What Do You See? – A Poem for Hélène Vaillant

If words were clouds
Hers would be soft and comforting
The kind you see on brisk autumn afternoons
As Golden leaves fall around you.

If words were water
Hers would be in a bathtub
With bubbles that smelled of eucalyptus and mint
Clearing the mind for the wisdom that came with a well lived life

If words were a picture
Hers would be a garden painted in the style of Monet
With a mother and child the brightest of the flowering blooms

If words asked a question
Hers would be, “What do you see?”
And she’d let me answer
With interpretive imagination
And poetic passion

Hélène Vaillant is a blogger who I started following because of her “What Do You See?” Weekly Challenge. She would post a picture as a prompt and Challenge is to write poetry/prose about it. I found her through one of the other blogs that I follow and was instantly taken by the beautiful pictures she posted for the Challenge as well as the insightful poems Hélène wrote. As I started to comment and engage with Hélène on her blog, she started to comment and engage with me on mine. Her comments were always thoughtful and caring with just the right amount of wisdom added.

I found out recently (from Jordy at Jordy’s Streaming) that Hélène had passed away. I don’t know how old she was or what she died from although she had mentioned that she wasn’t feeling well a few months ago and wouldn’t be blogging for awhile. I did know that her husband had passed away just a few months before she did. I also knew that she had a special devotion to the Virgin Mary, specifically, the Madonna and Child. I had even taken pictures of various sculptures of the Madonna and Child during a trip to the Met in NYC thinking I would send them to her when she got back on her blog.

As of today, Hélène’s WordPress blog has already been removed. This makes me so sad. I wonder what happened to all her poems, all the poems bloggers wrote for her prompts, all the comments and memories contained within her blog. I found this article from Fandango that speaks to this loss (Thank you, Jen Goldie for directing me to it).

I hope Hélène knew she had touched so many people with her words, prompts and comments. I will always remember her gentle heart and kind, wise comments.

Rest In Peace, Hélène.

©️ iido 2019

Breaking Stone – A Poem

I looked at you

With your short hair and black square glasses

An 80s band t-shirt tucked into slim waist, denim shorts that fell a tad below your knees

I could see the curved outline of your breast when you turned to look at me


Like I was looking at you.

Hey, you said

The simple greeting caused my skin to pucker

While you moistened, then bit your full bottom lip

And readjusted your glasses with slender, honey colored fingers topped with dark purple nail polish

Hey, I said

Because that’s the best pick up line.

And so We started

Asking and answering

Feeling out yet avoiding the urge to touch

Softness against softness.

Then the hard truth came around the corner

Time to go, babe, he said

The sadness in your eyes

As my face fell in my hands and

My fear of the truth hardening

Until I turned to stone.


Stuck in the life carved out for me

Since birth

Since before birth

The expectations hewn into a 5 foot 4 inch alcove.

Then your touch on my hand, soft like the kiss of a butterfly

Strong like the arch of a rainbow

Pressing a paper against my calloused skin

I look at you and brave a smile.

This poem was inspired by Hélène’s “What do you see?” Picture Prompt Challenge and also by Christine E. Ray’s Pride Month Writing Prompt Challenge – Brave.

Hélène’s picture seemed despairing when I first looked at it. But then I noticed the rainbow shining on the broken statue and remembered reading Christine’s prompt, and this poem was born. Breaking through the stone barriers in our lives (whether externally or internally imposed – like racism, sexism, homophobia) takes a lot of bravery! And while I know there are people reading this blog that may be put off with the topic of my poem, I hope the universality of the theme, “Be true to yourself” resonates and finds an empathic home in their hearts.

©️ iido 2019

Kitty so Fair – A Limerick

There once was a kitty so fair

That her beaus would do anything she dared

She’d sit on the roof

Have them climb up as proof

That they loved her beyond compare

A little limerick for this cheeky picture courtesy of Hélène for her “What do you see?” Weekly Photo prompt.

My kids have been out of school since last week so my writing, reading and commenting time (as well as my running time!) has been limited the past week. They start camp next week so hopefully I’ll get back some time. I love my kids and love spending the extra time with them but I also need my space.

