Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sex Education In 1964
















Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.
I wondered what they would say and would I giggle and grin?
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

The sisters warned me not to touch the organ made for him.
If I did, I might create, an innocent child within.
Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.

I didn’t understand what they said. The news caused my head to swim.
I played an organ. Even took lessons. It made my siblings dance and spin.
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

I found the courage to talk to mother, to take the news however grim
To ask her, “Is my organ male?” If the nuns were right, it made new life begin.
Today the nuns talked about sex, so I put away my book of hymns.

She said, “It is a Lowery. It must be female…I guess… Aren’t you late for gym?”
I figured the Wurlitzer was the problem then, that unsavory fraternal twin.
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

Women of the world listen to me shout. Don’t give in to every whim.
Today we are armed with knowledge and should not be taken in.
We must avoid the Wurlitzer, to protect ourselves from sin
I listened carefully because Catholic and reproduction are synonyms.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Basket of Love
















Get reeds and stakes
pliable, yet strong enough
to weave a basket.

Over and under,
over and under
guide the reeds carefully
through the stakes.

Use discipline
to hold things in place
and prayer to shape
your lovely keepsake.

Over and under,
add another row,
this one dyed red
the next one dark blue.

Create a pattern.
Don’t be afraid
to dampen with tears
whenever needed.

Over and under,
now it’s ready for a
handle to be securely
applied to the rim
inside and out.

Fasten with plenty of laughter,
fill with lots of cuddles and kisses.
Make sure the basket is sturdy enough
to withstand even the heaviest of loads.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Empty Wheelbarrow
















Empty wheelbarrow
rusted and worn
beaten from carrying
soil and stone.

Designed to make
any load lighter, found
in a garden or
construction zone.

A lone wheel
with two levered handles
welded on a bent iron form.

After the work is done
she climbs in
to go about town.

He assures her
she won't be thrown.

She is paraded
like a queen on a throne
until he delivers her
safely back home.

Monday, December 28, 2009

He Is Risen

This is a story the priest told at my Aunt Emily's funeral:















Joey was a young boy with serious health issues but when asked what he wanted most in life he asked to attend school like other boys and girls.

Now he struggled with getting to the classroom and sitting at a desk. He also found it difficult to hold a pencil and to complete the various tasks but he did the best he could.

His teacher on the other hand saw his struggle and worried that everything was too hard for him. It was difficult for her to make so many adjustments so Joey could complete the different assignments but she persisted until just before Christmas when she had enough. She called for a meeting with his mother to recommend he be sent to a specialized school or be home schooled.

Before she could speak the mother grasped her hands and said, “Joey is so happy to come to school and he loves you so much. However hard he struggles he enjoys the many things you've taught him to do.”

The teacher felt guilty for her feelings and didn’t say what she planned instead she made suggestions for ways the mother could help Joey at home so he could continue in school.

Things went on that way through the winter and then in early spring the teacher called the mother and told her to make sure Joey found an Easter symbol to bring to class so that he could participate in the class discussion.

The teacher gave each of the children an empty plastic egg shell and told them to put something in it that represented Easter and be ready to explain the symbol the next day.

The first child opened his egg and revealed a piece of green grass. He said, “Easter represents new beginnings.”

Another child had a picture of a chick and said, “Easter is rebirth.”

A third child opened up her egg and revealed a butterfly, “Easter is transformation.”

One by one each of the children had a chance and finally it was Joey’s turn but when he went before the class he struggled to open his egg and when he finally got it open the teacher could see his egg was empty. She didn’t want him to be embarrassed so quickly moved on to another activity.

Joey said, “Wait. You didn’t let me tell the class what my symbol represents.”

It hadn’t occurred to the teacher that Joey brought an empty egg on purpose but she stopped and gave him time to explain.

“The reason I don’t have anything in my egg is because it represents the empty tomb. Easter reminds us that Jesus has risen. Jesus came to earth to be born in the flesh so he could teach us how to live but the true purpose of his life was to show us that through his sacrifice we will rise again.”

Joey died during spring break but the class remembered his symbol and the true meaning of Easter. They missed him but knew he was with his heavenly father.

The priest went on to say that our rising is like each of us has a large balloon and our job is to do things that allow us to return to the father. Sins are like bricks or weights in the basket that keep us anchored to the ground. We must ask forgiveness to unleash those anchors and do good works to fill the balloon with air so we can lift up from this earth and return to our heavenly father.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sunrise















The sun’s fingers reach
across the horizon
through the clouds.

Awake
all ye who slumber
to greet the day.

