poems between mother and daughter

In May of 1986 my mom found out she was about six weeks pregnant with me. She didn’t know much about me yet, but she decided to write a poem to me called “Precious”. It went something like this –

Precious

Precious little hands & feet
Growing now inside of me
Little fingers – little toes
My little baby

Precious little nose & eyes
To light your face,
Complete your smile

Precious little voice
To sing praises to our
Heavenly King

Precious little gift
From God, you’ll
be a special blessing

Precious even now
Unknown – except
by Your creator

She called me precious for most of my life. And she still talks about how much she loves my nose. Oh, moms.

Last October my mom’s birthday was just around the corner and my sister and I decided to try to throw her a surprise birthday party. We hadn’t had a birthday party for her in a few years (shame on us) and she’d never had a surprise party. Circumstances conspired and tried their hardest to prevent this party, too. We had sent out all sort of Facebook invites and made plans with family and friends from church. Close friends of ours let us use their house and all I had to do was make a cake.

However, the weekend of her birthday party she wasn’t feeling well. She’s a school teacher and any teacher’s kid can tell you that on the weekends most teachers seem a little under the weather (it’s a combination of exhaustion and working in basically a petri dish of diseases). But as the weekend progressed she got worse and worse. Finally, Sunday morning (the day of her party) she decided to go to the doctor. Her absence from church was highly unusual and many of our friends kept asking what our plans for the day were. I held out hope we’d still get to have the party. Her birthday is late in November and pretty much once we’ve hit her birthday it’s the downward slope to Christmas and there’s no time for anything. So, I told them we’d wait to see…

Turns out she had extremely high blood pressure and the doctor was shocked she was still capable of moving around. She rested some of the afternoon and Camille and I went off to get things ready under the pretense of a dinner with our friends that Mom and Dad were going to join us for. When the time rolled around for her to leave my mom wasn’t really feeling up to it but my dad convinced her to get in the car. She kept asking him to turn around and take her home but he told her just to hold on. When she walked in the door my young cousins accidentally popped out too early, but mom didn’t really notice. We kept the surprise from being too loud because we didn’t want to give her a heart attack and it took her a moment to realise that everyone was at the house for her. She couldn’t believe we’d pulled it off. I was shocked myself. And really happy she’d made it.

When it came time for gifts I handed her a card with a poem inside. I was proud of the poem. She only got halfway through reading it aloud before she started to cry. When Camille finished the poem there was hardly a dry eye in the room. My oldest sister actually smacked the back of my head for making her cry (a loving gesture for sure).

I thought of these poems when I realized I would be reviewing Amy Tan’s book this week. It’s all about mothers and daughters and the sort of unexpected connections they share. Twenty four years later I wrote a poem to my momma about all the things she’s been to me.

To my mother on her birthday –

A pinkbowl for cakes
Pinecones for counting
Fingers for holding
Laps for sitting
hearts beats for listening
This was my childhood

A guitar for strumming
Discussions at the table and
stories while driving
You watched as I puzzled
things out and taught me Truth
This was the middle

And now there are more discussions
Plans made and dreames gazed upon
Stories shared when inspiration struck
Music played, songs that moved us,
Movies watched and books read
And You walked alongside me, offered me advice
This is my young adulthood

You’ve been so many things for me
Playmate, Teacher, Pete,
Friend, Consoler, Guide
and always Momma
Ema Sheli, The mother of me.

Ema Sheli is Hebrew for My mother (at least in the very rudimentary level of Hebrew I know). That’s my momma, ya’ll and there’s so much more to her. And all the frustration and elation of being mother and daughter is hardly capable of being summed up. The day of her birthday party was a particularly unusual day for me. The reality of losing my parents was thrown into sharp relief. I made my parents promise to take care of themselves and each other. We’re far too young for there to be an end, yet. I know that is a slightly morbid set of thoughts. However, I really just wanted to take the opportunity to make a nod to my mom, our unique relationship and celebrate the differences between us and how we’ve grown together the past few years. One thing I found myself thinking a lot during TJLC was you never really know how long you have, so don’t leave anything hanging.

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Original Works – Distraction

I wrote this poem the week of Pt. 1’s release. Today will echo a similar countdown toward the premiere of Pt.2. In anticipation, I thought I’d share this little gem with you. Enjoy.

