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

Poem:Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

Like holiday poetry? Here’s one I wrote a few years ago for Halloween.

 

Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at Age Seven

My mom was there but not — asleep on the couch,
head lolled back, mouth open wide
enough for a parakeet to fly in
had ours not died already.
My dad was gone.

Nobody knew my brother and I
were getting away with something.
Late night TV. The Birds.
We dared each other to watch.

Normally I’d try lifting my mom’s
lower jaw into place once or twice
of an evening; I worried
about moths and things.
But this night I wouldn’t risk waking her.

Later I wished I had,
even months later, an eon of regret in childhood –
when I’d look up from my coloring in the afternoon
having heard a flutter near the window
knowing sharp beaks could slash right through the screen,
when I’d run flat out the three blocks to school
books held over my head as a shield,
and especially when the crows gathered at dusk,
raucous and shifting and crowding, and then
more especially when they settled down,
waiting.

 

(This originally appeared in Well Versed.)

RIP Glenn Frey, Hotel California Alt Lyrics

I’m increasingly concerned for performing artists in their sixties. First Lemmy, then Natalie Cole, followed by David Bowie and Alan Rickman. And today’s announcement of the passing of the Eagles’ Glenn Frey.

Frey holds a special place in my life, having composed “Hotel California.” Way back in the mists of prehistory, when Mr. Nomadic Noesis and I were only dating and not yet married, I often found myself driving home from his house late at night with my car radio blasting to keep me awake. It tended to be around the same time and, not saying whoever programmed the radio station was lazy or anything, but I could pretty much count on hearing the same songs. Almost without fail, “Hotel California” finished up shortly before I pulled into my driveway.

A few years ago on our wedding anniversary, I wrote a poem about this. Here it is:

Driving to the Hotel California

On a dark urban highway, Eagles on the radio.
I thought the lyricist smelled the lieges, since I’d
never heard of colitas and the story made no sense
anyway. The heavy head, though – that part
I understood, for the evening
was not young when I left his doorway.
I had a long drive home
and I was thinking to myself,
“They play this same old song every night
while my headlights light up the orange barrels
lining this construction corridor.”
And I knew the next day I would still hear them sing

“Welcome to the Hotel California”
Every single place
I went all day long
in my head — the Hotel California.
No matter what I did, it’d be there.

My mind was definitely stuck on the song again again
but every time I thought of it I thought too of the man I’d seen –
how we danced and we courted on those hot summer nights.
The song makes me remember; I’ll never forget.

So I called up the station
“Please play me my song,”
They said “We haven’t had that request since I don’t know when.”
Still I can hear those voices sing to this day,
wake up in the middle of the night,
next to me he breathes.

The rhythm is Hotel California
I look at his sleeping face
recall driving from his place
to the strains of Hotel California.
What a nice surprise, our love’s still alive.

Water stains on the ceiling
Legos strewn underfoot.
Sometimes feel like a prisoner to home repair and clutter
and in the middle of it all
I cook the evening feast,
try to find something everyone will like
something they all will eat.
Then I stop and remember
those times leaving his door
how I never wanted to go back
to the place I lived alone.
Legos will get picked up
and ceiling fixed eventually.
This is the life I’ve chosen
and I don’t want to leave.

 

Politically Correct: Musings and a Poem

Several years ago I wrote a poem about a phrase I kept hearing: politically correct. Or political correctness. Or PC. It was used to shut people up, like duct tape over the mouth. Espouse a position that makes someone else feel guilty or uncomfortable? You were likely to hear that you were “just being PC.”

For a while, the term faded away, at least in discourse to which I was privy. Now it’s come roaring back. All over the place, I hear people proudly proclaim “I’m not politically correct.” The implication being, I suppose, that anyone who has a different opinion on the issue at hand can’t really be sincere. The implication being: “Deep down, you know I’m right. It’s simply inconvenient for you to admit it.”

To me, answering someone’s challenge or question or opinion with a dismissive charge of political correctness is the laziest kind of ad hominem attack. Instead of considering the issue, you call them a name and are done with it. Uttering the phrase “politically correct” absolves you of the need to listen or reason or self-examine. It’s right up there with the antiquated practice of calling women hysterical every time they challenged the status quo.

Since the term is back in vogue, my poem seems timely once again. I had fun playing around with it. I hope you have fun reading it.

Parity Considerations

Politically correct?
Is the accusation a
pertinent criticism
or just a
peevish complaint?
Does it matter whether my actions
are a result of
passive compromise
or of a truly
principled cause?
Could it be that
persistent charges
of PC are no more than
panicked counterattacks
against anyone refusing to fit a
particular conformity?
Should I lay aside my
personal convictions
out of fear that some
piously corrupt
person might
possibly call
me names?
If someone else can
purchase compliance
from me with
pretentiously contrived
allegations of PC
does that make me
politically correct
or
politically incorrect?
Pardon my confusion,
but if you are
preoccupied constantly
with whether I’m “just being PC,”
whom does this say more about,
you or me?
Please clarify.

 

Tree Envy – Poem

Leaf

Tree Envy

Instead of dreary gray strands
threading subtly widening paths
around my head,
I want blazing red
for my autumn color,
interspersed with patches of
can’t-peel-your-eyes away yellow
and clusters
of an orange so perfectly sun-toasted
it holds its own as an independent hue,
not remotely a blend of the other two.
I want the colors to burst
out all at once,
so that people I meet
will feel a catch of breath
at the splendor,
the glorious culmination of my maturity.

Poem: Seeds

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Here in the middle of the U.S., we just passed the frost date. So it’s time to plant. Here’s a seasonally-inspired poem I wrote:

Seeds

“Here it is,
The start of my first garden,”
she tells him.
Two dozen flat seeds
the color of milk, round with a point,
pour from a paper packet.

He wants to know what else she plans to plant
other than bell peppers.

She hasn’t decided yet,
but thinks it will be wonderful
to raise her own food.
She’ll cook more from scratch,
maybe even learn to can.
Gardening is great exercise;
she knows she’ll lose weight.
She hopes to figure out that sewing machine
she picked up at a garage sale
to make her own dresses.
Who knows?
She may need maternity clothes soon.
Healthier living should improve their chances.
At least she thinks so.
She wants to know what he thinks.

He thinks it seems like a lot to expect
from one little handful of seeds –
to grow a whole new life.

**

This poem originally appeared in “Mid-America Poetry Review.”