Making Phở – A Poem

She will rise at 5 AM

Finding the ingredients

Laid out on the kitchen counter

Ready for her attention

The bones are gently placed in the pot

The water covers the bones like a flood engulfing islands

The sachet of spices soaks in the stove top hot tub 

Bobbing in circles as it imparts its essential essence

The ginger sizzles with an aromatic burn 

Quickly extinguished as it splashes next to the star anise and daikon radish

The fire is lowered and the waiting begins.

She will watch the sun rise

Remembering your journey

From little boy to grown man

Imagining your journey

From your house to her home.

She will soak the rice noodles when the sun starts to slide

And cut the meat, paper thin

Wincing when the knife gets too close to her fingertips

Two types of onions, chopped, give her an excuse 

To second guess how she has raised you.

Before the moon rises, she will prepare the table

Chopsticks on white napkins

Large bowls filled with 

Softened rice noodles

Raw beef sliced paper thin 

Onions – two kinds.

And when the doorbell rings

And your deep voice reverberates in her womb

She’ll ladle the broth

Steaming with spices

Warmed with ginger

Hearty with marrow

And serve you a bowl

Of her love.

Image credit:

Pisauikan@ Pixabay 

( For the visually challenged

reader, the image shows an

old woman whose face is

deeply lined. There is a faint

smile on her face)

This is a late entry for Sadje’s What Do You See #52. This prompt marks the one year anniversary of Sadje’s What Do You See. Despite the lateness, I wanted to to acknowledge the inspiration Sadje gifts us with her weekly picture prompt. Her observations of “what she saw” over the course of this year are spot on! Thank you, Sadje for stretching our imaginations and sharing our interpretations!

I was also able to include Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #249 – Rise. I’m sure he has a really good excuse for being MIA for month but all that matters is that I’m still on my streak!!

This poem was inspired by my husband’s mom. No, she doesn’t look like the picture of the old Asian woman from Sadje’s prompt. My mother-in-law actually looks quite younger than her almost 70 years on this earth – her skin is smooth, unblemished and her hair retains its thick curls (natural) and black color (bottled). She does wake up at 5 AM to start cooking phở when she knows we will be visiting. It usually takes us 8-10 hours to get to my husband’s hometown and the broth she makes is the first thing we smell when they open the door. Good phở cannot be rushed (believe me, I’ve tried!) and my mother-in-law’s recipe is the best!

My husband is the first of four boys. His brothers are scattered across the United States – we are the second closest to his parents. I remember the first time I visited my husband’s parents in their home – I was really nervous but my mother-in-law made me feel welcomed and promised to share her recipes with me if I married her son. She served phở to us that winter day and ever since then, anytime we would return to my husband’s childhood home, phở is the first meal we would have.

I have often wondered what she thought of the women who came to take her boys far from home. Does she feel replaced? Does she worry if they are taking care of her sons in the same way that she took care of them? Does she enjoy the quiet of the house? Does she miss cleaning up after them? Does she wish they lived closer and visited more often?

I haven’t asked her these questions, but when I think about my own answers to these questions, and think about my kids who aren’t even dating yet being far away from me, my eyes start behaving like I’m chopping onions and I start to think of how I can serve them love in a bowl.

©️ 2020 iido

Artificial Man – A Limerick

There once was an artificial man

With genteel behaviors, used to scam

The many hearts that he stole

Could never fill his own gaping hole

A scoundrel with a hat in his hand

Image credit; Sean Lee @ Unsplash
For the visually challenged reader, this image shows a young man lounging against a door jamb with a hat held against his chest. The young man is quite a looker!

This limerick responds to Sadje’s “What do you see” prompt #50. This is milestone! Congratulations, Sadje! I was also able to incorporate Kate’s Friday Fun prompt – artificial. Poetic magic happens with a great word and photo prompt!

Most limericks are funny or irreverent I always think of the one about the the man from the island off Cape Cod, MA. This one is more of a cautionary tale. While I enjoy looking – I’ve learned that some people are just good to look at.

©️ 2020 iido

Anniversary Hike – Three Haikus

Eighteen summers pass

Wishing puffs rooted in dreams

Happiness in bloom

I don’t know the real name of these flowers but they were like bigger dandelion puffs.

In the stillness green

Listen! My heart approaches

Your footsteps crunch leaves

My honey, NOT in his natural habitat…

A path just for two

Greenery gives privacy

Steps to sleepless nights

Nature made stairs for us…

This week, my Honey and I celebrated 18 years of wedded “bliss”! Yes, “bliss” is in quotes because like any other couple, we have had our ups and downs. But dealing with this pandemic as a couple and as a family has shown us that we are pretty well matched.

