Ghazal for Johnny

Excerpt from “A Trail of Crumbs” poetry collection, due in late 2019.

A Ghazal is a Persian poetry form using couplets that share a rhyme and a refrain. Each line must share the same meter. The writer must also reference the author’s own name and express longing in the last couplet. Written as the boy became a teen. Baton Rouge, 2008.

For my brother.

My brother, not a small one anymore not a shy boy, 
Little dude hangs loose while days grow into years on the sly, boy

There’s the mean one and the teasing one, with three big sisters
You say “Jo's the fun one” and we’ve had some good times, boy

Do you remember when you were a baby and we’d dance to
“Ob la di Ob la da” - dip low when they’d sing high, boy?

Fresh from high school now you got not much to say
That’s when we drive and play music to describe what’s inside, boy

Not to be seen as young, not to be seen as young, this strong scent
Of Ax masks childhood deeper by the night, boy

Your frame the same since you were a babe now gains mass and size
Big tough guy hugs hard to come by now, boy

Poem about a girl and her grandpa

Source: Gazpachot Blog, 2008
"There once was a little girl and her grandpa..."
A story unfolds in a low voice
And the funny face of a character he plays: 
An old guy slightly dopey and chagrined 
Leaning in, he begins,

Speaking softly to the baby of his daughter
"And she was wrapped in a blanket,"  
Telling her tiny listening face
Looking up in rapt attention,
"I don't know what kind," he says. "Her name was Amoryn."

"And she lived in Arenal," he explains. 
My dad and my girl lean in to touch foreheads today, bonk
How does she know to connect in this way, bonk
Deep knowing through crowns tapping, bonk
 As Strangers in a Strange Land who grok*.

With her smitten grandpa
In sweet routine, a joke,
Passing into posterity
A moment in the life of Amoryn
Between the two of them

This time and place
Then quieter, he says, "Are you grandpa's girl? I think so.
Yes I think so, you're grandpa's girl."
How does the story end?
As a grown woman that little girl would then

Know that even as she stood on the lap of 
Her mother's father - herself a daddy's girl -
That in this time much later
When grandpa's forehead is nowhere to be found
But a memory now

Of a sunny porch 
Early in the day 
Early in life
She was still Grandpa's Girl, which can never be undone.
Bonk.

*The Oxford English Dictionary defines grok as “to understand intuitively or by empathy; to establish rapport with” and “to empathize or communicate sympathetically (with); also, to experience enjoyment.” (Citation here.)

Future tales

My daughter is now 7.5 months old. She is the oldest soul among us. Thomas and I had already sworn off Facebook posting about our private life with our new little family before she arrived last summer, and thus I only share little snippets of our life instead of photos of our baby. Much like our rebellion against the Costa Rican custom of piercing a baby girl’s ears when she is born, we have taken a different road with our daughter’s presence online. There’s a belief I have that when and if Amoryn would like to place her likeness on the internet, she will be able to do so when she is old enough to consent to it. She will be able to tell us that she wants to begin sharing pictures of herself, and until that time I believe I am doing a kind of favor to her by allowing her the choice, by foreclosing on the possibility that she might say, “I’m a teenager and I’ve been online since I was a baby. What you have shared of who I am and my life – I never agreed to this.”

It’s well enough for us that the people who care for and know Amoryn see her in our texts, emails and in person. We may be old-fashioned but we’re totally okay with it!

Here in Costa Rica, my parents are here escaping the 7 degree Maine winter. Tomorrow we go to a beachside place to celebrate their 46th wedding anniversary (married 1973 when they were 23 years old). They are turning seventy this year, both of them, and imminently retiring from their careers in the legal field. Much of our conversation centers around what will happen in the future: my dad’s writing project, my mother’s activism around legislating gun control, and their visits with their precious granddaughter.

She is my mom’s peanut butter. The coos, the sweet cuddles, the songs she sings, the games they play. This morning, I wrote about this while Thomas did his daily ritual of reading books in bed to our baby, giving me the most important personal gift of the time to drink coffee, sit and write by myself. While writing today, I was inspired with a poem to in some way encapsulate, or perhaps better said, to reflect on seeing my mother with Amoryn. It could not be more obvious to me the fleeting nature of today, when Amoryn is so young, only crawling, unable to stand or speak, but still a strong and vibrant communicator and presence. I see her grandparents with her now and imagine when Amoryn is my age. What will she remember of them? Will she know how she captivated, enthralled, charmed? Will she hear the songs my mom sings to her? Will she feel her embrace? Will she know the role my mother played in the world, how she created herself to be a strong and vibrant person too?

