Not A Poem

Memoir Through Verse and Prose

I realize today that not all memoir can be written though verse. I did so after reading two posts this morning that made me think about the importance of love. One post was not even that, it was simply an invitation to write. But it was unique because it was filled with love. I believe love to be the most important place upon earth, yes place. I say place for it is and can be a place to dwell. When love comes though us to another it can change lives. I read a second post today that moved me. This post was filled with wisdom written through metaphor about becoming the best that we can be. It was beautifully written and the comments were marvelous.

I realized that when we are at a point in our lives when we are becoming “the best that we can be,” we are often still young, striving and less fully formed than those who are further along on the path. We may not yet know the power of love, a love called Agape. Once we have become the best that we can be, once we are done, formed, that love will just come out of us. I had an extraordinary experience once that demonstrates this love. Please do not make the mistake of thinking that this story is about Liz. It has almost nothing to do with me – I was a conduit.

When we bought our home thirty years ago, where we lived was more important than the home we selected. Due to this thinking I chose a building that I for many years termed the second ugliest house in St Louis. In fact it was (in my opinion). However, we were living in the neighborhood that we wished to be in. This is a three story building built in 1898, a four square. In the 1960s someone tore it up and made nasty little apartments out of it. When we moved in we had a tenant. She was with us for twenty years. She was the very best tenant anyone could ever of had. She was an African American woman who was my age and single. Like myself she worked in healthcare. She had a very loving and caring nature.

Several years later after she had moved, I knew that she had suffered a stroke and that she was recuperating in a nursing facility. I decided to visit her. I have been in many nursing homes for professional reasons. This home was state owned. Without a doubt I can tell you that it was the most disgusting place that I have ever been. She died there. When I visited, I was greeted by the most outrageous stench of urine and feces. It was grotesquely pervasive.

I sat down we talked for a while. She expressed a need to use the bathroom, for which she needed nursing assistance. I knew that she would wait all afternoon before anyone would bother to answer her bell. She was a larger woman that I. I sensibly could say “goodbye” at this point and inform the staff that she needed attention. But I also knew that she would receive none. She would be made to lie in her own feces and urine until another shift had come to work.

She was a little embarrassed, but I knew that there was nothing like having “to go” and not being able to do so. She was unable to walk and needed a wheel chair. I will never know how we managed, but I got her into the chair, into the bathroom, onto the toilet, up, wiped and back into the wheelchair, then back into bed … all in this wreaking, filthy place. Somehow God just decided to use me that day and I am glad that he/she did. I am not sure that I could do it again. But I will say that allowing love to stream through me was rewarding and good. Again know that this story is not about me.

Posted at Poetry Pantry in Poets United with the hope I don’t get kicked out for no poetry.

Flight …

Haibun
There have been a couple of times when I have “taken flight” in a airplane. No, I am not speaking of travel something that David and I have enjoyed a good bit of until recently. I mentioned earlier taking the controls of a little dark red two-seater as we went in between the Green Mountains one morning with a friend when I was sixteen. There was a second time. It was 2005 in November. I had just been through the biggest spiritual experience of my life. It took six – eight weeks, it was exhilarating and exceptionally painful. It would leave me dazed and confused. And I knew full well that it looked like I was having a nervous breakdown. I sensibly engaged a bodyworker who worked with my energy and a exercise therapist. I did this to assist with keeping myself grounded. It was the hardest thing that I have ever been through. It changed my life and taught me a lot. However, I had no idea initially what it was that I was meant to do. What came to me was that at 60 years of age I was meant to learn to fly an airplane. This TERRIFIED me. I found an old grass airfield with wonderful old hangars from the 20s, and a little flying school. I learned to fly a 1947 Luscombe 8 Taildragger. I loved that little plane, I used to come over to the airfield and wash it … ha … lying on one of those things that mechanics lie on so I could get under the fuselage, in linen and pearls. I really loved it when I learned to take off and to land. I did not get a license, this is a wealthy man’s sport, no bones about it. Buying a plane is a very expensive operation. And the buying isn’t the expensive part, it is the insurance, the hangar space and the upkeep. What was actually taking place was that I was facing my ultimate fear of heights and my growing fear of flying. Even if one flies a good bit it is not unusual to acquire a fear of flying as one ages. I did exactly what I was meant to do at the time.

persepolis far away in persia – quick flight

Posted with gratitude at The Poetry Pantry #158.

