Life

Into the Ground

clare rose

 

Let me explain: Love roots. Love thrives.

My father was a widower when he met my mother. He lost his first wife to cancer. Her name was Viola, and she was the mother of his first three children. He was devoted to her and loved her to his last.  He grieved Viola’s memory profoundly and mourned her in every way he knew how while struggling to survive. I know this because during my lifetime I saw him crying many, many times when her memory took hold. Let there be peace in the knowledge of this for all who knew and loved him.

I am certain he thought he could never be in love again when Viola died, but he did fall in love with my mother. He and my mother had a 40-something-year marriage until his death in 2007.  I know it was a struggle for many to understand how quickly he married again, but he needed love and companionship. He and my mother were a solid, loving pair who made each other laugh and cry brilliantly to the last, and always his memory will be cherished.

My father was fifty when I was born. I was his last child. He gave my mother a dozen red roses, an armful, after bounding hospital stairs to see me for the first time. He joyfully thanked her in the way he tended their life together for giving him more children, my brother and me: new miracles out of their love.

A rosebush blooms wildly outside the window near my writing nook. It came to mind yesterday in a conversation with my mother about life and death and the small and great things in between. Call me sentimental but seeing those blooms is lifesaving. Writing this is lifesaving. The “Clare” roses, as my family called them, that grew from the cuttings of a bouquet my father gave my mother on the day of my birth in 1968 were tended by my grandmother and grandfather for years, before my husband and I came to live here.

That rosebush is pushing fifty, as am I.   I cannot say I have tended it well. I am not a gardener at all.  Most of the time, life is “a juggle and struggle” and we are up in the air about things, but if this rose took hold, took root, grounded its greening self so grandly, I like to think that I am somehow like it, or can be. The focus on it over the past two days has revived me and I feel good.

***

And as this beautiful rosebush and I will both cease, I think of the mystery of our transmutation from what and where we were/are/will be. 

This life: gentle and harsh.
This life: care of beloveds, if we are lucky.
This life: a chance in the moment to grow.
This life: a perpetual gift that points to love beyond measure from the Source of All.  

 

I wish you peace and inspiration always.

Clare L. Martin

Motherlife

I have happy news to share with you all.  I have known for a few weeks but I got permission to share publicly a bit of news that I was conceived on Valentine’s Day in 1968!  This explains a lot about me and my almost crippling (being facetious) romanticism. Really the fact that I was a Valentine’s Day baby makes me feel all kinds of wonderful, and I thank my mom for letting me share this with the world. She did ask me however to keep the details of the actual conception confidential.  Ha!

I visited with my mother for a little while today and she read a poem to me dedicated to a deceased loved one that meant something to her.  She pulled it out of a Ziploc bag that had neatly folded sheets of newspaper clippings. I asked her, “You keep obituaries in a Ziploc bag?” She said, “Yes?” I asked her to give me a moment and I found a piece of paper in my purse and jotted the poem below down. Many of my friends know that my mother is always asking me why I haven’t written any poems about her. I have cryptically, but this one is in a new vein, and she approved it.

Mother

My mother keeps obituaries
in a Ziploc bag,
neatly-folded reminders of loss.
She always reads the obituaries
first thing in the morning,
before prayers, so that if she knows
anyone, anyone she can pray
for their souls
and the hearts of survivors.

Once at 6:00 am,
as my father handed her
the just-delivered paper,
she told me that the wife
of my favorite professor and mother
of my friend Victor, had died.
I knew Barbara, a poet herself,
had breast cancer
and was close to the end.

I dressed and peeled-out
of the driveway to Dr. V.’s house.
He was shocked to see me
and just shook his head and said,
“How? How did you know so quickly?”

My mother slips a thin
piece of newspaper
out of the plastic bag and says
it has been ten years
since my firstborn’s death.
This stops me, so I pet her dog, Demitasse.

How else could I end this poem?

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

 

 

Nothing like a silent house.

