Tag Archives: Poetry

Why I Left My Job

I spent a lovely Sunday afternoon yesterday, eating, walking, gossiping and sharing projects with Sister Writers, June Gillam and Leslie Rose.  For some reason I got started venting about an incident that happened a few years back–all part of the ongoing healing process, I guess.  So today I thought I would share a poem I wrote at the time.  It’s called:

Why I Left My Job

 The other driver and I

retreated to neutral corners

to wait for the police.

 

I had a cell phone

the size of a shoe box.

The other driver had a newer,

tinier model

that fit in the palm

of her hand. She stood

on her corner, talking,

talking, staring

at me, and flapping

her free hand.

 

My boyfriend didn’t

have a cell phone

so I couldn’t call him.

I called my Mom

on my shoe box.

She said she’d come

but I told her, no,

don’t be silly;

I was okay.

Neither of us mentioned

it was the anniversary

of my father’s death.

But each of us knew

the other was thinking

about it.

 

A police officer arrived

alone in a patrol car.

The other driver and I

both ventured toward him.

He said he’d speak to each

of us separately.

The other driver

stepped forward quickly

with narrowed eyes

glaring at me, clutching

her purse, as if

she expected me

to snatch it.

They went to her corner.

 

A man from the house

on my corner

came out and asked

if I was okay.

He had a spiked

dog collar

around his neck

and a ring

through his nose—

a big ring, like

the brass ring

on a merry-go-round.

I’m okay, I said.

Do you want a Pepsi?

he asked.

No, I’m okay, I repeated.

But it was nice of you

to ask.

 

The police officer came

to talk to me. He asked

my name and I gave him

my driver’s license.

He spent some time

writing on a pad.

He asked me what happened,

and I told him she’d run the stop sign.

I swerved, I said, I tried to miss her

but she pulled right out in front of me.

 

Just then the other driver sauntered over.

I called a tow truck, she said.

Her voice was cheerful,

almost lyrical.

“I can’t believe it, you know,

twenty years with a spotless

record, twenty years, and now this,

twenty years, what can I say?”

 

She laughed, shaking her head

so her long dark hair swayed

like in a shampoo commercial,

and in that moment I hated her.

She was at a dance club

or a country club,

coquettish and flirtatious,

on a sunny

patio drinking sangria.

Worse than that:

she was just like me,

seeking some kind of approval

as if the officer should tell her

it was okay that she pulled out in front of me,

no big deal, don’t worry

about it, Ma’am, happens all the time.

 

I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly through my nose.

 

The police officer turned to her.

“We need some privacy, Ma’am.

You had your turn.”

 

“Oh. Of course.” She sashayed away.

 

“How fast were you going?” he asked me.

 

“I don’t know,” I said, “but

I couldn’t have been going

more than 15 or 20 miles an hour.

This is my neighborhood.

This is where I live.

I wouldn’t speed in my own neighborhood.”

 

The officer nodded and smiled a little.

“You should know: the other lady

admitted she was in the wrong.”

 

“She did?” I was stunned.

“She didn’t say anything to me.”

I was batting back tears now.

I didn’t tell him she’d been rude

to me; had demanded to see

my license, had even reached into

my wallet trying to grab

my insurance card.

I looked down

at my hands, fingering the zipper

on my purse. “I wanted her

to apologize,” I admitted.

 

He looked down at his pad.

“She’s not going to apologize,”

he said curtly.

 

He had me sign his report,

told me I could go.

So I did; I didn’t call

a tow truck. My car

looked fine. But it wasn’t fine.

The damage was

so extensive

the insurance company

refused to fix it.

The car was totaled.

 

This happened well over a decade ago.

But what happened this year

at my work place—the circumstances

were very similar:

it was my own neighborhood.

My classroom was totaled.

No one apologized to me.

 

 

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Bridget’s Feast Day

Sure, this weekend brings us SuperBowl Sunday, but also something more important than that:  it’s the Celtic festival of Imbolc, the traditional celebration of the beginning of spring, also known as St. Bridget’s Feast Day.  My thanks to Anne Hill, President of Creative Content Coaching and host of Dream Talk Radio, whose facebook post reminded me of this holiday.  I have to admit, most years I let it slip by unnoticed.

