The Writing Life

ONE

one-life

I have this one life. I am addressing areas that have been neglected and treating myself with love and care, whereas in the past I harmed myself. I have no apologies for reclaiming my energies to prevent myself from living in a wheelchair, suffering from joint disintegration, or dying from a heart attack. Of course, we don’t know how we will go, but I am revolutionizing my mind and body to squeeze every bit of life out of life.

I haven’t felt inclined to write poetry of late. That is okay with me. I feel that I will come to it when I am ready. What inspires me is other writers, other artists of many forms. I have a photo by Annie Pluto on my computer’s desktop that I am allowing to consciously and subconsciously resonate with me. I hope to write an ekphrastic poem inspired by it.

I am being very selective about what I will do in my Writing Life. I have set boundaries; and will respect my own authority to make decisions in regards to how I will proceed. Otherwise, I firmly believe, the work will not be authentic or any good, the goals for which I have always strived.

I have had to let go of things that at one time meant so much to me. My mother’s death changed me in ways that I view as positive, which I believe she would have wanted for me. My hope for the New Year is that I can continue the progress I started in late 2014, to better myself, in a holistic way.

My determination is strong. My hope is rising. My will is palpable; and I have the love and support of those dearest to me, thank God.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

Clare L. Martin

Dream of the White Horse

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Dream of the White Horse

Sometimes
I dream I am night-blind
Sometimes,
I am astride

a vivid white horse,
but only when planets
position to my favor.

Oh, to dream
of The White Horse
is salvation; a blessing
ineffable and sublime.

Once, I dreamed the car
I was driving
went over a bridge,
and I woke
completely afraid—

How do dreams linger
to create a haze out
of our entirety of days?

Peculiar and forceful,
sometimes made of metal,
my enemies arise
in dream-light;
in queer movies,
in falsities.

I have got to get my shit together,
this dream says;
or portrays me
as The Rider: legs
tight against hide.

The White Horse and I
share instinct and will.
The sense of this beast
encompasses all
that is ethereal, and yet
she is tremendously strong.

Oh, spirit, gift of perception,
visit me tonight.

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

Significance

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Japanese lithophane cup, like ones in a tea set that I have inherited from my mother.

This poem came out of the creative writing work I am doing with women in recovery and/or transitioning from homelessness.  We are all survivors of something (myself included) and we are, if we choose to be, on a path of reclamation. More info on “Recovery Academy Two: Transformation of Lives through Poetry” can be found here: http://plastictheater.org/home/recovery-academy

This exercise was:

SIGNIFICANCE
Recall one object/thing. It could be a memento, a gift, something you mean to discard but have not, even the covering of dust on the furniture. Describe it in detail. Describe it with love or hate. What is its significance or insignificance to you? What will you do with/to it in the future?

 

SIGNIFICANCE
In 1972, my mother
rescued a wood
and glass cabinet
from the nuns
of Saint Genevieve’s.
Forty days after her death,
my brother slides
two glass shelves
off of their metal brackets,
and he and I carry
the cabinet to the back
of my car, open a door
and slide it onto a quilt.
I was not ready
to remove the cabinet
from its place
the same place
it had been since I was five.
I am crushed but we laugh
at something
together,
have a bite to eat,
and move
toward the other things.

That glass cabinet
belongs to me.
I could have left it
in the back of my car
for as long as I didn’t need
space for groceries,
quarts of oil, a spare tire.
My husband carries it. I am not ready.
I shout, “I am not ready!”

I am not ready
to dust and shine it,
to put in the glass shelves;
but objects will find a home there.

Japanese cups
Brother David
gave to my mother.

(A gift of war—if you lift them
empty to the light,
a silhouette of a geisha’s face
is revealed in the bottom).

Buttons, buttons, buttons.
Hand-embroidered handkerchiefs
and the white gloves
she wore at her wedding—

This dark morning it is only me awake; only my eyes open in this house.

 

 

Clare L. Martin

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

A poem for my husband as we celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary

Our anniversary is August 4th, 2014 and we will celebrate 25 years of marriage. This poem was inspired by music performed at  Acadiana Wordlab on June 21st by our dear friend, James Perry (who also attended our wedding 25 years ago).  Thank you, James.

I read this to Dean and he loves it.  Sharing the love with you all.

Clare

Sweet Kiss

“When you make the sacrifice in marriage, you’re sacrificing not to each other but to unity in a relationship.”
~ Joseph Campbell

ANNIVERSARY

 for my husband, Dean

Honey tones from a violin
a godly woman on her knees
at the prie-dieu
all is holy
all is holy
we are immersed
in streams of holy notes

come to me clean
we will lie together
whole
this night
with open windows
in each other’s arms
open
relinquished of weariness
one kiss

light and more light
races westward
we have until sunset to say
the words never spoken
no more hurricane surges
to erode us
no more devastation
or years to erase
our future is blue sky

this slender time, silence:
a roseate spoonbill
sails over marshlands
fire on the horizon
we burn what is dead
we pick up the pieces
build and rebuild higher this time

our bond a salvation

my groom, my dearest
your laugh, your compassion
your sweet kiss that night
amber light against white walls
a hurricane in the gulf
our beloveds around us
true prayer
is in all our living
not just words
not just deeds
but the movement of our bodies
prayer in our arms
when we embrace
each other, or a stranger
as friend
when we hold open a door
and say good morning
we must be prayer
in all things

even in our desolate cries
we commune with God

you and I and our child
commune, miraculously healed—
these celebrations
moment by moment
no promise of time, just this
all because of a white dress
antique gold rings
the sum of days:
a twenty-five-year song

