Traveler – A Thesaurus Game Poem

If I traveled with only a backpack, 

With no place to go and no place to be

A wondering wanderer, I can be called

Searching for my identity

.

If I traveled in my trusty RV

And practiced my talent for strings and flute

My gypsy ways could bring excitement

Until my parking spot starts a dispute

.

If I traveled to places new and exciting

Bringing my own values to locations unknown

My ignorance would call me explorer, pioneer, pilgrim

But what would the inhabitants put on my headstone?

.

So how can a traveler earn a good name

When going on a long awaited expedition?

My traveling advice is simple yet hard

Check your behavior and not your intention.

My traveling kids…I wonder what they are thinking….Picture taken at the Badlands National Park, SD.

This week, Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #238 – Vagabond has a new twist! He has introduced the Thesaurus Game rules, where instead of using the actual word prompt, you use a synonym of that word. Well, I went a little overboard with the synonyms (what can I say, I’m a competitive over-achiever deep down inside!) and I might have snuck in a little bit of social commentary in there (not quite against the rules, but toeing the line), but I did have fun writing this poem!

I love word play – whether it’s a game with words, like Scrabble or Bananagrams, or puns or any other wittiness that involves words. Growing up, I had an old Pringles can that I covered with white paper. Anytime I learned a new word, I would write it on that can. I had a dictionary and thesaurus by the can and would try to use the new word or a synonym or antonym at least seven times before I could check it off and claim it as “Mine”.

My love of words lead me to wanting my kids to also have a love of words. To make sure they had good vocabulary, I never talked to them in baby talk. I read to them when they were still in the womb. I explained and defined words for them. I made sure to pronounce words clearly and concisely. I think my efforts lead to having very articulate children – which has it’s positives and negatives. While my kids all love to talk, I have one who reads a lot but struggles with spelling and vocabulary and one who doesn’t want to read or write at all (despite being able to). This boggles my mind as these are the things I love!

I also wanted to make sure my kids had a chance to travel and really wanted to instill in them a love of travel. The picture above is from our cross-country trip four years ago. It’s one of my favorite memories of all time. The excitement of traveling made the trip easy. We didn’t use any electronics during the drive; instead, we relied on “old fashioned” games like I Spy, Car Bingo and of course, Looking Out the Window.

Driving across the United States, I was amazed at how the landscape changed from arid deserts to tree topped mountains, from boring straight line roads to stomach churning curvy roads. I loved the wide open spaces and imagined how it would have been to experience these places before an interstate highway and concrete cities were built. These thoughts lead to the heartache of accepting the fact that Native Americans were forced off the lands that we were traveling through. While I can enjoy the view of these majestic landscapes, Native Americans might feel differently, acknowledging the trauma and loss they suffered so we can travel in comfort.

The United States of America is a land of contradictions – it stands for the highest ideals of what people can accomplish yet cowers to protect and hide the basest behaviors perpetrated by these same people. Can I love the physical beauty of it’s landscape while also mourning the cost of being able to experience that beauty? Can I advocate for Black lives while still supporting police officers? Can I experience racist micro-aggressions yet still wish my neighbor a good morning? As a traveler, an immigrant to this country, I would like to answer with a hopeful, “Yes”.

©️ 2020 iido

Beholder – A Poem

I don’t want you in my view

You who brought these lovely hues

These vibrant strokes now seem obscene

An eruption of all the shades between

.

I want the simple black and white

The easy way to know wrong from right

No questions formed by a grey muddle

All sharp divisions, there’s nothing subtle

.

But I remember your yellow shades

And the pops of red, how they invade

My mind so I had to stop and question

All my beliefs…click! Here’s my deflection

.

I want the simple black and white

The easy way to know wrong from right

My picture is stark, unyielding, that’s true

But I can’t be responsible, if I don’t have a clue

Image Credit- Pixabay- Ariadne-a-mazed
(For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a camera capturing the image of a woman in color, while the rest of the image is in black and white. The woman seems to be holding a sheer veil over her face. The wall behind the camera is covered in graffiti with a large rectangular niche directly in front of the camera and a table to the left of the niche. )

This poem was written for Sadje’s “What do you see?” Picture Prompt #36. I thought this was an excellent picture as there are so many interpretations as evidenced by the numerous writers and poets who submitted their verses for this prompt.