It Was The War

Haibun
Mummy died in 2000, Pup in 2003. I had the tasks of property management and medical care management for my father utilizing the services of 8 employees between the time my mother and father died. I returned to Vermont from the Midwest more times during that first year of oversight than I had visited in the last 34 years. I would oversee the administration of two estates while attempting to manage my own business at home. All done while my siblings would attempt to sue me. I was soon to discover two WWII scrapbooks of my mothers. They were astounding. She served in London in the European Branch of the OWI. The Office of War Information was the Propaganda Wing of the US Government. I have no idea what she did. A while back I read something within these books that makes me believe that she was at one time behind enemy lines in Europe. She endured bombings of London. I do know that it radically changed and reshaped her forever. Today I fully understand her ghastly mothering.

screeching kingfisher
dives and skims the cool water
minnow for dinner

Haibun
“The War was the most exciting time of my life” she said to me in 1998 on the phone. I could only think: “who finds war exciting?” War is grim, grotesque, horrific and evil. I lived through the fears of the Vietnam War Era. I did not relate to Mummy’s nostalgic trip back in time at all. In 2005 I had a spiritual experience that initiated me into my parent’s world. Willingly, I placed myself inside the mind of a Vietnam War Veteran, a stranger. This experience one of shattering pain and one of pure ecstasy lead me to (among other things) study war. The experience in its entirety taught me things that I otherwise would never have known, nor understood about life. It was a truly life altering experience.

firefly lightening
stretching across the meadow
like doodle bugs

Doodle Bug was the British name for the Flying V-1 Bomb(s) dropped on Great Britain By Germany during WWII.

Haibun
I was the apple of my father’s eye when I was born in 1946. Tragically this love ended around 1951. The destructive results of WWII were catching up with both my parents. They each retreated within as two more children were born. The loss of my father’s love would shape my life to come and dominate it for many years in a most un-positive manner. Following my 2005 spiritual experience, I was to experienced my father’s love as it washed over me for the next couple of years replenishing and nourishing all that had been taken away.

little cicada
shedding its summer body
soon too it shall die

I am discovering that this desire to write my memoir through haibun, haiku, haiga and other forms of Japanese poetry will be very difficult. As all know there are many RULES to follow when writing Japanese forms of poetry. I wish to comply however, I must not only write poetry, I must tell an interesting story … or many interesting stories. And I have so many photos. I have removed from these scrapbooks 1/3 of the contents, leaving 2/3 left to with grave difficulty remove, clippings, postcards, letters, dance cards, dinner dates … all sorts of things. These scrapbooks are now 74 years old. Fragile. Each item must be removed with care and then I must have them scanned … by a commercial organization. All when I am not ill – hopefully. I wish to move forward, it is such a slow pace however. I will get there I keep telling myself. Thank you for reading, for your support and for following me.

Please comment critically. As relates to the paragraph just above, I have now written 5 haibun. A haibun is a paragraph of prose about a place, an object or person. My initial 2 haibun were longer – more about me. I wish to get the story across, each story in one short paragraph. I have shortened these 3 above, made theme more concise. Are they two short? Do they tell enough? Do they actually hold your interest and would they make you wish to read more and finish the book (that will be filled with photos? I don’t know. Please you let me know what you think and feel. You won’t insult me. I wish to create a thing of beauty. Remember this will largely be filled with WWII memorabilia. It will tell one how war effects those born into new generations far away from the war experienced by the generation before. It will be a book that I hope will be placed upon the coffee table.

Shared with Poets United for the Sunday Poetry Pantry.

The “N” Word

Haibun

I grew up with the N word. I do believe my mother may have been the most racist person I have ever known. Her racism however did something positive to me; it gave me great empathy for those different from myself. This experience made me seek diversity as I grew up. My mother didn’t like Jews, African Americans, the Irish, and Italians; come to think of it she did not like anyone. My family did not have television when we were children. One summer I was sent to Maryland. I was at that time showing an interest in boys and apparently behaving badly. I was placed upon a Greyhound bus in Manchester, Vermont and got off somewhere in Maryland. With my little transistor radio close to my ear I listened to the news regarding the March on Washington. I was deeply moved even enraged by the injustice that I heard. Oh how I longed to get off that bus and join Civil Rights Workers as they marched on Washington! This was a defining moment in my life.

yellow butterfly
alights upon the barley
distant lightening

This is gratefully shared at Poets United Poetry Pantry

Forgive me. I had not realized when I wrote this that we had a Disney theme this week.

