As She Ran

 

She ran.

She ran with elation, with fortitude.

The grasses licked her limbs as they parted, faster and faster as she ran.

She didn’t know quite what she was running from.  From everything.

Except everything was actually unfolding before her

As she ran.

The wind became her breath

As it traveled into her mouth, down her windpipe, filling her lungs.

Oxygenating her blood.

And whooshing back out.

Again and again and again.

Faster and faster.

As she ran.

Her dusty bare feet softly thudded the earth.

Heel first, then ball, toes last, pushing off.

Heel, ball, toes.  Heelballtoes.

Thud-thud-thud.

Whoosh-whoosh-whoosh.

Lick-lick-lick.

Her hair, blazing in the sunlight, trailed behind her, furiously trying to keep up.

Her dress did the same, only it tugged as it caught on the grasses.

Tears streamed across her face, blown back by indulgence.

A warm glow ignited deep in her belly and slowly radiated out

Down into her pumping thighs, calves, thudding feet

Up into her heaving lungs, biceps, hands, fingers

Spine, neck, brain

Sparkling eyes, flushed cheeks, parted lips.

A smile spread, automatically.

Laughter escaped, bubbling up and spilling out

Like a caged animal set free.

It could not be stopped

As she ran.

Where was she going?

She only knew where she’d been.

She just kept moving, afraid to succumb to inertia.

She was desperate to remember how it felt

As she ran.

 

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A Thanksgiving Poem

Thanksgiving is almost over and I need to post on my blog

Today my kid got licked in the face by a dog

Food was eaten, some got sauced

We watched the Packers who sadly lost

Today’s California weather was unseasonably cold

We visited with family young and old

We ate turkey and pie

Until I felt like I might die

How very very thankful am I 

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Overdose of Fog

I wrote the following poem in March of 1999 for my sophomore honors English class in high school.  For the topic of our poems, we were to pick a character from one of the books, short stories, or plays we had read during that semester.  I chose Mary from the play Long Day’s Journey Into Night by Eugene O’Neill.

Spoiler alert for a play published in 1956 (to give some setup for Mary’s character)- the play takes place over the course of one day with a particularly dysfunctional family.  Mary, the matriarch, is struggling with insomnia and morphine addiction and relapses.  She rambles on about how much she loves fog and hates the foghorn that they can see and hear from their seaside home.  Mary expresses regrets in her life, worries about her son’s health, waxes poetic about past happier times, and fantasizes about accidentally overdosing.  At midnight during the last act, Mary wanders the house high on morphine, carrying her old wedding gown.

Our class was to follow a formula for writing this particular poem.  I wish I still had it, but as you can guess, some lines had to be three -ing verbs.  One line had to compare her to a color, another line was used to compare her to a food.  Another line for her scent (where I referenced her wedding dress).  The second stanza included how she treats others, how others view her, and how I see her.  And so it goes.

I remember spending freshman and sophomore years of high school having a lot of fun learning about symbolism in literature and then struggling to write about it.  For Mary’s character, the way she talked about fog as synonymous with being high and numbing out (and hating the foghorn, because it was reality jarring her back), the symbolism for this poem practically wrote itself.

Behold:


Overdose of Fog

Mary

a kind but nervous woman,

lost in the soupy fog of a harbor on the bay.

drifting, floating, dreaming,

fooling, hiding, addicting.

a gray curtain of depression envelopes her.

she clings to the past like ivy to a wall,

scared to ever let go.

She longs for the pale blue twilight to turn to midnight purple.

she plays host to the darkness and the visiting damp, heavy screen of haze as it rolls in,

one comforting layer after another.

She treats others with worried love.

others react with sympathy, growing impatience, anger, and frustration.

They Want The Real Mary,

not the timid mouse she has become,

the one with fake glossy marbles for eyes,

scurrying through the shadows to avoid all possible reality.

I pity that mouse.

Mary

an empty Shell of a Body.

the scent of damp cement and dank clothing trails behind her.

Her flavor is that of moldy bread:

musty and rotting with old memories and regrets.

When will she take her next dose?

What else has she to live for?

An overdose of fog is all she needs…

…but damn that foghorn.


At the time I wrote this, I was very proud of it, and I am happy to report that I still am, all these years later.  Part of the reason why this poem stands out for me is because it was blindly voted the best in my class by my peers and earned a perfect grade as a result.

It was around this time that I first fancied myself as a writer with any kind of real potential, so sharing this early piece of writing more publicly is a gesture that I consider to be…vulnerable, but I also share it with excitement and pride in a show-and-tell kinda way.  You know what I mean.

Sidenote: Ever a rule-follower, I remember feeling quite nervous that I included a –gasp!– swear word in the last line of a school assignment.  But the play was filled with swear words as I recall, and so it fit Mary’s character.  Plus, my teacher for that class swore (…didn’t he?).  At any rate, nobody cared, and when my teacher read it aloud to the class, he actually put emphasis on the word, exactly as I thought it should be read: “…but damn that foghorn.”  If only my swear-phobic 16-year-old self could see my blogger-motherfucking self now.


