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Posts from the ‘Poetry’ Category

Love In The Time of 40 Rose Bushes

rose garden

I used to own 40 rose bushes.

They came part and parcel with a house my new husband and I bought in Boise, Idaho — when we were young, in love and wanting to settle down and start a family.

The roses were a riotous mix of colors and shades, lined up prettily against a low weathered gray fence in a sunny courtyard of our new backyard. The windows from the kitchen, eating area and sun room looked out at them. They were in constant view and not easily ignored.

I preferred to grow vegetables back then and was intimated by the responsibility for these roses, so fragile and elegant — and not at all like a melon or head of lettuce in usefulness.

Still, the roses had been growing at this house for a long time. And someone, or a succession of someones, had cultivated and maintained them – perhaps loved them. I was learning to honor love and ready for new responsibilities. Now that the baton had been passed to me — I did not want the roses to die on my watch.

I diligently studied rose cultivation with books borrowed from the Boise Public library. (These were the days before Google!) I mounded loose acidic bark at the base of each bush and put in soak-er hoses to keep their shallow roots cool and damp through the hot Boise summers. I fertilized them, vigilantly watched for disease, picked off aphids and clipped spent blooms. That first fall, instructions in one hand, sharp new clippers in the other, I pruned them rather far back – reducing them to ugly gnarly stumps. I had a few winter months of worry that I had killed them.

But no, they were consistently resilient and reliable, dying back each fall and blossoming beautifully each spring we lived there. The death/rebirth metaphor for my own life is easy to see now with the distance of age.

The roses came to be a source of pride and joy for me. I needed something alive to cherish and nurture, so I showered those 40 rose bushes with the love I was unable to give the child we could not conceive.

Now, nearly 60, with spring on its way, reminding me of my roses and those heady glory days when opening to new love was easy and untainted by its potential for crushing loss, I do another little bit of grieving for the past.

I know that some years later, after we had moved, that beautiful house and its 40 rosebushes burned to the ground — just like my life did, or so I thought, for several years after my divorce.

There are things you can not know about love until you have loved and lost. There are things you can not know about how to live and honor life until you have been burned to the ground. I could not know these things back then.

But I do know, that as long as I am alive, there are still lessons about love ahead of me.

GLORY DAYS

There were brilliant autumn days

where I stood in fields

gone rampant with abundance.

And I was full to swelling and beautiful.

My baby was a round cherub,

a pumpkin,

and my husband was puffed up with love.

And we were going to live forever.

Glory Days!

The days God gives to remind us,

as winter comes,

that in the end,

it was all worth it.

Betsy Lewis

Helpless

"And it all came tumbling down"

My startling, chaotic dreams seem closer to real

than the face I show in the light of day.

So many tangled threads to follow and sort.

So much to not know.

I’ve lived many lives,

now houses of cards that left with the tide.

I am longing for something real today.

But the only thing I can strive for is being human.

And that is no work at all.

Betsy Lewis 3/2015

Hoping for a miracle . . .

"Hoping For a Miracle", Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

“Hoping For a Miracle”, Mixed Media Collage by Betsy Lewis

My defense mechanisms of choice have always been denial and fantasy. If an important situation or person is not to my liking, I can usually spin it or them into line with my fantasy version. I have avoided a lot of misery through the years this way! The collage above captures this pretty well. There, for all to see is my magical child-like self banking on a miracle! (I don’t plan these things.)

In my last blog installment I shared that I am teetering on the edge of a “fiscal cliff” of my own– seeing the pension that was funding my dreams suddenly and mysteriously evaporating before my eyes.

It is only at night now that I sink into bag lady fear. For the most part, I am practicing what I preach and living in the moment. And I still have hope that this has all been a  dreadful mistake, or that there is some way to negotiate a better outcome. I also know that law is its own sort of madness, with rules and precedents that aren’t always based on what I think is fair or just. But sometimes life surprises me.

Yesterday this beautiful poem by Marlene Mish arrived by email:

Hope

Hope teeters upon the wings

Of your broken heart,

Balancing loneliness and despair.

Hope sits in the hollow stillness

Next to the raw places within you

And lights a small candle.

 

Hope believes that next time

The story will come out different

And gives you courage to stand

And take a step.

Hope is all there is

When all there was is

Gone.

 

Hope teeters upon the edges

Of your wary spirit

That has lost it way too many times

And grabs your collar before

The tears engulf you

And shouts, “You made it through !”

Hope is a distant voice whispering a lullaby

When all others

Scream, “Give up!”

 

Hope is the last word of God

You hear before you close your eyes,

The only proof that you are not alone.

“You are beautiful, my child.

Why have you forgotten again?”

 

Hope is the one gift that survived Eden,

The only language of love,

The last promise that won’t be broken,

And yet it teeters

On the edges of things

While you look for answers

Somewhere else.

Marlene Mish, August 24, 2003

Marlene shared a little bit about the inspiration for this poem:

Today is a good day.

