Christmas Clutter

I found a poem I wrote about cluttering up my house with Christmas. Every year during the beginning of Advent, I dutifully pull out the Christmas decorations from storage in an attic closet. I store everything (except the tree, of course) in five-gallon plastic buckets I once used for canoeing because the buckets are much easier to haul up and down my stairs. Every year the ritual is the same. Empty the buckets. Set out the decorations. Then, near Epiphany, put everything back into the buckets and store them again. Why? It is awkward work and at age seventy-five, I don’t have the strength I had when I was younger. I do it, though, because the Christmas clutter tells a story and colors my house with kaleidoscopic hope.

Christmas Clutter

Every year Christmas clutters the house.
The tree, nativity scenes, wreathes, ceramic candles,
decorative tins, and a faux crystal church require space.
I must move other things out of the way.
Most of the year two kerosene lanterns, pottery,
and a philodendron grace the mantel. On the wall above,
a green ocean crashes on dark rocks.
Below the mantel, more rocks, a fountain in a crockery bowl,
and a tall candle anchor the hearth.
But I have to make space for Christmas.

I rearrange furniture to make room for the tree,
remove the ocean painting to hang a wreath,
push pottery to the back of the mantel
to make room for the nativities. The philodendron stays.
In the center of the mantel, I position a blue ceramic Baby Jesus
and surround him with the other blue pieces –
Mary, Joseph, kings, shepherds, camels, donkeys, sheep –
and two glass angels holding guitars.
On the ends, I place two tiny ceramic nativity scenes
and a three dimensional, pop-up nativity card.
Variations on a theme. My mantel is filled with the story.
Jesus is born four times.

I stand one last piece in an empty space
behind the blue nativity scene,
A tall angel dressed in blue and purple robes
watches over the telling scenes
and supports a globe of light with her wings.
Good thing. It’s dark outside.
And maybe a little too dark in here,
in this newly cluttered space.
Tonight is winter solstice,
the longest, darkest night of the year.

Published in: Uncategorized on March 13, 2022 at 12:29 pm  Comments (6)  

WATCHING SNOW

I have avoided writing about life during the pandemic because writing about it seems as boring as sitting inside my house in a lockdown to avoid catching the Covid-19 virus. My family and I are making safe choices by wearing masks and social distancing, and so far, we are healthy. In my time alone inside my house, I notice that I sit in my recliner beside the fireplace and look out the window almost daily. Today, we had a little bit of snow! Such a small event, but it inspired me.

Watching Snow

First a few stray flakes fall,
then a flurry, a curtain blowing in a window.
This year, in a warmer winter,
the snow shower is an anomaly.
Watching it fills the grinding quiet
of this room where I sit
avoiding exposure to a pandemic.
The snow shower is a happening that supersedes
the day’s goals. I stop. I gaze out the window.
I watch snow ruffle in the air.
I watch my neighbor’s privet hedge turn from dark green
to white and wonder if these veils will accumulate on the ground.
The snow slackens.
I breathe in the morning chill,
lean back in my chair and smile.

Published in: Uncategorized on January 11, 2021 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Boscobel and 19th

Nature and history bump shoulders in this poem about my neighborhood.

Boscobel Street and 19th

I sit on my deep front porch
and lean into a flash of meaning,
on the edge of knowing the evening.
Lightening bugs glitter up out of the grass.
Summer cricket sounds undergird
the hiss of passing cars on 19th street.
A breeze lifts maple leaves and portends evening rain.
One small shower passed through today,
washed the streets, and left shreds
of vapor rising from the asphalt.

Boscobel. Beautiful woods.
Cherokee hunters roamed these hills,
hunted game drawn to salt licks near the Cumberland River.
Wealthy families lived in mansions long demolished.
Working people lived in these
Victorian frame houses and craftsman bungalows.
Prostitutes and drug dealers linger on some streets.
People with no homes live in tents
beneath interstate overpasses.
Memories of the old mansions persist
in the neighborhood names:
Boscobel, Fatherland, Lockeland Springs.
Artists, musicians, and urban professionals
buy houses and resurrect them.

The Tennessean reports a lower crime rate for East Nashville.
Last night the police arrested a neighbor across the street.
I assume someone made a domestic violence report.
The girlfriend’s clothes are stacked in piles on the porch.
She is moving out.
The neighbors say they both have problems with drugs.
I heard no fighting, but three police cars are parked outside his house.
“Well, just let me lock my door!” I heard him say.

Dogs bark in the distance.
The evening settles into darkness.
Some things remain the same.
The hum of crickets.
The buzz of evening rain.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 15, 2020 at 11:57 am  Leave a Comment  

Through a Glass, Darkly

My poem “Looking Through the Slats” explores partial views, and keeping with explorations of how we see things, I offer this one inspired by Paul’s insights in 1 Corinthians 13, “Through a Glass, Darkly.”  I like the word “glass” used in the old King James Version I read as a child, though the word “mirror” is probably a better translation.  My poem tries to capture that sense of looking for and representing something that you know is there but that you cannot quite see or hear. For Paul, the view is partial. For Keats, the view is static and eternal, time-stopped on the urn.  For me the view moves, part to part, blurry as seen through a sheer window curtain or a moving vehicle. We often see the shapes in this world, but not all the detail.