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Space

She was weightless

Floating, drifting

Unable to control course or direction

She spun

So she stopped flailing

It was dark

Her eyes couldn’t find a spot on which to focus

It didn’t matter where she looked

So she stopped searching

Finally

After how long, she didn’t know

She spotted a sliver of light

How far it was, she didn’t know

She was unable to move toward it

With nothing to hang onto


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Parenting in Haikus

I just wiped your snot

Now you blow into your hand

Thank you – not really


All the chores I do

Always come undone in time

Say, what is the point?


Nap time is my break

Go to sleep sweet child of mine

Give me, like, two hours


Odor hit my face

Never such stench have I smelled

Beans – never again


You freak me out, boy

When you scratch the wall at night

Nightmares come for me


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Some Days

Some days
start out
at the bottom of a well, looking up
thrashing makes the chilled water slap my face
and flood my eyes.

My singing
echos
bounces off the walls and travels upward
hopefully someone will hear.

Other days
start out
with the warmth of the sun on my skin
I have to close my eyes
to shield them from the brightness
the warm breeze tugs at the corners of my mouth
like puppet strings.

My singing
spills out
like a volcano filled with honey.

Everyone can hear.

Two poems, one story

Every once in a while I try my hand at some fancyass prose just to see what happens.

Occasionally I come up with something with which I am fairly satisfied, and two of those recent examples are here and here.

For the first poem, Bending Slightly in the Breeze, I didn’t set out to write a poem initially.  I drive past several sunflower fields on the way to work each day, and I think, when they are in full bloom, they are one of the most beautiful sights on earth.  After several trips back and forth, I realized that almost every single flower faced east.  I still don’t know why that’s the case (anyone know?), and I found it very interesting.  Also, the entire field on a small hillside just makes it look like the country is on fire with joy, especially as the sun dips low in the sky at the end of the day.

I tried taking a picture of the fields with my phone as I drove by (not the safest thing, I know), and the pictures just didn’t do them justice.  Not even close.  It was then that I grabbed my phone one morning and recorded a voice memo of what it was like to drive past the flowers, and that eventually morphed into the poem.

I wondered what it would be like to be one of those flowers.  They looked like they were all patiently waiting for something…but what?  Anyone see the movie City of Angels?  It reminded me of when the angels would gather on the beach every single morning to watch the sun rise and hear the glorious music that came with it.  Perhaps these sunflowers were echos of those angels.  What would it be like to be among them?  I wanted to see what they saw.

Links to source

For the second poem, This Was Where She Belonged, I again thought of the sunflowers since they remind me of the hills being on fire, but it was also inspired by some real, scary flames.  Recently, my partner’s place of business was threatened by a grass fire.  It’s a remote area with only one road as an entrance/exit and he and his coworkers were not allowed to evacuate for fear they’d clog the route for emergency vehicles needing to get in.  After a very tense hour or so, the fire was put out about 100 feet from his building, after his office had begun to fill up with smoke.  Needless to say, I was very happy to see him after work that day.

Back to the poem, I imagined my human/sunflower (notice her feet were still rooted in the soil) from the first poem threatened by a fast-moving, evil, destructive grass fire.  The last part of the poem was about…acceptance, I suppose.  She couldn’t outrun the fire (indeed, I was trained in such matters as a summer camp counselor), and so she accepted…her fate, whatever that may be.

Maybe the fire would spare her.  Maybe she’d get burned and rise from the ashes.  And maybe the fire would get put out in the nick of time, just 100 feet away.

This was where she belonged

The hillsides came alive as flaming horses streaked across the horizon.

Galloping, galloping with an urgent passion.

The frantic roar grew, amplified by an unseen power.

Instinctively, she knew she could not outrun them, even though the voices in her mind were screaming to be heard over the din.

Instead, she was rooted in place, captivated and unable to escape.

With wide eyes, she allowed her body to lie down and sink into the soil.

The glow illuminated her face and played with the stinging hot tears mixing with the earth.

Her hands dug into the soil, trapping dirt beneath her fingernails.

She waited.

This was where she belonged.

Bending slightly in the breeze

A woman found herself passing by an entire field of sunflowers.

Equally spaced, their columns and rows stretched out for acres, all lined up as if they were trained and ready.

Their dark faces, framed by flaming licks of yellows and oranges, all faced east.

They stood at attention, silent and patient, bending only slightly in the breeze.

The woman entered the field and nudged carefully, slowly between the bright-faced soldiers, quickly disappearing into the tall shadows.

Down the columns and across the rows.

She paused.

She turned east to follow their gaze and wiggled her feet into the soil, rooting them in place.

She took a deep breath; her chest rose and fell.

She stood at attention, silent and patient, bending only slightly in the breeze.