Image on Wednesday

main red

Imagine the Past as a body
perhaps male
dressed sharp in black tux
arms open – stance solid
ready for the dance

Imagine the Present as a body
perhaps female
dressed elegant in red silk
arms open – face smiling
ready for the dance

Imagine the Poem as music
a slow rhythm
a four count – with husky undertones
of the ancient Mississippi blues
playing as they dance

Imagine the Past   Present   Poem
as the dance of life
sashaying by
drifting in time
toward the future

formal dance3

The Only Us That Endures

sophisticate-richard-young

Only in the backwoods of Carolina
in the Year of Our Lord, 1982
would the marriage of a 23 year old man
and a 15 year old girl
make sense. And
Without a pregnancy, to boot!
No need for a shotgun

wedding
except we loved before we knew
what love cost,
the price exacted
as that first great flame of crush
burns low, embers left
dying.

You were my person of first things:
First trip to the mall
First dinner in a steakhouse
First trip to a movie theater
to watch romance
complete
its union through Richard
and Debra in An Officer and A Gentleman.

All with you. Before then
I walked through gardens, picked peaches.
Motorcycle gangs and Jack Daniels drinking —
straight from the bottle — rape violence poverty
the three demons of daily existence.

I believed
You could save me
but it would take years to understand
the depth of that damage,
more years to know no one
could save me from myself.
I hated me years before you
with that cold-sterile hatred.

My promise of kindness
like that day I gave you
a shoulder rub, like
our first Christmas shopping
the mall in Charlotte, the night
I sat in the new pink nightgown
beside the Christmas tree and you
said I was beautiful. Then

I wished I could use your eyes
not those dirty broken lenses I owned.
And I wish the children knew now
How much we loved back then —
air to lungs, pulse through blood —
before they became the only us that endures.

Photo Credit: Sophisticate by Richard Young

Too Poor for Water

bear-feet-robin-lee-vieira

We were always
needing, asking
for something we didn’t have.
Living on the kindness
from strangers —
the church folks
with the a dutiful goal
of giving to those
without.
Wood stove for heat
Water from milk jugs
filled across town.
Too poor for water —
Looking with wonder
at houses where
the normal people
lived —
our outhouse symbolic
one terrace down —
wondering what it
felt like
to wear the normal life
and live in a common town.

Photo Credit: Bear Feet by Robin Lee Vieira

A Poem for B

the-celestial-consonance-dorina-costras

When I tell you that I will write

A poem for you. I am really saying

That you intrigue me and merit the attention,

The effort, and the focus required to write a poem

About you that examines your ingenuity

And your charm and the way you move like

Japanese steel wrapped in silk – a poem about you

Is also about the connection between minds, how

A person unknown becomes known. When two

People shake hands, when their eyes meet, in that

Millisecond, a choice is made: friend or foe or both?

Then comes the second choice: it is one of distance

That a poem about you would consider…how near

Does one step? Lean in and toward or pull away?

The moth would understand. Certain men like poems

Like sex fill the crevices of a soul in search of fire.

Beg entry into the core of our being. A poem

About you is a poem about sensuality, intensity, strength

And all those wonderful qualities that build a man

Into something a bit more, a little better, so rare and

Necessary that it makes women write poems about him.~

Photo Credit: The Celestial Consonance By Dorina Costras

Richard Blanco: Writing the Past in the Present

Blanco2

I’ve been writing this since
the summer my grandfather

taught me how to hold a blade
of grass between my thumbs
and make it whistle, since
I first learned to make green
from blue and yellow, turned
paper into snowflakes, believed
a seashell echoed the sea,
and the sea had no end.

~from the poem, Since Unfinished by Richard Blanco, in his book, Looking For The Gulf Motel.

Richard Blanco: Looking for The Gulf Motel

Richard Blanco is one of my favorite poets. He has the unique ability to transport readers into the vivid world of his life with simple and effective language. There are no high-brow obscurities or cloudy word association-meaning questions. Rather, Blanco is a poet who paints bright portraits of people and places, a narrator who brings voices with their individual nuances and personalities to life on the page. His poems are memoir vignettes that trigger deep emotions and lasting impressions for the reader.

I first heard Richard Blanco read poetry, like many other Americans, when he read the Blanco3poem, “One Today,” at President Obama’s second Inauguration in 2013. The voice of the poet combined with the simple truth of the poem was entrancing. His reading was a beautiful tribute to the President and the country.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper —
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives —
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem. /…/…

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always–home./…/

“One Today” is standard Blanco, mixing the personal life experiences, the normal and mundane moments that give our days meaning, with the larger aspect of culture and country — the “we” of the now-famous poem a unifying cry.

The second time I heard Richard Blanco read his work was in May of 2014. It was a privilege to hear him in person while attending The Writer’s Institute program at Miami-Dade College in Miami, Florida. He read the title poem from his book, Looking For The Gulf Motel. Again, a unique voice mixing past and present, one and all, in a poem that reaches out to pull the listener into the magic that is Richard Blanco’s world.

A striking aspect of his world in Looking for The Gulf Motel  is its complex duality: Tupperware, cats, and Blow Pops sit opposite being queer in the poem, “Queer Theory: According to My Grandmother.” Then, in the poem, “Venus in Miami Beach,” the eternal ocean opposes the human frailty of aging:

Once, as gorgeous as her name– Geysa
once a girl chasing fireflies who hadn’t lost
her home and country, sisters and husband,
once a mother who watched me as I watch
her now, afraid of her alone with the sea.

Blanco’s Gulf Motel world, as with his other work, is one of diversity and mixture: cultures, Blanco_press_63locations, and experiences are all participants in a complex dance, intertwined with the dual realities that lie at the heart of being human and finite in a world that exists infinite after us.

