Memorial Day Parade

Memorial Day Parade, pencil, 12 x 16 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Memorial Day Parade, pencil, 12 x 16 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski
Memorial Day Parade, pencil, 12 x 16 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

The sun shines at full volume on the brick street,
The American Legion has equipped everyone with a small American flag on a stick;
Children race around waving their flags
While adults carefully hold their flags,
Mill around looking for a good place to open folding chairs
Waiting for the parade to start.
Politicians roll by in fancy cars and fat shriners on tiny little cycles,
Floats from the Viet Nam War and the VFW,
Cheerleaders and dancers and a polka band
Police bagpipers and Civil War re-enactors and Marines,
Color guards from organizations we’ve never heard of,
Music and car horns and loudspeakers blending into each other as they pass,
Fire trucks, police cars, ambulances from every community around
And we wave and cheer for each of them,
Glad to know that there is someone who will risk their lives for us
on all these levels.

For some reason I always get choked up when I see
The high school marching band,
So seriously playing some arrangement they’d never otherwise listen to
And have spent months learning to play on their instrument,
Marching together in nearly perfect alignment,
Soon to take their places in a bigger parade.

poem copyright © 2009 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Even though Memorial Day was founded to memorialize the losses of the Civil War, it came to be an important day of remembrance for our losses in successive wars as conflicts came nearly every other decade in the century following.

My parents’ generation called Memorial Day “Decoration Day”. It was the weekend to clear away the weeds, trim the grass, and spend time in the cemetery, and the graves of family members were decorated with wreaths and flags and freshly planted flowers, veterans or not. I’m not sure how it had lost the origin for them of remembering those who had died in service to their country but perhaps it had been the European tradition carried on in this country. For me it was a day to think about the grandparents whose difficult lives were over before I could remember them, and think about my parents as children.

I’m not one for parades, but I took my mother to the parades in our town for years, as well as my brother. I amused myself by taking photos of what everyone else was doing, memorializing their actions and reactions of the day.

Prints of the pencil sketch “Memorial Day Parade” are available in the “My Home Town” gallery on PortraitsOfAnimals.net.


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When I Saw the Place We Once Lived

Alley-in-Dusk-1000px

I have never loved so deeply
as I did in that moment in the summer dusk,
hearing footsteps in the alley pause,
my heart racing to hear our gate
softly squeak open;
it was you,
I saw your beloved silhouette
enter our sacred space
coming home from work;
that moment,
stop,
before our loving greeting
dissolves to our angry discontent,
that moment,
just before,
to have it
again.

“Eliot and the coffee spoons have found me once again. Take a poem, leave a poem. Enjoying a night of gallery visits right in my home town.”

This I wrote the night I drafted this poem, mid-March this year, as a caption to a photo. My town was having a crawl of businesses, plus there was a major conference ceramics exhibit and other exhibits too. Unusually warm for this winter I enjoyed my walk and spent some time in the coffeehouse.

I filled a plate with snacks and went to the counter by the window where flyers and newspapers gathered, and a box that said “free poetry” with napkins and paper and pens to write them with, and at least a dozen poems in the bottom of the box. On the side was painted, “I have measured out my life with coffee spoons,” a quote from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, hence the reference in my comment above.

I’d had a poem rumbling around in my thoughts, and as I enjoyed the evening of galleries and friends I was wandering by myself and decided I’d make a creative night of it. When I walked into the coffeehouse I remembered the poetry box and knew I could and should spend time drafting the poem that was trying to be formed.

I had seen this actual place in the days just before that night, driven down the alley noted in the text, and the title, or something very much like it, appeared in my thoughts as if on a marquee, some of the lines scrolling through my thoughts like a ticker on the television. Yes, this is autobiographical, and I honor and learn from writers who can write of their own experiences, painful or otherwise; I truly enjoy learning about them, from themselves. But myself, I’m not sure I want strangers knowing that much about me. Or even people I know. But the stories are good, and this image came to me in a well of memory filled with a fair amount of sadness for the pain of that time. Still, I remembered that moment of anticipation and knew I had to write about it.