A quick note: This was just written in the last hour while a delicious-smelling gumbo is being tended to by my family and not me, which is new and greatly appreciated. My dear friend Debra and I had an exchange on Facebook earlier and one of her responses prompted this poem.

Blessings, Debra. May you have all the words that need to be written by you.

~Clare

 

 

“Nothing like a silent house”

The books unread
outnumber the ones
that enter me like vines
through brick. How the walls
peel and sigh, I will never know.
The floor muddies after storms
that come like final distractions
before death by fire.

There is cigarette smoke
in the house, but no piano.
To all of us, this place is home.
Sometimes rats shiver me
awake with their mating-grind,
and dry cries seep
out of my own sleep.
I construct fungal nests for the rats.
We know there will be
more, more, more
and they may devour us,
but we let them live: night-lit
companions, sticky and full of rotten figs.

We had a dog once, a puppy
I brought home. I was depressed
and it was something to love me,
but it disappeared after chewing
an antique chair. Gone to that place
where stables burn,
the kicking horses
locked-in, kindled with hay—

I cannot always grasp a poem.
I try and they bend
defensively as I reach. I try again
and words beat me with their wings,
leaving me ransacked and bruised.

There is nothing like a silent house,
and nothing, nothing
in this world like want.

 

©2014 Clare L. Martin

Ode to a Child Soldier

Ode to a Child Soldier

 

This child should eat
something more than water
and bone and be clothed
in something other than desolation.
This child should be sung to and sing;
be mourned and praised. He should
know that pulse within himself
when freed makes a sound
we call laughter. He should know it well.

O, my well-armed child
with pockets full of bullets,
run if you can. Bury the gun
in your hand deep and in secret,
even from yourself.

Victim, slave, innocent,
your one life
has been eviscerated
with the purpose
to kill.

I give you this, my hope,
that there are people
who want to dance with you.
There are people, who, in their beds
wonder if you are shod, if you know
your parentage and bless
you in holy, hypnogogic prayer.

 

 

This was written by me today in a session of Acadiana Wordlab led by poet Wendy Taylor Carlisle which had part of its focus on the Ode as a “song of praise.”

©2014 CLM

“Off Qi”

220px-Ki-hanja

 

Off Qi

 

  • I drop a pen on the floor twice within 30 seconds
  • I knock over an open bottle of mouthwash into the cat litter box
  • A drip of coffee like a gentle stroke from a thin sable brush on a white ceramic cup triggers anxiety, but I am wearing white!
  • I fail repeatedly at untying constrictive knots in relationships, but (stubbornly, foolishly, lovingly) keep my hands and heart open
  • Kneeling before false gods, even though I have bad knees.
  • The swerve in my step bumps me into strangers. I can’t walk in a straight line.
  • A pin-mark of black on my finger from a match with an irregularly bulbous sulfur tip; hot candle wax on that finger: the too-brief sting …
  • Emails in languages I cannot understand, but feel must be important because I understand the cognate for “poetry” in them
  • Guilt, guilt, and more guilt.
  • Getting “The Finger” in the parking lot of the fried chicken place
  • The stupidest lyrics of pop songs are sublimated messages to me
  • Roiling, radioactive waters in the kitchen: Dishzilla!

 

 

(According to Wikipedia, in traditional Chinese culture, qi (also chi or ch’i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as “natural energy”, “life force”, or “energy flow”. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of “qi” is “breath”, “air”, or “gas.”  Mindful-dish-washing might improve my qi).

Blog Tour: Process Talk

 

 

 

What are you working on?

I am working on a second manuscript of poetry with hopes for a second book. When Eating the Heart First (Press 53, 2012) was done and out in the world, I was consumed with promotion of it and became less structured/focused in my writing time. Happily though, Acadiana Wordlab had just formed that same month and regular attendance counted for me getting writing done.  The weekly sessions got me refocused and recharged. I am indebted to Jonathan Penton (Google him) for his vision and work that made this great community/activity thrive. I am the coordinator now, as Jonathan has moved onto other projects. My involvment gives me great pleasure. I give and receive. I am amazed by the wonderful writers who are growing in the Acadiana community and around our state. I have many new poems that have come out of the AW drafting sessions that will hopefully make it into the manuscript.