it is poetry to my ears

I have been floundering, excited about writing my memoirs but not happy about loosing contact with my poet friends, really, really not happy! So, what should I do? Should I write all of the time? Should I write memoir one day and poetry the next? No, for I haven’t the time. Then I came upon a solution that evolved from a thought that I had last year. Most of you know that I absolutely love Japanese forms of poetry. I was ill for more than 1/2 of last year (yes, it appears to be perennial) during which time I studied Japanese poetry, especially haiku, haiga, haibun, tanka. I committed myself to writing one haiku per day during my illness. This act was a spiritual discipline. That is part one. Secondly, the photos from my mother’s WWII scrap books are the real inspiration for this memoir. I wish to honor her work in London during the bombings. She was an awful mother and I did not like her. I came late in life to understand that her poor mothering was in great part a function of the war. For this reason I can tell you that war reaches down through the ages and effects those of new generations. I have finally concluded that this story can only be told through the lens of my own life. I say why not write it using Japanese forms of poetry? How does that sound? I think that it solves all of my problems! It sounds absolutely perfect. It is poetry to my ears. I do not think that it has been done before. The only thing that even comes close is “Walden Pond” re-done in haiku. Tell me what you think. Am I going out on a limb? And oh, one is supposed to start out with a bang, a whopper of a first sentence, or in my case a whopper of a haibun. You are meant to draw one in to your story. For those who may not know, a haibun is prose followed by a haiku. Traditionally this prose speaks of a place, a person or a scene and today memoir. A haiga is art with a haibun or haiku. the art of which I speak is photography.

Haibun

I was nine years old. I walked into the employee’s cloakroom of my mother’s place of employment. I was a very little kid. I rifled through all of the coat pockets. In one pocket I found $1000. Wow! I stole it. This was 1955. I knew that I had done something really bad because of the feelings of dread in my tummy. But it was a great feeling to have some money. I went to the general store and I bought some candy. I understood the power of money at that young age. I understood it because I had none and my parents had a good bit which they did not share. It was as if we three kids were poverty stricken. Today I remember little else of this episode. I was confronted and caught by my parents. I am not sure how, but I suspect showing up at the general store with a $100 bill in a town of 500 was a dead giveaway. I cannot remember my punishment. My father remedied this situation by giving me a room in the Big Barn. We had the Big Barn and the Little Barn. The horses, the tack room, our riding ribbons, trophies and a large collection of carriages and sleighs were kept in the Big Barn. In my new room in the Big Barn filled with hay and pigeon droppings he put a small roll-top desk for my use. Perhaps this act was in recognition that everyone needed a room of one’s own. I remember nothing else about it. Years later in the 90s I spoke to my mother about it. She was mortified by these memories. Shame wove a deep, ugly and tight thread through my family. Shame is something that follows one for a lifetime unless one both changes and forgives oneself.

smoldering June heat
night cicadas loud above
gentle breeze leaves move

It takes a long time to perfect a haiku. This one was written last night and needs much reworking.

Liz at five - seven years of age.
Shared with fellow poets at both: Poets United – The Poetry Pantry and dVerse’s Poetry Jam where Kelvin of Kelvin’s Poetry Blog has challenged us to use two idioms to inspire our poetry today. I have used my title and “going out on a limb”. Thank you Kelvin.

Are We One Yet?

Today’s dVerse prompt came from Kelvin. He shared a nasty experience of racial discrimination that told him that he was ugly and that all Asians are ugly. I only know Kelvin through his poetry and as a result I am very fond of him. I find him to have a very beautiful face. I look forward to his words. Kelvin is from the Philippines. I have always enjoyed his poems and “running into him upon the Internet.” He has challenged us to write about “our” Asian experiences.

The first thing that I will draw your attention to is my blog title: “noh where.” The word “noh” refers to two things. Noh derived from the Japanese word Nogaku means “skill.” It refers to the classical drama of Japan practiced since the 14th Century where in males often wearing masks play the roles of both men and women. Noh is also the name of a town in Burkina Faso, Africa. Information from Wikapedia can be found here. Therefore my blog title “noh where” is a play on words meaning “everywhere” or “all people.” Or, the title is meant to express inclusivity of all.

I will share a couple of my experiences in China that took place in 2007 when we visited. And let me add that these experiences could have taken place anywhere. Now they are taking place here at noh where. The idea of writing a poem about my “Asian” experiences is exceptionally challenging. I am thinking haibun. Yes, I will go with the haibun style, a paragraph of prose followed by a haiku. Having written at NaHoWriMo on Facebook for a time encouraged me to learn much about Japanese poetry – resulting in my “falling in love with it.” It was in China that I had my first experience of “being one with all.”

