here.
Brides moved in and babies came, some were lost,
But most grew into fine young folk. Wars came, and

With them a generation of men might disappear. Yes,
Sickness came but so did love. Life was full then. Every
Home is made of lumber and nails, people and dreams.

Once the fire would have been lit on short winter days,
Keeping us warm, the heat drying wet wool mittens and
Mended socks. Flames burning so hot that our cheeks

Grew red while ice-cold winds knocked on the walls.
Flames burned down to chalky ashes during the night,
While we slept two to a bed and sometimes three.

Father was up early to stir the embers, add hickory logs,
Small broken branches and sticks the children gathered.
From this, he coaxed new flames to burn again all day.

You stand here now today, a cold Saturday in March,
Camera in hand, waiting to capture something, but
What that is you don’t know. Not much is left to share.

Once there were so many stories about the families—
Brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles and aunts. Their
Stories are gone for good but once they were here.

Without warning, memories of your own childhood
Rush into these walls, so real you can almost feel them,
They come so fast—an unasked for surprise.

If you listen hard enough, you hear children laughing
At the three young pups who are worrying the chickens,
And momma running out to chase them with her broom.

But it’s the inside of the house that pulls you back.
Looking up at broken rafters, you study the timbers:
Was it was fire or ice that brought down the roof?

Look hard and you might see momma sitting there near
The fire, the flames giving her light to do her mending.
Here she would sit and work. Sometimes she sang,

Her voice a clear soprano, ours a mix of everything else.
Daddy might take down pawpaw’s fiddle, and begin
Tuning it slowly string-by-string, note-by-note.

If you were the lucky one that day, he might ask you
To rosin the bow for him. Those were the good days
When they’d play our favorite songs or hymns.

But the best part was always the last, when they played
Old timey tunes, foot tapping music we loved.
We’d start dancing together, our shoes pounding hard

Like wild thunder on the old wooden floorboards.
It would echo so loud, we’d dance even faster
And then, exhausted, we finally had to stop.

A small redbird perches up on the open eaves,
Straw in its beak. It is nesting here in the house.
Can you hear its mate singing an ode to early spring?

If you listen to the silence, you might hear the whispers.
Or maybe it’s nothing, lost memories, old stories and
Wind blowing through the open roof, the broken floor.

~ ~ ~

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Photographs by Gary Brichford © 2015

Note of Thanks to Gary Brichford, I am honored that you’ve allowed me to use your beautiful photographs of this old house that still stands in Efland, North Carolina. Your pictures make the past so real. Many thanks, my friend.

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

Old Home in Efland, North Carolina, photograph by Gary Brichford (c) 2015

 

 

cardinal nesting

Remembering Winter Wash Days

Laundry Day  by Andrew Wyeth

Laundry Day
by Andrew Wyeth

How many of you readers remember the scent of clothes and sheets dried outside in summer? That fragrance is something you never forget. All the fabric softeners in the world can’t duplicate it. In our busy world clothes dryers are something we all use. I can’t imagine hanging clothes out to dry at my stage of life. However, while we are living in London, our flat has a nice washer/dryer combination unit. British machines are very difference from American ones. This one is smaller and takes much, much longer to run a cycle. The dryer often leaves clothes slightly damp. Luckily the flat is well equipped and we have two small folding laundry hangers where I can hang things out to finish drying. I don’t mind doing this at all. It reminds me of my childhood when we always hung laundry outside out of necessity. Even in cold, cold weather.

The following poem was written a few years back for a prompt on PoetsOnline (see http://www.poetsonline.org) about laundry. While several poets chose the metaphorical allusions of hanging one’s laundry out or dirty laundry, the prompt evoked in me a sharp image of having to scramble to pull half-frozen clothing off the line before the snow came.

laundry in winter

ON WINTER WASH DAYS

On winter wash days, those on the cusp
of warmth, we hung out the clothes
with numb fingers, feeling the curtain
of clouds closing in.

Those were the days when the sun
often hid, and the cold never left at all.

Fabric froze hard, and dresses
and shirts grew solid and stiff.
Rows of sheets, towels and clothes
waved wildly, like pages of a book
flapping in the wind.

In late afternoon, we took it all down,
clothespins snapping shut as each piece
was pulled, placed in the wicker
basket and taken inside.

The darkness closed in early
those mid-winter days, the
evening star sometimes rising
before the icy moon.

(c) 2009, Mary Kendall

wicker laundry basket