My older daughter is reading a book called, Quiet Power: The Secret Strengths of Introverts. She is 11 and already very insightful! Contrary to popular belief, I am actually more of an introvert who doesn’t mind interacting with a lot of people. But once those people are gone, I need to retreat and be alone or with just my husband to recharge. So unlike Ms. Kitty in the picture above, one beau is plenty for me!

©️ iido 2019

Niagara’s Gift – An Etheree

You opened the door to a darkened room

Only the colored waters tumbling,

Like my heart for your thoughtful gift,

Into the steamy cauldron

Of sacrifice, support

Commitment and strength

Only with you

Life’s barrels



This etheree was inspired by Hélène’s “What do you see?” Picture Prompt of a beautifully wrapped gift. Gifts can come in many types – some are concrete objects, others are experiences, while still others are words or emotions. Gifts are usually given for special occasions but the best ones, I think, are the ones given “just because”.

The other picture is the view from our hotel room this weekend – a gift from my loving, supportive hubby who also drove us all the way to Niagara Falls so I could run the the Niagara Falls International Women’s Half Marathon. The race will start in just 7 hours but I am awake with nervous energy. I did not train very well for this race and I just got a new shoes two days ago (since my old pair were completely destroyed) so I am not setting the bar too high on my finish time.

I did get to meet the trailblazing Katherine Switzer who is as lovely and kind as she is inspirational! She is 72 and still so vibrant! She told me that her ancestors were Germans who settled in the Lancaster, PA area and became known as the Pennsylvania Dutch. Who knew?

I’m also starting the race with a group of wonderful women from Moms RUN this Town, not to mention the hundreds of other fabulous women who are running this race. So, I know that no matter my time tomorrow – I’m going to finish and feel accomplished!

But I also know I wouldn’t be here this weekend without the gift of my family supporting this crazy obsession of mine to run. So this race is for them…although I’m still keeping the medal all to myself.

©️ iido 2019

Mask of Metamorphosis – A Villanelle

Hiding in the spaces between
A wiggle, a flutter
A mask of filigree green

The dainty crunch of the munching machine
Slow moving like butter
Hiding in the spaces between

Bird eyes eagerly try to catch its sheen
It pauses, a stutter
A mask of filigree green

And then it wraps a blanket clean
In a special place to anchor
Hiding in the spaces between

This act of will that can only mean
The start of that process to alter
That mask of filigree green

When done, it emerges to preen
Finally, no longer
Hiding in the spaces between
Unmasked, that filigree green

This Villanelle incorporates Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #188 – Mask and Hélène’s “What do you see?” Picture prompt (see above – a caterpillar and the puzzle pieces of the leave reformed into a butterfly). I just realized that while Patrick and Hélène both provide photos, it is Patrick’s word and Hélène’s picture that makes sense to me to combine the past few weeks. Interesting (I say as I psychoanalyze myself)…

I’ve always loved the idea of metamorphosis, change, becoming something different but the actually process of changing has always been difficult for me, especially those changes that are lasting. I used to think that change just meant removing one mask and putting on a new one while what is underneath stays the same. But now I’m beginning to think that there also needs to be change under the mask. Not a change of the integral parts of the self, but a reforming of those parts into something different and hopefully better.

©️ info 2019

Seeing Red – A Lai Poem

The last precious one
My final task done
Red rose
Above pollution
Away from poison
It grows
It’s a red beacon
In this world, barren

My steps are heavy
There’s pain in my knee
But still
I climb this aerie
To set my mind free
A promise, a plea
Keep on – hopefully

No one comes after
It’s such a bother
To care
There is no anger
It’s just whatever
I dare
Say that forever
Gone this red flower
No spare

Another Lai Poem — are you guys tired of this form? Not yet for me! The rhythm and rhymes challenge and intrigue me – it’s like a haiku but “extra” (at least in my humble opinion).

This Lai Poem incorporates Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #187- Red and serendipitously, Hélène’s What do you see? photo prompt picturing a red flower (I’m calling it a rose) atop a high tower.. This image of an older woman precarious climbing this enormous tower reminded me of the Herculean task (or is it Sisyphean?) of climate change activists today and even for people like me (and hopefully you!) trying to do our part to protect our earth.