This weekend Anne is hosting a virtual poetry festival in honor of Brigid, the Celtic Goddess of Poetry.  If you have a prayer of praise, petition to the goddess, or wishes for the Earth, feel free to post a link on Anne’s page here:

http://gnosiscafe.com/gcblog/2014/01/31/9th-annual-brigid-poetry-festival/

Since Brigid is the goddess of poetry, it might be a good time for all us writers to send Brigid our good wishes and ask her to bless our endeavors this coming year!

My own contribution, a poem of praise to Bridget in her many forms, was something I wrote in 1985 after visiting Ireland with my mother, my aunt and my cousin.  I spell the name of the goddess/saint as my great-grandmother Bridget Cassidy Moss from County Donegal spelled her name.  I just read on Wikipedia that this is an “anglicized” spelling, which of course I find horrifying!–so if I’m wrong about this spelling, I leave it to one of my more knowledgeable Irish cousins to help me out here!

And so–Happy Imbolc to All!  As one who has many eclectic beliefs, I urge you to take a few moments this weekend to say a prayer to either the goddess, the saint, or both–your choice.  Remember, the NFL is not a deity.

Bridget

I was conceived by a woman

of the Fir Bolg

who caressed the paper thin bark

of a lone birch tree

and its small green leaves

fluttered like the hands of children

making shadows in the sun.

I was borne by a woman

of the Tuatha de Dannan

who cradled me

in the blue cup of a lupine

carried me in a wreath of fresh blossoms

she braided into her blonde hair.

The Celts named me

in contemplative dreams

of flute notes and turf smoke.

I stoked the dying embers

of the hearth fire

in the dampness of morning

and Oisin, in that hazy half hour

between wakefulness and sleep,

tasted poems on his tongue.

But the Christians say

my body was conceived

in the last hours of darkness

on a Beltane morning.

At daybreak

a cloudburst

cracked

the sky

and raindrops

caught in my eyelashes,

fog hung like heavy cream

thick and cold

in my throat.

I retreated to a peat fire,

spread cut river grass to dry,

then wove it into a cross

I presented to my father.

Finally I followed Patrick

to Slane,

sought abby walls to shelter me

from bitter chill

of a waning moon.

Still music of a Gaelic phrase

swells my lungs

and curls my lips.

They cannot silence me.

I cast my cloak onto the wind

and like fire it spreads

enveloping the hills and loughs

with a brilliance

even the Welsh women see

across the water.

Call me goddess or saint

but my face is always beautiful.

Nancy Schoellkopf

1985

Delta Breeze

IMG95050070

After a week where the temperature topped 105 degrees each day with little cooling at night, we are all so grateful to welcome back the Delta Breeze, the delightful wind that courses up from San Francisco Bay along the Sacramento River to grace our valley with a natural air conditioner on blessed summer evenings.

I wrote this poem over a decade ago.  It was published in a collection put out in 2001 by Sacramento’s first poet laureates Dennis Schmitz and Viola Weinberg, entitled, The Sacramento Anthology:  One Hundred Poems.  Hope you all like it.

Delta Breeze

Tonight you sit on the front steps

facing south

beckoning me

with your dry lips

your moist fingers.

I am already here

but I am still

and you do not recognize me.

I press against your skin,

a sweaty companion:

I am hot and heavy handed;

you crave a lighter touch.

Yet I fill your nose and mouth

slip into your lungs

course through your veins.

I drift in.

I drift out.

I am conscious

of everything

and nothing.

You imagine me with human emotions:

anger or tenderness.

I have no desire, jealousy, passion.

But I know joy.

I whisper to the poplars

as I braid their leafy hair

in the meadow.

I fill the bones of the raptor,

glide above

the sequoia and pine,

dive into a red

and brown canyon.

I mate with the river,

gurgling

through the gills

of salmon and trout.

You give me many names:

zephyr, tempest, squall.

I roll over your tongue

as you call me.

In August

I am a god in this valley.

At 9 PM

I stretch my heavy

muscles and rise

creating space

for another manifestation

of myself.

From San Francisco Bay

I rush

along the spread fingers

of the Sacramento River.

You pull back your curtains,

open your windows

in the darkness

and You welcome Me

like Bethlehem

welcoming starlight.

 

Tending My Muse

yellow rose

It’s been a year now since I’ve retired from teaching, and I’m sure it will surprise no one when I say retirement is GREAT!  Every now and then a friend approaching retirement age will ask, “Do you ever get bored?”  My response to that is an unqualified “Heck no!”

Sometimes someone will counter with, “Yes, but you have a hobby. . .”

