What’s With My Brain in the Middle of the Night?

That feeling when you wake up at 2 a.m. with the urgent need to remember the name of the Greek god of the forge, and you’re panicked because you can’t conjure it up. You remember the Romans called him Vulcan but to save your life you can’t latch your mind onto the Greek designation. Then, as you wake up enough to realize there can’t possibly be an emergency in your life involving Greek mythology and wonder why you would wake up wanting to know, you segue from panic to irritation. Irritation at having interrupted your own sleep somehow and also because you still can’t remember the name and you really should know, with all the time you spent reading those myths in your teen years. But you need to go back to sleep so you can function at work tomorrow, so you don’t want to try looking it up. But you can’t go back to sleep until you remember it. Does it start with an H maybe? So you get up and open your laptop and discovered you were right about that much – Hephaestus. Then you feel satisfied and lie back down, close your eyes and…wait, wasn’t there something weird about his feet? What was that about?

I can’t be the only one this happens to. Right?

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Poem for Kathrine Switzer

For National Poetry Month, I’ve been writing a poem a day and keeping them hidden on my computer. But I finally feel like sharing one.

Yesterday, Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon again, fifty years after becoming the first woman to finish it officially. Bobbi Gibb had run it unofficially the year before. This inspired my poetic efforts yesterday.

Poem for Kathrine Switzer, April 17, 2017

What did they think would happen,
fifty years ago, if a woman ran?
Would we all be deprived of the cake
she should have been baking instead?
Would the race be sullied,
the stain forever ringing its collar?
Or worst of all –
the boys would have to share,
not only that day but all the days to come?
Well, worse came to worst
and she ran again in Boston today
with thousands of women on the course
while somewhere, surely,
some man baked a cake,
the downfall of civilization complete.

**
— Someone asked, so I’m adding this. You can share this. Feel free to copy and paste, even, but I would like a credit. Ida Bettis Fogle, author. Thanks.

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Credit: Kinchan1

Ironing Day – Poem in Honor of My Mom

My mother passed away a little over a year ago. Today would be her birthday. I wrote this poem a few years back and am sharing it now in memory of her.

Ironing Day – Age Four

On the dining room table, stiff and wrinkled: my father’s shirt
In the chair, standing: me
Under my arms, tied tight: my mother’s apron
In my hand, upside down: a glass Coke bottle
In the mouth of the bottle, sealed securely: a cork
Punched in the cork, round and regular: holes
Through the holes, irregular as my attention: sprinkles of water

At the far end of the living room, legs criss-crossed: an ironing board
On the board, steaming: my father’s shirt
Next to the board, standing: my mother
In her hand, sizzling: an iron
On her face, trickling: beads of sweat
On the floor, receptive: a laundry basket
In the basket, folded: the product of our morning’s labor

Moving between the rooms: my industrious mother
Moving from table to board to basket: freshly cleaned clothes
Staying put in the dining room, important in my work: me
Staying put in the living room, at the far end: the hot iron

Inauguration 2017 -The Bad Beginning

On this unpresidented day in American history, we need to take a lesson from literature, specifically A Series of Unfortunate Events.

Today we are all orphans in the charge of Count Olaf. But many of us are inventors and many of us are well-read, while others have sharp, useful teeth that can chew through the ropes. We only need to stick together and not give up.

That is all.

Thoughts on Mary Oliver

“And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe…” – Mary Oliver, Upstream

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I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver’s writing. She makes connections, or rather shows connections, that are not obvious on the surface. Her descriptions of nature do more than make you want to re-read the passage. They make you want to go see the world for yourself and then re-read the passage. Her poems are bereft of sentimentality, but full of mindful observation. And I can guarantee there’s some sweat behind those words.

Here’s the thing about writing poetry — it takes work. A surprising number of people don’t seem to know this. I’ve witnessed more than once an acquaintance who, having read only a handful of poems in a lifetime, stumbles upon one of Oliver’s more moving pieces of verse (often Wild Geese) and decides “I, too, will be a poet.” Which is wonderful. It’s wonderful when a writer inspires others to write. But some of these folks harbor the delusion that all it takes to become another Mary Oliver is a walk in the woods, followed by fifteen minutes with a pen, scribbling the first thoughts that come to mind.

I’m not saying it’s a waste of time if you want to do this. It can be a great centering activity and increase your awareness of the world. I am saying not to expect to produce a Great Poem, one that will be anthologized and inspire future generations, without toil. Don’t expect to produce good writing without study, without putting in many hours reading your genre (whether it’s poetry or science fiction or a melding of the two.)

My hope is that everyone with a desire to “write like Mary Oliver” will read her book, Upstream. Notice the phrase “meticulous effort” in the quote above? In Upstream, she speaks a lot about the value of work. She also shares many thoughts about writers who have influenced her – Whitman, Poe, Emerson, Wordsworth. She has read them thoroughly, delving into their techniques and examining the contexts of their lives. She brings the same keen gaze to literature that she does to trees and geese and dogs, looking deeply into the nature of the writing and how it fits into the web of all things.

The woman has put a lot of effort into producing sets of words that stir the souls of her readers. Once we realize this, we can appreciate her even more.

 

 

The Right Princess at the Right Time

Here’s one more among the thousands of tributes being paid to Carrie Fisher. It is possible that there can’t be too many.

I know there was much more to her and her career than the role of Leia Organa. But it’s the character of Leia, first princess and then general, that spoke most to me. She entered my life as I hit adolescence and needed role models. I was raised in a church that wanted females silent and submissive, attributes that were not in my nature. I chafed.Whenever I heard that wives should obey their husbands in all things, my go to thought was “I guess marriage is not for me.”

As a child, my fantasy play never involved being rescued. In my daydreams of adventure, I had agency; I was the rescuer, the hero. And I was just starting to notice women didn’t get those roles in movies or TV. Disney princesses were a whole different breed  from what they are today, let me tell you. But then. Then. I found myself climbing into a car full of siblings to go see Star Wars at the drive-in.

Princess Leia appeared, beseeching Obi-Wan Kenobi for help. But it wasn’t simply “Please rescue me and keep me safe.” No, it was more like “Help me break out of this joint; I’ve got an empire to overthrow.” She had smarts, courage and swagger. Carry Fisher gave her swagger. I liked it. I needed it. WWLD? What would Leia do? Not a bad question to ask as you’re trying to figure out how to grow up. She was there for me throughout my teens, in one Star Wars movie after another.

Which sustained me right up to the brink of menopause, at which time General Leia showed up for me when I needed her most. There she was, leading things, smart, tough, still swaggering. Heartbroken, but confident in herself and her cause. Not disappearing, as society (and especially Hollywood) often expects women to do once they have a laugh line and a gray hair or two.

Thank you Carrie Fisher. Nobody else could have done it the way you did.

“Into the garbage chute, fly boy.”

 

 

 

50,226

Quick note to say that for the first time ever I successfully completed National Novel Writing Month. My verified word total is 50,226.

Celebrating with a pastry.