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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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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About My Mother

Mom

My mother died on January 25, 2011. She had been ill for years, and this last time she’d gone to the hospital in congestive heart failure it was clear she would not recover. Kept comfortable by the hospital staff, we waited around her bed for her last breaths.

Later, after several phone calls, a visit from a friend and more calls, I had my time alone and was up quite late. As I sat outside in the quiet of the January night watching the snow gently fill the air and fall in a soft blanket on all around me, the poem came to me in nearly one complete piece. I carefully went inside and tiptoed to my desk and quietly went back outside to the swing, wrote it down slowly, line for line, all as if I was afraid I’d scare it away, all the beautiful words I’d been thinking, or maybe I’d break it, like a bubble. I changed very little in a rewrite.

I read this poem at her memorial. And I had decided I would go through with my poetry reading, just two days after my mother died, because it was an opportunity to share her with others to read the new poem.

I could never encapsulate 85 years of a life into one blog post or one photo or one poem, so I won’t even try, but I want to share this. The photo above is the one we placed in our mother’s casket, her wedding photo from 1946 when she was 21 years old. The little scrap of red in the lower left corner is the shirt she wore, the one she loved best, and I knew she’d want to be remembered in it; our mother was one who could wear a red chiffon blouse in her casket and be proud.

About My Mother

Regardless of the many outstanding qualities any person may have
we are essentially remembered for only one of them.
In my mother, all would agree
this one would be her remarkable beauty.

All through her life the compliments trailed her
as she carefully maintained “the look”, her look, so glamorous,
from tailored suits to taffeta dresses to palazzo pants,
hair perfectly styled, nails manicured and painted
a collar set just so, cuffs casually turned back,
hair worn long, past the age of 50,
a dark, even tan and shorts into her 80s,
lipstick always perfectly applied,
and even at 84
people marveled on her perfect skin,
dark curly hair,
and big bright smile.

I see that smile
when I see my sister smile,
and I see my mother’s active, athletic bearing
when I look at my brother,
and her gray eyes are mine.
In each of her grandchildren
and great-grandchildren
I see her round face,
graceful hands, pert nose,
proud upright posture
and a million other of her features and habits
and in all of us
her wild curly hair
is part of her legacy to us.

When we look at each other from now on
we will see the part of her she gave to each of us,
this little cluster of people who came from her
and who were her greatest treasure,
and when she looks at us from wherever she is
she will know that
she cannot be forgotten.

Poem About My Mother © 2011 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

A Winter Sunset

A Winter Sunset

Soft colorful sky
soaring, trees black rough earth
bound; winter sunset.

Poem, Haiku, A Winter Sunset by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2013,  may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author. Links to this page are fine.

Poem for Saturday: I Had to Call My Brother

Pirates-hat-1000px

They traded Andrew McCutcheon
and I had to call my brother and
hear his side of the story,
I don’t care what the Pirates do
or really anything about sports
but my brother lived for it all
and I liked to hear
his normal voice discussing
games and stats and history
as if it was the history
of the world,
his voice,
the one without the
vodka or Jack Daniels,
quick and clear,
humorous,
alive,
but he is not.

I will not call,
but I will enjoy that moment
that might have been.

Poem I Had to Call My Brother by Bernadette E. Kazmarski © 2018, may not be reproduced in any way without express written permission of the author.

Every once in a while we want to share a moment with someone who has died, and sometimes this is painful if we’ve momentarily forgotten they are gone. I knew my brother had died when this moment came up, but still I wanted to hear his answer, and that voice speaking from who he might have been. My brother died in 2016, somewhat unexpectedly, but perhaps not considering his lifestyle.  Through the years, even back to his teens, I had grown so tired of the rambling drunken conversation that though I really don’t pay any attention to sports I would hear some nugget of information that I knew he would talk about. The Pittsburgh Pirates really did trade Andrew McCutcheon, who seemed like a great guy as well as a good player and was extremely well-liked by the team and the city which was how I recognized what this trade was news. I knew Mark would have a lot to say about this one.

I just drafted this poem and for the moment I’m pleased with it. I may find some things to change about it in time, though. I don’t mind letting poems evolve.


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My Garden Waits Under a Blanket of Spring

My Garden Waits Under a Blanket of Spring

My garden waits under a blanket of spring
gently rippled snow comforting the earth
drowsing buds protected undercover
will burst and pour forth
hot, humid mornings, big yellow spiders, baskets of green beans
this heavy cover now protects, will melt and nourish.

poem © 2010 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

When I look at my garden, surprised at all its hillocks and gulleys remembered full of life and covered so deeply and densely with growing things, I wonder how the miracle ever happens again that I have baskets of beans and tomatoes just a few months later when all seems frozen and gone. It’s really not. As one of those ironies of nature where unrelated processes fit together like a puzzle to make a whole ecosystem, it’s the icy blanket of snow that would seem to smother and freeze and end the potential that actually keeps the spark of life warm.


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