Sick


— Kim Mosley

—Sarah Webb

What the Living Do

Prompt:

What the Living Do

Johnny, the kitchen sink has been clogged for days, some utensil probably fell down there.
And the Drano won’t work but smells dangerous, and the crusty dishes have piled up

waiting for the plumber I still haven’t called. This is the everyday we spoke of.
It’s winter again: the sky’s a deep, headstrong blue, and the sunlight pours through

the open living-room windows because the heat’s on too high in here and I can’t turn it off.
For weeks now, driving, or dropping a bag of groceries in the street, the bag breaking,

I’ve been thinking: This is what the living do. And yesterday, hurrying along those
wobbly bricks in the Cambridge sidewalk, spilling my coffee down my wrist and sleeve,

I thought it again, and again later, when buying a hairbrush: This is it.
Parking. Slamming the car door shut in the cold. What you called that yearning.

What you finally gave up. We want the spring to come and the winter to pass. We want
whoever to call or not call, a letter, a kiss—we want more and more and then more of it.

But there are moments, walking, when I catch a glimpse of myself in the window glass,
say, the window of the corner video store, and I’m gripped by a cherishing so deep

for my own blowing hair, chapped face, and unbuttoned coat that I’m speechless:
I am living. I remember you.


— Marie Howe

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     How It Ends

The crusty dishes have piled up,
rear ending a clogged sink and each other.
There is a steady stream
speeding off the dining table, expecting
to be quickly rinsed and parked
in the dishwasher until a full load.

This is the way it happens, the stream
of dishes, of letters to write, of chores to do,
of errands to run stream forward
like highway traffic until
a fog bank, a car spinning on its blown tire,
something stops the flow, hard.
The dishes clog the drain board.
The work clogs the in-basket.
Absence fills the in-box.
Life's expectations are not met
in an ER waiting room.

—Jeffrey Taylor

Nicknames

Prompt:

"At present our only true names are nicknames"
—Henry David Thoreau, Walking

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It’s funny, when you’re in a moment, you can hardly feel there. And it’s funny how years later it can feel so real. Sure, we are always at present, but

tell that to the scent from the store you’re passing. Next thing you know you’re two blocks past your car because what does that smell remind you of? Oh, shit, yeah! It’s summer vacation in New Hampshire and White Mountain Bagels in the morning and hiking along humming rivers and swimming in biting cold water and family rummy tournaments and dad’s drunk and mom’s laughing at him and there’s no bedtime and every meal’s on the grill but who were you then?

tell it to the classroom door that slams down the hall in just that way your mom used to do when you were still too young to know why. All of a sudden your legs are numb from sitting on the toilet too long but you don’t want to leave the stall because some deep, deep part of your lizard brain feels like hiding under the blankets. You’re not even on a phone or reading Sports Illustrated, you just hear muffled yelling and back and forth stomping and a garage door opening and a car driving down the hill. And whichever parent didn’t storm out this time comes upstairs to comfort you like it’s gonna help at all, but really it’s just the school nurse poking her head in the bathroom to see if you’re ok, like it’s gonna help at all. But who were you, then?

tell it to the diet Pepsi someone spilled on the ground in this cinema that you squished your sneaker through. The sticky residue followed you fifteen feet to your seat and even though it feels like you just sat down you missed the previews cause you‘re back in a frat house basement with too many people listening to music too loud way too late at night to do any good for anyone and your visions fuzzy and your friends are missing and some upperclassman is making a face at you like he wants to fight or fuck or both and you just want to fit in but who were you then?

maybe, just maybe, tell it to the soft smell of incense and the feeling of tea warmth under your chin that brings you right into this place and this room and this moment and ask yourself, who am I now?

—Andy Bernstein

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The Question

Prompt:

Write about a question that you think you don't have the answer for.


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Lost

Prompt:

“Lost really has two disparate meanings. Losing things is about the familiar falling away, getting lost is about the unfamiliar appearing.”

— Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide to Getting Lost

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Martha's Birthday Poem: 69

Martha Koock Ward posting her poem, musing about her birthday today.... How do you feel about how you are aging?

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69
Finishing off this 6th decade
Like that last bite of cake, or
Downing a draught of cool
Water, my thirst to slake, gives
Me such a sense of satisfaction
To feel both the time & the endless
Measures of help, I’ve been given to heal.
Legions of persons have lain on
Hands, touched my heart, willing,
Praying, and way-showing me to
Wholeness sought, promised from my,
Sometimes deranged & disparate parts.
I see that so many landmarks are gone,
Family relations, friends, leaders of nations,
And, strangers, who dressed this stage.
I am grateful for each known, or not,
As I await my next entrance,
I am very curious about the plot.

— Martha Koock Ward

Happy are They

Prompt:

Happy are they who still love something they loved in the nursery:
They have not been broken in two by time; they are not two persons,
but one, and they have saved not only their souls but their lives.

— G. K. Chesterton

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Hurricane Harvey

Prompt:

This poem by a student of Gaelyn Godwin Roshi, resident teacher at the Houston Zen Center. It's the perfect "instruction" on how to pray for Houston.

