Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #484: Summer


Summer is Longer Here

She is the interlude who dances between the equinoxes,
her breath hot,
She is the intermission between grades–
not an interruption of education
but a continuance of all that is learned
beyond the glossy walls covered with old tape and dirty fingerprints,
of thin carpet pebbled with dried glue and freckled with chalkboard dust–
all of which make up the little factories that teach every child
like he or she was the same child.
She is the time for sleeping till not sleepy,
of standing in the rain without catching a cold,
and making messes outside that don’t have to be cleaned up.
She is the time for playing in the sun and sitting in the shade,
of lemon icebox pie on little saucers
and raspberry mint lemonade in tall glasses,
with more ice cubes than ade.
Then it is time to grow up,
and life is no longer measured in spring breaks
or summer vacations,
passing grades
or failing semesters.
Times such as summers gone by no longer come in huge swaths
but in moments strung together.
These former children find themselves wishing
they had enjoyed those summers even more,
but they did not know what they could not see
and now,
those moments stolen from themselves are spent
making their children’s summers everything they will remember
and one day long for.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 485

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #475: By (mode of transportation)

With Lila%2c our Caddy.JPG

By Car:  Before We Loved Lucy

Before we loved Lucy, we loved Lila—
a 1992 Cadillac DeVille, owned only by the aging Poppies.

Lila was our first car together—$500 and pristine as the sugar white sands
of the Emerald Coast
with red-leather seats and curves of shiny chrome.

She took us to Heaven and back—
Heaven being the surf and sound sides of Pensacola Beach.

We never pierced her with cigarette ashes or tattooed her with bumper stickers,
however strategically placed.

Come morning, her top would be sprinkled with the crepe myrtle
and moist with the dew.
Lila’s character became more dear with every ding and scratch,
the chip in her windshield like the dimple of Shirley Temple.
Sometimes her perfume was Chick-Fil-A;
at others, the darkest roast at Starbucks.

She was there when we found our first home
and when I went back to school.
She was our shelter from the summer thunderstorms,
our cool respite from the oppressive, breathtaking humidity,
and the hearth that kept us warm during the icy, snowless cold of Southern winters.

She was our metal parasol from the golden globe that warped our milk chocolate bars
like the timepieces in Dalí’s, The Persistence of Memory.

She brought us home from our simple little wedding,
her rearshield saying “Just Married” in soapy, green paint,
and carried us away to our honeymoon at home, for home was Paradise.

She shuttled me to the hospital when, after a jalapeno burger with Cajun fries at Five Guys,
I went into labor and gave birth to our baby girl—our Hannah Banana Beth.
She was there to pick me up,
cradling our newborn like a porcelain doll.

The interior panel lights with her emblem were like the tusks of elephants
and added to her beauty;
her functionality was in her large trunk where we often packed fried chicken and potato salad
and glass bottles of RC Cola on ice.

She was the vessel who sailed me over the Three Mile Bridge
to the sparkling town of Gulf Breeze
where I would meet up with my WriteOn! Pensacola group—
a scenic drive during which I would listen to the local radio host
who was like a friend I had yet to meet,
the windows down, tangling my hair.

For my birthdays, she brought me to the boardwalk at the Cactus Flower Café;
for Christmas, she bore gifts only she was large enough to hold.

Like a priest, she heard all our arguments and make-ups and worries about the future.
She knew what we ate, the kind of music we liked, the things that made us happy or sad.

She was independence and the first car I owned who completely belonged to me.

She passed from her second life as an auto,
donating her organs to the local junkyard to be recycled,
though we still have photos of her and some of her jewelry in a shadowbox above our mantel.

Though we’ve moved on in different directions,
we, with another addition to our family and she, with a repurposing of her life,
we will never forget you, Lila, for you were our first.

Love, The Richards family, circa 2014

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Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #471: Language

Children of the Blue and the Gray

He was a blue-blooded Yankee,
she, a red-blooded American.
He spoke like an Ivy Leaguer,
specifically Yale Law
& Harvard Business;
she spoke in the colloquialisms
& soft consonants of Deep South Jaw-juh.
They just couldn’t find common ground–
he, with his clipped Northern accent
& she, with her Southern drawl–
but when they got all mixed-up,
their hearts turned to purple prose
& they found uncommonly fertile ground.


#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book


It had always been David who had made our house the kind of home the Church said a home should be—the second most sacred space, next to the temple.

“For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them,” Jesus had said, & so, the Mormon missionaries paired off like Noah’s Ark, except in a sexless, same-sex fashion.

His faith had been proven—his sacrifice hadn’t required the forsaking of his own life—only the forsaking of a chance at a life with me.

David appreciated the natural world as much as Mother & Caitlin did the spiritual, whereas I was caught somewhere between the two.

