Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Walls Have Been Breached

So, I guess nothing is really private anymore. I've been discovered by at least one family member and probably by more. Here's what happened --

I created this blog and felt so deliciously sneaky that I set my status on facebook as "Karen is keeping secrets." As I knew it would, that statement teased them and generated a good deal of nosiness and speculation among my grown children and children-in-law with whom I am facebook "friends."

Because I really didn't want them to investigate, I assured them that the secret had nothing to do with them or with family. I told them this for a very good reason. I knew that, since they don't know me as a writer, they would have a hard time separating "Mom" from Karen-who-writes.

This is exactly what has happened. My son googled my name and the word secrets, or some such procedure, and found the blog. He said nothing about it until today, when I told him I had something I wanted him to read. Then he fessed up. His next statement, referring to "Beneath the Veil of Winter Born," was, "...a little hard on Granddad, weren't you?"

Just as I suspected, my family will believe that anything I write is autobiographical.

Of course, I believe that all writing is autobiographical in many ways. It shows the deepest heart of the writer, revealing parts that are not apparent to the rest of the world. Writing reveals, and poetry may distill the essence of the person most of all. Yet, as much as it reveals, it also allows one to become someone else, and therein is the rub for those who know the writer. Which person is authoring the piece? Is it the one who is opening her heart for all to see, exposing her truest self, or is it the one who is creating a new reality that has little to do with the author herself but provides a wonderous landscape in which she may wander? Maybe the answer is both.

I have no doubt that all three of my children -- bright, educated young adults -- can understand that my father did not scorn me as the father in this particular poem does his child. I just hope that when they read my work, as I am sure they will, they can set aside "Mom" and just enjoy the writing. If not, then I hope they have enough discretion not to tell me.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Headline News

Your children said

you might have been confused,

maybe you were walking in your sleep,

were blinded by the snow,

you’d lost your way.

The neighbors said

you had been acting strange,

maybe you were walking off your fears,

since John’s been gone

you hadn’t been the same,

they think perhaps that

you had lost your way.

The expert said

he couldn’t speculate

why you’d be outside walking in a storm,

but he’d confirm the cause:

a frozen heart,

direct result

of having lost your way.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Writing and Rewriting

The thing I've learned about writing poetry is that the poem is never finished. I began this long narrative on December 21, and I know I'll continue revising. I thought I'd post it, though, to get feedback on this form. This is something totally new to me. Here goes:

Beneath the Veil of Winter Born

Her father strayed from home again that night,

So neighbors took her mother to give birth

And waited for the errant man to come

And watched the snow that piled upon the earth.

That winter night was shortest of them all,

When caul-born child was laid upon the breast

Of woman filled with sorrow and with woe

For husband gone and child aborn unblessed.

The doctor said there’s nothing for concern,

That babies born with covered heads are fine.

He skinned the child of soft, encircling womb

And cut the cord and tied it off with twine.

A child so born had once been thought a boon

To ships that sailed to lands upon the waves,

And sailors paid a fortune for the skin

That kept them from the depths of watery graves.

But when her father learned that she had borne

A veil that hid a face with dark black eyes,

As black as dirt of coal upon his hands,

He hawked onto the snow and made a sign.

“Protect me from the evil eye,” he said,

“Of babies who can steal your dreams at night

And take the sleep from out your lonesome bed

And fill your waking days with fear and fright.”

“Doc should have let her stay there in her bag

To drink that water where she learnt to swim.

He should have left her to the will o’ God

And left us to enjoy the peace o’ Him.”

Yet as a child is wont to do, she grew,

A strange and somber fairy child, they said,

And every night before she went to sleep,

She turned her mind upon their loathsome bed.

The child brought forth beneath the wintry sky,

The shortest day and evening of the year,

Born safe within a lonely veiled cocoon,

Sent mother all her joy, to father -- fear.

With passing of the years the girl grew fond

Of rambling in the hills to learn the ways

Of women who could cut a willow twig

Or blow out fire or take a wart away.

But as she hunted ginseng root for tea

To make a heart beat strong or heal a wound,

She always thought of him whose thought that day

Was that she was the twig who should be pruned.

Her stature grew in magic and in art;

She bent their use according to her will.

To those in need she gave what help she could,

But unto him who bred her -- only ill.

