Hanukkah Poem and Book News

“candle” by ndrwfgg is licensed with CC BY 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah 2020. I am not Jewish, but am appreciating a little surprise gift all the same – a layout draft of my poetry book, Old Stones Understand, with some graphics and the fonts chosen by my editor at Shanti Arts Publishing! As many times as I’ve read, revised, and viewed these poems, the experience brings a freshness that I wasn’t expecting. That surprise was invigorating.

Yesterday, my mother reminded me of a poem I’d written that is in the collection, which should be out in Spring 2021. Back when I wrote it, she tucked a copy of it in a card for her friend, Marlene, who lives in her building and celebrates Hanukkah. I hadn’t known that she did that, and thought it was a sweet reminder that we never really know how far, or where, our words can reach. I thought sharing it here would be a nice gift for those of you celebrating. Enjoy!

One vial of oil

If one vial of oil
can last for eight nights,
endure and light
and fill hearts
for seven extra days of hope –
well then, how long
can one shred of patience last?

How little space is needed
on a ledge,
for one toe to grip,
to hold the rest of me safe
until I can gather strength
to push off
to the next ledge,
and the next
and the next?

What if
the match that I am, nearly burned down,
charred, curled, almost no light left,
what if at the last possible second
I brush against one dry twig
that smolders,
and then bursts into the biggest
blaze of all?

Shorter on Mercy

Injured Canada Goose swimming in a pond with bare trees in background

One injured goose
left behind at Third Dam
no flock mates in sight
she swam through the gloam
right wing splayed, not tucked in,
head down as a plane flew over
and I said a prayer
that she recover soon
fly off, find a new flock,
or become a lucky break
for a young coyote
learning to hunt,
wishing either outcome swift.
November’s night shadows lengthen
November’s days grow shorter on mercy
reserving grace for those
professing gratitude –
instead I offered a bargain.
Some of my blessings
for an end to her suffering.
A slender aspen quaked reproach
“You know that’s not how it works.”
And I grumbled back,
“I’m just a human. The only thing
clear this year
is that we know nothing.”
And to this, two hemlocks
creaked their approval.


At the Seams

Google images

That strange looking tool? That’s called a seam splitter. It does what you would expect.

   Hand me that skirt. Thanks. See? Here is a seam.  I asked for this skirt because the fabric is still pretty, even though it is worn on that side.  This side is still beautiful. Still useful. This is the hope of fabric.

   You will be tempted to just grab on and rip. It is fast. It feels good. To tear is to feel quick power. And if all you want is strips for a rag rug, or to tie up tomato plants, that’s fine.

   But – you probably know this already – tearing is not usually deliberate. More often it’s driven by pent up energy. Impulse needing release. Need can be blind, like rage.  The outcome – a rag rug or whatnot – may not even be a thought in the straining or pulling. Most rips are unintended.

   So, hand me that seam-splitter.  Thanks. It satisfies in a different way. It’s methodical. When I work it along the seam like this, I can already imagine the potential I am creating. I might be planning a quilt. Or curtains. Or even another skirt with a pattern that I met in a dream last night, these very colors winking at me with purpose and knowing. 

  With luck, my hands might even contribute to what Dr. King referred to as our “single garment of destiny.”

   We take things apart at the seams when we need to start over. When the material we have is still valued, still loved, but just does not fit any more.

You know already that I’m going to say that life is like this too, don’t you?

You have what you need. Consider it in a new way. Move forward with purpose and honor.

Small Poems from the Great Hunkering

In late March, when New York State went into our “Pause” phase in the early days of COVID-19, I began writing and sharing one small poem each day. It lasted as long as my observations brought inspiration, through the end of April. Some are haiku, there were a couple tanka – some were just very short poems. All were based on snapshot impressions of the day in front of me.

That time of spring in upstate NY is notable for nearly-daily differences and changes in the world. I couldn’t get over the sense that nature – the weather, the plants, the birds – were just going on with their natural lives without interruption, and how that juxtaposed so sharply with the bewilderment and shock that the sudden change brought to our human existence. This picture highlights a few of them that speak to resilience.

A Place for Poems.

For years, I put off having a blog for only my writing. In 2017, I started and co-edited NY Votes for Women: A Suffrage Centennial Anthology, but that has always been meant as a cooperative effort, for sharing of others’ work and ideas more than just my own.  I’ve shared my own writing here and there, on Facebook, Instagram (when small enough and paired with nice graphics) and through readings, but have resisted a blog site, until now.

So here it is. There will be poems on another page, or in blog entries, soon. And announcements about my upcoming release, “Old Stones Understand,” from Shanti Arts Publishing! Because, let’s be honest.  Necessity is the mother of invention, and having a book to share has made a web page finally feel necessary.

So stay tuned and send me a note if you like.  And thanks for visiting.