Travelling

High above the center
of the labyrinth,
where I sit sipping
the last of my wine,
the Host of moon
is scraped flat to the east,
but still generously lights
the thread across my palm
showing red dye
awakened by sweat and
smeared like blood
on the day Theseus
fought the minotaur —
now a mere skittering
of enormous, whistling bones
leaning on shadowed stones;

Tugging the thread,
I know that Ariadne’s nap
long since ended curled
in Dionysus’ arms; this thread
leads out to the rocker rails
at my grandmother’s feet, now,
and I pull myself along
right and left and left again
until after many long turns
I’m seated again at her knee
As when I was small;
Today my arm is long
and reaches round her waist,
still strong, and warm
Though her eyes fade and withdraw
From a few feet away,
this close, touching,
she hears every word
and her eyes widen and sparkle
recognizably the woman
I remember,
hanging on to her own thread,
twisting knots of memory
between weary fingers.

~LD

On Students and Other Strangers (revised from ’09)

I was led back to this multi-genre piece by the friend (one time student) who asked me to write it for one of his final projects. I was stunned not to find it in my files, and he was good enough to resend it. So while he’s off on inspiring adventures all over the place, I thought you might like to have a peek. I used to call him double-O-seven, because as a yearbook staff member, he could get his mitts on anything. A terrific person all the way around. I’m so lucky to be a teacher and learner of THIS kind of person. There are so many of them! NOTE: I’ve adjusted to make the timing make more sense now.

***

Approximately seven years ago I was accosted in the hall by a student from a grade that I’ve never taught and hassled about books.

“Ms. Head,” the strange, but vaguely-familiar looking young man said to me. “Have you ever read ‘X’ by ‘Y’?” Let’s face it: I’ve slept since then; I have no idea what books he asked about. I wasn’t really listening in any case. I was trying to figure out which of my students he reminded me of.

Still, I must have responded to the question, because not to do so would have been rude. I think there was more conversation, perhaps more questions. But I was still trying to figure out who the student reminded me of.

Time passed. A week? A month? A year? Enough time for me to forget about the hallway book-assault.

I was walking from my classroom toward the elevator. I’m sure my mind was wandering around in the stars somewhere, distracted by English department business, or NHS business, or some other business. From the far end of the hallway down by Mr. Miranda’s room, I heard, “Ms. Head! Ms. Head!!” Lo and behold, Book Boy strode toward me. I remember being amused, even laughing out loud at the eagerness that lit up his eyes and ran like electric current into his smile. I know for certain that he way-laid me twice in the hallway to ask about books, but there may have been more than two occasions. I remember being floored, knocked-flat, astonished, speechless, flabbergasted to see a student so excited about reading that he was walking the halls looking for book experts. Secretly, I couldn’t wait for him to be a Senior.

The wait seemed interminable, but eventually one August I saw that curiously familiar face pass by me in the hallway, “Good morning, Ms. Head,” he said as he reached for the brushed steel handle of my classroom door. While his work was often far from perfect, or less than punctual, his enthusiasm masked unsightly flaws.

All year long, his writings were daring, and sometimes wrought as with iron or steel: the sound of the furnace roaring in our ears and sweat obscuring our eyes. From the thoughtful analysis of nature symbols in Hardy, to lyrics that take the shine off the enameled gloss of self-destructive relationships, R– has a way of making old things new again, and new things familiar and comfortable.

Let the resplendent blade of the sun
bear down on the time-faded sands
Let the moon sprinkle false rains
over desert hills
Let time glide down the window pane
while I slip another page through my fingers
and look up to see the bookwright’s back
far down the hall from whence he used to come…

~LD

Hugging Stone — NaPoWriMo #24 (masonry)


Belly to earth, snuggling in,
back to stone, belly to stone, back to stone,
ad infinitum.
Warm in sun, cool in rain
the lizards lounge about
in our reservoirs of heat,
sneaking into sunny winter light
and dipping back in blistery boil.
We are earth made old,
time made flesh
and flesh made timeless
like wordsmiths of old
the mason has stacked us here
with care and precision
a poem to withstand all comers.

~LD

Shylock on Guard — NaPoWriMo #20

my very own sylvester scared-y cat

my very own sylvester scared-y cat


At the crack of a car door closing
I’m off – no cars belong here –
I slink along the wall
that curves into my blue cavern
where there are places to hide
and I know I’m safe

From my perch I hear strange voices
Laughing, talking, singing.
I watch shadows move,
twisted and grotesque,
bent as they are against
cold, white squares of floor

The dusky scent of smoke
creeps effortlessly
invading my space
and rousing me, tempting me
the red smell of flesh
forcing me from the edge of the bed

to the edge of danger and possibly snacks.

