Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Word

Last prompt. For now.
As I had promised, this is a companion piece to yesterday's prompt. So for today, please write a 500 word piece inspired by Tony Hoagland's "The Word" (below):
The Word
Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,
between "green thread"
and "broccoli" you find
that you have penciled "sunlight."
Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend
and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning -- to cheer you up,
and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing,
that also needs accomplishing
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue
but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom
still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,
- to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.
-- Tony Hoagland

This beautiful poem fills me with ineffable sadness at the thought of lives that have, somehow, disconnected themselves from their source, whatever they may perceive it to be. The recognition that the soul needs nurture, and that the inner self needs care, is a must.
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds
of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder
or a safe spare tire?

I am inspired, a little facetiously perhaps, by the poet, Sumana Roy, to think of myself as a plant, and try to make sure to keep myself rooted and grounded, and well “watered”, and sunned. Sad to say, people forget that they are biological creatures, also a part of nature, and that their genuine well–being is closely linked to being as close to nature as they can be, and in not letting the vicissitudes of daily life disconnect them from the very core of their being. Even though ‘sunlight’ is written in a list in the poem, it is an acknowledgement of the need for caring for oneself, with time, and nature, and doing what makes you happy.
There was a book I read many years ago, called Cheaper by the Dozen, about life in the home of a couple who are time and motion study and efficiency experts.  ( When asked what he wants to do with all the time that he has saved, the father concludes his reply by saying, “For skittles, if that’s where your heart lies…”    
The key phrase being, “where your heart lies”.
Life can be confusing and puzzling and vexing, and we often need a word or more to keep us going. Hoagland’s word here is sunlight. My go-to word is Desiderata, the title of a poem I first encountered in my early teens.                              Different lines from this have resonated at different times. Today, these do:                                       
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the Universe no less than the trees and the stars: you have the right to be here. _____keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
Being happy, and/or striving to be happy, are acts of gratitude for the bounty of this human life.
Sadly, there are many people across the globe who suffer conditions of all kinds, both innate and external, that preclude the presence of sunlight in their lives. The roles of parents and caregivers of children assume great importance in how they influence the child’s perception of the world. In order to raise happy children, it is imperative that the caregivers have support and nurturance for themselves, too, before they can be expected to do justice to their wards.                              In the timeless wisdom of countless flight announcements, ‘Please place the oxygen mask over your own mouth and nose before assisting others.                                                          
“The king and queen alive, still speaking to their children…”
Only listen.

Friday, May 1, 2020

There is No Word

 -- 500 words
-- Write a piece inspired by Tony Hoagland's "There is no Word" 

            Which came first, the feeling or the word?
Babies know the answer to that one.
What they feel is what they express.
Words come so much later in the day,
But once they have come,
Adults give them precedence over feelings,
Invalidating that which cannot be expressed in words,
Which is so much of human experience.
Language, languid, lazy, feline, graceful, powerful
Often cruel, too, in its indifference.
Its inadequacies stretch our minds and hearts
To find a word for what is not broken, not severed,
But has declined, over time, from what we thought it was
To what, today, it undeniably is: meaningless,
A set of words spoken out of courtesy,
A history that was once shared,
Perhaps circumstantial,
Not really of the heart,
But pretending to be, for old times’ sakes.
Sadder when one party is warm and effusive,
And the other can’t get the tone right,
Leaving mutterings in his or her wake.
I wonder what’s wrong with So-and-So
Seemed so strange today…
And when you think of the thousands of people
you have known in your lifetime,
some hundreds closely, perhaps,
How many would you really care to know
Better, over the years?
How many do you really need in your life
As physical people
whom you really want to spend time with?
Today, they can only give you their words,
Apart from those who live in your house,
with you, during this period of social isolation.
This strange malady that rocks the world
Has made language the vessel of all feelings
Well expressed or otherwise,
Our minds reach out across the ether
We seek the words of friends,
and strangers who have become friends,
to sustain us in these difficult times,
to tell us that we are not alone
in the face of what feels insurmountable
with no end in sight
A world turned topsy-turvy
(delicious words, uncomfortable feeling)
All givens no longer constant
Everything re-written,
In a language not of our choosing.
I grew up in a very formal home
No cuddles after early childhood
I’d pretend to be asleep for the comfort
Of being carried to bed by my father
And on walks would slip my small hand into his
My mother holding my chin as she parted my hair
Before plaiting it, I hold that touch in my memory
I think most sibling fisticuffs in my childhood,
Were simply because we craved a human touch.
Growing up, I learned to hug my friends
And my children knew that hugs were available
And they had words to ask for them
(I learned this from my nephews,
from when they were small enough
to need a “cuggle”)
And today, I crave the hugs
Of my children, those both near and far,
and of the little grandchildren,
who were supposed to come this winter
Until our world got up-ended…
So much to be grateful for, though,
We see them all on video chats,
All are safe and well.
Gratitude needs to be
My favourite word…