Posts Tagged 'poetry'

Celebrating Poetry Month

Yes, Poetry Month is here.

I’m kicking off my celebration by sharing my most recent poem, which I created as part of my ongoing commitment to writing along with my students. I challenged myself to write a narrative, a genre I struggle with as a writer.  This poem is an amalgam of many childhood memories, all wound together around  one particular event.  I hope you find your own way to celebrate poetry this month, and every month.

South Haven Summer, Remembered

As soon as we built it
it melted away
made of sugar sand and
memory

In the heat of summer, the time came.
Loading the blue and white van, the
envy of the neighborhood,
for the hours and hours ride to South Haven.

Pestered by brothers, “don’t cross the center line” in the back seat,
Navigating for Dad from the pages of Rand McNalley’s Atlas,
“don’t take us on anything less than 4 lanes…”
sleeping on the floor of the van, with the crumbs and wrappers and smelly socks
to listen to the hypnotizing hum of the
Tires as they motored across miles and miles

We pulled into the parking lot,
and from the first step out of the car we knew.
Sand sticking to the soles of our feet,
mixed with the painful asphalt gravel.
Walking on tiptoes through mazes of close houses
‘til we saw the wraparound porch,
smelled bowls of pasta with Uncle Bill’s homemade pesto,
heard sounds of grandparents laughing,
the new baby cousin’s cries,
splashes from the outdoor shower,
clinking cold bottles of Rolling Rock toasting another summer together at
The Old Kentucky Home, once a boarding house, numbers on the bedroom doors,
We gathered.

We traveled there every year, around Blueberry Festival time.
Countless cousins bring their pinky Irish skin to the Michigan shore.
Family dinners, sandy sandwiches, Belgian Waffles on Sunday morning,
the blueberry fun run, the blueberry hunt, blueberry pie eating contests,
find, wear, cook and eat any thing blue
and our own sports too: tennis tournaments, Marathon shopping afternoons for the ladies,
staring at the boats in amazement,
Then, after dinner, ice cream at that little place out on highway 73, the one with lines so
long they stretched out into the corn field next door.
It was the same every summer, it seemed.

But this year, my Dad decided, would be different.
The year before we entered the 1st Annual Blueberry Festival Sand Castle Building Contest.
We waited for the victors to be announced….fifth place, then fourth, each call of another
name made
us closer and closer to being the winner. Then first place….But our name never came.
Next year, Dad said, would be different.

He started planning only days after we lost, sketching, designing,
going overboard, as Dad was prone to do once he got a project in his head.
The ideas would explode from the kitchen table as he read the paper…
What do you think about a walrus? An octopus?
Or from the front seat as we hurtled down the highway…
A mermaid? An alligator?

Something more fun.
A popsicle. That’s it!
A sandcastle in the shape of a popsicle, with a big bite taken out.

It was settled, then. And then became now,
Contest morning.

Rustling in the old boarding house began just before daybreak.
A motley pile of tools mounted – buckets, spatulas, squirt bottles, shovels,
bottles, colanders, forks and rulers,
Dad’s precious plans, felt tip scribble on yellow legal,
drawn from above and every angle,

Timeline sketched down to the minute
we hit the beach to stake our claim. Not too distant from the shoreline,
so we wouldn’t have to walk so far for water.
Still, not so close that all the teeny tiny kids, enthralled with their own castles,
trample over ours.

Megaphone bellowed at the appointed hour,
families scattered across the shore
we built.

We piled and planed, shaped and subtracted,
measured and centered, a bit more here, a bit less there.
Sweat and sunscreen poured.
We examined from all sides,
five hours later, it was perfect.

Judging seemed to take forever, then we waited.

Fifth place, family division….not us
Fourth place, no…was this going to be just like last year?
Third place….
There it was. All that work got us third place.
We jumped, we yelled, we cried, we laughed.
You’d have thought we’d won
a million bucks, but
third place was good enough for us.
Our name scrawled in a book
Yes, our family was here.
Celebration lunch followed by popsicles, hours later

We went back to the beach after a long table dinner
for our nightly tradition –
swinging on the swingset that went way too high.
Watching the sun slip through every shade of orange –
from whole to part to sliver to shadow,

We walked down to see the popsicle… our popsicle,
all that was left was a
pile of footprints.
The castle, impermanent
our victory, timeless.

