Poem: Dogwoods

Dogwood Blossom

The dogwoods are blooming up and down my street.
The breaking of the cold,
The unusually warm, brilliant spring day
Has brought my neighbors out to wash cars and cut grass.
Like the returning birds
Their conversations drift and circle from yard to yard
And cross the street on capricious breezes;
We have been put away all winter
Like articles of summer clothing
Our potential at rest,
Yet now, even at night,
Pale, airy clouds of blossoms
Hover in the darkness all over the neighborhood.

poem “Dogwoods” ©2005 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I’ve never seen another dogwood like mine except out in the woods here in western Pennsylvania, which is where I found it. With friends, I was exploring an old abandoned farm that had been sold for development. A long row of blooming daffodils lined the driveway, leading us to the spot where the house had been; only an open rectangle of grass was left, but it was surrounded by forsythia and roses and lilacs and Star of Bethlehem spilling around in the grass and many, many more plants which would have bloomed all through the growing season. Someone had loved growing things and so did we, so we took what we could to preserve their memory knowing they’d only be plowed under.

Off in the woods, irregular clouds of white blossoms lit the shadows along what had been roads or paths to outbuildings, and we found lovely native dogwoods with the largest flowers I’ve ever seen, at least four inches across with creamy ridged petals and the characteristic divot at the end of each. What had been but a twig growing on a hillside in the woods is now a full and fervent tree with white flowers in spring, dense green leaves all summer, bright red fruits in late summer and red-violet leaves in fall. Who could improve on that?

After a long exhilarating day of spring yard work, as it bloomed in my yard I saw it at night, a hazy glowing shape, the light of spring that could not be extinguished even by darkness. Hence, this poem.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar; Dogwoods and Road Trip, Late July, Western Pennsylvania were both chosen as two of the first entries and led to my annual poetry readings—more on that below.

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.


I’m proud to offer a folio of my poetry

Paths I Have Walked: the poetry and art of Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.
Paths I Have Walked, collected poems.

FROM FOUR ANNUAL POETRY READINGS AT ANDREW CARNEGIE FREE LIBRARY & MUSIC HALL IN CARNEGIE, PA

People who attended one or more of my poetry readings encouraged me to publish some of my poetry in a book from the beginning.

Once I completed my 2010 poetry reading, my fourth featuring the final piece of artwork in the “Art of the Watershed” series, I decided it was time to publish something and it should be those four poetry readings.

Poetry books are not best-sellers; it’s difficult to convince a publisher to risk effort on a beginning poet, and while self-publishing is the best option it’s not inexpensive and once you’ve got the book, someone’s got to market it. Plus, I’m a graphic designer and I designed books for years, and I want things my way.

All of this is a recipe for a little bit of trouble, but I decided the book was well worth the effort so I designed the book myself and had a set printed—no ISBN or anything formal, but it’s a start! I’m really excited to offer it.

Books are 4.25″ x 11″, 40 pages of information and poetry, with glossy covers featuring “Dusk in the Woods” and little thumbnails of all four pieces in “Art of the Watershed”.

$8.00 each plus $2.50 shipping (they are oversized for mailing first class).

You can order one below or on Portraits of Animals.

About the books and the poetry readings

My biggest inspiration for poetry, prose and artwork is the world right around me, and I enjoy the opportunity to share it from the perspective of one who walks and hikes and bikes and carries a camera, art materials and journal everywhere—even around the house—so the inspirations are fresh.

In December, 2006, two of my poems were chosen to be published on a section of the Prairie Home Companion website entitled “Stories From Home/First Person” for submissions of writing about the place we feel most familiar. I’m a long-time listener to PHC and reader of Garrison Keillor’s books as well as a daily listener to The Writer’s Almanac featuring news about writers and writing and of interest to writers as well as a poem, all compiled and read by Keillor himself. I was astonished to find my poems were among the first chosen from apparently thousands, and so happy to be able to share them with a potential audience of so many similarly inclined writers and readers.

My poetry readings and art exhibits were the vision of Maggie Forbes, executive director of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, after learning of my publishing of those two poems. I owe her many thanks for encouraging me to present this combination of my visual and literary art, a first for me. I love that building, every inch of it, and the opportunity to bring people in to visit is an honor.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

Poem in Progress: Spring Tonic

Spring Tonic
Spring Tonic
Spring Tonic

Dead nettle,
bittercress,
wild garlic,
once healing tonics
taken in spring,
today only weeds,
unwanted,
except by me
for my eyes and palette
served in a bed of vivid fresh greens.

