Circus Acts

I am an actor.  Although I am not currently treading the boards, I teach children. This too requires acting. A teacher is always “on.”  

While looking for a new poet to inspire my writing, I was clicking through links from those whom I admire and came upon WordFarm publishers.  I like what they are about, so I clicked on a title that spoke to the actor in me. I marveled at how perfectly and quickly I found a writer whose book of poems fed not only my actor’s appetite, but excited the writer in me, too.

Death-Defying Acts, New Poems by Erin Keane spins tales of circus performers, each with a unique voice and story. From the surly clown (I’ve always hated clowns and Ms. Keane has only cemented that feeling) to the focused, poetic aerialist, I became a voyeur into their dark lives.

With the author’s connection to theatre, I thought this would add another dimension to which I could relate. How right I was. Her characters are fully realized. Her descriptions firmly planted me side by side next to the performers. She took me to the circus.

It would be fascinating to see these poems in production as a theatre piece. Ms. Keen has arranged her poems into a flowing story with the lion tamer and the photo booth; a tattooed lady among others; and deep nights of seduction.

The circus performers open their souls and leave pieces of themselves for me to gather.

This is not my idea of a child’s circus of delights, but it is, indeed, a seducing journey.

Paul Chowder, 2

So, in the second week of Tweespeak Poetry’s book club led by Lyla Lindquist, Paul Chowder did it again. He reminded me of school. This time I paused very early on while reading Chapter 7 when these words stopped me. At first, I wasn’t sure why.

While I was gone the mouse in the kitchen found half of an old cookie and tried to pull it up into the stove’s control panel, which is where he lives. But the cookie wouldn’t fit. So he just ate it where it was. Ate and shat discreetly and had quite a little party.

I decided I would write a poem about mice for my response this week. It wasn’t until I was clicking away at my keyboard that I realized the connection to school. I read If You Give A Mouse A Cookie by Laura Nemeroff  to my students every year. The little mouse in the story is Paul Chowder. He flits from idea to idea while making a mess and ends up where he started, still wanting a glass of milk.

See. Paul Chowder. No introduction to his anthology yet, but lots of adventures.

I borrowed from the two poets, Tennyson and Pope, who were lost in rhythmic chewing and swallowing and digesting at the salad bar this week with Paul Chowder. I decided that I, too, would be rhythmic leaving behind my world of free verse, just to make Paul Chowder happy and to see if I could do it.

Once again, I ask for forgiveness from the bards: Lord Alfred Tennyson for using his lovely poem, The Miller’s Daughter, and from Alexander Pope for lending me the first stanza of Eloisa and Abelard.

They All Ran After the Farmer’s Wife

One
Paul Chowder

Whilst I was gone a mouse my kitchen came.
The first to find a cookie half laid claim.
He pulled his prize to safety where he lives
But wouldn’t fit the stove affirmative.
He ate it there. Just ate it where it was.
A party and a shat between his paws.

Two
The Human’s Cookie

It is the human’s cookie,
And it is baked so chewy here,
I would be the chocolate chips
That quickly disappear;
For hid in that baker’s delight
I’d nestle in each luscious bite.

And I would be the sugar
About its toothsome, candied dough
And its steam would rise to melt me,
In winter and in snow:
And I should know if it’s too hot
I’d clasp it round so close and taut.

And I would be the walnuts,
All day long to wait one nibble
Between some teeth so whetted,
With craving and a giggle:
And I would lie in quiet mime
I should be eaten in no time.

Three
Alex to Paul

In these dark drawers and empty wooden shelves
Where heav’nly crumbs have fallen, not by elves,
And ever-nibbling merriment doth reign;
What means this bedlam near the kitchen drain?
Why rove my mitts beyond this tasty feast?
Why feels my stomach not long ago greased?
Yet, yet I crave! From Paul as it once came
And Alex yet doth find it fair game.

(Click here to read my response to last week’s chapters of Nicholson Baker’s The AnthologistPaul Chowder, 1.)

Continental Drift

Orbis non sufficit

I walk the long white hallway
shades of white
reminding me of the pristine
the virgin
before the world hangs its art on her
nail pricks and wires balancing canvasses
The promise
The work of art will be destroyed
if the property is altered

Shades of white
immaculate skin on rag paper
bed drawings held by hostage eyes
beyond the Gate’s Factory window

Orbis, the world

Continental drift
a platform of relationships
meeting the woman on the edge
a man waving
living history erasing the tangible object

Non, not

The fields will be very dear to us
despite duplicitous monarchs
rebel assassins
their corrupt mercenaries
teardrops marking their sins

Sufficit, enough

I walk two views
one too close
to know where I am going
the other too far
that I may never arrive
and yet
both views lead me to the edge
the boat moored across the canal
I turn back

The world is not enough

.
.
.

