“Portrait of my mother at twenty” – a poem

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Sunday is Mother’s Day—I’m sure I don’t need to remind you!

Mother’s Day reminds me of my own mother and the fact that it’s already 15 years ago that I gave her her last Mother’s Day card. She died about six weeks after Mother’s Day in 2006.

I still miss her, though signs of her are sprinkled throughout my life. I still wear a few clothes of hers that I rescued from her closet. Some of the art that she made adorns our walls and decorates our house at Christmas. Bells from her collection sit on my window ledge. And we have photos! On beginning to go through my photos a few weeks ago, I came across so many wonderful memories of things we did together—pictures of the birthday parties and family dinners we celebrated at our home and hers, camping trips on which she accompanied us, scenic walks we took around Abbotsford where she lived.

I also have a few photos of her when she was much younger. I love studying them and finding premonitions of the faces of my siblings, our children, nieces, and nephews. This week’s quote in my daily planner reminded me of one of them:

“I can’t quite see myself as a mother and I can’t quite see my own mother as anything else” – Courtney E. Martin.

Mom, at about 20 years of age

Portrait of my mother at twenty

Silky blush-tint skin

against green-toned sepia,

thick hair pulled loosely back,

brown pompadour above

high smooth forehead

declares “I am woman.”

Open-mouthed smile

sweet and eager.

Lace collar frames her neck.

Behind 30s-fashionable rimless glasses

eyes large, dark, frank,

clear, friendly

recall her words, “We were close pals.

She was my friend.”

They make me wonder,

If I had been her age

would she have smiled that way

and said those things about me?

– Violet Nesdoly  © 2020 (All rights reserved)

On my cleanup a few weeks ago I found a stash of sympathy cards we received on Mom’s death. Many of them tell memories of her. This Mother’s Day, I’m going to reread all those cards and appreciate her again for all she was to those of us blessed to have her in our lives.

Pandemic Lifestyle – a poem

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When presented, by my writing group, with the challenge to write about my experience during the pandemic, my first thought was to do it in poem form (seeing as how it’s April and National Poetry Month). “Pandemic Lifestyle” is a snapshot of some of the things that have characterized the last months for me and my husband. (The last stanza makes reference to Psalm 91 that has been a mainstay for me and many others during this time.)

Pandemic Lifestyle

We keep our social distance
intentionally move out of the way
of anyone approaching us,
take to the sidewalk’s grassy margin
the street’s parking lane
to honour a fellow-walker’s
and our own
2-metre force field.
As we pass our eyes meet
momentarily
above masks,
smile humour (This feels ridiculous)
and apology (Sorry to be treating you
like a pariah
).

We live in a bubble
cloistered behind the membranes
of doors and windows
that become transparent
during Zoom meetings,
where we see each other at kitchen counters,
lounging against headboards,
seated in front of bookshelves (looking so well-read),
or posed before waving palms and surging surf,
mute testimony to where we have been
where we would love to be again
yet relieved to be here, now,
surrounded by the familiar and the safe.

We are sheltered under a wing
covered by divine feathers
as we experience sweet family life virtually
with children and grandchildren,
brothers and sisters,
in Bible studies, prayer meetings
and streamed church services.
Here we have been hidden
from the Covid-19 pestilence
that walks in darkness,
the prowling pandemic
that lays waste at noon.
We have not been numbered
in the daily 3 o’clock count
of thousands and ten thousands
that have fallen around us,
and we are incredibly grateful.

© 2021 by Violet Nesdoly

Learning to Skate

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Poet Maureen Doallas tagged me this morning in a poetry-writing meme. Her poem, “Learning to Jump Rope,” is based on Lisa Hesselgrave’s painting Jump Rope Pink Room.

I took my inspiration for the poem below from these lines in Maureen’s poem: “your wrists will begin to ache / at a quarter to three…” As I recall, a skipping rope isn’t the only thing that gives a kid aching wrists.

girl in skates

Photo courtesty RGBStock.com

Learning to Skate

My natural klutziness stumbled
more than Cinderella kissing her fella
kept me stuck on twosies in jacks,
botched up numberless rounds of hopscotch
and learning to skate.
Ice’s cool smoothness
my magnet despite no toe picks
to trip up white tube skates.
Flailing arms broke my fall
dozens of times, wrists ached
from first recess and through the day.
Books were much easier
on the body.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

Beware Retirement

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Glynn Young’s insightful blog post “Poetry At Work: The Poetry of Retirement” reminded me of when I went through some of the same things he and any new retiree faces—wondering who I would be now, what activities would my life consist of, would I find new purpose and direction?

The poem below came out of that experience. I think I wrote it for a friend, though I don’t believe I ever sent it to her. But I’m sharing it here today. My message to all of you at that stage of life… (Click on the player below to hear me read it.)

 

BEWARE RETIREMENT

I had been drooling about retirement
watching the months crawl by as I
X’d off days like a kid
waiting for Christmas or summer
dreamed of sleeping in, lunch at 3:00
watching all the late movies
time-oblivious as on a holiday
only this one perpetual.

It was a honeymoon at first
as I lay around with books all day
ate out or from the fridge
whim and indulgence my companions
even dusting, laundry, dishes
an imposition.

Then came my life’s day after Labor Day
when everyone was rushing off importantly
in new clothes, their backpacks heavy
with long pencils, empty notebooks
hope and the future.
I missed the challenge of learning,
growing, being stretched, being needed,
making a contribution,
doing something significant.
I wanted familiar rhythms back
the uphill of Monday
the plod of Wednesday
the ecstasy of Friday
and feeling so bone-weary I’d earned my nap.

