Oddments

In search of story


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December 7.21: Coping

Who said the moon is cheese?

Why, anyone can see

the moon is made of paper,

thick and cottony.

Someone tore it gently

in swooping deckled arc,

sculpting it to give me

a wink against the dark.

 

Dear reader,

This is not the perfect photo

about which I can boast;

the window I took aim through

added flourish of moon ghost.

But nighttime in the winter

I prefer being warm to bold;

it isn’t only dark out there,

it’s finger-nipping cold!

 

This is another one that, despite its length, makes me want to append “Burma-Shave!”

 

 


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November 24.21: Coping

In the kitchen

live the ghosts

that waft with air

of pies and roasts.

Abiding still

in towel and platter,

in recipe card

with ancient splatter,

they hover close

and scrutinize

with furrowed brow

and x-ray eyes

my every move,

my chops and pares,

as I use things

that once were theirs.

And then they squeeze around

to eat,

they watch our manners

heads to feet,

then, with a wink

to everyone,

salute themselves

for job well done.

 

 

Here is the crowd in my kitchen this week: my mother’s recipe for stuffing in her handwriting, the towel my Grandma Mauck would wet and wrap over the turkey to keep it cozy, their baster and meat thermometer, the platter my Grandma O’Hern’s turkeys came to the table on. Three women at my elbows.

You will note the towel is linen. My mother and her mother insisted on linen dishtowels, and, yes, my dear incredulous reader, they had to be ironed. Ironed damp, no less. In my generation, the technical term for such things was “flatwork,” and it was how we served our ironing apprenticeships. Handkerchiefs, pillowcases and sheets, linen towels…flatwork. Yes, we ironed sheets and pillowcases. And underwear. As I hear it, young women today wouldn’t know which side of the iron gets hot. (They’re smarter than we were.)

But I digress.

It’s a difficult time no matter where you live, dear reader; I wish I could make things better for you, for all of us. You might not celebrate Thanksgiving Day this week, but you can know that I am giving thanks for you because you have helped me write, and that has been a huge gift to me. Thank you!

 

 


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November 18.21: Coping

I’m lonely;

I’ll make me a world,

God said.

Now comes the echo,

in winter wind

— loneliest sound —

that lifts dead leaves

like empty chalices,

a last offering

before ice that freezes

even loneliness,

and the moldering carpet

woven by the wind

becomes blanket

for wiggly unseens.

And yet

I’m lonely

lingers:

each of us,

after all,

only one.

 

With thanks to James Weldon Johnson for his poem “The Creation,”

and to the anonymous student

in a high school speech meet many years ago

who put it in my head.

 


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November 16.21: Coping

I’d like to introduce you

to Basil P. Raccoon,

my resident philosopher,

inscrutable as rune.

Stoic and implacable,

frugal in his speech,

he’s ever thinking thoughts

beyond my humble reach.

The tilting of his head

seems question never ending,

whose answer seems to need

continual amending.

He isn’t one for talking;

I think that’s in his plan:

words cannot always teach

what quiet watching can.

 

 

To be exact, dear reader, this is Basil St. John Philip Raccoon, a gift from old friends Bill and Donna, and named after Philip St. John Basil Rathbone, but I couldn’t tell you why.

Basil Rathbone was a voice from my childhood, most especially in an oft-played recording (think 78 RPM) of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Later, I read “The Complete Sherlock Holmes” to tatters, and I think I always pictured Holmes as Rathbone’s character. There must be something in the raccoon’s aspect that called that to mind. The brain is weird — well, at least mine is.

As you can see from this daytime photo, November’s dark side is upon us and it’s time for candles in the windows. Basil approves. He is always looking for light in the dark.

 


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November 10.21: Coping

How it sizzles,

this maple,

brazen in the sunset,

each blazing leaf

a crackle

like the fire in a hearth

spitting embers,

bodaciously sassing the sun.

 

 

A note, dear reader: many years ago, oh, so many, I was advised never to use a series of sibilant sounds. Which, as you can tell, is a rule that doesn’t take itself too seriously. I thought of it as I wrote that last line and reveled in my rebellion. It sounds like a leaky tire, but I like it.

 

 


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October 30.21: Coping

My muse sent me this. Very funny.

What is it with writing? Why do the words  jump up and down and clamor to be heard in my head sometimes, and other times they are dead silent in some black hole?

I had a wonderful instructor once who said that when we hit a writer’s block it means we’re avoiding what we should be writing about. But writing is always avoidance, it seems to me. When I’m trying to write, I am not reading the news, cleaning the kitchen, or driving among our homicidal species. Isn’t that avoidance? How do I know what I’m avoiding if writing helps me avoid so much?

At the same time, I know that writing often pulls us into places we’d rather avoid. I get that. But it doesn’t help.

There is only one letter difference between writing and writhing. It’s close no matter how you look at it. I’ve been writhing mentally for days with no writing to show for it. A word will float up in my head like some defunct alewife on Lake Michigan, then another, another, and suddenly I’m up to my keyboard in lifeless words.

I am thinking that this intentionally blank paper will be the perfect gift-wrap for the lump of coal a certain muse might get this Christmas.