Sunday, February 16, 2020

Places in the World

This is an edited (shorter!) version of my poem Places In The World

You can watch a video of it, a Poetry Collage, made by Sue Perlgut and read by 12 wonderful women:

Places where I hesitated before entering

where I bought a book just because I liked the cover

where I was the least athletic person in the group

Places where I felt invisible

where I forgot to breathe

where I wanted to leave but had to stay

Places where I learned something new and fabulous

where I didn't know any language that was useful

where I was still and quiet and alone and happy

Places where I felt comfortable in my own skin

where I embarrassed myself by laughing uncontrollably and inappropriately

where I held her hand and she held mine

Places where I danced with abandon, until my feet wouldn't move any longer

where I was mistaken for somebody else

where I was actually very brave

Places where I kept my mouth shut

where I pretended to be English

where I said the opposite of what I meant

Places where I have gone in my dreams

where I met someone I'd always wanted to meet
     and they turned out to be as wonderful as I thought they would be

Places where I had an epiphany

where I didn't understand the instructions

where I expected to be welcomed with open arms and I wasn't

Places where I succumbed to the irrational urge to buy at least
    one new pen that I didn't need

where I wept in public

where I entered a room and walked right out again

Places where I waved to somebody, thinking they were somebody else

where I fell asleep in public, drooled a little, and maybe even snored

where there was a ghost in the room

Places where I didn't see her at first and then I did see her
    and I was so happy she was there

Places where I sat around a campfire singing those
    good old tunes with utmost sincerity

where I wrote in the dark

where I gave up too soon

Places where I had to say "no" repeatedly before I was heard

where I regretted not being more competent in math

where I bumped into something or someone
    because I was walking and reading at the same time

Places where I looked up just in time to see a bird begin its song

where I could have consulted a dictionary but I chose not to

where I didn't recognize myself

Places where I ran out of ink

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

late bloom rose, by Rob Sullivan

late bloom rose

alongside of past-due mates

dry leaves, brittle stems

all their part to play

some days in the sun

gentle rain begins

on the rose

the leaves

the stems

and my aching bones

NOTE: Rob wrote this poem on Thursday morning, September 26, 2019, just before our writing workshop began. Inspiration came from the rose growing on the bush at the corner of E. Buffalo Street and N. Cayuga Street .... the DeWitt Mall Rose Bush.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Give the Gift of Touch, by Barbara Cartwright

As a child, I believed my future self was hiding in my hand. I’d pore over other people’s writing, looking for who I might be in backward slants and forward scrawls, in carefully printed letters and in decorative script. In the flourishing tails of g’s and j’s and p’s and ‘y’s. And in the ever so exotic epsilon e. Now that, I thought, was truly me. Though I couldn’t make a whole self out of just one letter. And where exactly was the future me in all the rest?

Do we have a choice in how we’ll write? Or even who we’ll be? Or are we born with our hands already knowing how they’ll write, with a history of our ancestor’s script residing in our loops and lines, like a parallel DNA? Sometimes I’ll look at my writing and say: My capital G is just like my Dad’s. And that zippy bit of pen and ink where you have to guess the word from the company it keeps, that’s so like Grandpa Bill.

I cannot see my mother in my hand. I have tried too hard too long not to be like her to let her into what I write. And her letters were — let us just say they were dramatic and unique, just like she was. Her i’s wore wide open circles over top, and her t’s had protracted crossbars, extending left to right.

Still, I look longingly at her hand each time I read a recipe she’s written out. Strange how out of mere ingredients like flour and salt, Tbsps and 1/4 cups, a person can come to life, so real, it would take nothing to reach over and give the gift of touch.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Clouds / You Seem to be You, by Zee Zahava

I read these two poems on Saturday, April 27, 2019, as part of the Tompkins County Public Library Readathon fundraising event.


you say
it's a cumulus zoo up there

you point
and the car swerves a bit

(I whisper to myself)

do you see that?
you urge
eager to share your discovery

so I swivel my head
follow your pointing finger
all the way to . . .

what is it?
I ask

(I see a cloud
one of many
I am not yet pulled in)

don't you see it?

you want me to find it on my own

you are my guide
but still you want
to leave room for my imagination

alas, my imagination falters

I see amorphous fluffs of white moving along
I'm not good at this game
I give up so quickly

it's a pig's head
you exclaim
a pig's head
on an elephant's body
and the elephant's tail
looks exactly like an alligator

and there's a bear
you continue
up on its hind legs
getting ready to swallow the

don't you see it?
— you’re excited now —

oh, oh here comes a lion!
surely you see the lion!

