Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

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Leann was not a kid person,
despite being in a Church that prized children
to the exclusion of everything else,
though Mother believed the Church would change her;
perhaps if polyandry were allowed,
Leann—who was like Scarlett O’Hara at the barbecue at Twelve Oaks,
writing to a dozen elders at a time—
would meet the one elder who had not been conditioned
to want what she did not.

We were so unlike the Jonas family,
which consisted of a half dozen teenaged girls;
“Greater by the Dozen” was their family slogan,
for they were of the Quiverfull movement.
Leann believed all they needed was a set of sextuplets
to make them “Cheaper by the Dozen,”
so they would get a spot on 60 Minutes.
To Leann, big families were overrated,
for they lacked the intimacy of small ones.

We were archetypes in a stage play,
even as I felt those around us were stereotypes in a TV series.
Leann was known as the pretty strawberry one,
Kath, the popular chocolate one,
& I, the quiet vanilla one—
a Neapolitan concoction that perfectly completed one another.
As for Donna Marley,
who was known as Twenty-Seven & Unmarried,
she was the hot fudge, whipped cream, & cherry,
all in one.

Kath’s African lineage made her one of the most popular girls in the ward.
To Mick, she was the “white chocolate sista” he liked to tease,
& though Kath replied that she may have been a freak of nature,
he was just a freak.

Leann Sweeney,
who had come as Scarlett O’Hara
in the white dress at the beginning of Gone with the Wind,
had the kind of charm that was disarming,
whereas I felt like Melanie Hamilton,
with Elder Roberts as my gentle, noble Ashley,
who was as loyal to the Church
as Ashley Wilkes had been to the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.

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.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

David, the king of the castle,
also known as Maxwell Manor,
had stayed for me.
He was as Rhett Butler
as I was Bonnie Blue,
& the torch he carried
was not for me,
but for my flag.

For her,
he’d bought a mink coat,
for me,
a stole.
Now he would buy her a diamond,
whereas I would have my own room
in his house.
If diamonds were forever,
were rooms forevermore?

Mother put her mark on David’s house,
just as the devil put the mark of the beast
on his unholy temples.

Y2K parties,
like hurricane parties,
were being held that New Year’s Eve
before the New Millennium,
& I saw this turning of time
as a turning of the tide.

For the Mormons,
the husband was the head of the home,
the wife,
the heart,
& I wondered what happened
to the body that was the family
when the head stopped thinking
& the heart stopped beating.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

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David had sacrificed marriage
& children of his own
to be with the woman he loved as a wife
& the girl he loved as a daughter.
But what he’d given up
would matter not,
for what he’d gotten
would change forms,
becoming that which he’d given up.

He hadn’t stayed for my mother,
he’d stayed for me,
&, I wondered—
did he,
like Rhett Butler,
see in Bonnie Blue,
the best part of Scarlett—
the true love of his life?

Mother had wanted to ship me off to B.Y.U.
to pursue my Mrs. degree
(except in Mormonism,
it was a Doctorate,
with concentrations in cooking,
cleaning,
& being attractive for your eternal companion).
She wanted to send me on a mission,
spreading the gospel–
anything to get rid of me–
which she believed would get me closer to the Church
& farther away from David,
but he had already prepared a room for me in his mansion.

For him, I’d been willing to give up my family,
but he hadn’t been willing to give up his Church.
For him, I’d have given up everything,
but he’d been willing to give up nothing.

The rib God had taken from Adam
to make Eve,
had made woman submissive to man,
for it was because of man,
that woman existed.
It was why men could have a career & family,
but women had to choose.

Books: A part of my childhood, a part of my adulthood

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My earliest memory of books was when my dad read nursery rhymes to me—about  kings and queens, farmers and peasants—a precursor to fairy tales. When I won first place for my nonfiction piece, “A Memoir of Mother Goose,” I told my old professor that I had a slight “obsession with Mother Goose.” He’d chuckled and said it could be worse.

