Life

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

Purple Explained to the Blind

figs_insects

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple Explained to the Blind

 

fresh lavender in a steam bath
a berry on the tongue
an exhalation
when you are in someone’s arms
your sigh
because you know
they are holding the “you”
that is you, and all
you have ever been
or will be

the dry kiss of a queen
shepherds dreaming of sea-bottoms
bells at the hour of prayer
ice in summer
the speed at which it melts
perfume evaporating
a residue of oil
on the inside of your wrist
ambergris and sandalwood
a hunger, a chill
in the middle of the night

figs left on the tree
for the birds
the cavalcade of wasps
and flies affixed
to the succulent earth
below the branches
ravished, rotten fruit

rose petals
and blood in the palm
of your hand
rain-heavy wings
condensation on a glass
of vodka

the last muscle to grasp
and release
the dying heart

 

 

 

Generated by Clare L. Martin at the 6-28-14 Acadiana Wordlab www.acadianawordlab.org which was presented by Brian Schneider. Brian’s work and philosophy of lighting can be found at this resource:http://www.footcandlelighting.com

Barguest

barghest

Listen: the growl is deafening. A cloud splits in two. What mythical wonder woke you?

Sleep executed by firing squad. (Oh, the marksman without a bullet cries and the woman on his finger languishes).

He who has blood on his temple will never raise the stone in his fist.

We keep the sins we commit. What is a secret if no one cares to know it?

Hunger, hunger from the day you were terribly born. (This is why she hates you). There is no milk for children made of glass.

That which is left behind is all for you. The curse is that you cannot touch it. Remember what came to you through death will go through you like water. Still, the dead keep giving.

Wind shoves its tongue down your throat. A brass bird revels in rain. Someone runs into traffic with an inverted umbrella, dances, and shakes loose coins from her belly.

Hunger, again, for dog meat, good enough to eat, so, why not eat it? Filaments of lightning sear your morning-eye then burn out.

Phones ring with too much treble. Every time it is her–I want you back. The house shakes. Sleep shatters: a plane crash.

It was wrong of me to take a swig of vodka at the funeral. I did  not want it, or its meaning.

I pity the most unusual things. And there was no charm in this creature: dwindling fur, black, broken teeth, ember-eyes and skin thin as a frog’s. Nauseating.

Why did it come here? Was it for souls? I thought to feed it raw bacon wrapped to a wooden stick, but it took what it came for.

The sun rises and we hunger. The sun sets and we hunger. It is only one hunger that matters.

Sky Burial

1998.286.163-O

Sky burial platform in Dra Yerpa Monastery
Sir Charles Bell
September 11th 1921
Lhasa Area > Dra Yerpa

SKY BURIAL

Leave me
on open land
until bonesong
goes unheard
and all putrefaction
resolves.

Let me cultivate
the growth
of all that is visible
and invisible—
be the giver
of alms to the birds.

My secret name,
as is yours,
is Carrion.

Dead
or living come,
come to commune.
Let us go with eyes open
into ineffable light.

 

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

 

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

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS

THE DEVIL’S IN THE DETAILS*

That summer I was tobacco and burnt sage; a carnival ride that lurched midair—

The barefoot, bra-less girl who watched thistle seeds carried on the wind, listened to King Crimson on a mix-tape and sneaked her grandmother’s mulberry wine—

I tore you open: a lusted-for letter that announced my emancipation. I nearly choked on love—fervently sucking the pit for every last sweet string of flesh.

Now we watch CNN with thunder in our chests. It is how we feel all of the time—a marching band parade of all drums and tubas.

We have grown so old sugar cane fields are malls, Taco Bells, and neighborhoods obscuring magenta sunsets. Where are our horizons?

There is a collapsed mine in China on the TV. The newscaster spends 15 seconds on it.

And somehow a memory rises of a stranger: his taut arms cradle my hips; his deft fingers twirl an ice cube on my nipple—before you.

I begin to tell you about it but remember that twenty seven years ago
you asked me not to.

 CLM ©2014

*Based on the prompts: a wax seal, an apricot pit, distant thunder, a collapsed mine, strangers fornicating, a blissful magenta sunset, devils in the details, tobacco, burnt sage, spit, carnival rides, a thistle, wind, mulberry wine

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

House Dress

house dress 10

I lack modesty in my private quarters.  I just feel more comfortable without clothes. I wouldn’t call myself a nudist, but what if, you know? So, what? I think nudism is cool. I should, however, not embarrass anyone by running around nude here (and most of the time I don’t–I’m exaggerating a bit) but respect was the motivation for me to look for more PJ-type clothing. I mean, I have PJs, but they weren’t really on my radar. Recently, just to enhance my decency, I bought a couple of PJ sets and today I bought a HOUSE DRESS.