Author’s Memo:

Our writing group visited the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver. In the summer we go on “field trips” leaving our local Panera’s group table empty for the taking.

Once inside, we wandered the museum taking notes and meeting up forty-five minutes later in the Café. After sharing our thoughts about what we saw, we wrote for half an hour and shared again.

My poem combines words from the art itself and descriptions of the exhibits – Continental Drift, Frohawk Two Feathers, and Tercerunquinto; overheard phrases from a tour guide with a group of children; and my impressions and images.

It was a lovely outing with different voices filling the air inspired by some great exhibits. Thank you MCA for being an exciting presence in the Denver art scene.

Museum of Contemporary Art Denver – Facade

Paul Chowder, 1

I know Paul Chowder.

Well, not the fictional Paul Chowder in The Anthologist by Nicholson Baker.  But I know the many child Paul Chowders who pass through my door every year. I teach elementary school and I can recognize at a glance an impulsive personality moving down the hallway. By the time it gets to me, it has taken twice as long as it should and traveled three times the distance down that hall with twists and turns and stops and starts. But I remind myself that this wanderer has discovered more about that path than I have in all the years that I walked that same hallway. I take a special delight in those Paul or Paula Chowders.

The current book club selection by Lyla Lindquist  at Tweetspeak Poetry makes me gaffaw. I am truly enjoying this book. I am awed by Paul Chowder’s ability to make such fun of himself, other poets, free verse, and love.  Then without a blink, he smacks us with a punch.

Smacko? Who would name their dog Smacko?

Excuse my taking liberties here, but the poet doth protest too much, me thinks. I wonder if his ranting, and I write this with a chuckle, of unrhymed poetry comes from his own writer’s block? And I’m not talking about Paul Chowder struggling to finish the introduction to his anthology. I wonder why he is not writing his own poetry?  Paul Chowder wants everyone to stop writing poetry, especially those who write the dreaded free verse.  Is that so he can catch-up? But he’s not writing. Anything. He’s only complaining…

Not to write – perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub! Again, forgive me Will, but what took me by surprise from free-verse-hating Paul Chowder is his lovely  “free verse” scattered through out the chapters while he daydreams.

Here are just a few of my favorite beautiful words ala Paul Chowder :

I feel the sun warming up the clear flamingos that swim around my eyeballs

Another inchworm fell on my pant leg

Poetry is written sometimes, I think, in a whisper.

I hear that chirping. I know that the world is starting up.

…tulips rhyme. One tulip leaf goes this way, and the other tulip leaf goes that way.

…in the mist, I saw a big man walking up the street. He was wearing one shoe.

I can hardly wait to discover if Paul Chowder repents against his hatred of free verse, finds love, and finishes his introduction.  Oh, and learns to play a little badminton with abandon.

But most of all, my wish for Paul Chowder is to sit down and write poetry. Maybe I’ll write something, too.

The world will never have its fill of beautiful words.

Pomegranate Beads

It has been hot. The heat appeared earlier than usual at summer’s doorstep and is lingering through its regularly scheduled time. Fire has ravaged our foothills. And rain seldom makes an appearance.

This poem is a cento. Piecing poems together from other poet’s words creates a mosaic, a found poem. At Tweetspeak Poetry the theme this month is July Mosaic. My poem is found and patched together from the words of  Monday’s Every Day PoemGirl with 13 Necklaces by Tania Runyan.

The heat might be getting to me.

Pomegranate Beads

The summer heat arrived
torrid without remorse
he poured the
pomegranate beads
into her parched mouth
a rainstorm of beads
to quench her thirst

Some
tumbling from her lips
spilling down her shirt
glistening ruby jewels
squeezed  slowly
through his fingers
stippling her navel

Some
rolling through
the vented floor
for the inspector
with mechanical arms
whose monitor
fluttered at the muted
harvest

Some
clattering down the stairs
for the praying angels
standing guard
keeping them safe
from the inferno

Colors

Everyone who knows me knows that I love purple. Every shade, tint, and hue. From the darkest, deepest perse of the midnight sky to the fainting amethyst of the last stalk of lavender before the first frost.

We have an oil of a purple mandala hanging above our fireplace. A flower, sublimely painted by an artist friend of ours, Clayton Peterson. The raindrops are spectacular.

