"dazzle gradually"

"Dazzle Gradually" 2017 poems, paintings, new art & photography--a diary, a discipline, a delight. Read over my shoulder as I post my unedited poetry ---you can see it in the raw or get my first book and see how the work evolves with new books rolling out next year.

Polly Alice

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Grandpa's Lair

This poem is a mix of styles.  I played with alliteration, metaphor, and simile.  Does writing a poem from a children's perspective make it a poem for children?  I have been wondering how to find the voice in a poem for children that is not overly fake or adult.  Will adults read poetry about childhood? The best children's poetry I have read have humor.  Do children read poetry that is not humorous?  These are some of the questions I've considered as I wrote this poem about my Grandfather and his basement office; an workroom he developed when he retired from ministry as a pastor to sell Christian books.  One of the secret doors in the poem was his office full of preaching books and theology references buried like a time capsule behind the laundry room wall-- that will wait for another poem.

Grandpa's Lair

I tip toe past the stale kitchen,
through the dingy door, and down
the worn wooden steps, like tree roots,
to Grandpa’s burrowed den-- its glowing arms
protect him from the bottles and boxes
of the darker basement’s lair
the drizzling laundry drain, three secret doors,
and a drawbridge for the dragon
named Chevrolet, who feeds on scarlet
berry bushes that growby  the driveway.

An old typewriter parks in the back corner.
The keys go click, clack, cluck
and click, tack, tuck-stuck
when I press too many at once.
An iron owl stares at me from its gargoyle perch,
when I write stories about bears making
friends and having adventures.

I sit on an old orange rug playing dead on the floor
harmless yarn, it minds me of an old tabby cat.
Piles upon piles of his former friends
look like shabby lion skins tied to Grandpa's thorny throne.

His desk is decked with handles on drawers,
files, pigeon holes, stacked shelves--
a faltering alter of white paper and black ink--
ink scribbles in a hundred flying voices.
Empty envelopes nest and flutter like white birds,
their coos mix with voices from an unseen audience
black and red faces and flags of all nations
hanging in a battered bag of postage stamps.

Grandpa dangles a gold dagger
its point catching the bare bulb’s light.
He slices evenly, ripping an envelope
through the gullet.

Grandpa, were you a pirate? I ask him.
His eyes twinkle and he lets loose a smile.
I was always a fisherman,
a fisher of men.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

It's the nothing

It's the nothing time
the time between
it's neither summer,
winter, or spring

The nothing time
when the sky isn't blue
the sun isn't yellow
no green grass
covered in dew

It's the end of
the long gray, gray, gray
Lent where some gave up
chocolate, meat, or mince pie

But I, I gave up
Lent for Lent,
and my oh my how the
time rushed right by

The tulips are poking out
an orange haze covers gray
Spring is here
almost to the day

and I say hooray,
I say hooray!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Baby peek-a-boo games

I'm gonna catch a monkey
ee ee oo
I'm gonna catch a monkey
ee ee oo
I'm gonna catch a monkey
ee ee oo
I've caught a monkey
and it's you!

Slippery, sloppery banana
      I've caught you!
dipperty, dopperty banana   
     I've caught you!
flippity, floppity banana
    I've caught you!
Now don't fall down.
No, don't fall down.

Patty-cake, patty cake,
Diaper man.
I'm changin' your diaper as fast as I can.
Roll it up,
and throw it in the can!
Now your done
and that's the end.

It's alright, it's okay.
Things won't always be this way.
It's alright, it's okay.
Everything is fine.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Seed of Fire

Part of a new poem appears below about our house fire last year.  The artwork is called "and the fire did not touch them..." from an art show in 2002.  I am working on a second book of poetry with the same title, Seed of Fire.

Seed of fire


In the cool cellar, under light
of a high half window,
I pull out marigold seeds from the pips--
Thin black lashes rimmed in terra cotta,
they sift through my fingers like the ashes
from the summer fire.
Their scent rises like smoke,
a sweet trust of their
former cingent glow.


Baby and I trumped through winter mud.
I tugged the marigold tree out by her roots
swung the bramble like a reliquery of incense
threshing the sweet heads.
Seeds filled the air with yellow confetti
Seeds stuck to my red wool coat, the color of marigolds
until my buttons sprouted heads like red suns.
Seeds in our hair and on our faces,
over the whole garden.
Seeds awash with flame,
seeds survived by fire,
seeds of humble power,
seeds for every lost hour.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Beer Cantos 2008

