Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #481: Writer

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Ann M. Martin

Her books were a beloved part of my girlhood.
I remember she loved “I Love Lucy”
& looked like a schoolteacher–
that is, if Ellie Walker from “The Andy Griffith Show”
had taken Helen Crump’s place
before “Helen the Grump” had been written into existence.
I remember thinking her middle name just had to be Marie
because it fit her “That Girl” appearance.
I remember thinking that it must be the greatest job in the world
for one’s books to be adored by little girls all around the world.
I remember thinking of myself as an honorary Baby-Sitters Club member–
the one you never read about but existed nevertheless–
for I wasn’t shy around these girls.  
As I read her bio now,
I learn that she taught autistic children (I teach my own),
that she loved Roald Dahl
& wrote for her college newspaper,
that math was her least favorite subject
& that her fourth-grade teacher (third for me)
told her that she was a wonderful writer.
I think that maybe I liked this lady–
what little I knew from her blurb in the back all those years ago–
because I saw myself in her,
or saw in her,
what I hoped I might
someday become.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/wednesday-poetry-prompts-481

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Truth is its own magic: A Mother’s Day message

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When you’re a mom, some of the things that come out of your mouth may sound strange:  “Don’t chew on Jesus,” “Will you just hurry up and poop?”, and “Stop putting chicken on your head!”, are some of my greatest hits.

As I was getting my daughter ready for bed the other night, thinking about what I wanted to read to her (praying she wouldn’t mention Minnie, as in The Mouse), the Beatitudes of Jesus came to mind.  I realized then that I’ve spent so much time reading and singing to her and teaching her the things she will need to know to get on here–like letters and numbers, saying “thank you” and not littering–that I hadn’t focused much on the religious part of her education.

Thinking back, that’s exactly how my parents raised me.  For them, church was something you needed if you were an ass.

When I was in high school in the nineties, a lot of kids were self-proclaimed “Jesus freaks,” wearing “True Love Waits” rings and WWJD bracelets.  There was a lot of talk about the rapture and born-again virginity.  Church was their social life, Praise and Worship music their vibe.  Some of them even carried their Bibles around at school.  

Just as Felicity (remember that WB show?) followed a boy to college, I, a freshman, followed a senior boy to his church.  One evening, after service had ended, we sat in a pew as he led me through the salvation prayer, and I was like, “That’s it?  Are you sure? It’s that easy?”

I had been expecting a feeling–a total transformation like Saul’s to Paul–and now I wonder when Jesus told Doubting Thomas that (and I paraphrase) blessed are they who don’t see but believe, that “see” could also apply to “feel.”

Four years later, I joined the Mormon Church.  All the good feelings I had expected to feel when I had gotten saved, I felt then, but who isn’t going to feel good when they’re around so many friendly people who open their hearts and homes?  Even though it’s been years since I sent my name to Salt Lake to be expunged (er, removed) from the records, I will admit that the Church made me a more spiritual person.

In the Church, I was taught that the glory of God is intelligence and yet, according to these same people, for those who had mental challenges, the devil could not touch them. 

To my understanding, a lack of mental capacity (e.g. intelligence) saved a soul.  It seems contradictory, and yet, it somehow makes sense to me.

As I gaze upon my child, I see that light and intelligence.  She knows so much more than she communicates, which can be frustrating, but I have learned to overcome the need to explain why she is the way she is to people who don’t know her–to explain why she doesn’t respond when people ask her her name–but then, I have had several people who’ve taken one look at her and ask if she’s autistic.

I may never know how much she understands, but I do know that I will teach her everything I know and believe, whether it’s that adverbs are the enemy of good writing or that respect doesn’t have to be earned but it can be lost.  (You don’t disrespect people until they “earn” your respect.)

I’ve striven so much to give her a magical childhood through imagination and storytelling.  (Children’s author, Nancy Tillman, is a master at this.)  Nearly every night, since my mom passed from this earth, I ask my daughter to tell Grandma “good-night” and “I love you” and to blow her a kiss.  And then I seemingly catch that kiss in midair, letting her open my hand and take it; sometimes I place my palm on the crown of her head–a blessing from Heaven.

Of course, I don’t really know how things work up there, but part of parenting, for me, has always been teaching truths with just a pinch of magic.

C.S. Lewis did that very thing with his Narnia series, just as I will someday do with mine.

