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I hate how the upload losing the formatting.  Plus, nothing I have tried seems to correct the problem.  Oh well.  Here it is without the proper format.

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The Inchworm and the Heron

On my son’s shoulder sat the inchworm,

Having hitched a ride into the sanctuary.

The eulogy progressed.

I gently coaxed it

Onto a Torah cover,

To bide its time

Until I could help it

Return to its world.

It measured the cover’s perimeter—

Up down, up down—

At the corner it stretched out

Sightlessly      reaching

seeking

striving

A life carefully measured,

Centered on words of wisdom

Trying to find connection

purpose

community

When we went to leave

It had vanished, lost to view.

At the cemetery we mourners

unmoored

unconnected

unsure,

Struggled to strengthen our earthly ties,

Reaching out, looking helplessly,

For what had been lost

Over our heads a heron

Crossed the sky

Effortlessly     floating

gliding

drifting

Might rootlessness be desirable?

Might the ceasing of striving be purposeful?

Above the confines of earth

the heron soared.

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The quintessential American experience

Two adults, two kids

A car, a tent

The open road in summer.

 

Re-creating the vacations of our youth

My spouse and I take our children

Into the expanse of the West.

 

Unlike some friends,

We have qualms about sending our children forth

To grandparents, to camps, away,

For weeks, months, at a time.

Instead, here we are,

In the bubbles of our own creating–

The tent and the car surrounding,

Protecting,

Entrapping us.

 

What is being learned?

Who are the teachers?

Who the students?

 

Growing,

Exploring,

Conquering fears together.

 

The elder and I climb a dangling ladder in the Badlands

Temporarily suspending ourselves and our fear of heights.

The younger marvels at every creature,

sunset, flower,

And we see the marvelous landscape anew.

We climb and relive past ways,

Candlelight in a deep cave

doused to make us face what we cannot see

and see what we hesitate to face.

The relics of the past,

Animal, human,

All made this trek,

pushing themselves to these places.

In the snowy mountains,

we encounter our physical limitations,

while agape at the glory around us.

All peoples imagine their gods in the heights

and we too feel as if we have met mysteries.

 

Somehow, the problems we encounter—

storms, sibling fights, timing, tempers—

all pale in the memory.

Instead, we are left with connections,

built on gossamer threads of experiences shared.

Glad to be home,

Joyful in the knowledge

That we can be more than we often are,

That together we are more than individuals.

Family.

(c)Lydia A. Schultz 2009

Grainy black and whites

Fading, magenta, old color ones

Frozen in time

Faces and places

That I have spent my life

Trying to animate.

 

Like Doctor Frankenstein

I try to breathe life

into the long dead.

 

The corners curl in awkward scrapbooks

The nameless faces behind the glass

The sepia tones of the photo flapper and her mate

Encircled in a broken locket

With a picture of their firstborn.

 

I’ve always listened to the stories

Even the ones I wasn’t supposed to hear,

Things that only made sense

years later.

 

I want to know them, to interview them,

But almost all died before I came.

So listening is what I did.

 

And now, before it goes,

I write their lives, their stories.

Because in discovering,

Uncovering,

Recovering them,

I find myself,

my purpose.

I am quite literally a part of them.

They are my heritage;

This is my legacy.

The stories are all I have.

 

(c)Lydia A. Schultz

A planning, a challenging —

another child,

timed and prepared to fit

our schedules.

 

Everything seemed to proceed easily.

But plans are that only

nothing more

 

Thanksgiving weekend

I bartered with God.

Please let this baby live.

We want it so much.

Give me a reason for giving thanks,

give me this child,

this bit of immortality.

But God had other plans.

 

Deep, immeasurable grief

years later, at Thanksgiving

the waves of loss —

of potential, of possibility,

of a soul connected to mine

gone.

 

Yet unexpected gifts

a community

of women

of friends

of love

shared my grief

 

Controls

plans

schedules

vastly overrated

ultimately self-deluding.

I opened up to possibilities.

 

My second son is special

as all children are

but also in miraculous recognition

without the miscarriage

he would not be.

 

In him

made manifest

God’s lesson in love and hope.

The cliche,

“What will be, will be”

profoundly comforts.

This child is what will be,

the other not.

Simple.

