Poem for Saturday: As Beautiful

090514-BacklitBouquet
090514-BacklitBouquet
Backlit Bouquet

Had I not chanced by
as setting sun
reached deep into the autumn woods
to touch your face,
you would still have been
as beautiful.

poem copyright 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

If the sunlight illuminates a flower in the woods but no one is around to see it, is it still beautiful?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but if no eye beholds it, is it still beauty?

I photographed this scene for the obliquely backlit combination of bold yellow coneflower and delicate wormwood with all the varied patterns and shades of green in the background, silhouettes, shadows, blurs and bokeh, and titled the photo “Backlit Bouquet”. But the image had more to say.

I walked along the trail as the sun set and could see as it moved that features were randomly highlighted—a cluster of leaves, a flower, the bark on a tree, and in watching the process it almost seemed intentional, as if some force or the sun itself wanted me to notice these things.  As each thing was featured it did appear beautiful to me, but the one coneflower in the group that was highlighted gave me a new perspective. I would not have noticed them otherwise, and the one that was highlighted indeed seemed more beautiful than the rest because of the highlight of its graceful fall of petals, bold yellow color and soft rounded center, and all else seemed to be a backdrop to its special prominence.

When I shared the photo I scribbled the first draft of a new poem.

Your beauty
delicate, ephemeral, eternal;

had I not chanced by
as setting sun journeyed deep into the autumn woods
to touch your face
you would still have been
as beautiful.

I knew it wasn’t quite right. “We’ll see what it develops into some time in the future,” I said then.

A few weeks later the poem was still with me. Once I’d written the rest, I found I just didn’t need those two first lines, they felt heavy and formal, and without them I found I could reorganize the lines of the poem, especially that really long one that I couldn’t split before. I also changed the word “journeyed” to “reached” because it was more of what I’d intended, remembering the sunlight that day as it moved down toward the horizon and reached and touched different spots deep in the woods. Added a comma too, and it became the finished poem above.

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Almost Missed

Grapes
Grapes 1
Grapes 1

Tiny purple grapes
in dusky skins
amid their glowing autumn foliage;
looking so hard for what I wanted
I forgot what I was looking for
and found what was there,
almost missed.

poem copyright 2014 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

Grapes 2
Grapes 2

When the tiny green grapes began to turn dusky purple and the leaves to gold, I envisioned an image of them in their contrasting and complementary brilliance, sunny, glowing gold and rich purple. Each day I took more and more photos hoping to find that vision.

Grapes 3
Grapes 3

It was not to be. Grape leaves tend to fall before they turn yellow, and are burnished with brown and gray as well. The sun was not going to wash these leaves and grapes at the right angle for the image I wanted. But in the process I took a lot of photos that I didn’t even notice were truly descriptive of the grapes.

wild grapes
Grapes 4

Sometimes I can let go of all my expectations before I begin a creative venture. Perhaps sometimes I need to work my way through my expectations and come out the other end without them.


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If There Weren’t Morning Glories

101013-MorningGlories

101013-MorningGlories

I don’t have enough sun to grow morning glories in my yard, so I take advantage of others’ lovely pink and purple trumpets. For years I’ve photographed the morning glories that come up from seeds along the wrought iron fence by my neighbor’s white barn garage in the alley near me. Then one year they were not there, and never have been again, and I miss them, but this morning reminds me so much of the year when I spent way too long photographing them. I’m so glad I did.

I have been kind of obsessed with morning glories in alleys lately—they’ve just suddenly sprung up so I’ve shared some of my old favorites, draped over old fences and gates and growing up downspouts, but I’m trying not to spend too much time on them right now when I’m really busy.

I would get more
done
if there weren’t
morning glories
in
the alley

poem copyright 2013 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

They got the better of me one October day a few years ago, and after a GB+ of photos of the lovely purple and pinks by the white barn and a quick scribble of a thought I decided to spend some time on something I visualized while photographing and finishing my walk home. The thought was a very literal one—I should get home, I had things to do before the end of the day and if I hadn’t encountered such exuberant and colorful beauty while walking down the alley I would probably have been home already.

But I wouldn’t have these many photos of morning glories, each of which I’ll use somewhere sometime, even if I only look at them one winter day, and I wouldn’t have that sweet spontaneous, the exercise of my creative intellect from coming upon such beauty that had me let go of what I needed to do, only to come back and do it better than I would have if I had ignored the morning glories and come straight home. Soon the morning glories will be grayish withered memories and I may be too, so it was extra important to capture it.

Please share! And don’t forget to tarry a while by the morning glories.


