Can Poetry Matter? And Poem: Untilled

I was one of those kids who hated poetry and cringed when a teacher assigned any verse to us at all. I recoiled at any school work besides, but poetry, as it was taught then had the effect of making me and others believe they didn’t really understand the English language at all. When I was in high school Dana Gioia’s essay “Can Poetry Matter?” was published in The Atlantic (or the Atlantic Monthly, as it was called back then) and its effects were definitely being felt in the poetry classes I was forced to take for my literature major in college.

Now I see poetry in a kinder light. For me it serves the purpose of just playing with words and meanings, and exploring the emotional relationship that words have with their context. In other words, I use poetry as a sandbox, a laboratory to see if my written descriptions match up with the effect I wish to create. And if I don’t like what I see I can start over with little attachment, and unlike with my prose, my poetry isn’t tied down to a narrative or an argument in which I have become invested.

I wake up extremely early on most days. Lately it has been 3 o’clock or 4 o’clock just to write. One of my resolutions is to write, and one of my sub-resolutions is to write more poetry. Last year I wanted to write one poem – even short as a heroic couplet – every day. Even with that low bar I was not able to do it. So I decided I would just try for a poem every week or so, and now that I think of it I should really try every week. Over the past year I have discovered that the common themes of my poetry are mornings, grief, birds, geographical features of Boston, perceptions of time, and of course the two big inescapable themes of love and beauty. I, also, noticed that I like dew imagery way too much. Now that I know this I will try to avoid it.

The following poem “Untilled” is a play on the word until which I find fun and exhilarating. You can never finish a sentence or a conversation with the word until because it would drive someone mad. “I will not stop fighting until…”

“Until what?!”

Anyway, I find the word funny, but somehow I thought of soil that has not been tilled as well. It’s a place where something is meant to take root but has not been prepared yet.

And then my favorite poetry subject: mornings. I love the mornings so much or else I would find it ridiculously difficult to get up as early as I do. I love the figurative race to the window that I make every day to beat the first wisps of light to the straight edge of the horizon.

More than anything, though, this poem is a meditation on my personal relationships with the words beautiful and love. Specifically, despite the conceptual and abstract similarities between love and beauty, I have a more tactile and visceral experience of love and its qualities than I do beauty. (However, if I am pressed, I could say that something that I hold can be experienced in a beautiful way and the fact that I can hold it be beautiful in itself.)

As writers are wont to do, I agonized over one particular word: womb. Do birds have wombs? A bird does not have a uterus, it has an oviduct. But I thought, Heck! Close enough. But still it bothers me ever so slightly.

I have also been been obsessing on the ability to memorize poetry. Rhyme has its advantages in this respect, but I was wondering if I could create something somewhat unstructured but with a structure that would make it easier to remember. I don’t think I succeeded. It was a lower priority for me with this poem, but I think you can see my attempts with alliteration and the wording of the first six lines.

“Untilled”
Beautiful is the yellow that slips onto early light;
Love is the beaded dew that clutches onto green blades.
Beautiful is the song that trills from ruby throats;
Love is the egg from the womb, laid and nestled.
Beautiful is the breeze that carries the memory of winter;
Love is the branch that sways despite the cold recollection.
Bare feet on grass,
Toes sunk into damp soil,
That soon the sun will scorch dry,
Sharp edges will cut shadows from the sunlit scene,
But now in the soft light, tender like new flesh,
Life crawls beneath all that earth, untilled.

So that’s my first official poem for 2019. Feedback appreciated but know that I don’t consider myself a poet. I plan on posting more sandbox works – things I consider unrefined but it helps me get over my fear of putting things out into the world at all.

Advertisements

What I Read in 2018

I met my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 40 books (and I did this despite the fact that I forgot I had a reading challenge until the fall)! I probably started an additional 30 books but put those down due to library borrowing expiration (e.g. Emperor of All Maladies, Crazy Rich Asians), subject matter being anxiety provoking (e.g. The Road, In Cold Blood), or bad timing of life events that make me put down a physical book and then I forget where I place the book (e.g. Pillars of the Earth, A Stranger in the Woods). I had many more books I started and stopped for one reason or another.

