Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Pondering the Question

Last summer, I challenged readers to write a "burning house" poem: if your people and pets were safe, what would you rescue from your burning house? This was Stacy's poem, and I'm privileged to share it with you. 

Pondering the Question
If I had to leave my home?
Flee before the flames,
Retreat from the advancing wildfire.
To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.
What would I take?
What would be important to me?
Too important to leave?

I have been pondering the question.
Not of ID and insurance,
Titles, deeds and bank documents.
What possessions do I need?
What material goods?
What objects? What things?
What stuff do I need from my life to continue that life?

Well, obviously, I will need my computer, my phone.
How could my life as I know it continue if I lose all of my electronic information?
What else would I have to take?
Photographs of course!
All those irreplaceable images and memories of people and places I love.
Captured on paper and stored in boxes. 
(Not uploaded to digital format yet because I do not have the time)
Scrapbooks and mementos of my life, I will need these.
My jewelry.
My Grandma’s ring.
My Mom’s favorite cross,
The one we put on her for her funeral viewing.
The earrings I have been collecting since High School.
Surely I must have these precious items!

Would I have time to get my books?
The ones I paid retail for?
The ones that were beloved gifts?
Thrift store and library sale treasures bought on the cheap?
All of those?
I have to have my books!
To have my own life still, after the fire, won’t I need my books?
Where do I stop? Draw the line?
Do I take all my clothes?
Coffee cups and espresso maker?
Chef knife and silicone spatula?
Art, furniture, sheets and towels?
Where will it end?
What do I really need?

I have been pondering the question.
Thinking hard about my life.
Considering what I need.
My life, my loved one’s lives and maybe, just maybe, a file of important papers.
That is what I need.
My life, my loved one’s lives.
That is all I need.
Not all I would want,
Not all I would hope to save.
But really, all I would need.

If I had to leave my home?
Flee before the flames,
Retreat from the advancing wildfire.
To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.
What would I take?
What would be important to me?

While pondering the question,
Thinking hard or in passing thoughts
I wonder.
What do I really need?
I know my computer, my phone, would ease the transition to a post fire life
My photos, mementos and books would aid in continuity from my pre-fire life.
Art, housewares, personal possessions would soften the move to a new place.
A new home. A new life.

Pondering the question and thinking of all my stuff.
Would I need it? Have to have it?
The possessions? Objects? Things?
Need? No.
Want? Yes.
Of course I would want them.
Those special treasures, those precious objects are links.
Tangible links to people, places and times I love.
Physical objects representing things I have done and seen and shared.
They reinforce my memories, aid my recall,
Of those people and places and actions that shaped me and my life.
These emotionally weighted objects trigger a response in my brain
Connecting me in my present to me in my past.
Losing these tangible pieces of my life would be brutal.
Yes. Losing them would be devastating.

Pondering the question
I know that if I had my life, my loved one’s lives
That I could live without all the rest.
Yes. Thinking hard I could lose it all.
Every object big and small.
Every item expensive or cheap.
Every thing important or trivial.
I would survive losing them all.
I would mourn the loss.
But I would survive.
Mostly I would mourn the weakness this loss would generate in my memory chain.
Mourn the vacuum, the gaps, the access to these precious clues.
Clues that cement my life experiences to my person.

But, while pondering the question,
When I think of what I know, what I remember
How much these memories are connected to objects,
How many objects and their accompanying memories I have forgotten, shed or lost.
How in my present,
I do not know which objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.
I do not know if objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.
I do not know that the future me will have any memories.
I think about how fragile memories are.
How easily lost or broken.
That makes me think of my Grandma.
Her loss of memory.
Her loss of Identity.
Her inevitable loss of life.
She still has the physical objects of her long and full life.
Her papers and books, photos, art and household.
She has her house but has lost her home.
This place and these things no longer have any connection to her and her person.
The wildfire of Alzheimer’s has burned them to ash.
Much like her I have collected things,
Things I plan to love and enjoy and the build a life with.
Pondering the thought of losing my things and then extending the thought,
Facing the possibility of losing even the basic knowledge of those I love.
Losing the basic knowledge of who I am.
What would be left? Anything?
Will she, would I, in losing our things, our memories, our very identities
Lose everything?
Pondering that thought,
I do not think so.
I hope that we do not.
I have faith that we do not!
I believe that even though her memory has gone, that one day my memory may go
That in our brains and bodies, our very cells,
That every moment, experience and loved one is recorded and remembered.
Safeguarded by our souls. 

- by Stacy McKnight

Feel free to share your "burning house" poem with me

Friday, February 22, 2013

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Love Story in Black and White

Love Story in Black and White

What the hell am I doing
hugging a white man in an apron?
I said it to myself--but out loud!--so that
he pushed me away slightly:
What did you say?
This was the first white man I had dated--
though I was sixty!
It wasn't only that I was holding
a body close for the first time
in years; not only
that he was white.
Our mothers' fears and angers--
heirlooms of slavery--
had hardened my heart.
Perhaps it was the apron. I had never imagined
a white man (not a chef)
come down to that order. Perhaps
the way he met me, beaming,
opened wide,
confounded my expectations
and undid me.
How lovely his body
as he bends to the wise tomatoes.
What does black
and white have to do with it,
our love that's lasted ten years?
Each act of tenderness
amends the violence of history.

