Mother, Barbara Lewis Duke


Mom was tiny, tough, and pretty.  She acquired the name Lewis because my grandparents had hoped for a boy and, for reasons I do not know, wanted a child named Lewis.  My grandparents named her younger brother Louis.  The following poem about my mother is one of the prose poems in my new book of poetry, On the Rim of Wonder, published last month by Uno Mundo Press.  Currently you can purchase it from Amazon or if you are in Amarillo, at Hastings on Georgia.  Shortly, it will be available on Kindle and signed copies can be ordered from me.

 

Barbie Doll

 

Barbara Lewis Duke, pretty, petite, blue-eyed and blond, my mother, one

fearless, controlling woman.  Long after Mom’s death, Dad said, “Barbara was

afraid of absolutely no one and nothing”.  They married late:  34 and 38.  He

adored her unconditionally.  She filled my life with horses, music, love,

cornfields, hayrides, books, ambition.  Whatever she felt she had missed,

my sister and I were going to possess:  books, piano lessons, a college education.

Her father, who died long before I was born, loved fancy, fast horses.  So did she.

During my preschool, croupy years, she quieted my hysterical night coughing

with stories of run away horses pulling her in a wagon.  With less than one hundred

pounds and lots of determination, she stopped them, a tiny Barbie Doll flying

across the Missouri River Bottom, strong, willful, free.

 

 

 

 

Two Year Blogging Anniversary–Writing on the Rim


To paraphrase that old adage, “time flies”.  Two years ago last week, I started blogging here at Word Press.  The following is my first blog post.  Blogging has enabled me to “meet” new people and forced me to write more poems with the consequence that within the next two months, my book of poetry will be published.

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The canyon edge looms out my bedroom windows,

pale adobe, stark.

Fall to death or serious injury!

I will not fall; I love living on the edge.

Raing brings a one hundred foot deluge,

a wall of water, red adobe, cascading, screaming.

Someone said my house is pink; it is not pink:

cold of canyon, worldwide color,

Moroccan, pueblo, Saudi, Mali, Navaho, Timbuktu,

Desert, alive and lovely.

Everywhere.

Three bucks watch me through my bedroom windows.

They see me move; they stare.

Isabella stands rigid, watching…what?

Bobcat casually climbs the canyon wall, impervious.

He marks the cedar tree, walks a deer path, disappears.

Secretive, rarely seen.

The huge hoot owl’s voice echoes down the canyon,

drifting into my dreams.

A young roadrunner calls, scatchy voice,

running across the patio–on the edge.

In the spring the mockingbird sings all night,

“This is my territory,”

I sing all year, full of joy.

I live in beauty on the rim.

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Writing on the Rim

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.

Rim Rider


I ride the rim on Rosie,

writing stories in my mind.

The neighbor’s husky howls.

Rosie listens, watches,

moves away from the canyon rim.

I write of long lost lovers,

names forgotten,

smiling brown faces,

drifting through my dreams.

I ride the rim on Rosie,

writing stories in my mind.

The bobcat climbs the canyon wall.

Rosie’s ears move,

her body tenses.

I write of childhood memories,

places loved and lost,

of family joys and sorrows,

Mom’s singing while she worked,

Dad’s napping on the blue linoleum  floor.

I ride the rim on Rosie,

writing stories in my mind.

Isabella runs past, bunny hunting, barking.

Rosie wants to run, to race, is held.

I write of fragrant fields of saffron,

endless Thai seas of blue and green,

of lands I’ve loved , the Navaho Nation, the Llano Estacado.

I ride the rim on Rosie,

writing stories in my mind.

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.

Marriage


The following poem was chosen to be published in the Story Circle Network’s annual Anthology this past autumn.   I submitted two flash memoir pieces, including the Spiders story on a previous post,  as well as this poem.  I was very surprised that this was the one chosen.

Marriage

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

                                               I married him; my face slowly, inexorably froze.

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!!

Wolves


I own a wolf dog.  I did not set out to get a wolf dog.  In 2004, I went to PetSmart to buy a fish for my grandson.  The Humane Society had puppies there.  My daughter said to me, “Mom, you just have to look at these puppies.  They are gorgeous.”  I looked; I was smitten.  Isabella is ¼ wolf.  She was seven weeks old when I took her home.  She is smart, loves people, guards my 15 or so acres, and was incredibly easy to train.  She weighs 80 pounds.  Sometimes people think she is a German Shepard, but she is taller and heavier even though she is also ¼ German Shepard.  Even people who do not like dogs love her.  When I first got her, I researched wolf dogs on the Internet.  The information seemed incredibly complex and sometimes contradictory.  I trained her the way that seemed right to me.  She will not live forever and on the rare occasions I think about this, I realize I will never be able to find another Isabella or even come close.

Isabella leads me to the topic of wolves.  One of my long term goals is to research and study why so many people feel such an intense hatred of wolves.  This intensity is lacking in the way people view other big predators in the US, e.g. pumas, bears.  Why wolves??  What is it that makes ranchers and hunters in states where wolves still exist so intent on destroying them?  As a one time rancher who raised cattle and horses and a person who still owns a farm and grew up on one, I know it is not only because wolves occasionally kill a calf or two.  Something else drives this hatred.  What is it??

Recently, I had the occasion to have a discussion on this topic with a biologist friend.  He said, “People hate wolves because they are so very human.  Wolves remind them of themselves, especially the willingness to kill, the survival instinct, the wild.”  He also told me that he had read a research article on ancient hunters and the domestication of wolves, the precursor to all dogs.  Some researchers believe that ancient humans and wolves hunted together to maximize their hunting success.

Strangely, I came home, opened a book of essays, and there lay Sherry Simpson’s essay, Killing Wolves.  I read it.  I read some of it twice.  I have reread parts a third time.  She says, “The unknowable wolf hunts along the edge of our vision, never allowing a clear view of himself.  Imagination, fear, and longing fulfill what experience cannot.  And so a wolf is no longer just a wolf.  It’s a vicious, wasteful predator.  Or it’s the poster child of the charismatic mammals, the creature that stands for all that’s noble, wild, and free.  A wolf is social, family-oriented, intelligent, and communicative—like humans.  A wolf kills because it can—like humans.  It’s either-or, the sacred or the profane.  Inevitably, the wolf becomes a distorted reflection of the human psyche, a heavy burden for one species to carry.  We can hardly bear the burden of being human ourselves.”