Distraction, or How I spent the day waiting for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. 1

8:00 am, shut off alarm, 16 hours until it starts

brush teeth, make breakfast

10:00 am, homework, iTunes playlist, 14 hours

left to wait, contemplate what to wear, keep doing

homework

12:00, eating lunch, play with puppy, watch

two episodes of Conan, 12 hours, contemplate

details: books vs. movies, hope nothing disappoints

2:00 pm, avoiding homework, don’t like Faulkner,

distract with Twitter and Facebook and YouTube,

find music, download, throw sock at puppy, 10 hours

4:00 pm, proctor CPR test for Gina, discuss life,

college, weddings, and very important thing happening

in 8 hours… promise not to dress up like a dork

6:00 pm, showered, blow-dried hair, make-up,

jewelry, attention to tiny details, texting Pam, and Daniel, and Jenna,

prepare to drive to Tampa, 6 hours left

8:00 pm, dinner with mom, discuss friends’ wedding this

weekend, wonder what Shepherd’s pie is, keep texting and

checking Twitter, 4 hours seems so long

10:00 pm, sitting in the lobby, listening to mom talk about work,

call little sister, tease her about how she says “button”, sounds

like “bu’un”, 2 hours, someone brought a trivia card game

11:00 pm, move from queue to theatre, playing game on my

phone, answering movie trivia on screen, contemplating best

time to go buy a drink, never happens, 1 hour (and 2 minutes, apparently)

12:02 am, previews start, Harrison Ford is in a movie

called Cowboys and Aliens? giggle, stupid looking Nicolas

Cage movie, blah, blah, blah, and finally!

12:22 am, beginning of the end, 10 years of reading books

and seeing movies, a generation’s imagination captured by

a story of witches and wizards, this movie is beautiful

2:38 am, mind blown

Original Works – In the Kitchen

 Do you ever have those moments when you see a scene in your mind so clearly it’s as if it writes itself? This poem came to me that way. I consider it a “could have been” poem carried over from some remnants of a previous relationship. It’s brand new, not written for a workshop or anything, so feedback from you guys would be awesome. (Unless you hate it…)

 

In the Kitchen

I followed you from the bedroom to the kitchen

We’d been sleeping but you wanted some milk

I watched you in the faint light from the fridge

“This is my life,” I thought, “I can’t believe it.

Married.”

The truth is I still don’t know how to love you.

I’m selfish, mean, childish.

You put the carton back.

You turned, surprised to see me,

You said you loved me.

I said, “I’ll try.”

Original Works – Bohemians! O, Bohemians!

This was an assigned imitation poem. I chose “Pioneers! O, Pioneers!” as my inspiration. Which if you have not listened to or read you should do that right now. Stop reading this, google it, and then come back and read mine. That’s an order.

What’s coolest about this poem is that back in March I was with my sister Camille Dupree at the Will Mclean Festival. She was performing at a couple of the smaller tents, mostly covers. She had one original song under her belt (Ocean’s Daughter, you can download it here). We hammered this one out in a couple hours.

Writing Bohemians for Will Fest

It’s beautiful transferred over to music. If you want to hear it you’ll have to come see her play live. For now, enjoy the original (due to the great computer crash of 2011) imitation poem.

Bohemians! O Bohemians!
by Noel Russell
after Pioneers! O Pioneers! by Walt Whitman

Come my pale faced, skinny hipsters,
Create your own way in this phony world.
Have you your headphones? Have you your sharp-edged tongues?
Bohemians! O bohemians!

We must not loiter here.
We must not avoid forward movement, or growing up and facing duties.
We the youthful sinewy races, yet not on us can they depend.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

O we youths, we ironic youths,
so, entitled, full of angst, full of confusion and complaint.
I have known you, ironic youths, seen you complaining about the World,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Have you noticed,
the failure of criticizing to transmute the world around us?
The task left to us is more than superficial,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

We must shed the past behind us,
set out to make an actual difference, a more reasonable world.
The task that is set is not easy. A task full of sweat and of toil,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Work, yes, work.
Not the jaded observation of a younger generation.
Not either the immature evasion, but pain, and sweat, and earning.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

