Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Poem of Myself & Happiness: 2 collective lists

On Monday afternoon, April 28, a group of writers gathered at the Tompkins County Public Library for a workshop called POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE. Among other things, we wrote individual list poems that, when read aloud one after another, became collective/ group poems. Here are two of them. 

Poem of Myself

I used to believe in flower fairies; I grew up; I no longer believe

I wait, when I have to, for friends and their snafus

I wake up late, patiently

I may never remember your name but I always remember my first impression of you

I feel for you, I feel so much for you, I feel so much that I can't remember how it felt to feel for me

I have become timid, a recluse; I used to take more chances — I used to be more adventuresome

I can still remember my first poem in kindergarten, about a butterfly

I remember getting out of bed to look at the stars on summer nights

I want to play the piano again

I don't wear black as much as I used to and I feel lighter now

I remember myself in the future, regal, grey haired, twisted like that old sycamore from my childhood backyard — it was home to the neighborhood pigeons and ants, cradled nests of squirrels, its long limbs outstretched to the big old blue sky

I remember myself as a strong old woman with swollen ankles and a crutch like that Ojibwa woman I met in Minnesota who led the clan with an iron claw fist, with kindness and firmness, regal and wise

I hear Sister Water cascading from high hills, gathering in Six Mile Creek, moving to town and Cayuga Lake

I long for an open heart that can breathe in a new poetic spirit

I am shimmering into the vortex of the unknown, like a new spring

I am quiet in the darkness; in the light I question where I am 

I stand in sandals, shoes, sneakers, snowshoes — but what do I stand for?

I remember Friday night dinners with the kreplach and the broiled chicken and the cousins

I  garden and then I wash the lettuce

I invent new things with confidence

I can harmonize, synthesize, empathize; I don't want to criticize or compromise but I do want to analyze, improvise, and finalize my song


Happiness is a phone conversation with my aging mother and she says something funny, or I do, and we start to laugh and we don't stop laughing for a very long time

Happiness is when I've been crazy worried about doing something new and I say I don't want to, I won't do it, you can't make me — and then I do it and it's the most wonderful thing and afterwards I say i want to do it again and you say Let's do it next Saturday

Happiness is when I'm comfortable in my body, in my soul, in my heart

Happiness is when there are no questions

Happiness is lifting a curious grandchild to his first taste of water, shooting from a fountain just opened to his joy, beside the ballpark fence

Happiness is hard for me to find — 2 months, 3 months, five years — yet they say "Soon!"

Happiness is the cardinal hopping by my window, his redness glowing in the morning sun, his belly stuffed with sunflower seeds, his yellow eyes a-twinkle as he struts around his wife

Happiness is when I finish a library book before it becomes overdue

Happiness is when I open the refrigerator and everything in it is fresh, healthy, and yummy

Happiness is when a stray cat runs up the stairs to your apartment door and wants to stay

Happiness is when you make a new friend

Happiness is when the freshly washed and dried sheets on your bed are still warm when you get in them

Happiness is a bubble bath with lots of bubbles

Happiness is forsythia in bloom, all at once, all over town

Happiness is when you share a secret with your lover who smiles with deep satisfaction … it was just right!

Happiness is seeing the grey of very early dawn turn to blazing

Happiness is when the canoe you're paddling heads down the chute you intended

Happiness is hearing geese calling to each other from an invisible vee in the dark

Happiness is when you find the perfect soul song to listen to while eating breakfast cereal

Happiness is wondering what things would be like if people wore flowers instead of shoes

Happiness, true happiness, finally pushed and cleared all of the thick branches out of my eyes and I could finally see everything and more

Happiness is when you play a jazz piece on the piano and it really sounds jazzy

Happiness is when you call your grandmother on the phone and she answers "Y'ellow?"

Happiness is when you share memories with your father and only include the good ones

Happiness is a full day at home — no appointments, no commitments, no visitors

Happiness is when I let my wild self come out — you see it when I laugh or smile, that's me screaming to be who I am, my body, soul and mind as one — it will flow so perfectly in my voice that being me won't be so frightening

Much gratitude to the following people for allowing me to share their words here: 

Barbara Kane Lewis
Chibo Shinagawa
Cili Phillips
Cody Austern-Aceto
Dave Ritchie
Helen Bell
Janet Sherman
Joan Victoria
Liz Burns
Nikki Quarrier
Paula Twomey
Peter Ladley

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Secrets: a collective list (anonymous!)

I always promise to keep a secret whenever someone asks me to, but the truth is that I am terrible at it and I end up blabbing

I've always wanted to sing with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus

I used to stockpile peppermint M&M's in my freezer

When I was younger I wanted to have long straight hair like Joan Baez

I never meant to be the class clown

I am much more jealous than I let on

I do love you, I just don't like you very much

I am looking for a new job

In my second year of college I was so badly prepared for an exam that I made a cheat sheet 

I cry myself to sleep when I'm deeply hurt

There are some secrets I have kept as promised and now I still wish I had told someone

Once I kicked a cat because I was mad at its person; it forgave me but I never have forgiven myself

No one knows I gave a stranger money for new shoes

I left an unsigned love letter for the yellow house on the corner, the one that made me smile all winter

I wish we could take a trip together, instead of always traveling alone

I have anxiety disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and I don’t want it to be a “secret” anymore in the sense of something to hide or be ashamed of

I had a secret dream of living in Africa but came here instead because the climate is so good for my skin