Difficult.

True.

(c) Lydia A. Schultz, 2009

My oldest is about to graduate from college this year, and I have been thinking about the process of nurturing and letting go.  I wrote this a number of years ago, when he went off to sleep-away camp for the first time.  Funny, to me it doesn’t seem so long ago.

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Daniel

 

Absence

Is an ache

Not like the active toothache

But like the way your tongue keeps working a spot

Where the tooth is gone,

The way your jaw remembers that place.

The pain isn’t stabbing or shooting

But constant

A sense of loss

Of being missed

Of something that was so much a part of you

That its absence makes clear

Just how essential.

 

You grow so fast, so far away.

I cleaned your closet in your absence

Finding old treasures, long forgotten,

Finding the badges of your courage,

Achingly.

 

The letting go is hard–

Harder than I thought.

But the joy in the progress, the growth,

The glimmers of the man you will become,

Make me hopeful.

 

So I sit with tears now

That I can’t tell you about.

Tears after the heartfelt hug you gave

In spite of wanting to be macho in front of your friends.

Tears when I heard your tiny brother

Sigh deeply and say,

“I miss Daniel ’cause I love him.”

 

A boy too big to kiss his mom in public

But young enough to sneak

Stuffed animals into bed.

 

My gentle, temperamental son,

I miss you too

And love you.

 

Camp helps me to grow up too.

 

(c) Lydia A. Schultz

As a parent of an adolescent, and as a teacher, this seems appropriate for the start of Spring Fever.

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The Boy Men

 

They can barely contain it.

 

The energy flows like sap

Through their veins and

into the world around them.

 

Fingers drum on their knees

Feet bounce a restless staccato

Hands in constant motion

Bouncing balls

off floors

walls

each other

 

 

They want to get onto the court

They need to get out there

a pressure valve

a release

 

They need to tap that sap

in the game

in the rush

the flow

the sweat, the motion

 

the game

 

a way to control that burgeoning

That sense of growing

beyond  their boundaries

exploring and exploding

 

Direct it

into spent energy

Take that potential

and make it sweet

 

March in Minnesota

 

It overwhelmed, if for a while

            Snow so thick I can’t see across a street

            Flakes aswirl, enveloping me as I walk

 

Suddenly, sunshine, brilliant, blinding,

            Squirrel and rabbit prints

            Chase each other in the snow

 

The world comes alive again

            Cardinals dart from tree to tree

            Serenading me, sending me forth with hope in my day

 

Hoar frost rimes the trees

            Gold finches flit

            A psalm of their own making

 

Sculpted with whiteness, dotted with colors

            Children playing as penguins

            Making snow mustaches and beards

 

A splash of melting snow.

Copyright (c) Lydia A. Schultz

Given we just had snow (7 inches) yesterday, I thought I would share a poem that talks about natural wonder.  Although I now live in Minnesota, I find myself often returning to my hometown and Pennsylvania when I write.

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Natural Epiphanies

 

Among the smokestacks, buildings,

pollutants, steel,

of my childhood town

God was an abstraction,

impenetrable.

 

But camping in wild hills

of whitetails and hemlock

I could feel God’s glory.

 

The stretches of wild blackberries and huckleberries,

The shimmering aspen leaves,

The coy May apples under their umbrellas,

The delicate sassafras leaves in their threefold variety,

Black-eyed Susans, lacy Queen Annes,

Grasshoppers dancing ahead while we walked.

 

            The profusion of it all —

 

Racoons seeking refuse

Newts under rotting logs

Groundhogs waddling beside dirt roads

Wild turkeys raising a ruckus in the brush

A bull snake, crushed and broken on the road,

Her eggs exposed for us to see

Spiders in their webs in the corners of outhouses.

 

Here I could imagine a god

using these places as a palette.

 

At my first camp job,

I escaped the children and routine.

           

            My blaze orange poncho glowed,

rain dripped on my glasses.

I moved through an impressionist painting.

            Light trickled through leaves

Wet grasses brushed knees

Brambles grabbed at sleeves

            Low branches swiped at my face.

           

            Until —  suspended in time, rooted in place —

           

            Poised, we stared at each other

            Breathless, that instant captured us

            Knowingly, our eyes shared understanding

 

Then the deer bounded off.       