There are several books I think my Catholic friends may enjoy: Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker, Lying Awake by Mark Salzman, and The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett. Hawker’s book in particular is so beautiful it is one of my favorite books of the year, if not my most favorite. Each of these three books have men and women religious featured prominently and positively. The year 2018 has been a difficult one for people of Catholic faith and it was so comforting to read such beautiful and realistic depictions of faith in practice.

My favorite works were heartbreaking reflections on life and the opportunities and people who slip away, like Our Souls at Night and On Chesil Beach. Or they were strikingly descriptive memoirs, like Monsoon Mansion and The Glass Castle.

My top honors would go to The Ragged Edge of Night, When Breath Becomes Air, and The Sympathizer were the books I was most glad to have read.

Here are the list of books listed in order of my most favorite to my least and separated by genre. The ones I recommend the most are in bold.

Historical Fiction

  1. The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker
  2. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Anne Shaffer

Fantasy/Sci-Fi

  1. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
  2. Slade House by David Mitchell
  3. Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  4. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro

Memoir/Non-Fiction

  1. When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  2. What Now? by Ann Patchett
  3. Monsoon Mansion by Cinelle Barnes
    A heart wrenchingly beautifully written riches to rags memoir. I highly recommend for anyone but I especially recommend for those of Filipino heritage.
  4. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  5. The Deepest Human Life by Scott Samuelson
    A book about philosophy for everyone who didn’t think they were philosophers. (Spoiler alert: we are all philosophers.)
  6. A Grief Observed by C. S. Lewis
    My mother-in-law passed away from cancer this year, and this is one of the books of hers we took back to Boston. Reading this is like sitting with a grief stricken widower in the first year. I imagined myself sitting in his parlor, a steaming pot of tea between us. At times he looks up, trying to keep the tears in his eyes, as he articulates to me how much his grief feels like fear.
  7. Praise the Lord and Pass the Penicillin by Dean W. Andersen
  8. Something About a Soldier by Charles Willeford
    This is a memoir written by my husband’s uncle about his life as young soldier in peacetime Philippines prior to WW2.
  9. Gracefully Insane by Alex Beam
  10. Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance
  11. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
    A thin collection of vivid memories that reads like poetry.  

Self-Help

  1. Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis

Humor

  1. Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
    Being overweight and living with his five kids in a two-bedroom walk up in New York City has given this man so much golden comedic material. On a related note, his wife is a hero.

General Fiction

  1. The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen
  2. The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Our Souls at Night by Kent Haruf
  4. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  5. The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
  6. Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler
  7. Lying Awake by Mark Salzman
  8. The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  9. Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
  10. The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Patchett
  11. Grief is a Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
    A bizarre book about grief that reads like a fable that I will probably read again because I am not sure what I read the first time.
  12. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
    I read the book and the listened to the audio book concurrently. The audio book read by Sunil Malhotra is excellent! (Malhotra is also the audiobook narrator of When Breath Becomes Air.)
  13. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  14. The Infinite Pieces of Us by Rebekah Crane
  15. The Magician’s Assistant by Ann Patchett
  16. Comonwealth by Ann Patchett
  17. I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak
    I read this because I loved The Book Thief and have a crush on Markus Zusak. I didn’t like it as much as The Book Thief, and I still have a crush on Markus Zusak.
  18. Lies that Bind Us by Andrew Hart

Romance

  1. The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
  2. The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks
    For cultural reasons I felt I needed to read this. I am fairly sure I don’t want to read anything like this again.

Thriller

  1. Good Me, Bad Me by Ali Land
  2. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

I would love to know what my friends recommend for 2019! Hint, hint.

