I’m marking summer by kid camp, for sure, as mothers of littles do. First year all three of mine are old enough to go to Junior Lifeguard Camp and adrenaline-crazed enough to attend back-to-back sessions! Out they trundle, reeking of sunscreen under the Coronado June gloom mist. Back they come under blue skies to litter every inch of the house with sand, sprawling their sun blonde limbs across the living room rug. Fridge door opens and closes like a windmill, shelves emptying faster than we can replenish them. Even the broccoli!
We are still celebrating my first poetry book’s release, November Butterfly (Saddle Road Press, November 2014) so I’m reading in Santa Fe at Garcia Books in August with poet friends Barbara Rockman and Robyn Hunt. Here’s a facebook page for the event: Facing Forward, Looking Back: Poetry Reading. Then I’m off to attend A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Summer 2015 retreat at Ghost Ranch as the Marg Chandler Fellow (an honor).
Here’s a poem for you from the new poetry manuscript I’m writing based on an Illinois commune I lived on during my childhood. I wrote “Cooking Class” when Tweetspeak Poetry put out a call for poems on the theme of blue jeans back in April. At the mercy of universal bad timing usually reserved for the opening of car doors (into those of adjacent cars), I had just sent my only blue jean poem into circulation.
Tweetspeak (via Twitter) introduced me to a writer named Amy Billone; thanks to some mutual “egging” on of one another, we both managed to draft poems you’ll find in Tweetspeak’s e-book, Casual: a little book of jeans poems and photos (available for free during National Poetry Month, 2016, or if you want a copy sooner, you can become a Tweetspeak supporter at the $15 level, details for the e-book Casual here). The book is edited by L.L. Barkat, cover image by Susan Etole.
Cooking Class, Illinois, Mid 70s
Along her immaculate counter: silo
of red-handled sifter, bright order
of silver spoons, lemon bales of butter
softening in late winter light. In cupboards
her husband the carpenter built, bars
of Baker’s Chocolate, dried figs, quartered
apricots and Mason Jars of brined harvest.
A good cook puts up her hair, wears
apron, stores flour in freezer to keep
Boll Weevils out, uses shells of her egg
as a tool to separate yolk from white.
She also wears dresses, I learned,
when for donning jeans, she informed me
she no longer wished me to babysit. She cited,
over the phone to my mother, the effect
it might have on her son, the kind of wife
he might choose, the man he’d become
as I chased him on my hands and knees round
living room’s glass table she refused to move
when he was born. He’d learn, she’d said, he’d learn
soon enough, where he stopped and she began.
I love that writing prompts have the power to take us into the labyrinth of memories. You never know which one will light up. Try it—just write “blue jeans” across the top of a blank page—and let me know what happens.
Reflecting back on the situation of the poem--50s values prevailing in the 70s--I can see that I emerged relatively unscathed emotionally from being fired for wearing jeans. True, I loved the little boy and the babysitter snacks rated. I’d lose out on some pocket change.
But there was a hidden gift, a form of ferocious love us firstborns covet. My mother slammed down the phone and raged to my father in the next room while my body tingled with collateral adrenaline. Seconds later she stormed in and said, “You are not going back there. Ever. No one tells my girl she has to wear a skirt.” One of her finest Mother Bear moments.
I solicited a beautiful post by Amy Billone at Mother Writer Mentor about the writing of her blue jeans Haiku for her son, My Baby Boy’s Jeans.