I originally started this poem and thought it would be about love, how love changes your life, adding color and vibrancy that would be gone once that love is gone. Basically, how it felt when Elvio told me was taking Sally to the 8th grade dance instead of me.

But as I wrote and edited and wrote some more…and as I read and thought about the 4th of July celebrations this weekend… another thought manifested itself into the poem.

Two articles in particular changed the meaning of this poem. The first was this article about “moral rebels”. The second article was about what the 4th of July means to different people, such as Black Americans, Indigenous Americans and immigrants.

There are people who would rather not know what is happening in the world – if it doesn’t affect them, it’s not on their radar. Sometimes they focus on other things in their life. Sometimes they think “ignorance is bliss.” Sometimes they know, yet still chose to ignore.

Our world is filled with so many different colors and shades and hues! We can chose to notice them and marvel at their beauty. Or we can chose to ignore them and live monochromatically. If we chose the latter, what would we be missing?

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein

Note; Apologies to any readers who may be color blind and who might have been hurt/insulted by this post. My metaphor above pertains to race/ethnicity and to nature. In no way do I mean to suggest that people without the physical capacity to see color perpetuate racism or that they are unable to experience the fullness life.

©️ 2020 iido

Castle – A Poem

What tipped you off?

Was it the high stone towers?

Or maybe it was the perpetual fog?

The howling? 

Well, of course, there’s howling with the full moon.

No? 

Oh. 

Then it must be the moat!

Obviously. 

You’re right – you’re unwelcome here

This isn’t the place for you 

It wasn’t anything you did or didn’t do

It’s me

I’m frightened

I mean – frightening 

You don’t want to come in here 

I don’t even want to be here

Yet here I am

But you – stay out

….

What?

You’re still building that bridge?

Image Credit- Pixabay- Ariadne-a-mazed 
(For visually is reader, the image shows a castle at night, it’s turrets and towers reflecting moonlight. A cloudy sky can be seen in the backdrop.)

This poem was inspired by the picture above courtesy of Sadje’s “What do you see?” Photo prompt #35 (hope I’m not too late to join!). I was also able to incorporate Sammi Scribbles’ Weekend Writing Prompt #163 – Unwelcome. Her mandate of 91 words for this prompt, helped me pare down the poem and keep me from rambling – oh, I could have gone on and on….

This moody picture captures my current mood considering all the events that are currently happening. I, too, feel like I want to build a castle and protect myself and my family against the coronavirus, the pain of racism, the heartache of loss – the loss of how life was before, the possible loss of relationships/people. I am heartened by the people in my life who reach out, to build that bridge of compassion, understanding, acceptance and solidarity.

We need bridges right now – especially to places (internal and external) that seem foreboding. Walls are built not only to keep things out, but also to keep things in. What are the walls that we have built? Why did we build them? What walls do we see around other people? What are some reasons those walls are up?

The other part to consider is what happens after we build that bridge. Should we just expect the door to be opened? Do we knock softly – maybe hoping the door doesn’t open? If the door doesn’t open right away, do we shrug our shoulders and say, “Oh, well, I tried,” then turn around and go back over the bridge? Do we bring our battering ram and force the door open?

Building bridges is just one part of the process. Are we brave enough to see this process all the way through?

©️ 2020 iido

A Shining Moment – A Haibun

I am drinking hot coffee despite the 90 degree weather, the sweet creamy liquid warming my nostrils before I take a sip. I hold it for a moment, savoring it’s decadence before swallowing, while watching my children run through the sprinkler. The sunlight glistens off the water droplets hanging onto their dark hair and tan skin. These diamonds sparkle and glisten before being flung into the air echoing the sound of their laughter. I drink my coffee and commit this happy, shining moment to memory.