Zina’s Resolutions, 2019 edition

Another January 1st and I am resolving to write every day. It doesn’t have to be fiction or poetry, but I would like to commit to at last one poem per day. I was going through an old notebook last night and found the seeds of a poem, but really it is merely a thought:

The best poems
Are like prayers
Committed to memory
And said aloud
In one’s true voice

Those who have in real life conversations with me know I have a tendency to speak in a staccato manner, and this is also how I write. People have complained about how I speak and write in the past but that is really my voice. This year I will work on writing and speaking with deeper breaths, letting the air flow around my words a bit, and trying harder to relax everything. This is difficult for someone with a chronic anxiety issue, but my anxiety has gotten so much better just due to age and wisdom.

The year 2018 has been a particularly rough one but it was one where I have made significant self-care and health gains. I capped off the year by doing 200 push-ups on my toes in bouts of 10-20 reps per set with 30 second breaks or other weighted exercises in between. This December, prior to our Disney vacation, I weighed 127 lbs. which I have not weighed since my third child was born.

Given the past year’s success I think it is a good time to level up!

Resolutions for 2019

Read 45 books this year. My Goodreads goal of 2018 was 40 books, and really I didn’t start reading in earnest until the last four months of the year when I realized that I had a Goodreads goal at all. Turns out that my competitiveness (with myself and others) is an effective motivator in getting me to do healthy things. That said, my doctor (who is a general practitioner and teaches CCD at her daughter’s church) said her goal this 2018 was 75 books. At some point I would like to have a goal like that, but no. No.

Write every day. This is very difficult since I always have a child with me from 5:00 a.m. till 9:30 p.m. As I type this it is 7:50 a.m. and I have a five-year-old beside me singing songs and a toddler curled up on my lap with her hand down my shirt. It is very distracting when trying to get your thoughts together and write.

Publish an entry on this blog (or another blog) once a week. Of all the things I have tried to do this year, this was the hardest for reasons mentioned above but also due to the struggle to respect the privacy of my family. The world of the internet seems to consist of two types of people: the passive consumers and those who agree to be consumed. The great question between me and my husband is whether it is healthy to be part of this world at all. However, I find that blogging makes me more thoughtful about what I put out there. Other social media outlets make it too easy to mindlessly put your life out there. Also, since a lot of social media is image based I have accessibility issues for those who have visual challenges. So this year I have resolved to become for visually descriptive in my writing. Period. This very well may make my writing better. I don’t know, but we shall see.

Maintain a healthy weight of around 130 lbs. Starting this past Easter I decided to weigh myself every morning and go on the Fast Metabolism Diet. Toward the end of the year I increased my exercise and started tracking macros. This helped me finally break through to 135 lbs. or less and fitting easily into size 6 clothing.

Do 100 dead stop push-ups. I will do this in sets of 10-20 with 30 second breaks between. Pretty straightforward goal, and with my current regimen I should be able to get strong enough to do this.

Do 10 pull ups. I think the biggest hindrance to me being able to do this is my current weight. If I weighed 5 lbs. less it could make a significant difference. Right now I can do a single pull up. It is really hard. I think I will be able to do 10 by the end of the year.

Pray the rosary once a week. My 2018 goal of praying every morning at 5 a.m. has helped me clarify what and who are the most important things in my life. Due to the structure of my morning prayers it has forced me to think about others in my life and my relationships with them and to pray for these special people. The rosary has been an important prayer in my life and has led to much peace and grace so I could probably use more of it. I just have to commit to a consistent time and place, which is how I was able to achieve my fitness goals.

Clean out the garage and basement. The complication here is that a lot of the stuff isn’t mine. But I am admitting to myself that a lot of it is stuff I have control over. Again I need a plan. I have no idea what that plan looks like.

Organize all the special education files I have! If you have more than one special needs child in your life then you know exactly what I am talking about. This is probably one of the worst things I need to tackle even though it should be pretty easy. I just need to find all the files and put them in chronological order in a file box. But this makes me want to eat a whole blueberry pie with ice cream on top and drink a few mugs of boozy eggnog and this will undermine all my health goals so I really should leave this task till I mastered everything else right? Right!

