Images of the Camino

A list of what I miss, or a list of what will always be a part of me:

Walking at dawn while people sleep in their stone houses.
A second breakfast of cafe con leche.
Cobblestone streets.
Roosters screeching at midday.
Cows in the lane, their mistress behind them with a switch.
Red blossoms cloaking the mountainside.
Invisible birds singing from everywhere and nowhere.
Morning mist.
Floating along the plains under the noonday sun.
Lighting candles, alone in a cool stone church.
Rogue priests who preach Buddha-mind and Christ-consciousness.
Sister Patricia, who said God is not in another world. God is here.
Red wine and fresh bread.
Garlic soup and salad.
My swollen feet plunged in river water.
Friends singing songs about their sorrows.
Yellow arrows and scallop shells  pointing the way.

Mountain range crossing into Galicia.

Mountain range crossing into Galicia.

A Poem for the Way

I’m preparing for my pilgrimage to Santiago in a fairly intensive manner during these last few days, mostly in a reflective and meditative way.

When I walk in the woods with my loaded pack, my mind wanders over the some of the different events in my life that continue to cause pain, but beneath the pain I absorb the healing power of the sky, the trees, birds, the rocks, the lizards, the deer, and the other hikers.

Some of my friends and loved ones responded to my call for lines of poetry, prayers, wishes, or desires that I could put into one long poem. My intention is to read the poem at different points along the Camino.

I am so touched by their generosity. I want their words to fill others as they fill me. It’s titled “Prayers for a Traveler.” We are all travelers in this world.

Prayers for the Traveler

Hath she her faults? I would you had them too.
                      They are the fruity musts of soundest wine;
                      Or say, they are regenerating fire
                      Such as hath turned the dense black element
                      Into a crystal pathway for the sun.
–George Eliot

She is only a faint line disappearing back into sand.

O blessed road! Although the hard ground and slope veers ever upward,

I am not naked nor alone: my feet are shod with thoughts of God, my body robed

with love from family and friends back home.

May my mom know that I love her and miss her and think about her everyday.

May you be given all you need

May you be granted that for which your heart longs

May angels guide your journey, and may your steps be light

May you be blessed by a field of stars, and may those blessings follow you always

May your soul cry and sing and open, now free.

May you shed your skin and become anew.

May you be refilled to fully embrace the array

of possibilities that will open up for you

as you continue your journey – the trail and beyond.

May compassion become our universal religion.

I accompany you in spirit, and I hope your sojourn brings you what you seek.

I wish you lightness of step and heart

I wish for you that when the days feel long and doubt enters – you push it aside.

Aside –

Perhaps – like the dandelions losing their thin, yellow petals,

as they are swept in the wind – scattered…

Do not carry doubt, or worry, speculation, or question-of-self

Walk with grace and trust and love

The very thing I try to do in my life – and sometimes, struggle – and how ….

I ask you to look upward at the sky and pray

for health and peace of mind – love and light

Be safe, be real, be true.

You are brave and I am proud

I ask you to return safely with stories of adventure,

some turmoil perhaps, and lots of gratitude and growth.

Return safely, keep strong, be safe.

May God give my son more healing in his spiritual journey.

Didn’t I tell you not to be seduced by this colorful world,
for I am the ultimate painter.

Please let me grow into my elderly years
happily, healthfully and peacefully
with my husband as my son goes to college,
meets a wonderful partner and has a family of his own,
which we will help nurture and be an integral part of.

Enfold us in your arms, shield us from sadness and despair,
look over us in times of joy and times of fear,
do not let us feel emptiness or hopelessness,
and lead us to believe in our dreams and longings.

At the exhibition of the artists of elsewhere
I am standing in a shaft of light.

Thank you, jahgod, for allowing me to see the light
and freeing me from hang ups
I know that the future is mine to grasp.

May the long time sun
Shine upon you,
All love surround you,
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on.
–Kundalini farewell blessing

thistle

Sonnenizio after a Line from Neruda

True to my word, I have eked out a bit of time during the holidays to try some of the craft tips and writing prompts in The Crafty Poet by Diane Lockward.

If I feel reluctant to put my thoughts on paper, I sometimes take refuge in a received form. Traditional forms are puzzles to work out. Formal verse is a constraint that forces me to look for le mot juste.

To learn about how to write a sonnenizio, a term Kim Addonizio coined to name her variation on a sonnet, go to page 61 in The Crafty Poet.

Lockward includes Addonizio’s sonnenizio in the sound section of her book. In this form, Addonizio borrows a line from an existing sonnet. She then chooses a word from that line to repeat in the subsequent 13 lines.

The reason Lockward shares this prompt is to encourage the poet to see how repetition of a word or words in a poem can influence the poem’s music. In my poem, I chose a line from Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to García Lorca,” translated into English by Donald D. Walsh.