A poem in progress ©Copyright Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Just getting a little sentimental about my garden.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

Poem: Angelic Morning

Angel Wings
Angel Wings
Angelic Morning

So much is wrong
So much is sad
So much cannot be fixed
The detritus of the past lies all about
But I find also diaphanous angel wings filled with eternal sunshine
Bright smiling eyes of faerie flowers
Reflecting the tranquil blue of the sky’s protective arch
The old daffodil has stories to tell
And joy appears in the most common of things
Beauty, good, exist in every moment
Like the stars in daylight
Always shining
But only seen in the darkest hour.

poem “Angelic Morning” © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Winter is finally is beginning to give over to spring after a few false starts, and I am finding flowers in my yard. We all walk through difficult times and feel as if spring as a metaphor for relief, healing, rest, or morning after a long night will never come, but it does because in fact is always there hidden by what we expect to see. Sometimes all we need to do is look around us, and there it is.

The words came to me inspired by the beauty in a humble spring morning in 2015. At that time this was a poem in progress, but now it’s graduated to a finished poem. Below is a slideshow of other photos that inspired these words.

Please feel free to download and share this graphic I made for social networking.

Read other poems and poems in progress.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

Poem: To Come Again in Spring

Tiny Spider

In this sepia scene
of late-winter twigs and matted leaves
I found the small tattered orb she had built that lasted the winter,
this tiny creature no larger than a grain of sand
now curled in the center, her spirit long
gone
from her desiccated body,
yet her tiny children,
awakened by a warming spring sun,
will emerge from all the crevices
in the plant she chose as their birthplace
and find that her final creation
helps provide their first meal,
delicate strands catch the earliest gnats,
though these too be
the children of other mothers
full of hope for the generation of children
they will never meet;

and so the returning songbirds will catch
the tiny spiders as they leave their web of safety
and find sustenance to begin their families
all life toiling through the year to grow and thrive
to prepare for the dark of winter
and to come, again, in spring.

Poem To Come Again in Spring © 2011 B.E. Kazmarski

As the spring unfolds with longer days and milder temperatures, we remember what has passed.

It was the tiny spider in the delicate, worn web that inspired this slideshow from 2009 and poem from 2011.

Each year I leave the plants in my garden standing for the birds, insects and other residents of my garden to use for winter accommodations. In spring of 2009 I began preparing the garden section by section and happened to see this spider and her delicate web outlined in the spring sunshine. She had died long before but continued to cling there all winter long, and her web held up against any number of storms.

Her eggs would have been laid on the stem adjacent to her web which would catch the first insects in spring, and when they hatched the little spiders could have their first meal of the insects caught in the web and use her web as a launching pad. I found it so moving that on that bright early March afternoon I went through my garden looking for other such images.

All the other native plants had left behind their skeletons, and the effect of these was haunting, like finding a ghost town or an unknown world.

I had to let them say their last goodbye. I photographed each desolate construction with attention to extreme details you might never notice to show the intrinsic, transient beauty of these empty shells. The sepia tones are the natural coloring of the plants in the stark spring sunlight, that interim color palette between the blues of winter and the greens of spring. Here is a link  to the original slideshow of photos taken that day; when you view it, you’ll see that many of the plants I’ve photographed are criss-crossed with tattered little webs.

I read this poem at my 2011 poetry reading at Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall, but did not set up a web page for that reading, and it is not included in my poetry book.

In 2017 I found another inspiration in these “Winter Leftovers”: What Stays With Us.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

Poem: Things I Found in the Woods

Things I Found in the Woods

Dedicated to Moses, the most gentle, loving being I have ever encountered.

Tiny rivulets of water released from thawing soil
flowing beneath last year’s debris, trickling and gurgling all around
hurrying down hillsides before the freeze returns.

A cup-shaped fungus holding a tablespoon of snowmelt
for a song sparrow to sip, practicing its vernal melody
for the time when spring arrives in earnest.

Ferns, newly-green, draped on cliffs,
fluttering like garlands in the mild, caressing breeze
gathering a little nourishment to last the rest of the winter.

Fallen trees blanketed with bright green moss,
thick and lush already in the brief January thaw
filling a span of life in but a few days.

Four young white-tailed deer, capricious as the gusts,
feeling the flush of their first spring as adults
cavorting as if winter might not return tomorrow.

An understanding that life and love are cycles,
and that the moment must be taken for what it offers
even if what it offers is not what we expect.

The strength and courage to show as much dignity as you,
and to walk this last precious part of your path with you
and when I can walk no more beside you
to let you go.

“Things I Found in the Woods” © 2006 B.E. Kazmarski

Please visit The Creative Cat to read about the inspiration for this poem.