I think those resolutions above are enough. They really are baby steps to bigger goals I have for next year. I hope to actually make money somehow in 2020 and writing a book. Right now I am just trying to develop the habits and be physically healthy.

I am hoping you are able to draw up achievable goals, too! Now that I have a blog I will have a record of what I set out to achieve. Hopefully I will remember to blog in December and see if I met these resolutions.

Poem: How We Are Done

I just thought if this poem a few minutes ago. It is very fresh and barely edited. I wrote it down on nice paper with a less nice ballpoint pen. This is not my usual process but this cane to me while reading The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. The thin novel won the Booker Prize, but the real reason I am reading it is because it is quite thin and I am scrambling to finish my Goodreads goal of 40 books in 2018. I have eight books to go so I made a list of short books I could plow through before the end if the year. (I will write a separate entry on my Goodreads challenge books.)

Anyway, Barnes’s book is quintessentially British and I got stuck in the word priggish which is rarely heard in American English. I am dead center in the story where the narrator makes a pivot and a poem came to me.

“How We Are Done”

See how we are done

Prudish, priggish and rightly wound

Packages done up with rope, ribbon or twine

Sewn by threaded machine, serged tight

But see how we are undone

By sun and starlight

The sweat of living beads off of us like dew

Dissolving our stitches

Skin heals, scabs fall, scars fade

Until the Great Philosopher spins her wool

Binds is shut again.

That’s it. The poem is fresh and barely edited. I could probably work it further but I don’t have the time to work on much poetry. I can create drafts easily, but I find the real work in revising and revising which I simply don’t have the time for it I have my reading and fiction writing to work on.

If anyone reads this I would love to hear if you think poetry is worth writing down if you never think it will be edited. Is amateur poetry worth anything at all? Is all amateur poetry considered bad? I can’t seem to tell anymore.

How Do You Do It?

As I write this, our family and many others are making their way into the holiday season. Thanksgiving is next week and then, on its heels, preparations for Advent, Christmas and New Year’s Day will overwhelm the brisk, short days. Despite the busy nature of the season, the fact that I have young children makes this time bearable and it pushes me towards pre-dawn hours when everyone else is asleep. Everyone asks me how I manage to raise my five children, some of whom have complex special and medical needs. They ask: How do you do it? I usually reply with a shrug and, I just do it. (I also like to remind people that there are families that are larger than ours, either because they have more children or are taking care of an older generation.)

What I don’t say is that I do have a system that works for me:

Morning Ritual

  • I wake sometime between 4 and 5 a.m. every morning, including weekends.
  • I start my morning with waking, praying from my Magnificat iPhone app.
  • Once I get out of bed I take my my temperature and weigh myself and mark that down on my calendar to keep my accountable for my health.
  • I work as quietly as possible in the kitchen, emptying the dishwasher and making decaf coffee and diet specific breakfast. I have met my weight goals but this is more for other people in my family who have specific dietary needs (which are substantial and time consuming).
  • I start my daily plan in my graph paper Maker journal. I have been doing this for years, but it is called bullet journalling nowadays. It helps me plan my day and estimate how much time I need for tasks. I never get through all my daily tasks.

Daytime Activities

  • My meals are carefully scheduled to be every 3-4 hours so I am not voraciously hungry. I am one of those people who is always hungry, but this helps mitigate against sharp hunger pangs.
  • When I pray throughout the day, I remember everyone who is having a hard time around me. I have a mug that has a paper insert that can be decorated, and I try to write down the names of people for whom my friends have asked me to pray. It helps to keep me humble and grateful, and it also reminds me to have a servant style of love and leadership.
  • I have a set of chores I must do daily: dishes, laundry and fixing my bed and the youngest children’s beds. I give the littlest ones other chores or have them help me fix the beds, but I never let them do it alone.