I say
sure, the lion
I see that

we both pretend I'm telling the truth
that I can see with your eyes

I do see the lake
I assure you
resting the back of my right hand
on the passenger-side window

that's good
you say
the lake
that is the lake

You Seem to be You

you seem to be you and I seem to be me —
but who knows?
is it possible we are apple seeds in the same sweet apple?
or hats perched atop mannequins in a shop window
in oooh-lala-Paris?
and if we are hats
then I want to have a wide brim with a floppy purple flower
(a peony?) 

hanging down the right side
and you can be whatever kind of hat you want to be
I am not feeling especially bossy today

but I will say this
if it turns out you are not you
and I am not me
and we are neither apple seeds
nor bird feathers
nor pine trees . . .
if you are not you and I am not me
and we are two different people
who don't yet know each other

then my biggest wish
is for us to meet one day
and recognize some unmistakable spark
to be drawn together by a bright light
or a pleasant smell
or a strong vibration
or a single musical note
it could be anything
as long as we connect again
(or would it be considered the first time?)

what other reason would there be
to get up in the morning

Note: I offer profound thanks to Terrence Keenan for his poem "A Sweetness Appears and Prevails." His opening lines ("The reason we bother/ to get up in the morning") and the phrase toward the end ("You seem to be you/ and I seem to be me") led me into my poem

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Elephant Vanishes / The Declutter Meditation, by Stacey Murphy

Stacey Murphy read these two poems on Saturday, April 27, 2019, as part of the Tompkins County Public Library Readathon fundraising event.

The Elephant Vanishes

I meditate on the removal of obstacles
and the Universe appears —
a great golden elephant
in a green, wooded glade
carefully picking logs off the path before me
moving them aside gently:
hesitation, gangly and thorny;
lack, hollow and brittle;
distraction, thick and heavy.
With one look over her shoulder and a playful flip
of her tail the elephant
winks and she vanishes.
It is up to me to move forward.

The Declutter Meditation

On the inhale, I breathe in an open shoe rack
On the exhale, I remove an unhelpful thought

On the inhale, I make space on a shelf
On the exhale, I place an old habit in the trash bag

On the inhale, I smell gentle lemony cleaners
On the exhale, the old tattered blanket goes to the animal shelter

On the inhale is space and potential
On the exhale comes limitless creation

Monday, May 13, 2019

the contortionist and the poet / go to unexpected places, by Ian M. Shapiro

Ian M. Shapiro read these two poems on Saturday, April 27, 2019, as part of the Tompkins County Public Library Readathon fundraising event.

the contortionist and the poet

a contortionist
and a poet met
in the early evening
on an overnight train
from dallas to el paso

they shared a
non-sleeping cabin
initially not speaking
the contortionist reading and
the poet looking out the window

but time passed and
one thing led to another and
they introduced themselves
and seemed intrigued
by each other's work

what must it be like
to go out before crowds
and twist your body
into so many shapes?
asked the poet

the contortionist said
well, i keep looking for
new shapes and sometimes
i get weary of
the old ones

but what i found, in time,
is that it's not the
extreme contortions
that interest people
it's the subtle ones

it's the small deviations
from what typically is
and not only does it
interest people more
it's of more interest to me

i seek less to impress people
than to connect with them
less to show the impossible
than to show what might
well be possible

and then the contortionist
straightened up and asked
what is it like to write?
what excites you as a poet?
what makes it worthwhile?

the poet looked out the window
and said maybe it's similar
i less frequently seek to
try and twist new sentences
and new combinations of words

and i rather seek to describe
the world as it is and
also to describe the
world as it could be
in small excursions from what is

and then the two women
became reflective and
thought of their exchange
and as time went by
they both took out food

and they shared sandwiches
hot drinks and sweets
as the train traveled
on into the night from
dallas to el paso

go to unexpected places

go to unexpected places
go to the most unexpected places
go up to dark attics
and then go to the outer edges
of the dark attics, above the eaves
and open old boxes you left there

go to unexpected places
go up mountains to caves
go inside the caves
and then come back and sit
at the entrances of the caves
and look out, and look in

go to unexpected places
look for unexpected places
go to empty houses
and see what was left there
and even better, even more
see what was felt there

go to unexpected places
go to flat rooftops, especially
if their access doors are locked
find a way round to get up there
and then stand up on the parapet
go up there and look right out

go to unexpected places
go to a balcony high above the city
and pitch a tent late at night
and sleep there and wake there
and see the city from there
and let the city see you

go to unexpected places
look for and find unexpected places
go to the most unexpected places
and look out, and look in
find the most unexpected places
and let unexpected places find you

Sunday, May 12, 2019

As The Crow Flies / Dance Your Heart Out, by Heather Boob

Heather Boob read these two poems on Saturday, April 27, 2019, as part of the Tompkins County Public Library Readathon fundraising event.

As The Crow Flies

If I could draw a map of my heart
it would need to be topographical
so that you could lay your hands on it —
like braille —
to feel my existence,
to empathize with the contours of my  experience,
and the inclines and rolling valleys
(upon which I have ridden)
representing my relief.

One day when I’m wise and the lines on my face
reflect the journey of my heart,
I hope that the crow who has made his footprints
at the corners of my eyes,
will come to rest on my shoulder —
as he will learn, that even
the shortest distance to fly
would not be fast enough
to get from here to there —
from every joyful smile to the next.

Dance Your Heart Out

The room was so hot that
the walls were sweating.
The floor was sweating.
A direct effect of the energy exuded
by a band called The Nightsweats.
When you really start to let go
your knees will sway.
Your pelvis will shake.
Your inner Elvis will show himself.
I dance alone
in an empty room
to let go.
I dance, surrounded by
We harvest heated energy.
How efficient.