Oddments

In search of story


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April 17.22: Coping, but barely

Old ways,

fragile shell,

human spirit

indomitable.

In tiny line

a testament,

promissory

document.

 

I believe these eggs are Ukrainian pysanky; they were a gift back around 1980 and have moved a lot with me. I am in awe of them and I unpack them every year hoping it won’t be the year I break one. This year more than ever.

Whatever your traditions, dear reader, may there be signs of new life for you, and may your traditions preserve your story. May our species one day prefer peace.

 

 


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April 7.22: Coping, but barely

The thing about time:

it’s never where I’m.

 

Some of you know that my father referred to me as “the late Maureen O’Hern,” that my family said I was insufferably poky. I maintain I was deliberate. Those of us who live deliberately tend to think things over — and over — before we act. Clocks and calendars are annoying.

Thus did I miss that Poetry Month is upon us.

I seem to be in a perpetual state of catching up. Time and I are, and always have been, at odds. Or perhaps it’s just the measurement of time. “Late” is relative only to clocks and calendars, yes? This leads me to think about how we measure time so surgically. The vast amoeba of life cannot be held in tidy sequences. But could it be measured in poetry, which, to me, is anything but tidy?

This time of Now is saturated with blood and tears. Grief and anger are chewing us up. Clocks and calendars cannot measure it. Maybe the measure is taken in a certain kind of written word, in painting, drawing, photography, sculpture, music, maybe even in the ephemera of a garden. If I can ever figure out what poetry is, perhaps I will find that all the above are types of poetry.

I think we seek the timeless. May you find it where you seek, dear reader, especially in Poetry Month.

 

 


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March 29.22: Coping, but barely

\The 88th day

of a calendar year

is a hooray for the piano,

proud modern clavier.

Eighty-eight keys

to knot up our fingers,

uncountable hours

that put us through wringers.

Lessons and practice

dulling many a day,

but what a delight

to just sit down and play.

From Czerny to Joplin

is an arduous travel

and can make your resolve

and your neurons unravel,

but the family and friends

who won’t whimper or squawk

will help you endure —

they’ll have your Bach!

The time that it takes

to learn the technique

makes thousands of hours

dismal and bleak,

but just when you think

it’s too much to withstand

the mystery of music

flows out of your hand.

Eventually it comes,

a soul satisfaction,

after dragging delay of

gratification.

So whether some Gershwin

or Schubertian lieder,

may a piano today

accompany you, dear reader!

 

 

As some of you know from my blog, I lived through many, many years of piano lessons. I hated my lessons and I hated practicing, but, boy, did I love to play. My piano was my upper and my downer and my go-to for the stress du jour.

As I understood it, my piano teacher was, pedagogically speaking, a descendant of Liszt. This did not work well for me because, as everyone knows, Liszt had three hands. The expectations were hardly realistic for those of us with a mere two.

Nonetheless, like others, I persisted. Persistence and piano go together. Today I salute the teachers of both. Happy Piano Day, dear reader! And thanks to my friends Donna and Bill who tuned me into it!

 

 


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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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July 7.21: Coping

Street art has found a place

in cultural domain;

the spider looks upon it

with the master’s cold disdain.

His webby muse inspires

despite the hours of tedium

to pattern and to form

with gossamer as medium.

In gallery of flowerpots

the moon and sun elide,

performatively joined

on thinnest thready slide.

By night the moon plucks lightly

each string in placid rondo;

by day a somersaulting sun

cavorts in bright glissando.

Known only to the artist

where spinnings stir and start,

sufficient to the self

is ephemera of the art.

So the noiseless patient spider,

in retreat of sweet alyssum,

abjures the common cult

of crass commercialism.

 

With apologies and thanks to Walt Whitman’s

“A Noiseless Patient Spider.”

 

 


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December 31.20: Coping

A wink, perhaps,

lightly nefarious:

above the noble

“Stradivarius”

the truth is stamped,

hidden slyly —

“Copy” — by luthier

deft and wily.

 

I think it was no coincidence that 2020 was the year I attended to my father’s violin, which I had allowed to fall into disreputable condition. I’d needed some sense of grounding, of continuity, in a year of such cataclysmic instability. I had it repaired and renewed for my grandson this Christmas, and there was indeed grounding. This was the instrument my father played in his grade school orchestra, circa 1925.

 

The one he played in our family Christmas concerts (a merry barnyard kind of sound) and introduced to his grandson circa 1977.

 

The one I rescued from my own shameful neglect and presented — in its well-worn KantKrack case, beribboned and (it seemed to me) proud — to his great-grandson this Christmas.

A violin doesn’t have to be a Stradivarius to be priceless. And 2020 has made us acutely more mindful of the priceless things that ground us.

Thank you, dear reader, for all your encouragement and insights this year. May the new year bring us all the repair, renewal, and tuning we need, may we be grounded in the priceless things of life, may we be mindful of those who grieve and who care for our sick, and may there one day again be real hugs!