Man had been given dominion over all earthly creations (rather than God, who had dominion over all the heavenly ones).

Though we were surrounded by people, we were the only two people in our world—in the world, but not of it.

I sensed a change in my & David’s relationship, but I could not define it. It had matured. I was no longer his stepdaughter—I was his equal.

Christmas in the Deep South was twinkling lights for snowflakes, spray-on snow on windowpanes, & the Hallmark yule log flickering on a screen.

Sweet Little Nothings

Ride with the top down

Bikini tops & flip flops
replace bras & high heels.
It is the season for hair up
& windows down,
of ice cream melting
& crawfish steaming,
of long, lemonade days
& slow, twilight walks,
of eating chilled watermelon on back patios
& drinking iced tea on front porches,
of gardenias releasing their perfume,
of honey suckling
& strawberry picking,
of running barefoot in the backyard,
of small, plump hands stained with finger paint,
& laying below a ceiling fan,
cutting through summer’s rhapsody.

Poem-a-Day April 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #6. Theme: Food


A carpetbagger & a scalawag came to Alabama,
Sweet & Savory were their names.
When they double-crossed a cracked Southern belle,
who’d been banged a little too hard,
& a Connecticut Yankee,
who’d sneezed his nasally r’s into his hankie,
the Reb took Savory & buttered him up,
while the Yank plundered Sweet
as if her name was Atlanta,
for grits with sugar “just ain’t right.”

2018 April PAD Challenge: Day 6

Childhood Memories: Pen Pals


Bridge to the Sun

It was in Miss Flowers’ seventh grade English class that we participated in the pen pal program as a group.  (Miss Flowers was married, but all teachers are “Miss” when you’re little, especially in the South.)  The idea of a pen pal seemed strange and wonderful to me, before the Internet connected the world like it does today.

My pen pal’s name, I still remember, was Chiho Fukasawa, and she lived in Japan with her pet bird, Boota.  The letters were written lightly in pencil on what I called rice paper, but my dad called “onionskin” or typewriter paper—so unlike my purple script (which came from a giant pen that wrote in different colors) on Lisa Frank stationery, the envelopes sealed with stickers rather than my spit.  My best friend and I, would read each other’s letters over Damian’s slushes or chocolate milkshakes at lunchtime, wearing off the last of our Bonne Bell lip gloss.

What was also nice about that class was that it was in one of the outbuildings, so if you had to go to the bathroom, you got to be outside for a little bit.  Because the Deep South part of Florida had problems with mildew, due to the thick humidity, the outbuildings seemed less gross because they weren’t near the moldy-smelling bathrooms.

I like to say it was a noteworthy year.  It’s interesting how the best writing years of my youth coincided with being best friends with Jessica McBride.  Third grade (in which Jessie and I shared a class and a Brownie Girl Scout troop) was the year of the journal, and the seventh (when we shared most of our classes) was the year of the letter.  It was before the advent of the e-mail (at least for me), and I loved writing in cursive; I was often told my penmanship resembled calligraphy.

Letters from Chiho remind me of simpler times, when getting a letter in the mail was still exciting, but not a phenomenon, and back when grandparents would send a ten-dollar bill tucked inside a birthday card.

Every two weeks, a batch of letters would come.  Sometimes the teacher would have us read the letters aloud, but I was always too shy; I would try to get Jessie, who was my opposite in every way, to do it for me.  Then after class one afternoon, Miss Flowers gently told me that I wasn’t reading my words, but someone else’s, so there was no need to be bashful.  Though I still didn’t like getting up in front of class, it wasn’t so bad after that.

I remember reading the letters thinking how much Chiho, even though she was from an entirely different culture, sounded just like me, with a best friend, a pet, favorite foods.  Those letters showed me that kids all around the world wanted the same things, whether they had them or not.

My mom worked for the post office, and so I would show her the envelope with what I called the Japanese calligraphy on it, and the unfamiliar stamps; every letter is still tucked away in their original envelopes.  Chiho would mention the plum and cherry blossom trees, and I would write (sometimes in acrostic) about the magnolia trees, our gardenia bushes, and the azaleas that would bloom, as I liked to say, “out of the blue”, despite a lack of care.  (This was back when I wanted to be a botanist and grow the toffee apples mentioned in “The Chronicles of Narnia”.)

The year of the pen pal (once summer hit, my mom stashed away the letters and Chiho and I lost touch) was one of the best of my life.  It was the year I learned to write about my life through letters, the year I learned how to turn my ordinary life into an extraordinary read.  I will never know if Chiho believed my letters (though she loved them anyway), but even though we were only long-distance friends for a season, the memories of her letters and the last year Jessie and I would be friends, are as vibrant and crisp as apples in the fall.