Morning Fills Me

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Morning is the closest time I come to prayer and the time when thanksgiving and celebration seem to rise from me of their own volition.

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Morning Song

Oh, how morning fills me!

When the sun trembles
poised on the cusp of day
and the luminescent glow
brims beyond the horizon
then overflows
spilling dawn across the landscape
my cells bend and sway
toward nascent light
and on some blessed mornings
words swell from slumber
to spill onto the page
ink seeping into fiber
coursing through interwoven grains
threading upward
like light spreading at sunrise
as the day dawns
aglow with promise
and possibility.

Oh, how morning fills me!

Molly Hogan (c) 2016

This week’s Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted by Karen Edmiston. Click here to visit her blog and to access links to other poems.

 

The Distraction of Birds

11454297503_e27946e4ff_h.jpgEvery morning starts the same way. I pour my orange juice and my coffee then I sit at the table where my computer resides and my books,papers, pens, etc. sprawl. This is where I write. This is where I work. Ok, insert the words “try to” before write and work. On the past few snow days, as all the magical found time evaporated without an appreciable diminishment in my work pile, it finally occurred to me (duh!) that perhaps my work setting is less than desirable. Or too desirable.

img_0982dscn9043-1I mean really, is it any wonder I don’t get anything done?  I’m perpetually distracted by the world outside my window. Before the sun rises, there’s a chance I might get some morning writing done, but the lightening day offers its own allure as shadows gradually soften and dawn’s glow spreads. Then the first birds arrive and I’m lost. The parade continues from early morning until late afternoon. The chickadees, those cheerful, bold birds, gather in the nest of wisteria vines and pop in and out to access the feeders. I’m endlessly amused by the nuthatches, both red-breasted and white. I’m a rapt spectator as they indulge in their upside-down antics, walking up and down tree trunks or lingering upside down on the feeders. When they perch, they hunker down and their necks meld with their slight bodies, creating their unique endearing nuthatch-y profile. I’ve become inordinately fond of the female cardinal with her understated beauty and watch closely for her arrival, usually heralded by the showy scarlet flash of her mate. How many colors are in her soft plumage, so often overlooked? 

On the ground the juncos double-foot hop comically along the snow covered garden paths, joined by a few tufted titmice and a golden brown sparrow. Hairy, downy, and red-bellied woodpeckers swoop in and gorge on the suet cakes. Occasionally, a pileated woodpecker makes a dramatic cameo appearance, sending me running for my camera. In winter the finches have faded to a drab olive-gray but every so often the light is just right and their yellow breast shines in the winter landscape, pulsing with a promise of sunlit summer days. Flashing in on cerulean wings, posturing and squawking, the blue jays arrive in a burst of movement. They jostle for position, sending shimmering showers of snow tumbling from the branches to the ground below. Just yesterday the mourning doves returned, adding their soft calls to the chirps and squawks and their sober presence to the activity below the feeders. There’s simply never a dull moment.dscn8989

I love watching the birds but clearly I need to consider doing something differently. I seldom write more than a few sentences before my attention is distracted by some flash of movement at the feeders. Perhaps I need to work in a different spot and reward myself with occasional viewing?  I considered this at length as I watched the show yesterday and finally came to my decision. There may be a loss of productivity in my current setting, but the gains decidedly offset it. There’s no way I can deny myself this natural extravaganza. In the spirit of “in for a penny, in for a pound”, I headed out to the feed store yesterday afternoon and made a few purchases. Today, I’ll take those bags out to the birch tree, pull out a new feeder or two, fill them with some tempting new varieties of seed and suspend them alongside the others. 

I can’t wait to see the show tomorrow!

The Storm

16427387_10158092657085034_945296741889063355_n.jpgLast week I drove up to Orono, Maine to watch my daughter perform in The Vagina Monologues. Eve Ensler, the playwright, allows the show to be produced, royalty-free, on or around Feb. 14th to raise funds for groups working to end violence against women. This was my first time to see the show and I found it unexpectedly moving. Funny. Harrowing. I couldn’t relate to all that was said and some of the language was a bit over-the-top for me, but I listened as young women shared other women’s stories. Stories of shame and confusion. Stories of empowerment. Stories of abuse. Stories of personal discovery. Stories of trauma and rape and mutilation. So many stories.

Midway through the show, in the dark of a scene change, the sound system crackled and a recording began. It was President Trump’s infamous hot mic comments, played from start to finish. The theater was hushed. As I listened to those words again, I felt their weight in an even more visceral way. In this theater, in this context, his words were an abomination. That so many could discount them as “locker room banter” is a symptom of a far greater problem in our culture. I remain stunned that these words were uttered by a man who was subsequently elected President of our country. How could these words and this election not reverberate, like yet one more blow, on survivors of sexual abuse?