I am so excited about my new “house dress” it warrants a blog post! My house dress is a fun 2014 style. It could also be worn outside of the house, as it was sold as such—as a summer dress made out of a stretchy, colorful knit.  You might see it on someone poolside, hanging out on the porch or patio, or maybe even out and about town with the right accessories.

I have to laugh at myself because I remember as a teenager thinking such things were so gross and unappealing. I always dismissed the look as unfashionable and “maw maw.”  I have memories of frowning upon the look of my grandmother and also of my mother in their house dresses, polyester muumuus, etc. that they wore on most days when they did not leave the house, except to get the mail or newspaper, or in my grandmother’s case to get the fresh-laid chicken and duck eggs or work in her garden.  To my mother and grandmother they were practical for household chores and could be washed without special care. It was a way for them to be modest and comfortable in their daily lives outside of special occasions. I swore I would never dress so matronly, and my house dress is not matronly at all, but I do consider that when I will wear it this will be my way of happily carrying on a woman-kin tradition.

My grandmother would wear a slip underneath her snap-down-the-front cotton blend house dresses which were usually without a collar and had floral prints. My mother has worn muumuus for years, some with bold prints, some bright solids, but always flowing. She has a few house dresses now that she wears quite often.  She has worn them for as many years as I can remember. Very often she has been given muumuus or house dresses as Mother’s Day gifts or for her birthday.

How could I be so judgmental and blind to the beautiful usefulness of these garments that emerged in the nineteenth century and have remained so popular? I didn’t see the numerous benefits they can provide, mainly, COMFORT.

My whole agenda in how I dress and present myself is not to feel the need to impress anyone but myself. I like looking put together.  It makes me feel good, but some days when I am running around doing errands I could care less and it shows. Oh, well. A friend and I joke that when I make a quick run to the store in the mornings with crazy hair, without makeup, dressed über casual—maybe even in PJs, I look like a nuthausfrau (Not just a hausfrau but a NUT hausfrau). I don’t think I will wear this house dress outside of the house, but I could. Who cares?

Maybe I am maturing, maybe I am becoming an older, but not old, woman.  Maybe I am settling down. Not that my mind has to settle, not that my personality or energy has to be subdued at all, but the rest of me can chill in a spiffy house dress and that is okay.

Good Fortune

 

“Things I once thought unbelievable in my life have all taken place.”

~PJ Harvey, “Good Fortune”

 

Ten years ago, I set forth on the path of The Writing Life. It has taken me to places I never dreamed of. I think of PJ Harvey’s “Good Fortune” which is one of my favorites. It gets me fired up today to believe in the unstoppable force of Good.

Every occurrence that I have perceived as a failure has been transformed to a reason to celebrate. Because of the will and commitment I made to myself to persevere, because of positive actions and beliefs–I have persevered. I have overcome so much tragedy. My good fortune to have the people in my life that I do, and that I had, is something I am grateful for beyond words. Some people who lifted me up are gone, but they really are beside me, whispering encouragement. I will join them someday and bring my own force to the living, giving palpable inspiration through the spirit.

Many years ago I faced what I believed to be major setbacks and failures in my life. I lost a job due to illness that left me in shame and hurt for a long time. Prior to that, I had left graduate school because of my illness, which was also a deep hurt for me. But I realize now the full force of how those perceived losses were transformational; steeled my will to make something of myself, and turned my attention to the things in life that really matter, which are love for one’s self without compromise, care for our loved ones and movement forward on the high road, even if that means the road traverses a mountain.

Right now, I feel I am nearing a summit, but it won’t be the only summit. There are many mountains to climb, metaphorically, and I am up for the challenge.

Daily, I reclaim this life. I honor its restoration. I accept the calling to inspire and lift others up to meet their own paths of transformation. I am where I am because of where I was and because I chose to commit to a life that seeks truth and personal revelation through dedication to an art  that I was blessed to be gifted with some inclination towards.

I offer praise to the Universe, God, the Divine Whatever for this life, and peace and resolution to you.

And if you care to read an interview with me about Eating the Heart First and my approach to poetry, I would be much obliged. Today, Flash Fiction Chronicles has published an interview Susan Tepper conducted with me about a month ago. Enduring thanks to Susan Tepper (www.susantepper.com) for this interview with me in her series UNCOV/rd at Flash Fiction Chronicles, and to the editors there for extending National Poetry Month one day, to feature a poet instead of a flash fiction writer!

The direct link is: http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/clare-l-martin-uncovrd/