Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Letting go of the anger....

One of the things I have learned in the process of healing after the loss of my daughter is to let go of some of my anger.  When I look around and see irresponsible people having children that they end up neglecting or mistreating, it is easy for me to get angry.  It seems so unfair that these people should have children while I do not.  Why this happens is one of the questions I have asked God several times over the last year and a half.  Then a few months ago God answered with a question of His own.  Could I honestly say that I wish any child had not been born?   Or would not be born?  Of course, my answer to this was no and it made me realize I had been looking at things the wrong way.  Instead of focusing on how unworthy or undeserving I thought the parents were, I needed to accept that God must want those children to be born, that their lives may have a higher purpose.  I thought of all the people who began in adverse circumstances that ended up doing great things with their lives.  People like my dad and like Steve Jobs, who was born to unwed college students and then adopted.  And I realized, I have to let my anger go and just trust that God knows what He is doing.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Still My Hero: A Tribute to James Still

During a recent visit to Half Price Books, I discovered one of the treasures I had been searching for:  The Wolfpen Poems by James Still.  For those unfamiliar with his work, James Still was an Appalachian author and a part of the Southern literary renaissance that began during the Great Depression.  He is most well-known for his novel, River of Earth, which has been classed with Steinbeck's Grapes of Wrath as one of the best representations of Depression-era life.  However, he was also an exceptional poet.  When I was in Junior High, he visited my school and shared some of his work.  His presentation made an impression on me and may very well have been one of the influences that sparked my own interest in writing poetry.

In reading his poems, I feel such a kinship with him.  His words echo some of the cries of my heart, yet in a richness that I could never express.  It is difficult to choose my favorites from among his poems, but at the moment, "Heritage", "I Was Born Humble", and "Infare" are the uppermost in my mind.  All this reveling in the poetry of James Still, made me decide to write a tribute to him.  This just a start, but here it is:

Still, James Still:
with such a name
one would think him destined
to work the copper kettle.
Yet, though his steps turned
toward the thunder road,
his communion with the moon
brought forth a different draught
one which heightened his soul's
perception and called him to
remain in the land of his sojourning.

So he remained,
forsaking modern convenience
to sit in stillness, watching the
smoke of the mountains, listening
to the throb of the universe.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Resisted Development

Only in the darkroom is
the promise of color in
the negative fulfilled.

Yet, we resist development
preferring the negative state
tucked in the protective
sleeve of muted possibilities.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Critic

Anyone with a dream will have at least one critic in their lives--one voice that always has something negative to say.  Those who have aspirations in the creative arts will usually have more than one, maybe even many.  Although critics can sometimes be constructive, this poem is about a destructive one.  I wrote this poem a few years ago and those who read my original blog on My Space may remember it.  It is not autobiographical, just an expansion on a theme.  As of yet, I haven't experienced criticism to this magnitude. Unless I include myself, for I am my own worst critic.

The Critic

So quiet at the end
I thought you dead.
Then, out of the corner of my eye,
I saw your mouth curve
into smirk and knew
words would soon follow,
bruising self respect.

Deceived I was to
imagine you passive while
I relished in success,
forgetting the scent of
accomplishment would
resurrect in an instant
your critic soul.

So now I quail under
your scrutiny and
brace for your blows.
When I'm bloody
maybe you'll die again.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Flowers on Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day and in a little while I will be arranging flowers on my daughter's grave. It's rather late in the season for white tulips so instead, I bought some tiny, white chrysanthemums. Last year, finding white tulips was sheer luck. They were languishing in a crowded barrel--a sad little bunch with the leaves already turning brown. But the waxy, white flowers seemed to speak to me in a way that the other, more brightly-colored choices did not. Perhaps this is because our lives are like canvases colored by the things we experience and my daughter's life ended before her canvas could be fully formed--when it was still a waxy whiteness without the color and messiness of life. Although they are not waxy, this year's chrysanthemums are a comparable substitute. They are not the full explosions of chrysanthemums we will see in the fall, but mere buds with the centers still green and a hint of white petals around the edges.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Versions of Chai

Since I am in the process of revising my chapbook to submit to a contest sponsored by Finishing Line Press, I have decided not to post the remaining 5 poems. For my faithful blog readers, I want to save a few surprises as I hope Fertility Rites will eventually be published. So far the revision is going well. This is mostly due to a valuable critique from my friend, Julie Hensley, who has a poetry chapbook coming out in July through Finishing Line entitled The Language of Horses. To pre-order a copy go to

However, it would be a shame not to post a poem so by special request I am re-posting the one for which my blog is named. It all began a few years ago at Live Wire coffeehouse when three friends each ordered different versions of chai.......

Versions of Chai

Cup in hand,
I contemplate the versions of chai
while the musician plays my request,
the one about the girl and the poem--
her smooth facade.