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The Clock in the Bathroom

Bathroom-clock-1000px

The clock on my bathroom windowsill
tells whatever time it pleases.
A small, cheap battery-operated alarm clock,
the works inside have begun to let go
and the hands move independently of each other and of time,
skimming around the dial like birds circling in the sky,
flying first in opposite directions
then together.
I keep it because it’s mint green
and matches the new color scheme.

I am often late for things
and admit that most of my life
I have not taken time seriously
much to the consternation of those who wait for me.
Some say it’s the artist’s temperament
that I’m “out of touch with reality,”
that I’m “in my own world,”
but the truth is that there is always another creative idea
begging for attention,
and I have to give it its time
because that’s how creativity works.
That idea is not always a new painting
or a lyrical poem,
sometimes it’s the design for a customer’s logo,
or the perfect brochure copy for another’s promotion,
or the solution to why the website won’t work the way I think it should.

Sometimes I need to just be still and let thoughts happen
and leave time behind because the solution to the problem
is more important than the time it takes,
and the bright new bathroom, clean and open,
the window framing treetops and sky
just right for dreaming,
and the mint green clock on the windowsill
that tells whatever time it pleases
suits me just fine.

And while I am often late,
there are also days when I walk into the dark of this bathroom
and look at the deep void of night outside the window,
but the first questioning tweet of a robin rehearsing for the dawn chorus
warms the darkness,
and the light changes to reveal the silhouettes of the trees against the sky, black on black.
I have pursued the latest idea to the ends of my universe without question for the hour,
I contentedly watch the sky change from black to blue,
the birds now singing in earnest,
a gift to my exhausted creative mind, cramped hands and tired eyes.
Younger, I might have watched the entire show,
showered and gone on with my day, but not now.
I’ll nap, wake up later than I should,
and probably be late all day,
but I found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow
and the clock says it’s only 12:37.

poem copyright 2009 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

The clock itself inspired me to write this. Those hands started to let loose and tell times that didn’t even exist. I’ve always contemplated my lateness, and the things that make me so, and know it’s my determination to explore every idea and write that poem, draft that short story, sketch that sketch, take that photo, think those thoughts. It’s how I make my living, and the customer who might benefit from it is certainly happy I took the time.


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Five Sentence Fiction: Foretold

Sluggish Bumblebee

The morning’s brilliant sunshine belied the cool air, but the bumblebee, sluggish at breakfast on the spent seed head, foretold the change to come. The season had been awaiting the moment and the moment was here, and even as the day warmed and the bees efficiently bumbled on their way, grand and beautiful clouds appeared on the horizon, slowly, quietly parading across the sky, their size and numbers more dense each hour until by afternoon the blue overhead was hung with dreamy cotton and the voice of the wind whispered high in the treetops of what was to come. The day grew darker and more quiet until by early evening all was so still and dim that when the first few whispering patters of rain began their sound was clear, though unintelligible, as if speaking a language, like that of the trees, not of this place.