Reach
out with both hands
for the dawn,

Wash
your face
in sunshine,

Step
out into
the air

Breathe
out the darkness
breathe in the light

Rub
the sleep
from your eyes,

Listen
to the sounds
of morning

Stretch, Move, Sing,

It is a glorious day!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Song of an Honest Man
















Dark skin, black eyes, head of wavy curls
father of twelve, bills to pay, needs the job
He is an honest man

His desperation tempts your greed,
you have the upper hand and take advantage
with no regret you work him hard and long,
you pay him as little as you can
You know he won’t complain
He is an honest man

His hands are cracked, calloused,
and rough on his baby’s skin,
yet when he smiles you can see he is satisfied.
His toil is a gift offered to his father above.
He is an honest man

At night he sleeps the sleep of a working man,
his slumber deep and profound.
He is surrounded by his cherished ones.
His heart filled with love.

While you on the other hand sleep alone,
tossing and turning, choking on your avarice,
craving for the affection which eludes you.

Learn from him…
He is an honest man.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Final Resting Place

I'm attending my godmother's funeral today. This poem is written in her memory. Here she is with a younger brother and sister at a family reunion a year ago.
















Final Resting Place

Most of her life was spent in California
all but two of her children were born in San Diego
yet when it was time to “go home,”

she wanted the plot alongside her parents
in a cemetery off a dirt road,
six miles from where she grew up
in the red clay of New Mexico.

All those years she was displaced
not quite comfortable in her new home
never wanting to take her family back
except for occasional visits that came less often.

Now for her final repose
she wants to lie beside her mom and dad
because the little girl in her
has missed them everday
since the day they were gone.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

A Time To Sew
















There are those who know the secrets of a seed
how to plant it deep enough in the right soil,
to water it adequately, using
fertilizer to enrich the ground,
and choosing appropriate plants to grow along side.

They make it look simple
and in the summer they harvest flowers
to bring color to the indoors
and tasty vegetables of every variety,
with enough surplus to preserve, trade or sell.

Others know how to parent, they seem to have an instinct
knowing when to scold and when to praise
teaching lessons throughout the day
to make their children wiser and kinder
and comfortable with themselves and others.

The fruits of their labor are adults
who can stand on their own and contribute to life
they’re not afraid to take risks but most of all
they can succeed and are not afraid to love.

My grandfather used to say, “You reap what you sew,”
but he also lived through the dust bowl
and depression so he knew that individuals aren’t
always in control and sometimes disaster strikes
and it’s okay to weep but don’t give up.

Clean it up and save what you can, tighten that belt
don’t lash out at others or punish yourself because you aren’t
always at fault and in order to survive remember
when the blame falls on you, learn from it

but when it doesn’t get on with it because the season
for planting won’t last forever.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Three Sisters


















She is the pretty one
her features more symmetrical,
my Aunt Maggie’s nose is too flat,
Aunt Josie’s is too wide.

Each woman dressed in a cotton dress,
somewhat fashionable, frequently washed,
probably faded and mended,
it’s hard to tell in the black and white photo.

Their smiles are honest
it is easy to see they are glad to be together
although when they were growing up
Maggie lived with their father and his second wife
Josie with an uncle and aunt

and Celestina, my mother, raised as an only child
with her grandmother and grandfather
until they passed, then she moved in with an uncle
who terrorized her.

Nothing in her eyes
reveals the horror of those days
of her uncle's drunken rages,
beatings leaving her cut and bruised,
and still having to care
for his paraplegic wife and only son.

Many years later
she forgot most of it-
lost in my father’s love,
and the children they had together.

In this photograph, the sisters
with their arms wrapped around each other
offer support to block out the past.






















Moral of the story: We can and do survive bad times with the help of family.
'tis the season to connect, forgive and to share life with those you love.


A Proverb: Practice makes perfect... I sure need a lot more practice on drawing and painting the human form. Ah... something to strive for in the coming year.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Watercolors and oils

Finally... here is the picture of my first rose using watercolors. I tried taking this inside using a flash.



















Here is a second attempt at the same picture using outside light.


















and this is an oil painting of a pear growing in our neigbor's yard.

Learning to Paint

















I see a brilliant red orange
so I select Alizarin Crimson with a Cadmium Orange
and mix them to splash across
my canvas, the color looks right
but when it dries, the color fades, absorbed into the fibers
so I try again, with another layer, again and again
seeking the right combination to match the vibrancy in the color
of fish I’ve seen at the aquarium
or birds in the wilderness
my colors dim in comparison
but I will not be discouraged
I add a Gamboge
with an Ultramarine Violet
hoping the contrast will give the color punch
for the viewers visual enjoyment.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Calling In Sick
















Ten days is all I get
to call in sick
and still get paid
but here it is the end of the year
and I’ve only used six days so far.

