A collection of poems and notes written in response to my book Let the Bones Dance.
Poems by participants in my 2012 Fall Book Class
My First Home
Wellspring of my life
You bathe and nourish me
Because of you
I breathe and grow.
How serenely I feed on
Your water of life!
Soon I will burst forth from
This my fetal sanctuary.
Until then you are:
The sacred reservoir
The holy cistern
Streams of living water
Which help me dwell
My body is dying every day
But its dying
Does not diminish it or me.
I have begun to look upon it
Each day I see in it
I never saw before.
I re-member it
Why it lives
And moves and has its being.
Age may take its toll, but now,
I look at my body not with dis-ease
As being ugly and deformed, but
As being re-formed.
I look each day to God who
Will one day
Re-new not only
My heart and my mind
But, yes, my body, too.
Until then let these bones keep on dancing!
I’ve never known how you did what you did
Often my memories of you are your memories:
A girl running down the lane from the mailbox, skipping and shouting: a letter finally, from my father missing-in-action so long
The first baby girl, who lived two days. You cried because she wasn’t a boy, and then she died. The last after my brother and me; you knew she had died in your womb before the doctors would admit it.
You and Daddy sleeping at the tobacco barn to keep the fire going, your ankles and belly swollen and uncomfortable. That was the hot summer time when you were expecting me.
What did I learn from you?
That days all seem sunny to a loved child
That life is wonderful and awful
That you persevere no matter what
That the world is beautiful
That your family is important even when you fight
I’ve never known how you did what you did
The resources were so few
The big kitchen never saw a stranger
The old house gleamed
The meals were all from scratch
The garden, the strawberry patches, were your cathedral
And the terrible illness, you tended it carefully for forty years
Daddy and I getting up in the odd artificial light of mid-night
Feeding you jelly and orange juice, so many times
And the next day all would be as before
You made us wonderful desserts and ate none yourself
All my life I would think: you can’t give them any trouble, they have had such a hard life already
Things you said:
Have you done your homework?
Let your brother watch his show now
Stop reading and go outside and play for a while
Don’t marry a man unless you would jump off a cliff if he told you to
When I was thirty and not married you seemed to forget that one
When the doctors said it was time, we each held one of your hands when the machine stopped. We tried to tell you, but there really are no words. Your life was yours, and we had to let it go
Poems by participants in my 2011 Winter UPC Book Class
That day in the upstairs bath
not like mom’s norm
of not touching not sharing
but that day in the upstairs bath
between two rooms
we were waiting for my little home perm to set
when she said ”you have really nice legs”
time stopped with her honesty
I knew how to be strong
but I hadn’t yet learned how to receive
The long journey back
First words I remember someone saying to me
About my body then so free
“Watch your weight”
Not the trees, not the birds, not the water
“Watch your weight”
Then the bough broke from the great trunk
Shrill notes escaped falling birds
A culvert from the flowing river
Meant for my good
A weight to be watched by me
The center tried to hold
I broke away
Then the long journey back
to watching trees.
Mom the Care Taker
Cared for her brother while her mother works
No Father to help
No time to play
Cared for her daughters while husband works to provide
No time for herself
Cared for her neighbor who had no family around
No time for fun
Cared for her husband suffering with Alzheimer
No time to relax
Who cares for the caretaker that won’t accept care?
Mother, my sister
Aunts and cousins
All in wonder
How very different am I
They have blue eyes
Blond hair and fair skin
But I could another
“That hair, your hair,” she said a lot,
“That stringy mess. I’m going to cut it off.”
Except she didn’t. She washed and brushed,
Plaited my hair into pigtails, tied bows
On the ends to match my dresses. Hold still.
Don’t wiggle. You pull. Tender headed.
French braids took so long and made my head
Hurt she pulled so tight. “If you’d sit still,
It wouldn’t hurt. I’m going to cut off
This hair.” My hair that never waved
Nor curled unless she wound it
Into whorls the size of quarters,
Slid in bobby pins to hold it, pinched
So, one summer day, when my mother
Was away, I quietly, quickly, slipped
Into her bedroom, found the scissors
In her dresser drawer, and cut, cut, cut
With a whisk, whisk, whack, off
my wounded, worrisome
Hair. When my mother saw, she gasp,
Then cried, “Why, why, why? What
On earth did you do that for?”
I didn’t know, still don’t, except
I remember even now
How clean, how cool, air felt
On the back of my neck.
Two Poems written collectively at the “Beginning of the Birth Pangs” Workshop sponsored by the Resource Center for Women in Ministry in the South (RCWMS)
breathing, dancing, shadows
I must loosen the bonds
The anticipatory joy gives way to the expected unknown
only to return again or to morph into the what will be.
patience, strength, fortitude, grace
swirl round and down from mind and will to opening flesh
The blood of life coursing through her veins through the cord into a new life
Your blood no longer joins with mine but each cell of my body remembers your presence
and leaps at your first cry.
Listen to your body’s pain it will show you the way to receive comfort
and knowledge beyond this time
gifted from generation upon generation
who came before you
Motherhood is like mysterious nectar
sweet tasting, dangerous, fluid of life
Motherhood is the oldest profession.
Motherhood is a vulnerability to being taught by a child’s wisdom.
Motherhood is reinvention, recreation, and remembrance.
Motherhood is bringing into herself love’s fiercest passion,
bearing love’s hopes and hurts
embracing still an all for the sake of life.
Motherhood is a language spoken by stomachs, hearts, hands, and feet.
Motherhood is the hood I moved to. I was going to be a community organizer but it saved me
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