Aimless: A Poem a Day

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Yesterday, I completed GloPoWriMo, the worldwide celebration of Poetry Month in April. I am guessing that writing a poem a day for thirty days doubled my lifetime output of poetry. And what did I discover?

In the past, I turned to poems, rarely shared, when emotions pressed in so closely that writing poetry offered the only possible relief. In the rain-soaked winter of my first year in college, the lines I scratched in a green, hard-backed journal (a Christmas gift from my sister) carried me through a tricky emotional state after the boy I loved dropped out of the university and, hence, my life.  I didn’t feel that any of that handful of poems were any good–though some had a rhythm I liked and one contained an image of mud-caked boots which I loved.  But writing them helped me to, eventually, smile again, and fall in love again, and again.

During this past April, I didn’t write poems for emotional relief: I wrote them as a daily exercise. Surprisingly, relief came anyway. I feel happier and more resilient, and the act of writing poems contributed to this. It was a challenging month for us in a practical matter, as we went through a kitchen remodel. And personally, in terms of life themes, I faced a few challenges, too, as I dove deep into questions about my sense of self and the role of friendship in my life.

These themes both found resolution this past month. The discoveries I made writing poetry helped, and this practice also opened me to find resolution through other material I read. Writing the poem Identity cinched something essential in me to how I see myself and others continuing through shifts in form. And somehow, though I didn’t write much about my puzzles surrounding friendships, writing poems primed me for this New York Times article,  Friendship’s Dark Side: “We Need a Common Enemy,” which has helped me understand that, while I practice friendliness and kindness universally, I tend not to do “friendship,” at least not in the way that article describes.

Poetry seems to affect my brain similarly to music–Bach, specifically. Fragments link up. Pauses gain significance. And a sense of wholeness, which, really, is what health is, seeps in.

So, I think I’ll keep up with the practice of writing poems, not daily, but, perhaps, weekly. The habit is good for my mental health.

And now that Poetry Month is over, a friend tells me that it is Short Story Month, which means A Story a Day. Dare I try? I think I will. Though I’m much more experienced in writing short fiction than poetry, I’m gifting myself leeway in what I post: expect short, rough, quick sketches, that may, or may not, fit the daily prompts. It’s an experiment to see how daily fiction writing compares to daily poetry writing.

And before I close, thank you to all who read my poems in April! You were kind and gracious readers, and I enjoyed sharing my lines with you!

Lighthouse: The Ferry Hestia

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We caught the dawn ferry on the Magnolia/San Myshuno line. I remember the boat’s name: Hestia. We always liked to ride of the Hestia, for she had an upper floor with  inside seating area and an espresso bar. We carried our lattes out to the deck and leaned on the railing. Fog lifted off the bay.

“Pops is excited you’re coming,” Sept said.

“Will I be on trial?” I asked.

Sept laughed. “Of course not! Pops says, ‘long as I’m happy, he’s happy.”

We didn’t talk more about Sept’s family on the ride over. We watched the sun rise over the waves. We counted sea gulls. A sturgeon jumped off the starboard side. “They’re endangered,” I said. We felt lucky to have seen it.

We arrived around noon and walked up from the dock. Sebastion waited for us in front of the house.

“I had the ferry schedule!” He said. “You’re right on time.”

He wrapped his son in bear hug.

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Mop barked near my feet. “Who’s this little guy?” I asked. “You look just like that puppy I saw in that photo on Sept’s blog.”

“He is!” Sept said. “That’s Mop! Octy’s puppy.”

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“But that picture was posted years ago,” I said. “And he’s still a puppy? How come he hasn’t grown?”

“Octy’s mom gave him to him,” Sept said. “He’s not from here.”

He didn’t look like an extraterrestrial puppy, not that I would know what they look like.

“Will he always be small? Is he in disguise?”

“Nope and nope. Pretty soon, he’ll hibernate, and when he wakes up, he’ll have transformed into his adult stage.”

“Like a chrysalis?”

“Sort of. You’re so good with dogs,” he said, and he kissed me on the cheek.

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Sebastion smiled, but later, when he and I were alone, he reprimanded me. “I’m not keen on PDA,” he said. “Sept doesn’t see eye-to-eye with me on this, but if you could help me out, I’d really appreciate it. If you’ve got to kiss, fine. Do it. Just not in public. And not in front of me.”

When I told Sept about it on the ferry ride home, he laughed. “Yeah, that’s the one thing he and I don’t agree about. I’m afraid I’m not gonna give on this point!” He made out with me, there on the upper deck in front of anyone who wanted to see, just to show he meant it.

Octy seemed to share his father’s perspective. He and I were playing dolls, and when I made the mommy and daddy dolls kiss, Octy said, “Oh, no. Peoples. Please. Not in front of the child!”

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I made it up to him by serving an extra large slice of strawberry cake for desert.