Submit a poem to me for Poetry Wednesday or National Poetry Month — and if I use it, I send you a book of poetry. Everybody wins!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Review: The Lucky Gourd Shop

A woman discarded as a child, a man whose fury is stronger than his love, a mother who cannot raise her child out of the rage and societal restrictions of his time, the children who suffer: all this and more is found in The Lucky Gourd Shop by Joanna Catherine Scott.

To be honest, I would never have read this book if not for my book club. I nearly didn't get past the first few pages, but I am glad I did.  It was a tragedy, full of heartache and misadventures — what a tale. Charles Dickens has nothing on Scott.

The book opens with a mother telling her children what she discovered about their birth family in South Korea. Her teenage son, who was six when he left his birth parents' home, remembers a few things differently — and the story travels to Seoul, a generation earlier, and reveals the tale of their parents' lives (and, ultimately, their own).

Mi Sook had an unconventional — even shocking — upbringing. The coffee shop manager falls for Kun Soo, a man with an air of wealth and achievement, a man who can give her the home and life she never has had. Readers know he is not how he appears, and the life and family they build careens along a tumultuous path to the end.

No one escapes unscathed. The father who desires only sons is inflamed with rage and dissatisfaction, which he shares with everyone in his life. Kun Soo's mother (which is her name, incidentally, a traditional gesture in Korean culture) is trapped in the traditions that punish her and her family. Mi Sook is a victim of, and in, her own life.

The book reflects the rhythm and language of Korea, and are spare and insightful. Words are placed carefully and used only as needed. Scott appears intimately familiar with Korean culture, and I had to keep reminding myself that this author was not born and raised in this world she described.

The characters were true and interesting, but not always likeable. Everyone seemed wrapped in traditions and the restrictions that come along with them. Kun Soo was a man trained to value only sons. His mother has no name; she is referred to as "the old woman" or by how she relates to her family. Mi Sook's upbringing (or lack thereof) created an interesting dynamic between her and the people around her. Madame, the wedding dress maker who owned the shop next to Mi Sook's coffee shop, was the only person who seemed to see things outside the boundaries of tradition — perhaps because she was a woman outside tradition herself.

The children... Oh, my. After finishing the book, I turned to the opening chapter and re-read it.

This book will stay with readers. It's a difficult, but worthy, book. I recommend it, but cautiously: those who can get past the first two chapters will be able to follow it to the end with great reward.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Poem for David: After a Noisy Night

"It isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts." 

After a Noisy Night

            The man I love enters the kitchen
with a groan, he just
woke up, his hair a Rorschach test.
A minty kiss, a hand
on my neck, coffee, two percent milk,
microwave. He collapses
on a chair, stunned with sleep,
yawns, groans again, complains
about his dry sinuses and crusted nose.
            I want to tell him how
much he slept, how well,
the cacophony of his snoring
pumping in long wheezes
and throttles—the debacle
of rhythm—hours erratic
with staccato of pants and puffs,
crescendi of gulps, chokes,
pectoral sputters and spits.
            But the microwave goes ding!
A short little ding! – sharp
as a guillotine—loud enough to stop
my words from killing the moment.
            And during the few seconds
it takes the man I love
to open the microwave, stir,
sip and sit there staring
at his mug, I remember the vows
I made to my pillows, to fate
and God: I'll stop eating licorice,
become a blonde, a lumberjack,
a Catholic, anything,
but bring a man to me:
            so I go to him: Sorry, honey,
sorry you had such a rough night
hold his gray head against my heart
and kiss him, kiss him.

from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 1997.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: The Letter

In honor of A Month of Letters, I give you a poem about — you guessed it — a letter.

The Letter

Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper
Like draggled fly's legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the bare floor
Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon. 

courtesy of

Saturday, February 9, 2013

A Month of Letters: How YOU Doin'?

I don't know about you, but I haven't written a single note.

My explanation is — well, unimportant. Sure, I was traveling for the first week. Then I came home and spent three days not writing any correspondences.

Then the mail arrived Friday with a stack of letters.

I will remedy that this weekend.

How's your postage holding up? Just checked out my first-class stamps and discovered I own "forever" stamps. My postcard stamps, however, are in need of penny stamps. Sigh. I'm terrible about picking up postage, which is why I purchase a lot of postage at once (then proceed to not use it in time and have to purchase penny stamps). And me with lots of photos for photo postcards!

Don't be daunted. One letter every day the mail is delivered is doable. If you're behind, grab a few postcards to catch up! Use your favorite note cards. Your recipients will be glad you did.

Have you found it a challenge to pick up the pen? Decide who's on your hit list? Find postage? Locate a mailbox? What has been your Achilles heel so far this month?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fun Friday: Llama Needs a Caption, You Could Win a Book

I've got something to say. I just wish I knew what it was.

Help this llama find his caption!

Here, I'll start:

Quick, climb in! I'll explain on the way!


No, I'm Pullyu!
Pushmi took Seventh Avenue.
Probably home already, too.

(Full disclosure: I read the first one somewhere.) 

Now, it's your turn. Submit a caption idea. I'll list the three finalists and let you vote for your favorite. The winner wins a book (selected from a list of available titles).

So, submit your caption idea via e-mail or in the comments below no later than February 24.
I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Twitter: Sign O' the Times

Chuckle courtesy of Twitter and award-winning author Alan Heathcock:

Sign O' The Times 

Flight attendant: "Sir, can you please power that down." 

Me: "This is a book."

(For the record: true story.)