A little poetry shade

God, I hate poetry.

Except when it’s by a friend, and I know the journey she went through to get that pain on paper, naked and brave and exposed. Little black marks, huddling within vast white margins, releasing their meaning in cadence.

But everything else, ish.

Ish is an exclamation from my childhood in Minnesota, where I learned to hate poems. Except the ones I memorized. I liked those. Who doesn’t want a host of daffodils?

But really, it’s just not my thing.

Unless it’s set to music. Like the piece our choir sang. I still don’t understand why if the paths were worn really about the same, how did he know which one was less traveled? But I like the way I felt confused and unsure, even after studying it. And I stood at the end of the song, heart paused as the conductor held his hands up, letting the note ring.

It’s just that I don’t get poetry.

Unless it’s in French. Then it’s totally worth my time. Because French is mysterious. And it sounds nice, like a brook. Like an old smoker with a giggle.

But all that other poetry, it’s just out.

Except when it surprises me, or when it’s not called poetry and it makes me laugh, or think, or feel something unexpected.

Otherwise I can’t stand it.

Unless it’s mine.

~dedicated without his permission to Joel Chapman



The X Factor

Neither my husband nor I wanted to learn the sex of our baby before it was born. He wanted something to be “surprised” about, and I have never liked to know the ending of a story until I get to it. That said, my husband has 12 siblings, only two of them girls. His brothers are pretty light on the x-chromosomes too, so I knew the odds were slim for me to have a girl.

Here’s where we were wrong. For my husband’s concerns about monotony, it turns out babies are less predictable than you’d think. For instance, held at the right angle, a two month old can actually project poop up to two feet. Also for beings who can’t crawl they can roll off a bed pretty quickly. For me, the self-styled brilliant geneticist, the surprise came in a pink hat.

My doctor decided to induce labor one morning when the fetal heartbeat had slowed. We scooted to the hospital, watched them strap belts on my belly and, just as the nurse was preparing to administer the Pitocin, looked on in perplexity as the fetal monitors started bleeping.

You just had a contraction,” the nurse said.

“Did you induce me already?” I asked.

“No,” the nurse paused, looking confused. Then she shrugged and pressed the plunger, sending a dose of lemony liquid into my I.V.

Well, OK. I thought, preparing for the Big Pain, the sweaty swearing session where I got to call my husband bad names for doing this to me. A couple of hours later I was practicing Lamaze breaths to overcome a mild menstrual cramp. I read six chapters of a novel and gazed out the window at the East River. Occasionally someone would come in and tell me to breathe more so my baby’s heartbeat would speed up, but for the most part it was an uneventful afternoon. Then my husband mentioned he’d like to go see a movie while I waited.

“You’re joking me, right?”

“Yeah, yeah,” he said unconvincingly.

At 2:00 pm the nurse said if I wanted she could bring in the anesthesiologist for an epidural.

“Definitely!” I said, with the anticipation, if not the actual experience of bone prying pain. A short time later a teenager with a big needle helped me role onto my left side so he could poke me in the spine.

“Breathe, breathe,” said the nurse, and soon the amplified heartbeat kicked it up a notch.

They rolled my body back onto the pillows and asked if the epidural was working.

“Well,” I said, “The pain is dull now except this one spot.”

“Hmm,” said the boy with the big needle. “That sounds like a hot spot’. We’d better give you another dose. Sometimes parts of your body can block the medicine.”

I was still not in the sweaty pain stage, but recalling Meryl Streep crying and swearing at Jack Nicholson in Heartburn, I wasn’t taking any chances.

“Yes! More, more!” I said, until they had given me three doses of epidural. Still, the hot spot remained until a new anesthesiologist arrived and rolled me onto my right side. I could feel the drug drip into the right side of my body; soon my whole lower half was numb. The contractions came in muffled like Charlie Brown’s teacher: “Mwa-mwa mwaaa, mwa mwaa mwa mwaa.” I hadn’t seen my pubic bone in four months and now I couldn’t feel it either.

The obstetrician came in, strapped on her gloves and got into position at my feet.

