Still mothering me

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Picture+3

A favourite photo of my mother as a young woman.

Still mothering me

Five days ago
would have been your birthday.
It’s been eight years …
But you still visit me often
keep me cool every summer
when I slip on the brown sundress
rescued from your closet
wrap your arms around me
every winter week
it’s the old magenta sweater’s turn.
Sometimes I catch glimpses of you in the mirror
as I hobble about on my cane
recovering from my own broken bone.
Two weeks ago I found
your white velcro-flap runners.
Now, like you, I can always
fasten my own shoes.
I’ve been wearing them
on my outside walks.
The other day taking the last tired steps
of my limping trek home
I’m sure I heard your voice:
“You be careful now.”

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly (written April 15, 2014 – All rights reserved)

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Prompt – Inspiration

Three years ago (March 2, 2014 to be exact) I took a short tumble on some stairs and broke my hip. That resulted in surgery and a whole lot of new experiences for me. I documented some of them in poems (which I’ll share over the next few days—new experiences are great poem fodder, by the way). This is one written at that time, chosen for today because April 10th was my mother’s birthday.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Thirteenth Summer

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beach-1836461_640

Image: Pixabay

Thirteenth Summer

It wasn’t that I could not get up
the nerve to water-ski

or that I hated
myself in a bathing suit

It was bare feet
of tanned twins

next to mine
in that Waskesiu boat

smoothly brown
as Indian princesses

nails polished
the pink of shells

beside my pasty
sandaled peasants

that made me feel
not one of the beautiful people.

© 2017 by Violet Nesdoly

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Prompt – Inspiration

The inspiration for this April 2011 poem was Adele Kenny’s memoir prompt. It begins:

For this prompt, try writing a memoir poem about an experience that haunts you. This is not to suggest a bad experience but, rather, a memory that continues to inform the present.

Memoir poems are narrative because they tell stories. However, we often see memoir “poems” that “narrate” in what is essentially prose (with a couple of good images, a few similes or metaphors, and stanzaic arrangements). Most of these poems don’t succeed because they never reach beyond the poet’s impulse to “tell.” The poem has to be more than the story – it has to be about what happened because of the story.

Read the rest of the prompt and a sample poem HERE.

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VintagePADThis April I’m celebrating National Poetry Month by posting some not-as-yet published poems from my files, along with what inspired them. If the prompt inspires you to write a poem of your own, you’re welcome to share it in comments. Whether you write or not, thanks so much for dropping by!

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Poetry Friday LogoThis poem is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Irene Latham at her blog Live Your Poem.

Brown Girl Dreaming (review)

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51-pl9bj7il-_sx331_bo1204203200_Poetry Camp inspired me to be a more regular visitor to my library (thanks, Janet Wong!). My fascination with verse novels prompted me to pick up Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson.

I quickly discovered, though, that this isn’t exactly a verse novel. It’s a memoir—the story of young Jacqueline taking us through her childhood and to a time she comes to realize what her dream is and begins to see it blossom in her life.

The whole thing is told in verse—in free verse poems that are simple. I would say deceptively simple for almost all end in a way that put me on my heels and had me thinking: I believe there is more to this than what first meets the eye. In other words, these accessible poems also invite re-reading.

I love the real-life detail that makes the characters, the brothers and sisters, Grandma and Grandpa, mother, aunts and uncles, come alive. While reading this book I experienced the phenomenon of the particularities of Jacqueline’s life becoming a vessel for my own experience—even though the setting and characters are vastly different.

As I read I also enjoyed one of the advantages of verse novels—how quickly the pages slipped by. I read through this 338-page tome in mere hours.

The book touches on lots of topics:
– What it was like to be an African American girl in the U.S. in the 60s and 70s (Woodson was born in 1963). This book was a great empathy builder for me.

– Family—what is a family, how family members relate to each other, the joy of being together. The family theme runs deeply and widely through the book. I loved the mini family album of photos at the end of the book and the fact that the pictures were of family members as children—about the age that the target audience would be.

