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?
The city filled with flags proclaims
its puffed-up patriotism
the billowed colors clamoring
for adoration, for awe.
The crest of a cardinal catches
my eye instead, my loyalty pledged
to saving it, to a future of
scarlet feathers brightening trees.
A constellation of white wood
anemones on the creek’s bank
garners my allegiance, my hope
for beauty in the years to come.
The first blueberries of the year
bring with them a taste of wonder
and a wish for a republic
filled with enough fruit for all.
Tomatoes, roses, rainbow stripe,
great whales, clean snow, and polar bears,
blue morpho butterflies, clear skies –
all things for which I take a stand.
-Ida Bettis Fogle, 2018
I’m sure I will still wear my red, white and blue as I usually do on July 4th. I will not miss my city’s fireworks display. And I still find things to celebrate about our country.
But I wrote this poem because I feel that patriotism lately is being overtaken by nationalism, and that too many people — especially those who are positioned to really do something about the environment — are more interested in immediate personal gain, while not looking at the big picture.
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
For National Poetry Month, I’ve been writing a poem a day and keeping them hidden on my computer. But I finally feel like sharing one.
Yesterday, Kathrine Switzer ran the Boston Marathon again, fifty years after becoming the first woman to finish it officially. Bobbi Gibb had run it unofficially the year before. This inspired my poetic efforts yesterday.
Poem for Kathrine Switzer, April 17, 2017
What did they think would happen,
fifty years ago, if a woman ran?
Would we all be deprived of the cake
she should have been baking instead?
Would the race be sullied,
the stain forever ringing its collar?
Or worst of all –
the boys would have to share,
not only that day but all the days to come?
Well, worse came to worst
and she ran again in Boston today
with thousands of women on the course
while somewhere, surely,
some man baked a cake,
the downfall of civilization complete.
— Someone asked, so I’m adding this. You can share this. Feel free to copy and paste, even, but I would like a credit. Ida Bettis Fogle, author. Thanks.
My mother passed away a little over a year ago. Today would be her birthday. I wrote this poem a few years back and am sharing it now in memory of her.
Ironing Day – Age Four
On the dining room table, stiff and wrinkled: my father’s shirt
In the chair, standing: me
Under my arms, tied tight: my mother’s apron
In my hand, upside down: a glass Coke bottle
In the mouth of the bottle, sealed securely: a cork
Punched in the cork, round and regular: holes
Through the holes, irregular as my attention: sprinkles of water
At the far end of the living room, legs criss-crossed: an ironing board
On the board, steaming: my father’s shirt
Next to the board, standing: my mother
In her hand, sizzling: an iron
On her face, trickling: beads of sweat
On the floor, receptive: a laundry basket
In the basket, folded: the product of our morning’s labor
Moving between the rooms: my industrious mother
Moving from table to board to basket: freshly cleaned clothes
Staying put in the dining room, important in my work: me
Staying put in the living room, at the far end: the hot iron
Like holiday poetry? Here’s one I wrote a few years ago for Halloween.
Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds at Age Seven
My mom was there but not — asleep on the couch,
head lolled back, mouth open wide
enough for a parakeet to fly in
had ours not died already.
My dad was gone.
Nobody knew my brother and I
were getting away with something.
Late night TV. The Birds.
We dared each other to watch.
Normally I’d try lifting my mom’s
lower jaw into place once or twice
of an evening; I worried
about moths and things.
But this night I wouldn’t risk waking her.
Later I wished I had,
even months later, an eon of regret in childhood –
when I’d look up from my coloring in the afternoon
having heard a flutter near the window
knowing sharp beaks could slash right through the screen,
when I’d run flat out the three blocks to school
books held over my head as a shield,
and especially when the crows gathered at dusk,
raucous and shifting and crowding, and then
more especially when they settled down,
(This originally appeared in Well Versed.)