Emerging from thawed soil
Like organ pipes,
Hostas form a field of flutes,
Singing songs of praise
To a generous April sun.
Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day!
Don't get me wrong, I love Indiana. But, when you grow up near the water, it is hard not to miss it when you no longer have it right outside your back door. This is a poem I wrote during that time when a Great Lake was only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
A Story of Sea and Daylight at the DNR Site
Two miles up the road
The waves and water
Beat against a muddy shore,
It is January and warm
This is my own place
On the Anchor Bay.
The sun lights up the olive drab
Oscillations, glossing over the surface.
I sit on a drifted log,
I have drifted so that I can’t see
The city, only bay and shoreline
I cling to the illusion that the sea
Stretches for miles beyond miles.
My morning horoscope
Predicted sudden curves
Like the dangerous curves
In the road that leads to the DNR site
But that they are for a definite reason,
“Sweet Illumination,” it called for.
So I am here in the daylight once
And the sea oats look black against
The sun reflected off the waves
Like sweet illumination
It is not perfect-
Trash rolls on the beach
Where ducks call and sing to mates
But it is on the way.
Sweet Tea Rings on the Coffee Table (2006)
Sweet tea, lazy
On an afternoon
Wrapped in the comforting
Embrace of the South.
I read of desires
For it was desire
That brought me here,
To my empty house
In Dixie, the dream.
I am exactly where they wanted,
So they send their furniture here,
To my home in the sun.
The Canadian frosts melt away
To reveal mom’s chair,
Dad’s sofa, and a low,
Worn coffee table.
Old ideas in a home
Of youthful desire, I
Rest my sweating glass
On the new old table,
It leaves a watery ring
On the faded wood, I
Let it lie. Mom preferred coasters,
Dad may not have minded.
Hot air filters through the window,
I dream of riverboats
Like Dad once dreamed of this.
My Thoughts Today:
I remember this one well. It was an assignment for a college poetry class. The instructions were to set my alarm clock for 3am and write about whatever dream I was in the midst of. And this was my dream. That I was drinking sweet tea in a home that I had just moved into and some handmade Canadian furniture was being delivered (it was sent by my parents). What I concluded from the dream was that I was thinking about my past and future all at once and I was finding it a bit overwhelming. It's not unlike the way I'm thinking/feeling now. Life happens in seasons and cycles. Its funny how every month, every season conjures up feelings of that same time in previous years. I'm acknowledging that today and focusing on it. How comforting is it to know that after every fall comes a winter, and after every winter comes a spring, and so on? I know I wrote this poem based on a dream I had, a very eventful but pleasant dream. I am longing for a peaceful sleep like that now, as I spend my nighttime hours comforting my 5-month-old. I will try to keep in mind, as I rock her and rock her for what seems like forever, that after this night, morning is sure to come.
Shining through Half-Rain
Breaking through Half-Clouds
Breaking in the day.
Half-Sun you're all I need
To make it through
Which brings Half-Moon
World, see my Half-Smile
Living and loving
My Thoughts Today:
I decided to go WAY back today! As promised, I didn't edit this even though it pained me not to. I think this is one of the first poems I ever wrote. This poem is like a song that is always stuck in my head. It's funny that even though I wrote it years ago, I sometimes find the sing-song-y words going through my head. I choose this poem to post today because yesterday it found its way into my head as I was looking up at a beautiful half moon.
One thing I've always acknowledged as being a benefit of being a writer is that you get to have a physical record of memories even if those memories are just from an average day when nothing particularly special happened. I'm sure I just wrote this while sitting in my desk in some high school class while waiting for the bell to ring and I bet that, even at the time, I knew I was writing about a pretty average day. I'm glad that I have a record of that day, though. As it turns out, it was a very important day - the day I decided I wanted to do this thing called writing.
Everything Blue Means (2005)
At night I sleep
On blue gingham sheets,
I begged for books to teach me
Everything blue means,
I am Aphrodite, most instrumental,
This we know for sure
But every time Medea kills Jason
I feel a mix of pride and grief.
Can you hear my voice?
