Cosmic Twelve

Church bells chime longest, resonating fullest at hour twelve,

reminding us to pause, gather, or simply look up.

Cinderella’s slippers remained enchanted come midnight,

allowing her escape from servitude and despair.

Childhood’s year before thirteen marks a bittersweet passage

from innocence to responsibility.

Stars guide our actions with zodiac signs ordered

for each year’s passing phases while

We embrace symbols of ourselves

in Asian astrology. 

Such is the Cosmic Order of 

1X12, 2X6, 3X4 with logical, progressive complexity.

Do we blindly judge and blame in a fearful Witching Hour

In our juries of twelve?

Universal patterns pale to the power within us.

 

 

 

Swallowtails’ Dancing

Gentle Swallowtail bows and skips, whirls and dives, sunlight glistening August’s golden sun.

Flittering on the ground’s twigs, shadows, and fallen petals

Suddenly up, up, upward this reeler soars toward the flowers above, catch wind’s breath.

Catching the wind’s breath, this tiny being fleetly moves on.

Such is the moment captured in the mind’s eye,

Yet Swallowtail survives in thunderstorms, too, its tiniest velvet wings

Taking on water then flicking drops onto waiting grass below.

Stronger than the winds yet sailing on them, Swallowtail skitters a light jig.

No migration comes for this little one:

What the world brings is what Swallowtail accepts.

Opposing spring’s showers and summer’s beams,

Winter’s chill sparks a new turn of metamorphosis.

The fleeting dance slows, halts, and comes to slumber,

A death comes for one in the darkness of winter while

New wings build within a chrysalis, a rhythm for dance

Already building to a music nature will provide.

 

 

Belief in Yellow

A glaze settled over her vision, tinting everything a murky brown.
This winter no longer seemed gray but the sepia tones of daguerrotype
Images: old-fashioned, detached, sullen in the moment captured.

So many big fears had abated after the accident. 
Still, these small shifts of non-reality churned the dread
That life would be forever altered, halted, and haunted
By sensations beyond her control,
Her own body turned against her.

Such a small decision made resolute in depth --
A focus on color: just one.
Her favorite color yellow would be her guide, symbol,
theme, subconscious influence, mantra, and promise of
return
But where and how?
A focus on what she new would hint of the brightness
an egg yolk at morning
a daffodil delivered in the vase by her bed
her favorite childhood doll now resting in her arms
She couldn't see the yellow, all muddled with everything else
But she knew it was there
Believed,
Looked,
Imagined, and 
Trusted.

One day she asked for a break outdoors, 
with the yellow sun in the bright blue sky she had asked about.
Bundled in blankets, her head gently nestled in full pillows,
Loved ones next to her
A nurse giddy to leave for a few minutes.
She felt the warmth soak onto her skin,
Heard birds chirping in the clearness, and 
Smelled crisp air, so she knew the sun was yellow
Believed,
Looked up,
Imagined, and 
Trusted.

The eyes danced with shapes and colors scattering,
Pulling in and out of focus,
Strains of brightness striking new blows, and 
Little by little the colors starting to come into focus.

The days she left, she felt the quiver of spring's chill 
In the bottom of the breeze and a softer warmth for just a moment.
Well, she didn't really, but she knew about spring winds, and she 
Believed, 
Open her arms, 
Imagined, and 
Trusted.

Were there two birds she heard sitting outside?
What was the taste? Did she even know?  She could remember, and so she would
With each morning, then after the naps, and into the evening
She would assign what she knew to be true, 
Believing,
Opening her mind to remember,
Imagining, and
Trusting.

It was when the blossoms came two months later,
When the lavenders, lilacs, pinks, creams, and soft greens 
Dappled together in whispered breezes
And spread across her one day in the garden
That she again saw the yellow, shyly lifting in happiness and hope.
The brightness filled her, and she looked and looked and looked 
Once more and always
Through soft tears of joy.

 

Silken Strength

Creator of the World and Mother to the Sun,

Neith of Ancient Egypt wove meaning and life from nothing.

Time passed, and her strength was woven into

Babylonia’s goddess Ishtar, whose political power, beauty, and fertility

Demanded the protection she gave in war and combat.

Her brazen strength woven indeed by her arms passed to

Arachne, she with a keen mind and deft fingers which tpleased and angered

The gods as she wove stories and emotions into lives and history.

Each has embodied the spirit of the spider,

A creature tiny, mighty, multifaceted in talent and patient with time.

Magical to some, reviled by many, she reflects exceptional strength

Drawn from within

Extending forward

Connecting

Pleasing

Glimmering in sunlight

Trapping those blinded by various forms of the dark.

Silken strength within these three females now persists in today’s women.

Whether in sewing shops, fashion industries, churches, civic centers, schools,

A strength emerges and grows, quiet yet powerful

In the weaving of new life, new communities, new possibilities.