We the youth with no limitations,
We with resources all available, water, wind, and electric,
We with skyscrapers and cars with largest engines,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Responsibility is ours.
This blue globe, our wondrous planet, Mother Earth, our home,
Will only last if we can change fast,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

East coast, west coast, and the mainland between,
Spanning the globe, the mountains, valleys
Lakes and rivers, cities, suburbs, malls and places filled with coffee beans,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

O resistless restless race!
O beloved race in all! O my breast aches with tender love for all!
O I mourn and yet exult, I am rapt with love for all,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

This is our chance, we cannot miss this!
We must change, not to miss this, we are lost if we miss this,
(raise your hands all),
Raise your hands and help us change this, pain, disease, the loss that is this,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

See, my peers, my absent self-absorbed peers,
Evil swarms the earth, crosses man-made borders,
Oppresses the weak and helpless, the millions crying for a change,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

On and on they are overtaken,
all their graves quickly filled by pestilence, disease, famine,
warlords, drug-lords, rulers, and dictators.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

All the pulses of the world
Attempt to sync, to find consistent rhythm, yet division and ignorance abide.
We the rootless, restless souls can help them. Go out to meet them in stride.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Give them our excess,
Train our selves to use less. Use abstinence from the mainstream
to reinforce simplicity, to end the war for oil, and learn living green.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Forgo the superficial renunciation.
Shake off the chains of culture that distract us with who said what
on this or that social networking site. Live beyond the ironic window of the web,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

All the hapless silent lovers,
All the prisoners in the prisons, all the righteous and the wicked,
All the joyous, all the sorrowing, all the living, all the dying,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

I too have felt the disdain, as well the burden.
They’ve left me wandering, staggering, wondering,
with a few trite answers, and passionate pontifications,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

We are small specks in a grand scheme,
time stretches out on either side of our existence,
planets all around with us spin, it’s easy to pretend,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

that we have a futile existence,
are not much more than the Borg, focus on mismatched clothing
is the only way to escape the boredom, until we’re surrounded by pine boards.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

O we children of the West!
Our privilege, our wealth, and waste condemn us!
Even in our pretense of humility, we are more the damned!
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Singers, artists, and believers,
(cannot rest, their voices the only truth in this land),
call to us, challenge our complacent inactivity, infiltrate and command us,
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Not to wait ,
nor depend on someone else to lead us, someone else to teach us.
Not to waste this precious time we have, no longer feed our own egos!
Bohemians! O bohemians!

The days ahead will be lean.
We, pretentious, faking outcasts, will discover the true meaning,
of empty bellies, and painful cots, no choice in clothes or when to rest.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

One day I hope they marvel
at how we’ve changed, and what we’ve changed.
Blessing the earth with our reduced impact instead of hurting.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

The day will come, with a redefinition of quo for status,
and with good habits built for hard work we’ll continue the pattern,
passing on hope for future generations, re-christening the mainstream.
Bohemians! O bohemians!

Copycat works – The Death of Robert Walters

The final assignment for my Introduction to Fiction class was to read “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” by Tolstoy. Don’t worry, it’s much shorter. And a bit sad. But everything by the Modernists was… and we’ve yet to really break the trend. I’m currently reading more Tolstoy (Anna Karenina) and I can’t wait to a)finish this giant hunk of literature and b)tell you what I’ve learned in the process.

“The Death of Robert Walters”

The office of Managing Accountant, Robert Walters, was conspicuously empty despite being half past eight in the morning. His secretary, Miss Flynn, was not initially alarmed thinking Mr. Walters had arrived early and was about his usual, quiet business. When he did not appear at nine a.m. for his usual coffee request, she became concerned, and upon opening the door was distressed to see no sign of Mr. Walters.

Walters had never attempted seizure of any position higher than respectably mid-range. His career trajectory had landed him a generous position as Managing Accountant for Sink, Apellard, & Ducheyne, a respectably mid-range accounting firm in Kansas City. Mrs. Walters had often hoped her husband could work toward a partnership, if not his own firm, but Mr. Walters did not consider himself an adventurous enough man to endeavor such.