My version is hot and steamy
vanilla with espresso swirled inside
like the dark layer concealed
beneath my pale skin.

Her version is spiced and iced--
so much flavor mixed with coolness.
You can have a taste,
but she'll never let you in.

His version is blended like a milkshake
with whipped cream on top.
Forever young, everything
is ice cream to him.

We each sip our own
'til the strains of acoustic guitar fade
and the versions of chai
are replaced by applause.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poem #19: Persephone's Absence

Just like the Fates, Demeter and Persephone also hail from Greek mythology. Demeter is the goddess of the harvest and Persephone, her daughter represents spring. Persephone was very beautiful and her beauty attracted Hades, the god of the underworld. After a series of events involving abduction and a few pomegranate seeds, Persephone is doomed to spend half a year in the underworld. During the six months that Persephone is gone, Demeter mourns her daughter's absence and the earth experiences fall and winter. This poem is about that absence and how Demeter feels when her daughter is away. It is written in the form of a sonnet using a Spenserian rhyming scheme and iambic tetrameter instead of the more traditional pentameter.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Poem #18: I Remain Mortal

This is another poem that I feel needs some work. In fact, I wish I could skip it, but I am committed to posting each poem in its unrevised glory. The poem is based on the idea that the way to immortality, to the fountain of youth, is through having children. Of course, I don't think I am the first person to suggest this connection. I think the concept here is good, but the poem needs to be whittled down and sweetened.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Poem #17: A Duet Interrupted

Of the times I was able to hear my daughter's heartbeat, a couple of them were via a doppler instrument at the doctor's office. The heartbeat is not as clear with this method as with an ultrasound and it can be difficult for them to "find" the baby's heartbeat. Sometimes when they were searching, we could hear my heartbeat instead. Mine was much louder and slower than the baby's quick heartbeat.

After coming home from the hospital, I thought of the connection between our two heartbeats as a kind of duet. Even though the beats were different, they were making music together. With her gone, this connection was severed and my heart went back to singing solo. In this poem, I use some musical terminology that everyone may not understand so I am including a small glossary at the end.
Glossary of Musical Terms

Adagio: slow and restful.
Allegro: lively and fast.
Alto: lowest of the female voices.
Cadence: sequence of chords/sounds that brings an end to a musical phrase or work.
Decrescendo: gradually decreasing in volume.
Duet: music with two voices or instruments.
Finale: movement or passage that concludes the music.
Forte: loud.
Lacrimoso: tearful and sad.
Measure: a rhythmic grouping containing a fixed number of beats. This is the basic unit of measurement for music. In the poem, one measure represents one week.
Pianissimo: very soft.
Rhapsody: an imaginative musical work.
Score: written music that shows all parts.
Solo: music with only one voice or instrument.
Soprano: highest female voice.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Poem #16: Sound Memory

I tried to experiment with a few different types of poetry in the chapbook. This one is my first attempt at a prose poem. I'm not sure if it meets all the requirements or not. Maybe it's just a plain paragraph. Regardless, it is written to my daughter.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Poem #15: Still Winter

Last spring was very difficult for me. Having just lost my baby, it was painful to watch nature blossom all around me. I wrote this poem during that time to describe how I felt. Normally, I enjoy the colorful signs of spring and the thawing of winter's cold. But if the seasons had matched my feelings, last winter would have been very long indeed.

I am happy to say that this year I am back to enjoying the signs of spring and very glad that winter is finally over. Of course, my enjoyment is bittersweet because the memories from last year will always be with me, but each flowering tree teaches me to hope. Winter will not last forever. Spring will come again.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Poem #14: Hands of the Fates

In Greek mythology the threads of human life are controlled by a trio of industrious women called the Fates: Clotho, who spins the threads; Lakesis, who measures the threads; and Atropos, who cuts the threads. I know there is a lot of controversy about when life actually begins, but for me, my daughter's life began as soon as she was conceived. This poem is written to her.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Poem #13: Grieving

Since today is the one year anniversary of the loss of our daughter, I feel it is very appropriate that this poem is the next in line. It was actually the first one I wrote after coming home from the hospital. I may have even started it a year ago today. Other than that, there's not really a lot of commentary to add as the poem speaks for itself.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Poem #12: A Five Course Meal

The Weeping Angels, a group of Doctor Who villains, gave me the idea for this poem. The Weeping Angels turn to stone when anyone looks at them and appear to be statues. However, when their victims look away or blink, the Weeping Angels send the victims back in time and feast on the futures, the potentialities, that are left behind.

