Before

*

Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

*

Before he lost his license,

we traveled.

In Mexico, he braved insane traffic,

maneuvered a Ford Fiesta

through bullying buses.

Before he lost his profession,

he saw clients,

put out brochures

in three counties.

Before he lost his skill,

he could fix anything

with a motor.

Before he lost his agility,

he was a fourth-degree black belt.

Before he lost his past,

he sent out dozens

of holiday cards.

Before he lost his bearings,

he led the way.

What I’m Reading: The Weight of Love

weight of love

It’s rare that I choose to read poetry.  Even more rare that I buy a book of poems and read it all the way through.  These poems by Pat Schneider spoke to me on many levels and touched my heart.  I connect with her as a writer, a mother, a seeker and a caregiver for a spouse with dementia.

Adult Children,

how they visit

from the far-off island nations

of their lives

How they bring us shiny notions

from the future we can’t possibly surmise

How the foreign languages they speak

surprise, delight and frighten us

until we remember how we pushed them

in the swing, how they shouted, laughing,

higher! Higher!

–p. 20

About Pat Schneider (from the back cover):

Pat Schneider was born in the Ozark mountains of Missouri where she became intimate with fossils, creek bed grasshoppers and box turtles. After a search for work took her single mother to St. Louis, from age ten Pat lived in tenements and in an orphanage until she was given a scholarship to college. Those early experiences deeply influenced her writing, and fueled her passion for those who have been denied voice through poverty and other 
misfortunes.

Pat’s books, poetry, plays, and libretti have been praised by the most prestigious publications and authors in America:  The New York Times, the Library Journal, the Atlanta Journal, Small Press Magazine, St. Louis Dispatch, the North Dakota Review, Oprah Magazine, Vanity Fair, the North Dakota Quarterly, the Kentucky Monthly, the Bellingham Review, the Louisville Times, and many others.

Peter Elbow said that Pat Schneider is “the wisest teacher of writing I know.”  Julia Cameron, author of The Right to Write and The Artist’s Way, noted that Pat is “a fuse lighter. Her work is gentle, playful, brilliant, and revolutionary” and Janet Burroway, author of Writing Fiction, notes that Pat’s work is “heartening and practical, a rich variety . . . that celebrates both difference and difficulty as the gifts they are.  

I have a personal connection with Pat Schneider, as she developed the Amherst Writers and Artists (AWA) method of leading writing workshops.  Schneider’s type of  writing workshop provided a safe space for me to try out my pen in a local group. Led by Kate Hymes, herself an accomplished writer and teacher, the workshop confirmed that I was a writer.  Ultimately I saw my own novels published by Handersen Publishing. (www.handersenpublishing.com     www.amazon.com/author/ellisk

Schneider’s AWA method offers all people–those who consider themselves writers and those afraid to own the title–a safe, supportive workshop in which to explore.  In an AWA session, the writer hears what s/he has done well, what language was strong and memorable, what stayed with the listeners.  Rather than providing criticism, the AWA workshop provides encouragement.  I, among many, am proof of the success of Schneider’s approach.

So I thank Pat Schneider for her teaching, and for this gem of a book in which I found many deep and elegant expressions of our common experience.

Hush

Hush. Slow down. Say the names of those

for whom your candle burns.

Say them into the attentive ear

of memory, or of God.

Oddly, now, either one will do.

You are no longer required to believe.

Receive the gift of listening.  Belief

is as hard as a hickory nut

that cracked, holds many mansions.

The faces that you love are chalices.

Hush.  Slow down.  Tip the chalice,

sip the wine, and say it:

all whom I remember are now mine.

 

p. 3

Mushrooms at the Edge of Dread

 

closeup photo of white mushrooms

Photo by Ashish Raj on Pexels.com

(inspired by What Kind of Times Are These —Adrienne Rich)

 

At times like these

new fears emerge in the night,

like mushrooms.

 

At times like these

we wake in the contagious morning

to discover pale, sinister growths.

 

At times like these,

truth is a buried treasure

hidden under sand on an uncharted island.

 

At times like these,

we guess and guess and guess again.

What is safe? What is holy?

 

At times like these

we hide and wait for the cure,

but will all be required to take it?

 

At times like these

touch is precious medicine.

Everyone should have a hand to hold.

 

At times like these,

living at the edge of dread,

only burnt offerings can please the gods.

 

Kim Ellis   7-23-20

The Wrong Poem

I am not wrong. Wrong is not my name.
– writing prompt from June Jordan 

 

An old boyfriend of mine once asked me, “What would be the defining phrase of your life?”

 

 

My name is not wrong.

My name is not good enough.

The pink eraser is there

on top of the pencil,

but if I use it,

I am not good enough.

 

The algebra twists me

into paroxysms of wails

x is unknown

y is imperfect.

I am not A or B, but

my C is wrong, and

I am not good enough.

 

The big father raises his eyebrow

when I say what I know.

He doesn’t like what I know.

He says I can think it

but I can’t say it

because my truth is wrong, and

I am not good enough.

 

The yogi man and his ex-wife

tell me how

to bring back a slackening brain,

to fight the blackening blankness,

with COQ10 and mushroom powder,

exercise and cortex power.

Even if I do all they say, all day,

every day.

I will still be

not good enough.

 

NGE