It’s been years now,
long since our last drive across those miles and miles
Cousins have scattered like overripe blueberries dropped from branches.
The Old Kentucky home, once warm with joy and family,
is now carried away rubble. hit by lightning, ruined by mold,
but I know what remains.

Dad, you made up your mind that our family would not repeat history’s mistakes.
Instead of being torn apart by wills and jealousies,
we would build our family out of small moments
like the blueberry hunt,
the ice cream place out on highway 73,
roller coasters, hot dog joints, swings, and sunsets every summer
splashes from the shower.

And the popsicle.

I remember our popsicle, Dad.
Yes, as soon as we built it
It melted away
made of sugar sand and
memory

The sand may be gone, sugar sweet as it was, but the memory remains.
One of many foundations to a family well loved
and monuments to a life well lived –
one that you built.

-Beth Gleeson Friese, March 2011

New Posts at the Georgia Library Media Association Blog

I’ve recently contributed a couple of new posts over at the GLMA Blog:

Thinking Ahead to National Poetry Month

and

Telling Your Library’s Story

I hope you’ll take time to check them out!

Celebrating Poetry Month

It’s no secret that “I geek poetry” in a big way. I love to read poems. I begin every class I teach by reading a poem.

I also love to write poems, and I have many poems tucked away from my time as a teen, on and off, up to now.

When I take research notes, I take notes in poems.  It is just the way my brain works.  Writing a structured narrative is painfully difficult for me, but poetry flows.  (Not necessarily good poetry, mind you, but poetry nonetheless.)

So, I did have a bit of a spring in my step yesterday as poetry month began.  Seems poems are popping up everywhere.

I was thinking I would try to write a poem a day this month, but I knew I would fall behind and feel frustrated.  So, I’m just going to try to do one poetry-related activity a day – read one, write one, revise one, post one, something. I’m already a day behind (!) so here goes.

This is a poem I wrote in the Spring of 2007 in a poetry pedagogy course taught by the amazing JoBeth Allen.  Early in the semester, JoBeth handed out random buttons and we wrote poems around them. We had many such exercises and inspirations that semester, but this one seemed to stick with me as a challenge.  After many years of avoiding rhyme in my poems, this poem became a place for me to experiment in developing rhymes that weren’t trite or forced.  I’ll let you be the judge of my success. As with most of my writing, it is somewhat loosely based on my life.  I hope this poem makes you smile a bit. Happy poetry month!

The Family Egg Hunt

Every year on Easter day

Be it April, May or March,

“The Gleeson Family Egg Hunt” came

once we got home from church.

But first, the family picture!

Mom would lovingly remind.

“One, two, three!  Smile!  Cheese!”

Now we’ve got eggs to find!

I would shimmy off my tights,

shoes, gloves, and hat were stripped

“on your mark, get set, now go!”

and off we went, full clip.

Crawling under the bushes

in our overgrown backyard,

there always was one or two eggs

that Daddy hid too hard.

Big brother ruffled old dead leaves,

crawled past the spigot drip

“Found It!” he yelled.  “Awwww!” I screamed.

Out poked my bottom lip.

My parents stood relieved as

he reached his left arm out.

One less smelly rotting egg

to later worry about.

He strained and squirmed for every inch

so clumsy in his girth

digging in his size twelve feet

and grabbing at the earth.

He reached and finally “got it!”

Then “POP!” the button flew.

He didn’t have to say what happened –

for we already knew.

“OW!” as the jagged fence edge

scraped his plump arm red.

“?*!@?*!” as the craggy unpruned branch

smacked him on the head.

“Squelch” went his new loafers

swallowed up by mud.

White polyester covered bottom

hit the ground – – THUD!

“His Easter outfit’s RUINED!”

I gasped, so horrified.

“He’d grow out if it anyway”

and smiling, Mommy sighed.

And all this for the trophy

in the corner of the yard.

Daddy should’ve known better than

to hide that egg so hard.


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