But around the house other colors abound. An almost-neon seascape print with an apricot sunset graces our walls alongside a kaleidoscope rabbit painted in thick oils on a reclaimed board as its canvas.

The remaining pieces in our house, though, have very little color in them. My eyes must need a rest. I am strongly drawn to monochromatic hues in browns and pale yellows or grays.

And not to forget the other “colors” in which I imbibe, I delight in a spectrum of sparkles.  I’m six-years-old again as I ooh and aww at the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London or while making a wish to try on those red ruby slippers of Dorothy’s. I love to run my hand through piles of rainbow colored sequins and watch them catch the light as they cascade through my fingers.

At Tweetspeak Poetry, Clair Burge shared some of her delicious photos in her post Image-ine: color seduction. The colors she captured make me want to re-paint each and every wall in my house. And all the chroma would be plucked from her radiant photos.

While I can’t do that, I can share my poem. A poem of hope as Clair suggested? Maybe not, but one of love.

Yellow

1
When the indifferent world
awoke this morn
I reached to your sallow hand
resting gently on your breast
rising and falling with each shallow breath

The creamy silk of your kimono
spread across your refuge
an amber pyre
igniting your shrinking frame

I remember the rustling
of your saffron skirts
bustling through the room
a memory fading over the years

I am anxious this last sunrise
not be remembered
by your diminishing countenance
but by your luscious laughter
halcyon rose petals
steeping the air
with your sweetness

2
Through the wheaten sheers
the glint of mid-day dances
across your motionless face
lighting citrine sparks through
your flaxen curls
encircling your head
a glimmering crown framing
your once aureate smile

I celebrate the memory of your radiance
lingering in the afternoon garden
daffs and calla lilies
blushing at your touch

3
Eventide brings a calming
of the brilliant splendor
in your now honeyed cheeks

My lips touch those
you once sweetened with quince
Aphrodite perfuming her kiss
a kiss now absolute

Unobtrusively
in a whisper
mortality meets perfection
your candlelight dissolves
Into a waxen pool

Luminosity greets you
leaving behind
a tawny afterglow
lighting the darkness
of my soul

Happy 100th birthday, Woody.

Sometimes things just line up.

This summer I am reading fourteen books my 4th and 5th grade students will be delving into this coming school year for a book competition. I downloaded the first tome to my Kindle to begin my marathon read – Bud, Not Buddy by Christopher Paul Curtis. It is a powerful book set in the Great Depression that follows a young boy’s journey of discovery. Strikes, Hooverville, and jazz are all rolled into one compelling story.

My dad at a pie eating contest during the Great Depression.

After leaving Bud, Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan glowed at me from my iPod.  Also set during the Great Depression, this story led me from a ranch in Mexico to the farms in California. Dust storms, repatriation, and heartache could not defeat those souls. Their brilliant spirit rising makes this book a joy to read.

Soon after a piece on Facebook grabbed my attention. It seems there is a school board in my state that has successfully shut down the teacher union in their school district. It is being heralded as the “new” education model for the country in a very one-sided article.

And the last to line up on the tidy shelf inside my usually untidy brain was an interview on NPR celebrating the 100th birthday of Woody Guthrie. It reminded me of his passion for social justice at a desperate time in our country, the Great Depression.

I wonder if all of this lining up was an accident?

I think we’ve forgotten, or many are too young to know about, the struggles in our country during the Great Depression. My father says he was too young at the time and doesn’t remember much. I don’t think that is true.

He was the age of the children in the books I read. Bud, Esperanza, and Leo could have been friends. My father was the youngest of seven in a family whose parents came from Yugoslavia to escape the war in Europe. My grandfather left the family for months at a time to work the non-union mines in the mountains of Colorado. Grandma took care of not only her children, but also the child of a neighbor who committed suicide by drowning herself in the Platte River.

I think he remembers.

Especially when my dad saves the smallest amount of dinner as “leftovers” for lunch the next day. An amount I wouldn’t think twice about scraping into the garbage disposal as I clean the dishes for the dishwasher.

I heave a sigh when I watch him collect stray rubber bands or wayward paperclips placing them neatly in plastic baggies.

I don’t think he will ever forget watching his mother complete her daily chores with a piece of food rolling around in her mouth, refusing to swallow it until the next meal might present a remaining bit left on the plates of his older brothers or sisters.

I am pleased our students are reading these books. And I promise they will also be hearing Mr. Guthrie’s words and songs this fall as we gather for discussion.

We should always remember.

Happy birthday, Woody.