I’m blessed to be surrounded by a lot of creative people. 2022 was a highly productive year among my circle of acquaintances — so much so that I’m still trying to work my way through everything they produced. It’s a good problem to have. Here’s a sampling:
“Marley was dead, to begin with.” That would be Uncle Marley to his teenage nephews Aaron and Kyler — cousins to each other. Marley was the wild one in the family, but always loving to his kin. When the two boys find what appears to be a treasure map in Marley’s fishing cabin, they decide they could both use a little adventure, along with money. Of course, it might be drug money and there might be some bad guys who are also tracking it down, and the boys might accidentally involve two girls they like and they might not actually make it to the church camp which is the cover for their road trip.
In these poems, Lampe grapples with the life-long effects of growing up with a mother who was mentally ill. There’s compassion and pain and laughter and sparks of joy, with a good dollop of love throughout. Many of the pieces examine not only her relationship with her mom, but her mom’s relationship with a society that didn’t listen to women, but tried to control them.
The first selections in this memoir are poems reflecting on the author’s childhood experiences with encephalitis, an illness that was debilitating for quite some time, requiring intense care from her mother. As the book progresses, the roles reverse and Leonhard finds herself caring for a mother afflicted by dementia. The complexities of the mother-daughter relationship are explored in-depth.
Fiction that’s on my to-read list for January. From the inside cover of the novel: “When Leah’s mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s it becomes clear that there will be no reconciliation with the woman who has played a big and dangerous role in her life. As Leah chronicles her mother’s descent into nothingness, she both mourns and recreates the life her mother might have led. In the process, she paints the portrait of a wife and mother who struggled to raise a family, who had contentious mother-daughter relationships with her children, and a woman who struggled with mental health and addiction: A complicated human being who was loved.”
The short days of mid-December get me down. I desperately await the post Solstice days when we get a little more sun each day. This seems like an appropriate time to share a pantoum I wrote many years ago about waiting for the sun, after an ill-advised attempt at winter camping.
After one night under the stars Starry-eyed ideas were blown away My communion with nature Left with the frigid north wind
Starry-eyed ideas were blown away I spent hours of desperate misery Left with the frigid north wind Cramped muscles and aching bones
I spent hours of desperate misery Waiting out eternity for the sunrise Cramped muscles and aching bones Greedy for the blessed new warmth
Waiting out eternity for the sunrise Ancient religions took on immediate relevance Greedy for the blessed new warmth I worshipped the great sun source of life
Ancient religions took on immediate relevance After one night under the stars I worshipped the great sun source of life My communion with nature
For anyone who has been meaning to get around to purchasing my ebook of poetry, published in 2020, now’s your chance to get it extra cheap. From now through the end of the year “Past Life” is on sale at Smashwords for $1.49.
Last spring, a friend who was paring down her possessions for a cross-country move gifted me a Christmas cactus, the first one I’ve ever owned. I keep it on the corner of the desk where I do my writing. Eight days ago, I noticed the first flower buds sprouting — twenty-one of them. Maybe it’s a Thanksgiving cactus after all. I’m a little obsessed with the plant.
In fact, I wrote a poem for it. It’s still a little rough, but I’m sharing it anyway.
First Flower Buds on My Christmas Cactus
Twenty-one sudden blushing pointed buds Twenty-one pieces of evidence That I, erstwhile perpetrator Of negligent planticide, Have been successfully reformed I myself have blossomed into a being Capable of nurturing A living thing incapable Of speaking its needs As a toddler or a cat would do Twenty-one velvet spear tips of validation Twenty-one prizes to reward My diligence and faith, Twenty-one shots of dopamine to my brain Payoff for my daily ritual of care, Of arranging the curtains for optimal sun, Of speaking aloud, Good morning Christmas Cactus, a greeting unreturned Until now
Here are a couple of photos to track its progress, one taken four days after I noticed this first buds and one from this morning. The lighting was a little different.
Full curious, half afraid I followed the wolf in my dream last night. Where could its journey be leading on city streets? I never knew. It picked up speed and disappeared from view. No longer did I run behind it, but pushed myself top speed in pursuit of something I can’t recall. Something urgent, a primal need. I remember dead-ends, a full moon, unexpected stairs, so steep I ascended, panting, on all fours. Pebbles embedded in my bare feet. When did I leave my shoes behind?
I wrote this poem a while back, and I wasn’t necessarily thinking of Labor Day. But this weekend seems like an appropriate time to share.
Let Us Now Celebrate
Let us now celebrate those missed In the recording of history The nameless and unremembered The one who walked in the rain To a factory job that paid for shelter From the rain for their family The one who brought joy to the immediate crowd With jokes and laughter, but did it while Shucking corn, and not near a microphone Those fallen to disease or war before They were old enough to fight The songwriter who composed melodies To sing the children to sleep The one who could have gone far in life If not for so much close at hand To get done first The washers of dishes and clothes Cleaners of floors and furniture Whose work came undone as soon as done Leaving nothing to sign a name to
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.
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?
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.
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.