Through A Glass, Darkly

For now we see through a glass, darkly.
1 Corinthians 13:12 (KJV)

Neighbors invite me for a bowl of soup at Noshville,
a local deli, but tonight I promised myself
I would write a poem. They smile and drive away.
I sit on my porch and gaze at the lighted windows
of their house. Sheer curtains blur the view.
Words blur the view and cling to shapes
of beauty and truth, silk scarves in the wind.
I think of Keats and unheard melodies.
The metro bus, brakes hissing, rumbles
to a stop. I see riders through the glass, darkly,
flashes from shards of beauty, slivers of truth.
The shadow of a cat shrinks between parked cars.
Filtered light shimmers on the privet hedge.
Leaves gilded by streetlights. turn and fall.

Published in: Uncategorized on November 5, 2020 at 11:33 am  Comments (2)  

Looking Through the Slats

   I recently began browsing through some poems, images, and other written fragments that have interested me over the last few years.  One start to a poem I call “Looking Through the Slats” struck me as a metaphor of the way human beings see the world around them.  We are unable to see everything all at once. Paul was aware of human limitations. He wrote, “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Cor. 13:12 NRSV). I wonder what it would be like to see or know fully? I am not sure I would like it.  The idea frightens me a little even though I would like to see more than I do now.  Maybe the issue is becoming more aware of what we are able to see.  We see more than we think we do because our vision is selective. I worked on the fragment to see where it would take me. This poem emerged.

Looking Through the Slats

When I wake up and walk downstairs
to feed my cat, fix my breakfast, and take my pills,
I walk into my living room, turn on my fireplace,
and open my blinds.
I do not enjoy looking through the slats.
I enjoy the open view,
seeing the birds fighting over holes in the neighbor’s trees,
a hedge, like mine, in need of  a trim,
a man slumped over the leash as he walks his dog,
a young mother in a sweatshirt and yoga pants pushing a stroller.
Give me vistas, not partial views striped by blinds.

Days are slatted with the darkness of sleep,
windows rattled with dreams.
Asleep. Awake.
No one has an un-slatted view of anything.
Not of color or form.
Not of stillness or movement.
Not of words or meaning.
If we are lucky enough to see at all,
we spend our days peeking through the blinds,
squinting at views we see
looking through the slats.

Published in: Uncategorized on October 29, 2020 at 11:04 am  Comments (2)  

THE IDES OF MARCH 2020

Today I saw a post on Facebook that reminded me about the significance of today’s date.  It was a picture of a bottle of Caesar dressing with a knife through it.  I love Caesar dressing! I laughed out loud.

March has been filled with devastation, heartache, dread, fear, loss, wonder, humor, and love due to the tornado that roared through middle Tennessee and the panic associated with the global pandemic (dare I say the dreaded c-word?), the corona virus. Beware the Ides of March.

I am sitting in my favorite reading and writing chair beside my fireplace.  I have finished my coffee.  I am warm, and I have shelter. I survived a tornado with no injury and no damage to my property. I am a retired person who happens to be healthy for the moment even though I am among the high-risk people who are elderly and who have underlying conditions.  I read that I should avoid crowds, wash my hands, and make good choices about such things as eating out or using mass transportation. Just stay home. Yeah. I do all these things most of the time because I am elderly and have underlying conditions….so…how is life this ides of March different?

When I walk out on my front porch, I see cars parked along my street.  My neighbors are also at home from school, from church, from work, and from other public gatherings that are no longer scheduled. I think about small businesses, people who work in service industries, people who are sick, people in middle Tennessee who need a place to live, people who have lost loved ones, and people all over the world dealing with this global pandemic.  My eyes get wet. Sitting in the chair beside my fireplace feels different.

It is the ides of March.  I am out of Caesar dressing.

 

 

Published in: Uncategorized on March 15, 2020 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Winter Mix

The weather forecasts for the most recent front were accurate.  Winter mix.  I am not fond of  these kinds of fronts because they are gloomy,  slick, and slimy. I turn my head and heart away from the poetic dimensions of such weather.  Nonetheless…

 

Winter Mix

The weather predictions were correct.
Snow falls and leans but does not stick.
I watched the morning drizzle transform into snow.
It is thick and wet, but it does not stick.

As the snowfall thickens,
I feel compelled to watch it,
as though it might communicate something,
a truth, perhaps, that might stick.

Delicate, white, wet,
it slickens the street
and the black asphalt shines
beneath gray clouds.

If it were night, the temperature
might be lower, and the snow might stick
on the tops of cars and roofs
and cling to the grass and limbs.

But it is not night.
And this may be it for winter.

– Pamela Dilmore, 2020.

 

 

Published in: Uncategorized on February 21, 2020 at 10:05 am  Comments (2)  

Read, read, read. Write, write, write.