Clare L. Martin
7/1/14

 


DnC wedding

Sewn

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My mother enjoyed sewing. I fondly remember garments that she sewed for me as a child, some quite amusing ones that got me teased by other kids, but which were made with pride and love.  Mostly my mom was a business woman, a working mom, but she did enjoy this art. I was always fascinated with the bobbins, the needles, her pin cushion and all of the fabrics, buttons, and ribbons she kept. I loved opening her sewing table to see the endless little bits of magic that could become something useful and beautiful.

Mom made a few outfits and skirts for me, which was always exciting because she would let me pick patterns and fabrics. I wanted to be as stylish as the carefully drawn women on the paper envelopes. It didn’t happen often but it was always special when she and I had a sewing project. For my part, I would stand still so that she could pin hems, or the seams along my sides to fit me, and that always made me nervous! I was so afraid of being pricked!

On one occasion she allowed me to use fabric from a floral print sack that she had preserved for decades when sacks of flour or feed came in printed fabrics. She kept that fabric pressed and folded in a cedar chest she received for her high school graduation. I know she treasured it; and it was wonderful bright cotton that I had always admired.

With that fabric I made a way-too-short mini skirt. She showed me a simple way to sew in the elastic waistband and how to measure the hem. I used her sewing machine for the first and only time, and I bent the needle and might have broken an essential part, too. That was my last attempt at sewing on her machine. I had the figure back then to wear the skirt, but the one time I wore it in public I had the most difficult time because I had no idea how to wear it modestly!

My mother could sew a button like nobody’s business. She made that button so tight in place!! She enjoyed sewing by hand mainly, and had also hand-stitched a few handkerchiefs, embroidering them with sweet, simple flowers. Maybe my daughter and my niece, Morgan, might like to have these treasures, which I believe are in Mom’s cedar chest. Mom always wanted me to take Home Economics in high school, but by the time I would have been able to take that elective, I had become pregnant, quit to get my G.E.D. and moved on to college.

What calls all of this to mind is that even as an adult, even as my mother imparted a few basic lessons in sewing to me, I was still going to her to mend clothing or even sew buttons for me. It was kind of a joke between us but she liked the practice and it gave her something creative to do. She enjoyed it and she knew I was off attending to all sorts of things and would not have stopped, or had time and patience, to do it myself.

Just before my mother passed away, I had two garments that needed sewing: a brand new skirt that was poorly made that had an open seam that I didn’t notice when I bought it and a blouse that had opened a bit on a seam because it fit a little too snug for me. Until my mother’s passing, I did not even have needle or thread in my house.

My mother’s sewing can is so remarkably familiar to us. When we brought things to her to hem up or stitch back together, or add elastic to because our waists were getting thicker, she would always say, while sitting in her recliner: “Go get my sewing can.” A day or two after she died, I asked my brother, Kevin, if I could have Mom’s sewing can. I told him my tale of woe that I did not have needle and thread in the house and our funny history with mom doing our mending. He said sure, I could have it. What a miracle that can is! I am almost afraid to open it, because of all that will come to me of her, but I will.

(On a side note, I think our family should also go through all of the buttons she preserved over the years. They are kept in my old bedroom which became her sewing room/toy room for all the grandchildren).

So, tonight in this quiet hour, I have the sewing can on my sofa and a small lamp turned on. In peace and solemnity I will mend my blouse and think of my mother and her deft and skilled hand-sewing that she was so proud of.  I will wear that cheaply-made blouse later today when my daughter and I meet friends for coffee (which really is a very important meeting) and into the evening when she and I go to a poetry event with friends (also very important) in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana.

In a way, I will not only be mending the Made in China blouse, but also mending a part of my being which is, too, opened at the seams.

Blessings,

Clare L. Martin

“Out of sorrow beautiful things may come.”

What I hope to achieve in the nine sessions of working with women clients of Acadiana Outreach is to give participants, through a structured, weekly creative writing workshop, tools to strengthen their ability to name thoughts and emotions and convey them artistically, and poem-making skills which may lead to positive breakthroughs and life-happenings by tapping into the resilience of the creative mind.

By offering skill-building creative writing exercises and prompts, sharing empowering literary works, and allowing for free-writing  time, I hope to inspire participants to be able to create something beautiful, honest and uniquely their own through the craft of poetry.  By creating a safe and nurturing atmosphere in our group sessions, I hope the participants will have the assurance to reach into their creative minds to find deeper self-awareness, keys to success, and possibly true healing.

In my own personal experience, creative writing has led me out of despair, allowed me to express joy and love in sensory, beautiful language, and come to a place where I feel honored to be me. It is my hope that participants will find their “true voices” via new creative skills that may give rise to creative problem-solving in circumstances they face in their everyday lives.

