Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Pondering the Question

Last summer, I challenged readers to write a "burning house" poem: if your people and pets were safe, what would you rescue from your burning house? This was Stacy's poem, and I'm privileged to share it with you. 

Pondering the Question

If I had to leave my home?


Flee before the flames,

Retreat from the advancing wildfire.

To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.

What would I take?

What would be important to me?

Too important to leave?

I have been pondering the question.


Not of ID and insurance,

Titles, deeds and bank documents.

What possessions do I need?

What material goods?

What objects? What things?

What stuff do I need from my life to continue that life?

Well, obviously, I will need my computer, my phone.

How could my life as I know it continue if I lose all of my electronic information?

What else would I have to take?

Photographs of course!

All those irreplaceable images and memories of people and places I love.

Captured on paper and stored in boxes. 

(Not uploaded to digital format yet because I do not have the time)

Scrapbooks and mementos of my life, I will need these.

My jewelry.

My Grandma’s ring.

My Mom’s favorite cross,

The one we put on her for her funeral viewing.

The earrings I have been collecting since High School.

Surely I must have these precious items!

Would I have time to get my books?

The ones I paid retail for?

The ones that were beloved gifts?

Thrift store and library sale treasures bought on the cheap?

All of those?

I have to have my books!

To have my own life still, after the fire, won’t I need my books?

Where do I stop? Draw the line?

Do I take all my clothes?

Coffee cups and espresso maker?

Chef knife and silicone spatula?

Art, furniture, sheets and towels?

Where will it end?

What do I really need?

I have been pondering the question.

Thinking hard about my life.

Considering what I need.

My life, my loved one’s lives and maybe, just maybe, a file of important papers.

That is what I need.

My life, my loved one’s lives.


That is all I need.

Not all I would want,

Not all I would hope to save.

But really, all I would need.


If I had to leave my home?


Flee before the flames,

Retreat from the advancing wildfire.

To preserve my life, my loved one’s lives.

What would I take?

What would be important to me?

While pondering the question,

Thinking hard or in passing thoughts

I wonder.

What do I really need?

I know my computer, my phone, would ease the transition to a post fire life

My photos, mementos and books would aid in continuity from my pre-fire life.

Art, housewares, personal possessions would soften the move to a new place.

A new home. A new life.

Pondering the question and thinking of all my stuff.

Would I need it? Have to have it?

The possessions? Objects? Things?

Need? No.

Want? Yes.

Of course I would want them.

Those special treasures, those precious objects are links.

Tangible links to people, places and times I love.

Physical objects representing things I have done and seen and shared.

They reinforce my memories, aid my recall,

Of those people and places and actions that shaped me and my life.

These emotionally weighted objects trigger a response in my brain

Connecting me in my present to me in my past.

Losing these tangible pieces of my life would be brutal.



Yes. Losing them would be devastating.


Pondering the question

I know that if I had my life, my loved one’s lives

That I could live without all the rest.

Yes. Thinking hard I could lose it all.

Every object big and small.

Every item expensive or cheap.

Every thing important or trivial.

I would survive losing them all.

I would mourn the loss.

But I would survive.

Mostly I would mourn the weakness this loss would generate in my memory chain.

Mourn the vacuum, the gaps, the access to these precious clues.

Clues that cement my life experiences to my person.

But, while pondering the question,

When I think of what I know, what I remember

How much these memories are connected to objects,

How many objects and their accompanying memories I have forgotten, shed or lost.

How in my present,

I do not know which objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.

I do not know if objects will be memory lodestones for the future me.

I do not know that the future me will have any memories.

I think about how fragile memories are.

How easily lost or broken.

That makes me think of my Grandma.

Her loss of memory.

Her loss of Identity.

Her inevitable loss of life.

She still has the physical objects of her long and full life.

Her papers and books, photos, art and household.

She has her house but has lost her home.

This place and these things no longer have any connection to her and her person.

The wildfire of Alzheimer’s has burned them to ash.

Much like her I have collected things,

Things I plan to love and enjoy and the build a life with.

Pondering the thought of losing my things and then extending the thought,

Facing the possibility of losing even the basic knowledge of those I love.

Losing the basic knowledge of who I am.

What would be left? Anything?

Will she, would I, in losing our things, our memories, our very identities

Lose everything?

Pondering that thought,

I do not think so.

I hope that we do not.

I have faith that we do not!

I believe that even though her memory has gone, that one day my memory may go

That in our brains and bodies, our very cells,

That every moment, experience and loved one is recorded and remembered.