Evening Routine

  • After 5:30pm dinner I exercise every day. I alternate between lower body/core workouts and upper body workouts with home gym equipment. We have a Concept D rowing machine, a Bowflex we purchased on Craigslist, short resistance bands, and 5 and 10-lbs dumbbells. My workouts last from 45 minutes to almost 2 hours depending on what body areas I am working on and what my schedule allows. When I am pushed for time I at least try to work in a 16 minute HIIT session on the rowing machine.
  • I read to my two youngest children in bed at about 8pm every evening. Then I sit beside the 5-year-old and read my own library book from my iPhone so I can keep the room dark. Otherwise I like reading physical books in front of my children in order to emphasize the importance of books.
  • I sleep when I am sleepy. Last night it happened to be 9:30pm but it can be as late as 11pm or 1am depending on online conversations or books I can’t put down. I try not to make a habit of staying up, but sometimes human connection is worth it. Also, life happens. Sometimes my youngest does not cooperate with my bedtime and decides to stay up. Sometimes the kindergartener has a nightmare. Sometimes my oldest wakes at 2am for no good reason. Sometimes happens about once or twice a week.

Weekly Events and Endeavors

  • Every Sunday we attend Mass, and immediately after church we go to the nut-free bakery and get treats for all the children. Unless there is a special event we always visit my mother for dinner. I want to make it clear to my children that family is important, and we make time to see people we love.
  • We have weekly meeting with various in home therapies for one of my kids. My schedule is often scheduled those events.
  • I make the social-emotional lives of my children a priority so when family visits or someone wants a playdate then I make it happen.
  • Due to the complex dietary needs of the family I need to plan my weekly menu. I have come to think of the restrictions as helpful because it means that I have a limited number of meals I can choose from. However, the problem is that I still must make between 2-3 different meals each night which is a lot of cooking and planning. It also means I must make about 3 different trips to the grocery store each week.
  • I try to spend time re-evaluating my own personal goals and see if they align with my values.

Nothing works perfectly, and I always feel like I am treading water. However, I know that without the structure I have established I would be in worse shape.

The Missing Pieces…

Community. We do not belong to any community outside our family. In my previous attempts to reach out and make friends or network I have found it comes at the expense of being able to be available or provide for my family. The only way for this to not be the case is if my family is able to be part of the group that I am trying to join. Unfortunately, it turns out my interests and the interests of my family seldom match up which leaves me still without fulfilling that part of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.

Mothering. I think of all the mothers I know, I do the best with self-care. It always seems so selfish to think about this topic. It always comes at a cost and that price is the stuff I could be working on with all the kids. They are all so different, and I do not have a natural ability to connect with them once they turn 8 or 9 years old.

Finances. I have tried to get jobs in the past, but the cost of the child care and then intense nature of the child care in our particular case keeps me from working. It seems that our family needs me home. Fortunately, the fact that I must stay home does not tear me up inside like it does other mothers who need a job outside the home in order to feel fulfilled. However, that means that all the income must be generated by my husband which is such a heavy burden on him. It is difficult, as someone who cares about his sanity and wellbeing, to not be able to relieve some of that pressure.

Knowing Your Mission: Lead with Love

At the core of my method is always knowing and clarifying my beliefs. Several years ago when our sons were having a hard time my husband and I came up with a family motto: Lead with Love. If love begins all your thoughts, words and acts then you are off on the right foot.

Always believe that you are enough. Always believe that you have the raw materials to get through your day. Try to find help. Dig deep to find strength. If there is no one else you can talk to to help you, then look up, breath deep, find God.

So there you have it. The answer to my most asked question, How do you do it? I will still answer, I just do. But now I can also say, I answer that on my blog. And I can send them this link.

The KENO Incident

My husband sat across from me Sunday night, after the older children had migrated their separate ways and the youngest two separated like two little twittering birds. The littlest one had even eaten like a tiny avian creature, having pecked at and abandoned her plate. My husband, no phone in hand, just looking at me, says, “The jackpots are supposedly big.”