 

Our Potential to Flourish

Let us gather in a flourishing way
with sunluz grains abriendo los cantos
que cargamos cada día
                               – Juan Felipe Herrera, former Poet Laureate of the United States
Some moments arrive so delicately, so tenderly, they let
each person again believe and trust in the magic of “us”.
We plan, conspire, share, dream, hope, and gather
for a moment of breath and steadiness. This world in
sudden shifting still turns, but its axis no longer moves in a
circle eastward. Instead, from north to south people are still flourishing
despite uncertainties, brushes with death, and pain in a way
that proclaims joy — a preservation of what we’ve created combined with
conviction of what our loved ones deserve: sunluz.
We seek sunlight upon the harvest of our poemas, familias, grains,
and dreams as we turn upward, outward, disfrutando, abriendo —
every so elegantly opening — like the flowers we are among los
pajaros who blithely flutter, create, and sing their cantos.
What a stillness, return to peace, and softness we will find.  Que
honor y dignidad we will again claim. In each new generation cargamos
these same blisses and blessings forward with each sunrise following cada
noche. It is now we begin flourishing with our true potential en un nuevo dia.

Hour 7: Outside In

Yuletide greetings in August,
The sky turning black in the middle of the day,
A world of selfishness
balanced by gentle moments of compassion.

Knowing what would come, 
Would Emily Dickinson have followed 
Queen Victoria and Prince Albert with girlish glee?
or 
Could she have sought the spectacles of P.T. Barnum while
Mocking a tall president with the top hat?

Were he to see love turned into mockery,
Would e.e. cummings have turned to accounting
For linear reasoning and resolute answers?
or 
Would he have cynically chosen the safety of 
Home rather than valiant heroism as a war volunteer, 
Forever misrepresenting those who went in his place?

Had Maya Angelou known the struggles would continue
Years upon years after her civil rights work, 
Would she still have cast herself as a bird longing to sing?
or 
Might she have stayed a quiet girl in the Missouri shadows,
Fading and dessicating in the dusty town before being swept into the river?

Juan Felipe Herrera and Tracy K. Smith? Who would they be
Were it not for the poets before them?
Would they have had the bravery to break the rules of social expectations?
Could they have expressed, gathered, communed, and inspired
Had voices, pens, and lives been dismally set aside, ignored, and wasted?

A poem turned inside out: 
The message of the poet inverted.
More meaningful if we read them both
Worthless if left alone, vulnerable, and neglected.

60 90 120 Go!

Rain poured yet never asked me
Oblivious to my plans
My hopes
My outfits matched with shoes
and
My plans for fun.

I sit in the morning shadows
Waiting for the clouds to fly away
or at least 
Turn gray to cream white to toasted gold
With the sun coming
Through bronze chinks

Passing over, casting shadows, cooling this street patch of
bungalows, remodeled driveways, grassy yards turning back to green
Clouds drift then circle then hang
A tempting practice


* * * * * * * * 
Rain pours yet never seeks permission
Oblivious to my hopes set for summer regeneration, no longer the teacher working summers who 
Instead laughs like a coed through summer.
Still, it washes down, failing to admire
My outfits matched with shoes, all purchased at my favorite thrift store.
A $40 limit for a season of action --
Flowing, wearing down with miles upon miles, dancing, skipping, tearing when climbing walls.
Set against me, the water continues, swamping 
My plans for fun with 
The lively Silver Sneakers crowd, retirees who are active, sassy, happily opinionated 
After years of following the rules and being good.


I sit in the morning shadows 
Waiting for the clouds to fly away or at least 
Turn gray to cream white to toasted gold 
With the sun coming 
Through bronze chinks.
Cello music fills my home as
I wander through my rooms in casual summer glory,
My dark hair scooped up in a colorful scarf.
Surely looking like I should be out on a Vespa while
Sipping iced drinks,
and 
I sigh as the last sonorous note fades.
 


Passing over, the clouds cast shadows,
Cooling this neighborhood's patch of bungalows, grassy yards turning back to green,
Independent shops, community schools, dog parks, and community gardens.
My polka-dotted umbrella at the ready,
I peek out. 
Clouds drift then circle then hang 
A tempting practice
For the eclipse to come
When I will be like a starlet of old
Walking through the clouded, rain-soaked streets
or this
Darkened, mysterious, changing world
Knowing my moment in history
Though no one else, not even the clouds, realize.  