I first heard the words “Read, read, read. Write, write, write,” from Maya Angelou in a lecture she gave here in Nashville. Other writers offer similar advice about the importance of reading in order to improve writing. Of course!  It is a no-brainer! Read good writers to discover what they do and use their methods in our own work. After a couple of years of little writing and lots of scrolling through news feeds on my smartphone, I decided to change my habits.  Who should I read? What should I write?

Back in February, 2012, I picked up an old book, a complete works of Robert Frost, and I rediscovered his narrative power and his use of dialogue to reveal his deep awareness of human nature.  I picked up the same book again a week ago, and opened it to the place I had stopped reading. I have a feeling that I might be re-reading Frost the rest of my life!  I would rather read Frost than sit and write a poem! Today I am a reader.  I choose to read, read, read for a while.

 

Published in: Uncategorized on February 15, 2020 at 10:50 am  Leave a Comment  

Blue Chair: A Sestina

Years ago, I spent a week or two each summer with my grandparents. They had a book about a child who would sit in a chair that told stories.  My morning reading and writing chair is an old rattan thing with a blue cushion, but I like to imagine that it generates ideas the way the chair told stories to the child in the book.  I have tried putting more attractive or more comfortable chairs where the blue rattan chair normally sits, but I always I always move the blue chair back to its spot beside the fireplace. Then I sit in lumpy comfort and wait for it to speak to me. The blue chair is my place of reflection, prayer, reading, writing, remembering, of putting together again in new and old ways meaning and life.

I recently dug out an old poem I wrote over a decade ago in the form known as a sestina, six sestet stanzas and a tercet with a repetitive rhyme pattern. “Did I get it right? How does this complicated form communicate meaning?”  I decided to do a bit of research.  I pulled a huge book from my shelf, The New Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics. The article about the sestina included a couple of quotes that offered perspectives on how the form communicates meaning. The first quote was from Comte de Gramont who said the sestina is “a reverie in which the same ideas, the same objects, occur to the mind in a succession of different aspects, which nonetheless resemble one another, fluid and changing shape like the clouds in the sky.” The second one was from Ezra Pound, who called it “a form like a thin sheet of flame, folding and infolding upon itself.” Repetition of the words or rhymes produces these effects.  I think of repetition as echoes emanating from a shout or as ripples expanding from a pebble tossed into water. Repetition carries both sound and sight and moves meaning in ways that are similar to the functions of rhythm and meter. My sestina is about my blue rattan chair.

Blue Chair

Cloudless sky reverberates October blue.
Air, clean as crystal, glitters for a change.
Sitting in a blue-cushioned, rattan chair
in the company of three cats and a dog,
sipping freshly-ground, freshly-brewed coffee,
a woman explores old words.

Easter and Pentecost faded without words
beside the Cumberland, reflecting blue
hope in light-striated waters, coffee
colored below the railroad bridge. Change
flows slowly where the woman walks the dog
beside the river and longs for her chair.

Change offers inspiration like the chair
in a childhood story book offered words
to the child who curled there. The old dog
pulls the leash, leads the woman home to blue
African violets and ferns that change
the afternoon sunlight to green. Coffee

smells swirl through the air from coffee
beans in the grinder. She sits in the chair,
in the fern-green air, inscribes words that change
to the smell of brewing coffee and words
like tattoos of roses and Jesus, blue
bruises of meaning, sprinkling blood. The dog

sniffs for crumbs on the floor. Well-fed, the dog
snuffles anyway. She wants more. Coffee
smells embrace the woman, tempt her from blue
tattoos of meaning, lift her from the chair.
Like the dog, she wants more, and crumbs of words
combine easily with coffee. A change

of view of the god-man invokes another change.
She raises her nose to smell life like a dog
smells and defines reality. New words
buzz and swirl in the grinder. Fresh coffee
smells, just-ground words, direct her to the chair
to inscribe renewed meaning, bruises blue

with gasping life, smelling coffee,
raining words, cats and a dog, crumbs on the blue chair.
In the river, change, a swirl of blue.

 

Pamela Dilmore

 

 

 

Published in: Uncategorized on February 9, 2020 at 1:55 pm  Comments (1)  

Blue Sings

Summer has drifted over its boundaries giving us 90 degree weather!  But this week, Thursday I think, the temperatures will drop to something that has the feel of fall.  I have been waiting for October’s blue sky to enliven our spirits but have seen only the hazy, hot, and humid sky of summer, clinging to its gauzy veil, refusing to let go to October blue. “Blue Sings” points to the healing power of an October blue sky…if it ever arrives!

 

Blue Sings

Deep October sky,
spaces among yellow leaves,
heaving seas on a sunlit day,
the unblinking eyes of a Siamese cat,
a vein bulging over a wrist bone,
carrying impurity and pain to a heart,
blue sings.
Glittering sequins flash
an azure cure.

-Pamela Dilmore

Published in: Uncategorized on October 8, 2018 at 9:45 am  Leave a Comment