Finding Family

Today’s prompt is to write a poem about family. I am blessed in family. I do not know how I would have managed the past eight months without my family: my family of birth, my cozy little family of four, my chosen circles of friendfamily. Those feelings have been riding so intense in me for so many months now, that I don’t know how to distill it into the language of poetry. Perhaps because it is so deep right now, I fear that I could only write shallowly about it. And so, instead, I chose to create a found poem about family, to make it a game, an intellectual exercise.

I chose five quotations about family, printed them out and physically cut them up, which was a different experience in my brain than cutting and pasting on the computer, then arranged them into a poem. Here are the quotations:

“If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.”
― George Bernard Shaw

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”
― Maya Angelou

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.”
― Frederick Buechner

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting –
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
—Mary Oliver

“My mother used to tell me that when push comes to shove, you always know who to turn to. That being a family isn’t a social construct but an instinct.”
― Jodi Picoult

And here is the poem:

I.
the family skeleton
used to tell me:
over and over
you can kiss your mind goodbye
your stomach isn’t a social construct
but at the same time
if you cannot get rid of time
make it dance
and put miles between you but because you do not
you may as well
just live in a world
announcing your place
with the love of family the world offers itself
and instinct
harsh and exciting

II.
my mother
calls to you:
a world lives in you
like the wild geese
your family and friends that you carry them
being a family
to your imagination
no matter how lonely I sustain myself
in the family of things
with you in your heart but that when push
comes to shove
whoever you are
you always know
who to turn to


Gratitude List:
1. Re-membering, recalibrating, renewing, re-viewing, rewilding
2. Finding poetry
3. Making things
4. How the prayers shift and transform themselves–and me
5. The fox who paused this morning underneath the treehouse, to sniff the wind and feel the first rays of morning sun.
May we walk in Beauty!


“The winds will blow their own freshness into you,
and the storms their energy,
while cares will drop away from you
like the leaves of Autumn.”
—John Muir


“Those who build walls are their own prisoners. I’m going to go fulfil my proper function in the social organism. I’m going to go unbuild walls. ” —Ursula Le Guin


“The mother tongue is language not as mere communication but as relation, relationship. It connects. It goes two ways, many ways, an exchange, a network. Its power is not in dividing but in binding, not in distancing but in uniting.

It is written, but not by scribes and secretaries for posterity: it flies from the mouth on the breath that is our life and is gone, like the outbreath, utterly gone and yet returning, repeated, the breath the same again always, everywhere, and we all know it by heart.” —Ursula K. Le Guin


“Who would I be if I didn’t live in a world that hated women?” —Jessica Valenti


“The heart is right to cry
even when the smallest drop of light, of love, is taken away
Perhaps you may kick, moan, scream—in a dignified silence,
but you are right to do so in any fashion…until God returns to you.”
―Hafiz (Ladinsky)


“All water is holy water.”
―Rajiv Joseph


“The mullahs of the Islamic world and the mullahs of the Hindu world and the mullahs of the Christian world are all on the same side. And we are against them all.”
―Arundhati Roy


“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness.
Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.”
―Scott Adams


“You know what breaks me, when someone is visibly excited about a feeling or an idea or a hope or a risk taken, and they tell you about it but preface it with: “Sorry, this is dumb but—.” Don’t do that. I don’t know who came here before me, or who conditioned you to think you had to apologize or feel obtuse. But not here. Dream so big it’s silly. Laugh so hard it’s obnoxious. Love so much it’s impossible. And don’t you ever feel unintelligent. And don’t you ever apologize. And don’t you ever shrink so you can squeeze yourself into small places and small minds. Grow. It’s a big world. You fit. I promise.”
―Owen Lindley


“The bond of our common humanity is stronger than our fears and prejudices.” ―Jimmy Carter


“The reality is we have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for.” ―Russell Brand


“Colorful demonstrations and weekend marches are vital but alone are not powerful enough to stop wars. Wars will be stopped only when soldiers refuse to fight, when workers refuse to load weapons onto ships and aircraft, when people boycott the economic outposts of Empire that are strung across the globe. ”
―Arundhati Roy, Public Power in the Age of Empire

Finding Poetry, Part II

This past week, I posted the first of two Found poems that I wrote using the help of friends on a Facebook post. You can find that first poem here: Finding Poetry, Part 1.

