Micropoetry Monday: Hymns of Motherhood

Hymns of Motherhood

The Shutterfly Edition

All through her childhood,
her mother had been behind her,
safeguarding the cupboards
& pantry
& cabinets under the sink,
making sure her food & baths
were not “Papa Bear hot”
& her feet not “Mama Bear cold,”
pulling the car over
to fix the straps on her car seat,
remedying hazards she had created
(which always included Legos),
watching her when she took her to the park,
keeping one hand on the grocery cart,
& following her closely when she wanted the freedom
to walk around & look at toys,
& checking all the locks
on the doors & windows,
because so many in the big world
wanted a little girl,
though her mother never told her why
until she already knew why.

According to the world’s standards,
her child was neither the sharpest
nor the brightest;
she would never know how to solve
the world’s problems,
maybe not even her own,
but if more people were like her—
possessing an empathy so many lacked—
there would be fewer problems to solve.

She had grown up believing that children
should only be seen & never heard,
but when she realized
the errors of her raising,
her children were too deep
into their electronic devices
to want to say anything.

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

Her maiden name was her something old—
far removed from who she had become.
Her married name was her something new—
in her newly-widowed state.
Her something borrowed was a string of pearls,
for they represented perfection & integrity,
longevity & fertility.
Her something blue was the cameo
David had custom-made by a jeweler
for the only daughter
of a poor Irish father & strict Russian mother—
this daughter who had remodeled herself
into the All-American housewife, circa 1958,
& into someone unrecognizable to me.

Donna, ever practical, despised Valentine’s Day
as others despised Christmas songs before Thanksgiving.
Bearing tidings of clean living,
she had brought a plastic laundry basket filled with sundries:
soap, for washing the body after sex,
toothpaste, for washing out the mouth after sex,
& laundry detergent, for washing the sheets after sex—
items that would be donated to the local women’s shelter
to which Mother gave all her old clothes but never new ones.

Sister Kyle presented a wooden box
that looked suspiciously like a cigar box.
The pillowy satin glued to the inside reminded Caitlin of a coffin,
&, resting on the unblemished, flesh-colored material
was a set of real scriptures—not the Church-issued ones.
That vessel would become a Pandora’s box—
filled with a corpus my mother would live by . . .
& die by.

Sister Thompson, who had just turned “Social Security eligible,”
handed Mother a bag with Happy Birthday on it.
Inside was a gaudy bowl with all the characteristics of a recycled gift,
for no markings indicated it was new;
Sister Bear gave Mother a coupon organizer stuffed with starter coupons,
though we wouldn’t know most of them had expired
until we had gotten home,
which was like getting a gift certificate to a restaurant,
only to find that the restaurant had gone out of business.
Sister Batts had not brought a gift but a Ramen salad,
which Sister Wiley had hidden as if it were a meager offering,
akin to Cain’s vegetables,
for worse than a recycled gift
was recycled food.

When Mother held up a lacy black negligee,
the conversation veered into when it was permissible
to remove the sacred garments to don the naughty lingerie.
One-third of those present believed that the material
created a barrier to intimacy when worn right after sex,
but two-thirds of these hostesses
of this manufactured heaven in this mortal life—
like the valiant souls who had been given the opportunity
in the premortal life to live this one—
believed it was most pleasing to the Lord
that garments be replaced immediately
after the act of procreation ceased,
& I knew then,
as sure as I knew my name,
that just as the fancy black would bring Mother & David closer,
the plain white would come between them.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Micropoetry Monday: Wheel of Fortune

The Wheel

From Wheel of Fortune
she learned that consonants
were worth far more than vowels;
from Jeopardy,
she learned that it was okay
to answer a question with a question.
However, from The Price is Right,
she learned that any show
that wanted you to act like a fool
was not a thinking game,
but rather,
a guessing game.

He was Jeopardy,
she, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
He was quick
with the answers
to the questions
that were over everyone’s head
while she talked too much
& took too long
to get to her answer.
When they met Wheel of Fortune
where every contestant had
a “ridiculously handsome husband,”
a “rockstar wife,”
&/or “just the greatest kids in the world,”
they thought they’d found perfection.

For the former contestant who’d coined the term
“my hotsomesauce husband,”
the “Wheel of Misfortune” was a cross
between a waxy red round of gouda
& a disk of The Laughing Cow—
with two black lines of mold that spoiled the whole thing.
She bemoaned the agonizing minutes she’d spent,
waiting for the other contestants to complete the suffix
to the gerund in “What are you doing?”,
looking completely flummoxed when they landed on the Express,
making much ado about landing on the “million-dollar wedge”
then landing on Bankrupt the next turn,
pronouncing “n” as “en-uh”
“r” as “r-uh,”
& buying the vowel in puzzles like CHOCOLATE M_LK,
only to mispronounce the solve.
She hadn’t gone on to the bonus round
but had won a trip to a “developing country”
for which she had no other winnings to pay the taxes on.