Do I give the other four away?
Left unclaimed they disappear.
I think I feel some congestion in my chest
and a hacking cough that if it persists

could last ‘till the end of the week.

Snow on the mountain tops
suggests a perfect getaway

a place to rest and recuperate
spend a few hours by the fire
and if I’m feeling better take
a ride on the lift and ski for a littel bit.

Can you believe my luck,
my boss is at the same hilltop?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Stew
















Stir the dark morass of meat and vegetables,
the bubbling brew of onion and garlic,
mixed with the slices of potatoes,
carrots, celery and baby corn
a few chunks of beef,
sprinkled with salt and a little chili pepper,
so the taste has a kick
when you least expect it.

The odor permeates the house and greets visitors
with a punch to the gut causing the mouth to water.
Add the aroma of corn bread and biscuits
and the meal becomes a favorite
usually served on a cold day
with scraps from a lean harvest
combined to feed a dozen or more.

Laughter and conversation around the table
all blend in memory
to make the meal desired
by many.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Man’s Hands
















Are you repelled by dirty fingernails
calloused hands that snag on your stockings
hands too large for delicate work
do you prefer a man who works with his mind?

Be prepared to hire out for all the little stuff
clogged drains and loose door handles
light fixtures that need changing
anything that requires large motor activity

I prefer a man who doesn’t mind getting dirty
and knows how to use his hands.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Learning To Walk
















Learning to walk
is a natural event, no drums beating
or announcements in the newspaper

put one foot in front of another
and keep moving without falling over

oh… and don’t forget about not bumping into things
or walking off the edges of sidewalks and staircases

and being able to stop and bend over
without doing a somersault
and moving with your hands down by your side
instead of like a circus performer
held high over your head

After walking there is running,
bike riding, and driving.
Learning to walk is a big step toward growing up.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

All Things Being Equal
















When I look at the events of my life
I can attest to many blessings
but the last twenty years have been difficult
because so many I’ve known have gone

My grandson asked about his relatives
he wanted details about how they died
One of heart disease, a few of old age

but cancer –cells taking over the host,
was the disease that struck most often
taking many by surprise.
It broke through the safety net of prayers and living right.

All things being equal I guess it is the way it has to be.
I prefer it to murder, genocide,
natural disaster or world war.

So, as their time comes I say my prayers,
count my blessings, grateful for the time we had together
then bury them one by one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Another Rainy Day
















I covered my ears to block
the sound of a million ball
bearings falling onto the roof,

a water torture
in one of its incarnations,
continuing now into its third hour.

I will surely break and reveal
my darkest secrets
before this torrent is through.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Forgiveness
















Standing beyond
the daily chatter
of words that don’t matter,
away from worry,
and shopping lists,
things to do,
and shouldn’t miss

beyond the open wound
and scar tissue,
of could have been
and shouldn’t have happened

redundant
litanies
of supplication
ignored or never heard
weeds breaking through
the sidewalk
worms crawling through
the cedar wood

(nothing ever stays the same)

guilt, like an acid, corrodes

memories of past offenses
never acknowledged
inventories of good works
topple

words said out of anger
hang like icicles
sharp daggers

ready to fall again
at the first thaw
and hit the mark
straight through the heart

hiding what she knows
she avoids the
viewfinder
shrouds perception
of who she is
but once unmasked
points her finger

to divert
the viewer,
to visions
of angels
and holiday spirits,
don’t inspect
her soul

a cavernous
hole of fear
and doubt
camouflaged
with holy artifacts
kind words
and a short memory

“Mea culpa,
please forgive me,
I was wrong,”
was all she said.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saturday Chores
















Sweep the patio
rake the leaves

clip the bougainvillea
careful not to touch the thorns

weed the garden
water the plants

pick up after the dog
fill his water dish

rinse off the patio furniture
set the table

fire-up the barbecue
reach for an ice cold drink

and wait for company to arrive.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Rock Band

















I hear it every afternoon
the thump, thump, thump
from the teenager’s drum.

In a little while
his friends arrive,
each with a different instrument.

Then it begins
the discordant sounds
of becoming great,

but until then, my ears are assailed
with all their missteps,
mishandled cords,
and mangled melodies.

I close the windows
and water the plants,
turn on the T.V. as loud
as I can but to no avail

even my walls vibrate
with the base guitar,
the squeal from the electric one
goes right through my skin.