“Football Dreams,” about her father, is a poem about family:

Football Dreams

No one was faster
than my father on the football field.
No one could keep him
from crossing the line. Then
touching down again.
Coaches were watching the way he moved,
his easy stride, his long arms reaching
up, snatching the ball from its soft pockets
of air.

Read the rest…

Feeling different is another theme. Not only was Woodson’s color a source of difference, but she was brought up Jehovah’s Witness. “Flag” tells about having to leave the classroom when the students made the flag pledge but how inside she wanted to be there and pledge big:

flag

Alina and I want
more than anything to walk back into our classroom
press our hands against our hearts. Say,
“I pledge allegiance . . .” loud…”

The poem ends:

When the pledge is over, we walk single file
back into the classroom, take our separate seats
Alina and I far away from Gina. But Gina
always looks back at us—as if to say,
I’m watching you. As if to say,
I know.

Read entire…

The book tackles more themes including death, tolerance, and finding joy in life, relationships and one’s passion.

On this page of her website Ms. Woodson gives a bit more information about writing the book.

This was a beautiful, upbeat, and  educational read that would be perfect for children in the middle grades–ages 10 and up, Grades 5 and up.

Brown Girl Dreaming won the National Book Award in 2014. (In the second video on the linked page she reads from the book.)

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PF-2This post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by the lovely Irene Latham at Live Your Poem.

Mother Speaks (NPM ’16-Day 19)

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Mother Speaks

Do not
throw it away,
we’ll use it for patches.
We can always eat bread—and eggs.
Na-yo.*

Are you
reading again?
Still not done the dishes?
You could always weed the garden.
Homework?

Early.
So much to do.
I’ll be in the garden.
Don’t be listening on the line.
Felt pens!

Can you
make some supper?
First you work, then you play.
We’ll have a picnic—I’ll make it
special.

© 2016 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

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Yesterday’s prompt at NaPoWriMo was to:

“… write a poem that incorporates ‘the sound of home.’ Think back to your childhood, and the figures of speech and particular ways of talking that the people around you used, and which you may not hear anymore.”

I read the prompt in the morning and dismissed it. But then as I was making dinner last night, all these sayings that my mother had started coming back to me.

My mom was an amazing woman. As a mother of many children, she worked hard and expected me, as the eldest, to do my share. Mostly I was a pretty compliant kid, though I did choose inside jobs where I was routinely distracted by whatever was happening in the book I was reading at the time. I chose a counted syllable cinquain form to give the poem some ‘bones.’

*Na-yo is Low German expression that communicates a resigned “well yes.”

Thanksgiving Lunch at the Mennonite Church

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Pie

(Photo © 2015 by V. Nesdoly)

Thanksgiving Lunch at the Mennonite Church

We’ve been smelling coffee for a while now
as the sermon drones on and on but finally
it’s benediction time and “Thanks
for the food we are about to partake. Amen.”
Old and young crowd down the stairs
to the warm, fragrant basement
claim chairs at the long table
where we usually have Sunday School.

The food committee hovers in the kitchen
as we start filling plates with potato and jello salad
zwieback and butter, sliced tomatoes, cheese
homemade dills, platters of cold pink ham
roast beef, plump fried chicken.
Soon they come with coffee and tea in steaming kettles
then serve plates of pie—apple, cherry, chocolate
lemon meringue, peach, rhubarb, raisin.

Chairs push back. Farmers swap stories
of combine breakdowns and how many
bushels of oats and wheat to the acre.
Women tell of covering the tomatoes
before last Tuesday’s frost, how Suzy’s not liking school
and did you know Adilman’s has a sale on winter coats?
Kids play tag, hide-and-seek
dash between legs back to the table to snitch
sugar cubes, pickles, pieces of cheese
while the food crew clears the end of the table
nearest the kitchen, gathers up
their twelve basketfuls of leftovers
and lingers over their Thanksgiving lunch.

© 2015 –  Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

 

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Though in Canada we celebrated Thanksgiving in Canada over a month ago, I post this today in honor of the U.S. Thanksgiving celebration. Happy Thanksgiving to all my U.S. friends!