After my loss, I thought about all the things that were no longer going to happen--a whole future snuffed out like a candle--and I imagined my own set of time-eating scavengers. I imagined them eating up the whole of my daughter's life, at least the life she should have had.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Poem #11: To Cervix

Because I know so many women who have experienced miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies, I felt very anxious during the first trimester of my pregnancy. When the second trimester began, I was so relieved because, at that point, the risk of miscarriage is reduced significantly. I felt like I was "out of the woods." Unfortunately, in all my reading and research I somehow missed the short paragraph in the index of my pregnancy book about Incompetent Cervix. This condition is uncommon, but can occur during the fourth or fifth month of pregnancy. In my case, the doctors believe this is what happened.

In dwelling on this diagnosis, I was reminded of The Cradle Will Fall, a mystery novel by Mary Higgins Clark. If I remember correctly from the novel, women unable to conceive are referred to as "broken cradles." This description has stuck with me as evidenced in my last post. Of course, the title for Clark's novel is an allusion to the well-known nursery rhyme "Rock-a-bye Baby" and those lyrics serve as the main inspiration for my poem. However, I felt I should give due credit to Mary Higgins Clark because without her novel, I would never have thought of "Rock-a-bye Baby" in the context of infertility and child-bearing.

After I came home from the hospital, the first line of this poem was a frequent refrain in my mind and, eventually, I sat down to compose this short rhyme that includes my daughter's middle name.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Poem #10: White Tulip

An interesting thing about delivery, at least for me, is that I couldn't see what was going on. During the whole ordeal, I only saw one thing and that image is forever burned in my memory. I have tried to describe it delicately in the poem. The metaphor of the white tulip most likely occurred to me after Memorial Day when I placed white tulips on my daughter's grave. In this poem, I also allude to Shakespeare's Sonnet 18 when I refer to her as "a darling bud."

Friday, February 11, 2011

Poem #9: The Last Door on the Left

Whereas my last post dealt with hope and looking forward to being a mother, this poem is about watching those hopes vanish. I don't want to go into all of the details, but at week 21 of my pregnancy--one week after finding out that we were having a girl--I was told by my doctor to go immediately to the hospital. At that point, we knew something was seriously wrong. I will never forget the walk down the labor hall toward my hospital room--the last door on the left. I'm not sure if the door actually had the fallen leaf and teardrop symbol on it or not, but I know that the folder they gave us when we left the hospital did.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Poem #8: Next Year at Baldwin Farm

Computer problems have prevented me from posting sooner, but finally here is the next poem in the chapbook. Of all the poems, there are only three that mention or allude to actually being pregnant. This is the last of those three before the poems that deal with the loss.

The idea for this poem came when we visited Baldwin Farm toward the end of October 2009. It was an absolutely beautiful day. There had been sufficient rain that summer and early fall so the grass was lush and green. It was a perfect contrast to the bright orange pumpkins that dotted the hills. The sky was clear and blue. (I took a lot of pictures and I wanted to include some of them in this post, but unfortunately, I can't because of the aforementioned computer issues.) While we were there, we saw several couples taking pictures of their babies in the pumpkin patch. At the time it made me kind of sad, but I remember thinking, "maybe next year that will be me." I didn't know it at the time, but I was actually already pregnant. When I found out a couple weeks later, it made me so happy to think that next year I would be one of those parents.

I really wanted this poem to express how much I was looking forward to being a mother. This is really a first draft and I think it falls a little short of this goal. However, I have already started working on a revision that will be much better.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Poem #7: Two Lines

Of all the poems in the chapbook, this is probably my least favorite. It is barely more than an idea for a poem. After seeing one negative line on pregnancy tests for so long, I wanted to write something about the significance of the two positive lines. While working on the chapbook, I also tried to experiment with different forms of poetry. This was my attempt at a short poem, but I am definitely no Katerina Stoykova-Klemer. There is so much that is not communicated in this poem. How is the reader to know that I have never really liked pink? Also, not all pregnancy tests have pink lines (or lines at all) so this may not make sense to everyone.

Two Lines

Who knew there would come
a day when pink would be
the most important color
and two lines would change
my life forever

Monday, January 17, 2011

Poem #6: The Calendar

Okay, I know this one isn't exactly a poem--it's more like a series of journal entries--but I thought it might work on some kind of modern level. I actually wrote this (or the majority of it) in the waiting room of the Urgent Treatment Center the day I had my first positive pregnancy test. I wrote it on scraps of paper from my purse. It is very autobiographical, although I've left out some of the details. When trying to conceive, everything revolves around the cycle calendar and trying to predict the small window of time when conception can occur. The last week of the calendar is the worst because the window of time has passed, but it is too early to take a pregnancy test. In fact, the waiting and wondering can be torture. My intention in writing this was to express some of that anxiety.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Poem #5: How Do Accidents Happen?

I have had a difficult time writing commentary about this poem--probably because I recently had a reminder of this very subject and it just seems so unfair. With all the steps and medications and everything else that I have done trying to conceive, it blows me away that someone can "accidently" get pregnant. I wrote this poem to vent some of my frustration. It's really just a beginning and definitely needs some work.