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“Your family’s lovely,” I told Sept. The simple words didn’t come close to expressing what I wanted to say, which was that I could feel the nurturing and support. Sept and Octy both relaxed into a security that I had never felt in my own home, nor in the homes of any of my school friends.

“It’s all Pops,” Sept said. He seemed to know what I meant without my having to say it. “We know there’s nothing we could ever do to blow it. Pops will love us regardless. That kind of takes a weight off.”

I couldn’t imagine, but I knew that was the space I wanted to provide for my kids, if I ever had any.

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We were tired when we finally got home late that night but still wound up from a full day of travel. Neither of us could sleep.

“I know,” Sept said, after I got out of the shower. “Let’s run down to the dock and watch the beam from the lighthouse. That always helps me relax.”

I ran, and I didn’t feel my feet. My heart seemed to beat outside of my body. Ice circled my chest. My father yelled, “If you’re going to major in goddam philosophy and cultural studies, you might as well have some culture and marry a rich guy! I know plenty of sons of clients who’d have you in an instant.”

I ran harder.

My mother sobbed into the telephone. “No, don’t come home, dear. Stay in college. It’s all right. We will make it through this. We always do.” My dad cuts in. “Stop calling so late at night.” He slams down the phone.

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We reached the dock.  I sat in ice and shadow.

“Nothing like a visit home to fill you up with goodness, eh, byu kiya?”

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I was far away.

“What is it, Mallory?” he asked, when he felt my distance.

His black eyes opened, and my pain swirled into them and when he exhaled, the shadow lifted. The ice melted.

“Family isn’t necessarily who you were born to,” he said, softly. “We can make family, even more than we can be born into one.”

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“I never thought a family could bring sweet feelings,” I said quietly, through a few tears. “Except maybe on TV.”

“Families bring all sorts of feelings,” he said. “I want my own family to bring the sweet ones. That’s why I chose you.”

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“Do you really want to create a family with me?” I asked.

“I do,” he said. “If it’s not too weird for you.”

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I told him that what I felt with him were the most natural feelings a woman could feel.

“And they’re all really sweet, warm, and juicy,” I whispered.

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“We should make it official,” he said.

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We sat in silence for a few moments.

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“I’m really gonna do it!” he said. And he popped up.

“Mallory, byu kiya, I have a big life ahead of me, and a cause that’s bigger than both of us, but I know I can do anything the universe asks of me, if I can come home to you. Mallory, can we get married?”

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I am not my conditioning, I told myself. I’m not my mother, and I’m not my father, and I’m not a chicken. I can do this, I can forget about the end of the world, and I can pledge myself to someone who is the best man I have ever known, even if he’s not from around here, and I can be brave, and, maybe, I can actually be happy, too.

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I said yes. Of course I said yes! I wouldn’t be telling this story if I hadn’t said yes, and even in my most forlorn moments, even with all that I had to give up for the life I chose, I never ever, not once, regretted that single-syllable word that, somehow, contains everything within it: Yes.

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 2

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

Thanks so much for your letter! I can’t believe I couldn’t keep straight how many children you have and that you actually have four, plus the grandson! Three babies under five, plus a child and a teen! I can’t even comprehend!

You’re amazing. Seriously. Take a moment to think of what you are accomplishing. You’re an incredible person, Kaitlin!

I’d love to know more about your children and grandchild. Will you tell me more?

I’ve been thinking about identity after getting your letter. You wrote that you didn’t have a chance to become you before becoming a wife and mother. When I read your letters, I hear YOU so clearly! Somehow, along the way, you seem to have found your core identity, your sense of self. Maybe you found that through having to be strong for others.

Sometimes, it seems that we find ourselves through living our lives, with all their hard times and good times.

Up until now, I “found myself” in a different way, through daydreaming, thinking, and pondering. I’m not nearly as together as you seem to think I am! I’ve lived mostly in my thoughts and observations. I have a good understanding of folklore and of art and imagination, but I often feel I haven’t a clue about the nature of this world and the people in it.

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Now that I’m in a life where so much of my time is given to caring for another, I am finding myself through relating. Maybe this will teach me about people.

Jena seems oriented to relating. I have a feeling she will grow up people-smart. I don’t often see her playing, reading, or talking by herself, like I did when I was little. Instead, she likes to play near me. She loves to tell me stories. They usually involve a cat.

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Do you have much support, Kaitlin? I can’t imagine how taxing it is to have five kids that you’re responsible for! Your baby’s father sounds like a kind man. If you discover that you love him, then I wish you all the best!  And at the very least, it seems that Hailey will have a loving father in her life.

My brother and uncle, which is all the family I have left, have been amazing to me. My uncle is Jena’s favorite person, and he helps a lot with caring for her. My brother is really a big kid himself, so he hasn’t taken to the caretaker role like Uncle Jasper has, but he’s there for me, and I love him for that!

