From Bangkok to Boston

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I will begin at the end of my trip.

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To the young woman sitting in 47A from Bangkok to Boston

We share slight smiles when no one claims the empty seat between us.
Our bodies unloosen into this blessed space.

When the attendant passes out customs forms to fill out, you ask:
“Can you help me? I have never flown before.”

Dark hair, round face, wire rims, careful English,  half my age.
Together, we answer the questions.

Half a world away, I am new at this too.

You explain: “I will live in Boston for three weeks.
My boss thinks I need this experience to advance in my career.”

And once again I am humbled by a woman’s story,
by the hopes and fears and desires that take hold of our days.

As you sleep in the seat beside me for hours,
I pray you will meet kind people in Boston,
as I have done on my own journey.

I pray you can stand on your own
if you don’t.

I pray we close our eyes, hold our breath and leap.

I pray we land on our own two feet.

Weekly photo challenge: It’s not this time of year without …

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… that late afternoon light glowing through the last leaves still hanging.

Most trees have lost all their leaves, so those that still cling to the branches seem the most jubilant — the ones that won’t give up.

Finding this bridge of leaves over a street in Calistoga, California, was a special treat!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Room

This is a photo of my parents’ living room in their home in Marcus, Iowa. The carpet was 1980s orange. The curtains (according to the stories I heard) were sewn by my great-aunt, my grandmother’s sister. My great-grandparents lived in this house many years before my father and mother bought it and retired here.

On this day we moved all the furniture on the front and side lawns for my dad’s house sale. It was a beautiful September day in 2010, and the day after that we cleaned the last things out of the house and closed the door forever. My father died in January 2013, and I have not returned to Marcus since. I hope to do that this summer sometime.

When I took this photo, I remember how the sun poured into the room, and how it was so quiet inside. I remember the muffled sound of the auctioneer as he sold away the things of my parents’ life together.

Racing the storm

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Racing the Storm

                                              Jagged rage flicks overhead,
grumbles in primeval throat.
                                              Maddened cloaks of sea green
                                                         shroud tunnels of tall corn.
                                             Truck headlights skitter over
splintered cottonwood sentries.
You look back at rosy sunset,

then grind clutch,
    
spit gravel.
   

I wrote this short poem awhile ago, and it appeared in a lit magazine called Sliver of Stone, which is produced by students in the creative writing program at Florida International University in Miami, Florida.

At this time of year, I remember how quickly the clouds could turn that sickly shade of pea green in Iowa. How the wind would come up and then it got real still, and then how the hail would come down. And how my mother would stand outside and watch the sky as it bubbled and churned, especially if my father was still out working in the field.

 

 

Weekly photo challenge: Unusual Point of View #2

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Weekly photo challenge: Unusual Point of View #2

Love this alley shot of the back side of a great little coffee shop in Des Moines, Iowa.

Night Walk in East Providence

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Night Walk in East Providence

i.
It takes three fingers
to bear half-moon’s swollen belly,
almost-ripe July night.

ii.
Clink of silverware
from open kitchen window,
cicadas in sync.

iii.
Jet’s landing gear down,
it slices Pawtucket Ave
and heads into Greene.

iv.
Breathe in grass, fireworks,
washing machine detergent,
swimming pool chlorine.

Portrait of a Lady

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Portrait of a Lady in Pink - Chase - RISD

I’ve stopped by the Rhode Island School of Design Museum many times. I have several favorite paintings that I visit each time, but the one above has always made me stop and look because her gown is so beautiful and she looks so terribly bored.

When I “googled’ information about the woman in the painting, I was surprised to learn that she wanted to be a painter, but first had to work as a model for the artist who became her teacher. She was an artist later in life, but first she had to pose in this froth of a dress.

This is the poem I wrote about her:

 “She came as a pupil, but the moment she appeared before me, I saw her only as a splendid model.

                                                                                — William Merritt Chase, American artist, 1849 – 1916

The Lady in Pink Speaks

I am an artist.
I am an artist.
I am an artist.
I am Marietta Benedict.

And I will never wear this pink froth again. Ever.
I will wear black lace. I will go to London.
I will ask women to model for me.
I will be more famous than he ever was. I will.

I told him I wanted to learn how to paint portraits.
He said he wanted to paint me.
When I am not his model, I am behind a canvas.
I have learned many things. More than he knows.

But mostly, I watch his hands. And I remember.
How a whisper of paint stirs a tulle overskirt,
how a ruffle of cream and pink becomes a parasol,
how a stroke of white is sunlight on a satin ribbon.

He has a lighter touch than most men. I like that.
That’s why I chose him for my teacher.
Early tomorrow in my room, if the light is good,
I will paint with my father’s gift of oils.

Papa didn’t laugh when I told him what I wanted.
I am his only child, and I learned long ago
how to ask for what I wanted until he tired of my words.

I am like my mother, who keeps asking me to marry Mr. Cotton.
That is why I had to leave and come here.
I knew she would never stop.

And now he asks me to turn my head, to lift my chin,
to put on that weary look of mine.
Soon I will make my own art, make a name for myself.

My mother says Mr. Cotton will not wait forever.
And now he is painting my face, the shadow under my chin.
He says I have an amazing neck. No one has ever said that to me.
Would Mr. Cotton touch my neck? Will he?

I am an artist.
I am an artist.
I am an artist.
I am Marietta Benedict.

 

Weekly photo challenge: Curves

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Natural and architectural curves found in Providence, Block Island, Newport, RI, Amherst, MA, and Chicago.

Weekly photo challenge: Signs

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Weekly photo challenge: Signs

A sign in the Boston Museum of Art that spoke to me.

And it made me think of this poem. The title refers to a story told at a poetry workshop — about, well, taking the plunge and jumping naked off a barge.

Naked Barge Jumping

Let’s make it mid-July
by a shimmering poem
without mosquitoes.
We leap open-mouthed
from a rickety barge
into cool cedar odes.
Our cleansed forms
rise to metaphor
as assonance resounds
through hidden verse.
Let’s jump off again
and again and again,
with just as much fear
and joy as the first rhyme.

Published in The Rhode Island Writers Circle Anthology, 2008