I have a working title for the manuscript: Broken Jesus.  That title comes from a line in my poem, “Convergence,” which appeared in Louisiana Literature, but the image itself comes from a black and white photograph of a broken marble statue of Jesus on the cross at an abandoned church. Ralph J Schexnaydre, Jr. took that photo back in the 1980s.  The image appeared on the cover of the first literary magazine in which my work was published, my university’s journal, The Southwestern Review.

I still have that journal issue (it came out in 1989, 25 years ago) but sadly Ralph doesn’t have the image anymore. I would have asked him to allow me to use it. I do have in my house a crucifix that was my grandmother’s and grandfather’s that is broken. A limb is missing from Jesus, and perhaps I can have someone photograph it for me down the road as the manuscript shapes up.

How does your work differ from others in its genre?

The work I am drawn to, the poetry that enlivens me is work that is finely crafted, visceral, meaningful, daring, brave, honest, sharp, and lyrical and I hope that my work is these things. I want to be a dauntless writer. I want to be writing new always: pushing myself, going deeper, going harder and reaching more deeply into you, the reader. I don’t know how else to answer this question because if I am not gripped by a poet’s language, attention to craft, willingness to rend hearts and punch guts, with an almost nameless kind of love for you at the same time, I usually put the book down.

Why do you write what you do?

I write to move other human beings with my words.

How does your writing process work?

I used to be strictly tied to typing rather than writing in longhand but since I have been a devotee of Acadiana Wordlab’s mostly pen-to-paper process, I am more attuned to my hands, albeit in a different way than typing letter by letter. This is something new and fun for me, to write out drafts in notebooks. It’s something I had truly not practiced except for note-taking since getting a typewriter, then a word processor, then a computer. The words are moving from my brain to my hands but my hands know more than my mouth does.

In my at-home practice, I usually start with a free-write. I don’t wait for inspiration but because I am a constant reader, I am inspired daily.  Also, those ephemeral voices (that may become lines of poetry) are a grace to which I am sharply attuned.  (It can cause problems to live so far up into your head but I manage to be grounded). A word or phrase may come to me while eating buttered grits or taking a bath, and I get up, write it down, and follow where it leads. I have rushed out of the bath naked (they’ve all seen me naked around here) and gotten on the computer to get words down.  My short term memory is weakening I think.  I also might need to get my bathrobe out of the closet.

Sometimes if I am driving and a line comes, I will pull over and voice-record it on my phone.   But the question of writing process beyond the mechanics of actually writing is that I firmly hold that I cannot call myself a writer if I am not writing. I don’t feel I deserve that name if I am not doing it in some way, and I count many ways: letter-writing, journaling, creative writing, and emails—they qualify too, if they are creatively inspired.

For many years my only writing was letter writing and it was necessary for me to have that one person as an audience.  The three friends I wrote to on a regular basis are now deceased but really I owe them deep thanks for enjoying my letters and writing back. Those correspondences saved me and my writing career, whatever that is or will be, because it kept me writing. Those friends kept me writing and encouraged my writing when my days were black pages.

 

 

*Thank you to Margaret Gibson Simon for tagging me in this fun and challenging effort to enlighten others about our ways and whys of writing. She can be read at Reflections on the Teche

 

I am tagging:

Mashael (I am air)

Helen Losse

Mona AlvaradoFrazier

Participate if you like and link back here!  I will link to you, if you are inclined to play along.

Be well, friends.

Clare

New Poem/Prayer

Prayer

 

The figs are not yet ripe but I will leave them
for the blackbirds,
cacophonous angels of soot—

Wind forces its mouth
on mine and I cannot
breathe for a moment.

Thank you for this
breath and the next.

You call me to water; water
burgeoning in bodies.