Her Magical Childhood

1954 (10)

Her childhood had been sweet,
filled with marshmallow hugs & chocolate kisses,
of butterfly, angel, & Eskimo kisses,
of kisses that flew from her hands like cosmic dust
to decorate the sky,
& of kisses from Grandma
from that gold-paved paradise over the rainbow;
of stork bites & tales from the Cabbage Patch,
& monsters in the closet & under the bed
that disappeared with the always precise aim
of Mom’s crafty glue gun;
of make-believe games & make-it-yourself puzzles;
of art class with junk mail scraps & broken crayons,
& a refrigerator that had become a museum gallery,
with Lego magnets holding up hodgepodge collages;
of music class with the laminated lyrics
of hymns, folk songs, & Christmas carols;
of PE in the park,
field trips to everyday places,
& lunch where cookie butter & Nutella sandwiches
were always on the menu;
of science class on the beach & Sunday school under the trees;
of math class with numbers that had special significance—
in her life or the lives of others or the history of the world;
of a 24/7 library with fairy tales, folk tales, & tall tales,
& thick scrapbooks that told the family history—
the history she would end up repeating—
that of happy marriages & childhoods,
with written instructions & real-life examples
on how to make them happen.

1954 (2)

Fiction Friday: Micropoetry from the Book

Sister Wiley bought extravagant gifts for herself,
saving the posh bags to toss in dollar store presents
that didn’t even pretend to be knock-offs
for the endless showers that rained on the parades
of the unattractive & infertile women
whose hope for salvation through a husband or children
dimmed as their looks & eggs degraded further.
This woman, this Sister Mindy Wiley,
who dazzled the men & bedazzled the women,
held the bag that was a lie
in the palm of her hand for all to see,
pointing to it with her other hand like Vanna White
pointed to the letters on Wheel of Fortune.

The shower included a toilet tissue wedding dress contest.
Following the mysterious rule of three,
we were divided into teams of such.
Perhaps each group represented the unholy trinity
of an earthly bride of Christ:
a goddess,
a goddess’s daughter,
& the spirit of the goddess—
for in each team,
there was a woman,
a young woman,
& a woman-child.
Donna Marley had called the game sexist & refused to participate.
To her, dresses were as oppressive as make-up & high-heeled shoes.
Everything Donna saw as feminine & anything she saw as something
that separated the sexes, was, to her, sexist,
& through her eyes,
I began to question my worth to the world—
not as a person but as a woman
who was undeniably, happily female.

We were like little children,
scouring the living room for the scavenger hunt,
looking for plastic eggs containing a coupon for some food or beauty item
in hopes of finding the golden egg,
in which was nestled a 5-course meal prepared by the silly goose
known as Sister Wiley.
Donna deemed the game as lame,
saying something should have been done with power tools—
something that mattered—
which, for Donna, was always something
that pertained to manhood or masculinity
& was a curious form of sexism itself.

We finished up the farce
with a memory game that screamed housewife.
On a serving tray covered with a new-looking dishtowel
were 17 hand-held kitchen items
(most of which came from the pink breast cancer line,
making them harder to distinguish).
We were given 5 minutes to memorize them,
then 2-&-a-half minutes to recall them on paper,
& I wondered if this activity was a mere memory game
or some type of social conditioning that dictated
what every good wife should have in her kitchen.

You could tell a lot about a person by the gifts they gave:
Mother’s gift from Sister Wiley was a book:
The Lost Art of Homemaking.
David would love it.
Sister Page’s was a crocheting book.
None of us would love that.
Plenty of how-to books were given—
books that looked as if they were Dick & Jane-era throwbacks.
There were plenty of not-so-powerful kitchen tools,
several items with the As Seen on TV logo,
& a funhouse mirror toaster no one claimed.
When I looked at my reflection in the appliance,

I couldn’t help but think that perhaps I was looking at myself
on the inside.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

The Homeschooling Mama’s Dilemma

Pledge

The frazzled, second-time mama,
whose nerve endings were frayed,
grieved for the time she robbed from Penny to spend on Polly,
for the times she snapped at Penny because of Polly,
& for the times she did not even hear Penny because of Polly,
whose color of hangry ranged from tomato red to beet purple.
As the principal of Sally Jane Richards’ Homeschool for the Housebound
(& wife of the dean)
cradled her colicky cuddlebug,
her other hand reached out to reassure her doodlebug—
this shiny new piece of change who had come into her life
without a heads-up & put her into a temporary tailspin—
that Book Club & Reading Club,
Math with Monopoly Money,
A.M. & P.M. Bingo,
Wheel of Fortune-inspired Hangman,
& Alphabet Soup & Word Salad with Bananagrams,
had to wait for the not-so-secret formula
to do its disappearing noise magic trick.

Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

Writer's Life

The Shutterfly Edition

He was tuxedo English,
she, T-shirt,
but when he decided to correct her grammar
on Facebook,
she looked him up
& matched his clean words with dirty ones
to coax him out of his clothes,
only to discover that this stuffed shirt
under all that spiffy black-&-white
was a T-shirt that didn’t know
to separate itself from red.

She wrote fiction
when she wanted to forget herself;
creative nonfiction
when she wanted to remember herself;
but when she wanted to just be herself,
she wrote poetry.

As a writer,
she didn’t let people live rent-free in her head,
but instead,
evicted them to the page
& gave them their just desserts,
which were anything but
just or sweet.