One day as she was digging by the stream

That ran behind the tipple for the coal,

She felt the hair arise upon her neck

And knew that nearby lurked an evil soul.

She heard his jaunty song before she saw

The man of heart much blacker than the seam;

She hid herself from him among the reeds

And willed him to the depths to meet his dream.

He felt the pull of water and of thirst

And need to wash the coal dirt from his hands,

So down he stooped there on the river’s edge

And looked through swirling water to the sands.

Beneath the water’s twist he seemed to see

A babe within a bubble all encased

That moved beyond the reach of his long arms

But strained toward him for watery embrace.

He stretched his arms to grasp the thing he saw,

Said, “Eyes play tricks on me, I know, this day;

Or clouds have come to shadow out the sun

And hide the things of sense from sight away.”

The sand beneath his feet beside the stream

Began to fall then shift and then to run,

And up from out the reeds his daughter rose,

The one whose face was hidden from the sun.

He saw that face reflected in the pool;

Her eyes there darker than the darkest coal

That stained his mind and filled his evil heart,

The waterchild that sucked at his black soul.

He turned and clawed with hands for purchase there

But pulled away the film of soft, smooth skin,

A shimmer that had covered fine dark hair

And held the heart that he had scorned within.

He fell beneath the eddies of the waves

That washed the black of coal from off his face,

And in a bubbled caul he sailed away

Cradled by the fairy child’s embrace.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Miss Haygood's World

What did she know
when she hung that picture
about being a cripple
in 1964?

What did she know of that white Maine world?

Horsemill Holler
mother and retarded daughter
school to teach white children
town to love white men

What did she know about shades of brown and tan?

chicken salad lunches
ride to school on buses
swing the shining sickle
cut the ripened grain

What did she know
when she hung that picture
of the handicaps of longings
and the struggle to get home?

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Chicken, Chicken

I realize that my post of yesterday sounded like a tease -- tune in tomorrow for things to come! In reality, it was a challenge to myself: jump in or get out! But morning light finds me here, firmly planted on the fence, neither writer nor non-writer; so, chicken that I am...I offer this:

Why I Don't Write Poetry

With Apologies to Poets Everywhere

Poetic turn is hidden from my sight

As unto paper this my hand I place

And try to find the words this day to write

The soul of that red wonder there with grace.

I study head so pert and feathers fine

And try to plait a net of words to hold

A creature never meant for tangled twine

Or fancy woven images so bold.

But 'fore my hands can note that selfsame tune

And fashion form from nothing on this page,

I feel the blogspot pull of Mossy Moon

To show me the true workings of a sage.

I peer at life turned art on paper set

And skulk away the challenge here unmet.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Scary Thing to Do

I don't write poetry. Ever. In my former life as a high school teacher, I read so much bad poetry that I swore never to inflict the likes on anyone.

But...oh, my gosh! You writers are getting to me! What am I thinking? You are real writers. You write. Why would I do this to myself? Why would I do this to anyone?

Well --
a) You don't know me.
b) If I choose, I can never access this site again.
c) If I lose your respect, it was short-lived anyway.
d) All of the above.

Ever the cautious one, if I still choose "d" tomorrow, I'll go with All of the above.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Ascension Contest

Another little secret: no one knows I entered the flash fiction contest at Clarity of Night. While there's no chance on an escalator that I won anything, I had such fun feeling like part of a community of writers. If you haven't read the entries, you must! You'll discover a secret worth sharing. Be sure to read Sarah Hina, Jaye Wells, and Jason Evans' posts. Outstanding!

Keeping Secrets

I'm very good at keeping secrets. People confide in me all the time because they know their stories are safe with me. I don't tell, and because of this, I know things I shouldn't know -- things about other peoples' marriages, heartaches, ambitions, and desires.

I'm not going to spill secrets here. I'm going to keep them. As a matter of fact, this blog itself is a secret. No one knows I'm writing this. No one I know is reading it. It's my secret. My own not-to-be-shared-with-anyone-I-know secret. Something I own that I won't tell my husband who is sitting across the room, smiling sadly at me because I'm working at home again. Something I won't tell my Ph.Daughter -- the one who has a degree in English Literature from one of the nation's finest. Something I won't tell anyone who might be able to peel me open and see inside.

Keeping Secrets! What a delicious thought!