~LD

Well-Fletched (with Kahlil Gibran) — NaPoWriMo #8

The bow was shaped in a rush,
But there was time
to cure a bit of sinew for the string,
test the weight against youthful biceps,
and the aim of ancient eyes.

The fletching slightly skewed from hurry,
still she’s flown far, the little unexpected arrow,
and swift like the wind
under the sparrow’s wing.

Though the quick, green bow dried and broke,
Life’s longing lights her path
as it lengthens.

~LD

I wrote the title for this about two years ago and have been thinking on it ever since. I like the result, though the alliteration in the last stanza may be too heavy for the rest of the poem. I used Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children” from _The Prophet_ for inspiration. You can find it here, if you’re interested.

P.S. Thanks for all the reads, visits, views and comments! I can’t believe I’m up to 129 follows! ~LD

Makin’ Cookies: The Almost True Story

The process is nearly rote now, even though I only bake cookies once a year, twice at most: nearly always at Christmas, and less reliably near July 4th.

Sugar, brown sugar, shortening, vanilla, eggs: beat until creamy and light and most of the sugar crystals have gone smooth. The flour, soda, and salt look on from a nearby bowl supervising. Forget to pre-heat the oven.

Lick the beaters, or if you must, pass the beaters to a small person(s) to lick. Sneak a lick off each beater as you hand it to a small person. Keep your back turned so they don’t notice. If they catch you anyway, tell them you are testing the dough. Make the small people share if there are more than two. Forget, accidentally-on-purpose, about raw eggs.

Throw the flour on top of the creamified sweetness and with a sturdy spoon, stir a bit. By now the envious flour will be mostly incorporated and the dough will begin to look like dough more than ingredients. Add the chopped pecans and Nestle Toll House Semi-sweet Chocolate Morsels ®. Accept no substitutes. Not even Hershey’s ®.

cookie dough2014

Forget that this last stirring is nearly impossible with a spoon, no matter how sturdy. Ditch the spoon and dive in hands first. Forget how the dough tries to become one with your rings. Cuss. Forget about the small people gleefully engrossed in sugared raw-egg lollipops. Hope they didn’t hear, or at worst, won’t repeat to their parents (in this case, my brothers, and my sisters-in-law).

Remove dough-encrusted rings and set them aside. You can clean them later, when you clean up the nieces and nephews (or your siblings, your kids, your grandkids — reader’s choice). Squish the dough between now naked fingers a few more times. Watch for dry patches and spaces where the flour is still just flour. Fix those dry bits with an energetic massage. Like that.

Realize that you “forgot” to pre-heat the oven and do that now. Meanwhile, enlist the pint-sized nieces and nephews to start making walnut-sized balls of cookie dough. Show them, again — same as last time — how big, exactly, a walnut-sized ball of cookie dough is. Otherwise, be prepared for the biggest balls of cookie-dough you’ve ever seen.

“That one says, ‘Ryan’s’.”

“No way, Mister. Make like four out of that one.”

“Awwww….”

Remember showing their parents how to do this when we were only slightly less pint-sized than these characters. Ok, maybe I was the one who wasn’t pint-sized, but I was only a quart, not a full gallon or even half-gallon.

Place the finger-marked, lopsided cookie dough balls on the cookie sheet at about two inches apart; you should be able to get a dozen on a cookie sheet, and with luck, two cookie sheets each round. Set the timer for 8, 10 or 12 minutes. This depends on your oven. Twelve usually works best at Mom’s (and also at my sister-in-law’s).

Take the intervening minutes to wash small hands and faces clean of illicit, raw-egg cookie makings. Remember to wash your rings while you’re at it. Find a walnut-size ball of uncookie in a pocket. Scold. Try not to laugh. At least not right now.

Wait for the magic to happen around minute 9 or 10. Turn on the oven light to give a peek, but don’t open the oven door (you’ll mess up the temperature). Flicking the switch on that light does something to people while the still pale-ish cookie dough has not quite converted to its soon-to-be cookie self.

The brothers and their respective wives, Mom, and all the small people start hovering in and around the kitchen. There is talk of milk. Is it cold? Is there enough? How many glasses do we need? Give an eye roll to conceal delight. Threaten anyone standing too near the cookie landing zone with loss of life and limb. Don’t mean it. Smile. Oh, go on, giggle.

Once everyone’s had a look, turn off the oven light. Look for the cooling racks and a spatula. Ask (again) where the paper towels are. Check the timer. Still two-ish minutes to go. Try not to pace.