Holy, holy
How new can I be?

The fullness
of my anger would fit
in a tarnished thimble, and this is a grace.

But my skin will never
forget the sin it committed.

Your mystery traces
intricacies in disquiet.
Your dawn raises
me from the dead.

I have swallowed stillness
to quiet all turmoil.

I pray,
unravel me,
to a single thread.

 

©2014 CLM

Path

Path

 

I used to say emphatically  that “I am on a path and I do not allow much to divert me from it,” but the diversions can be good if we circle back to ourselves.

I am on a path inward through the new meditation habit I am developing. Aligned with this path is the writing path: the path that I turn to, turn inwardly toward my deepest self, to process what is in my head and to create. This divine alignment has brought me to more deeply investigate and connect to something unknowable. I have turned my heart away from my own supposed desires, and toward the Divine Whatever which is in all things.

I have been, perhaps, delusional for some time. An example of this crazy thinking is that I would think that if I made choice A, that life would become something that I thought I desired, deserved or expected. I have no clue if such choices would produce the desired results, or would have been true in any of my life choices up to this point. In reality, we can never know if we “made the right decision” until time has passed and we see ourselves and outcomes retrospectively. Sometimes the Universe/Divine Whatever gives us a heads up and we understand that we have dodged a bullet, sometimes not.

Recently I talked with a friend about some heaviness I had been experiencing. I had a fatalistic view about my situation and was very gloomy. My friend had much more optimism than I did and he said, “There are no guarantees.”  This could be taken in the negative, but really he meant it and I took it in the positive sense that all my imaginings and some of my insights were not certain or final, and that perhaps what had been weighing on my heart would resolve in a beneficial way.  He gave me optimism and a bit of hope. Still, I dare not hope too much and pray only for peace and divine light to be cast on this perceived darkness.

I am an all-feeling human, thank goodness, and mostly make my decisions based on heart-matters rather than using my head. But I want to be a mature adult and think through things and not rush headlong into who-knows-what, even though my enthusiasm for life and following my heart has taken me to wild and wonderful places.  I think in the past year, I have learned many necessary lessons the hard way. Good lessons, and I have not backslid into unrestrained heart-following that often leaves me broken. But I do believe in trusting my own intuitive spirit in my “heart of hearts” and trusting that I am cared for by the Divine Whatever. The new adult in me  is being more cautious. She is thinking, weighing and planning. She is forgiving and asking for forgiveness. These are good and reasonable things. I am finding needed balance, but more importantly, I am turning away from anxious attempts to make things happen that I perceive as the way things must be. As my friend D. says, “It is what it is.” I am letting whatever “it” is be what it *is* and letting go of my tight grasp to control.

I am on a path. I am walking it in a forward direction. I will certainly “sight-see” along the way. I am less rigid, more accepting, more peaceful and thorough it all I am stretching my heart to more openness–even after hurt, even after disappointment in other people and myself.  Having the courage to open our hearts after hurt is perhaps one of our most vital lessons and elevates us as human beings.

I am more me, more grounded. And I love you, myself and this life very much.  Peace.

Clare

 

 

Getting Clean

 

I took an hour from my day for quiet outdoors. I gazed into the slow current of the Vermilion Bayou from the vantage point of a deck overlooking the bayou at a local park.  Thin limbs floated in line with thatch and fallen leaves. Trees, on the opposite bank, were reflected in the muddy water and swayed against watery sky.

I couldn’t help thinking of my father and cried a bit. He knew this bayou well. He had fished and boated in it when he was a boy, and as an adult, he frequently he traveled it down all the way to the Vermilion Bay to get to Cypremort Point.  We had a camp there for a time when my brother and I were small children.

My father almost drowned in the Vermilion. I wrote a poem about it, “Father Almost Drowning” that first appeared in Poets & Artists and is collected in Eating the Heart First. On my father’s casket, we displayed another poem I had written about his life. In the quiet moments of this exceptional spring afternoon, I thought of how much my father has done for me since his death.

