Monday, April 10, 2017

Day Ten ... NaPoWriMo / Poem-a-Day 2017


Good day, everyone. I've just realized that every April day, I have “Day __” in the post title, and I start off with “Day __” in my opening text. I think I’ve done that here in the blog for going on four years, I bet. I might have started starting with the numerical date when I used to riff on the number, so that for example today I could say something like “10 fingers, 10 toes,” or 10 this or that. Okay, so . . . not doing that “Day __” malarkey today!

Maureen Thorson’s NaPoWriMo prompt: “write a poem that is a portrait of someone important to you. It doesn’t need to focus so much on what a person looks (or looked) like, as what they are or were.”

Robert Lee Brewer’s Poem-a-Day prompt: “write a travel poem. Your poem can be about the process of traveling, planning to travel, vicariously traveling through television programs, or however else you’d like to take this prompt.”

Mixing both prompts today in a plain-spoken sonnet . . . a portrait of my mother and her reluctance to travel.

 My Mother’s Fear

 My mother was an alien, a legal alien.
 That is, she had a green card, while my father
 and I were the family’s US citizens.
 As a kid, I wanted to visit Mexico, but my mother

 was afraid. Now, she was a brave woman,
 a doctor, the only female in her med school
 class, during a time when only men
 could do such things. But for her, no Mexico.

 She was scared they would stop her at the border
 on the way back, and she would get stranded, alone.
 I thought that was foolish and silly, I remember.
 How could that happen? America was the land

 of the free! Well, Mama, today you’d be right.
 America great again. You were always right.

—Draft by Vince Gotera    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]


I’m realizing now my mother was actually a permanent exile. She also never visited the Philippines, never visited her homeland, probably because of those same immigrant fears. Sad. Too bad there are people in our country now who still harbor those fears.

Purely by coincidence, another poem about my mom was published yesterday by Silver Birch Press: “Mama’s Ring We Thought Lost — Stolen — Then Found.” I hope you’ll go read it . . . click here.


Alan’s poem today comes with no intro, so I’ll provide an intro based on my understanding of the events that transpired. The poem uses the prompts in an interesting way: a portrait not of a person as we usually think of that word, but rather a kind of collective “person,” a hive, that’s of great importance to Alan, which then must travel to survive.

The Karen Cajka Bees Go to Jonesborough

Palm Sunday morning we stood in dew
and waited for the tattooed bee guys
to come and take away the Karen Cajka bees,
the bees who came to live in my family’s front yard
the spring before our beloved friend left us too soon
and reminded so many of us the ache
of a heart feeling depleted and too full at the same time.

They gave a hollowed sassafras a different life a while.
A bit more than a dozen years before, the sassafras
had triplet trunks, one bent to touch the ground,
an arch of leafy trunk that I was sure would root
again, but one who came to cut black locusts out
convinced us that the arch would kill the tree
and lopped it off, its upright twins remaining with a stump,
its twins surviving not too long, the branches broke,
the trunks broke too, and, creaking, dead, and hollow stood
to die in time. Across the street, a schoolyard lot
then underwent development, and old trees
that had ringed the paths got taken down,
and, soon, one afternoon, I found the bees
had nested in the hollow trunk. I felt myself
brand new, like blossoming; for weeks before, I’d circled
near wildflowers in our lot, in hopes of some assurance
of a bee, that life was working as it needs to work,
but now I had new neighbors in a hive,
to greet as I passed by, to say aloud what thoughts
I had to say to understand. New life, new living life,
the trunk a thrumming drum I felt
when resting hands upon its weathered bark
and speaking to someone I couldn’t see but felt.

But what old body holds a life too long?
I saw where bark in patches fell away,
I found a big gnawn hole too near the hive
that lay exposed, I watched the wind bend
both twin trunks until they creaked. I spoke
to Thomas Crofts, medievalist, who farms
and would keep bees, an apiculturist in heart,
and we began our search to save the bees
and found a pair prepared to salvage them.

Palm Sunday morning we stood in dew,
my wife Barbara, Thomas and Molly, Adam (our student), and I,
and watched the eastern face of the trunk
grow brighter as the sun rose, watched
first stirrings of the hive, some huddled bees
not ready yet to fly, and waited
for the bee guys to arrive.
The day before, one of them came to scout
the situation, gauge the piece to be transported,
make the choice to keep the hive intact
instead of tearing down the trunk
to take the queen, but here he was,
he and his friend, with little more
than masking cloth, a ladder far too short,
a piddling chain saw, and a Subaru
to take away the trunk, the kind
of situation that makes a person
think about financial liability
that’s covered in a homeowner’s policy
making me question, making me doubt.
But, with the extra hands, my own ladder,
and the rack on my three-quarter ton pickup,
we eventually eased the angry trunk down,
its surface warming fast, its buzzing loud,
its scent of hive grown stronger in the heat.
Lashed to the rack, each entrance closed,
the log gum rode to Jonesborough,
down Market Street, a dreary stretch
of car parts stores and laundromats
where vapers count their change as nervous tics,
to be lashed again to a tulip poplar trunk
on a small farm with a big, friendly dog.
We ripped the fabric covers from each entrance
and expected angry bees would spill outside,
but few would leave the hive at first,
transported to this new home so the hive
can thrive, releasing swarms of life exchanging life.

A single creaking trunk remains,
I’ve left the ladder in the yard,
I walk among the older trees
in our back lot, in hope of bees.

—Draft by Thomas Alan Holmes    [Do not copy or quote . . . thanks.]

Alan, I hope another queen finds one of your trees to start a hive. Thank you for a wonderful story.


Friends, won’t you comment, please? Love to know what you’re thinking. To comment, look for a red line below that starts Posted by, then click once on the word comments in that line. If you don’t find the word “comments” in that line, then look for a blue link below that says Post a comment and click it once. Thanks!

Ingat, everyone.   


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