I did a thing, as part of the River Front Reading Series in Kansas City. Sorry about the glare on my glasses and the fact that I kept moving my head around trying to minimize it. But if you can overlook that and want to hear me read some poems, here’s a link to the video. I’m the first reader. I recommend sticking around for the second readers as well. I enjoyed her work a lot. Also, check out other River Front videos on YouTube.
The trees I saw on yesterday’s walk inspire me to share a poem I wrote.
Instead of dreary gray strands threading subtly widening paths
about my head,
I desire blazing red
for my autumn color
interspersed with patches of can’t-peel-your-eyes away yellow
of an orange so perfectly sun-toasted
it holds its own as an independent hue
not remotely a blend of the other two.
I wish for the colors to burst
out all at once
so that people I meet
will feel their breath catch
at the splendor,
the glorious culmination of my maturity.
Just a quick update to say that my ebook of poetry, Past Life, is now available through Barnes and Noble in addition to Smashwords.
After writing poetry for decades, publishing single pieces here and there occasionally, I finally put together a collection and published it as an ebook.
Past Life is available on Smashwords.
I read a poetry prompt somewhere that suggested looking at a poem you like by someone else and using the first word from each line as the last word in a poem of your own on a different topic.
I chose “My Mama Moved Among the Days” by Lucille Clifton.
Here’s my poem:
Within fire I discovered my
own ash. My fear reduced me to
a sapless stump that seemed
resigned to its destruction, seemed
sprouted with the knowledge of the pain it
was destined for. Until a burn. Then
I healed right
up. Scarred but upright.
It’s that time of year. Surprise lilies have sprung from the ground all over the neighborhood. I’m half convinced they’re conjured by magic, two-foot tall stems with blooming flowers appearing one day where there was nothing yesterday. Some people call them naked ladies because the stems are bare of leaves when they bloom.
I found some that had a modesty cover. But I could see their heads peeking out over the top.
Bonus for today’s post. Here’s a poem I wrote several years ago.
Naked Ladies (aka Surprise Lilies)
Tall, slender, topped in pink,
through the fence, naked ladies peek,
from my back yard corner.
My daughter delights in their color
and in their name,
points out more of them about the neighborhood.
She is six.
Her friends are sent
into spasms of giggles
when they are given
naked ladies to hold
on the walk home.
When I was six, I remember
my street was repaved.
I spent the summer asking
my brother, Did you burn your feet on the ass…phalt?
Now seems like a good time to repost this. RIP Mary Oliver.
“And there is the thing that one does, the needle one plies, the work, and within that work a chance to take thoughts that are hot and formless and to place them slowly and with meticulous effort into some shapely heat-retaining form, even as the gods, or nature, or the soundless wheels of time have made forms all across the soft, curved universe…” – Mary Oliver, Upstream
I’m a big fan of Mary Oliver’s writing. She makes connections, or rather shows connections, that are not obvious on the surface. Her descriptions of nature do more than make you want to re-read the passage. They make you want to go see the world for yourself and then re-read the passage. Her poems are bereft of sentimentality, but full of mindful observation. And I can guarantee there’s some sweat behind those words.
Here’s the thing about writing poetry — it takes work…
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I wish I’d said something, after the reading. I wish I’d approached the esteemed professor, though I was a young nobody, not even one of his students. I wish I’d had the nerve to tell him You’re not so enlightened. I wish I’d said to the those heaping praise on him That was some messed up crap. Sometimes I wish I’d shouted out in the middle, while he was still at the mic. I wish I’d booed while others were politely clapping.
The poetry reading was memorable, I’ll give him that. It was the late 80s or early 90s. My blood still boils decades later.
He read a serial killer poem, but not really a serial killer poem. It was about Ted Bundy, in particular, but not really about Ted Bundy. It was about a woman who had a conversation with Ted Bundy without being abducted, but it wasn’t about that, either.
The poet spun a verse about a fat girl who later discovers her girth made her an unattractive target. But think about it. How would she find that out? The poet thought he could get in the head of this young woman he called a girl, whom he referred to as a fat girl. He related her thoughts to us as he divined them — how being a fat girl (and by extrapolation unattractive, joyless, unfulfilled in life because nobody would date her) had only been a curse until that fateful day. But upon realizing her hideous visage (not his words as I remember, but the meaning behind his words as I remember) of fat had saved her, she becomes happy with her looks, for the very first time in her miserable existence. Again, I’m pretty sure miserable existence was not his exact phrase, but was his exact meaning.
At the end, some of us sat stony-faced, unclapping. At least there was that. I hope someone said something to him, showed him the many layers of wrong upon wrong in his poem. A colleague, a nephew, a daughter — someone who could make him listen. I hope he came to know. I hope he never published that poem. I hope he never again read it aloud. I hope he burned that poem. I hope he now carries around ashes of regret for having ever written it.
Gals and Ladies
He claimed he never cussed
but the way he said gal
made me not want to be called one.
The word sputtered through his lips
slathered with contempt.
That gal with the red hair
who waited tables at Chub’s Diner
and didn’t have time for his jokes,
he never left her a tip.
The gal at the license bureau
who wouldn’t renew his tags
with the paperwork he presented
was full of an incompetence
that could never be borne by a Y chromosome.
When he said lady, though
you could almost see the word
float from his mouth
each letter gilded in gold.
The ladies at church who served coffee,
cooked ham dinners
and cleaned up after,
were worthy of respect.
The lady next door
who kept her yard so tidy
and agreed with his politics
was everything a neighbor should be.
I didn’t care to be a lady either.
What I wanted to be was
something he didn’t have a word for.
This poem originally appeared in TMP Irregular (which I’m pretty sure ceased publication a few years ago.)
If shared please attribute: Ida Bettis Fogle
I decided I was tired of depressing news, so I made up some of my own. In verse form.
Terrific and Welcome News
Terrific and welcome news:
The glass is more than half full
All our hours are turning to gold
Older is becoming better
Our credit line is expansive
And the bill will never come due
The people before us left the place
Better than they found it
Trolls have all been blocked
And will never bother us again
We can say anything we believe
And receive understanding
Others will listen without critique
The tax refund will be large enough
To donate to charity and take a vacation
All social services are fully funded
And no missiles were fired today
We are not only survivors
We are thrivers
And nothing will ever be bad again
Ida Bettis Fogle, 2017