Four Weeks

The sunrise is red through the blinds and somehow the baby is four weeks old.

There’s no margin between days. Instead the sound of feet running down the hallway, the door creaking open and two small voices saying good morning in the dark. Someone reaches a hand into the quiet nest of the bed and the baby stirs next to the mother, stretches and curls tiny arms and legs, and someone trips on a twist of clothes on the floor and hits their head on the bed’s edge and now they’re howling. It’s seven in the morning, as loud with need and newness as seven the night before.

The sunrise is red but the day will be dark, low with clouds and the threat of snow. They will all be in the house again together, and now the father is grinding coffee, and the five-year-old is spinning and jumping across the floor, a slept-in tangle of hair at the back of her head. She approximates ballet moves from a video lesson emailed each week– a teacher she’ll never meet, classmates scattered across states–What does échappé mean, mama? Watch me, watch this!

There’s no margin between days and the mother rubs sleep from her eyes, tries to access the part of her brain that once knew French. She holds her third baby to her breast with one hand while the father puts a cup of coffee in the other hand. This is love’s language– a cup of coffee, a look exchanged.

The sunrise is red and the father is tired, but he picks up the middle child so he can see, too, this boy too suddenly big beside the new baby, whose feet move too fast for the rest of him, who says I fell down every night when they recount the day’s roses and thorns. Why it have those poky things, mama? he asks in the yard, little eyebrows furrowed at the one pink bud on the bush. Why does every sweet thing come with some pain, why does sun make shadows, how does the year behind us still trail its weight into this one?

There’s no margin between days or years and the baby was born at the threshold of both. The mother knows her own tendency to will time forward, tries to root herself down into this day, its shapes and sounds.

Somehow the baby is four weeks old and there will never be another first month with a baby again, each first becoming one last time. Soon enough she’ll sleep, and she’ll sleep, and he’ll sleep. They’ll have conversations longer than a minute. He won’t always fall. She won’t always dance in the living room.

The sunrise was red and later the first flurries of winter came down. The kids put on boots and gloves and woke the baby, whooping and shouting in the yard, and it wasn’t enough to be snow, not really. It felt like rain but lighter somehow, and it left little prints in their hands.


I wrote this with Rhythm, a year of weekly writing prompts. See more at #rhythmwriting2021

Poem Response on Vox Poetica

Here’s a poem I wrote in response to a photo prompt on Vox Poetica, a photo called Alberta Bound by photographer Michael Lee Johnson.

Mind

Stopped by the gate, you pace the place old
wheels have smoothed, tracks so worn

that’s all you see, never mind the fact
they cross over, go on. You believe

in the gate, though your lips shape
other words. Your hands trace the rubbed

wood, paint peeled—listen, you may as well
leave it here. There’s a way out that’s everywhere—

see how the sky goes around and through? Despite
the signs, forgiveness is the usual procedure: an inch

per century pushing up through plates.
The pace isn’t what’s important here. Out

in the estuary the same light grows, seeds
ripen and shake: little fists opening.

I love the tagline for Vox Poetica: “It’s just poetry. It won’t bite.”

I wrote this poem as part of a 30 day poetry challenge I’ve undertaken this August with a friend and fellow poet, and it’s helping me reaffirm that creativity is there in abundance. I don’t have to ration it or fear there won’t be enough. There is plenty there, and plenty of places and people to share it with.

Try writing a poem to a photo prompt from Vox Poetica, Rattle, or the 20 day poem challenge coming up at Ekphrastic Review.

A tanka walk with Haryette Mullen

photo-1462774603919-1d8087e62cadInspired by Los Angeles poet Haryette Mullen and her book Urban Tumbleweed, today a group of students and I took a tanka walk around the Metropolitan Learning Center building in NW Portland.

Each writer made notes about their exterior and interior landscape. Walking quietly and carrying a small piece of paper, we wrote down what we saw, heard, touched, smelled, thought, and felt as we moved through the building.

This is one of my favorite activities, because I love writing and I love walking. Last year, I took a tanka walk with students at Cleveland High School, and I was so inspired by their creativity that I decided to take the project with me into my own backyard. Continue reading “A tanka walk with Haryette Mullen”

Try Writing a Semi-Glosa

Try writing a semi-glosa like Barbara Crooker’s poem, “A Woman is her Mother.” Crooker is the author, most recently, of Gold. Find out more about her work here. The semi-glosa is a “nonce” (or invented) form. You’ll need 4 short lines from favorite poems, stories, or songs.

I asked Barbara Crooker how she wrote the poem and this is what she replied. Thank you, Barbara!

“The glosa is a 15th c. Spanish form most commonly seen in English by Canadian poet P. K. Page.  It uses a 4 line stanza from another poet. Each line appears at the end of a ten line stanza (4 stanzas to the poem).  Lines 6, 9, and 10 are supposed to rhyme.  \

So I was really messing around with the form in this one; first, I’m not using a 4 line stanza, but rather, 4 lines from 4 different writers, 4 different poems.  And none of them end the line, nor do I follow the stanza length or rhyme pattern.  Instead, I really “nonce it up,” creating my own pattern.

I’m doing something more like a pantoum, where line 2 of the first stanza becomes line 1 of the second; line 3 of the 1st stanza becomes line 2 of the second, line 4 in the 1st becomes line 3 in the second, etc.  It’s loose, but I wanted the lines to be interwoven.  I’m also using a muted rhyme scheme:  other/air weather; other/everywhere/here; flowers/for us, branch/flesh; back/talk; forward/everywhere, telephone/alone.  So, it’s both formal, and “not,” in that I’m doing something pattern-like, without actually following a pattern exactly, whether a “received form” or one I’ve made up. . . .