“Good, good,” she said, taking measure. “You’re going to be ready to push soon.”

Ah, I thought. This is it.

“Just wait till I tell you and push as hard as you can.”

“OK,” I said bravely. “Should I get the squatting bar now?”

“I don’t think you need that just yet,” she said.

A bit disappointed, I brought my knees up and prepared to bear down.

“OK,” she said, “Now!”

I pushed almost as hard as I could, mindful of my sister’s bloodshot eyeballs after the delivery of her second child. It was like screaming in a dream. I knew my muscles were doing something but felt nothing.

Three more of those, and the baby was born. I’ve survived more difficult kickboxing classes.

The doctor held up a startlingly long baby with a cap of curly black hair. She said something that neither my husband nor I registered.

“Wait, what?” My husband said, peering over my knees at the baby.

“It’s a girl!” said the doctor.

“Hey, I said. “Let’s do that again!”

About five hours later the drugs wore off.

“Son of B*ch!” I cried, hobbling to the bathroom.

“MotherFFFF” I squealed, as my baby gnawed her way through her first nursing session.

My husband came into the hospital room the next morning as I was panting my Lamaze breaths.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Hee-hee-hee-hee heeeeeee. Who-who-who-who whoooo”, I said. “You’d better stand back.”



Inspired by the image: Image: Door of Luxor by Te Hu
Link: www.artstation.com/artwork/door-of-luxor

The daily act of gathering water from the well was an opportunity to put on a show, and Aliah did not miss it. She arrived in her finery, with bangles reflecting the sunlight, calling the eye to her slender wrists. This morning she was rewarded with a small audience of townsmen who smiled wistfully as she hauled up the water. She took the full bucket and carried it with exaggerated difficulty as she called out to the temple priest. “I don’t suppose you are going to help me with this heavy load today?”
“You seem strong enough,” he called back. “But why don’t you ask one of your admirers for help?”
“Aren’t you one of my admirers?” She asked, smiling slyly.
“Who couldn’t find perfection in your form is a blind man.” He intoned. She curtsied as well as she could under the weight of the bucket and continued toward home, thinking ‘dirty old man.’ But he came out from the shade to follow her.
“Aliah,” he began, “I have been meaning to speak to you about your future. You must know your family’s prestige as well as your beauty make you an excellent candidate for the higher realms of the order. Were you to be selected as one of the guardian priestesses, your prospects for marriage would be even greater after your year of service.”
“You know I have only one interest in the Door,” she answered. “I don’t want to serve a year for it either.”
“Aliah, child” he answered, “you must not play with such powerful things. We serve the Door, it does not serve us.”
“That’s not true!” She said angrily. “Everyone knows that a qualified entrant with a true heart can gain much! I want to enter the threshold and become immortal!”
“Aliah, you would make a fine priestess, and would have the attention and adoration of all of the town, not to mention the highest honor, conferred by myself.” His eyes gleamed as he looked at her greedily.
“Ha!” She scoffed at him. “I want immortality so I don’t grow old and fat like you! I certainly don’t want to play around in the temple alcoves with you and the old men of town! I know what you get up to with the new priestesses.”
The men who had gathered let out a great laugh at this impertinence.
“Is that so,” he said, suddenly calm. “If you truly believe that to be the case, I shall help you. Leave your water bucket and come with me.
She followed him into the temple excitedly, and they walked through the long hall as the priests and priestesses gawked . At the entrance to the Door, he called up to the giant statue “Hak im penetritatik! El been ep la koti lot men ik!”. The statue nodded her head once. He turned to Aliah, and commanded “Go in, I have made your request!”. She passed through the enormous door craning her neck at the statue as she passed. The moment she entered the chamber, she began to grow. It was excruciating, and frightening and she called out, but it was too late. Within moments, she was of equal height to the statue. She returned to the entrance and called down to him, “What has happened?”
“You have a true heart,” he answered. “You are truly conceited and cruel.” You shall assist the statue guardian of the Door, but be glad, for you shall maintain your beautiful form for eternity.” Horrified, she looked down, as her body slowly transformed to stone.

