I really enjoyed thinking about colors and situations for my last poem so I couldn’t resist doing it again for this one. Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #248 – Rosette provided the inspiration for this one. His rosette was from a church in Valencia, Spain. My favorite rosette is the one at the Sacre Couer Cathedral in Paris, however I couldn’t find the picture of it from my last trip there.
Roses are one of my favorite flowers. It’s always a treat when Hubby brings me a “just because” bouquet. My first dozen red roses were from my parents for a musical I was in 8th grade. My other favorite flower are pansies. Both these flowers come in different colors that have various meanings. Rubies only come in one color (obviously) but it can have different shades – from deep red to a more pinkish hue.
Red is life – the color of blood, of passionate anger and passionate love, of store-bought valentine hearts, of dying suns and dying sons. With this pandemic, I’ve had numerous moments where I “saw red.” Bad news coming one right after the other, the constant frustrations of life being not like what it was before, FOMO, weariness and sadness about politics, the climate, wildfires, social injustice, police brutality, racism, and the coronavirus ….AAAARRRRRGGHHHHHH!
Red is life – it comes with soft, velvet petals and sharp, stabbing thorns; it comes with a scent that jogs your memory and requires a response from your head and your heart. Unlike bulls, we can see red. And unlike bulls, we have some control over what we do when we see it.
Squeaking in under the wire of Sadje’s What do you see? #46. The picture above might seem hopeless, scary to some – a figure alone in the desert. But to me, I felt envious of the time to be alone, to walk and think, to feel the heat on my skin and the notice the individual grains of sand beneath my feet.
I know this feeling is because of all the “family time” we have been having. I never realized how much I enjoyed having time to myself until those opportunities were curtailed with this pandemic. I grew up in a family where we were together all the time so I actually don’t mind all the togetherness, but since having a taste of time alone when all the kids were in school last year…being able to sit in a silent house is definitely a luxury I enjoy!
The idea of vastness though, like being alone, can be hopeless and scary sometimes. But Kate writes:
spaciousness or vastness often opens our minds especially if we are feeling tightness or fear
Writing this poem made me think of all the things I am afraid to do alone, but that are easier to do with others. As the old adage states: there is strength in numbers, strength in being together – whether with friends or family.
Creating vastness also means creating space for others to join you. If we are closed in – physically, mentally, emotionally – we won’t have the space for others – other people, other ideas, other experiences.
With all the discord in our world today, creating space for togetherness seems to be one solution.
I loved this image of hot air balloons rising. We have a hot air balloon company near us who take off from the local airport. My kids have loved seeing them float over our house. One time they got close enough that when we waved, the people in the basket waved back.
Hot air ballooning has always intrigued me. But it has also terrified me – flying high in the sky in a small basket, subject to the whims of wind. There are only two choices – sit at the bottom of the basket and try not to hyperventilate with fear, or stand up, turn your face to the wind and enjoy the scenery.
With the pandemic still going strong and the upcoming election, I’ve struggled with this choice. But the blue skies have been beckoning me…enjoy the ride and let my hope ride….
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.
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”.
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.
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!
It was about my sweet child and their completeness
So I took a deep breath and researched
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
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
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 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”.
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.
I was actually thinking of titling this poem, “Patrick – A Poem”, but I wasn’t sure if the subject would appreciate that since he seems most comfortable behind the camera than in front. I owe Patrick a great debt of gratitude – he was one of the first, if not, the first blog that I followed and commented on. I was quite surprised that he actually responded to my comment with such warmth and humor. That’s when I realized that WordPress wasn’t just about posting stuff. It really is about building a community through words and pictures.
You can find my first submission for Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge # 43 – Lesson – HERE. It took awhile, but I have been fairly consistent with doing this challenge, even though I am a week behind. Patrick’s photos are breathtaking and his words are thought-provoking. In another life where I have more of an artist’s eye, I would have loved to be a world traveling photographer and writer. But for now, I am content seeing the world through Patrick’s Pix to Words.
This double ether was written for Sadje’s “What do you see?” Picture Prompt #31. I loved how the light seems to draw you in, however it was the path that intrigued me. They look almost like railroad tracks and I was reminded of Thomas the Train, which was one of my son’s favorite shows. It was only after hours and hours of watching that I realized that tracks don’t go “one way”, trains can actually go both ways on the same track. So even if tracks only lead to certain destinations, trains (or their conductors/train engineers if this was real life) can decide how to get there.
This idea mixed with a masterclass I am taking on boundaries, offered by a very generous and brilliant therapist friend of mine, Mari. In our class today, she reminded us of why and how people will push on our boundaries not just on a personal level but on a societal level as well. It also brought to mind the work of another friend, a passionate poet and advocate, Mich, and the work she has done to bring to light the plight of women in domestic violence situations. Domestic violence is one of the ultimate ways that a woman’s boundaries are destroyed, that a woman can lose her sense of herself and her self worth. You can read about Mich’s anti-DV work here.
With many people stuck at home, the incidences of DV and other types of abuse (child neglect and abuse in all its forms) have increased in the USA and worldwide. Reports of civil unrest here in the United States of America due to police brutality and the recent senseless deaths of African-Americans has made me wonder if the word “safe” can ever find a home in our world again. How can we change the direction of this train we are on? Maybe we need to stop looking for that “hero” with the light outside and look at the light we all carry within to show the way…