Safeguarded by our souls. 

- by Stacy McKnight

Feel free to share your "burning house" poem with me

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: Love Story in Black and White

Love Story in Black and White

What the hell am I doing
hugging a white man in an apron?
I said it to myself--but out loud!--so that
he pushed me away slightly:
What did you say?
This was the first white man I had dated--
though I was sixty!
It wasn't only that I was holding
a body close for the first time
in years; not only
that he was white.
Our mothers' fears and angers--
heirlooms of slavery--
had hardened my heart.
Perhaps it was the apron. I had never imagined
a white man (not a chef)
come down to that order. Perhaps
the way he met me, beaming,
opened wide,
confounded my expectations
and undid me.
How lovely his body
as he bends to the wise tomatoes.
What does black
and white have to do with it,
our love that's lasted ten years?
Each act of tenderness
amends the violence of history.

Submit a poem to me for Poetry Wednesday or National Poetry Month — and if I use it, I send you a book of poetry. Everybody wins!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Valentine's Day Poem for David: After a Noisy Night

"It isn't going to a bed with a man that proves you're in love with him; it's getting up in the morning and facing the drab, miserable, wonderful everyday world with him that counts." 

After a Noisy Night

            The man I love enters the kitchen
with a groan, he just
woke up, his hair a Rorschach test.
A minty kiss, a hand
on my neck, coffee, two percent milk,
microwave. He collapses
on a chair, stunned with sleep,
yawns, groans again, complains
about his dry sinuses and crusted nose.
            I want to tell him how
much he slept, how well,
the cacophony of his snoring
pumping in long wheezes
and throttles—the debacle
of rhythm—hours erratic
with staccato of pants and puffs,
crescendi of gulps, chokes,
pectoral sputters and spits.
            But the microwave goes ding!
A short little ding! – sharp
as a guillotine—loud enough to stop
my words from killing the moment.
            And during the few seconds
it takes the man I love
to open the microwave, stir,
sip and sit there staring
at his mug, I remember the vows
I made to my pillows, to fate
and God: I'll stop eating licorice,
become a blonde, a lumberjack,
a Catholic, anything,
but bring a man to me:
            so I go to him: Sorry, honey,
sorry you had such a rough night
hold his gray head against my heart
and kiss him, kiss him.

from The Hour Between Dog and Wolf. © BOA Editions, Ltd., 1997.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Poetry Wednesday: The Letter

In honor of A Month of Letters, I give you a poem about — you guessed it — a letter.

The Letter

Little cramped words scrawling all over the paper
Like draggled fly's legs,
What can you tell of the flaring moon
Through the oak leaves?
Or of my uncertain window and the bare floor
Spattered with moonlight?
Your silly quirks and twists have nothing in them
Of blossoming hawthorns,
And this paper is dull, crisp, smooth, virgin of loveliness
Beneath my hand.

I am tired, Beloved, of chafing my heart against
The want of you;
Of squeezing it into little inkdrops,
And posting it.
And I scald alone, here, under the fire
Of the great moon. 

courtesy of

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Month of Letters: How's It Working Out For You So Far?

I don't know about you, but I haven't written a single note.

My explanation is — well, unimportant. Sure, I was traveling for the first week. Then I came home and spent three days not writing any correspondences.

Then the mail arrived Friday with a stack of letters.

I shall remedy that today.

How's your postage holding up? Just checked out my first-class stamps and discovered I own "forever" stamps. My postcard stamps, however, are in need of penny stamps. Sigh. I'm terrible about picking up postage, which is why I purchase a lot of postage at once (then proceed to not use it in time and have to purchase penny stamps). And me with lots of photos for photo postcards!

Don't be daunted. One letter every day the mail is delivered is doable. If you're behind, grab a few postcards to catch up! Use your favorite note cards. Your recipients will be glad you did.

Have you found it a challenge to pick up the pen? Decide who's on your hit list? Find postage? Locate a mailbox? What has been your Achilles heel so far this month?

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Perspective from a Fan or Two

Perspective. It's a crazy thing.

The woman at the Alfie Boe concert Wednesday I thought was distracting (Concert Craziness, Etiquette) had a few choice words to write about me.

This Alfies Arrow [sic] was "embarrassed for this town." The show wasn't sold out and the audience members were not on their feet, which is what she thought was fitting for this performer.