We did a lot of eating in our small town Saskatchewan Mennonite Church but I remember that the Thanksgiving spreads were particularly sumptuous, and loaded with enough pie to last till Christmas!

When I think about my upbringing, I am full of gratitude for the seeds of faith that were planted in it, and the example of service I saw in the adults around me.

spiritual-journey-framed

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

This post is part of Spiritual Journey Thursday, a series of reflections on my spiritual journey.

Poetry Friday LogoThis post is also linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Carol at Carol’s Corner.

SJT – Home (Missing Home)

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The farmhouse where I grew up - Photo © 2009 by V. Nesdoly
The farmhouse where I grew up – Photo © 2009 by V. Nesdoly

Missing Home

I remember squeaks and slants
in the floor of our last home
can picture the gouge
in paneling beside my desk
the crumbing rubber
on the patio-door seal.
In the shed I see
rust-freckled freezer top
shelf of garden powders and poisons
boxes of canning jars
tangle of camping stuff
all familiar—like loved homes are—
as my own hands and feet.
So the other day
when I couldn’t remember
if there was a slanted ceiling
and a south window
in my childhood bedroom on the farm
I felt as if I had taken off my sock
and found I was missing a toe.

© 2012 by Violet Nesdoly (First published in Picking Flowers – a Fraser Valley Poets Society project.)

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Top to bottom L-R: top two - Destroyed kitchen; 2nd row - We ate a lot of breakfasts and lunch on the balcony; The living room; Row 3 - Living room restored; Kitchen restored.
Top to bottom L-R: Row 1 – Destroyed kitchen; Row 2 – We ate a lot of breakfasts and lunches on the balcony; The gutted living room; Row 3 – Living room restored; Kitchen-dining area restored.

Thankful for Home

As you probably pick up from the poem above, I am a homebody. I love to travel but I love to come home more. I like a social outing but home is where I feel most comfortable, relaxed, and happy.

In the summer of 2014 we came home from holiday to a flooded house. All the main floor flooring of our townhouse had to be redone, along with much of the basement den. Witnessing the change of my cozy living room to a bare shell with a splintery chipboard floor, the devolution of my functional kitchen to cupboards stacked helter skelter in the middle of the room was almost physically painful for me.

And so my heart goes out to the refugees we see on the news, streaming across Europe—homeless because their homes have been bombed, their familiar towns and cities not safe to live in any more. I can only imagine how it must feel to have no home.

We eventually got our home back, better than ever. But since our flood I have stopped taking my home for granted. Often now when I sit in my cozy living room or work in my functional kitchen I marvel at how they were brought back and say, “Thank you, Lord!” And my prayer for refugees everywhere is that may they find homes again too.

This post is linked to Spiritual Journey Thursday, hosted by Holly Mueller at Reading, Teaching, Learning. Today the theme is THANKSGIVING FOR HOME.

Join us each week at Spiritual Journey Thursday

Join us each week for Spiritual Journey Thursday

 

Dishes

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"Dishes" sketch by Violet Nesdoly

“Dishes” sketch by Violet Nesdoly

Dishes

She stands at the enamel dishpan
prune hands in warm water
little robot of wash   rinse   stack
looks out the window
as clouds scud from the west
thinks, I hope it doesn’t rain.
Dad’s uptight enough,
smells this morning’s cookies fresh from the oven
thinks about mixing them
and what’s in the cupboard …

Soon immersed
in a concoxious experiment
of baking soda, vinegar
green coloring, salt
and reaching for the corn starch
she’s Mom-caught in the act.
“What are you doing?
Water’s cold, soap’s dead!
No wonder dishes take you
all afternoon!”

© 2013 Violet Nesdoly

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This is a memory poem. I grew up in a large family, the oldest of nine kids. Washing dishes was a big by-hand job that took forever anyway. Might as well make it fun with a little scientific diversion. Did any of you do stuff like that?

poetry+friday+button+-+fulllThis post is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Betsy H. at Teaching Young Writers.