Growing up, my sprinkler was the fire hydrant in front of my neighbor’s house. Instead of soft, squishy grass underfoot, we had pavement that left our feet raw from scrapes on the unyielding surface. Our laughter gurgled like the fire hydrant while our screams matched the siren wail of the police – a warning that our water play time would soon come to an end. My mother would drink black coffee and watch us from the stoop, her worries emanating from the lines between her eyes, like the sun’s rays burning our already darkened skin.  

On this summer day, I drink my coffee, leaning against my marble countertop while looking at my children through the panoramic kitchen window and toast myself for not having wrinkles between my eyes.

Sunshine rewarding
Generations of hard work -
Suburban sprinkler
I bought this water toy for my kids to play with since we don’t have a pool. I thought it was cute when I bought it – maybe because, subconsciously, it reminded me of my childhood summers in Brooklyn.

This haibun was written for Lillian’s request on dVerse’s Haibun Monday to write a traditional haibun about One Shining Moment in our lives. Lillian has an excellent description of what entails a “traditional haibun” including resources for the KIGO (a word/phrase that alludes to a season – in mine, sunshine alludes to summer) and examples of KIREJI (a shift that adds insight). I hope that my haibun is meets the bar!

Serendipitously, this haibun also works for Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to juxtapose our life as an adult against our life as a child. I do marvel at the difference between my childhood as an immigrant to this country versus that of my children. My parents both worked, my mom during the day and dad at night. We lived in a diverse neighborhood in the city where my brothers and I would walk to school around the corner. We took public transportation and made frequent trips into “The City”. I did my share of “babysitting” my brothers and could be classified as a “latch-key kid” growing up.

Eventually, we were able to move out of Brooklyn and out to Long Island where my younger brothers were able to live the “suburban life” – taking a school bus, playing football on Friday nights, getting their driver’s license at 16. By that time, I was already in college so my experience with “suburban life” only came when I was married and about to have kids.

My kids have never had to take public transportation as their sole means of getting around. They marvel at sidewalks and when we do go on the train or bus in the “big city”, it’s a grand adventure! They have always had a back yard and have no clue what a “stoop” is. My husband (who is also an immigrant) and I have taken them back to the places where we grew up and they marvel at the “tiny houses” and wonder how we lived with only one bathroom, without a yard, and having to share bedrooms.

Race/ethnicity, social class, education, profession – these are all inter-related. My “shining moment” would not have come to fruition without the hard work and sacrifice of my parents, without the guidance of teachers, without the encouragement of friends. Yet for some, even with these current supports, the institutionalized discrimination/racism inherent in our systems in the USA keep them from reaching their shining moment, from getting their just reward for their hard work and sacrifice, and that of their ancestors.

We all deserve a shining moment in our lives. I would even venture to say, we deserve more than one. I would even be bold enough to say, that we deserve to shine as bright as we would want in every moment in our lives. Shine on, friends, shine on!

©️ 2020 iido

Transition – A Poem

My daughter is growing hair

You know, “down there”

So we sat and talked about

Transitions

We talked about breasts and deodorant

About mood swings and not smelling rank

We even read a book about

Transitions

My bittersweet thoughts of my girl growing up

Interrupted by her saying that it needs to stop

Because she’s really a boy in

Transition

The feelings she had, now identified

A revelation that she could no longer hide

And so she wanted to

Transition

My bittersweet thoughts turned to fear

This went against beliefs I hold dear

What did I do wrong to warrant

Transition

But this wasn’t about me and my happiness

It was about my sweet child and their completeness

So I took a deep breath and researched

Transition

We went to the doctor and talked to the priest

We went to the mall, to try on clothes, at least

My love for my child would get us though

Transition

Acceptance is hard, some days I’m not there

Bittersweet thoughts in my head still flare

But my child’s on a journey, how can I not care

We can adjust to change, no need to despair

So proud of my child as we begin to prepare for

Transition

Image obtained from WordPress Free Photo Library (first time I’ve used an image from there – there wasn’t any attribution info so I hope this reference is ok).

This poem was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #237 – Transition. It is a work of fiction – my children haven’t expressed any gender or sexual preferences so far. I hope that if they do, I would be able to live up to the open acceptance I have characterized in this poem.