Even though Neruda’s poem is not a sonnet, the line I chose contains 10 syllables in English, and so I worked it into this sonnet variation.

Walsh has translated the line in English “when to sing you shake arteries and teeth”; Neruda’s original line is “cuando para cantar sacudes las arterias y los dientes.”

Sonnenizio after a Line from Neruda

When to sing you rattle doors from their frames,
your singing jolts the marrow in my bones.
When to sing you shake arteries and teeth,
your singing fells the glass from my windows.
A draft hisses through my rooms. An owl’s song
fibrillates the night with an odd birdsong,
songs of darkness, songs of a single note.

When you open your throat to sing, starlings
singsong their shadows across the gray sky.
A chorus of poplars sing their dried leaves
over a blues-singing sunset. Boulders,
their lichen mouths split wide, appear to sing
as they gasp for air, a thin winter song,
a song-fraught December, a solstice psalm.

Writing this poem was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I kept thinking of García Lorca, who was assassinated by the Spanish Civil Guard during the Spanish Civil War. And it was during the solstice when I was writing, the skies gloomy and quick to turn dark.  But the hardest part was repeating variations of “to sing.”

The other reservation I have with this poetic form as I applied it in my poem is that, apparently, a sonnenizio is a parody of the sonnet in the same way that Billy Collins’ paradelle is a parody of the villanelle. By keeping García Lorca in mind, there was no way I would be writing ironically.

December Sky, by Christine Swint

December Sky, by Christine Swint

Thoughts While Meditating Under a Light Therapy Lamp

Imagine our first home, a time when we knew no fear.

Close your eyes and turn your face to the sun–this was our first light.

Hold the webs of your fingers above a flashlight– that red glow was our world.

The plush warmth of a giant membrane, a kind of palace.

Between systolic and diastolic

Between rising and falling, a gentle rise, a gentle fall, a fluid absorber of shock

Between in-breath and out,

We lived in a symphonic buzz of warmth.

When we left this palace, our tender flesh bumped against cold plastic and table edges.

We couldn’t see above countertops where the palace guards chopped carrots and onions

for our broth.

We swam in the flux between fear of death in this cold, sharp place

And a desire to please the palace guards, the ones who had control over our survival.

The guards had forgotten they too once lived under the protection of the symphonic membrane.

All they remembered was their desire to survive.

Day 12, January Mindful Writing Challenge.

Listicle

The one thing you should never say to someone with OCD

Three easy styles when you don’t have time to blow-dry

Four pieces of priceless advice from the cast of “Orange is the New Black”

Four possible futures for Earth if global warming keeps up

Five things super successful people do before eight AM.

Five things you need to know about NYC’s next possible first lady

Five foods you should never eat again if you’re trying to lose weight

My five golden rules for being a writer on Twitter

Six things your hairstylist wishes she could tell you

Become the CEO of your own brain in six easy steps

Here are seven dog beds your furry friend is going to love

Seven breathtaking sunsets from around the world

Seven reasons To never drink bottled water again

Eight items that will completely transform your wardrobe

Nine questions answered: Impact of government shutdown on travelers

Ten things all singles should celebrate

Ten celebs we never knew would go from child stars to sex symbols!

Ten celebrities who are difficult to work with

Ten gorgeous, energy-efficient homes you’d actually want to live in

Ten past Republicans who’d never make it in today’s GOP

Eleven drinks that are destroying your health

Eleven lessons every woman can learn from Disney princesses

The eleven best universities in the world

Twelve celebrities who say they don’t want children

Thirteen “Fresh Prince of Bel Air” dance moves

Fifteen African American art world game changers

Fifteen perfectly awful ad placements

Fifteen reasons why the world looks better in black and white

Fifteen amazing facts that you didn’t know about unicorns

Seventeen pics that show how much time has changed

Seventeen bizarre sex facts you probably didn’t know

Nineteen things you wish weren’t true but are

Twenty things all women should do before getting married

Twenty-one golden rules from one wise grandmother

Twenty-five best art exhibits to see this fall

Twenty-five pics that will make you say “AWWWWWW”!

WATCH: the fascinating origins of forty-two idioms explained

David Bowie’s seventy-five must-read books

***

This is a found poem I wrote by collecting listicles over the last week or so. I limited myself to listcles that appeared in my Facebook or Twitter feeds. I did not read any of the articles. The only changes to the text that I made were making the capital letters of a headline lower case and writing out all numbers. I stopped collecting the headlines when I reached the footer of my word processing program.
I was tempted to add this last listicle I just found when I looked up the wiki link to “listicle,” but it would have meant breaking my rules for the poem, so I give it to you here: “Eleven reasons why we should still love listicles.”