Mom and I read the Encyclopedia Brown series together, often in the car when my parents sold lamps and lampshades at an outdoor flea market in Summerdale, Alabama. Books were my salvation from boredom. If I didn’t have a new book, I’d reread an old one. I think I read Mom, You’re Fired! by Lou Kassem every day in Poplar Bluff, Missouri, where I stayed with my grandparents every summer as an adolescent and tween. I also read many stories in the Mostly Magic installment of the Through Golden Windows series, printed in 1958; I loved all the retro books my grandmother’s bookcases were filled with. I remember it was a lot more fun to sift through books than it was to surf through channels.

Still is. 

Many Moons by James Thurber was (and still is) my all-time favorite children’s book, but I also loved the Wayside School series by Louis Sachar and The Face on the Milk Carton series by Caroline B. Cooney.

I guess you could say I’ve always been a series girl—The Baby-Sitters Club by Ann M. Martin in elementary, Sweet Valley High by Francine Pascal in middle, and V.C. Andrews in high school—the last of which I stopped reading when Andrew Neiderman (Andrews’ ghostwriter) turned out to be a hack.

I read many a Harlequin romance in my early twenties, which I deemed as research. (I wanted to write for them.)  My mom and I shared a lot of books—Tami Hoag, Lisa Jackson, and Sandra Brown—the usual suspects.  

In my late twenties and early thirties, I fell in love with Linda Hall novels—Christian fiction that didn’t resort to caricatures (as a lot of Christian fiction does). I reread her books every so often, but LaVyrle Spencer’s Small Town Girl will always be my favorite. I remember reading it when I was live-in nannying for three girls in Sidney, Montana, and feeling a bit homesick. The book is set in fictional Wintergreen, Missouri, which, is close to Poplar Bluff. It was because of that reference, perhaps, that I called my Aunt Cheryll (she and my uncle had recently split up after 27 years of marriage), with her telling me that she loved me; I realized then she would always be Aunt Cheryll to me.  

If I had to choose three classic novels that top all the others I’ve read thus far, it would be Gone with the Wind, To Kill a Mockingbird, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. (Ironically, the films that were adapted from these fine works were flawless.) Sometimes I wonder if it were the heroines of these novels that make them so beloved—a feisty Southern belle who toughened up when push came to pushing back ten times harder and two precocious girls (one of them a storyteller, the other, a writer).

Though television programming has become portable with the advent of cell phones, back in the eighties and nineties, reading was the perfect, portable form of entertainment. At night, when I could no longer see (no Kindles then), I’d make up stories in my head.

My dad instilled in me, through poetry, a legacy of literacy—just as my mom shared that legacy with me. Thus, I am passing this legacy on to my daughter, who loves Mother Goose as much as I always will.

Updated 12/4/2019

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

Mormoni

Elder Roberts was like Scarlett’s Ashley Wilkes,
the Church, his Melanie Hamilton.
Brad was my reluctant Rhett,
& David, the uninvited guest
who crashed the barbecue at Twelve Oaks.

As I listened to Christmas carols on the radio
or rather,
holiday songs,
being they were all about reindeer & snowmen
& all childish foolishness,
I wondered if all the songs about Jesus’s sacrifice
were really the Easter songs.

The Gillette’s house was like a Norman Rockwell painting,
their Nativity scene reminiscent
of the Willow Tree figurines Mother adored
& the Amish rag dolls I had played with as a child.
We loved faceless things,
yet if the eyes were the windows to the soul,
did that mean we loved soulless likenesses of ourselves?

I was the unspoiled dove,
Kath, the raven-in-waiting,
& Leann, the little songbird
around which the elders
hummed & buzzed
& flitted around.

Kath was their African princess,
& I,
the pallid virgin who would be sacrificed
to save one of their own.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #425: Happy Distraction

Poetry in Motion Pictures

In Pollyanna,
I saw myself as the Sunday school girl
who focused on the “Happy Texts,”
because it helped me “keep the faith.”

In A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,
I saw myself in Francie Nolan—
that lies weren’t lies if they were written as stories.

In The Wizard of Oz,
I saw myself as Dorothy—
who fell asleep to dreams
well-lived.

In The Sound of Music,
I saw myself as Liesl von Trapp,
who saw the greatness of her country
diminishing.

In Kitty Foyle,
I saw myself as “that sassy Mick”—
once in love with an unattainable man.

In Elmer Gantry,
I saw myself as Sister Sharon Falconer—
whose faith was strong,
even as her love for a man made her weak.

In Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,
I saw myself as Milly,
who tried to smooth out a rough-hewn man.

In Gone with the Wind,
I saw myself as Scarlett O’Hara—
who proved that strength and tenacity
could save it all.

Classic movies have always been
my happy distraction,
for in them,
I saw the parallels of my own life,
and though their pain wasn’t my pain,
their joys were my joys.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 425

Micropoetry Monday: Irony

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When she gave birth to the daughter
who would cause her screams,
she did not know she was giving birth
to her own death 20 years later-
a death that would silence those screams.

She lived a life without regrets,
but then, she had no memory.
It was bliss.

Rhett
For if only he’d known she’d asked for him,
he would’ve never left Tara,
with Ashley alone & aggrieved—
Ashley, a milquetoast remnant of The Old South.
This Old South,
burnt & faded from Bonnie Blue
to bleached denim,
was now ashes that were
gone with the wind.

She was sorry she ever lied,
for because of her lie,
the lie became a truth.

For she’d wanted 7 children
& 1 husband,
but ended up with 7 husbands
& 1 child–
all because she had put
her husbands before the 1.

Micropoetry Monday: Our Beautiful South

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Over sweet tea on the verandah,
two Southern belles
& two Southern gents,
decided to be Yankees for a day,
& butter was no longer a staple.

Growing up working class,
with collars as blue as the Bonnie Blue flag
& politics scarlet-red,
with a bloodline as white as Irish potatoes
that ran through their veins,
the O’Mara family was becoming gone with the wind,
their Confederate grey ashes blowing in the breeze.

Wilting on the front porch in blue rocking chairs
with sweet tea in Mason jars,
Miss Iris & Miss Lily spoke of the war no one felt anymore.

Ida Claire, a Southern belle
who identified as a Yankee—
suddenly found that her time was
cut by half & unable to roll her r’s,
for they had disappeared.

They ate grits sweet & savory,
in the sweet & low country,
elevating them with the spice of life,
& the herb that grew in Bubba’s hanging garden–
a potted plant or a planted pot–
they never knew what.

15 Life Lessons Learned From Classic Movies

 

  1. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn: Written lies can be stories.  (Just don’t print them as truth.)
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird: Sometimes there are consequences for doing the right thing.
  3. Gone with the Wind: You might lose your soul-mate by pining for someone else’s.
  4. Clash by Night: “It’s who I am” is not an excuse for being a jerk.
  5. Johnny Belinda: Sometimes you say it best when you say nothing at all.
  6. 9-5: If you want good office morale, treat your employees right.
  7. Office Space: “Humans weren’t meant to sit in a cubicle all day.”
  8. 12 Angry Men: “Not guilty” isn’t the same thing as “innocent”.
  9. The Night of the Hunter: Religion can wound, and it can heal; it depends upon the application.
  10. It’s a Wonderful Life: Your life matters more than you realize.
  11. Miracle on 34th Street:  Let children be children.
  12. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers: Never stop wooing your wife.
  13. Meet Me in St. Louis: A love of home and a sense of belonging is more important than more money.
  14. The Sound of Music:  Even in the darkest of times, music can be one’s salvation.
  15. Sullivan’s Travels: Making people laugh has intrinsic value.

#Micropoetry Monday: Ekphrastic Poetry

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She’d learned it all from Lucy–
how a life of grand schemes
& wars of the sexes made it worth living,
how one could come to America an immigrant & not make do but do well,
how a small apartment in the city could become a spacious house in the country,
how lifelong best friends & a long-awaited child
could be part of anyone’s American Dream.

Scarlett
Tomorrow was always another day—
that mythical time when all would be well.
Yet she pined for the one man
who represented that lost cause
in which she’d found happiness.

Caroline Carmichael had found purpose in a stolen life,
rather than the life she had chosen as Martha Sedgwick.
She was the water,
Hillary & Winston the powdered mix,
& blended, they made up the Instant Family.

Little Women
Beth was but a faint percussion,
Amy, a bold stroke of fresh color,
while Jo captured & condensed life as she knew it,
& Meg mothered the future.

She was one in a dozen,
a ginger with a snap,
the heart of a lion,
the breadth of a lamb.