Whenever my friends tell me secrets I always keep them, but my own secret is that this is easy to do because I often entirely forget the secret thing they told me

My ex-husband “accidentally” let me find out a relatively disgusting thing about himself that he should have kept secret – so I told the world

When a new student from South America arrived in my elementary school, I pretended to speak his language by just spouting gibberish to him, and when he would speak back to me I'd respond as if I knew what he had said, but I really had no idea

I used to fake taking baths — running the water, dropping the soap in, splashing the floor a little bit — it would have been so much easier just to get in and actually do it

I trapped my dog in my playhouse and held him captive until he cried; then I felt really bad

I killed several rats in the horse barn by stoning them as they balanced on the edge of the water trough to drink

My brother and I used to sneak down to the kitchen at night and eat Milk-Bone dog biscuits — they were yummy

Whenever we went to the cold, grimy Rite Aid and the cashier was mean to my mom, I'd steal as much candy as I could fit into my pockets

I have favorite students and will curve test questions to their answers

I have a crush on a same-gender friend but I know my mother would never approve so I just savor the moments with her

I like the L.A. Kings hockey team, but I have to like the Rangers more to fit into my family

Sometimes I fall asleep driving, and I feel guilty thinking about who I might have hurt

I don't like the orange Starbursts

I borrowed a library book that I didn't even like just so a bully I hated at the time couldn't check it out 

Sometimes I make a very healthy meal that doesn't taste as good as I'd hoped, so I keep the leftovers in the refrigerator so long that I have to throw them out "for health reasons"

Sometimes I sit very still near the door in my apartment so that I can hear what other people in the house are saying to each other

Sometimes I tell people I bicycle for exercise when in fact, after only a few minutes on my bike, my hands get too numb to keep going

I ate sushi (and I am vegetarian)

When I was in high school I used to steal sleeping pills from my father’s drugs that were kept out of reach in the  closet

I forged my mother’s signature on a note excusing me from school, only to be caught by the Dean of Girls — who played mahjongg with my mother every Tuesday night

I used to smoke, in my childhood bedroom, out of an opened window

I never feel good enough … at anything

I need to wear eyeglasses but I refuse to do so

I used to use artificial food coloring

I haven't done "spring cleaning" for 23 years

When my dad said "You have a little brother," I wished I misheard him

Sometimes I leave work and think it would be okay if I never had to go back

My sister and I dented the door of my father's van (on the pole going through the KFC drive-through in Ithaca) and let him believe that his business partner, who had used the van the previous day, had done it

I have nightmares almost every night

I take 15 pills a day, every day

I watch crappy reality TV shows and pretend it's research for writing a novel

I struggle to not hate 3 people I work with

I have slept with 26 different men

I'm glad Mickey Rooney finally died

"Peeps," preferably stale, might be my favorite food

I stole a pair of sunglasses from Woolworth's in 1983

I encouraged someone to cheat on her lover, with me

I once stole money as a kid to buy a kite

I accidentally used detergent powder to scrub myself in the shower

During a bio exam, the kid next to me secretly drew my diagrams for me

I love bouncing a ball and I always carry one

I wanted to marry Ava Gardner or Kim Novak or Simone Signore

Once a year I watch these movies: Stand By Me, Spirited Away, The Shaw Shank Redemption, and Cinema Paradiso

Every spring I think about planting myself in the garden up to my knees, and seeing what would happen

I consider myself incredibly lucky to have made it this far without self-destructing

I was once chased across a barnyard by an amorous nanny-goat; it was terrifying

Sometimes I leave a party and realize I was the only redhead; then I wonder if other people think my orange hair is as freaky as I do

I screen my incoming calls so she won't know that I am home 

I once took my mother's engagement ring and hid it because I knew it made her sad

When I was thirteen I stole poetry books from my school library (and I still have them)

When I was four years old I picked a purple and white iris from Mrs Lukasiak's garden and gave it to my mother as a gift  

One Sunday night when I was ten, I set my parents' house on fire, twice in one night; the fire department determined the cause to be lightning
I just sat for a full five minutes trying to think up a new computer password that I would actually remember five minutes from now
I broke my family's garlic press at age 12 and didn't tell anyone, for fear of getting in trouble; then months passed (which seemed like an eternity at that age) as I observed my parents pondering its whereabouts

Once my big brother was mean to me so I stuffed a rag deep inside his car's tailpipe so it wouldn't start and there would be no obvious reason why — a trick I had seen on television, only they used a potato, which made it more obvious

Freshman year of college, I leaned a trash can half full of water against the dorm RA's door, knocked, ran away to hide, and then was horrified when I realized there was nothing at all funny about having flooded her room "just for a joke"

While my mom worked in her office at our church (Baptist), I often "helped myself" to a glass of grape juice from the big bottle that was always kept in a kitchen cupboard and was only supposed to be used for the monthly communion service

When I was in high school, I hid cans of beer under my mattress in my bedroom because no alcohol was ever ever ever allowed in the house

I told a secret to a stone

I speak cat

When my daughters were young I snuck around eating spoonfuls of canned vanilla frosting so they would not catch me doing what I told them not to do

When I sold my horse it felt as though part of my identity slipped away

People think I'm an extrovert but I'm not, and lately it's getting harder to be "up" in public when I really want to be living a more private life

I am the one who ate all the chocolate chips

When I said I was going to Nanette's house I lied — instead I went to Eric's and we spent the morning jumping off his garage roof

It was a clandestine affair and, twenty-five years later, my heart still swoons

I have no secrets