Created for Google+ group weekly writing exercise Click to see original exercise.

The Grove of Bitter Dew

Inspired by the image by Felix Russell-Saw via Unsplash.

Link: unsplash.com/photos/7M_vny7cMnI

“Are you ever going to turn around?,” she asked, and, as before was greeted with silence. “You should see what I’m doing right now. I’ve got plants on my head,,” she said. “They are balanced perfectly, it’s really a sight.”

His head cocked slightly. Had she not been staring she would have missed it.

“And now, I’m naked,” she said. Not a stitch on me, the animals are staring.”

A minuscule shudder, just a hint of a response before he could put it in check.

“Ha! You do speak English!” She accused, “Come on, turn around.”

His silence persisted. She watched a fly flit along the pattern of tattoos on his back, and found herself irritated it did not stay within the intricate geometric lines. She sighed. That was the least of her worries.

“What do you want with me, anyway?” She asked. “I don’t have any living family, no money, nothing but a yoga mat and a dog, who has probably peed all over the hotel room by now. My boyfriend left me, and he didn’t have any money either. I mean, what is the point?”

They had tied her hands and ankles, and tethered her wrists to a tree branch above her. This she now looped around her wrists to remove the slack until she could use it to help herself rise to a standing position with her back to him. He crept up on her so quietly she was taken by complete surprise when he grabbed her shoulders. She rounded on him, trying to throw an elbow at his abdomen, but he dodged her easily. He did not make a sound, even his breath on her neck was measured. He moved one hand under her knees and neatly brought her back to the ground. With a single admonishing finger he gestured for her to stay,

In two loping strides he crossed behind her to the place they had dropped her pack, found her sweater and folded it under her head for a pillow. She was angry with herself that this act of kindness touched her. He returned to his sentry stance, and she groaned in frustration.

She must have fallen asleep. He was still standing there, but the gloom of dusk had given way to a bright morning. She was covered in a bitter-scented dew, She opened her mouth to ask about breakfast, but found herself unable to speak. She knew the words she wanted to say clearly in her mind, but was overpowered with lethargy when she attempted to form them. She could not expel the breath or move her mouth to the purpose. Worse yet, she felt no alarm about this, instead, she was flooded with serenity.

Hearing the rustle of her movements, he turned. He drew a knife from his garter and approached her. She gazed at him without fear, and observed dispassionately as he cut the ropes from her hands and feet. He turned her onto her stomach, and she pliantly allowed it, feeling the cool leaves against her cheek, and enjoying the sensation of the spongy ground supporting her weight.

She sensed him call the others, although still in silence, and they returned, carrying a tray filled with instruments and vials. He knelt down next to her, holding the needle in his hand, and she smiled as he prepared the skin on her back for the first injection. She knew this was now her purpose, and these were her people. The grove was her home, and she would never leave it.

Created for Google+ group weekly writing exercise Click to see original exercise.

The People You Meet

Inspired by the image by Geran de Klerk via Unsplash.com.
Link: unsplash.com/photos/uYkdJEYNwSM

To: Lisa Hoberman
15 Cherry Way
Mason, OH 45040

March 24

Dear Lisa,
This has got to be the worst of all the days, as evidensed by the fact I am writing you a POST CARD because there is no wifi in this gd place. Do you see the number of stairs? Look at that and hold your breath while you count to 5,000 and you will still not truly understand how freaking boared I am. My mom and dad made us climb this entire staircase and they did not even have snacks at the top. Guess what’s at the top? A bunch of people looking down. There was one boy and he was in a SUIT!!! WTF? OMG. Please call child protection services and tell them to look for my emashiated body at the bottom of the cliffs of whereever the F we are.

To: Cheryl Whitman
56 Criller Lane
Cincinnati, OH 41073

March 24

Dear Mom,
We are having a great time! The kids actually got away from their electronics and came for a hike. It took us about two hours but we made it to the top – the view on the back doesn’t do it justice – it was breathtaking! There was another family climbing at the same time as us, they had a son Kerry’s age and he was smitten with her – kept trailing his family talking to Rick, obviously so he could be near her, but she pretended not to notice him. I think she was embarrassed that she got sweaty on the climb up. Was I ever that obstinate? Don’t answer that. Anyway, Rick wants to celebrate tonight by taking us all out for dinner at a fancy restaurant. Good thing we are getting our exercise in – we’ve been eating like pigs!