At the counter in the coffeehouse I drafted the poem, went to see the two exhibits upstairs and downstairs there, had some more snacks and gave it a rewrite, took a digital photo of it and dropped it in the box. Parts of this final poem are very much changed from that draft, parts are verbatim the little scrolling phrases that came to mind first thing.

Poem “When I Saw the Place We Once Lived” by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2007,  may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this blog are fine.

~~~

The painting used to illustrate this poem is “Alley in Dusk”, an 8 x 10 acrylic painting from 2008. I felt it caught the summer dusk, and the sense of an alley, and waiting in the dark for an action.


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Poem for Saturday: The Creative Curse

April Cloud Study, pastel, 9 x 9 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Oh, please, painting, go away!
Poem, poem, I want to go to bed!
Short story, I will never finish you, especially with you showing up at this late hour!
I wish I’d never allowed myself to start carrying my camera everywhere.

I stop every step and photograph something new and wonderful,
a leaf, the sky, a group of people, my cats, the sun on the wall;
though my walk is ruined by the intrusion,
my day completely rearranged,
they have become an adventure of possibility.

I relax my mind in falling asleep
but an idea blooms meticulously in my imagination
and I have to get out of bed to put the idea back to bed, like a child
whose babbling will soon turn to screams and keep me awake
if I don’t attend to it.

Paintings, sketches develop before my eyes as I simply look around me,
I can visualize the pastels I’ll use, watch my hands blend the colors,
or it may be the distant remembrance of a moment
that nearly broke my heart in its beauty
carried along over time because my heart wants to see that moment again.

Words flow effortlessly in my head, louder than what I hear from the world around me.
Someone talks to me and I struggle to listen above the lyrics,
focus through the beauty and truth being fashioned in my head,
and am grateful for an understanding friend.
I feel besieged by the number of potential creative projects,
bereft at the ones I’ve left undone,
filled with excitement at teetering on the edge of this madness.

poem copyright 2009 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Really, I’ve ended relationships over this, almost wrecked my car, fallen off my bike, been late for everything, stayed up all night as in The Clock in the Bathroom, and while it seems like I’m never complete, never finished, being pulled along, for what I can produce when I’m inspired and share later I am eternally grateful.

About the artwork

The painting I’ve included to illustrate this poem is one that grew from one of those cursed moments. I was supposed to be inside working, but the sky was so beautiful I just wandered outside with my pastels and painted the sky. “April Cloud Study”, 9 x 9, pastel, can be found on PortraitsOfAnimals.net.


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Poem for Saturday: A Little Thaw

A Little Thaw

The silence of ice
hard-smooth glaringly mocking
a manufactured perfection
life, birth, spring
held captive in plain view
under a solid clear glaze
pale world strangely hushed
I tiptoe through
afraid to break the surface with my sound
but a snap, a crack, a drip, another
whispers return to life around me
once broken, the ice cannot hold its captives
dripping, pattering, babbling
life begins again
the stream torrent rushing
beneath the clear, fragile, broken cage of its captor.

poem copyright 2011 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


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Poem for Saturday: Flocks of Children

Flocks of Children

Swirling, swooping clouds of starlings
fill the air
noisy, babbling conversation
flying about the neighborhood
flocks of children
run in circles, laughing
up and down the streets.

poem copyright 2010 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

~~~

Working in the garden one sunny later winter afternoon I watched the shadows of birds flying randomly about over my head criss-crossing the soil as I worked, and listened to their babbling mingling with the shrieks and laughs of children running around for the pure joy of it.

I took the photo of the starlings flitting around one of my bird feeders, thrilled to catch three of them in mid-air. I cropped and filtered the photo to serve the mood.