This is the way it was

every day for several years
until one day they made music
and added a singer
who made their sound really great.
I dropped a note to let them know.

It seemed it took forever
but now their songs are on the radio.
I saw them on T.V., “Hey guys, way to go!”
Read about them in the gossip rags
and somehow felt their success was mine

because I didn’t turn them off
or make them stop when they were
nothing but a dull throb against my skull.
Everyone who lives nearby follows
their career and feels a pride...

our local artists made it.
Isn't it fabulous?
What’s that I hear?
The thump, thump, thump of a drum
maybe another star will emerge
from our neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Gingham and Burgundy

This poem is written for my Aunt Theresa who buried Uncle Tony today.
















Pieces of gingham and burgundy
in the shape of a winsome rose
with cross stitches
of sage and forest green
bordering each square.

This traditional pattern
for a wedding spread
covered the bed in their first home.

It held memories of conjugal bliss,
eight children and many grandchildren.

Careful washings throughout the years
let it last a lifetime.

After he was gone
she lay in her bed all alone
recalling the time, not so long ago,
when she sewed the pieces
of gingham and burgundy

and their life together
had just begun.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Winner
















He pumped his fist into the air
the goal was in, the state trophy his.
Of course he shared it with his team
but the headlines printed his name
with a picture of him being carried
off the field on their shoulders.

He had the pick of the prettiest girls,
everyone wanted to touch his hand,
the victory he dedicated to his fans…

until the day of national finals
he became the brunt of their ridicule
shoved and pushed and spat upon.

How fickle the adoration of the masses
when one loses an important game.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Wallflowers
















They sat along the wall in their cotton dresses

adorned in patterns of tulips, cornflowers, forget-me-nots and pink roses

a lovely garden of comely women sitting for easy viewing and quick picking


hair arranged in lovely cascades of auburn, midnight and flax

and one by one they were chosen, escorted on to the dance floor

twirled and spun until they fell in love, then taken out the door


to her father’s house, where he gave his nod of approval,

then to his mother’s place, where she said yea or nay,

finally to a home of their own where they tended their own little garden.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

After The Hurricane
















Along the beach for miles and miles

there was driftwood and other debris

kicked up from the hurricane down south,

Varieties of shells I hadn’t seen for years,

a glass ball from a Japanese fishing ship,

a kid’s tricycle tangled in a pile of sea weed,

plastic bottles and other items, too small to identify,

and a Barbie doll, her hair all wild,

not a piece of clothing, her breast exposed.

I picked up a conch shell and held it to my ear

“Help me!” was all I heard.

I picked up the Barbie,

and took her home to wash her face

and brush her hair,

wrapped her in a pink fleece blanket

then listened to her adventures about the turbulent sea.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Snowboarding















Today was her first day out on the snow
her rented board firmly in hand, the hillside

carefully selected, with enough incline
to accelerate her slide.

Naturally athletic, her first rides were effortless,
making it easy to stay upright.

She maneuvered her board
along the snow banks, carefully avoiding

trees and other riders, competing for space
and cheers from the onlookers, waiting

for her turn to go down the slopes.
With each success she became

a little more daring, choosing a steeper
rise to add greater thrill to her snowboarding.

Her friends, with more experience,
goaded her to take a greater risk

which she accepted atop
the highest peak, trusting herself to succeed.

Nothing in her life prepared her for the speed
with which she sped down the grade,

and without warning the board slipped out
from under her and she toppled

over and over, crashing on to a boulder
with enough force to shatter her elbow.

Other losses flashed before her;
the untimely death of her mother,

friends moving away before she was ready,
a father who refused to acknowledge her,

and John… where was John?
She would always love him.

She heard someone screaming
then recognized her own voice,

the surreal ride in the ambulance,
the rush to the hospital to stabilize her,

surgeons adding a plate and some screws
then sending her home, almost as good as new,

but she never went snowboarding again.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wild Bird

















How do you capture a wild bird?
See the male with his bright feathers
contrasted against a muted background

a fluff of radiance and shadow
protecting its body from the cold
yet light enough to fly south

for the winter
stopping along the way
to delight birdwatchers

and inspire artists
who try to depict the image
so carefully

using brush strokes
to make it seem alive
ready to flit away.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Unicorn
















Mythical creature colored in white
commands adventures through the night
with angel’s wings and a single horn
it travels back to where it was born,
to the gossamer web of make believe
back to where there are dreams to weave
for every child, of every age
to be filled with wonder upon the stage.