When the hundred last seconds have passed, slow like the wait for Christmas, and the timer finally bings, turn on the oven light one last time. The cookies should now look done, shiny with melty shortening or butter, but clearly cookies. Experience tells you that the shine will fade as the cookies cool.

Slip the oven mitt over your hand and slide the first tray out of the oven. Identify your landing area and make the removal a clean one. There are hoverers all around, the kitchen crowded with bodies and cookie heat. Swipe the spatula under each row and gently release them to the freedom of the cooling rack.

Warn small people about heat while watching a big hand reach around and snag the first boiling cookie. He juggles it, but the cookie is safe. Broken in his palm, but safe. When the moms say go, little hands reach up, too, then march dutifully to the table where ice-cold cups of milk await. There are dippers and sippers, between them the first batch of cookies has been cut in half in a matter of breaths.

cookies2014

Now, you are alone with the rolling of walnut-sized cookie dough balls, the timing and the sliding and the cooling. Tummies small and large are warm and full of cookies and milk and have retired to the latest round of Minecraft or Skyrim in the next room.

Only you remain. Sacrificing yourself for the sake of a cookie broken on the end of the spatula, or, heaven forbid, the tiniest uncookie known to man — the last bit in the bowl.

As the last pans of cookies come out of the hot oven, lean against the kitchen counter listening to the joy, the warmth, the competition, the sheer family-ness of the moment in the other room – nearby, but still removed. Know that neither they, nor you, could possibly be this satisfied more than once or twice a year, at most.

Don’t forget to turn off the oven.

The Rancher

We used to see vinegaroons sometimes out in West Texas. All but harmless, the one I remember was 4 inches long and terrifying. If I didn't scream, I assure that I felt like I did.  Photo taken from scorpion-forum.com

We used to see vinegaroons sometimes out in West Texas. All but harmless, the one I remember was 4 inches long and terrifying. If I didn’t scream, I assure that I felt like I did. Photo taken from scorpion-forum.com

Trekking out
in a jagged desert sunrise
and at sunset —
fiery disc hacking its way
out of night and back in again.
Dogs at his heels,
checking feed and water,
recently calved cows
and their young;
driving fence-lines —
eagle-eyed for breaches,
coyote spoor,
and unexpected predators.
Noting the occasional wonder,
maybe a star-cactus
out of place,
an arrowhead,
a pictograph,
a tarantula,
a vinegaroon.

This is NOT "the" hat. But I added it for effect. From antiques.about.com

This is NOT “the” hat, but it was John Wayne’s hat. Close enough. ‘-) From antiques.about.com

I imagine his days,
and a light gray
felt showdown hat
comes to mind —
sweat-stain continents
mapped around the
brim and leather band –
places he dreamed up
under long rays of desolate heat,
stories unspoken,
gone now, along with other fictions.

~LD

Las Mamás Esperan que Volemos (The Mommas Hope that We Fly)

Ah, the chamberlain (if I'm not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is.  Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com

Ah, the chamberlain (if I’m not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is. Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com (film reference The Dark Crystal [1983])

The poor fledgling trapped in my carport looked like a Skeksis. They always do. I can’t help but feel sorry for the ugly things. First off, they’re so pitifully ugly in the midst of molting before they can fly, but after they’ve been cute and fuzzy with baby feathers.  When they get stuck in the carport, as one or two does almost every year at about this time, they always find the same perch under the bench and won’t be persuaded to move more than a hop or two. Usually within a day or so, the local street cats, the bite of starvation, or the roasting spring sun catch and break these fallen nestlings. But this guy had cojones.  All week I watched him go from hobbling the ten feet from my washer to the front gate, faling to fly and then, finally, flying short distances inside the carport and a little beyond.

Every day an army of grackle mommas that live in the tree out front kept a close eye out for any threatening movement from the cats and me.  These are serious mamasotas.  They are not to be crossed. Their presence makes clear why Hitchcock’s The Birds is such a scary movie. As I hung up the laundry last Saturday, I found myself cringing under their screechy scrutiny; there were ten or so worrying the top of the high wall around the laundry space. Even though I didn’t see the fledgling at first, I knew he had to be there somewhere; the mommas army doesn’t deign to notice me unless there’s a baby hiding out.

Sunday morning when I went out to collect the laundry, the main momma — the one with goodies in her beak — sent all the others to harangue me while she looked for the little one. Grackle mommas, aside from being vocal, are quick and wicked looking. I crept back inside, figuring the laundry could wait while the little one got fed. Monday and Tuesday I dashed in and out of the house warily, bearing glares and warning squawks with a mix of patience and trepidation.  I’ve read that crows and grackles recognize human faces and have been known to attack offensive people.  I didn’t want to accidentally do anything to offend.