I want to believe that human love is unconditional, but I know that isn’t true. Even our love for our children isn’t unconditional – we expect something back, whether it’s obedience or taking care of us in our old age. Still, I hope to show my children that love can transcend and transform any difficult situation.

With the pandemic and calls for racial justice continuing, let’s not forget that this is also Pride Month. Love is love! Intersectionality should be a part of any process seeking true justice and equity.

EDITED 6/22/20 4 PM – I forgot to link this post to Kate’s Friday Fun request for our favorite sayings (this is what happens when inspiration wakes you up at 3 AM!). I don’t actually have a favorite saying, but I do collect sayings that I resonate with me. This saying, I think, was an unconscious inspiration for the poem above:

“Love can change a person the way a parent can change a baby- awkwardly, and often with a great deal of mess.” 
― Lemony Snicket, Horseradish

This saying has also made a home in my mind lately. I’m not sure if it’s leasing the space or if it’s there to stay…

“I have accepted fear as part of life – specifically the fear of change... I have gone ahead despite the pounding in the heart that says: turn back....” 
― Erica Jong

I hope it’s here to stay….

©️ 2020 iido

THE BeZine, Vol. 7, Issue 3, June 2020, SustainABILITY — Jamie Dedes’ THE POET BY DAY Webzine

Ultimately, talking points preserve narratives seeking to keep the status quo or create a reality that aligns with the person’s ideology or personal needs. Marshall Shepherd 3 Common Things In Race, Coronavirus And Climate Change Debates, Forbes, June 12 2020 We want to start this introduction to the SustainABILITY issue of The BeZine with a […]

THE BeZine, Vol. 7, Issue 3, June 2020, SustainABILITY — Jamie Dedes’ THE POET BY DAY Webzine

I am so honored to be a part of this collection! Thank you to Jaime Dedes and Michael Dickel at The BeZine for their commitment to raising consciousness about climate change as well as racism/anti-racism and the current pandemic – not just as individual concerns but as an intersection of issues that affects us all.

Freedom – A Haiku

To have the freedom

To not think of injustice

Sunset privilege

The colors of sunset after a beautiful summer-like day….

This haiku was written for Patrick’s Pic and Word Challenge #236 – Freedom. My head has been pretty preoccupied with all the protests that have been occurring, as well as the usual pandemic news briefings. It’s disconcerting to me in many ways, so I have been trying hard to find the places that I can control and feel effective in what I do. This has been challenging.

The last line of my haiku comes from the history of towns, here in the USA, that prohibited blacks from being in the town after sunset. Of course, this prevented blacks from living in these towns. These towns were called “sundown towns” and are not widely known since this racist policy doesn’t appear in history books, although, I’m sure the black folks who lived near these areas were aware for safety reasons. These towns stayed “all white on purpose” and, until around the 1970s, some had signs saying so. Violence was another way that white residents made clear that blacks and other people of color were not allowed in the area. This PDF from author, James Loewen (who wrote the first and only book about sundown towns in the USA), introduces the history of this phenomenon which still exists to this day.

Besides redlining, sundown towns are another “hidden” aspect of the systemic nature of racism here in the USA. These practices were not written in history books but people – whites and blacks – knew about them. Because they weren’t documented, there was no way for blacks to prove they were being discriminated against. And if they tried to prove it or if they did not follow these written rules, there would be a violent reaction.

This is how racism works for people of color – stay silent or be a target. For white people, racism’s message is – stay silent and enjoy the benefits or you’ll be a target as well.

This is why we need to be raise our voices and our actions to be ANTI-Racist. Being passively against racism is how racism exists. This passivity includes saying the right words, even believing in equality, but not doing anything about it.

I live in a white neighborhood – there is only one other Asian family that lives in our whole entire neighborhood. On our cul-de-sac with six families, I know there are three families that support the current president who has shown support for racist attitudes. I bought the sign below:

Will freedom of speech be extended to us? We’ll see when the sun goes down….