We celebrated by enlisting my parents to watch the kids while we went on a hike. What would have usually been an easy date night turned into a lesson on risk taking and selflessness (or maybe it was selfishness?). We hadn’t seen my parents since the shelter in place back in March so my kids were ecstatic to spend some time with them. Of course, we went through the pros and cons of whether to allow physical contact, use masks, etc. Sigh. There was no right answer, only love and prayers as we left the house for a few hours.

We took two short hikes – one a sun-filled trail that ended by a man-made lake surrounded by fields. The area is protected land for birds and other wildlife. A groundhog crossed our path as well as two beautiful iridescent blue birds who didn’t even move from their perch when we passed. The second hike was in a park in the middle of the city – a hidden gem that had well-marked hiking trails that traversed up and around a wooded hill and an unmarked trail that led down and long the river. We ended up getting lost and reluctantly had to use our cell phone map to guide us back to the car. An adventure with my Honey – fun and excitement for me (“We’re not lost, we’re exploring!”), exasperating for him (“Let’s use the GPS already!”), but overall we had a wonderful afternoon!

The 2nd haiku incorporates the Tuesday Writing prompt from Beth Amanda at Go Dog Go Cafe to use the phrase “in the stillness” in a piece of writing. It’s been awhile since I’ve been able to join in their prompts – this one fell perfectly into place in this haiku! I was trying to capture the image of the two trees framing the water in the background when my Honey came traipsing through like a hairless Sasquatch caught on camera (I say that most lovingly).

The 3rd haiku incorporates a prompt from Patrick’s Thesaurus Game. The prompt was “clandestinely” which is synonymous to “privately” which became “privacy” in this haiku. The last line alludes to having children – our brood is never far from my mind.

It was great to be able to “escape” for awhile – no work, no kids, minimal thoughts of the pandemic. We went during the week so the trails were pretty empty – no need for masks or social distancing. We didn’t go out to eat at a fancy restaurant which is our usual anniversary outing, but spending time together, in nature, breathing fresh air and feeling the sun on our skin was refreshing, healing and connecting.

Here’s to another year with my Honey and wherever our path takes us.

©️ 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

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

To My Stubborn Father from Your Stubborn Daughter – A Double Nonet Letter

Dearest Dad – You always stood your ground

With standards high above my reach

Standing on that moral hill

Cloistered rules, you would teach

I inhaled it all

Principled breath

Held belief

Until

Truth

Breathed

Knowledge

You don’t know

Of the “Other”

Exhaled, these old rules

No longer hold my views

I have climbed another hill

And stand on ground planted by you

With love and principles – Your Daughter

New life growing on top of the old. That’s not Groot – that’s the circle of life!

I love my Papa. I am his favorite daughter….OK, his only daughter….but I am also his favorite debating partner. My dad and I are similar in so many ways and this is probably why we debate/argue/quarrel more with each other than he does with my other siblings.

My dad always held high standards of morality, values and principles. He passed that on to me, although sometimes we look at these high standards from different sides. So we see things in a different way and approach problems/issues in a different way. Although if you look at the underlying values of these approaches and points of views, you would see that they are the same. You might even ask, why are we even arguing?

The fact is that despite our similarities, I am a different person than my dad. I’ve had experiences that my dad has not. Some of these experiences are because I grew up middle class in the USA while he grew up upper class in the Philippines. Other experiences are because he is a man and I am a woman. Still other experiences are because he was born and grew up in a different era than I did (almost a quarter of a century separates us).

I wrote this poem for two prompts: one was Punam’s Ragtag Daily Prompt for Saturday – Cloistered and the other was for Jamie’s Wednesday Writing Prompt to “write about a suffocating situation”. I will admit that when I was younger (especially in my teenage years), I did find my Papa’s rules “suffocating,” but as I grew up, and now have children of my own, I realize how those rules showed the depth of my Papa’s love.

Happy Belated Father’s Day, Papa! Here is some Key Lime Pie for you! I love you!

©️ 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

Moon Phases – A Poem

Moonbeams shine through the window

Highlighting hands in circular motion

Scccrrruuuubbb, sccccrrruuuuubbb,

The sound elongating on each orbital pass

Along the Corelle plane

Muffling the hopeful crinkle of suds

 

She looks out the window

Her eyes following the moon path

Russsstling, russssssstling

Wrestling with her mind to focus on the task

She looks down at the wet line along her shirt waist

Pointing to the needy stack of temporary satiation

 

Slowly, her hands stop their motion

And she lifts up her right hand to

Capture the moonlight upon her palm

She watches the shadows play hide and seek 

And feels the pull of Artemis to abandon her post

An arrow pierces her heart 

And she holds her breath in realization

 

Quickly, she presses her face to the window

Her breath now fogs up the glass

HAAAAAAAAAA, haaaaaaaa…….Aaaaaaaahhhhhhh

The cooling pressure reminding her

The moon is cold and lonely like a clean plate 

She notices the front of her shirt is wet

IMG_5918

This poem was inspired by Patrick’s Pic and a Word Prompt #230 – Moon. I took this photo of the moon on a cloudy night this week. It looks so far away….