Here is the second one I did.

That Which is Indestructible
(A Facebook Crowd-Sourced Found Poem)
by Beth Weaver-Kreider and Friends

There is a time and place for a child to grow up,
playing between scrabbly hibiscus bushes,
but the best way to tell about a town,
any town,
is to listen deep into the night,
long after midnight,
after every screen door has been slammed shut
for the last time.

When he stood in his room in the tower,
looking out over the invisible city spread below,
he found that he could justify his inquisitiveness.

He came in about supper-time
with his sketchbook and his mud-bespattered boots.
In reflex, she stepped back against the safety of the wall,
began climbing, using both hands,
all white eyes,
a flickering lamp,
a bubble in a stream,
a flash of lightning in a summer cloud.

Yet she grew to like him,
for he was always kind and gentle to her.
A little flame of hope had been lit.
He saw that it was not
in the object of desire
that lasting satisfaction resided
but in the absence of that desire.

I think I know why porcupines
surround themselves with prickly spines:
White throat, dark chest-patches or nearly—
If you tear down the web, I said,
it will simply know.

There is no question in my mind
that these men have had a terrifying experience.
I was responsible for all of them
and would mourn every life lost in my name.
We cannot fear it, play games with it,
or manipulate it—the Path just is,
and the nights are full of nightingales,
even though they would like to die.
The prayer wheel ceaselessly cadences
the pilgrim’s path.
The sound of the new color console—Zenith—
rose and fell, sounding like the babble of running water.

Welcome To The World, Baby Girl.
Did you hear that?
(We are in a book!)
Oh, my. I read that years ago.
Sorry, I forgot:
Thanks for the memory.
PS—I love all of this!

Okay, later, with the book on my bedside table,
which has quite a history:
This is a third re-read.
These sacred rituals involve prescribed traditions.
So here are three short phrases:
I.
Lay all the items on your altar for about an hour,
just to let them “cure,”
soaking up and charging with sacred energy.

II.
To sit in the shade on a fine day and look upon verdure
is the most perfect refreshment.

III.
We must become friendlier with our dark emotions
in order to use their energies for healing and transformation.

The cares and preoccupations of life draw us away from ourselves.
Look, money’s an engine
and it’s out there running day and night,
whether you like it or not.
Destroying things is much easier than making them.
Fire is catching, and if we burn you burn with us!
Fire is catching, and if we burn you burn with us!
Fire is catching, and if we burn you burn with us!
Only to the extent that we expose ourselves
over and over
to annihilation
can that which is indestructible be found in us.

We Bleed

For the past few years, I’ve been working in this book I found a few years ago. My found poems were pretty limp and predictable. I think novels offer better variety for found poems.

Here’s a poem from 2017:

We Bleed
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

Indeed, Mr. President, we bleed.
There is blood coming out of our ears,
blood coming out of our noses,
blood coming out of our eyes,
blood coming out of our wherevers.
There is blood coming out of our faces,
our faces lifted long in anger,
our faces we have raised in rage.

We bleed, you see. We bleed.
We bleed, and yet we do not die.
Blood pours from our angry eyes.
Blood flows from our vaginas
(there’s the real word for it,
if you would care to know.
We’ll take it back, if you please–
and even if you don’t).

Women’s blood is our revolution.
We’re bleeding rivers of blood,
the blood of life and death–
menstrual blood, flowing
from our red tents, flowing
down the river valleys of this nation
to where you sulk and natter
in your great white house.

Your mother, too, gave her blood to these rivers,
when she gave you birth. And your wives
gave their blood to bring children to life.