Here's what I saw and experienced at the Birchmere that night:
  • At least two people within arm's reach of me used canes to walk and stand. 
  • Many in the crowd were older, and didn't move fast or nimbly. 
  • Standing required the participation of everyone re-arranging their chairs.
  • I couldn't cross my ankles without kicking someone under the table.
  • I could not comfortably stand at my table. Instead, I knelt on my seat and twisted my back in an uncomfortable angle.
  • When my brother-in-law moved, I could not see the stage — so the people behind me would have suffered the same fate had I stood.
I hope this Arrow finds a venue and audience that better suits her sensibilities, as we certainly did not.

Myself, I will continue to see Alfie Boe at the Birchmere as many times as he chooses to perform there, and I will join my fellow fans in the intimate venue that welcomes him in their own, loving way.

Update 2/11/2013: The online statement mentioned above was updated. Let's just enjoy the music. Merry meet.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Fun Friday: Llama Needs a Caption

I've got something to say. I just wish I knew what it was.

Help this llama find his caption!

Here, I'll start:

Quick, climb in! I'll explain on the way!


Next time, I'm driving: 
I would have taken Seventh Avenue 
this time of day.

(Full disclosure: I read the first one somewhere.) 

Now, it's your turn. Submit a caption idea. I'll list the three finalists and let you vote for your favorite. The winner wins a book (selected from a list of available titles).

So, submit your caption idea via e-mail or in the comments below no later than February 24.
I can't wait to see what you come up with!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Concert Craziness, Etiquette

I met a woman at the latest Alfie Boe concert that made me wonder if I'm getting too old and crochety to attend live music events.

The venue was general admission, and most people who sat in the very front of the theater had arrived early that morning to be first in line to choose their seats. My brother-in-law arrived an hour before the doors opened, and we chose seats immediately behind these fans for our party of seven.

Next to our table sat a woman entirely in black clothing — black jeans, black leather jacket, black blouse — with her long, brown hair clipped in barrettes down her back. She was hard to ignore from the start. This look was in contrast to others in the audience mostly wearing "office casual" clothes or outfits suitable for dining out in cold weather. (For the record, I was in blue jeans, a long-sleeved red sweater and black tennis shoes — or "trainers," as Alfie and his fellow Brits would call them. My husband was similarly dressed.)

The Lady in Black was pacing around the theater before the show, chatting up others along the stage. I figured she was among the "uber-fans" who lined the stage area and had attended the previous night's concert as well. Compared to these people, I was a Jane-come-lately, despite being a very enthusiastic fan who praises the talents of Alfie Boe to all within earshot.

When the lights went down and the musicians hit the stage, Lady in Black went wild. She jumped to her feet when a song began, waved her hands in the air, clapped enthusiastically and cheered vociferously. I was no slouch with my cheering and clapping; however, knowing the venue, I stayed in my seat, for the most part, so the three people behind me could see the performer on stage.

The Lady in Black was oblivious to anyone around her. Well, most of the time. During one of his rock song performances, she started flapping her arms and screaming to the people around her, "Stand up!" People told her to sit down. She looked at me and screamed, "Stand up!" I yelled back, "Enough!" (I heard my husband tell her to shut up.) She leaned over to me and yelled, "I'm with the band!" I replied in her ear through gritted teeth, "I don't care. Enough." She looked at me for a moment, then turned her attention to the others around her. Eventually, she took her seat again.

After the show, she interrupted my conversation to explain that, if they were in London, ten thousand people would have been on their feet, dancing. "I just felt bad for him," she said.

I thought: there are hundreds of people at this modest venue, many of whom queued up at 9 a.m. in freezing weather to see him. He was doing the things that made him the happiest (and, hopefully, making a decent wage doing so). And she felt bad for him because the audience, comprised in a large part of older public television viewers, wasn't on their feet in the non-existent aisles and blocking the view of the people behind them? Please. I didn't want to hear apologies, explanations or justifications. I just wanted her to finally leave me alone.

I told her simply her actions were distracting to the audience during the show. She apologized and left.

I'm not docile or quiet at a concert. I sometimes jump out of my seat when I hear a song I like, clap and cheer, sing along and join in the fray around me. The music is loud, the fans are happy and we're all there for a good time. However, anyone louder than the very amplified voice of the person on stage is too loud. I hope the Lady in Black remembers that at her next concert. I'll try to do the same.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Monday, February 4, 2013

Seen on Twitter: Sign O' the Times

Chuckle courtesy of Twitter and award-winning author Alan Heathcock:

Sign O' The Times 

Flight attendant: "Sir, can you please power that down." 

Me: "This is a book."

(For the record: true story.)