The rain fell quietly all night, lovingly soaking the hardened earth of late summer until, sated, it slept. As the next morning dawned the rain slowed and stopped, the clouds parted and cleared in a reverse of their arrival the day before, leaving the sun to shine brilliantly in the blue dome of morning, but the heat was gone from the earth, once again, for another season.

~~~

I composed this story for a weekly writing challenge, “Five Sentence Fiction”. The keyword was “Breakfast”. I took “breakfast” as a time, not an event or a food because in the heat of August I was impatiently waiting for the season to change.

NewFSFBadge-1


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Poem for Saturday: Balloons

Balloons-pole-1000px

I had no explanation for
the exhilaration of color
floating above the street
undulating through the air
until caught on a utility pole
and identified as a bunch of colored balloons
held together with string
continuing to flutter and wave
against a perfect blue sky
that stopped me as I set out
worried and distracted
on a day of errands I’d rather not be running;
my brain perceived only colors
responded with joy to the distraction
as they moved overhead
and I stopped my car in the middle of the street, watching
as they enveloped the top of the pole, their strings tangled
and I pulled over, parked, left my car,
walked around them, watched them move, took many photos
forgot my worry
and as I drove away
was filled with the joy of colored balloons
against an azure sky.

The day was magic.
Later, they were gone without a trace.

poem copyright 2009 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

This really happened, amid a time of deep worry and sadness for me as I watched my mother’s mental condition deteriorate, knowing she’d soon need skilled care and be lost forever emotionally, then physically.

Though the day was an unusually warm and sunny Saturday in mid-November that felt so normal and even comforting, my errand was to transfer the last of my mother’s money to her bank account so that I could pay her next month’s board in the personal care home. After that her Social Security would not cover the cost. I knew she should be able to stay, regardless, but fighting that battle, after fighting so many other battles for her, seemed daunting. We were waiting for a benefit for her from the VA  which would cover the cost but might never come. And that was all moot because her mental and physical conditions were no longer appropriate for that personal care home anyway. She needed skilled nursing, and there was no money to pay for it.

I took off on my errand focused entirely on the problem, trembling a little and almost nauseated with worry, not at all like me but the escalating events, constant doctor visits and tests and medications to remember and recite to yet other doctors and calls from the personal care home to calm my mother down had totally filled my days and my thoughts. Then I saw the balloons.

I really did exactly as I described, let it take me away into my creative self, then got back into my car happy, laughing, trusting that worrying myself sick would not solve the problem and probably only make it worse. I transferred the money, dropped off the check, visited my mother, took her outside into the beautiful day, then spent several hours just driving around to my favorite spots to look at the landscape, to photograph, to paint, to just be, talked to people I met about other topics, spent a tiny amount of money on a salad in the diner and went home relaxed, exhausted and smiling with a couple hundred photos that I have noted in my folder of photos with the date and only the word “Saturday”. Whenever I scroll past it, I remember the day, the sun, the warmth, the resolution, the balloons.

The next two years were indeed a constant struggle for my mother and her care. Letting go of the worry on that day let me walk the rest of that path without the fear and pain and let me focus on the issue, to be present for my mother regardless of other problems, and still run my business, have my life, and move on to resolve.


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Photo Short Story: When We Courted at Evening

They meet.
He waits.
He waits.

I remember when we courted, when I would sneak down to the tracks by the creek right after dinner, just around the bend from where my parents were settling down for the night, and wait for you.

She arrives.
She arrives.

My heart would skip a beat when I saw you there, waiting for me, I almost flew to your side but thought I should be careful, not knowing you all that well, yet each time I saw your silhouette my love was stronger and I knew you were the one.

They meet.
They meet.

And what silly things did we do but talk about the weather, and what we’d done that day, and what our siblings were doing, and circle around each other and peck at the gravel as if the world hadn’t suddenly stopped turning because we were together.

Talking.
Talking.

Just a few minutes, we never wanted to draw attention, but when I saw the shadows creeping farther and farther across the tracks I knew I had to start back for home to be back by dusk.

Into infinity.
Into infinity.

Who would think, all these years and all these children, and I still carry these memories of you walking to see me in the warm evening light.

Just being together.
Just being together.

~~~

I composed this photo story for a weekly writing challenge, “Five Sentence Fiction”. I took this series of photos walking on Main Street one spring evening recently, where the tracks cross the street and run along the creek where I walk nearly every day, and yet at the right angle they look completely isolated from civilization. I saw the one goose, then a female came to meet him—at a distance I can only tell them from one another by size when male and female are side by side—and they looked and acted so much like a couple of awkward teenagers. I used my 70-300mm zoom lens so I could focus on them and give a little blur to the surroundings; unfortunately in the light it was difficult to see if I was focusing on the geese and in some photos I was focusing on the tracks just in front of them. No matter, I saw a story right away and knew I could even use those photos. The evening light gave the scene an antique look. Then I waited for the keyword that would work for them.

NewFSFBadge-1


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Poem for Saturday: Before the Change

Before-The-Change-2-1000px

Whispering together high overhead
against a cloud-riding sky
the gentle patter of leaves in the wind
of a coming storm
is to be remembered as they are
at the height of their fullness
before the blaze of autumn color
marks the beginning of their end.

