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

Stargazing – A Double Nonet

Mama, is there time to watch the stars?

The sleeping bag is by the door

 We can snuggle to stay warm

And count the stars all night

We can tell stories

And share secrets

Me and you

Under

Stars

.

Yes

My child

Let’s count stars

On this clear night

We have all the time

Let’s snuggle close, you’re safe

I’ll always have time for you

I’ll share my favorite story

Of the star who fell into my heart

Image credit: Adrien King @ Unsplash 
( For the visually challenged reader, the image shows an hour glass sitting on a small table. The sand has run through the glass. Two hand are reaching for it from opposite ends )

Here is my second response to Sadje’s What Do You See #51 photo prompt. This double nonet focused on the stars in the background and depicts another aspect of parenting during a pandemic. This one is has a “happier” tone. (Yes, I am making an effort to not be so doom and gloom on my blog. Cue rainbow farting unicorns…or not…)

I’ve been trying to make sure that each of my kids are getting some one-on-one time and that we are doing some special things to break up the monotony. I think everyone can agree that the feelings of anxiety, helplessness and isolation have increased during the past six months since pandemic safety measures have been in place here in the USA. And it doesn’t look like these precautions are going away any time soon – numbers of coronavirus cases are again increasing all over the country.

This pandemic – this entire year of 2020 – has been anything but normal. But, I have this crazy idea that, for my family, I want it to be special for positive reasons as well as negative. I want my kids to look back on this year and say, “Yes, we missed a whole year of ‘real’ school, we missed being with friends and family, we missed out on family trips and extracurricular activities, but….we got to stay up late and watch movies, we made some really yummy meals together, I learned a new skill, I started a new hobby, my siblings and I made up cool games, I realized I loved doing laundry…” OK – maybe not that last one, but I can hope…

And that’s the other thing I want my kids to remember from the year 2020 – that there is always hope, that they are resilient, and that together, we can still make the world a better place.

©️ 2020 iido

The Gift of Time – A Poem

The screen lights my face

Reflecting the curated world

Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling

.

Your hand on my sleeve, then on my face 

Your voice reflecting a child’s request

Tugging, tugging, tugging

.

I turn away, pulling the screen to my chest

My peace broken, I add to the disturbance 

Yelling, yelling, yelling

.

You turn away and drop your creation

Broken bits of pride scattering on the floor

Falling, falling, falling

.

The sound of escape pings

The sound of reality heavily sighs with slumped shoulders and sits in front of the TV, turning on a show it’s seen before

The feel of escape vibrates

The feel of reality punches the gut with the realization that time should be given to a small hand and not a small hand held device

.

I am all thumbs, fumbling, 

dropping the screen

dropping down next to you

Putting my face in front of your face

Seeing, listening, loving

.

Living

Image credit: Adrien King @ Unsplash 
( For the visually challenged reader, the image shows an hour glass sitting on a small table. The sand has run through the glass. Two hand are reaching for it from opposite ends )

An “early” post (at least for me!) for Sadje’s What Do You See #51 picture prompt. The picture above sent my mind in two directions. This is probably the first time I worked on two poems at the same time! I’ll post my second poem after this one.

This picture intrigued me because of the hands. The one on the table seemed desperate, as if reaching the hour glass was a final act. As someone who is chronically late, I can say that time and I are not friends. I thought that being at home and not having outside obligations due to the pandemic would gift me a lot of time to write and run and do all the other things that I told myself I would do if “I had more time.”

That hasn’t been the case.

Time seems to be going faster despite the fact that all the days are blending together. From the time I wake up to when I go to bed (which is pretty late), I’m on the “go” while staying at home. And since all the kids are at home with me, I am acutely aware of how much time I am spending on activities that I would have usually gotten done while they are in school, versus the time and attention I am giving to them during the day. Some times it’s more or less even, some days it’s weighted to one side.

I am that hand on the table, grasping for more time yet knowing it will be taken away from me and never returned.