Found Poem

words from my diary, 11/11/1981

The pupils of my eyes
are very small,
as if the dark spots
were nostrils.
When I look at them
in the mirror, I feel
cold and ugly.
I float in and around
whatever is bothering
me without knowing
what it is.

Process

The above passage is taken directly from my diary, which I wrote on 11/11/81, 6:30 pm, in Athens, Georgia. Like many twenty-one year olds, I turned to my journal whenever I was feeling blue. I took the passage and shortened the phrases, turning it into a poem of sorts. I liked the image of pupils like nostrils.

Most of the diary entries from that year are about my relationship with my boyfriend. Here’s a quote referring to him.

I lie. I don’t love. I am not kind to people. Conrad was right in his idea that people are dark and savage in their hearts. My heart feels like lead in my chest. Do I dramatize these feelings? Maybe I’m feeling sorry for myself because I’m not making any progress with developing my thoughts and finding an art. The thought of being an artist has been in my mind for a long time, but now I know I’ll never be one because my personality is two-dimensional, as Stephan would call it.

Stephan is what I’m calling my boyfriend at the time. I don’t want to say his real name, because he comes off here as being very critical of me. In truth he was a fun-loving, creative person. I was suffering from depression during our time together but didn’t realize it. He was very patient with me, for the most part, as patient as any twenty-three year old guy could be. I cried a lot and was moody, and, like I wrote in the found poem, I had no idea why I was so sad. I’d start fights with him just to have something to blame my feelings on. I’m glad I finally broke that pattern. It only took me thirty years!

Athens, 1983

I remember when we took these pictures. We were walking around Athens, looking for interesting shots, but also saying goodbye. We would both be leaving soon, Stephan for Stockholm, and I for Madrid. I still love Athens, and remember my time there as magical. I think anyone who lived there during the late seventies and early eighties feels the same way.

me, 1981, in Central Park

A group of us drove from Athens to NYC in one weekend to hear the Side Effects play at the Peppermint Lounge. Or it could have been CeeBee GeeBee’s. I went to both of those clubs to hear bands from Athens.

To Make a Dadaist Poem

My First Dadaist Poem

after Tristan Tzara

EVER “Bridesmaids.”

JOKES doing Mastodon year.

People

Specifically the BEST terribly

I biggest laugh ever them: the shop where OK! not go shit

I dress

The love things it because this haven’t got wrong

sink

You can watch a video presentation of “To Make a Dadaist Poem”  at Moving Poems, curated by Dave Bonta.

Modern and Contemporary Poetry (ModPo) with Al Filreis via UPenn and Coursera has been a bright spot in my poetic life.  Most of the modern American poets I’ve read branch off from Walt Whitman  to Robert Frost and later into the narrative and confessional mode, such as Theodore Roethke, Sylvia Plath, and Anne Sexton.

My own work follows this narrative aesthetic, to an extent.  But it’s important to takes risks in order to find the language that best expresses this experience of life that arises each day.

This free, online course has helped me understand the desire to break apart conventional modes of expression. As Al Filreis explains in his video talk about dadaist poet Tristan Tzara, to write a poem based on a somewhat random selection of words allows the writer to transcend ego.

My grasp of this thought process is that writing about one’s feelings in a romantic, expressive manner reinforces codified ways of thinking. The idea is to use chance in the process of creation in order to reach the self that transcends conditioned responses to life. It relates to the imagist manifesto ” to make it new.”

I’ve used a certain amount of random words in my poetry, such as computer-generated words I insert or work into a poem, but this time I adhered to Tristan’s Tzara’s instructions in his poem “To Make a Dadaist Poem.” 

What you see here is a faithful copy of all the words from a magazine article that I cut up, put into a bag, and then chose one by one.  The only punctuation marks I use come from the cut up words. I enjambed only when the next word was a capital letter or if when I was copying I ran out of room on the page. While I don’t consider this experiment to have produced a work of art, involving myself in the dadaist process broadened my poetic toolbox.

 

Tarot Poems

The editors of Medulla Review just released their latest issue of poetry, stories and art inspired by the Major Arcana. The artwork is by the editor, Jennifer Hollie Bowles, who gives a statement about the process of creating this ambitious journal in an open letter, found here.

She explains in her letter that although she is not a trained artist, she did not receive enough art to have an image for each of the cards, and therefore she decided to produce images herself that would reach into the psychic places the tarot is known to trigger.

Here’s a direct link to my poem, “High Priestess.” I wrote this poem for the prompt during a week when a few of my poetry buddies and I were completing an 8-day poetry writing challenge.

Once our writing spree came to an end, I revised “High Priestess” and sent it off. If not for the 8-day challenge, I doubt I would have had the discipline to write to the Tarot prompt in time for the submissions deadline, so I’m grateful my friends inspired me to write.

Mosaic at The Crossings in Austin, Texas. I took this photo while at a writing retreat there with Amherst Writers and Artists.