Waiting–my first, I think, prose poem


It seems I cannot stop taking courses, or at least some courses–those dealing with art, literature, poetry, music.  Perhaps the reason has something to do with the fact that from about 7:30 to 5 for five days a week, I teach math.  And not just any math, but mostly math to teenagers who hate it, think they cannot do it, and complain considerably.  I try to “save” them, inspire them, help them to see math’s usefulness in regular, ordinary adult life.  Sometimes I succeed and sometimes….

My new poetry class started today, but it is very different from anything I previously studied.  I am supposed to read and learn how to write prose poems.  Now if I can just figure out exactly what is a prose poem versus, let’s say, flash fiction or memoir. I’ve read all the directions and a couple of Robert Bly prose poems and have decided it has a lot to do with imagery.  This post is my first attempt.  Still I am quite concerned that it is not really a prose poem and if not a prose poem, what is it.  Please tell me.

She stands alone by the train tracks,

watching and waiting and dreaming.

Hobos no longer exist.

She remembers reading stories of life

when her great grandmother lived:

hobos begging for food, gypsies stealing

babies and telling fortunes, long days of

working in the corn fields, chopping weeds.

Her own family praises modernity:

tractors, riding lawnmowers, herbicides, pesticides,

electricity, TVs, dishwashers, fast cars, fast food, diet sodas,

cell phones, computers, DVDs, iPADs.

Now the only excitement lays in video games,

guns, and sex.  She watches and waits and dreams.

Marriage


ONE

Afraid of revealing me       the Essence of Me

Mother told me                  Boys won’t like it

Too smart                     Too aggressive

Too full of              Myself

Too serious             Too intense

Too adventuresome

Too nasty a temper

Too in love with Possibility

Too             Too         Too        Too       Too       Too

I took her advice

Married  a Genius Scientist

Safe                    Timid                 Disadventurous

He liked me because I could Shoot a

Bird off a Wire

a hundred feet away.

In time We All Died

Him             Me            the Bird

TWO

Last night I dreamed of him

Black velvet, young, strong, sexy, arrogant.

I had to have him!

This morning

I almost told our daughter.

Then I Remembered

It took nearly 31 years for me

to Learn

She has a sister only 3 months younger.

She told me.

He has never said a word.

THREE

I remember the time he touched my face, melting me.

I married him;

My face slowly, inexorably froze.

FOUR

I was a very good investment.

He consistently insulted my daughter.

We are ALIVE and HAPPY.

He’s DEAD.

Barbara Lightle’s Potato Soup


Recent cold nights brought childhood memories of Mom’s cooking, particularly the one and only soup I recall her ever making, potato soup.  Then memories of Dad and how much he loved Mom and her cooking rushed in.  Long after Mom’s death on one of my visits home, Dad asked me to cook all the ingredients for Mom’s potato soup except for the milk.  He wanted enough to last a while so he could add the milk bit by bit on occasions when he wanted soup.  On a cold night this past week, I duplicated Mom’s soup like on that visit home long ago.  I even made extra.

Barbara Lightle’s Potato Soup

SAM_09721 onion, chopped finely

Several stalks celery, chopped finely

Potatoes, chopped finely–enough so that the ratio of potatoes to onion and celery is 2:1

Enough melted butter to saute all the above until done

Finally, add milk and salt to taste, depending on how salty and thick you like your soup.

Mom made it plain like this.  I used olive oil instead of butter and also added a few chopped portabella mushrooms.  It later occurred to me that adding green chilies or poblano peppers with some cumin would make a nice soup.  Or use coconut milk and curry for Asia style.

DEATH


I was afraid of revealing me, the essence of me.  Who even, indeed, was I?  My mother told me, when I started dating, to hide the essence of me, boys wouldn’t like it.  Too smart; too aggressive; too full of myself; too intense; too serious; too burning inside strong; too adventuresome; too nasty a temper; too full of desire to feel, taste, see, learn; too much in love with a world of possibility.  I took her advice, married a genius scientist, safe, timid, disadventurous.  He liked me because I could shoot a bird off a wire hundreds of feet away.  I time, we all died, him, me, the bird.

 

 

 

This piece was a finalist in a flash memoir contest.