poem copyright 2011 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski

~~~

A weather front often affects the conditions far above the earth. If you listen you can hear the leaves in the treetops whispering of the change to come long before it will affect us, and sometimes I seem to hear actual words, though I know it’s just my human senses forming the sounds into a familiar pattern. But these trees know it’s an autumn storm to come, and soon their green leaves will turn to gold and red and bronze. We are enchanted by autumn colors, but they find their true identity when they are still green and strong.

There is always more to another’s  life than we know in our experience of them.


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Poem for Saturday: Clouds

Autumn-1000px

Roiling clouds blown by winds
Before a summer thunderstorm,
Huge constructions in purple and blue
And lurid green tinged with coral.

The delicate lace of a fair summer day,
Puffs and wisps in white and cream
Shaded with lilac and blue
And edged in yellow.

Hazy wisps in autumn
Moving slowly from one horizon to the next,
Never amounting to much.

The heavy purple rainclouds of a late spring afternoon
Looming on the horizon
Shadowing the early wan sun
And promising a rainy night.

The approach of the first storm of winter
As flat gray clouds form in the west,
In their shadow bringing the first reminder
Of the eternal cold of year’s end.

poem copyright 2000 © Bernadette E. Kazmarski


I’ve always loved the language of the sky. I grew up on top of a hill where I could see lots of sky in all directions. Though we lived in a suburban development the open sky was freedom from all the congestion below, and I watched them march overhead, across the valley, in all seasons. Watching the sky was like watching the facial expressions of a deity.

When I had my first solo art exhibit, in addition to the artwork, I worked my writing into the exhibit by pairing images with poems or essays or statements to make little flyers that I could print out on 8.5″ x 11″ paper and mount on the wall. Even though no line in the poem describes the painting, I used the poem Clouds with the purple clouds of an autumn rain looming over the bright trees surrounding a waterway in “Autumn”, part of the four seasons series of paintings.

Clouds, poem for display.
Clouds, poem for display.

You can read about the exhibit and the series of paintings as well as my integration of my visual and literary works in The Extraordinary in the Ordinary.


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After the Flood

ElkStreet-MainStBridge-large-1000px

Dedicated to the people and places of the Chartiers Valley after the flood of September 17, 2004

After a day of rain
the creek has been rising
and by night it thunders down its channel
writhing around its curves like a medieval dragon,
pulling at its banks and anything overhanging,
carrying whatever it can grasp along the way,
and I have seen this creature before
in the creek’s rise and fall,
now tamed by engineering,
filling its channel to the brim, then receding
each spring and summer
and not felt threatened but fascinated
by its power, power not of humans,
power to change absolutely to a form
unrecognizable from its usual character,
yet always returning to the quiet,
sleepy nature which I had explored from childhood.

But I am remembering another night
when the creek refused to stop at its brim
but spilled over and over and over,
thundering down all the hillsides came its sustenance
tributaries filling their valleys as never before,
rushing to join with the writhing creature,
mixing and turning and thrashing and smashing anything in its path
so drunk with its own power
that it forgot all those who loved it,
who lived on its banks and in its valleys,
listened to its soft murmuring voice in the darkness of a summer night,
but even as I pleaded with the creature to stop, it had gone too far,
my friend, my refuge, how could you betray me,
I knew that the creek would not listen,
it was no creature gone on a rampage
it was simply following its nature, and this one time
it defeated our intelligence with its simple power
and all our homes, possessions, lives
were nothing in its path.

The next day the beast no longer raged,
the sun shone and the air was mild,
and the autumn continued like any autumn before,
but we were changed, all of us,
the long journey ahead, longer than we knew
and our place here will never be the same.

poem copyright © 2008 Bernadette E. Kazmarski

September 17, 2004

On September 17, 2004, Hurricane Ivan stayed a little too long in our valley, dumping torrents of rain on our hillsides, already sodden from the visits of three other hurricane remnants in the month prior.

I’d watched Chartiers Creek flood from the time I was a child, and not only did I go to the Catholic school just blocks from the creek but my father’s family lived in the flood plain and nearly every spring there was water in the basement and in the streets, and we would drive to the bridge over the creek at Carothers Avenue and watch the thundering brown water writhe just below our feet on the walkway of the bridge.

When I was young, I was near enough to a bend in this creek to leave our house on the hill and run down through the old pasture to the valley below, along the road and the railroad tracks and to the creek, walking alongside its rippling path or even in the creek bed in the dryness of midsummer. In the late 70s an engineered solution to control the floods dredged and widened the channel, and for 35 years, there were no floods at all, the pollution in the creek from all the industries along its banks cleared up, and we watched the native flora and fauna return as we canoed the channel. Those ramblings with my friend, the creek, have been the inspiration for much of my creative efforts in landscape painting and photography, my poetry and stories, and became the theme for my series of poetry readings and the title of the very first, as well as the folio of my poetry, Paths I Have Walked.

So this flood was a huge shock. We heard later the flood control plan had protected us up to a “100-year flood”, and many of these had passed with no flooding, but the flood we’d experienced was a “500-year flood”, and indeed in all the memories and records of floods in Carnegie, the water had never been this high, rising in a matter of hours in the afternoon and into the night to fill the first floor of some homes on low ground, and as high as eight feet in some areas of Main Street, wiping out nearly every business along Main Street for up to three months.

The flood changed us all. Many people and businesses took years to recover, and some of them never truly recovered at all. My godparents lived in the family’s fine house that had weathered so many floods but floodwater had never entered the first floor, and at their age they were trapped on the second floor with no power, their portable oxygen running low. Though they were rescued and lived with a daughter for a month while we cleaned up the house for them to move back, it was temporary as they realized the house was difficult for them, and they moved to an apartment a few months later.


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