I was alone, connected.

 

Now, deceptive stillness

fills the urban yard.

Snow covers brush piles

Pine branches fill with snow

Oak limbs create abstract patterns

of hoar frost in the sky.

 

            But life spills out with of a shimmer of sun.

            Chickadees, feathers puffed for warmth

            Squirrels, scavenging acorns

            Blue jays, on alert

            A grey rabbit, peeking through shrubs

            A cardinal, singing flamboyantly

            Snow-suited children, exploding with energy.

 

Here too, amid the trees,

I seek the ineffable —

on my face, I feel the wind

bringing me

to what is.

 

Copyright (c) Lydia A. Schultz

Sometimes, I have found that being away from my hometown makes it come into sharper focus.  I think about people and my childhood differently with the perspective that distance and time give me.  Here’s an example.

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Marty

That cute older boy,
A standard to dream of and measure by,
he counted the pennies after Sunday School,
ones we put in the Mission banks.
Even if he wasn’t truly brilliant,
His smile could light up my day.

It was 1969.
He’d done the business track in high school –
Oldest of four,
Born to a mill worker’s family,
He saw it as a way out.
He began work at the local paper,
Typing graduations, weddings, births–
Small town life as other people wrote it.

When he was drafted
We thought him lucky,
Or luckier than most
Since he could type.
He saw Vietnam from an office –
Armed with typewriter,
Clacking to flack
In heat and muck.
Missions and engagements differed now.
He transformed blood, destruction, death,
Into forms and reports.

When he returned,
We welcomed him.
His edginess, surliness,
Challenged adults
But intrigued me.
When he heard “Angel from Montgomery”
In the background,
He found it curious I shared
His love of John Prine songs.
He was home.
We thought that was good.

He tried so hard –

Marriage, but he slipped away.
Parenthood, but he lost his kids.
Work, but he kept getting fired.
Defeated,
He moved in with his parents,
And slipped ever further away,
Pouring alcohol into his emptiness
Until illness filled him.

Agent Orange, weakness,
Immorality, alcoholism –
Everybody ventured explanations.
But the liver transplant could not restore,
repair,
replace,
whatever he had lost.
No longer could he filter through
the daily business of life.
He was consumed by lost dreams,
Destroyed by disconnection
From a world no longer his.

When I heard he had died,
I listened to John Prine with
Marty centered in that song:
“Make me an angel that flies from Montgom’ry
Make me a poster of an old rodeo
Just give me one thing that I can hold on to
To believe in this living is just a hard way to go.”

Now my children smile brightly
And try to change the world,
Rolling their pennies down plastic wells,
Where they spiral ever downward
Till they clack below.

And I remember Marty.

Copyright (c) Lydia A. Schultz

Posted in honor of Tu B’Shevat, the Jewish equivalent of Arbor Day.

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Tensions

A sky of emotions
A stormy week
Water in the basement
Power out
Tornado warnings

All seem calm
Compared to my feelings.
Is this crisis my official midlife one?
I do want a sports car
yellow, please
without room for car seats
or groceries
I think of coloring my hair.
Diseases seem more imminent
and deadly.
I’ve added the obituaries
to my daily newspaper fare.
I don’t read them all
Just the ones that sound familiar
Or seem too young.
(That could be someone I knew.
My friends and I are that age.)

The bunny hops by.
The kindergarten girl up the street
Has dubbed it “Fu-Fu.”
It eats the flowers
That the neighbor next door so diligently plants.
Me–I only want trees–
here before me,
likely to outsurvive me.
Flowers are joyous–
But I plant trees.
Maybe that’s my hedged bet with aging.
Flowers are too ephemeral.
Trees,
Long-lived and limbed and lovely,
that make me appreciate
that I am merely another element
of the world in which I live.
Birds, squirrels, rabbits, insects, and me-
We co-exist,
eyes alert, noses twitching,
ready to bolt if someone invades our territory
or behaves at all suspiciously.
But even we can be deceived
By coy, slow, stealthy ones,
The neighbor’s cat that tiptoes into the shrub
Waiting for the hapless fledgling
to lose its guard.

So I watch for that creeping old age.
wary
seeking the island of calm
within the storm.

Copyright (c) Lydia A. Schultz