Hour Twenty-Four, Home

Farmhouse Kitchen

The place I feel most at home in all the world
I’m sitting inside right now.
The kitchen in our home in a small midwestern
American town is my favorite place to be.

Here, I work Sunday puzzles with my son,
then create a brunch for us all.
Here, I write in the dappled morning light with my daughter,
birdsong trilling through the window behind us.
Here, I create meal plans, menus, and grocery lists,
store those groceries and cook those meals.
Here, the seedlings that will later fill our gardens,
feed our family, grow upon wide windowsills.
Here, we gather for meals, games, jokes, stories, and songs,
any time night or day.

All traffic in our home leads here,
and here, in farmhouse coziness
here is where I will stay.

Hour Twenty-Three, Cheese Prompt

An Enormous Cheese, or, The Separation of Church and State

The separation of church and state in American politics
has long been held to be a constitutionally given right,
but in fact it would not exist and be articulated
were it not for an enormous, six foot in diameter cheese.

Massachusetts Baptists created the cheese
from the milk of 900 cows.
They sent it to newly elected President Thomas Jefferson,
who shared it with several hundred friends.

His gratefulness for the gift was such that he immediately
penned a letter of thanks to its creators
emphasizing how free worship among free people could not exist
were it not for the separation of church and state.

In reply, the Baptists were careful to note that the cheese
was created “without a single slave to assist” for a duly
elected president by free citizens of a free land, which
given that slave born descendants of Jefferson exist today,
was quite something for those Massachusetts Baptists to say.

Hour Twenty-Two, Wake Up Prompt

Wake Up Call

At age thirty-seven I returned to college
after fifteen years away,
ready to finally finish interrupted
bachelors’ degrees from years before.

I worked three jobs,
raised three kids,
attended three campuses,
and often got five hours of sleep or less,
at times getting no sleep at all,
yet still driving the hour to campus
and the hour home again.

Fourteen years after graduation,
I can barely finish the twenty-four hours
of this once a year marathon,
swaying in my seat,
bolting upright to my daughter’s phone alarm,
and micro-napping between eye-blinks.

Hour Twenty-One, Irregular Ode

Ode To My Scars

Once, you were pink and puckered,
drawing surrounding flesh up tight
against you, you needy whores,
but you have since silvered and loosened,
releasing your neighboring hostages
and gracefully fading into the background,
as good scars should.

You had your purpose, knitting me whole
once more after some truly messed up
s**t would have rent me apart, bleeding,
but I can hold my own now, thank you.
You’re free to go,
though I know you won’t.

Some of you are my bosom buddies,
but the largest of you bisects my torso
into upper and lower halves,
a reminder of what I endured
to have my sons.
At least you have the decency to smile.

Hour Twenty, Walking at Night Prompt

After Midnight

Patsy Cline sang part of the story,
longing welling up from a lovelorn soul
and yearning to connect.

Eric Clapton related yet another side,
the wildness of the hellraiser within letting loose
and abandoning all control.

Yet there’s more, so much more,
to entering the wild night, beginning as human
and ending as another animal.

We strip away the extraneous and become primal
when we walk the world after midnight,
sound and scent then more reliable than sight.

The rhythm of bootheels clocking down the road
becomes syncopated with a heightened heartbeat,
nostrils flaring to breathe deep scent released by night alone.

We are truer versions of ourselves as we feel our way
through the dark, only to feel the sweet relief
of being welcomed by the beckoning lights of home.

Hour Nineteen, Image Prompt

Strata

Most people exist on the surface,
content to think nothing of what lies beneath.
Layers upon layers build over the years,
millennia of strata built of bone, wood, and stone,
each layer with its own tale to tell,
yet to many they may as well not exist.

The anthropologist that one degree
declares me to be demands to know more,
to seek out those stories and chronicle them,
the writer within sifting through the detritus of time,
to parse who, what, and where came before,
and why that should matter.

Nature’s revelations so often
are prompted by violence,
short, sharp upheavals of stone and soil
by earthquake, volcano, and flood,
or the creeping disintegration of softer layers,
a gentler violence through time.

Hour Eighteen, Text Prompt

Focus

Silence is never silent,
as anyone new to meditation can attest.
When forced to center within,
to just be still, and listen,
each sound magnifies,
becomes central,
distorts the desired calm
and hijacks my mind.

The nasal whine of a buzzing mosquito
is suddenly a freight train,
air sucked through a furnace intake
is surf pounding on rocks to a drowner.

I try to focus,
pay attention to the moment,
but a guitar riff from a neighbor’s radio
and veeeewpewpewpew, I’m gone.

 

Hour Seventeen, Quote Prompt

Abandoning the Dark Side

“I stopped thinking about extreme grief as the sole vehicle for great art when the grief started to take people with it.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

Of grief, I have seen my share,
for years it was the vehicle that drove my writing.
In despair, I literally wrote the book,
thinking that was all of any worth I had to say.

No one would want to read
anything less worthy,
anything homely, simple, uplifting
or kind. Would they?

I hammered home with bludgeoning words
abuse as a child and an adult,
the death of my baby, divorce,
and sickness in mind and body.

Yet gradually, through love and time
new writing began, new themes clarified
hope, life, and light, beacons in the dark,
warmth, kindness, and home, always home.

I discovered a stronger voice within,
that dared to be happy,
that refused to despair any longer,
invited others to join, and to my shock, they did.

Hour Sixteen, Sense Prompt

Truth

Would that I could sense the world
with the plethora of scent that must exist
for our golden retriever, Rosie.

For her, no scent is bad, all hold interest,
all are a part of the story of her world.
I would sense the presence of those I love by their scent:

sandalwood, baked bread, and nutmeg
would be my bear of a husband, and
his squared off view of the world;

citrus, sage, lavender, and thyme
would be my lovely girl,
poet after my heart;

cucumber, vanilla, a dash of garlic and salt
would be my older son,
autistic, brilliant, and warm in odd ways;

oak, honey, smoke, and yeast
would be my younger son,
crafter, brewer, and lover of all that grows.

Would that I could see them all through scent
instead of my eyes,
how much more beautiful, more true, this world would be.

Hour Fifteen, Yes Prompt

Sister Act

I love to sing the blues,
but few will ever hear me.

As a senior in high school
I prepared for months
for my school’s annual talent show,
determined I would sing Sister
from The Color Purple.

The day for auditions finally came,
the dress, hair, stage makeup,
voice exercises, music tape,
all ready, prepared,
as prepared as my terrified
heart could be.

I stepped on stage,
cued the music,
and listened, horrified, when
it began too loud.
I sang anyway, sang
as loud as I could.

Halfway through the third line,
the music stopped,
and a voice from the dark said
“I’m sorry, we just can’t hear you,”
and I ran from the stage, mortified.

One judge followed me,
both a teacher and a friend,
and begged me to come back
and try again.

I would not.

I don’t believe anything would have come
from singing for me but the pleasure
of it alone, but
I will forever regret not returning
to that stage,
not trying once again.

 

 

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