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.

Prompt #2: Yearning Jan Rog

At five, “A shepherdess” I told him

For the tender lamb of my bedtime poem,

The freedom of the meadows and valleys,

The gentle pace and active, hard work.

 

At fifteen, “An actress” I replied

For the thrill of self-discovery and

My commanding voice carrying to the back wall

Where I connected with last row’s quietest people.

 

“A world traveler” at twenty-five

I had journeyed half a world away

And fallen in love with the people among castles,

Fountains, windmills, and castanets.

 

As my brother grew sick, I again found the beauty of home

Revisiting our memories in bus rides,

Childhood swings, and climbed trees

Before the final goodbye.

At thirty-five I knew the desire of wanting

Time to stop.

Time to grow.

Time to discover, laugh, dream, bicker, cry, giggle, and share deepest delight

Just one more time.

 

At forty-five, I asked for “grace and peace”

In the moments of quietly sitting, holding hands,

Humming songs, and thanking my father then my best friend

For our time together, the blessings they had been.

 

Now at fifty, a shepherdess’ steadfast protection over gentle ones appeals to me.

Teaching for a lifetime, can my voice carry to that student in the last row?

Spanish coasts and mountains beckon me to a pilgrimage.

Beyond any outward journey, though, I most yearn for one moment more with those I love.

World, My World Jan Rog, Hour 1, Prompt 1

World, my amazing World, you sustained me

When death came near.

Winds first rustling in wild torrents flew me

To the hospital, where waiting doctors listened for

Sirens above the whoosh.

Water iced over in silver-white edges cracked in support and

Traction in the frenzy of gurneys and running emergency bustle.

Candles flickered during desperate prayers in the darkest hours

That night when tiny flowers found strength in their mulch-covered seeds.

You, my World, embraced me then comforted and saw us through.

 

World, my nurturing World, you comforted me

When death stepped aside.

Trees in February’s chill dug into the deepest soils

Past dried leaves, left over snowed tears, and

Knotted growths to pull up the delicate leaf buds of

March, slowly, shyly gazing through my hospital window

Teaching me that roots grow within us all

Bringing life when we most need the breath for one more day.

 

World, my brazen World, you goaded and prodded

Me in defying the daily deaths of apathy, fear, and resignation

As I returned home yet needed more healing.

Sun shining into my home brought no soft rays of light but

Instead fire-flight wings of energized determination,

Allowing for my own tears to well-up and flow,

My hurt to howl out in springtime’s wind songs,

My knees to gratefully sink to soft muds and new grass in cries of humble gratitude

Following wobbly steps and murmured fears.

You celebrated and inspired

Recovery through a dark passage.

Your flames would reach up, billow, and tower to illuminate new paths or

Grow smaller into candle flames to warm each pastel spring morning to a golden afternoon

 

World, my miraculous World, you celebrate with me

A rebirth in this summer a year of trials, growth, and wonder after that first shock.

Winds elevate to make me want to fly or coo to me

Water in storm torrents or soft mist cleanse me

Your minerals, rocks, and soil connect me to a deeper, richer inner-well

Your fire warms for energy and ignites my determination.

World, my amazing, nurturing, brazen, miraculous World, thank you for my life.

Greetings from Kansas City, Missouri

Hello, All.  I’m Jan, an English teacher at Longview Community College in Greater Kansas City.  I’m also a wife with a wonderful partner (Steve,) big sister who finally at age 50 isn’t so bossy anymore (that’s my story, and I’m sticking with it,) cerebral aneurysm survivor, enthusiastic reader, and wanderlust. Any of these may be in my writing, but my own writing has gone beyond these few identities.

This is my first marathon, and I’m starting with 1/2 and 12 prompts. I seek ways to attend writing retreats or readings of any sort. I’ve been creating my creative space and personal time anew these past few years. Hope, tenacity, and humor have helped me move forward, but it is writing that has grounded me and given me “roots” for the strength I need. Besides, it’s fun. I’ve always written alongside my students, but that often came from responsibility. I continue that as part of my work, but I now write here and elsewhere for myself.

I’ve been discovering the ins and outs of this site and e-conversing with various people on the Facebook page. Check that out if you have the inclination.