His life was not without some success. Walters had recently purchased a beige, yet distinguished, Certified Pre-Owned, Lexus Sedan. He was quite proud of his purchase, considering it just the sort of acceptable car a man in his position should drive. He knew driving a sports car, something of a flashy variety, might endorse his virility, yet just as likely cause concern for his stability. Walters wanted to avoid even the rumor of a possible “mid-life crisis.” Unfortunately, Walters had become a bit of a nonentity to his co-workers; Sink, Apellard, and Ducheyne only remembered he still worked for them when the list for employee Christmas cards found its way to their desks.

By nine-fifteen it occurred to Miss Flynn to phone Mrs. Walters. Unable to find contact information for Mrs. Walters or even their home phone number Miss Flynn sat, rather deject, at her desk and contemplated where Mr. Walters might have gotten off to.

Two blocks away, on a frozen park bench looking over a wintery pond absent of ducks sat a man in an overcoat slightly too big for him with a grey flannel hat pulled down over his ears. The man had been sitting there since sunrise, unmoving. The few businesspeople that passed through the park on their way to work barely registered his presence. Just after lunchtime, a hot dog vendor, who knew most of the bums that stayed in the park, decided to check on this unrecognized, still man. As he approached the bench he realized there was something quite wrong with this unremarkable man.

By the time the office buildings were emptying and people were heading home through the park, a crowd had developed around what was earlier an unnoticeable park bench. The coroner, called to the scene by several baffled police officers, determined he had died of a heart attack sometime that morning. The man’s clothes had become crusted with a light layer of frost in the time elapsed. The officers, looking for clues to the man’s identity found a business card in his front left pocket. It read, “Robert Walters, ventriloquist.”

His funeral was politely attended by family and co-workers. During the eulogy Miss Flynn mused that it seemed his greatest accomplishment had been buying a car with a rather high resale value.

 

Make sure to stop by tomorrow for the second half of All the Sad Young Literary Men or why writing about mediocrity is a trend in popular fiction.

Original Work – Seder

This was the first poem I officially wrote for academic purposes. It’s a villanelle, which is probably my most favorite form of poetry. It’s lyrical and just as you get used to a pattern it switches on you. I’ve written a couple since then. This one is based on an experience I had celebrating a Passover Seder the summer of 2007. It was presided over by a Messianic Rabbi. The whole thing, taught through the perspective of Christ fulfilling the prophecy was beautiful to me. And I can still feel the sting of the horseradish when I remember it. 

 

Seder

 

The first time I tasted hope

I sensed a trick in the early sweetness. I was

Confronted with a shocking new view of scope.

 

It was an ancient dinner, today, now more a trope.

Illusions to a higher being, dust clad and present

the first time I tasted hope.

 

The weary celebration, reminder of the time they coped

The burn of water laced with salt, inhaled, poured out;

confronted with a new understanding of scope.

 

Matza and horseradish, a Lamb bone

tied with rope, the bitter herb and salt water,

tie me to the story of the first time I tasted hope.

 

The crack and sick-sweet smell

of the bread we broke, I cried, for now I

understood… confronted, the old understanding of the scope.

 

My heart gave chase, tried to capture,

to hold close, the bitter honey, the old story of love,

the first time I tasted hope and suddenly was

confronted with a broader view of scope.

 

Make sure to stop by tomorrow for The Handmaid’s Tale Pt. 2. In which I discuss what I learned from Ms. Atwood’s writing prowess. 

Original Work – King of the Flea Market

This is a sonnet-esque poem I wrote for my Intro to Poetry class. We were given a certain list of words to include in the poem, which is why pickaxe is in there. It’s one of my more faulty poems for sure. But entertaining, maybe? Enjoy.
King of the Flea Market
I’ve discovered a treasure trove,
on the second Saturday of every month.
Amongst the booths and tables I rove
Stacked with bric-a-brac used more than once.
A coffeepot, a pickaxe, and dresses lined
with crinoline, relics of another time.
All of it lugged to the corner of Rhine
And Broad Street, what a climb!
I move slowly, like cows as they graze,
careful not to miss a diamond in the slag.
Dedicated to my search I raise
a porcelain tea-set, I dust with a rag.
I add it to my pile, not sure it is worthy.
Move on to the next stall, it’s only 8:30.

Make sure to stop back by tomorrow around 5 pm for the first half of my The Handmaid’s Tale review.