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

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