Monday, March 25, 2013
Just found out about Napowrimo - the poets answer to Nanowrimo, November, which is National Novel Writing Month. Well NaPoWriMo is April, just a week away, and while the novelists among us crank out a 50,000-word novel each November, this spring a bunch of poets will set a goal of a poem a day for the month. I signed up, but am still nervous about being able to live up to it. I had a 20,000 word start on NaNoWriMo a couple of years ago, and STILL haven't finished that sucker. Oh, well, it's motivation, right? I'll do my best to post a poem a day for thirty days - starting in a week. Feel free to nudge me all you want!
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Here's a poem I had published in the Cirque Literary Journal two years ago. I read this at the Fisher Poets Gathering in February this year, then just recently at the Olympia Poetry Network open mic last Wednesday. It was written for two good friends of mine who are no longer here: Jeff Snyder and Debi Barker. They never knew each other, and died years apart in very different ways. Yet, somehow they are connected together here:
"It was a cannery truck, after all," we said afterward.
"Unreliable. It stalled when he would bring it to a complete stop.
He probably coasted through the stop sign."
"Bone cancer doesn't relent," the doctors told her.
"Go. Live. Enjoy the time you have left."
For five years she did exactly that: dove the Great Barrier Reef.
Went to China. Fished the lake near her house with her niece.
When she was done, she slipped away overnight.
It doesn't take much -
a gentle roll of the boat as the wake passes underneath;
the brush of an elbow,
and the power-drill, set too close to the edge,
tips and tumbles overboard.
You see it roll: watch without moving, frozen
like a dream has materialized before you.
It doesn't even complete a full circle
before it hits the water - that flashlight -
or 10-inch crescent wrench, or your cell phone
slipping out of your pocket as you bend down -
in the air before you know it.
It lands on the water's surface
like you land on the bed after a long day,
blankets fluffing, rising as they are displaced,
absorbing the impact and falling back again;
only the water receives and moves aside, and you see your knife,
the one you spent all those seasons sharpening,
the one you got in France years ago, on vacation - a gift
from the vendor who loved that you were a fisherman
and insisted you take it –
suddenly out-of-reach, beneath the surface,
fading, getting smaller and dimmer as it recedes from you
and all your memories of it,
out of your grasp forever in an instant,
like your friend who tipped over the edge after the long struggle
to hang on to the rail while the disease rolled under her...
or the buddy who was brushed away in the morning light
when a car crested the hill and elbowed him into the air
before he knew it - a short fall into deep water.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
I found a piece of writing yesterday that I wrote a little over a year ago. I wish I hadn't found it; wish I had never had to write it. But it didn't care. As I read it again this morning, it was just as fresh as it was the day I wrote it. I wonder of that will ever change...
For Jess, Jan. 2, 2012
I don’t want to forget yesterday. It was clear and chilly when I woke up, and it warmed into a beautiful winter’s day – the kind you feel you have to get outside and enjoy, especially here in rainy western Washington. It was the first day of 2012, and the sky was bright outside my window as I made my coffee and let the dogs out into the early morning sunshine. I took my cup and opened the blinds before sitting down at my computer.
Then I read the news. You, with your sky-blue eyes, long blonde hair and wonderful smile, were killed in a car crash along a country road near your hometown. I hadn’t known you were even home, it’d been so long since we talked. As the details filtered in through posts on Facebook with your friends and family, I learned you and the three people you were with had taken a turn too fast and slammed into a tree in the early morning hours after New Year’s. I try not to imagine what that was like. At least, I think in my desperate attempts at putting it together so I can deal with it, it was fast.
I sat in front of my computer for most of the morning, sifting through the facts of your death and finding out about your life and the parts I’ve missed over the past six months or so since we last had coffee at Starbuck’s. I browsed your pictures on Facebook and reread our posts to each other about the books I gave you on life and death and what it all means. The messages were still so fresh, I couldn’t connect the words with the fact that you aren’t here any more. That there would be no more posts or messages. I even opened up the chat window just to check. Your name was there...the green dot beside it wasn’t.
I read until I couldn’t take it any more and had to leave to go out into the bright sunshine and walk my dogs around the lake. Seagulls called your name over our heads as we walked. I kept thinking that you died on a beautiful day. Except that’s not true. You never got to see it. It was night when that truck hit that tree. And I try not to think about what your sky-blue eyes saw last.
I stood in the grocery store after the walk, trying to locate the brand of cereal I wanted. Not finding it, I felt this hole open around me of something else I couldn’t find, and there in the bright florescence of Safeway, I felt alone, sad and afraid. I miss you, and I can’t reconcile the ledger of all the time that passed that I didn’t see you with the depth of this hurt. Maybe it’s the curse of being a teacher – that we care for our students, but only get a short while with them - four years if we’re lucky - of counseling, laughing, coaching and watching them grow– and then it’s over, they’re on with their lives, and we are left behind. And as your former teacher - and I’m speaking to my students now - I take comfort in the fact that, even though you are gone from my classroom and my life, I know you are still on the planet, still walking around, breathing, learning, growing, living. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
But Jessica, what I can’t get used to is that even though nothing has changed in my routine of not seeing you each day, everything has changed and you are not in Centralia, in Eugene, traveling the country with Adam, or in Portland any more. No more coffee at Starbuck’s. As James Taylor said, “I always thought that I’d see you again.”
I left the store, not having found the cereal, my hands empty.
I will go to your service in a week or two. And I will see all the people you left behind who loved you, some of whom I care for like you. And I’m sure I will cry. I’ll cry for you, I’ll cry for me and I’ll cry for them... for all of us who don’t get to see you any more, ever. You were only 22, and you’d done so much and touched so many. We will all cry and hug and miss you as we remember.
I sure hope it’s a sunny day.
Monday, March 18, 2013
April is National Poetry Month. As a part of that celebration, I am participating in The Big Poetry Giveaway, curated this year by Susan Rich, a wonderful Northwest poet. I will give away two books of poetry at the end of the month to two of the readers (one book each) of Gillnet Dreams who leave comments saying they're interested. the first book is my own chapbook: Swimming with Fish and Other Animals, first published in 2004. It is divided into two sections - 'Fish': poems, essays and a short memoir on the commercial fishing life, and 'Other Animals': poems about family, growing up and more.
The second book is Craving Water, by Mary Lou Sanelli, a collection of "Poems of ordinary life in a northwest village."
For those readers who are interested in life in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, either of these should both satisfy their curiosity and pique their interest to know more. I will be selecting (at random) the winners and contacting you by email the week of May 1st.
For those of you who are visiting Gillnet Dreams for the first time, welcome! Thanks for stopping by. A retired educator, I moved to Alaska in 1975 where I taught for 23 years. I commercial fished for salmon on Cook Inlet from 1977-1997. My writings and photography have been published by The Smithsonian, Oregon Coast, Cirque Literary Journal, The Oberon Poetry Magazine, The Waterman’s Gazette, and Pacific Fishing magazine, among others. Now living in Olympia, Washington, I read my poetry, essays and memoirs and exhibits his photographs throughout the Pacific Northwest. I have performed at The Fisherpoets Gathering in Astoria, Oregon each year since 1999, and curate their website Fisherpoets.org, and created and manage the archive of Fisherpoets' work at inthetote.com.
If you are a blogger and want to give away two poetry volumes yourself, you can join in! If you are not a blogger, you can sign up for drawings on participating blogs as often as you'd like. Susan has guidelines for participating and a running list of blogs that are involved on her site HERE. Thanks to Susan for all her work on this!