©️ 2020 iido

Rant – A Poem

I could rant about the boredom

About not being able to eat at the crepe place

Or get my nails done to match the front door

I could rant about the kids 

Running around inside then outside, being loud

And disturbing the neighbors working from home

I could rant about the heat 

And not being able to go to the beach

Or to Disney for the first time

I could rant, but I won’t

I can’t

When families are made newly homeless through job loss

When food pantries are not getting enough donations as their lines get longer

When parents are risking their lives for $7.25 an hour

When some kids don’t have an outside

When some kids can’t be loud or else

When black bodies are pitted against blue bodies

When black bodies are killed and will never get to go to Disney

My immigrant, light skinned Asian, college educated, middle class, suburban stay at home mother runner rant is bullshit.

Because I can still breathe when others cannot.

New House in the Suburbs, Paul Klee
1924 – National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

This poem was written for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #235 – Rant. I have also incorporated a Wednesday Writing Prompt from Jamie Dedes’ that she posted on April 22, 2020 that used the picture above as a starting point. I wasn’t able to write anything for that prompt then, but the picture has stayed with me so I am glad to be able to use it now.

I really liked the haziness of this painting – it reminds me of the images/ideas I had in my head about the kind of house I would live in when I grew up. I wanted a symmetrical house, with a weeping willow in the yard, maybe a pond close by. There would be a swing under the weeping willow and in the fenced in yard, there would be apple trees and flowers. And of course, there would be birds flying under the yellow sun with a few puffy clouds overhead.

I lived on the first floor of a duplex in Brooklyn when I envisioned my “grown up home”. We had a little yard in the back that was usually overgrown with weeds despite our attempts to grow vegetables and flowers. The kitchen was all the way in the back, so you had to pass through all the rooms to get to the back of the house. I would ride my bike up and down the street on the sidewalk, from our house to Aunt Rita’s house – that’s as far as my mom would let us. Sometimes, we would go to the bodega at the end of the block to get treats or get some plantains for a quick and yummy afternoon snack.

My kids have never lived in the type of place I lived in growing up. They’ve only known single family homes in the suburbs with decent yards and two or more bathrooms. They all are currently obsessed with living in tiny homes when they grow up, that they would park in our driveway so we can all still have dinner together as a family.

All my dreams of living in a spacious house have been reversed with my children’s dream of living in a home smaller than my childhood Brooklyn home. The irony.

As I write this in my typical American suburban kitchen with granite countertops, I am acutely aware of what I have, that others don’t. Yes, I know my husband and I worked hard to afford to be “comfortable”; that our parents also worked hard so we can live “better” then they did. But I know we had help – social supports, financial resources and a systemic societal advantage of being stereotyped as the “model minority”.

At least, I used to see it as an advantage. After much reading (check out this article and this one), I realized that any type of stereotype is still a stereotype and is actually a disadvantage. Also, the whims of racism can change quickly and harshly as evidenced by the rise of anti-Asian sentiments with the arrival of the coronavirus that has been named by some as the “Chinese virus”.

So while I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I still have experienced racism:

  • I’ve been accused of stealing at the local grocery store numerous time (to the point that I go to a different store farther way in a more diverse neighborhood just so I don’t have to worry about being “randomly audited” when I shop – because it isn’t random if it’s always and only me)
  • I’ve been called racial slurs as I’ve been out running
  • I’ve felt afraid going to a new place and realizing I was the only non-white person there and getting those looks that tell me I don’t belong

The thing with racism is that it erases the individual – that all important staple of American exceptionalism. You don’t see my struggles and triumphs. You don’t know about the awards I’ve won or that my closet with pants sizes ranging from college to pregnancy. You aren’t aware that I love peanut butter and jelly sandwiches or of my passionate conviction that Heinz is the best and only ketchup in the world. You don’t know that I dreamt of a house with a willow tree in the front.

But because I have lead a financially and educationally privileged life, I need to use that advantage to help those who were not as fortunate (through no fault of their own). Otherwise, I will be just as complicit in perpetuating racism.

Rant over.

©️ 2020 iido