Our blood flows down the wide and gentle Susquehanna,
down Columbia, Patuxent, down Delaware and Myakka,
down the Dan, the Mississippi, the Arkansas, and Conestoga,
down the Flat, the Tar, the Eno, down the gentle Shenandoah,
down the Snake, the Hoh, the Wabash, and the blue Atchafalaya.

Our menstrual blood is running in the deep, deep waters of the Deep,
down the Wissahickon, down the Schuylkill, Neuse, and Monoshone,
down the Cape Fear, down the Waccamaw, and down the Olentangy,
down Santa Ynez, French Broad, the Roanoke, Missouri,
down the Guadalupe, Anacostia, Blackwater, and the Pee Dee,
down Yadkin, Catawba, Nantahala, and Clatskanie.

Our blood courses down our grand unwalled Rio Grande,
down the Pullayup, Colorado, down Kanawha and Snohomish
down the fiery Cuyahoga, down the Brazos, and Skokomish,
down the Nooksack, the Nisqually, the Pecos, the Sammamish,
down Sciota, down Ohio, the Snoqualmie, and Duwamish.
We bleed down the chemical-drenched waters of the New,
and the Red, red as our blood, down the Elkhart and Potomac.

Even from Elsewhere, our rivers are everywhere:
the Moselle, the Mara, the Danube, the Afton, the Nile.
Our blood flows down rivers to the White House
where you tweet and twitter on your golden bed,
to the halls of power where dried up old white men,
withered husks with no blood of their own,
think that they decide our futures.

We write with our blood on the Earth.
We write, “Revolution!” We write, “Resist!”
We write, “Now you have struck the women,
you have struck a rock. Now you have entered a river.”

With our own blood, we write,
“We will not be trivialized.
nor delegitimized by insults
of an overgrown illbred bully-child.

Yes, we bleed, Mr. President, and our bleeding
will overwhelm your smug and violent ramblings.
We bleed from our faces, our vaginas, our wherevers,
and you will be washed in the rivers of our blood.
And justice will roll like the rivers we bleed.


Gratitude List:
1. The companionship of cats
2. Gentle morning birdsong
3. Finding poetry
4. Laughing with the family
5. This little air conditioner

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“The best way for us to cultivate fearlessness in our daughters and other young women is by example. If they see their mothers and other women in their lives going forward despite fear, they’ll know it is possible.” —Gloria Steinem


“It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” —Leymah Gbowee


“The heart is the house of empathy whose door opens when we receive the pain of others. This is where bravery lives, where we’ll find our mettle to give and receive, to love and be loved, to stand in the center of uncertainty with strength, not fear, understanding this is all there is. The heart is the path to wisdom because it dares to be vulnerable in the presence of power.” —Terry Tempest Williams


“The heart that breaks open can hold the whole universe. Your heart is that large. Trust it. Keep breathing.” —Joanna Macy


“Peace is not something you must hope for in the future.
It is a deepening of the present,
and unless you look for it in the present,
you will never find it.”
—Thomas Merton


“To stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge—that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic—this is the spiritual path.”
—Pema Chödrön


From Joy Harjo—
“Note to self today:
Do not feed the monsters.
Monsters are those thought threads that denigrate and disrespect self and others.
Some are wandering thought forms, looking for a place to land and live.
Some are sent to you deliberately or inadvertently. They can come from arrows or gossip, jealousy or envy. Or from just. . .thoughtlessness.
Instead, have a party.
Invite your helpers to the table. Give them something to do. They want to be helpful. And just celebrate.
Feed the birds.

Second note: A positive mind makes a light slippery surface and anything not of it, slides off.”