I also recorded this poem with a slide show of images which you can watch here on on YouTube.

And because I am a graphic designer, I put together an image and the poem to share and keep.

"Things I Found in the Woods", image and words.
“Things I Found in the Woods”, image and words.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

Poem in Progress: Rising Up to Meet You

Rising Up to Meet You
Rising Up to Meet You
Rising Up to Meet You

Still,
in midwinter,
I will rise to meet you
though my stem be bent and brittle
for where we touch
there will be spring.

poem copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Just a draft of verse in contemplation of this weathered wildflower which blooms so fiery red in summer.

Or…

What strange sun is this
found in tatters of winter
holding memories of summer.

poem copyright © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

I like them both. Who says I can’t find two inspirations in one moment? So I have two new poems.

It’s an empty seed cluster from monarda, or bee balm, just happened to be touched by late afternoon sun while the snow beneath it was in shadow, its bent stem a blur beneath it. This is what it looks like in summer.

Bee Balm with Bee
Bee Balm with Bee

You can find these poems, together for the moment, in my Poetry Archive.

I also designed a graphic to share on social media. Feel free to download and share.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

For Martin Luther King Jr. Day: I Don’t Want To Be Colorblind

January 20, 2014
January 20, 2014
January 20, 2014

I Don’t Want To Be Colorblind

I don’t want to be
colorblind,
I want to paint
what I see,
the colors of our faces
like flowers,
not different
but tones of each others’
faces
as we turn toward the light,
we blend so beautifully.

poem and artwork © 2014 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

~~~

The illustration above is a sampler of all the shades of pastel I’ve used while painting portraits and sketches of people of all different “colors”, skin tones and ethnicities. Tell me, who is “black” and who is “white”? And what does “colored” mean?

In truth, we are all “colored”. Each of our faces has the darkest and lightest tones and all those in between, and even some colors we’d be surprised to find in skin tones. I can tell you that all the colors I smudged there have appeared in the  highlights and shadows and mid-tones of every face. It largely depends on where you are standing in relation to the light.

Some people have suggested that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s dream of black children and white children going forward hand in hand, the ideal of seeing a person not for the color of their skin but for the content of their character, had the goal of a “colorblind” society. That’s a noble ideal on one hand, where we just don’t notice the color of a person’s skin in any situation and go on from there.

But does that truly bring justice to wrongdoing and change society in a way that makes the injustice people have suffered because of that color unacceptable? To suddenly begin to ignore the color of a person’s skin and jump immediately to integration is to jump right over the injustices done to people because of the color of their skin. It’s also ignoring an essential part of another person, shutting the door on a section of their life, a part that makes them distinctive.  King did not use the term “colorblind” in any speech or written document, but his point is described by historians as a more “color aware” society where we recognize our differences, celebrate them and thereby heal through those very differences among ourselves.

When I create a piece of visual artwork I look for what makes the subject inspiring to me, what makes it distinctive, what makes me excited to share it with you. I like contrasts, I find what makes my subject different in its class, what makes it stand out from its surroundings. It’s my joy to find and share “the extraordinary in the ordinary”. If everything I painted looked the same, what need would there be for artwork?

Looking at people has always been like looking at a field of flowers for me—I find it hard to settle on one before I skip to another while I enjoy the visually exciting effect of all those different colors and shapes and heights and structures. Then I can can pause on each one and get to know each in its own unique detail.

When I rode the bus, long before I painted anything let alone a human portrait, I quietly studied all the faces around me for color and shape and texture, eye color, the hair that framed it, accessories and jewelry, and was often started by a stern expression of someone who didn’t understand why I studied them so intently. I was just looking for the things that made them unique and beautiful—not in the classic sense of beauty but in the classical sense, in that beauty is truth, in being true to who we are inside showing that on the outside, like the flower in the field that can’t help but be what it is.

If we are colorblind, we intentionally ignore some of the fundamental differences that make each of us irreplaceable. That denies a basic part of our personal existence and of human existence as a species; it denies a portion of our very identity as an individual.

That takes an awful lot of effort. Why not admit to our differences and get to know each other in full, and find the beauty in each of us. We have always been and will always be different from each other and might as well get used to it.

This 1996 essay entitled “Misusing MLK Legacy and the Colorblind Theory” explains more about King’s “color awareness”.

~~~

Read more poetry here on Today or visit my poetry page to see more about my poetry and other writing, and to purchase Paths I Have Walked.

~~~

All Rights Reserved.   ♦   © Bernadette E. Kazmarski   ♦   PathsIHaveWalked.com

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