©️ iido 2019

A List of People Whose Hand I Want to Hold – A Sei Shonagon Style List Poem

A sign of caring

Our palm sweat sharing

Not just the space

But the challenges we face

As people with varying melanin

Who offer all that we have within

We seek fairness and balance

To even the score without askance

Who smile with delight at another’s gain

And delicately hold them when they’re in pain

Who will defend with a voice so clear

And sit quietly with an open ear

Who sees with hearts and not just eyes

Who knows the child as being most wise

Our hands clasped, approved by Mother

Who sees how much we love one another.

This Sei Shonagon style of List Poem was introduced to me by Punam at Paeansunpluggedblog with her fabulous poem, “People who get me hot under the collar” . The beautiful picture is from Hélène’s “What do you see?” Picture prompt.

The picture reminded of my recent trip to Santa Fe, NM – something about the vast open spaces and the flat topped mesas, the roads that seem to go on forever, the friendliness of the people – it all reminded me of how much goodness there is in the world. This poem reflects that – at least what I see as the goodness in people whose hands I want to hold.

©️ iido 2019

Good Night Fight – A Villanelle

A crackle wakes me from slumber at night
A million footsteps pitter-pattering overhead
Just snuggle me close, don’t put up a fight

My imagination rumbles taking flight
Forming shadows of that book we/I read
A crackle wakes me from slumber at night

Sparkling lines illuminate the storm cloud’s delight
I run to your room, my bravery shed
Just snuggle me close, don’t put up a fight

Under the covers, I crawl like a mite
Reveling quietly in the warmth of your bed
Away from the crackle that woke me this night

But the glare from your eyes, made me feel trite
Maybe I should have gone to Dad’s side instead
Mom – Please, snuggle me close, don’t put up a fight?

A rumble and sizzle, then glorious light
You pause, then with loving arms said,
“Did that crackle wake you from your slumber this night?
I’ll snuggle you close. Don’t put up a fight.”

This is my second attempt at a Villanelle – the poetry form of the month at dVerse. It’s still a hard form for me! Feedback would be very appreciated!

I was inspired by Patrick’s Pic and a Word Challenge #181 – Night and this wonderful picture from Hélène’s “What do you see?” picture challenge. Of course, my mind went to all the times my kids have come into my room at night scared for one reason or another. We had also just see “The Sound of Music” and this brings to mind the “Raindrops on Roses” scene – one of my favorites!

One of my struggles as a mom is finding that balance between raising independent, self-sufficient children while making them still feel loved, cared for, treasured. Do I bring them back to their room or just let them sleep with me (which is what I know they want and sometimes need)? *Full disclosure – I am writing this with my 11 year old in the asleep bed with me. The struggle is real…

©️ iido 2019

Walk the Walk – A Cascade Poem

To walk in His footsteps
Proclaim your sins
Accept the consequence

Enthusiastically you said yes
Answering the call
To walk in His footsteps

But you succumbed to weakness
Predatory not protecting
Proclaim your sins

Walk now towards the Great Hall
Carrying the cross of your own making
Accept the consequences

This cascade poem was inspired by the picture above courtesy of Hélène at Willow Poetry for her “What do you see?” picture prompt challenge. This lovely gothic image reminded me of penitence, one of the themes for this season of Lent. (For my non-Catholic readers, here is a link with some information about Lent from the Catholic perspective.)

If you’ve been keeping up with the news, you’re probably aware of the large number of Catholic priests who have committed abuse and the other priests and bishops who covered up for them. As a Catholic, I have been shocked, disgusted, angry and saddened by all these revelations. An apology needs to entail not just the word “Sorry” but also the words “What can I do to make amends?” and the action of making those amends a reality. The actions to amend are slow in coming, but it’s necessary in order to repair the relationship between the Catholic Church and its people.

As for me, I take comfort in knowing that God’s judgement and wrath is all knowing and all encompassing.

©️ iido 2019