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Poem for Saturday: The Last Red Berries

The ast Red Berries

What gentle lesson I learn from this nightshade,
unwanted in its habitat, its toxins legendary,
growing as it is from a crack in the pavement
no other greenery but itself for comfort,
facing unprotected the wind and cold and precipitation
splashed with road salt and motor oil and antifreeze,
yet gracefully spreading tangled limbs against the snow and
offering its berries to birds,
who tolerate its poison and disperse its seeds,
one of the last food sources available
after a long winter,
and patiently waiting for spring.

Surely in all this, all have our place in the story.

poem copyright 2010 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

The ground still covered with a foot of snow, the streets with ice, in March, I would have thought anything edible had already been eaten. I walked my errands to Main Street especially then because the streets were crowded with piles of snow, and no parking spaces were available.

But as the snow melted there emerged bright red berries, plump and shiny, held over from last autumn. I took an eyeful of those berries, and many photos, so inspired by their tenacity, thinking of how nightshade is usually ripped out yet here would likely save the lives of a few backyard birds because it had been missed. It waited with dignity to fulfill its role.


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The First Geranium

First Geranium

My first geranium blossom started me out on an ode to spring:

Warm, bright, in wisdom,
nature signals it’s time for love
even in cold rain.

Then turned unutterably sad:

Will they never bloom
nor feel another spring rain;
so young now, lives crushed in mud.

Life begins, life ends, but not in a natural course.

~~~

Sadness for the lives lost in the Parkland school shooting.

After I published this post I changed the title to “Beauty Crushed in Mud”. I will probably continue working with this subject.


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Poem for Saturday: Snow in the Cemetery

Snow in the Cemetery

How many snowfalls have gently covered this ground,
How many summer sunsets flared against the rock of this cliff,
How many feet have trod this sacred spot, human and animal alike,
Stood on this outcropping as I do today
feeling history beneath my feet
in the remains of recent generations
and from the millennia.

The land, carved by the wiles of nature through the past,
stretches out before me, opening
into the hills and valleys of the future
and I wonder,
have all the watchers felt the same exhilaration
at the potential of the unknown
and, so moved, place their beloveds’ remains in this high cliff
so that they could still watch eternity unfold
beneath a comforting blanket of snow?

poem Snow in the Cemetery ©2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

How many snowfalls have blanketed this site in Carnegie, white flakes silently falling all around and filling the valley seen from this cliff?

Currently, it’s Ross Colonial Cemetery, named so for the Ross family of settlers around the time of the Revolutionary War and it contains graves and headstones that date from that time as well as more recent ones.

But the site has been a lookout for millennia. One can stand on the cliff’s edge and see most of the valley containing Carnegie and the oxbow of Chartiers Creek as it enters and leaves town. My mother told me her brothers and others found Native American artifacts in this area.

Standing there in any weather, I can feel the history beneath my feet, the land unchanged by time, holding the memories of all the watchers, like me, looking off into the distance of the valley and of history.


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Pussy Willow in the Snow

Pussy Willow in the Snow

Imagine the pussy willow flower,
a soft white catkin bursting open its
hard, protective shell
swelling into a furry powderpuff
sprouting yellow pollen fronds
attracting the season’s first buzzing bees.

They’ll do this sometimes
during a one-day thaw
so eager are they for life,
ignoring ice and snow still hanging on their shells
and temperatures too low to sustain life,
breaking open their carapace
to the warm caress of winter sun
yet they’ll survive through later storms
for the real life-giving sun of spring.

Who would think such a tiny, soft flower
would have the strength to break apart its hard shell
and then survive in such inhospitable conditions?

Enjoy the respite in the storm
keep protected from the elements
but not so well protected
that you miss the rare winter sun
caressing your face.

Poem, Pussy Willow in the Snow by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2011, may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this page are fine.


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Poem for Saturday: The Pause to Smile

The Pause to Smile

One brief stripe of sun,
last chance
before sunset,
the pause to smile
when leaving,
turns onions and potatoes
to bronze, rubies and gold.

Poem, The Pause to Smile by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2014,  may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this page are fine.

The photo included in this post is the very one that inspired the poem.


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