My Changes, the Reason I’m Still the Same

mentoringChangesLives

“You’ve changed,” she said, and not in a sing-song “Oh, Sugar, look at you!” southern lady kind of “You’ve changed,” as the reunion well-wishers filtered away from the bar to the circular dining tables.

“Yeah, well since the last time you saw me I came out, lost thirty pounds and I’ve written two books, all pretty heavy things to carry around for twenty-five years,” I said, sort of smiling my new sort of smile.

“Well, doesn’t that make you the special one,” she said in the same tone she’d use when I was one of the peripheral satellites, a confused speck of space dust really, in the high school galaxy she centered, a black hole for attention and adulation.

“No, I just grew up and found something in me, a truth I guess, that made me feel good about myself, not relying on everyone’s acquiescence to my capricious whims for validation,” I said, grinning with each Latinate rocket I fired over her head.

She shook her head, waved at the table of once-upon-a-time teen Sun gods and goddesses in the middle of the banquet hall and brushed past me, muttering, “You’re still a jerk…you’ll never change.”

A combo platter of prompts in this piece, which incorporates Writers Digest’s “My ___, The ____” Poem-a-Day prompt, as well as Lillie McFerrin’s five sentence fiction prompt, Changes. Still need poem #20 for the day, I think, but glad I squeezed out this free write.

Christmas Tales

image

As I gaze out the window of my second floor writing lair this morning, the sun stretches the shadows of the trees–vacant, red-bud maples and the solid spruces–almost due south to north. A blue jay swoops and sits on the limb in front of me and we each check the nuthatch scurrying around the branches in three dimensions like a three year old full of candy running through the house on Christmas morning.

The dit-dot footprints of the wild ones, their own Morse Code, write messages and stories across the snow. That blue-white sheet, with one snowfall above another, works a lot like what a writer would hope to do. So much has been written beneath this surface, informing with depth and height that etched above.

And that’s how this Christmas message works, too. What I don’t see out there, what you don’t exactly feel, is the second set of plodding prints to and from the house, running perpendicular to the rest of this natural manuscript. That emptiness extends into the house and to hearts within the walls.

But, like all those tales told in the snow…that’s life. And today is a day to express the joy we feel for the life lived here among these sleepy, shivering trees and that life yet to come. It’s been a good one, as I hope yours has been, is today and will be, along with ours.

Now, as you can see, I’ve got some reading to do out back. Merry Christmas, friends! Blessings of this season to all!

Springing to Life

The Joy of Spring [80/366]

The Joy of Spring [80/366] (Photo credit: timsackton)

Above the sweet songs of avian choirs
sound some fresh feathered come-on calls,
like rusty gate hasps squee-awking
from within the fresh-popped maples.
In the waves of Nature’s liberated libido
the birds pitch woo and the trees scatter
their dainty DNA in clouds of yellow.
Below, the field is dappled with herds
of robins and crows browsing through
the awakening grass for dormant grubs,
whose husks now litter the lawns
like tiny Chinese lanterns.

New life is en route, migrating home
from below Mother’s equatorial belt.
I stand amid the clamor, no longer content
to wait for my spring to come
and shake me from years of winter torpor,
unwrap me from these insulating layers
of isolation and inertia. I whistle
a tweedle or two of my own,
just to gain a little momentum,
a running start for my take-off.
My wings may sound like old rusty gates,
but at least I’m flapping them. Squee-awk.

Shadow of ‘The Next Big Thing’

Luna y Penumbra

Luna y Penumbra (Photo credit: meab21)

Last week, my friend, the very cool poet Joanna Lee from Richmond, Virginia, tagged me on her blog, The Tenth Muse, as her choice for The Next Big Thing Blog Hop. No, Dr. Lee does not have access to my scale readings over the past year. 

The Next Big Thing is a world-wide campaign that that began in Australia, where authors answer several questions from a fellow-writer friend or colleague that introduce their next project. Then the interviewee tags another author to do the same, a type of web chain mail.

I am most grateful to Joanna for considering me for this honor. Here’s our digital conversation.

What is the working title of your book?

My first collection has carried the title Penumbra since the beginning. Since then, I’ve added the subtitle The Space Between. They also are the titles of two of the poems in the collection.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

I began writing poetry only a few years ago, when both my feet crossed the line into middle-age.  I write what I know, what I see, and what I feel…all observed through the cracked prism of past and present me. When I scanned my poems, I noticed many dealt with light and dark and the space between, the penumbra. Folks seem to like that voice and vision.

