Poetry Friday: Unfinished Tasks

Where to begin?
I can’t believe we’re here again? That’s not true, because nothing has changed since December 14, 2012 when 20 children and six adults were murdered 10 miles from my house.
That I’m enraged? Of course I am. We all are.
That I feel helpless? Yes. Chris Murphy, the staunchest, loudest, most tireless Senator calling for gun reform is my Senator. I know he’s doing all he can.
But do I feel hopeless? Not quite. How could I carry on if I thought it was inevitable that I, or someone I love will be shot at school? I couldn’t.

So, what to do? We carry on. We do small acts that, cumulatively, add up to big acts. We go to work each day and let the children we work with know that we love them, care about them, and want the best for them. We honor the memory of Irma Garcia, Eva Mireles, Dawn Hochsprung, Victoria Leigh Soto, Mary Sherlach, Lauren Rousseau, Anne Marie Murphy, Rachel D’Avino, and countless other educators who have been killed when we go into school each day to take up “those dear unfinished tasks” of theirs.

Turn Again to Life

by Mary Lee Hall

If I should die and leave you here awhile,
Be not like others, sore undone, who keep
Long vigils by the silent dust, and weep.
For my sake – turn again to life and smile,
Nerving thy heart and trembling hand to do
Something to comfort other hearts than thine.
Complete those dear unfinished tasks of mine
And I, perchance, may therein comfort you.

Coincidentally, this week Krista Tippet is sharing memories from of her most profound interviews. Rachel Naomi Remen is a Clinical Professor of Family and Community Medicine who has much to teach us all. I leave you with this quote:

We are here because we are born with the capacity to find the hidden light in all events and all people; to lift it up and make it visible once again and, thereby, to restore the innate wholeness of the world. This is a very important story for our times — that we heal the world one heart at a time.

Please be sure to visit Linda Mitchell at A Word Edgewise for the Poetry Friday Roundup. Then go out and look for the light.

Poetry Friday: So Much Depends…

Last week, inspired by Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s National Poetry Month project, I wrote a gogyohka in response to a photo of my mother and her twin sister. Like Tricia, I have found family archives to be rich source material for poems. One of the treasures I have is a diary of my grandmother’s from 1936. Times were tough for my grandparents throughout the Depression and many of her entries detail the small ways they scraped by. January of that year was bitterly cold, and Grandma was knitting a scarf for my uncle, but she ran out of yarn. She sounds so relieved when she finally “got to town” to get more yarn that the first line of William Carlos Williams’ famous poem popped into my head instantly.

So much depends

a skein of red

soft as a

spun into a

by two nimble

Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

Please be sure to visit Rose Cappelli at Imagine the Possibilities for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

Poetry Friday: National Poetry Month Isn’t Over

It’s time for the monthly Inkling challenge. This month, Linda challenged the Inklings to “Honor someone’s April Poetry project in some way with a poem in the spirit of their project, a response poem or any way that suits you.” 

I knew immediately that I wanted to base my response on Tricia Stohr-Hunt’s (aka Miss Rumphius) project of “sharing original poems written in a variety of Japanese poetic forms (haiku, tanka, dodoitsu, etc.) to primary sources. I’m using photos, letters, newspaper articles, and more to inspire my writing.” Tricia shared many treasures from her family archives and her poems always captured funny or poignant insights into her source materials.

Like Tricia’s family, my family (specifically my maternal grandmother) saved everything and I have many photos and letters. I also have my grandmother’s diary from 1936, which is the only one we know of. Mostly, she recorded the weather, her daily household chores, and what she baked. There are also a few headlines from the wider world: The last line for Monday, January 20th reads “King George V of England died. Edward VIII becomes king.” She stopped writing on Saturday, August 22th with this short entry: “Rained on Sat. Went to town in A.M. Did shopping. Bought a pot roast. Not much new. They will finish the forty acre lot in one more day.” (I’m sure this refers to haying on my great-grandfather’s farm.)

I suspect she stopped writing because of this entry a few days earlier: “Feel certain that we will have a baby by spring.”

That baby turned out to be my mother and her twin sister.

Here they are, about 3 or 4, ready to attend a cousin’s wedding.

My mother is on the left
Draft © Catherine Flynn, 2022

There are troves of poems waiting in that diary, but how could I resist writing about this photo? I chose a most forgiving form, the Gogyohka. This is a five line verse without a specific syllable count. As Tricia explained in her post, it was “invented in the 1960s, the idea was to ‘take the traditional form of Tanka poetry (which is written in five lines) and liberate its structure, creating a freer form of verse.’ You can learn more about this form at Writer’s Digest Gogyohka: Poetic Form.”

Please be sure to visit my fellow Inklings to see which NPM project they honored:

Mary Lee Hahn @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly Hogan @ Nix the Comfort Zone
Linda Mitchell @ A Word Edgewise
Heidi Mordhorst @ My Juicy Little Universe
Margaret Simon @ Reflections on the Teche

Then head over to Jama’s Alphabet Soup, where Jama is serving up the Roundup.