“Sometimes we must surrender our own will for the greater good to come through. We are called to make ourselves vulnerable for a time, without answers, sacrificing our priorities to perceive more mythic goals. The word sacrifice is not, as we’ve been taught, synonymous with suffering, but comes from the root ‘to make sacred.’ We take a step outside of time, renouncing our urgency, giving up our plans and allow ourselves to be danced, to be sung, to be told like a story in its most vulnerable arc.” —Dreamwork with Toko-pa


“Do not get lost in a sea of despair. Be hopeful, be optimistic. Our struggle is not the struggle of a day, a week, a month, or a year, it is the struggle of a lifetime. Never, ever be afraid to make some noise and get in good trouble, necessary trouble.” —John Lewis

Finding Poetry

We met a fellow seeker on the paths at Sam Lewis last night.

I took an online class on Saturday morning on redacted and black-out poetry. While I have worked with this format in the past, this two-hour session really inspired me. I’ve broken through a bit of a wall in the Found Poetry realm in the past few days.

Gratitude List:
1. Finding poetry
2. Toads in the leaves
3. Going rambling with the fambly
4. Looking forward to an educational conference (online) today. I am becoming increasingly worried that Pennsylvanians’ refusal to just wear the mask will mean we have to teach online during at least part of the fall semester, and I don’t want to go into that kicking and screaming. This should provide me with strategies for teaching, no matter what happens. (And yes, that was a gratitude infected by a snarky dig.)
5.The little air conditioner. I don’t tolerate the heat/humidity nexus quite like I used to.

May we do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly in Beauty!


“We live by mystery, not by explanations.” —Cecil Collins


“For we have, built into all of us, old blueprints of expectation and response; old structures of oppression, and these must be altered at the same time as we alter the living conditions which are a result of those structures. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.

As Paulo Freire shows so well in “The Pedagogy of the Oppressed”, the true focus of revolutionary change is never merely the oppressive situations which we seek to escape, but that piece of the oppressor which is planted deep within each of us, and which knows only the oppressors’ tactics, the oppressors’ relationships.” —Audre Lorde


“Live in the center of your life.” ―Sark


“Cluster together like stars.” ―Henry Miller


“Now that you’ve awakened. . .immediately take a nap! Naps are when the angels come out to take special care of you.” ―Sark


“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe.

The corporate revolution will collapse if we refuse to buy what they are selling – their ideas, their version of history, their wars, their weapons, their notion of inevitability.

Remember this: We be many and they be few. They need us more than we need them.

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”
―Arundhati Roy


“Every child of ours needs to learn the simple truth: She is the energy of the Sun. And we adults should organize things so her face shines with the same radiant joy.” ―Rob Brezsny


“In mythos and fairy tales, deities and other great spirits test the hearts of humans by showing up in various forms that disguise their divinity. They show up in robes, rags, silver sashes, or with muddy feet. They show up with skin dark as old wood, or in scales made of rose petal, as a frail child, as a lime-yellow old woman, as a man who cannot speak, or as an animal who can. The great powers are testing to see if humans have yet learned to recognize the greatness of soul in all its varying forms.” ―Clarissa Pinkola Estés


“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except to be able to grow in rows” ―Doug Larson

I Have Written This Before

spiral

We have been doing some found poems and redacted poems in Creative Writing, magazines strewn about the floor and students sitting on the floor, quietly cutting out words or lying on the floor coloring the parts of the page where the important words aren’t.   Yesterday a student from another class walked by and said, “Ms. Weaver-Kreider, it looks like a day care in here.”  Everyone grinned.  They knew the secret of our creative moment.  Here is one of my redacted poems from a National Geographic.  I haven’t completed the art part of it, so I’ll type it in instead:

I’ve used my years
of good rain
and there has never been
a bright green field

I quickly turned my head
I was too close to feel it all
to know that feeling of gravity

I consider myself
a power line
an unusual oasis
a land where the Hoodoo Mountains stood.

This is a reprise of a blog entry that I wrote in 2013.  Because yesterday was our school’s Day of Gratitude and the idea has been floating near the surface for me these days, I wanted to listen to an earlier version of myself.  On that day, I had written 6 gratitudes, but one was very specific to the day, so I omitted it for this redux.

“I have written this poem before.  The one about the Open Bowl.  How I will hold the circle of my heart to encompass it all.

