Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #488: Walking

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John and Mary

Her lunchtime walks in Newbury Park
did not go unnoticed by the collegiate-clad young man
who watched her from his studio apartment,
sipping a chai latte on his balcony,
typing his thesis on his cell.
Every day, he saw the woman of his dreams
meeting the man of any woman’s dreams,
sharing a sandwich (never submarine)
but the diagonal kind made of shelf-stable bread and always served cold–
the stuff brown-bagged lunches were made of.
The man’s coffee was always hot,
hers, iced,
no matter the season,
their wedding bands shining–
butter yellow in the spring,
starburst yellow in the summer,
pallid yellow in the fall.
Were they birds or bears,
going further south
or hibernating for the winter?
But then,
one frosty night that turned his cheeks cherub,
he saw the man and woman
reading side by side on a bench
in the public library–
she, fiction
he, nonfiction.
He would learn that they had nowhere else to go,
for they could be there and not have to buy anything.
Then came the day that he no longer saw them
where kids used outside voices and books were free for a limited time,
where squirrels frolicked,
making arcs on the sidewalk,
where tables were set up with jigsaw puzzles
for the dodgy old men whose wives were dead or troublesome,
where the magenta buds of the crepe myrtles
hovered like feathers in the heat shimmer,
and where educated young mothers corralled their toddlers during storytime.
When he returned to college that last semester,
he saw the man and woman not as students
but as teachers–
teaching about the ideas and ideals
that had gotten them through
those long months of joblessness
that sometimes begat hopelessness
in a society that undervalued those
who wanted to do nothing more than teach.

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Poem-a-Day November 2018 Writer’s Digest Challenge #17. Theme: Broken

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Night of Broken Glass

She was broke
but not broken;
he was fractured
but not shattered.
They did not push the boundaries
but were pushed from the boundaries
of their home
that
was
not
their home.

Storage unit:
Hand-me-down crib
that didn’t match
the hand-me-down furniture
it had come with;
the antique hutch
that had been passed down
from her Welsh grandmother
and the fruit salad loveseat
that had
survived sixty years
in her grandparents’ care,
but not even three
with stair-stepping
Anna Banana;
the his and hers reclining chairs
that would rot in storage—
courtesy of
the Deep South humidity,
where the hot was hotter than hot.

She’d kept the light-up ladybug
that painted the heavens
in blue, red, and green—
a light whose projections
would not appear so unfamiliar,
even on a series of strange ceilings,
for did not constellation
change position,
did not the planets seem to draw near
and vice versa?

The Precious Moments snow globe
would sound the same
in their present darkness.
Bedtime would feel the same—
down to the elephant blankie
that was slightly browned at the corners,
the lavender scent
this mom sprayed
every
pillow
with.

In her husband’s haste to move
to their next temporary home,
the glass globe—
encasing an ideal existence—
shattered like her expectations,
leaving silver glitter
like the pulverized remnants
of cloud linings,
and tiny purple butterfly wings
like conversation hearts
with nothing to say.

She found the courage to move on—
only because even though she could not stay,
she,
just as surely,
had nowhere to go.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/2018-november-pad-chapbook-challenge-day-17

2017: My Year in Review

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(Inside cover of inweekly–one of Pensacola’s local magazines)

It was the best of years, it was the worst of years.  It was a time of trial, and a time of triumph over that trial.  It was a time of change, and a time of recording that change.  It was a time of deconstruction, a time of reconstruction.  It was a time of friendships lost, a time of friendships found.

It was bad luck and no luck at all.  It was false hope mixed with hopelessness.  It was a culmination of every right and wrong decision my husband and I had ever made.

*

Twenty-seventeen will always be the year my family and I lost our house (security), our car (independence), and a Precious Moments snow globe I’d had since before I married, which I’d kept close in an attempt to keep my daughter’s bedtime routine familiar.  I’d lugged it around for the same reason I lugged her ladybug light around–so that wherever she slept, if it was dark enough and she closed her eyes, it would be like she was back in her old room.