I know you know my cries
High and distinct like sharp-edged kites
Sound and pitch erratic like butterflies,
You ask me "why?" as I scream "why!"
I am Ophelia, Cordelia, Juliet,
This we know for sure
But every time I open my eyes
I see myself standing on such a thin line.
Can you speak my language?
I know you know my tongue
You feel everything young about me,
You've chased the air from out of my lungs,
But not the words from my lips
I am Lady Lazarus,
This we know for sure
But every time I think of despair
I think of Ted Hughes.
Can you read me?
I know you know you want to
At times, maybe, you've forgotten to,
Just listen to the rings of things,
The trebles and lows, the variance of tones,
I am Alice down the rabbit hole,
This we know for sure
But every time I drink you up
I shrink before I grow.
My Thoughts Today:
Here's a weird one! This poem is a great example of the way I used to write. When I first started writing, I had a tendency to be sort of cryptic and this poem is a great example of that. It was like I wanted to write about something I was feeling deep inside, but I also wanted to hide that feeling away. So, attempting to have my cake and eat it too, I would write about something personal in such a way that anyone who read my poetry would have no idea what I was talking about it. I wasn't winning any poetry contests in 2005. Surprise, surprise.
That said, I can see in this poem that I was starting to move toward clarity and creating written works that others could read and understand. I started experimenting with some techniques that would later help me to create more readable poems when they were used for a purpose. First off, I created my own form here and I followed it for the most part. Secondly, I went wild with the literary allusions. Allusions have long been one of my favorite literary devices and I use them regularly in my fiction writing. Let's just hope the ones I use now aren't as glaring and awkward as they are in this poem.
To conclude, I'd like to mention that I still haven't discovered everything blue means. Nor have I figured out what this poem actually means. It turns out my habit of obscuring my feelings in my poetry has worked so well that I can even confuse myself. However, if nothing else, this poem does prove one thing: I was pretty well read for an 18 year old.
I dug up another one of my old poems for this week's TBT poetry post!
Our Fat, Fat Fingers (2009)
Do you remember
Ben Folds Five and then
Quiet feelings and
Coffee colored evenings?
Our fingers got fat
From playing piano,
Callused and fat
From music and writing.
Do you remember?
I could say nothing
And be something!
I’d whisper and ears
Would shift like a cat’s.
Do you remember?
Do you remember that September
Feeling the autumn chill
Creep over the lake and
Crawl between our fingers,
Our fat, fat callused fingers
That said everything so
Our mouths didn’t have to?
My Thoughts Today: While 2009 isn't all that long ago, I felt compelled to choose this one because of the late September, chilly autumn vibe. Unlike last week, I do remember what I was writing about here and it is fitting for me to post this on a throwback Thursday because I was writing about my memories of being in high school. In 2009, I was living in Chicago and struggling to find good jobs. I had just returned to the States from Mexico and I felt really lost. Reverse culture shock is a real thing that not many people talk about. So, in this poem I was reminiscing about high school and, I believe, I really conveyed how much I missed that time. The reason why I missed that time was because, during that time, I was so free to be creative. I played piano and flute, I wrote poetry, I read for fun, I even drew and painted. After college, it seems like all of that sort of disappeared. When you're working or looking for work, you don't have time to just pick up the flute and play and, furthermore, it is not likely that you can fit (or afford) a piano in your studio apartment. The pressures that come with being in your 20s really wore on me and I felt like I couldn't be me when I was unable to truly be creative. Obviously, I found a way regardless. I have a ton of poems from this time in my life. They are written on napkins, on the back of receipts and in these tiny little notebooks I used to carry in my purse. And, when I read these poems now, it almost seemed like I was fighting for it, struggling to hold on to one creative pursuit from my teenage years.
Another thing that struck me about this poem is that, without thinking of it, I wrote a short story that mirrors this sentiment just last year called "Für Elise". It is clear I still long for those carefree, creative days of my past, but now I'm expressing it in different ways. Instead of bearing that weight entirely on my shoulders, I shared it with a character and that feels right, too. Now that I'm taking a look back at these old poems, I am beginning to see certain themes in my writing as well as things that I have allowed to evolve. And that's really cool.