At age thirty-two I've finally reached the "sophomore year" of my forced enrollment into the sometimes terrifying, but always adventurous, school of hard knocks that is called adulthood: 
I turned down buying cool jeans with blue sequins up to my thigh for plain black ones; I have a mommy haircut, and have graduated to reading glasses; I am never carded when I buy a bottle of wine to make boeuf borguignon.  I gave up beautiful shoes for sensible ones nine years ago.  You think I've sold out or that I'm sad?  I'm not sad--  I'm ecstatic. 
I've graduated from being that nervous kid digging in the trashcan for the retainer into that know-it-all fourteen year-old who confidently leaves the retainer at home.
I'm happy because although I stopped growing taller almost two decades ago, my mind didn't.  New thoughts bloom like Dorothy's lunch pail on the lunch pail tree in the Land of Oz.  I pluck them when they are ripe and unwrap something I've never been quite able to make out before.
Poetry is my new favorite way of unpacking thoughts.  I believe poets are just people whose senses are set to overload.  Writing is how we process the noise. 
Lord Byron, a contemporary of Keats, wrote his famous work, Don Juan, for over one hundred stanzas without finishing it.  (Maybe poets just say too much.)  I remember the first time I bravely opened a collection of Byron's poems and read two stanzas only to declare, "This poem is just about beer!"  Yes, a poem can really be about anything, even beer.

Beer Cantos 2008

Drink me is a curious label
to put on a glass.
You are stupid if you do
everything a label says.
However, I learn five impossible
things before breakfast from what
 labels don't say.

Sedona, Arizona,
Your Ozian Wonderland.
of red fingered mountains
takes my breath away.
If only I were a girl
and not a tired, old mama . . . 

Instead, I will be Alice at this table.
I will toast the White Rabbit,
with his present pocket watch,
and our arrival to the rainbowed
rock formations with my
first sip of

Doc's Pale Ale
with the afterthought of
green olives,
the soft hint of new white sneaker,
and sunbeam dust,

floating forever upward
as I wonder

how will I
ever learn to drink
this stuff.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gray five

Gray five

When the sky is the color of a Blue Jay's ass,
and the ground is more mud than grass
when clouds stick thick as old chewing gum
I will mail myself to the milkish sun,
I'll place a stamp on my rear end,
and pray to God I don't get sent back again.


Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Riddle me

Riddle me this

There are four of you on the earth
the dice never roll in your favor.
You are unbroken yet bent
around each field of grass,
each pane of glass,
and the outstretched
hands of every quarter hour.
If I am in you,
I am alone.
If I leave you,
I am gone.

What are you?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sushi Plate

Sushi Plate
I know you miss
raw sushi plate,
but even plain,
sushi great!
I love just rice
and nori wrap.
Dip it in
soy sauce bath
Cram whole thing
 in at once--
eat some sushi
 in your lunch.

First Book of Sushi (World Snacks)

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Grey day 1999

Grey and gray, both acceptable spellings for that dull colorless color I can't stop writing about this time of year.  I've often preferred grey, because "e" looks better in "grey eyes."  I've even read that one spelling has a more positive connotation, though I believe it's the usage not the "e."  
Painters know gray is made from two complements.  The most resplendent red will turn to black when mixed with it's perfect opposite, a verdant green. Lent is like that.  We try to beautify our souls; perfect our personalities, and there is seemingly little result.  Our inner opposing dialogue turns to gray.  Gray to me is the color of evil: friendly, calm, and comforting at first until there is really the question of a hidden, unrecognizable underlay.  The foundation I'd love to confront, if I could only find it, and prove whether it were good, bad, or worth considering altogether. I guess I could say, gray is opaque--the color of confusion.
Lent in this part of the hemisphere is often gray.  "I'm tired of clouds, rain, snow, and fog..." my daughter summed it up well two days ago.  She moped on the couch in despair until I brought out rainy day watercolors:  White and yellow wax crayons on paper shone through gray cloudy watercolors no matter how much paint we applied.  I hoped to send a subtle message to her, and the universe, that the sun is shining and will shine again--even when we can't see it.
Lent, however, is the time for gray and troubled thoughts.  A time of lament even, and especially, over our own imperfections.  My favorite writer to quote on these subjects is Abraham Herschel:
"If a man has beheld evil, he may know that is was shown to him in order that he learn his own guilt and repent, for what is shown to him is also within him."

Grey Day 1999 (revised)

A still
grey light
hides wintered trees.

Flashes of rust,
that faded green fire,
bleary the window pane.

Their branches
reaching to
quiet light.

The glass cools
the war within
warming my

Friday, March 19, 2010

Last Easter

Last Easter in PA 2007

It’s Easter today,
and my poem is short
because we have a toddler.
But she is sweet with chocolate
at the corners of her mouth.

We missed the Maundy Thursday
service this year
where the beautiful old brethren sing
and wash each other’s feet. 
But we were with family.

I read the foot washing story to Sophie.
She stared at picture of Jesus kneeling.
But how could her Christmas baby Jesus grow
up so quickly?

Good Friday we returned from a long trip
in search for a new home.
You were depressed at the church service
which is about darkness and death anyway.
But I understand you want more purpose
in your life. You want to be empowered to
help others grow from darkness to light.

Saturday we had pizza with enough cheese
 to cancel our Lenten fast early.
But we ate it at Good Neighbors. 
Where the verse on the menu quotes,
I am the bread of life.
Even pizza which we tear through quickly
and to the full, is like his body
that was broken for us.