To: Legal Dept ℅ Shauna Rittmer
Warren County Resources Board
52 West Highway 350
Cincinnati, OH 41073

Hi gang,
Thinking of you! Let’s do our next team-building here!
Just kidding Shauna, we can’t afford it unless Mark gets the Oberman account out of bankruptcy. Ha Ha. See you all soon,
From: Jason Whetson
ICCC, Norway – National Conference

To: Mark Bickford
45 Placer Street
San Anselmo, CA 94960

Saw the enclosed postcard and couldn’t resist the banality. Please I beg of you put it on that cheesy bulletin board in your room like you know you want to. We spent the day here, although we were supposed to be at that International Fellowship event I told you about, quite a detour but well worth it. We met up with a gorgeous queen and his beard of a family. Will send pics later – hooking up tonight at dinner, I’ve promised him a real vacation in the bathroom. As brother John taught us last summer: Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it. Seriously, burn this after reading. You can keep the card tho.

Created for Google+ group weekly writing exercise Click to see original exercise.

The Lily

Inspired by the image: Born on Mars, by Ciro Gallucio
Link: http://500px.com/photo/170042881/born-on-mars-by-ciro-galluccio

The Lily
The purple and amber dragon was in a rut. He started every day with the same breakfast of brown nettles. He swept out his cave, setting bugs aside for snack time, then walked out along the cliff’s edge. He stopped to perform wing stretches, a preventative for fin cohesion suffered by sedentary dragons. Every day he trudged up the steep rocky steps to an ice patch where he blew short bursts of fiery breath, melting a tiny river down to the natural basin formed by the stony landscape below. Occasionally he spied other dragons, young and flying high, giddy with the novelty of the mountain air and the adventure of the hunt. He had no truck with them. Flying only served to remind him how small his world was, and he had lost his taste for meat.

But one day, he returned home to see poking through a crack in the basin something he had never seen, a light green shoot. The color was different from the range of browns and reds he knew. Perhaps it was a trick of the imagination? He considered eating it. How different it would be from the scrub brush and nettles that stuck in his teeth and pierced his tongue and cheeks. But as he looked upon the little plant, he felt such tenderness for it he had to grit his teeth. He could not harm this little beauty. Instead, he found some stones and created a shelter for it.

For days, he awoke with vigor, eager to check each stage of the plant’s growth. When a tiny bloom appeared he nearly set it on fire in his exclamation of excitement. This bloom became over time an exquisite lily, a white so bright he could see it in the moonlight when he peeked at it from his cave at night. He was loathe to leave it for his daily work, but knew they needed water to survive.

One day, the dragon arrived to see an astonishing transformation. A delicate face was pressing out of the lily. He blew gently, and the flower face bobbed in the tropical breeze he made. She slowly opened her eyes and he felt his heart squeeze as he recognized the color of the spring shoot. The rest of her body materialized top to bottom until she was no longer rooted to the stone. Her hair and skin retained the white luminescence of the lily petals. She opened her mouth and emitted a wordless tune that knocked him to the ground in adoration. She laid her hand on his bowed head, then slid onto his back and urged him with her heels to take flight. Together they soared off the cliff face, eyes closed in the brilliance of the sun. He swooped low, then ascended at exhilarating speed up and over the mountain, all the while she sang and he wept tears of ecstasy. They flew for hours, until he could no longer flap his wings. He brought her to her basin and she descended, kissing his neck tenderly before dropping to sleep in the stony pool. Some strands of her hair had fallen and he gathered them like a bouquet and went to sleep holding them.

The next morning he arose and dashed to see her, but alas, in spite of her human form she had the lifespan of a cut flower. Her lifeless form lay in the basin, covered in the cool water he had made for her.

Created for Google+ group weekly writing exercise Click to see original exercise.