Art is vital and necessary, and creative acts are transformative. We can transform. We can rise above and live in hope. The positive effects of writing our very lives can lead one out of places of darkness.  I believe that through creative writing, through the process of discovery and poetic documentation, we can find our way, recover and thrive.

I am committing to this project enthusiastically to be able to interact with these women, lead them to new awareness and appreciation for poetry as a vital tool of self-expression. I am committed to the work, and have great hopes for this project.

~CLM

 

 

Clare L. Martin’s debut collection of poetry, Eating the Heart First, was published fall 2012 by Press 53 as a Tom Lombardo Selection. Martin’s poetry has appeared in Avatar Review, Blue Fifth Review, Melusine, Poets and Artists and Louisiana Literature, among others. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Dzanc Books’ Best of the Web, for Best New Poets and Sundress Publication’s Best of the Net. Her poems have been included in the anthologies The Red Room: Writings from Press 1, Best of Farmhouse Magazine Vol. 1, Beyond Katrina, and the 2011 Press 53 Spotlight. She is a lifelong resident of Louisiana, a graduate of University of Louisiana at Lafayette, a member of the Festival of Words Cultural Arts Collective and a Teaching Artist through the Acadiana Center for the Arts. Martin founded and directs the Voices Seasonal Reading Series in Lafayette, LA, which features new and established Louisiana and regional writers.

Wings

duck

 

We kept chickens and ducks for several years for the fresh eggs, and because it fed my nostalgia for my childhood, which was spent much of the time here at the house where I live now, which was my grandparents’ house.  We even dug out a small pond for them and kept it filled when the rain didn’t. It was fun for a time but read further and you will see the why of why we don’t keep them anymore.

I just spoke with my mother on the phone to ask about my grandfather clipping the wings of ducks and chickens, and she said he only clipped one wing so that the birds were unbalanced and not able to fly.  As a child, this made me very sad. But when Dean and I had chickens and ducks, Dean never clipped their wings and only a couple of Bantam roosters flew away, but they would come back to eat and at dusk to sleep.

We never killed a chicken for meat, but we did kill one duck. It was a really mean Muscovy that would attack me when I would open the gate to the backyard to feed the birds cracked corn.  I hated that duck. When we got the idea to kill a duck, I said, “Pick that one.”

The day it happened, my mother came over to supervise the killing and to show Dean how to remove the feathers with boiling water and paraffin wax. I watched from the kitchen window as Dean cut the throat of the duck until its head came off. It was slow.  Dean was having problems, perhaps the knife wasn’t sharp enough and the bird was fighting hard. I felt very sorry for Dean having to finish what he started. He is not a hunter and is kind to animals. I immediately felt sorry for my decision to make him do the deed because I wanted duck meat. I can still see him being beaten with the wings of the large white and black bird from my vantage point inside the house; the whole scene framed in the kitchen window.

My mother never put her hands on the duck but showed Dean how to dress and clean the duck. She showed him how to get the tiny pin feathers out, too. When Dean brought me the duck, the feet were still on it. He thought that was a joke. I was not amused.  He finished dressing it and brought it back to me washed and ready to season. I was somber but baked the duck. I made a cherry-chipotle glaze for it.

That day, which had to be twenty years ago, my father, mother, Dean and I sat to dinner at the dining room table. The duck had a good flavor but was very tough. My father commented that we had waited too long to kill the duck, that we should have chosen a younger duck or cooked it a different way that would have tenderized the meat. As I ate a few bites, I felt emotionally sick that I was eating this duck that I once felt glory about its impending killing. Prior to the whole killing and butchering, I felt I was exacting my revenge on his aggressive, noisy ways.  I did not finish my meal that day and might have sent the leftovers home with my mother.

While not turning me into a vegetarian, the whole experience left me haunted. I started thinking about the duck.  He was a good watch duck, better than a dog. If there was anything stirring in the backyard at night he would quack quite a racket. Also, when we threw out food scraps he would eat them, which was beneficial.  I thought of watermelons we had eaten almost to the rind. I would throw out the inedible parts and that duck would eat so that there was only green rind, thin as paper, curled in the yard.  Another thing ducks are good for is that they eat bugs.  That duck deserved better than we gave him, and I think about him still, sometimes laughing in that way that we laugh to keep from, well you know.

Soon after, we gave all of our ducks and chickens to a farmer, Mr. Guillot, who only spoke French but understood when we told him with hand signals and broken Cajun French that he could have them all for nothing.  I grew up spending most of my time with the chickens and ducks here at my grandparents’ house. I even had a pet chicken, Henny-Penny, (see photo below) that I taught “tricks” to but ended up in a gumbo that I am sure I ate, without my knowledge. When I asked where Henny-Penny was, I was told she flew away, and it broke my heart that she would leave me. She and I were good to each other.

Tonight I saw a painted image of wings being clipped and it brought back to me the strange and silent struggle framed in a kitchen window of that harmless, pert and feisty duck having its head removed with a too-dull knife, and a remembrance of my own brutality.

Henny Penny