Today I can see clearly that life is a series of ups and downs and that no matter how hopeless things can get, no matter how broken I may feel, I know that the sun will rise at dawn and I have a choice whether to greet it. But that wasn’t always so.

There have been times when I felt defeated by life, defeated by my own choices, defeated by the demons what swirl around in my soul, waiting to take root.

I wrote this poem in 2003 on such a day when sorrow had overtaken me, when defeat was all around me, when I had lost my way. I share it only because it is so hard to remember who we are on such days and I need to remind myself every once in a while that most isolation is self-imposed even though I have always sought out someone to blame.

I have made some progress on this journey, and so I can share a private part of it with others without losing.”

One reader expressed confidence that I would get through this pension thing with grace, and I think of that often. Now that is something to work toward . . . to  take on all of life with grace (after a kicking and screaming tantrum, of course.)

I am nothing if not resilient. And though I hate to admit it, I am already teasing out silver-linings.

Hope

Hope

Where do you find creative inspiration? (Or a pile of dirt and a cow in the road)

Creative people are like magicians, conjuring things out of thin air. Where once there was nothing, there is something — a new story, tune, poem, painting, or invention.

My creative life is pretty lively right now. It hasn’t always been this way, but for now, creative block is out of the question. Every object, view, conversation, experience, no matter how small, is grist for the mill.

And with so much scenic grandeur for inspiration at Fish Trap’s Imnaha Writers Retreat, if I were to have creative block, it would be because I was overwhelmed with material.

As I took a walk, I thought about the intimidating cow blocking my way the other day. What could I make of a cow in the road? This led to me thinking about how I handle obstacles in my life and is now a blog post under construction.

The process of thinking of the cow, making it a symbol of a larger personal issue such as “obstacles”, sorting out the meaning of obstacles in my own life, writing about it, getting feedback from others – all this sets into motion a personal transformation.

I will never see obstacles again in quite the same way.

This is the power of writing and art to make meaning and be the catalyst for transformation in both the creator and the viewer.

I used to believe that some difficult people in my life will never change. I don’t believe that now. Even the ones who give me the most grief may change simply by being alive in the world.

This is a transformative moment of understanding for me. It opens my heart and my world.

It softens my  judgment of self and others.

I believe that ultimately it will change those difficult relationships.

************

A dangerous looking cow blocking my way has a little bit of drama, especially for a city girl, but what about something less inspiring.

I glanced around for the least inspiring thing I could find and saw a pile of dirt.

What about a pile of dirt?

Piles of dirt are everywhere – a dime a dozen. What could a creative person do with this I wondered?

Impulsively, I asked poet Lynn Robertson, who is with me at the writer’s retreat, if she could write a poem about a pile of dirt. She answered brightly and without hesitation, “Of course!”, and that day she proceeded to do just that — not once, but twice!

So here you have it – two first drafts of poems about a pile of dirt.

UNRAVELING

By Lynn Robertson

She unraveled

becoming a mound of dirt

in a thunderstorm

beginning with a small titter

of plain brown pebbles

escaping the confines of tolerance

hiccupping down the slope.

 

When the first rain fell

in single, weighty, tear shaped patterings

the surface craters caused by their bounce

across her silken complexion

were smoothed by watery runoff.

But a driving wind arrived close behind

blew the seeds of youth

from her mounds of hair.

The hard rains came after

there were no roots to hold her together.

 

The flesh beneath her eyes

drooped in crescent shaped slings

to hold back the flood

The rise of her cheeks

slid into joweled pockets

and later

when she could absorb no more

she slumped

spreading low and smooth

across the landscape.

 

It took her three days

to realize she hadn’t washed away.

In the way that erosion changes mountains

she had experienced a redistribution

of her wealth.

 

PILE OF DIRT

By Lynn Robertson

Pile of dirt from the tractor

Put it here, push it there

Dirt from the backhoe

Leave it here, spread it where?

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the dirt poor farmer from Nebraska

Dirt in a pile by a highway in Alaska

Dirt for the man tilling up a veggie patch

Dirt for the bugs and the babies that they hatch

 

Dirt for the grader

Smooth it here, fill it there

Dirt for the roller

Pack it here, wet it there

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the fill in a solid earthen dam

Dirt by the tulips in the fields of Amsterdam

Dirt for the holes in the road or on the street

Dirt in a mud pie, mix it up, make it sweet

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

Dirt for the rocks holding up a mountain tall

Dirt for a cushion when a boulder starts to fall

Dirt for the students when they study every layer

Dirt leveled smooth for the pins of a surveyor

 

Dirt from the excavation

Dirt for the elevation

 

You can move it, You can use it

You can mash it, You can smash it

You can smell it, You can sell it

You can wet it, You can get it

For your garden for your yard

You can bake it til it’s hard

 

Move it here, push it there

You will take it everywhere

In a box, in your socks

On your face, any place

You can follow where it goes

But no one really knows

Where at last it slows

To rest

 

 

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