That Lull Before the Renaissance

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

My friend Liza posted on her Patreon page* about what Germans call “between the years,” that weird spell of time after Christmas but before the new year. Go read it. It’s entertaining and she dug up some interesting cultural information. Also, it reminded me that I wrote a poem on the very topic a couple of years back, not knowing there were entire national traditions surrounding this annual week of being at loose ends.


That Lull Before the Renaissance

That lull between Christmas and New Years Day
Is when pajamas serve as uniform
The chocolates are polished off
The one jigsaw puzzle of the year is assembled
Noble intentions gestate

We sleep in mornings 
Before the date arrives after which 
Every day
We’ll stir ourselves early 
To accomplish worthy deeds

We watch a few movies 
Before the date arrives after which
Every day
We’ll spend free time 
Working out and reading classics

We make grocery lists 
Full of carrots and broccoli
While crunching chips

We indulge and relax while we can
Before next week
When the work of the Renaissance begins


*Her Patreon also includes content behind a paywall that is well worth the low subscription price of pay what you can, if you’re looking for an independent author to support.

If We Make It Through December

I don’t listen to a huge amount of country music, but there are a few songs that speak to me. Oh, Merle, December is hard, isn’t it? Current mood.



December is the month of paradoxes for me and many others. I do love all of the holiday celebrations, but I struggle with the lack of light. This year, in particular, we all have an extra share of struggles, and the month is feeling to me like something to be endured while waiting for anything better. I have written a few poems about Seasonal Affective Disorder and I’ll share one here. Maybe I shouldn’t be so bold as to share my own efforts following the inestimable Merle Haggard, but what the hell? As long as I’m embracing the despair anyway?

December Days

Day pulls the covers in December, appeals
to me to join it in hiding.
Like the sun I will not bother
getting up much early. What for?
A few hours working at half power
seems enough; call it a day.

There’s nothing in this month
I want to see clearly. Why point up
the lack
of color, dormant
plants waiting for better times?
Nothing blooms, no birds
sing greetings
to morning.
Smarter than me, they have flown
to lands where December exists
as a quaint custom, where they have December
like Sweden has a king.
A crown there may be
or ornaments displayed to prove
the monarch or the month,
where forgetting is possible.
I need no reminders.

The season proves itself. I will try
ignoring it, hoping
it’s gone next time I look.
I will open my eyes
only half-way. I will pull the dark
covers over me.
Like the sun I will experience
the smallest amount of December 
I can manage.


I know I’ll get through it, and maybe even have a few moments of fun and joy. I always have before. And yes, I’m taking my vitamin D and getting exercise. But sometimes, a big component of getting through a rough time is acknowledging it’s a rough time.

A Poem and Yesterday’s Walk

The trees I saw on yesterday’s walk inspire me to share a poem I wrote.


Tree Envy

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
and clusters
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.



~~~

Poem: Within Fire

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

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.

On Today’s Walk: Surprise Lilies Edition

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.

Surprise lilies

Surprise lilies

I found some that had a modesty cover. But I could see their heads peeking out over the top.

Surprise lilies peeking out.

Peek-a-boo!

 

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?

 

 

Poem: Gals and Ladies

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

Poem: Terrific and Welcome News

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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

Poem for Kathrine Switzer

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.

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Credit: Kinchan1

Ironing Day – Poem in Honor of My Mom

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

Poem:Seeing Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds

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,
waiting.

 

(This originally appeared in Well Versed.)