When I was thinking about this poem, I actually was washing dishes and looking out the window – this was after dinner, when the kids were still up and about and not at all tired enough for bed. The noise was daytime loud. There was nothing in particular that happened to make the day “bad” and even their after dinner/before bedtime squabbling wasn’t particularly bothersome. I was just waiting for the day to be over, so I could have some time for myself (sorry, Hubby).

It was only after all the kids (and Hubby) were in bed and the house was silent that I was able to formulate into words and phrases what that moment was like – a moment that I’m sure many mothers (and maybe some fathers) have experienced. It’s these moments that people always tell you to be grateful for because they will be gone soon enough.  It’s these moments that you try your hardest to accept as just a phase of life. 

I was reminded about a quote from St. Teresa of Calcutta, Mother Teresa, who said, “Wash the plate not because it is dirty nor because you are told to wash it, but because you love the person who will use it next.” Yet what if you’re having a hard time loving any of the potential people who will use the dish next because they are arguing about who’s turn it is to pick a show to watch while getting sticky ice cream and cake crumbs all over the couch? (It was supposed to be a nice treat….)  Maybe it takes a saint to not answer Artemis’ call….

 

© 2020 iido

 

You Are Here – A Rhyming Poem

“Mama! Where are you?” 

My little boy cried

Standing by the toilet, 

At least he tried.

“I am here,” I say,

With mop in hand

Doing the job 

That I can’t stand.

“Honey! Where are you?” 

My love seeks me out

“I’m back from fishing 

With some huge trout!”

“I’m here,” I say, 

Fingers newly manicured

They’ll be chipped by dinner

That’s now ensured.

“Sweetie, where are you?” 

My mom’s on the line

“If you don’t call, 

How do I know you’re fine?”

“I’m here,” I sigh, 

On my errand drive.

Now, another stop, 

Will I be done by five?

“Oh, there, you are!”

My friend, from the school

Holding signs to fundraise

For the new pool

“I’m here,” I offer,

Accepting the task

I draw smiley faces,

That match my mask.

“I’m tired, I need rest,”

I hide in the shower

“Being there is so draining,”

My energy dips lower.

“I am here,” a voice whispers

“And you are here, too.

I can help you through this.

I’m here for you.”

I raise my eyes

To the Light from above

And feel myself

Wrapped up in His love

My strength renewed,

I cried without fear.

My heart knew the truth:

Alleluia! You are here!

IMG_5628

I’ve been missing the deadlines for Sadje’s “What Do You See?” picture prompts the past few weeks. Saturday was coming up so fast! But maybe that was because I was losing track of the days…

This week’s picture prompt for Sadje’s “What Do You See?” #24 is a photo with a neon sign that reads “You are here” against a blurred city background. It immediately made me think of the Catholic hymn, “Here I Am, Lord,” and one of my favorite stories from the Bible.

It also made me think of how often I am called every day – not by God (at least, I don’t think it’s Him, although, maybe it is…) but by my children, my hubby, my parents, my siblings, my friends, people who aren’t my friends.  Especially now, being home all day, every day – I can’t escape the “needs” (because “demands” seem too harsh) of the people and situations arounds me.  FYI – the hiding in the bathroom part of the poem is based on  a true story.

The hearing of God’s voice is also true, although not as dramatic. I haven’t actually heard His voice, but I have gone to mass (so much easier to do now that all it entails is just turning on the TV) and have come across several serendipitous articles that speak to God’s role as Compassionate Comforter.  With all the uncertainty and fear in the world, I have found myself turning to the One Constant in this world.  Indeed, nothing has changed with mass since I was child – the order of sitting, standing, kneeling is still the same; what the Priest says during the consecration is the same; the hymns are the same; that message of unconditional love is the same.

I know many people have rightful concerns and issues about the Catholic Church. I was even thinking of putting a trigger warning at the start of this post because I know some of my readers feel very strongly about the corruption in the Catholic Church especially with regards to the cover-up of child sexual abuse (please let me know if I should have).

And I agree – the part of the Church that is made by man is terribly flawed. But the spiritual part is not (at least in my opinion). The consistent message of hope and love is not.

And right now, it’s that message of hope and love, that is helping me through this shelter in place.

Happy Easter to my Christian readers! Chag Pesach Sameach to my Jewish readers!

 

(c) 2020 iido