Guarding (Jan Rog, Prompt #5, August 5 2017)

Its head resting on the crest, the lion still guards the Confederate soldiers
buried in the aftermath of Civil War.
Not a gargoyle spouting water, 
not an angel of compassion, 
not a soldier of upright honor:
The protector of the Confederate Dead oversees those who fought in war, 
died perhaps in hopes of victory or in the long years after defeat.
Childhood memories of this beast remain hushed
For he lounged in his tomblike pose
with somber silence an a permanent stone snarl
everytime we visited Mario,
our older brother sent to live in the state home for the others like him.
"Retarded children" who grew into adults 
far away from their families in big cities, small towns, developing suburbs,
schools with proms, sports teams, theater programs, rules about uniforms and hair,
and the normal angst and joys of growing children.
Separated.
They lived, learned, slept, ate, and developed in every way within 
feet of this sad-honored, isolated lion.
Set apart.
The crowded home seemed ever silent, sitting directly next to the cemetery of the fallen.
An odd placement for a state school, yet horrifically fitting.
Both stood at the back-most spot at the edge of town: 
a place for the forgotten, the unpleasant, the no longer fit, the defeated.
The soldiers' ages on the tombstones -- teenagers, young men, only a few who died aged.
The children next door, born in times of poverty and misunderstanding, dying in childhood,
in teen years,
into their adult years still dying too young.
No more than a few living fully.
The school has closed, 
the cemetery has grown controversial in these cruel times, 
yet the lion remains, watching, seeing, observing, somber, cold, and cruel. 




Four Stanzas / Prompt #4 Jan Rog

Morning walks to the bus stop

Steady steps in the coolness

A ride through my city

An adventure to be discovered.

 

Steady steps in the coolness

Take me past yipping puppies bravely guarding their people against my menace as I laugh.

Yoga devotees stretch, breathe in, extend, and breathe out again on dewy grass below their mats

Bustling trucks unload wares for Hay and Feed, tattoo shops, ice-cream parlors, music stores, and senior centers

As my inclusive, inviting neighborhood wakes up.

 

A ride through my city

Into parks and libraries of childhood innocence, playing until evening lights came on to run home for dinner

To the crossroad galleries and coffee shops bringing fresh ideas to rusty dusty roads,

Through construction of newest developments, malls and superstores and spacious homes in the prairie

As each community forms anew each day.

 

An adventure to be discovered

I assured skeptical friends with expectations of grand world travel, new accomplishments, and grand feats.

Still, my daily walking and vistas over Kansas City rooftops both challenge and exhaust

My shaky self: the next me who’s finding a new normal in a body rewired and under construction

As I create my place in life each gifted morning.

Wisdom Found On the Beach (Based on Picture #3 of Prompt #3)

Hair flowing loosely with flowers falling with each step, 
her tambourine flicking sparks with each rattle,
wrapped shirt tails revealing she now has a bejewelled belly button
flicking light matching the mirrors in her blousing loose cotton maxi skirt,
Janis Joplin has just arrived on this beach.

Drinking in the salt air and cool mist, she is swaying to waves
crashing in and out, each time creating ribbons of blues, silvers, purples, 
fleeting sunset-orange, white froth, and back to blues all the deeper and fuller.
Deep from her throat her heart surges in breaking songs matching each falling crest.

Dumbfounded, I stare. I know who she is, yes, but I know no more than three of her songs:
Freedom found when she sings about Bobby McGee,
a wail when giving a piece of her heart,
then that Mercedes Benz song that caused so much turmoil years after she died.
I knew them only from the AM radio station I listened to growing up
crackling with static, accentuating her gritty, gutsy voice.

Does she realize it's me?  
"Jan, yes you" bemused, I look to see if she's speaking to anyone else, but now 
she's right before me.
"Let me tell you, I've been journeying over this earth over forty years now, 
close to fifty.
We were supposed to meet, but you were only three when I died. 
I was supposed to come and meet you when you cried in heartache-
I've been there.
I would have understood about the risks and adventure.
When everyone else was worried, I was going to be the one to 
whisper encouragement. . . why not?
So, my death was not the plan - but hey, 
life's improvasition with planning for a back-up band.
It's the improvisation that gives you voice. . . "

She caught another deep breath of seaside air as cooling summer waters
tickled over her toes, and she gasped a loud, long laugh.
"Are you expecting a stereotype? The fast life? If only I'd lived long enough, 
I'd be drinking the teas - chai, matcha, chamomile - teaching yoga and music therapy, 
and falling in love every damn chance I'd get."  

She smiles at me, clearly looking right at me. 
"Ah, yes, I was supposed to be in the fights for equal rights, and the marches -- 
oh! those fabulous marches.
I just took it all too seriously but not seriously enough.
Why did I listen to the meanness? 
Why did I doubt myself? It wasn't about me in the small me.
It was about me being part of something bigger -- the ME I was supposed to be."

She's stopped the swaying, and she has grown fuller and brighter.

"Don't be afraid. You've got today, tomorrow, and at least a few days more.
Be bold. Be brave. Be beautiful. Have fun. 
You don't know what's coming, but remember about the improvisation.
The electricity doesn't come from the guitar. It comes from you. 
Make your life a song. . . ."

She disappeared, but the sparkles remained.
The starred sky dipped down to the beach where I stood, 
the heavens and earth somehow connecting as the waves crashed in.