“Which one? PowerBall?”

“MegaMillions. But I think they both are though.”

A beat of silence.

This latest prize would probably reach the threshold for getting a ticket or two. This past year I started purchasing tickets. Not regularly, but once in a while, always thinking of my father when doing it. It was a way of trying to better understand who he was. Why would such a smart man do something that by all analyses seemed to be very futile. He worked hard, taking far off jobs, in order to someday not work very hard. At first I think he had dreams of retiring early, but as he got older they were dreams of retiring comfortably. It never went beyond that, and his hopes just remained hopes until he wasn’t around anymore.

When I was in junior high or high school, my father was laid off from his job as a mechanical engineer at a downtown firm in Boston. Unable to find full time employment he worked with agencies that gave him short term contract work, and he became what he and his former workmates called job shoppers. It was highly unsatisfying and not very secure. Eventually he got a well enough paying, renewable contract working for General Dynamics in Connecticut. We did not see him during the week since driving eight hours a day didn’t seem worth it or safe, so he lived in Connecticut during the week and drove home on Friday after work. He drove back on Sunday night or early Monday morning.

He lived in conditions that I know others would not live in. I know this because after my husband and I got married we briefly moved from the West Coast back to New England. My husband got a job in Connecticut working for a big pharmaceutical company there. The money was good enough that he was going work the same commute my father did. This was a very short lived affair for my husband. My dad and my newlywed husband shared an apartment for a while because living in a squalid short-term motel was something my husband could not bring himself to do.

My dad, in a show of fatherly generosity, liked to treat his new son-in-law to dinner at Foxwoods. At the restaurant there one could eat dinner and play KENO. One night my dad purchased my husband a KENO ticket who then randomly marks up the sheet. It stays on the table. The numbers come up on the screen and they are the exact numbers that my husband has marked off, but since the waitress never picked up the ticket my husband didn’t win. I know nothing about how large KENO winnings are, but from what I gather they would have been significant. At the time both my husband and my father felt awful. My father insisted on buying another ticket and my husband marked it up again, but of course it was not a winner. If they were not winners, what did that make them? They sat there that night and subsequent nights, working their miserable day jobs far from home.

My thoughts on that day have changed over the years. At first it was heartbreaking. In our more bleaker times, I tended to look at that moment with bitterness. If only. If only. But after more than a decade of looking back, I remember who we were and how unprepared we would have been at that moment in our twenties for a windfall like that. We would have been one of those cautionary tales that relatives tell their children. Don’t be like them. Foolish and undeserving. People who had something and made it into nothing.

This brings me back to our dinner table. My husband and I pondering what we would do with the money. He says the fun would be in giving most of it away, to which I respond in a tiny, internal panic attack. For me, I think about food on the table, an actual house we could own, and educating our children. I cannot think past the lowest levels of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. No, the money would go into trusts that would dole out money in trickles. All five could go to college if they wanted, with the special supports they needed. Yet, I know the compulsion for generosity when I see my friends and their children. Last night while listening to the Red Sox pull ahead of the Astros, I scrolled my social media feed and read about a friend’s daughter who was going in for stem cell therapy derived from umbilical cords. The first one had changed her life so much, but as you can imagine these treatments are not cheap. The family had just fitted their house with a chair lift for their stairs. Up until recently I did not know that their daughter had a disability despite having known the father casually since 2009. Wouldn’t this family – this child – be more deserving of good fortune than us?

As I heard the background cheers and the announcers calling the game I imagined my PowerBall ticket and how I would want to pay for that next stem cell treatment even though this parent is at best an acquaintance. Anonymous money. Momentary respite for this family.