Blood Quantum


This poem is dedicated to Sherman Alexie whose poem, “13/16” begins with:

“I cut my self into sixteen equal pieces…”

My grandson cuts himself into 16 equal pieces:

4/16 Urhobo from Africa

4/16 Spanish from Spain

4/16 other European—two Swiss

German great great-grandfathers

(Werth and Kaiser), Irish, English

and who knows what

3/16 Mexican—whatever  mixtures that may be

1/16 Navaho

 

Who am I?  What am I?

Who are you? What are you?

Do we really know?

Who sets the rules?

-white men

-black

-Indian

-Native American

-Irish

-English

-German

from where and for whom?

He looks Navaho:

-blue black straight hair,

-pale brown skin,

-obsidian eyes.

One four year old girl asks him,

“Are you an American Indian?”

His six your old self says nothing.

She repeats,

“Are you an American Indian?”

He says, “It’s complicated.

The Navaho won’t claim him, too little blood.

He needs ¼ , not 1/16.

Caddo and Fort Sill Apache allow 1/16, not Navahos.

¼ blood is for

-Sioux

-Cheyenne

-Kiowa

-Navaho

1/8 works for Comanche and Pawnee.

Some Cherokees only want a Cherokee ancestor.

 

But he is none of those.

Is he Navaho?

Is he white?

The Old South goes by the one drop rule:

one drop of Negro…

Is a person with 99/100 percent white

and 1/100 black , black?

Who says?

Kids at school ask, What are you?”

He tells them.

They say, “You’re lying!”

 

I only know specifically about two ancestors,

the Swiss Germans.

Another great grandfather disappeared during the Civil War.

I don’t even know his name.

Who am I?

Who are you?

I think I’ll get a DNA test.

Then I’ll know how many pieces I need to cut myself into.

 

 

 

Pie: A Story of Mothers and Daughters


My mother usually viewed the world from a black and white perspective.  She had a lot of guidelines for how to live a productive and “good” life.   Neighbors and friends saw her as a “good” woman who cared for and did “good” in the rural community in which we lived.  Above all she was a good cook!!

I rarely think about her “rules” for life.  Suddenly I realize I actually “follow” a substantial number of these rules and have passed many on to my own daughter:

This is how you make butter with an electric mixer.

This is how you make a cake:

-grease and flour the cake pan(s)

-cut our circles of waxed paper to put on top of the greased and floured surface–you

do not want the cake to stick

-sift the flour

-soften the butter

-mix the ingredients in exactly this order.

This is what you wear.  You want to look presentable!!

-clean underwear in case you are in a car wreck

-matched clothes

-polished shoes

-purse and shoes that match

-no white anything before May 1 or after September 1.

This is how you present yourself to the world:

-well groomed

-clean fingernails

-self assured

-nice, but not too nice

-polite

-brushed teeth

-lotioned body

-clean hair.

This is how you wash your clothes:

-separate whites and colored items–you want the whites to stay white.

This is how you ride your pony:

-keep your heels down

-don’t lean too far back.

This is how you neck rein.

This is how you hold the reins.

This is how you get your pony to trot.

This is how you get your pony to canter.

This is how you get your pony to stop.

This is how you clean the house:

-vacuum first, dust second

-if you don’t do it right the first time, you will have to do it over.

This is how you work:

-hard

-persistent–never ever give up

-smart.

This is how you breathe to sing

This is how you practice well.

My mom could barely sew and only could play the piano by ear–two lifelong regrets.  I had to learn these things no matter what.  I do not like to sew much, but still play the piano and I love, love, love to sing!

She could cook, especially pie.  Her crusts were tasty works of art.  At potlucks people would get her pie first to make sure they got some.  At potlucks now, people get my pie first to make sure they get some.  My daughter does not even eat pie, but people love her pie and get a piece to make sure they get some.

Raisin Walnut Pie

This is not my mother’s recipe.  She mostly made black raspberry and other fruit pies and coconut chiffon pies.  This is the pie I make every time there is a potluck.  If I do not make it, people ask me about it so I gave up and just usually bring this pie.

3 eggs

3/4 cup corn syrup

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 tsp. vanilla

3/4 cup raisins, golden or dark

3/4 cup walnuts, broken

1 unbaked pie shell

Stir corn syrup and brown sugar into melted butter.  Beat eggs slightly and stir into the butter/sugar mixture.  Add vanilla.  Mix raisins and walnuts and sprinkle into the pie shell.  Pour the butter/sugar mixture over the walnuts and raisins.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until pie crust is golden and mixture is set.  Cool.

If you goof and do not have vanilla, stir in 1 tsp. of cinnamon instead.

Enjoy!!