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

By Wednesday he had perched his ugly Skeksis-self atop the bougambilia bush. I was impressed and hopeful that he’d been able to fly high enough to get to that point four feet off the ground. Not wanting to scare him, I neglected watering the plants. I explained the situation to the airplane plant, the ivy, the rosemary and thyme – begging fotbearance — and then stealthily refilled the water bowl I’d left out for the stranded fledgling.  The next morning he was nowhere in sight, and Momma only fussed briefly as I left for work.  When I came home yesterday afternoon he had not come out of hiding, but I’d seen him fly quite high, so I decided that he had finally gotten strong enough to fly himself away. My hope was heightened to a kind of glee when my neighbor told me this morning that yesterday he had seen the bird fly from the carport all the way up to the top of the seven(ish)-foot high perimeter gate.

Today, Friday, he lay there in the fiery afternoon sun, fat, molting, and covered in soapsuds.  His little body had tipped over in a puddle, his beak pointing south, open a crack, still in wait for the day’s feeding, his feet like broken twigs flopped uselessly. The dead fledgling simmered in a soapy soup on the concrete between the hot water heater and the washer.  I hadn’t liked him hanging out in my carport all week, and even less did I appreciate his mom’s scolding each time I went in or out with trash, to water plants, wash clothes, hang clothes.  I guess I should be glad he’s gone, but I’m curiously sad.

He came so close to flying free against the high, endless blue, croaking his misanthropic “song.” Early on, I could have shoo-ed him out the big carport door onto the sparse grass below his home tree.  I could have tried to put him in a cage and feed and water him there.  But I decided to let him use my whole carport to try to find his own way.  I guess that’s why I’m sad.  Of all the options available to me as a witness to his strife, I did the best thing I knew to do: not interfere, keep an eye out (momma grackle, me), make resources available that he couldn’t have gotten on his own, and wait for him to take wing. Maybe next year. ~LD

* * *

A few process details: After a draft workshop on Tuesday with the sophomores (oh, how I love the sophomores) I almost didn’t finish this.  The earlier incarnation had great description, but was purposeless — the fledgling was still living at that point.  But today, after finding the fledgling dead during housecleaning, the REASON came into being.  I remembered being one of Momma and Daddy’s “arrows” set free to fly into an unknown distant future. No other note is needed here, I think.

Glad you dropped by.  Leave a comment if you are so inclined. ‘-) No matter what, have a great weekend.  Summer cometh. ~LD

Kitchen Meeting — NaPoWriMo Day 17 a salutatorian

I would rather not meet you like this,
Soapsuds still tickling the backs of my hands
As I reach back into the cabinet to tuck away
The clean cups, plates and glasses of the day

Keep to your corner, over where the tea set sits;
Not here an inch from my face,
flashing gold palp against black leggy bands
You are beautiful, Black Lady; I appreciate your webby canyon,
though you do have a tendency to startle, Doña Araña.

~LD
* * *

I read the prompt early this morning with my tea and news around 5:30, and after the valediction prompt, I got a chuckle out of this twist. The prompt percolated all day, but I hadn’t really come up with anything. I was actually “fretting” over it while I put away the clean dishes when I had this serendipitous moment with my kitchen spider. I love her (and suffer her to . . . er . . . hang around) because she catches flies and mosquitos better than I do. With a little work I can probably fix the rhyme and the wordy lines, but I’m happy with the vignette nevertheless.

On the downhill slide to the weekend, folks! Enjoy the end of your week! ~LD

Er-Lie in the Morning

I did not take this photo. It's from roadtrip62.com

I did not take this photo. It’s from roadtrip62.com

The open freeway is a kind of sea
At sixty-five, maybe seventy, miles an hour
black sails roiling against asphalt waves
that rocked our white pick up ship past
two-thirds of
Texas seas:
desert
oil pumpers
plains
small towns
escarpments
highway
Stuckey’s billboards
and finally city trees.
We sang pirate shanties
for hours
from the back seat, but no pirates, we.

~LD

* * *

Today’s prompt was hard, “Write a sea shanty.” I know a couple of them, and it was too hard to get away from those other people’s words. So, I gave the prompt a bit of a twist and wrote about learning the sea shanties that I know, on the road. To be entirely repetitive, I found this piece hard, but these are curiously happy memories, though I always hated that drive as a teen. I wanted the title to sound like we sang it when it’s read; I don’t know if this worked, you can tell me in the comments. Looking forward to a new prompt tomorrow. Have a great night, y’all! ~LD