I woke on Wednesday to find I did not win the MegaMillions. I logged in Thursday morning to see that I did not get a single PowerBall number. I felt a small rush of sadness and relief. I would never want to win the big jackpot, to live with the paranoia of someone wanting to take from us a sum of money that they knew, we all knew, my family did not earn. I didn’t want to say no to people who felt desperate for a yes. My life is full of people who have similar or worse situations than ours. What makes us deserving of a large cash prize? Nothing. Just as child does not deserve to be born with a severe disability.

My mind wanders back to two men sitting at their table at Foxwoods looking at the winning KENO numbers on a card. The frustration of missed opportunity adding the taste of bitterness to a casino meal. The clinging scent of cigarette smoke mingling with the stale exhalations of men and women who chose to trade in their real hard-earned money into branded tokens. Listen carefully and you could hear the sound of their luck turning with the artificial spinning, whirring sound of the slot machines. My dad would take some of the money he made that day and play the slots after dinner, asking my husband if he wanted to join. Fortunately, he never developed a taste for gambling – a blessed thing. As for my father, he played till the end of his life. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 59, never having seen retirement which for a man who worked as hard as he did, sacrificing his comfort more than most people, should have been a reasonable expectation. His luck ran out with a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer which is like the inverse lottery jackpot of cancer diagnoses. He was told of is diagnosis on my son’s 3rd birthday and passed away a little more than three months later.

Are all good and bad things luck? If you are religious, are you compelled to believe this is providence? And if so, what does it mean when God allows suffering, tragic accidents or, even minor things KENO incidences like that night? Confounding and meaningless things. Perhaps these moments exist as points of reflection, to challenge us to think of our situations and find our ways around them. Windfalls provide relief, but rarely teach us things the way that hardship does.

I paid $4 dollars total for my MegaMillions and PowerBall tickets. I am not sure I would have thought as much about my father’s life over the past few days. Despite not winning cash, I suppose I still gained something. At least enough to write about.

The Lost Episode and Poem: Bereft

I cannot say that I am a voracious consumer of anything because there are limited hours in the day, and I have a house of seven people to run. That means I have to be highly selective of what I listen to, what I watch, and what I read.

One of the things I make time for is the TalkEasy Podcast with Sam Fragoso.

Fragoso is a gracious and earnest young man in his early twenties with an enviable ability to connect and related to people no matter who they are. This is a main reason why his show is such an easy listen. The show does slant political at times, and he and some of his guests swear which I know is a turn off for many of my friends. (The first show I listened to was an interview with Eric Andre, which is a profanity laced, combative, and not quite typical show.)

A few months ago he asked his listeners to send in their stories of loss. Ultimately the show he put out, which is entitled The Lost Episode, was a reaction to having misplaced the recording of an interview with Heather Christian, a musician and composer based in New York. For this show he speaks with Heather Christian, his father and his best friend about loss. At the top of the recording he said that he received no listener feedback at all, so I emailed Sam again.

I had written something to him, but he must have been having email trouble. I had a draft of what I wrote and realized that it was too long and wordy anyway, and I decided to distill a portion of it into a poem. I was able to send the poem and a note to him, and we had a conversational back and forth. Sam Fragoso said liked the poem, and he proposed that I record it so he would play it on the air sometime if the moment seemed appropriate. I decided not to do it for a number of reasons, but the main reason was that I did not feel very confident in my writing. I also think it would not enhance or be relevant to what Sam is trying to accomplish.

I have been thinking this for some time. How much risk is there to putting out bad poetry? People do it all time. So here I am with a little risk – a poem about loss. It is short and unsophisticated, but it is written.

“Bereft”

A word is so light,
like air,
that could between the feathers of a wing

That when spoken
It sounds like a dying breath
Uttered by the surviving

It slips past my cracked lips
Too late to grasp it
And inhale it back into the rib-cage

I look around,
Desperate,
Afraid that someone, unseen,
Had heard it

And they would know instead of breathing
I had been weeping

Because bereft is what you say
When the deep hollow wells
that store your tears
have turned bone dry.

I had some type of explanation as to why I wrote it.