It would be like nothing had changed.

*

I must have foreseen our situation more than three years ago. Not the displacement, necessarily, but the constant financial struggle which bled into everything else, and almost destroyed my marriage.

This, this was why I had gone back to school at the age of thirty-two.

*

Through this experience, I found out who my fair-weather friends were, as well as my stormy-weather ones.

I also realized that my husband’s church family had become like-minded acquaintances, but I guess it’s like that with any family–you have to go to the reunions (i.e. services) every once in a while.

I’m very blessed that my family—all of whom had gone through a degree of what we had—were there for us.  Someday, I hope to be able to repay them tenfold, just as I want to repay the other people (including the pastor who married us and is now retired) and the entities and organizations who helped us, be it through time, taxes, or donations.

Though we’re estranged from what’s left of my husband’s family, my husband and I have made it past the worst. “For better or worse” was in my vows, and I believe the better is coming.

I couldn’t go on if I didn’t.

As it states in the Mormons’ Thirteenth Article of Faith (and I am only quoting part of it), “we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things.”

During this time, I felt that everyone else had it all together, but it was towards the end of the semester that I realized I wasn’t the only one going through, for lack of better words, “really bad shit.”

Knowing this made me feel less alone.

*

Through the infighting and the angst of not knowing where we might be sleeping a week hence, through squatting in the Publix Wi-Fi area where we didn’t feel we had to buy anything and to avoid being stuck in that depressing shelter, through sneaking in to the hotel where my brother worked to eat dinner, I still managed to conquer the one class (or rather, the class that was a pre-cursor) to the class that I’d let keep me from finishing college the first time:  Intermediate Algebra.

I not only passed it, but aced it–all while my world fell apart during final exam week.

What others might have allowed to destroy them, I could not because my life wasn’t just my life anymore. I had a family, and I needed this degree to pull out of the quagmire that was poverty.

My “unhoused” (that sounds so much better than “homeless”) experience didn’t change who I was, but it changed my perspective.

When I see the homeless on the corner, I think, if only they had a family, or a family that cared. True, I don’t know their situation, but I do know we weren’t far from it.

I’m still a strong believer in self-sufficiency (for I am working hard, or rather, studying hard, towards that), but I also realize that to be against the very things that have helped me pull myself up would make me a hypocrite.

There is no shame (nor pride) in accepting help; it’s what you do with that help.

It’s why I chose to major in healthcare rather than English—I wanted to be a good steward of the gift I received. There’ve been times I was sure I’d chosen the wrong major, but I like to say it will be my healthcare degree that will pay for my creative writing degree (something I’ll be working on while I work in the medical field).

I’ve learned, albeit the hard way, that doing things in the right order is essential for success.  That’s why I didn’t choose to major in English first.

When I look at what little money my husband and I brought in, I realize that my family got our Christmas miracle early.

Because a Man fed 5000 people 2000 years ago, my family and I were taken care of, so that we could live to fight (or simply live) another day.

#Micropoetry Monday: Displacement

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First place:
Reminiscent of a nursing home,
with its waxy floors
& glossy walls,
the young family
coexisted
with a strange grandmother
& their little girl
who could not be just that.

Second place:
A methhead argued with voices
outside her door
while the day laborers
lounged over the rails
under the mythical red roof,
so she kept the light out
to hide the light
that played inside.

Third place:
Their temporary displacement did not
lapse into permanent homelessness.
A loveseat,
television,
kitchenette,
& borrowed vehicle,
was a mimicry of what home
had once felt like.

Last place:
They ended up at the purveyors
of blue eggs & Spam,
leftover church suppers,
& expired goods;
where trains blew their horns
throughout the night,
disrupting dreams of being
elsewhere;
where thunder from the trucks
rumbling down the Interstate
became the perpetual score
of their home movie;
where autonomy became
The Thing to Be Re-earned,
in exchange for daily consumption
of humble pie.
Yet it was at this shelter
of second chances
that they would be given
a third.

And Jesus said to him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has not where to lay his head.  (Matthew 8:20)