After the recording stopped, the lights went up, and the monologues continued. The next one featured a young woman sharing the terrifying story of a survivor of extreme sexual violence in a war zone. Later in the show, I listened to the narrative of a woman who was repeatedly abused by her husband. Their stories still haunt me.

I returned home that night and the next day I wrote this poem for Laura Shovan’s February 10 Found Words Poetry Challenge. The words chosen to inspire a poem on that day were: pounds, cancel, storm, path, whiteout,avoid, slick, quickly, challenge, plummeted and a bonus: pack a punch. Clearly my poem was influenced by the stories I had heard the night before.

The Storm

Clouds gather on the horizon
Emotions storm across his face
She moves away
carefully conciliatory
willing herself into shadow
quickly thinking, thinking, thinking
fear acrid on her tongue,
anticipating the outburst
the thunder of blows
the unrelenting verbal barrage
desperate to avoid the coming tempest

But her existence is a challenge
He moves toward her
with pounding steps
she retreats
he advances
Her heart plummets,
free falls
into a slick puddle of fear

She knows he packs a punch

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

More 10 Found Word Poems

poetry-friday-logo-300x205Once again I’m sharing some poems I’ve written during my sporadic participation in Laura Shovan’s February 10 Found Words Poetry Challenge.  I’m still enjoying the process (though it hasn’t gotten any easier!) but I have been surprised by the results. Maybe it’s the dark winter days or the ongoing turmoil in our country or simply some odd alchemy of the words chosen in the lists, but I keep managing to create disturbing poems. They feel dark and depressed and that’s been a bit disconcerting to me. I’m beginning to wonder if I’m out of touch with some deep inner anguish I’m experiencing!   At any rate, consider yourself forewarned. Here are two of my recent efforts:

Word list: artifact, rewrite, narrative, cylinder, porcelain, human, pseudo, skeptic, echo, plug and bonus: flourish

Her porcelain skin flushes
as she flourishes the letters
still neatly rolled into a cylinder
and restrained with a faded pink bow.
He is mesmerized by those letters
which she must have disinterred
from some dusty resting place,
artifacts from their courtship
echoes from that once-upon-a-time time
when they tossed away doubt and skepticism
and believed they had the power
to rewrite their narrative
together
a time when her hand rested in his
like it belonged.

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

Word list: screen, shoot, stickier, soft, smashing, scraping, speed, smoother, slower, sticky and the bonus: slap shoot and saliva

Warning

Her head bent close to mine,
mimicking intimacy.
She turned slightly from the crowd
screening her actions.
With one hand,
she smoothed her hair back
from her high forehead
with the other
she cocked an imaginary pistol
and pointed it between my eyes
“Bang!”
“Bang!”
I flinched as her whispered words
hit like slap shots
and spritzer sprays of saliva
strafed my paling cheek.
She spoke once more,
her soft voice scraping across her teeth,
sticky with threat and complication.
“Don’t cross me again,”
she hissed.

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

Click here to go to this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Jone at her blog, Check it Out. Perhaps you can find something more upbeat there!

Love Letter

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I’m a fan of neatly made beds. My husband is not. Well, to be more accurate, he doesn’t mind a freshly made bed, but he doesn’t see the point in expending the effort involved in making it, only to mess it up shortly thereafter. Since he is almost always the last to leave our bed, it generally remains unmade. Somehow I can’t manage to generate much bed-making enthusiasm after work, so I suffer through twisted sheets and crooked comforters on a regular basis.

Then last week, this happened…

Love Letter

After I left for work,
but before leaving on his journey,
my husband straightened the tousled sheets
He pulled up the cozy blanket–
the one that shoots sparks between us
on cold, dry winter nights–
and plumped the pillows into a neat row
then drew the downy comforter
smoothly over the top
so that when I came home in the early evening
to an empty house
and eventually headed to the bedroom,
ready to sleep after a long day’s work,
I found our bed,
straightened by his touch,
waiting for me.

Sometimes a made bed is a love letter.

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

Playing with Words on a Snow Day

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Is there anything better than the sound of the phone ringing early in the morning on a wintry school day? Today, in my eagerness to hear the anticipated announcement, I fumbled as I picked up the trilling phone, almost dropping it. I finally answered and the dulcet tones of that recorded voice were sweet in my ear. “Today is Thursday, February 9th. There will be no school today due to forecasted inclement weather.” I quickly checked my e-mail to confirm it and then listened to the message again. “Today is Thursday, February 9th. There will be no school today due to forecasted inclement weather.” I’ll spare you more repetitions, but suffice it to say, I played it once more (or maybe twice or maybe…)  because even though I know I won’t be so happy about it in June, I can’t help rejoicing today.