A hobby?  No, I say gently, my writing is not a hobby.  It’s a vocation.  I was a poet before teaching, I am a poet after teaching, and God/Goddess willing, I will be a poet for many life times to come.

But I do have a secret:  sometimes I have as much trouble getting myself to write as I did when I was working.  Hmmm—looking back at that sentence, I feel an urge to paraphrase Eckhart Tolle in The Power of Now:  I have trouble getting myself to write?  Sounds like there are two of me, and if that’s the case, one of us doesn’t exist!

When I first retired, I often said to friends and family, “Oh, I haven’t gotten myself into a routine yet, but I will soon.”  Again sounds like half of me is an animal that the other half is itching to domesticate and whip into shape!  Well, guess what?  Both sides of me are coming to realize that it ain’t gonna happen.

Two and a half years ago I moved to a house with a big yard, so I started a vegetable garden.  There are seasons in the garden, times that require a great deal of labor and vigilance, times to enjoy the bounty and times when the land lies fallow.

And so it is with my writing.  For decades I had to squeeze writing time into any open space I could find:  an hour before work, a half hour in a coffee house before meeting friends for dinner at the restaurant across the street, a few lines jotted in my notebook while my students were at recess.  This past year I wanted to find some sacred time for my writing, an inviolable hour or two each day when I would set pen to page.  But that hasn’t happened. I still squeeze my writing in between weeding the veggie patch, cleaning the cat’s litter box, harvesting the plum tree, watching TV and darting out to have lunch with friends.  Yet I’m writing more than I have in years.  Something is working!

In Care of the Soul, James Moore says caring for the soul begins with observation, a word, he says, that “comes from ritual and religion.  It means to watch out for but also to keep and honor. . .”  He likens it to tending sheep:  “. . .we keep an eye on its (the soul’s) sheep, on whatever is wandering and grazing. . .”

I observe and tend my writing this way, as if my muse was a flock of fluffy, multicolored animals.  In much the same way I tend my garden, and year past I tended my students when I was teaching.

But now I am also venturing deeper into the world of social media.  I am tending this blog, a facebook page and a twitter account.  There is an inevitability about this, an agreement among those working in publishing today that we authors must build a platform to display our work, to show we can adequately market our wares.  So here I am tending this new field.  This is not easy for an introvert like myself, and I am very open to suggestions.

So welcome!  Come in!  Let’s grow a garden together.

Please tell me about your experiences in social media.  I am eager to learn!

Welcome to April! It’s National Poetry Month!

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED APRIL 5, 2013

Welcome to April!  It’s National Poetry Month!

I started writing poetry nearly forty years ago, when I was in college.  I started getting published when I was in my 20s, learning to make my way in the world outside my parents’ house.  My poetry and I were young together.

Poetry for me was short, intense and immediate, like youth.  As I became more settled in life so my poetry did too:  it became longer, rounder, fuller, heavier, more filled with story, until it couldn’t be contained anymore.  Finally it stretched itself out and became a novel.  That’s what I’m focusing on now—writing novels.  But I want forever to be a poet who writes novels.  I want poetry to claim me.  I want poetry to find me worthy.

When I first started writing poetry I wrote without form.  I wrote what came out of my hand, without concern for rhyme or meter.  People often told me that my poetry painted beautiful pictures but the truth is I’m not much good at visualization.  I often find the visual too stimulating, too overwhelming.  I’ve always been an auditory learner.  When I’m writing I choose words because I like the way they sound, I like their rhythm.  Even in free verse, it’s about the sound to me.  It’s about the music.

So let’s post poems this month!  Please share your poems with me.

Here’s a poem I wrote many years ago.  It was published in the anthology, Unlacing:  Ten Irish American Women Poets, edited by Patricia Monaghan (Fireweed Press, 1987).

How to Find the Muse

Think about the sky.

It’s a new blue tablecloth

and a big hipped woman

has carelessly dribbled

gobs of whipped cream

all over it.

There she has set down

an orange bowl.

Smell cinnamon and coriander

as you scoop

spicy carrots

and squash from the bowl

to your mouth.

Bite into a raw cucumber

to cool the fiery curry

on your tongue.

Now drum your fingertips

on the table.

Listen to a jazz quartet.

Tap your feet

on a black and white

tiled floor.

When she starts to sing

those torchy blues

press your lips together

and hum

until you taste sweetened cream

spilling from the sky.

Click on the comments space and share a poem, either one of your own, or one you love!