one night in xian

Haibun
After many hours of travel, we arrived in the middle of the night in Beijing exhausted. After customs we lined up for a taxi. I have discovered that many young Chinese having grown up with little, know today that they must fight for what they wish, quiet literally. This was first demonstrated to me in the taxi line as I was nearing the front of the line. I am a short woman. I turned around to observe an exceptionally tall, young Chinese man using his height and weight to navigate to the front of the line. That sort of nonsense doesn’t fly with me, at all. I stuck my arm up, not able to reach his head and said “Oh no you don’t!” Surprisingly, he stopped.

bamboo shoots will soon wave in the wind – as new growth

Haibun
On the sidewalk on a Saturday evening in Xian I observed a long banner showing the body of a man bloody and bludgeoned. This banner fronted a group of about 200 workers protesting the sadistic behavior of their employer. They looked sad and dejected, without energy. I found a woman who spoke English to ask her about this. What was happening? She shared about the protest. I became absolutely incensed. I left my husband and went up to this group of seated employees and started marching up and down in front of them, clapping my hands and yelling yes, yes, yes. Shortly thereafter they stood up, smiles came upon their faces and they started clapping no longer drained of energy. They felt supported, reenergized, then they really got into their protest. I gave them a thumbs up and left with my husband. I have never felt such a spontaneous moment with humanity.

rank weeds in the pond being cleared for new – fragrant growth

The First Sentence Must Catch Your Reader (they say)

Did Mummy actually go behind enemy lines during WWII? And if so, why was she there and what did she do there? These are some of the questions that mull around in my head today.

I did not learn until sometime after Mummy’s death in 2000 that she had served in WWII in London during the Blitz. She served with the OWI … the Office of War Information, the US Government’s propaganda wing. The only reason that I learned about this service is that one day while taking care of my own Executrix duties at home I found my sister’s young child playing with some old scrapbooks of Mummy’s. At home, defines my family home in Vermont, not my own home in the Midwest. Seeing that they were works of obvious historic value at least to the family, I was more than surprised that this four year old had been given these as toys. I took them away and replaced them with something more appropriate. My initial question about Mummy going behind enemy lines was prompted by something that I saw within these scrapbooks filled with paper that was now disintegrating before my eyes. Whatever it is that prompted this thought was seen at least twelve years ago and accessing it might be very difficult.

Today, nearly thirteen years later I still have to sort these books out and place each scrapbook entry into an archival envelope. I will also need to have each entry photo copied and placed on DVD. Yes, this year.

I didn’t like my mother. She really was not a very nice mother. I can remember when the movie Mommie Dearest came out, I thought oh my, that was my mother. Most know that the book Mommie Dearest was a Hollywood “tell all” book of alleged horrific abuse and alcoholism on the part of Joan Crawford towards her daughter.

I am a person who seeks answers to any question that I have. A part of that need is accompanied by the knowing that there is always a reason. I have found a reason for everything that has happened to me throughout my lifetime, have I ever questioned it. I had a very difficult childhood actually it was dreadful. I came from a privileged background. So very privileged that I was sent away to camp at the age of four and sent away to school at the age of thirteen. I have come to realize that this was the British way of doing things. Everything that my family was engaged in was very “British,” the result of my mother’s time in Great Britain.

I am a person of some degree of courage. I am known for having “no fear.” This was not always true. I used to be afraid of my own shadow; today I know that my fearlessness comes from my mother. And interestingly it was also crushed by her when I was a child.

Disgorged Words

What is it that I am putting off?
Surely I have examined the issue for a long enough period of time.

Dear reader are you doing what you are meant to do?
What have you put off doing that you should be doing?

First, I don’t call myself a writer, I don’t really call myself anything.
I have dabbled in numerous arts including poetry.

It never occurred to me to “get published.”
I have really never had the desire and yet that is meant to be the goal, isn’t it.

So, back to the “what have you not done that you ought be doing?”
That is my way of putting it on you, giving myself more time, procrastinating a bit more.

My life has been one of learning lessons.
Not just learning lessons as they come, but purposefully seeking out the lessons to learn.

There was a time when twenty-nine that I wished to pursue further spiritual growth.
But God said: If that is so, you will need to stop smoking.” Bummer.

But I did quit because I was more interested at that point in reaching my goal.
So what am I putting off now, today?

I am old now and still learning so why is it so hard to begin this task?
There are so many excuses, I don’t know how, I don’t have time, I don’t want to.

I have done the healing, done the forgiving, gone back, way back in time.
I have the answers. I know why she was the way she was.

So who am I supposed to write about? My mother is dead. My father is dead.
And I know nothing about memoir.

There you have it. How and where do I begin?
Isn’t it a bit presumptuous of me to wish to put this all down on paper?

OK, the computer?
I really, truly do not know.

Now playing at dVerse OpenLinkNight