Not just the little birds singing the dawn into being or the silent toad under her litter of leaves, not just the achingly beautiful green of the fields in spring or the blue eye of the speedwell, not just the snugglesome child or the soft feathers of a hen.

Not just that.  Not only that.

But also the brooding ache of estrangement, and the dull thud of the impossible choice, the anxiety over an ill child, the grieving of a friend.  Also the deaths of the bees, the scarcity of monarchs, the oil-covered ducks.  The deep sadness of all that we are losing so wantonly.  The rage, the helpless and blinding white fury at the destroyers, the greed-mongers, the war-profiteers, the glibly malicious purveyors of illness and oppression.

This is why I write gratitude lists.  I will hold all of these stones in the Open Bowl of my heart.  Some moments, the bowl is so brimming with the rages and the despairs that I don’t know if I can bear it.  And then comes a moment of pure numinous wonder and delight, not to erase the other things, but to ease them.  To make the bearing of them bearable.

These difficult ones, they are there for a reason.  I hold them, too, because they demand my soul’s attention.  They call me to my work here in the world.  I refuse to walk the world with blinders on.   But there is also so much joy to be found in the midst of it all.  So much joy.  So much love.

I have written this poem before, and I will write it again.  Perhaps every day I will write it, until I understand what I am writing.

Here are five shiny stones for your consideration:

Gratitude List:
1.  Green, green, oh the green!  Green says, “Have you been watching?  Have you been paying attention?  Surprise!”  Oh, yes, yes, and. . .
2.  Hello, Little Daffodil, whose name is full of goofy whimsy and whose cup overfloweth with sunshine.
3.  The spaces between.  I will gaze into them, breathe into them.
4.  Doubt.  And the places where faith and trust and safety rest even within doubt.
5.  The Navajo People, whose sacred phrase I have borrowed for my little daily prayer:

May we walk in Beauty.  So much Beauty.

Found Tanka

Lorax
Reading The Lorax to the children at The March
Against Monsanto in Lancaster yesterday.  Photo by
Michelle Johnson.

Now for a very random poem.  I am opening up this ninth grade literature book at random pages and pulling out lines to weave together for a tanka:

trunk in the attic
they heard the the goddess Circe
a stillness greatens
from the heresy of rain
stop to look fear in the face

It turned out a little ominous, I think.  Perhaps it has to do with the youthy angst of writing which is chosen for teens.  I did not spend a lot of time sorting and choosing and arranging.  I like to play with random poetic constructions sometimes, to break out of some of my own typical patterns and images.  Exercises like this help me see new possibilities for juxtapositions, new ways to fracture sentences to open up new meanings, new sound and rhythm connections.

line 1: Truman Capote, “A Christmas Memory”
line 2: Homer, “The Odyssey”
line 3: Richard Wilbur, “The Writer”
line 4: James Hurst, “The Scarlet Ibis”
line 5: Eleanor Roosevelt

Gratitude List:
1.  Pianos in the city.  If you want to add fun and liveliness to your city, what better way than to get people to paint a bunch of upright pianos in wild and beautiful designs, and then place them in protected nooks around the city.  Spontaneous parties and songfests arise.  Way to go, Lancaster!  That’s delightful community-building.
2.  The March Against Monsanto.  The good, hopeful energy.  Reading The Lorax to the kids.  Selling tomato plants and talking healthy food with people.  The Amish buggy next to my stand with “Say No to GMO” cahled on its side.  The voice of the people.  Knowing our march was one of many around the world.
3.  Rhythm.  Daily, seasonal, poetic, musical. . .
4.  Books.  I am overwhelmed by all the reading I want to do and should be doing, especially with a house to clean and acres to mow and children to tend and a farm to run.  But I love wading into the stacks of books and opening up a poem or a short story.  The novel I am reading at the moment is Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.  I recommend it.
5. The deep red/purple of the Japanese maple on the back hill.  It’s just about big enough now to be a little fort this summer for small people.

May we walk in Beauty.