Hurricane Harvey

if you want
to pray for Houston you have to pray
in her way
pray like Beyoncé when she was
at HSPVA
or Billy and Dusty shooting pool
at Rudyard's
pray like you're sitting over soup
at Spanish Flowers
or pho at Mai's steaming your glasses
pray like the kids playing soccer
on the east side
or mutton busting
at the livestock show
pray like the runners
in Memorial Park
lacing them up
or the researchers
in the medical center looking into microscopes
if you want
to pray for Houston you have to pray
as quietly as
the Rothko Chapel
or Houston Zen Center
and you have to pray as loudly as
the old scoreboard at the Astrodome after a José Cruz home run
you have to pray sitting under
a live oak tree
or standing next to an azalea bloom while your skin clams in the heat
if you want to pray
for Houston
you have to pray without pretense
this ain't Dallas
and in a neighborly way as friends come out
to check on each other in the rain
and those
who are far away watch screens
and wipe our eyes
if you want to pray
for Houston
raise a bottle of Shiner to the gray sky
and say that 130 mile an hour winds and 9 trillion gallons of rain
are no match
for a city of such life
and diversity
you can fill up our bayou but you will never rain on our parade

Jeremy Rutledge 2017
Hurricane Harvey

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I do pray for things. Not very often. And only when my resources are depleted. So I'm waiting for the results of a test. I pray. I guess Kevin, with his doctorate in the philosophy of probability, would say that I'm intuitively calculating the odds that I have some incurable disease, and I have  figured that there is a chance, if only remote. I'm not sure if my kids or my wife knows that I do this. (I just asked my wife and my son, and they both said I didn’t pray.) They must just think that I'm blessed and that's why things generally turn out so well. Or maybe, Janelle, our class minister, might say, that I'm blessed because I do pray. I never told my parents, either. And now it is a little late, unless I'm mistaken about the power of their remains.

I guess I could pray for the people in Houston. Or at least I could feel guilty for not doing so. I knew a woman who was recovering from an illness. She went to a weekly prayer group, and they all prayed for one another. Against all odds, she is still around 25 years later.

Once in college I was really worried about something and I went to a church that was open 24/7. I put $5 in the box on the wall. Lo and behold, an intervention occurred and things turned out well. So I went back to the church and retrieved my money.

This would be more understandable if things had turned out the way I didn't want them to turn out. Then I could rationalize that I had wasted my money so it was ok to retrieve it. And maybe it did do good.

So I've heard a couple of things this week about karma that were new to me. One is that karma is not action, but rather intention. So my intention was good, perhaps, to put the money in the box at the church. But maybe not so good to take it out.

The second idea about karma is one that I had read just an hour ago. And it slipped my mind when I wrote the last paragraph. It said that the rational mind shouldn't try to understand the relationship of karma and action. The effects of karma are not comprehensible. In the article I was reading, it said that karma is mystery. We don't know the effect of our intentions.

Prayer? I'll continue to pray. Will I believe it will make a difference? Some part of me probably will because otherwise I wouldn't do it. But another part thinks it is silly. So let's keep my praying as a secret between us. OK?

Kim Mosley

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If You Want To Pray For Houston


My brother wrote today.
The epicenter of deep water
Was three blocks from
Where we once lived.

He shuddered to think, he wrote.
Was his shudder a prayer?
Parkplace: simple, quiet, just barely middle class.

I remember the Irish (almost certainly Catholic)
Policeman who walked us
Across the busy intersection to school.
Is it underwater now?

The reservoir overflowed today
And a certain measure of water
Let out into the flooded streets
Built when I was 2
The year before my brother was born.

Infrastructure spending was not a sin then.
FDR was in the White House.
Laboratory grade fluoride was in our water
To protect children's teeth
All the children's teeth.

Joel Olsteen thinks Jesus will fix it
And does not want to open
His palacial megaplex
To the little soccer playing kids
From the east side.

As quiet as Rothko Chapel
The prayer of silence
Like researchers looking into microscopes
You must be very still and listen
To learn from looking into microscopes.

My brother wrote today.
He shuddered to think, he wrote.
The great infrastructure project
Designed to protect Houston
Was built before he was born.
My brother is 75.

Houston was just over half-a-million people then.
Today - 6 million 5
Minus those who drowned.

I sit in silence
As quiet as Rothko Chapel.
I shudder to think.
It is my prayer.

— Jamelle Curlin-Taylor

Prompt:

Sujata’s Offering INDIA, SIXTH CENTURY BCE

SUJATA was the beautiful daughter of a landowner, and she prayed to the spirit of a banyan tree for a good husband and son. Her wish was granted, and every year, in gratitude, she made an offering of sweet, thick milk-rice at the foot of the tree. Meanwhile, after six years of severe austerities, Siddhartha was close to death from starvation. One day he sat down in meditation beneath Sujata’s banyan tree. That same day Sujata dreamed that she should make her annual offering. She sent her servant to prepare the place for the offering, and the servant ran back, crying, “A god is sitting under the tree!” So Sujata made up the milk-rice in a golden bowl and carried it to the tree with her own hands. She offered it to Siddhartha, saying, “Just as my wish has been fulfilled, so may yours be granted.” He ate the milk-rice with gratitude, and it was the finest food he had eaten in many months. Then he cast the golden bowl into the river, saying, “If I am to fully awaken, may this bowl float upstream.” The bowl floated upstream. Later that day, renewed by Sujata’s offering, he sat down, determined to awaken, and his wish was granted. Sujata and her son later became disciples of the Buddha and members of the sangha.

(2013-10-21). The Hidden Lamp: Stories from Twenty-Five Centuries of Awakened Women (p. 283). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.

The prompt is gift. Write about a gift you have received or given.

Firsts

Prompt:

Write about a "first."

Protecting What We Love

Prompt:

“because this is how we protect what we love,
by hiding what it truly means to us, this little bag of gold
we keep buried in the yard, the thing we will do anything
to keep safe, even going so far as to pretend
it doesn't exist, that there's nothing missing in the dark.”

Excerpt from Quan Barry's poem “Someone once said we were put on this earth to witness and testify”

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