©️ 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

Free Bird? – A Reverse Nonet

Stuck

Despite

The option

To fly away

Caught in a snapshot

Indecision showing

Trust as fragile as the song

I used to sing at your window

Will you raise your hand to set me free?

Image credit- Evan Clark @ Unsplash 
( For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a hand extended out with a little bird sitting on it. In the background one can see a lake and it’s shore in distance)

Another busy week, but I didn’t want to miss out on Sadje’s “What do you see?” #49 this week. Birds have often been used as metaphors for life – there is the “canary in the coal mine,” the “bird in a gilded cage,” the “early bird,” and “birds of a feather.” Birds have been featured in songs, like Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Freebird” and books, such as Maya Angelou’s autobiography, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings.

As the election in the USA gets closer and issues of racial and social justice remain unresolved, I feel even more committed to doing small acts to help preserve this democracy and uphold it’s promise of equality and equity. I’m raising my hand in solidarity.

So between homeschooling/virtual learning, being involved the local election, and keeping up with usual household needs, I’m trying to continue to find the time to write and read and run. Some days, I have to chose what to do. Some days, sleep wins. Some days, I feel like I am doing the right thing for my family and for myself. Some days, I feel like I have accomplished nothing. Some days, I feel like I could be doing more.

Some days, just raising my hand and saying, “Present,” is enough.

©️ 2020 iido

Watercolor Recipes: Sapphire Stardust – A Poem

Sapphire stardust and one drop of water

Use for

……….Deep ocean souls

………..Waterfall daredevils

……….Getting lost on purpose

Sapphire stardust and two drops of water

Use for

……….The scent of early morning air

……….Skin after a run

……….Stretching after an afternoon nap

Sapphire stardust and three drops of water

Use for

……….Clouds resting on soft grass

……….Campfires on summer nights

……….Listening to the song from your first dance

Sapphire stardust and four drops of water

Use for

……….Prayers whispered into tissues

……….Crying babies

……….Dying breaths

Image credit- Elena Mozhvilo- Unsplash 
( For the visually challenged readers, the image shows an incomplete watercolor on open pages of a notebook. There are tubes of colors next to it and some painting paraphernalia )

Another beautiful picture for Sadje’s “What do you see?” prompt #47. I love the colors in the picture and all the details (the skull filled with mysterious amber liquid can be a whole story all by itself) certainly brought to mind many different ideas. In the end, it was Beth Amanda’s from the Go Dog Go Cafe that brought this poem together. She posted the Tuesday Writing Prompt to use the phrase, “sapphire stardust”.

My birthday is in September so sapphires, which is the birthstone for the month, has always had special meaning for me. Blue is my favorite color, especially deep blue with a touch of black it. I don’t know the artistic name of that blue, but “sapphire stardust with one drop of water” would work!

Like everything else this year, birthdays seem like they shouldn’t be celebrated. This year, I’m thinking about giving on my birthday instead of receiving. I usually love having a day (or two) just for myself, but sharing seems to be a more appropriate way of marking another turn around the sun. Maybe next September will be a “sapphire dust with two drops of water” type of year….

©️ 2020 iido

The Power of Sand – A Haiku Sonnet

Vast expanse looming 

Single disconnected grains 

Hour glass ticking 

.

The tiniest rock

Carries the heaviest weight

Strength alone ebbing

.

Frustrated steps sink

Grains claw in supplication

Prayer time ending

.

One is annoyance

Millions demand attention

A sand storm brewing

.

Vast problems challenge

Connecting into action

Image credit: Dan Grinwis- Unsplash 
(For visually challenged reader, the image shows a person walking in a desert, dwarfed by huge sand dunes. A long line of their footsteps can be seen behind them)

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!

But this poem had another inspiration with Kate’s Friday Fun Prompt – Vastness and Donna Matthew’s Poetry Form Challenge on the Go Dog Go Cafe to try a Haiku Sonnet. I love form challenges. I used the traditional American syllable form for my haikus. It’s still brief enough for me (LOL – if you haven’t noticed I do tend to be wordy so the use of forms is definitely a challenge)!

