September 15

WHERE I’M FROM (with thanks to George Ella Lyon)

Many students in the U.S. are familiar with a delightful poem by Kentucky poet George Ella Lyon because she has allowed a template of hers to be copied online.  I just returned from a visit to my hometown where I visited the Johnstown Flood Museum, so maybe this is why I’m thinking again of where I’m from.

I am from a tee-totaler and a flag waver

I am from a drummer boy from Boston

            and a Pennsylvania farm girl

            salty tears lonely.

I am from pen pals and he proposed before they met

            and a match made with postage stamps.

I am from he always wanted two little girls and a white picket fence

            and she wished he’d not spend so much on flowers.

I am from a disabled vet with a broken body

            and Jesus is the Great Physician.

I am from “You’re not any better but you’re just as good”  

   and “Don’t play with fire or you’ll get burned.”

I’m from a two-bedroom house on Sunday Street and

            the Johnstown Flood which happened again. 

I am from steel mills and a city bus

            and Saturday rides to the downtown library.

I am from a writer-dreamer with no place to write

and the girl who was told “You don’t need college, you’re just a woman.” 

I am from both – the dreamer and the disappointed farm girl

who struggled to give me safety and opportunity.

 

August 14

A Letter to Juan Felipe Herrera

Dear Juan, (I hope it’s okay to call you that)

I can barely believe it but I have received your letter.
It’s your signature and title:  Juan Felipe Herrera
United States Poet Laureate.
Oh, of course I know it’s not really from you.

But this is just to let you know
I sent the donation you asked for
membership in the Academy.

Oh, and one more thing–I heard you read your poems
on National Public Radio.
I loved the way you read
one line in your language, one in mine.

Creo que estoy en amorada.
I think I’m in love.

Sincerely,

Carol

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June 2

SAY IT’S WITH A POEM

Say that every human being

is born with a mystery, a vessel that

hungers and thirsts.

Say no one explains this mystery right away

and each one tries to fill the void with

earthly things

which, of course, never work.

 

Say there is a great divide

and although omniscient and omnipotent

The One Who Satisfies must find a way

to communicate.  A great Lover who is

limited nevertheless to finding ways

to reveal Himself (or Herself:  the grammar

is itself limited).

 

Say sometimes a magnificent sunset will do it,

but usually it’s with words.

He has to use the right language, of course;

it’s His fault (there being many).

Say someone hears their name in a song.

 

Say it’s a halting, hesitating, most definitely awkward

kind of song—a poem.

Say it’s with a poem, and say someone hears their name

like it’s a personal love letter.

Say it’s no accident.

January 13

Magic at the Goodwill

I taught my daughters well.
Oh, at first they didn’t think so.
Go in that store, the one with
old paintings in the window?
Used clothes?
Someone else’s shoes?
But then one day, I imagine
on a tight budget and with
a need for something or other–
or maybe just curiosity took her–
my daughter found a sale.
I don’t know what it was
but she went back. And back.
It’s something between us, a secret
(not too well kept).
Yesterday it was time for me.
I had stayed away for a while.
It was really cold outside and my coat was too tight
I think was the reason. No matter.
After a while I wandered back where
I always go–to the books, the books.
There, though I rarely have, I found a book of poems.

A new friend.
Ah, the magic at the Goodwill.

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October 7

I Let Go

People sometimes ask me, “What do you expect to accomplish with this poetry thing?”  It’s a fair question, but in truth the best answer is the one a person finds herself.  All I do is provide a safe place, a good poem, and an invitation to talk and then write. The challenge for some is to sit quietly and allow the memories to come to consciousness.  Many times they have been locked in the basement where we thought they belonged.  Little by little, people realize they do in fact have a story and moreover, the telling of it brings healing.  People can write a poem or an essay; it doesn’t matter.  They don’t need to share it with anyone.  Even though we’re sitting in a room, writing with other people, there is no teacher and there is no audience.  We write for ourselves.  Satisfaction usually results.   We are often surprised at what we write.

I have a story to illustrate how this works, a very personal story.  Life occasionally blindsides us with emotional pain we never saw coming.  I’ve had that kind of season.  I had forgotten how that crushing pain feels.  Tears flow easily.  I found myself in need of healing.  For me, finally, I sensed some loving guidance from a Benedictine sister, Joan Chittister, OSB, in her book, Wisdom Distilled From The Daily. I had actually underlined this chapter before, and I want to quote a few lines (from page 65).  Life may be unclear, life may be difficult, but we are free of false hopes and false faces and false needs that once held us down.  We can fly now.  The chapter was on humility. I needed to let go of some immature thinking.  So how does one celebrate letting go?  I wrote a poem, and I sensed a lightness and a joy.  This is why I do what I do.

I LET GO

I let go of children.

I let go of needing to please them.

I let go of expecting them to please me.

I let go of expecting them to take care of me.

I let go of needing to prove myself good, or smart, or right, or successful.

I let go of feeling guilty for not being good enough or smart enough or right or successful.

I let go of trying.

Trying to defend myself

Trying to protect others or help when I haven’t been asked

Trying to inspire or give advice or persuade.

In return, I receive all the wisdom I can glean,

all the joy and all the love in God’s heart, and therefore, in mine.

Finally, I let go of myself.

I let go.

August 10

Hello world!

For my first blog, I want to quote a favorite verse from the Bible.  This is not a “Christian” blog exclusively, but I am most definitely a Christian.   I want to give credit to the Source of my very life, not to mention this new life I’m loving as I share poetry with friends.  This particular verse keeps coming back to my attention.  The first time I remember noticing it was in 1998, just weeks after my husband’s death.  He died in England, and there were many loving folks who came from the Isle of Wight to his memorial service on the mainland.  Then, I was obligated to take his ashes back to the States for yet another service.  When it was time to return to England (and my ministry with the British Methodist Church), I was depleted.  How does one face such a challenge?  I walked into a Christian book store somewhere, and on a wall there was the following verse.  It spoke to me then and it speaks to me today:  “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)