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: 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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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.

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