So I applied for a new job.
Got a new boss.
She began to write me lists.
Not only did I need to do today’s work
but catch up on all the work I’d missed.

Now I hate Mondays again,
jump off the bus on Fridays
like a kid released from school.
Trouble is, this time
there’s no relief in sight
no retiring, now that I’m already retired
and my new boss is me.

© 2015 by Violet Nesdoly (All rights reserved)

The sun dreams palely down

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Sun dreams palely down - poem & photo by V. Nesdoly

Click on image to enlarge

This is Thanksgiving Weekend in Canada and I should probably be posting an overtly thankful poem. Let this be its substitute, for it sings the praises of some of the things for which I am most thankful: the ability to walk, beautiful places to walk, someone to walk with, fall colours, fall mists, the Creator who has designed the cycling of the seasons and this most gorgeous one.

Poetry Friday LogoThis poem is linked to Poetry Friday, hosted today by Patricia Stohr-Hunt at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Bright Scarves of Hours (review)

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Bright Scarves of HoursBright Scarves of Hours by Diane Tucker

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Nothing is wasted on Diane Tucker. From the lyrics of an Arlo Guthrie song to a dull November day, a wait for the bus to the sounds of someone bathing in the next room—it’s all poem material, and woven into her Bright Scarves of Hours collection (Palimpsest Press, 2007). I met Diane at Write! Vancouver where we swapped poetry books. I’m sure I got the better end of that deal.

Tucker’s 84-page, 56-poem collection is divided into hours of the day, nine sections beginning with “9 A.M. Drop the children off at school” and ending with “7 P.M. Go out. Come home.” I had favorites in each section, from “Yellow Vinyl 1972” where the 1970s Arlo Guthrie lyric “Good mornin’ America how are ya? has the little girl thinking about Daddy who “… is somewhere in his truck in America” (p. 12), to “sleep” where sleep ensnares and holds us under its watery surface:

“Dreams are the mer-people ….
They let you believe, while you are here, that you are one of them, and that your legs, awkward as peeled sticks, will never return…” (p.75).

I love how many of these poems illuminate ordinary things:
– the fine line between summer and fall – “summer’s end” and “august 30.”
– the memories of summer in November – “november 28: in the shower.”
– the significance of rain – “rain reunion.”
– the way a church organist’s hands embody art and worship – “praying for the organist.”
– a boy and his dog playing outside on a bleak November day – “vacant lot, november.”

Several poems were memorable to me for their strong voice. “door” for example, begins:

Stop being that brilliant door.I hate every golden inch
of the scented wood of which you’re made” (p. 29).

And here’s a bit of “going” which begins:

“Stars, I let you go.
Don’t stand in formation for me.
Retire below the horizon.

and ends:

“if you know what’s good for us
what’s good at all, run the other way” (p. 41).

But probably my favorite of the favorites are the poems full of the grace of compassion. Like “legit” where Tucker asks,

“What makes a kid legit?”

and answers

“Breath I figure ….
Even before breath we qualified,
all of us swimming in the same sea” (p. 49).

and “no ugly people”:

“… this planet is peopled
with perfectly kiss-sized chins
a world of solid jaws waiting
to be cupped, enfolded
between two hands …
….
in every square inch of us
beauty to stop your breath” p. 45.

With fresh language and surprising twists Tucker weaves, or should I say knits, magic through every scarf of every hour, onto every page.

I hope she puts out another book soon, although I hear she’s been busy writing plays—has one about to hit the stage this winter. I guess “the failed actress” who

“… is a decorated papier mache girl
a hot piñata full of candy …”

gets to

“… spill her sweet guts out and see
them scrabble on the ground for bits of her”

after all (from “failed actress,” p. 16).

 Bright Scarves of Hours is available for purchase from Palimpsest Press as well as from Amazon.ca.

Read some of Diane’s poems online (none of these poems is in the book):

View all my reviews

The witness of rooms

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The Witness of Rooms

The heart of our family was the dining room
more than the tight kitchen
with its claustrophobia of cupboards
woodbox on wheels, tilting-out flour bin
that hid desperate-legged beetles
and gas stove whose oven POOF!
terrified me when I was eight.

The dining room had the fridge
and the wood table squeak-stretched to fit eleven.
Beside it sat the bench for four brothers
squished in a row–-the bench where I swayed organ
when we pretended church, the bench I left
seconds before the plaster
crashed from the ceiling
leaving a hole the shape of Africa.

The living room was off the dining room
our house’s holy of holies
cold, and kept tidy for company
though it had the piano
so I was allowed in to practice.
Its cracked north wall showed off Mom’s clever
camouflaging wallpaper vine
its south had a bay window
that nooked ancient plants
under panes of tinted gold and rosy.
There was also a green stuffed chair
and a matching couch
from where, on sick days
I watched the flowers in the curtains
stare at me, then whisper to each other.

That house has another room now
–-one my brother and his wife added
to watch TV and store stuff.
On the other side of the kitchen and two steps down
it has glass doors that gaze
onto an endless field.
They had lately moved into it a hospital bed.
I visit on the weekend of the memorial:
the bed is gone now.
I study the red walls
the only ones in this old house
to have witnessed such a thing.
They give nothing away.

© 2011 by Violet Nesdoly

******************

Two years ago today (January 25, 2011) my brother passed away after a several-year battle with cancer. He died in the farmhouse where we grew up. In this personal poem, I recall some of the scenes the walls in that farmhouse have witnessed. What would be the memories of the walls in your house?

poetry+friday+button+-+fulllThis poem is part of Poetry Friday, hosted this week by Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference.