Oddments

In search of story


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January 15.23: Coping, but barely

Writer’s Lament

 

I look out the window,

searching the sky,

one vast lumpy cloud

like a wakeful bed

where sleep has been sought,

demons of night manacled,

resisting,

in tangles of blankets.

Just so the sky

in its tumbled, restless look.

No words there.

I search the ground,

cold sticky mud,

chevroned in black stems

cracking in a wind that crawls

on its belly through dead herbs,

pulling useless things.

No words there.

In drawers full of some-days

which become nevers,

no words.

In closets,

epaulets of dust

on heedless hollow shoulders,

I fumble in every pocket,

surprised by gloves

limp and soft, snuggled

like sleeping kittens.

But no words.

In sepulchral boxes

crowded with the mute past,

pages and faces that crumble,

where Then is more alive than Now,

longings, wonderings,

but not one word.

Others wander in this word desert

but it’s a lonesome place.

 

 

And so, dear reader, have I tried to grapple with yet another writer’s slump. I figured since I can’t find words to write about anything else, I might as well write about the slump.

 

 


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January 8.23: Coping, but barely

When I write the first word of something, I have an idea what the last word will be. What a laugh. Writing has its own idea of where it’s going, and it’s rarely where I thought I was steering it.

Ten years ago, when I was 70, I promised myself I would do two things: learn how to bake biscotti, and start a blog. My writing mate Tamara graciously set up the blog for me, and I began, tentatively, intending to write mostly about caregiving, and hoping to learn how to tell a story. In August of 2015 Tamara prodded me to try photos as prompts. I was hooked.

So, as with all my writing, I did not go where I thought I would.

I’ve always been Oddment(s), but the themes have morphed from “Connections” to “Disconnections” to “Coping” to “Coping, but barely,” all reflective of my life and the life around me.

But the subtitled quest remained: In search of story. I can make biscotti, but I still can’t tell a story.

So I ask myself, “What at 80?”

 


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December 31.22: Coping, but barely

The table is set,

pristine and inviting,

the menu unknown

as of this writing.

I wish you, dear reader,

a stew of your choice:

a toothsome concoction

for palate and voice,

words for your writing,

health for your soul,

a generous helping

of vision and goal.

May loved ones and muses

fill all the seats,

your fingers and spirit

be ever sticky from sweets.

 

 

Thanks yet again to photographer S.W. Berg,

and kudos to The Baker’s Wife Bistro,

Hampton, VA, for the ambience.

I wish you a good year next, dear reader, with my thanks for your presence here, and I dig down to the very last remnants of depleted optimism to express some small hope for peace in our future. I do find our little corners of blogdom are places for peace. Plus a few laughs. Some nostalgia. A touch of snark. Communal sighs. The occasional coffee-spit on the keyboard. Thus is peace had, and I’m most grateful for it. Thank you for helping me bungle through 2022!

Maureen

 


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December 8.22: Coping, but barely

It has been said —

and I think that it’s true —

for a writer to finish

it always takes two:

the writer declares

“I call it a day,”

but then someone else

must yank her away.

DONE is a word

that’s hard to pronounce

when you invest in your work

to the last little ounce.

So DONE is a laurel

that others bestow,

to help the imaginer

pack up and go

to the next inner road,

or mountain, or sea,

that summons our spirits

by endless decree.

Whether mural or poem,

ballad or quilt,

“done” can be said

without quitter’s guilt.

 

A writer can spend an idiotic amount of time on one sentence, one phrase, one word. That living, breathing language remains stubbornly imperfect. We don’t want to be quitters in our own eyes, so we keep at it. There’s always something that could be better.

I suspect that can be true for all creative endeavor. The artist, whether writer, muralist, quilter, musician, woodworker, can have a problem saying “it’s done.” But Dathan has said just that, and here, above and below, is the finished mural.

More thanks to photographer and reporter S.W. Berg.


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August 29.22: Coping, but barely

A holiday,

a break well earned,

routine and calendar

happily spurned.

All well and good,

but it’s bad news

when the vacationer is

my mercurial muse.

And so I’m stuck

with blank white screen

until she returns

from where she’s been.

OK, so you have to kind of bend the rhyme there at the end. I’m desperate.

She’s gone again! Those of you who know me know my problems with my willful muse. Sometimes she just takes off. But she taunts me with beginnings. I have begun to write several posts over the last ten days or so, and the quality they all have in common is dreadfulness.


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August 11.22: Coping, but barely

Wrath. It is said to be sinful. I think not. There are times when extreme anger is a virtue. OK, so I’m not a moral theologian.

The problem with anger is how it fevers and boils under a tight lid, that lid that bounces and clatters as it tries to hold in the steam pushing up and, inexorably, out. Eventually there is a lava that oozes over, a thick anger, blackened and petrified wherever it congeals. Or the vapor writhes away, leaving only the distilled curls of rage.

Gardeners are lucky. They can scroll the news, public or personal, and immediately grab weapons of grass destruction. Stabbing, wrenching, yanking, soul-satisfying wrath. Crabgrass is therapy. With roots that clutch the deepest core of the earth and blades that hack their way through other life, it bares its coarse green teeth, snarling, daring the gardener to fight to the death.

As a normal thing, I am a proud, peaceful wimp; however, I espouse white-knuckled violence when it comes to crabgrass, and I enthusiastically endorse wrathful gardening.

 

Practicing prose poetry. And apparently alliteration. (Do any of you find yourselves writing/talking/muttering to yourselves in alliterative words? It’s scary.)


19 Comments

August 9.22: Coping, but barely

I am going to try to learn something new, dear reader: prose poetry. Apparently the main difference between poetry and prose poetry is form: whereas poetry uses word arrangement on the page to convey (or obscure) meaning, prose poetry is written in the plainness of paragraphs (I wonder if writers dream in alliteration).

Some of you have written prose that I think occasionally morphs into poetry, and I always have to read it over to try to figure out how it snagged me. The Poetry Foundation has an elegant example of Prose Poetry by Amy Lowell. It is instructive to me. Some of the other examples are not so helpful.

I expect my attempts to be awkward, but I want to see if I can figure it out. Consider yourself warned.

Maureen

 

 


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July 4.22: Coping, but barely

Under raptor storms,

growling clouds of dark unknown,

sunless doubts and dangers

in history’s tempest blown,

they pledged their sacred honor.

Could they have even thought

how much of “sacred honor”

would be bartered, sold, and bought?

Yes, I think they did,

but still they took a stand,

and signed their deep conviction

in sprawling, sundry hand.

Seeing the unseen,

hearing the unheard,

they built a sure storm shelter

with the steel of written word.

 

Here we celebrate the 4th of July, Independence Day,

perhaps a bit subdued this year.

“Self-evident truths,” it turns out,

are not so self-evident.

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

for this gorgeous capture

over Buckroe Beach, Virginia.


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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.