This poem is for the occasion:

Pink stripes, well-tailored
The shirt my mom wears as she holds my baby daughter

Whose fingers play at the pearly buttons
Bouncing held close on the knee along to the song
About tonight you belong to me
A happy cooing voice, babbling, belonging to them both and 
I hope in a time far away when Amoryn stands in my shoes
My daughter will hear and know the tune

As the love song from her 
Billie to little peanut butter


How To Blog … Again

I’m off of social media and no longer plugged in to the greater online community of friends’ and family activities. This blog is thus an outlet for inviting connection from our end. I’m back writing on Joanna’s blog – now with a twist!

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Back to Blogging    

Starting Again For me, this simple, plain blog is nothing mundane at all. Since I began this blog on our honeymoon about a year ago, I wanted to continue writing and sharing about life.  I stopped, however, because I found myself wondering, Who cares what I have to say? I couldn’t find an answer, so it became, No one cares – least of all me.  In crept doubt about my own voice, having simply lost motivation and inspiration to write, let alone share. The sad truth is that I didn’t believe my experiences or thoughts mattered enough to blog about.

Why return to the blog now?  As of this post, I am in the final two weeks of my pregnancy, about to be a first-time mom. I have known for a long time now that I want to be a great mother. To do that, I must be the kind of woman who inspires my daughter to be the fullest and greatest version of herself that she can be. I want her to believe, for example, that she is worthy of participating in the world in whatever way she finds most meaningful. To do this, I must show her the way, and to show her the way, I must do it first myself.  For me, that’s trusting and raising my own true voice. Writing is how I hear my voice, how I know myself on the most true level. I have been inspired all my life by those who chose to know their true selves, and then chose to share with the world. I chose now to flip the script on, Who cares to hear what you have to say?  to  May this effort to speak my own true voice be of benefit.

Writing in my own true voice is to hear myself expound on it on the written page. To be willing to see my own experience as valid enough to spend time hearing and writing is the one place I have resisted going. I know come forward, going deeper into my inner world to unveil what’s true, to let it have light, to breathe life into what I let stay buried or hidden… here I am.  I will write about the “little now,” the small moments of what’s happening in the present moment, and the “big now,” the larger themes, questions and challenges made evident through sitting with what is.  Little Now, Big Now. 

In my writing class, I wrote these instructions on how to begin.

Little Now, Big Now: How To Blog in 4 Steps

  1. Disavow your obsession with your computer. Turn off the internet and all of the distracting displays. They steal your attention from your own blog, like walking through a carnival, the long, loud street of tents and games on your way home at the end of the block.  Don’t stop at the balloon stand, don’t stop and stare in at the cotton candy vendor spinning blue sugar on a paper cone amid a crowd of eager children intoxicated and lost in the comforting smell warm sugar. Don’t return to the clothing tent to try on that dress again that you never forget but also never buy. How can you begin to write if you take all day to get home? Closing your browser window, muting and blinding yourself to the colors and calls of the circus around you, you head confidently straight for our notebook and pen awaiting you on your front porch. The path to your writing has now begun.
  2. Start in the little now  As soon as you sit down at the notebook page, you must befriend it. This page must become extremely captivating to you – an attraction bordering on obsession. A new lover whose mind you long to know. The page, the subject of your deepest level of attention, opens to you. It allows you to know reality, fear and truth – all you can imagine and beyond. The promise of a true friend, a faithful companion reliable, present, there to share and reveal all you would know and hear. So sit, stay, and in your sense faculties, feel your true experience speak to you here on the porch. Today, at this hour, with the contents of your mind and heart as they are, the will of your attention to your page calls forth from you what resides within. Your truth, told in the voice of the little now, flows freely from the pen.  The call of the cuckoo bird mourning the end of the day as the big sky quietly pulls a long blind over the sun. The murmur of voices above tinkling glasses and silverware as a dinner event beyond sight in the dawning evening begins to take off.  This is your moment, when your ears, eyes and the air touching your skin this very evening call forward in you all that means to open. This is where the little now blossoms into the Big Now
  3. Go Deep into the Big Now  The content of your blog goes beyond this evening’s little now. The reason you feel, the little signals of what wants to be known, seen and understood begin to reveal themselves in the Big Now. The theme, the story, the life of beyond what’s known lifts its head to speak in the voice of the birth and dimming of the sun. Reality voices its truth through what we see and feel in the little now – the purpose of why you write, for example, what calls you to be. The great loss of face, and thus of fear. The sadness of being unable to cover the terrible, scary truth. And the unbearable light of bravery wanting to break open what holds you back. As you massage the page with the careful diligence of the pen, pump it for information. What is a piece of writing will appear as your blog post.
  4. Clean and release  The title of your piece arises from the meeting of the Big and little now. Clean and tenderize your piece by taking the pages inside your home from the porch. Let it mellow, soak as if in a bath. Run through its hair the teeth of a comb, straightening the pieces, and freeing the snarls and kinks from from its wild locks.  Clean, rested, well-cared for and developed into is own self it walks freely from your home out into the world. Post it on your blog page in the internet carnival where it lives amid the vast displays.