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.

©️ 2020 iido

To Mothers Making Tough Decisions – A Cinquain

Mother

With broken heart

Your knowing eyes loving

Despite fearing unknown chaos

Hero

Image credit; Lucas Pezeta at Pexels
( For the visually challenged reader, the image shows face of a woman. It is painted with luminous glitter paint and the features are highlighted with bright yellow lines, ending in a question mark on the forehead)

Joining Sadje’s “What do you see?” picture prompt #42 this week with the beautiful picture above. I would have loved to know where this picture was taken, if it was for a special ceremony or celebration. The colors are so vibrant against the black background – they seem illuminated even on my computer screen. And the design – does it allude to the “third eye” or does it have some other symbolic meaning?

It’s the person’s gaze in the picture that drew me in. I made the assumption that it was a feminine face, but I could be totally wrong since there are no other indicators of gender. As with any picture, our interpretation really reflects more of who we are and our point of views/filters/biases than on what the artist’s intent is.

The gaze in this picture speaks to resignation – knowing something and accepting it. I am hoping it is a compassionate resignation – knowing the decision made is done with the best intentions and understanding of the current data.

I would like to imagine that this is the look that I have right now. I would like to imagine that it’s the same look mothers/caregivers all over the United States have, after making the difficult decision of whether to send their kids to in-person school or attempt learning from home. I would like to imagine that we are looking at each other with this compassionate resignation and also with the unspoken promise of support no matter the outcome.

The first word of this poem could also be replaced with “Teachers” and the last word would remain the same, “Heroes”. I know our teachers are also struggling with the difficult decision of return to school – for themselves and their children. Again – I bestow the look of compassionate resignation and the promise of support for the following school year.

As this pandemic continues and many of us are feeling the fatigue of continuing with safety measures, let’s practice this compassionate look above our masks. Our eyes can convey hope as easily as contempt.

©️ 2020 iido

What Do You See? – A Poem

Three pairs of teacups

Or is it two pairs of three?

Waiting for loving hands

Or is it more a mystery?

.

A pair of pictures

One dark and one light

An ominous warning?

Or a universe’s insight?

.

A lone vase 

Filled with branches reaching

The seated figure

Meditating or teaching?

.

The elegant teapot

In front of the chair

In front of that wall

Of hope or despair?

.

Our eyes’ observation

And mind’s interpretation

Won’t know the artist’s intention

Just our own assertation

.

Three pairs of teacups

Or two pairs of three

It only really matters

If we disagree

Image credit; 五玄土 ORIENTO – Unsplash 
( For the visually challenged reader, the image shows a table set with six teacups, a teapot and a glass beaker. The wall at the back is adorned with oriental art and a flower arrangement)

I stole Sadje’s title for this poem for her “What do you see?” Picture Prompt #40. I love reading different responses to the same prompt. It just proves that we really do see things differently based on who we are: our experiences, preferences, points of view all contribute to our interpretation of the information from our senses.

Kate’s Friday Fun prompt – Pairs was the big contributor to my interpretation of Sadje’s prompt. If you remember your elementary math, the number 6 can be made by two different multiplication pairs: 6 and 1, 3 and 2. It doesn’t matter if you have 3 sets of 2 or 2 sets of 3, the result is the same. This is called the Commutative Property and it holds true for addition, as well as, multiplication. (Who said you don’t need math if you’re going to be a poet?!)

With all the different opinions going around about school reopening, I always check to see who the opinion is coming from. Opinions from teachers, especially those who are also parents, have a lot more weight than opinions from politicians or even administrators who don’t have as much at stake. Everyone thinks or feels they are doing what is best for the children – from their point of view.

We have to make a decision about whether to send our kids back to school this week and it’s not getting easier. Writers – if you have sent your child(ren) back to school, what factored into your decision? How was it for the kids? What safety measures did your school take? Do you prefer 2×3 or 3×2?

Anyone who can see the future by reading tea leaves, please chime in as well!

©️ 2020 iido