These unpublished poems are just a few of my personal favorites from the hundreds I’ve written in recent years.
What I’ve Learned
You’ve taught me to see the world as an adventure not a threat,
to expand rather than to compromise,
to change, grow, and accept rather than to sacrifice.
I’ve learned to love words but trust actions,
to read the poem but search for something firmer
on which to build a dream.
Your generous spirit is becoming mine as well,
as I learn to focus on the present and not on expectations
or the sad loop of entitlement-based anger.
A thin crescent is already high in the south November sky
and Lucie talks of the harvest moon she saw in Alberta in 1970
while I try to remember to tell Rolf how the reflected light
makes the still, late afternoon lake look gray.
It’s chilly at this desk by the kitchen window
and the light too dim to work, providing an excuse
for muddling up the words with half-grasped thoughts.
We two share the worries of our mothers and my daughters
and reflect on the cycles of age that have taught us
the courage that makes us less afraid of changing.
As the pink evening light fades from the glass wall next door
her wise woman laugh reflects the contentment I need.
Too Much Trouble
When I have too much trouble,
I write poetry,
little tales that I can control,
turning angst into joy
trying to create the closure
that is never possible.
Moving the words around
helps me bury the past,
which still resides
in my cells and pores
and makes me every age
I ever was.
All I’m looking for
and the perfect poem.
I can undo the past,
write my first novel,
find some joy in my mother’s eyes,
learn to carry my age with me,
coax new life into my dusty, dying ivy plant.
I can erase the creases in the corners of my eyes,
find the words between silence and I love you,
remember how to be a friend,
choose another opiate than wine,
learn to understand my daughters.
Just in Case…
I dream again that my daughter had my mother’s face,
at someone else’s wedding
that took place in the house
where I was a child.
I woke up this morning
to find that I have turned
my mother into a mirror.
These are reflections
that I don’t want to see –
the lines in my face,
my neglected needs
and the dragons
that have stood in my way…
the terror of now or never.
Fascinated by the fear,
I keep looking, hoping to see
my daughter’s image emerge,
wanting to find some secret
to pass down to her
(or up to my mother)
about daring to be powerful
and learning to be blind,
about being brave enough
to share the details of my life.
Maybe it’s always impossible
for daughters to see
their mothers’ reflections
until later, much later.
One of the things I have learned today
is that a spiral doesn’t have to be downwards.
It’s just a cycle that moves through time,
a movement that always returns to itself,
although never to exactly the same place.
Sitting on a patio this oddly warm winter day,
I notice the way the wind lifts a piece of paper
and carries it across the street on its current,
like a whirlpool of water or the spiral curl of waves
in an ocean place where I’d rather be than here.
I remember the spiral of an umbilical cord
as it lay warm and wet on my young belly,
coiled there as she began to grow away from me,
surely upward and outward to a life of her own.
I think about the pale green fronds of fern
that will twist their way through the thawing soil
soon in the front garden of our old house.
Now I know how to protect my heart
from shriveling up with old age.
This Isn’t Poetry
When I was a child, I told myself
that I wouldn’t get what I wanted
so I wouldn’t be disappointed.
Don’t get too big for your britches, my mother said.
Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.
Eat so the children in China won’t starve.
I left the lima beans and ate my tears instead,
trying desperately to be seen and not heard,
controlling my feelings until I was afraid of them.
Now, I lean my broom against the wall
and sit for awhile on the cement step.
If I smoked this would be a good time.
I need an absent daughter to hold my hand
and to remind me who I am…
This isn’t poetry, it’s a midlife crisis.