What genre does the book fall under?

Poetry, but many of them have the feel of stories, too. I have only recently copped to being a poet. I’ve always thought of myself as a story teller. I still am, but now I just crack the sentences into bite-sized pieces and stack them haphazardly like Red Robin onion rings on the page.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Middle-aged guy, gray hair, capable of portraying the light and dark of life…hmmm, is Clooney busy?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Penumbra explores the observations and feelings, the radiance and darkness, of a man in his life’s penumbra, the space of partial illumination between perfect shadow and full light, no longer young but not yet old.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I think they might be surprised at the amount of gentle and universal emotion. Maybe even a bit of the romantic. When I was beginning to write poetry, I shared my pieces with but a few friends. One of them, who is involved in the arts and poetry, remarked she thought there weren’t many women whose hearts wouldn’t melt when reading some of those poems. (Thanks, H. The check’s in the mail.)

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Oh, gosh, I don’t know. Poetry doesn’t exactly get placed in the front of Barnes & Noble, does it? That kind of limits a hope-to-be-published poet’s options. However, if there are any poetry agents or publishers out there looking for a uniquely American voice, my email is on the About page. Obviously, self-pub is a viable option, too. I just write the pieces. I’ll defer to my published colleagues for the packaging and distribution knowledge.

Now, my first novel, a HistFic work-in-progress with the working title: Stillwater, is a different ballgame. It’s the intertwined stories of two women from the same county in England who meet on different sides at The Battles of Saratoga during the American Revolution. For that I would need to find representation.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

Oh, no more than two years. I’ve been writing poetry for a very short time.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

My heart and soul languished in the dark for a very long time. I was able to unlock the doors and allow the light back in only a short time ago. It’s exciting to express myself as I couldn’t or wouldn’t allow myself before. People seem to like what I see and how I depict it. Maybe they’d like to keep some these pieces of my light, dark and in-between near at hand. I certainly hope they do.

For the next link in the Next Big Thing blog hop chain I have tagged my dear friend, the poet-blogger-musician-photographer-‘film’ maker from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, UK, John Anstie. 

Bully Pulpit

Choir loft

Choir loft (Photo credit: TepeyacFarm)

Does it qualify as bullying
when the one miserying you around
beats from within? Was yours a story
of trying to measure up, trying to
accede to implied expectations,
ones never voiced or illustrated,
where you had to rely upon your own specs,
your own skewed set of measurements?
How many not-good-enoughs to your foot?

Did you get tangled in those hurdles
and those traps you set out to trip
and splat and learn your place?
This congregation of one usually listens
to the loudest one, the guy in the pulpit
pushing me to his way of thinking,
not to the cowed sinner whispering
in the confessional between this pew…
and this.

Up here in the loft I’ve crawled,
where blessed dissonance might
draw attention away from the fearsome
stem-winder in the front of this,
my sanctuary. Here, a new choirist
with familiar face, chants a simple
song of praise giving me more faith in me.
There’s room up here for you, if you
know how to sing your own hosannas, too.

2:00 AM

moonlit

moonlit (Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan)

Listen! You can hear the house,
a stick and brick bellows,
breathe through the vent,
creaking and snapping
in its respiration.
It’s 2:00 AM and my world,
from this room on out,
is in blackness.
It is our time.
We are the nocturnals,
these sounds and I,
never more alive in
my heartbeat consciousness
than in this drowsy darkness.

Like fox outside my window,
I know every trail of my
two-story territory. I prowl
its landscape with the vision
of no vision, where I sense,
stalk, pounce and take
my prey of words
back to this wizened
warren upon my pillow.
A comfort, this awakening,
a tempering of my
cold emotional gloom
with the warm embrace
of tangible shadow.

And it conveys such
radiance to my days.

Unbrakeable

Running Downhill

Running Downhill (Photo credit: michael.heiss)

Where does it go?
This time that just became
that time, my time
that’s become our time?
I try my best to slow its pace,
breathing the air of life more slowly,
learning to accept all that
my senses and soul used to deflect.
You’ve seen me now recording
each tiny movement, thought,
nuance and subtext, just like
a real author drafting
a fictional fight in a thriller,
stuffing each bead of sweat,
all the booms, near-miss whizzes
and heart-splitting slashes
into as many pages as possible.
Perhaps I am an imaginary man
writing this true story,
trying to fill my oh-so-limited
remaining temporal space
with even the most mundane action
on this, my return to a childlike,
unbrakeable downhill run, and with
the thrill of me being part of us.