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

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

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

The Light – A Double Etheree

Light

A hope

In darkness

Beckoning me

Promising safety

My heart leapt through the fog

Disregarding the shadows

Imagining the warmth and love

Offered by a warm fire and belonging

I entered willingly and was engulfed 

I could not breath yet I stayed, struggling

Disbelief turning my soul to ash

Until a voice of cooling wind

Reminded me of the path

With boundaried edges

I left with embers

Of my choosing

Now I bring

My own

Hope

Image credit- Pixabay- ArtTower
(For visually challenged reader, the image shows a road leading towards a dwelling in the forest. It is hidden in fog and surrounded by tall trees. A light is shining brightly out of the window of the house)

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…

©️ 2020 iido

Mondrian — aroused

Mondrian — aroused

The insightful Kate from Aroused by Arête wrote this heart wrenching poem based on the same Mondrian artwork as my previous post. Kate’s take so succinctly captures the lived experience of People of Color today. Please click on the link, read her poem, let it sink in and check your feelings then check out her some of her other wonderful words. Thank you, Kate!

EDIT: I have included a Kate’s poem below with her permission.

Mondrian by Kate at Aroused by Arête

obviously white is the dominant colour
both background and the centre stage
it dominates this snapshot of our world

the blue red and yellow must conform
to rules and rigid patterns for survival
tightly contained within specified boxes

a few elites are allowed to step out
those token few chosen to perpetuate
the myth that all have equal opportunity

delineation of apartheid can be subtle
but also overt to keep these colours
down trodden by our sheer arrogance

coloured ones must always conform
or languish in prisons and psych units
a ‘safe’ dumping ground to cleanse

our outrageous sensibility
where humanity slithered
unnoticed, out of sight
we’d rather not know
of their sad and
bewildered plight …

Harvesting Questions – A Quadrille

What harvest will we reap

When the seeds of isolation bloom?

Will it feed the hunger of connection?

Or will it be blighted with fear?

Is food for our soul

A quick fix for the 

Needs of our bodies?

Which god should we worship?

That old saying, “You reap what you sow”…. who planted snowflakes?

Racing against time to get this quadrille in for De Jackson at dVerse, Quadrille #104 – Fix. I was also able to incorporate Patrick’s Pic and a Word Weekly Challenge #223 – Harvest (back on track and continuing my streak!!) as well as, Kate’s Friday Fun Prompt – Worship. I am so pleased with myself for finding the time to write today and get some of my thoughts out on paper. This is my 3rd post for today! I’ve never done that before….maybe it’s because I have to run tonight…..

I’ve been looking into virtual summer camps for my kids today and thinking about what we can focus on for this summer – academics, athletics, or amusement? At the same time, I was reading parenting blogs about how parents are dealing with kids being home all the time during shelter in place. The saying, “You reap what you sow” popped in my head – what summer seeds do I want to sow in my kids that will lead to a “good harvest”? What does a “good harvest” look like?

I’m going to be thinking about this during my run tonight…

©️ 2020 iido