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #30. Theme: Stop/Don’t Stop #aprpad

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The Pursuit of Happiness

Never stop pursuing your passion
because if you do,
it will always be a temptation
that will never be satisfied,
for any writer worth their saffron
will find the time—
even after time with family
& time with friends,
time at work
& time working out,
time with feeding the head
& time with feeding the mouth,
time spent sleeping
& playing
& running errands,
for those who love to write,
there will never be enough time,
but those lovers will make the most
of the time they have—
in the waiting times
& the lunch times,
in the television times
& the alone times—
the last of which they cherish,
for it is in that time
that they don’t feel like
they are taking it
from someone else
who needs it more.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-30

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #26. Theme: Evening #aprpad

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Thursday Evening

Her evenings were spent
not shuttling her child
to practice or lessons
or herself to the next job
but eating a home-cooked dinner
prepared by her husband,
watching “Wheel of Fortune,”
reading and singing to her daughter
and asking her the questions
only she could answer
but could not,
for her little girl
was a brightly-colored door
with a panel of frosted glass
that was shatter-proof
and a lock that was foolproof.
Sometimes this mom went to an event,
and sometimes she made it to the Y,
for she believed in getting your money’s worth
out of a gym membership,
not a buffet.
She was an anxious person,
understanding that just as some drank
to silence the voices,
she sometimes had to take a pill
to silence the stories–
a temporary solution to
“Writers’ Flow.”
She tried to remember to tell Jesus
to let her mom know she said, “Hi,”
but sometimes she forgot–
just as she forgot if she shampooed her hair
until she squeezed the green gel
known as Prell
into her hand
and her muscle memory kicked in.
She’d put the clothes in the dryer
and forget to turn it on,
take something out of the oven
and forget to turn it off.
She’d try to tamp down her anxiety
when having to watch a movie
without closed-captioning,
feeling mentally exhausted
trying to piece together
what she did hear.
Maybe being able to see the words
was why she had become a writer
and why,
when the hustle-bustle of the day
died down
and her little girl had been put down
for the night,
she could lose herself in all the words
she could not see.

https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-26

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #25. Theme: Exile #aprpad

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A Mom’s Exile

The bathroom:
my dad’s study hall growing up
& my reading nook now–
because going to the bathroom is boring.
If I want to escape with chocolate
without having to share
or wax my underarms (armpits sound nasty)
without an audience,
I go (not skip) to the loo,
leaving evidence of the latter
in the lavender-scented trashbags as proof to my husband
that women have a higher tolerance for pain.
I can soak for an hour,
brainstorming so hard,
you can hear the thunder & see the lightning
if you look & listen close enough,
but don’t get too close
unless I need you to bring me my tweezers.

2019 April PAD Challenge: Day 25

Poem-a-Day April 2019 Writer’s Digest Challenge #18. Theme: Little (Blank) #aprpad

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Little Memories

It was last night
that I read the last work
that would be published
in my alma mater’s literary journal.
Brian and Hannah had joined me–
along with my dad and grandmother
who we call Bernadean
because she’s not all “grammy-like.”
My English and Communications friends were there,
my old college newspaper friends–
except for the ones who’d graduated and moved on–
were there to cover the event
in the room where my daughter saw
trapezoids and triangles in the ceiling.
I’d worn my new little black dress—
well, let’s be real,
not little—
but it showed the shoulders
I had been expected to cover
in my past life as a Mormon.
My daughter was showing off or rather,
I was showing off my daughter in her new bob
that makes her look like Scout Finch
and white dress with the red ribbon straps
that kept slipping down.
Still better her have a wardrobe malfunction than me.
My dad and grandmother were late
but just in time to see one of the artists’ photographs
of his topless girlfriend projected on the screen
and for Dad to hear one of the poets use the f-word,
which I knew he would complain about later.
I break out in hives all over my chest when I read,
but I chose to ignore them,
for that was better than sweating profusely.
Hives don’t give you B.O.
There were “decadent desserts”
with all different toppings;
I wasn’t fooled,
for they were all brownie bites
but “elevated” as the TV chefs would say.
I was asked for a quote by the kid
who only wanted to write reviews
because he just enjoys writing his opinions.
Yes, I tell him, I really am obsessed with Mother Goose
(and, off the record, ablaut reduplication).
Hannah got to watch and listen to one of the artists play his guitar.
Everyone was so kind.
The event was held in a room off the art gallery on campus,
and we saw a man’s bust made of pennies,
which made me think that Mike Brady’s head
wouldn’t have shattered had it been made of change.
I still had to make cornbread
(hoecakes were too much work–
I couldn’t just shove them in the oven
and forget about them for a half hour)
for a “Cooking on a Dime” event at work tomorrow—
the college where I work because I loved it so much,
I didn’t want to leave.
We got our Easter ham,
and then Dad wanted to take us out
for half-priced milkshakes after 8 at Sonic.
Tons of kids were there for the same reason.
I had to lend Hannah my white sweater wrap
and make her look like an old lady in a shawl.
I got chocolate
but without malt,
what good is it?
I gave Hannah my cherry,
and Dad gave me his.
We joked about how Mom
who doesn’t live on Earth anymore
would embarrass my brother
by asking for “thick shakes” and “hot fries”
because damn it,
she was paying good money for this crap.
It’s nice to be able to talk about her without crying.
And then we go to our homes,
me to mine,
where I read Green Eggs and Ham,
and I told this little girl with the big blue eyes
that until I met her dad,
mushrooms had been my Green Eggs and Ham
when he fried them like we do everything here.
Right then and wherever there was,
I fell in love with fungi candy.
And I write all this now
while it’s still fresh
because new memories are constantly being made,
and I don’t want to lose this one.

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https://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/poetic-asides/2019-april-pad-challenge-day-18