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Jena’s doing really well. We’ve gotten past our initial communication barrier, and with that, so many of her frustrations, fears, and sorrows have melted. I can genuinely say now that she is a happy kid! Knowing the hardship she came through and the tragedy and trauma surrounding her conception and birth, I can say that’s a miracle, and it makes me think that maybe, happiness always has a chance.

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Thanks so much for being my pen pal! Your letters help more than you can know, and I admire you so much!

Hope you find a way to sneak in a little fun and pleasure for yourself. You know what they say us mommies need: Extreme Self-Care! 🙂

Lots of love,

Meadow

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Vampire Code: The Cynda

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“What are they doing, Ama?” asked Sparkroot.

“Have a chat-chat-tickle-me!” laughed Rocket.

“They’re not having a tickle-fest,” said Cathy. “Though it does look like it,” she added as she glanced over to Jaclyn and Davion near the portico. “They’re getting married.”

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After supper, while Jaclyn had helped Cathy wash the dishes, she’d leaned over and whispered, “Will you be my cynda?”

“Really?” Cathy had replied, louder than she’d intended. “Really?” she whispered. “You’re doing it? When?”

“Tonight!” Jaclyn had answered. “Now! Or at least, as soon as we’re done with the dishes.”

Cathy agreed to the honor. Jaclyn had been her own cynda when she and Brennan had married. The cynda is the most respected member of the traditional elvish wedding ceremony, especially when it is private or when the union has been expected for a long time. The term comes from “cynda-rutin,” or “bystander,” and the cynda is witness, midwife, and marriage counselor, all rolled into one.

Like a bystander, the cynda stands in approximation of the ceremony, close enough to watch, near enough to eavesdrop, and at the ready to coach, persuade, or nudge at the slightest hesitation.

From her spot on the patio, it didn’t look to Cathy that Jaclyn and Davion would need any nudging whatsoever. She’d never seen Jaclyn, in spite of her free and independent spirit, quite so happy.

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Davion said the traditional Gnomish vows:

Spree taka longdy
Aska me de pardy.

Longa dech ne baydoo
Mekka snee par kardy.

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Cathy didn’t know Gnomish, but she knew the voice of love.

“They look happy,” Sparkroot said.

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Jaclyn replied with her own cross between a blessing and vow:

Sun in the west,
bird on the nest.

Feather on the wing,
You wear my ring.

It was supposed to be a joyous occasion, Cathy thought. And certainly it was. These were words of love. Sparkroot had grown silent, as he stood to watch and listen. Then why did this heaviness settle over her?

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It wasn’t for Jaclyn and Davion, of that she was sure. She listened to Davi continue with his own vows as he left behind tradition and moved into the region of his own heart.

“Jaclyn, what brought me, brought you. What brought you, brought me. We were both pulled by rune into this nomdish land. What was it for, but to find me and you?”

Cathy had felt that, once, about Brennan, brought here by the rune of her own wish. She’d been happy when they’d married. She’d believed the words she’d said:

To stand with fate
Sometimes brings
Greater freedom
Than to walk alone
Through heaven’s gate.

But that had been so long ago, before she’d felt imprisoned by his harshness. Still, it felt like standing with fate, to have brought into this world these three children. That was something.

But where was freedom? Where was warmth? Listening to Jaclyn and Davi, she couldn’t help but imagine what it would feel like to have kindness and fate.

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She shook herself to dispel her wistfulness. This wasn’t a time to shade the moon.

There’s freedom in surrender, no matter how heavy the weight.

Jaclyn laughed again.

“Go on,” she said. “Put on the ring!”

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“Once I do, it’s nae comin’ off!” replied Davion. “Are ye sure as can sure can be?”

“Oooh!” replied Jaclyn. “Maybe you can take it off on Sunday, every fifth Sunday, and I’ll be a fifth-free-dove!”

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“That would nae do!” said Davion. “Just give me the ring and I shall put it on before we have to call the cynda to make us do so!”

And with that, he put on the ring that sparkled like a star’s wink.

“My bonny elvish bess,” he said.

“My sweet runish doan,” she replied.

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“They’re married now,” Sparkroot explained to Florinda, “just like Ama and Ada.”

“Will they live in separate houses,” asked Florinda “like Ama and Ada?”

“Most likely so,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s how you stay a happy couple.”

“Will they have lots of kids?” asked Flor.

“Most likely yes,” replied Sparkroot. “That’s what comes from married people.”

“Then they’ll be very, very happy,” said Florinda. “Just like us!”

“More pasta, Ama!” yelled Rocket. “Tummy wants yummy! More yummy!”

Cathy had to laugh. Love is still love, even if no one is the perfect spouse. And even the sting of the harshest of words could fade inside the ring of happiness.

Freedom meant something more than having no cares: It meant tending to the cares entrusted to one with a carefree heart.

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