It is the meticulous decoding of these qualities that reaches beyond the “normal” boundaries of poetry – an eclectic juxtaposition of past and present shared by a voice that knows every inch of it by heart.

Blanco opens his life to us in a way that brings us distinctly into that world. We live the moments with him, experience his love of this America, his closeness and devotion to his family, his confusion at the complexity of life — and the unique challenges that being gay and Cuban create for him. Heart is at the core of Richard Blanco’s writing.

Blanco’s loving heart is exemplified by finely detailed poetic craft. This love creates an articulately expressed depth of sentiment and clarity of emotion rare in American poetry today.

For further reading:

Richard Blanco website

Richard Blanco at Biography.com

Richard Blanco on Facebook

LookingforGulfCvr

There is Still A Pond

emerge-mia-tavonatti

There is still a pond there thirty-six years later.
The trees still exist – those I walked by, sat under
In the cold-gray days of childhood solitude.

The country-farmer land and red-ore dirt
still dominate that world like old sentries
standing guard between past and present.
Only the warm bodies, soft voices are gone.

Going back to the town – to the memories – I
visited with the ghosts of my beginnings.
Thought: So this is it.
This is my experience of coming home.

There were no parties, no Sunday picnics
to welcome me. There was only the land
and it’s trees and water, blue sky over mountains.
There was no blackberry cobbler, no strawberry cake.

Only the same roads I learned to drive on.
A new grandchild born in the same hospital
where my daughter was born,
where I first breathed in life. Origin.

The mountains haven’t changed.
They stand quietly watching the valley
filled with third-generation human drama.
Years ago, when I drove away to bigger cities,
some of the old folks were still living.

Time slipped by — years. They slipped away
into some dark unknown-other existence.
I searched for them in the water,
but could see only me clearly –
a shimmering reflection in the pond.

In the clear-white water of childhood
a little blonde-haired girl, green eyes shining,
fueled by curiosity, driven by a desperate need
to seek out Other.

To see and know the wider world –
to see and know myself. Leaving
the ghosts of other days
gently whispering in unison
goodbye again as I drove away.

~Photo Credit: Emerge by Mia Tavonatti
Art Prints

funeral song (for my mema 2001)

on-the-bridge-joana-kruse

ego-separation from the letting-go
is the last phase of loss.

solemn-silence is declared.
it will not lift, it can not lift
until vision clarifies.

imagine the world as a new
place created and transformed by
the without, adjusted perception
looks for meaning
submerged in the pain,
seeks solace from a fragmented spirit
that clings to us in absence.

each lost thing claims
a part of our souls
perfection
unravels the lies we hide
inside ourselves

leaving us
bare and jaggedly grieved.

we becomes
the creation of losses
evolves into shards of recovery.

stimulated by grieving
we acknowledge
the mirrors reflection –
our souls love for others.

Art Prints

Photo Credit: On The Bridge by Joana Kruse

untitled 2 (from 2005)

light-graham-dean

To write to you from
this dark place
where lights’ shadow
never rises and
full things don’t exist.

It was easier in
the abundance,
when my souls bounty,
like a garden at harvest,
burst to fullness,
needed emptying –

like a bowl overfilled.
Poems came then, like drops
of honey spilled across a table.

This empty time knows
nothing of words, lines, stanzas.
It cannot produce harvest
from a barren field.
Photography Prints

Photo Credit: Light by Graham Dean

for Matthew

man-on-stairs-joana-kruse

 

How do I tell you to a stranger?
Do I start with that goofy walk – yours alone
Or the quick smile, always with a slight laugh,
Tilting head and blue sparkling eyes?
Or, the truth when we met –
though I denied it then –
that you looked to young to be the GSM,
that you weren’t what I expected the GSM
of a large store to be.
Your steadfast declaration –
that you were worthy of the spot:
“I can handle it!”
As if convincing me of this in some way
mattered. To you

I was “your angel” come to help.
The proclamation over and over
again. NOW we could do what must
be done to turn it around, grow
your success. I remember that night
in the bar (your words still ringing
in my ear). Us. We. Laughing, agreeing
in unison with the crowd of people
that we would move forward, clean up
the debris, build a stronger better future
together. You – the age of my daughter –
twenty-eight and electric with youth,
hope, drive. But gray shadows circled
even then, ethereal smoke twirling

at the edges of a dream. I spent
ninety-four days by your side before
fate bade me leave, warned me
that the darkening skies
and nightmare abyss would
claim you.

Seven hundred and thirty days later.
I look down At your face,
cradled by silk cushions in the coffin,

Gray and still like a deep, dark storm
blowing distant Over the ocean.
Your smile missing. I remember

a singular moment of time, mere weeks,
a few months on the calendar,
when kindred souls met, laughed,
and dreamed. Happily planning
a future that fate knew
would never come.

Photography Prints

(RIP Matthew Sayers 2014)

Photo Credit: Man on Stairs by Joana Kruse

To Save the White Dove (Allegory)

inner-peace-jane-small

If I could hold
the gentle white dove
in my hands, keep it safe.
I would.

Hold that fragile innocence
at my chest, to my heart,
wipe away the ugliness
of the butchering world.

If I could quietly speak
of the similarity of spirit,
laugh with this precious child
dropped down from heaven.
I would.

No the day says. No!
These things are beyond
the power you hold.
Yours only — the choice
to push it from you,
throw it to the skies.

Pray flight comes
easily or do
nothing and watch
the future cruel death
at the hands
of psychic slaughter.

Yes the day says. Yes!
The smaller of cruelties
to stop the slow-burning pain,
that great shadow-darkness
of disillusionment —

I would
let the child remain a dove
for a little while longer.

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

~Art Credit: Inner Peace by Jane Small at Fine Art America.

Photography Prints