Poetry Month Day 9

Well, I’ve made it for a week or so into National Poetry Month, following their challenge along with WordxWord and adapting when their ideas don’t quite fit. I fiture a prompt is like a recipe, to guide, not restrict. So I’ve been playing with their daily challenges.

In the last few days I’ve thought of my brother and sister, and a dance tradition centuries old that I met at my old college, … and the first months when I started writing on my own, and the stories I used to write on long summer nights in my Berkshires Week days … and then heirloom corn and wild blueberries … and times with my grandfather and my dad.

Today the 30/30 prompt is soap bubbles, and NaPoWriMo’s challenge is to say something you are afraid to say — which I have translated here as the idea of learning how to say what I am afraid to say, and thinking of the people who taught me how.

So this one is for my mom, who, like all my family, means more than I can put into words, but I’m trying, for the warmth of it.

You are with me always, blowing bubbles,
painting bass wood for a jigsaw puzzle,
high on a snow storm and singing a descant
when I am kneading my own small round of dough
and letting it rise again in my own small bowl
to fill with brown sugar and cinnamon …
Ray Charles — Peter, Paul and Mary — Hair
— the glory of yours thick and butter-brown
held in a bandana — have I ever told you
how beautiful you are? I keep on trying,
the way you showed me before I could walk
how to trace new growth in the spring woods
and the fall of light in the canopy,
to see shad blow and marsh marigolds
— no, earlier — the deep-throated purple
of skunk cabbage tips melting ice in March,
pussy willow bloom, the shin-deep puddles
you let us wade in, laughing at the mud
in our boots and wicking up our sleeves.
You picked cat-tail shoots for us to taste.
Or, heading into town, talking to neighbors
and people in shops, you shared local history,
old street names and the playful independence
of picnics in your office on the town green,
sitting on the rug and running fingers
through the giant tin of cool glass marbles.
It is an open, sunlit, quiet place
with a wooden bench, here a bright print,
a shelf of old games in their cardboard covers,
the box of kleenex because, you quietly said,
sometimes they are needed — and I knew
why the whir of white noise gently seals
the inner room, so later, when I walked there
on my own with a stack of library books
on a warm evening to sit waiting for you,
I would not overhear the pain you bear
company every day. So many young
minds and voices you have held and tested
with deft insight, as you have taught me
to hold firm. To know the setting point
of raspberry jam. What is essential.
How to say what I am afraid to say,
and when to take the bread out of the oven.
Your bread. I know the recipe by heart.

By the Way Berkshires is a digital magazine exploring creative life and community — art and performance, food and the outdoors — and I’m writing it for you, with local voices, because I’ve gotten to know this rich part of the world as a writer and journalist, and I want to share it with you.

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