If you read my "about" page, you know that I started writing poetry at age 16. Now in my late 20s, I occasionally write poetry, but my focus has been more on my fiction. Since I don't want to lose my love for poetry (it's what got me started as a writer, after all), I want to start a new tradition on my blog: Throwback Thursday Poetry. Every Thursday I will post a "throwback" poem from my earlier days and my thoughts on it now. I pledge not to edit these gems no matter how cringe-worthy they may be. Let me grab a tattered notebook from my youth and we'll begin!
Each morning I awake to feel you,
Sharp, pulsating, and vengeful
The tight red cords of muscle
Pulling together to form a knot
Between my shoulder blades,
Aligned with my spine,
Where you punch and kick and bite
Like a newborn infant crying
For my attention, I rise
To carry you, stuck on my back,
My papoose, silent, growing like a weed,
I can’t reach to touch you, stroke you
I can only suffer you nagging at me,
Forcing me to hunch over, and
Battering the tears out of my eyes,
I cannot escape you knowing that
Only the hands that spin the knot
Are the ones that can massage it away.
My Thoughts Today:
First of all, I just want to say that I can't believe I have poems older than the iPhone. Ok, on to my more serious thoughts. I honestly can't remember writing this and I certainly can't remember what it was about as I'm sure the muscle ache is a metaphor for something. But, I'm glad to rediscover it as I can truthfully say that I enjoyed reading it. It's funny how reading your old writings can be so much like reading something someone else wrote. We, as humans, are constantly changing and I can really feel this when I read this poem. I'm going to go ahead and guess that I was thinking about an ex here when I wrote this, but I'd like to toot my own horn for a minute and say that I really nailed it when I was describing physical pain. And, 2006 Rachel did not even know what real pain was. But, after labor and childbirth, you better believe she does now. My daughter was born almost 4 months ago so the image of the newborn baby is really resonating with me today. It's clear from this poem that, in 2006, I viewed having a child as being nothing but a huge burden. I am happy to report that my present self has a completely different sentiment. In fact, no matter how much I hurt on a daily basis (it seems), I love carrying and holding my baby. I know she won't be this little for long.
On the whole, I like this little poem. I think I carried out the metaphor quite well and my descriptions of physical pain are spot-on. I wish I could remember what prompted me to write this, but I guess part of reading poetry is speculating what was going on in the poets mind. I can't wait to see what else is in these notebooks of mine, tune in next week for another TBT poem!
A while back I wrote a blog entry about my initial thoughts on Medium. Now that I've really gotten my feet wet over there, I've found that I only have more questions and more thoughts about it. It truly is a fascinating network. I found I'm not the only one who muses about Medium. In fact, many Medium users muse about Medium ON Medium and sometimes those are the most entertaining stories to read. They write about ways to improve the network, what stories should and shouldn't be posted, how to start conversations with other writers, how to get more views, how to get a bigger readership, and on and on and on.
As a writer of fiction and poetry, the question I've been asking now is is there a place for poetry on Medium?
It is a well-established home for fiction and non-fiction, of course, and I do occasionally see some poetry. But, does that poetry get read or just skipped over? Poetry is certainly a dying art and an art that is often under appreciated. I periodically post poetry on my blog, but I am reluctant to share it on Medium. In some ways it just seems out of place. Another reason, is that it is so deeply personal and close to my heart, much more so than any of my fiction writing. Do I want it out in the open like that?
What we really need is a community like Medium that is just for poets and their poetry. That way, we'd all understand each other at least on a basic level. We would know how hard it is sometimes to share a poem with the public, we could talk about getting poetry published and if it is even a worthwhile pursuit, we could talk about WHY we even write something that it seems no one even wants to read (because we HAVE to, of course), and on and on and on.
I guess the question I'm asking is not so much is there a place for poetry on Medium, but is there a place for a poetry anywhere in the world today at all?
Rachel Boury Baxter
Writer: web content by day, fiction by night.