I believe we are spirits in flesh.  My father’s spirit has gently cautioned me at various times when I was running headlong into harmful choices or getting involved in matters that were detrimental. I truly believe our dead loved ones are protectors and guides.  So, I reflected on him and his otherworldly wisdom, and gave myself over to the Divine Whatever.

I knew I was being called to water today. This morning when I was bathing, I thought of one summer weekend that we had spent at the camp at Cypremort Point. There are so many memories, but this particular memory was of a time that we went to church barefoot. It was a moment that really caused great distress for me. As I recall, our shoes were wet and muddy from play. My mother wouldn’t allow us to wear them to church. That Sunday morning, we had our baths and dressed in clean summer clothes but my mom wouldn’t let us put the dirty shoes on.

I remember looking at my bare feet as I sat in the pew feeling self-conscious and strange. I looked up insistently at my mother for some kind of calm and she whispered, “God just cares that you are clean.”  I laugh at this because clean or dirty, I believe we are cared for. It was a moment that made me actually laugh out loud this morning as I was getting clean.

And I am “getting clean” in other ways. I am de-cluttering my head, cleaning the metaphorical window that offers in/out views. Even though I always have meditative moments in my bath ritual, and have sporadically used relaxation techniques and meditation techniques for years, I had not set forth to actually practice on a daily basis. Now it is a priority for me. My new steps in “getting clean” are practicing mindfulness, setting aside two-half hours for meditation, going to church when no services are being held just to sit in silence, and joining up with a group that meets for meditation.

To quiet ourselves and find the silence within, allows for changes in perspective and deeper perceptions. In these silences, images and ideas for poetry are flooding in and I have greater access to the deeper parts of myself that lend wisdom to incorporate into creative writing. It was really cool that a few weeks ago Margaret Gibson Simon (who blogs at Reflections on the Teche) led a meditation writing workshop at Acadiana Wordlab. I always long to go deeper, and I do, obviously, when I am writing and “in the zone.”

All in all, I feel energized, new, and more deeply committed to myself, my people and the Divine Whatever. I wish you peace and wellness.

Clare

P.S. I saw the trailer for David Lynch’s documentary, “Meditation, Creativity, Peace” http://meditationcreativitypeace.com/   and I really want to see it. There is a form on the website that offers anyone to send a message if you want to coordinate a screening in your hometown. I am thinking about it!

If you would like to experience something great go to http://www.meditationoasis.com/ I have been using this particular site for about a week.

Delusion

blackbird

Delusion

 

She slips out unnoticed by disguising herself as a shadow and moving slow as shadow; a lengthening mark against decreasing light.

Beyond the open field, where the patients do calisthenics each morning, there is a hedgerow and beyond that a gate used for truck deliveries. Beyond the field before someone notices. Beyond the field to the gate before they know she is missing. She slips darkly into a green abyss.

Her bare feet skim the mud; she drips dark mud as each foot rises in step. A decrepit thought enters her mind. She turns back, just momentarily; to see the brick-bone building almost in ruin. She cries seed after seed into slim furrows her toes created.

She must punch in a code to enter or exit. She does not know if she is entering or exiting. She climbs the gate. Someone shouts. She climbs down the gate. She runs. She runs until it is night. The North Star is obscured and she wouldn’t know it anyway. She wishes for a river to follow a down-flow. She knows people in the South. But, perhaps, they don’t love her anymore?

All of her imaginings, innumerable, sorrowful, soul-stealing sinister, become sheer, so that she can almost see through them (but unfortunately cannot).

It begins to rain. For every raindrop a black feather falls. Blackbird-eyes are upon her. She hunches from heaviness of the scattered wings; swallows a mouthful of naked moon.

Her days and nights culminate into the fullest sun. She murmurs: Is it or is it not, and why?

Somehow, impossibly, the world softens around her. Her idea of God softens, too. The one and only voice she possesses constellates with discorporate multitudes in harmonic undulations of holy praise.

©2014 CLM