Sunday is Easter. 
And today I get up early to make Rye
Bread for your father.
I add in the yeast
If only our spirits would rise up
like this bread, soaring  on easter egg wings
into the new dawn.

It’s Easter,
 and so we go to our last service
at the old church-- to say good bye. 
My artwork will be there. 
Not much will be said about the192
square feet of hand painted silk
—it’s only decoration.

We will come home again to family
and move on to a view
with more elbow room.

Let’s take Jesus with us
when we move.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

First Easter 2006

The third in my series of annual poems 

First Easter (2006)

It’s Easter,
and so we go to church.
We dress the baby in little
white shoes with flowers.

Today we will take home
an Easter Lily.
I will plant it in the flower bed
next to the bleeding hearts.

Jesus bled for us, and
by his stripes we are healed.

I will bake the Easter bread
with orange, poppy seed,
and white sugar

I will braid the cords of dough
into a crown with Easter eggs
instead of thorns.

Soon six years will have passed
like one long childhood summer
full of adventures,
scrapes, and burns.

Today here in your Easter
basket will be this poem. 
my poem,
just to say
all is well in the world
when I’m with you.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Easter Again 2004

Easter is just around the corner.  Every year for 10 years, I've written a poem for the Easter basket.  Part questioning theology; part joke; part state of the union address, this tradition is my favorite of the year.  To see the first Easter Basket poem visit March 14th.

Easter Again 2004

It’s Easter again,
and so I clean the bathroom
in case we have visitors.

Laura Croft, Tomb Raider goddess, wishes us
a Happy Good Fiday
as she looks for her father
on our twelve inch screen.

Thankfully we’ve already found
our Heavenly Father--
at least we try to believe every day
he took on skin and bone in utero
only to pop out Son of Man”
“King of the Universe.”

The grave held him
for three days,
two hundred eighty.

On this Easter Sunday
the Father holds us.
I’m glad. . . no,
overflowing with joy,
to spend my life with you
sharing M&Ms out of this basket.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Easter Basket Poem I

Every Easter for the past ten years I've written an Easter Poem; it sounds dashing, romantic, even scholarly--it's not--as usual it was lack of funds. I told myself cutting up my own "grass" out of old wrapping paper was bravely pioneering.  
The first year my husband and I were married, we found a little white basket for fifty cents at a garage sale.  It was hardly large enough to hold the small bag of candy I set inside.  "I know, I can write a poem, it's free!"  I said to myself.  That's where the tradition began, the poem taking on its own form.  Usually my only poem of the year, I crafted it to capture the essence of our lifestyle.  Each year was completely different: in another state, another strange living situation in someone's basement or a Victorian/dumpy apartment.  The poem was my constant weaving in an inexplicable life asking questions: What is Easter really about?  Are there any connections between this Easter basket, our life, and our spiritual journey? What does chocolate say about love and faith? 
Easter is really my favorite holiday.  I've bounced around from Palm Sunday to St. Patrick's day, but Easter is really what I've loved all along.  And a Spring Easter at that: the chilly sunrise service in a light blouse when earmuffs were called for; crocus and tulip tips pushing through snow.  The whole hemisphere promises to beat winter again this one more time.  After this winter, I'd rather never see another one.  Here is the first poem of many, and this year's Easter poem, only two weeks away, may be the hardest yet.

Easter Basket (2001)
Jesus was crucified today,
and so we vacuum the
green church carpet.

Channel 8 wishes us
a blessed Good Friday.

Jesus was  buried,
so you didn’t have to go to work today
but you got paid anyway.

That’s grace--like the warning
the police officer gave us
instead of a ninety-four dollar fine.

Jesus rose again from the grave,
so we get up for the early service
and boil eggs,

and I give you this Easter basket
with chocolates to tell you
all my strength comes from this--

Jesus rose again
and all our eggs are double yokes.
for this, I am grateful.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Night Poems

"My mind has a tornado in it
and a harmonica man,
and a whole city
under the moon."

A few lines from a short children's poem titled My Heart Is a Cricket by by Susan Marie
Swanson from her book Getting Used to the Dark: 26 Night Poems. Hearing her speak at
Hamline University last summer was extraordinary.  She opened up true life, personal stories
from her heart about life as a writer and as a human.  Working on my own poetry these last three
months has given me new sight into the beauty of her poetry.  I enjoy the childish wonder of nature
Susan Marie Swanson voices in her poems, and they are some of the same themes I'd like to write
for children too.  Her recent book, In the Night House,  won the Caldecott award for illustration, a childhood dream of mine.  Now I'd be happy just to write a good poem myself that could inspire such beautiful illustration.
Here is my poem below:

Night Poem

Night sleeps on top of quadled covers
she curls around the lump that is my feet
I hear her purr

Night jumps off the bed after I'm asleep
with a soft frumpity scat
she's sneaking away, I know her

Night creeps under the black shadow
of the moon blist
eyes glowing eerily greener

Night breathes in the wandering wilds,
the spik-ed grass,
and every sleeping flower

Night returns in the musked dawn
back to the braided kitchen rug
to dream hour upon hour