Snow days send my inner child into a paroxysm of joy. They are a wonderful gift, offering a sudden expanse of unscheduled time–Time to sleep, time to read, time to write…. What can be better than that?  Then, I was further delighted when I realized that today is Thursday and there was a brand new photo prompt from Laura P. Salas for her weekly 15-Words-Or-Less Poems.

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Photo credit to Laura P. Salas

Her filtered photo prompt featured clouds, the moon (that blue and white blob at the top in the center) and a dramatic contrail. With much-anticipated writing time in mind, my response went in a different direction:

Beginning…

I dip my quill
into the froth of possibilities
select one slender floss
and write

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

I’ve been itching to try my hand at Laura Shovan’s 5th annual February challenge and with my bonus time, I dove right in. This year’s challenge involves creating a poem each day from a list of 10 found words chosen from current news articles. Poems can use some or all of these words (or variations of them). I’ve looked at a few of the lists but have discovered that working with a found word list is definitely more difficult for me than working with photographs (last year’s challenge).

After looking at several lists this morning, I settled in to work on February 6th’s. The words chosen for that day were: ice, chasm, buoyant, exploration, relocation, disruption, buried, edge, tow, and weather. (They were selected from a BBC News article entitled, UK completes Antarctic Halley base relocation, by Jonathan Amos.)  Here is my first effort, using 7 of the 10 words, and it went in a totally different direction than I’d anticipated. Isn’t it wonderful how words can whisk you away on unexpected journeys? Although this one is a bit grim…

Too Late

Standing at the weathered edge
of the chasm
toes curled into gravelly dirt
at the brink of geographic disruption,
of destruction,
she pauses for
one
long
moment
then pushes off with gritty toes
into a
perfectly
executed
swan dive.

As she falls
some long-buried
errant emotion
erupts
melting her icy resolve

Too late.

She screams.

Her hair streams behind her,
buoyant in the breath
of the abyss.

Molly Hogan (c) 2017

dscn8841On a more pleasant note, the snow has just started here. A few soft flakes drift over the garden while a flock of finches feeds on the fallen seed beneath the feeder. A red-bellied woodpecker pecks the suet, cocks its head and flies off. Black-capped chickadees hop and weave through the tangled web of wisteria vines. Inside, the fire is hissing and popping and the cat is curled and sleeping on the hearth. Every so often the radiators emit a soft reassuring tick and my mug is filled with warm, fragrant coffee.

It’s going to be a beautiful day.

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Weathering the storm

 

If you’re interested in reading some poetry, Katie is hosting this week’s Poetry Friday Roundup at The Logonauts. Bonus: She’s featuring the Poetry Friday books!

Best Birthday Gift Ever

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hIt still surprises me and many people who know me, but I love watching football. I grew up watching the Pittsburgh Steelers win football games (and Super Bowls). As an adult I moved to Maine and quickly became a New England Patriot’s fan. (In case you hadn’t noticed, we’ve won a lot of Super Bowls here, too!) There was a time when I was a pretty hardcore fan. I’d be sitting on a couch watching a game and the next thing I knew I’d be jumping on the couch hootin’ and hollerin’. I read the sports section thoroughly. I knew the stats. I knew the players. I could talk football with the best of them! One of my favorite Sunday activities was hanging out with my father-in-law watching a game.

When we got rid of television about 15 years ago, the one thing I missed was watching football. I followed the games on radio for a while but after a few years let my interest drift away. (That drifting roughly coincides with the onset of my teaching career. Imagine that!) These days I only watch the occasional game, but I can still talk football and enjoy doing so with some of my students.

Last week, with the excitement of the upcoming Super Bowl mounting, I adapted our standard Friday morning classroom greeting. Each of us greeted the class then stated if we planned to watch the big game and which team we thought would win. Score predictions were optional. In the end 22 out of 23 of us favored the Patriots to win and the child who announced that the Falcons would win noted in a stage whisper, “I’m trying to jinx them!”

My students were pretty impressed by the fact that my 50th birthday would fall on the big day. “Whoa,” one of them gasped, “It’s too bad you aren’t turning 51!”

“Yeah, wouldn’t that have been cool, Mrs. Hogan!”

Hmmmm…

At any rate on Sunday, nursing a vicious cold,  I turned 50 and got to watch the Patriots stun the nation with their incredible Super Bowl victory. Wow!

On Monday I stayed home sick.

On Tuesday I went back to school. I walked into the classroom, tentatively, wondering what to expect after a day out sick and an unknown substitute teacher. I saw it right away, sitting on the corner of my messy desk.

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One of my students had apparently bought me a football as a birthday gift. He then had all the students in the class sign it for me. My face lit up–what an awesome gift!  I may be 50 now and I may never be up to orchestrating a reception like Julian Edelman, but my students think I’m still up to throwing a ball around. I’m not sure I’ve ever received a better gift! I went through the day grinning like a 40 year old!