Month: January 2017

What This Year Will Be Like

Photos from March in Sacramento, January 21, 2017

I have a poem-a-day book; it is named 365 Poems for Every Occasion. When I am looking for a fortune or a horoscope—some forecast—I search for meaning in the poem for the day. Yesterday’s poem was William Stafford’s “Once in the 40s.” Before reading the piece, I wonder whether 40s refers to temperature, the 1940s, or middle age. After reading, I know it aptly fits all of these possibilities.

We were alone one night on a long road in Montana.

This was in winter, a big night, far to the stars.

We had hitched, my wife and I, and left our ride at

a crossing to go on. Tired and cold—but

brave—we trudged along. This, we said,

was our life, watched over, allowed to go

where we wanted. We said we’d come back some time

when we got rich. We’d leave the others and find

a night like this, whatever we had to give,

and no matter how far, to be so happy again.

https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/once-40s

I mosey through the book as if it is a bustling farmers’ market, noticing what is in season. I meet each page as a tourist rapt in her adventure. January’s themes center on new starts and cold and dreams and hard-won joy. I quietly wonder how the editors could have known what this month would be like.

When I receive a calendar, I look first for the emblem depicting July, my birth month. My 2017 calendar: Goats in Trees features three goats and the legs of two others in stick of a tree. The part of me craving prescience, some prediction for what to expect for the month makes me compare my month’s ungenerous number of goats to, for example, January’s single specimen or June’s ample display of a tree appointed with more than nine billies and nannies and a herd of nearly twenty (eighteen) below. But who’s counting? And does their color matter?

My jealous heart still weighing my fortunes, I note that the July chapter of my poem-a-day collection is equally relevant to this January’s presidential inauguration and the Women’s March (on Washington, on Sacramento, and more). Independence Day yields half dozen poems with America in their titles.

My travels in Europe over winter break, in the looming shadow of a Trump presidency, yielded more questions, comments, and criticism about America than other travels have. I have no answers. I look to tomorrow’s poem: Edgar Allan Poe’s “Dream within a Dream.”

There is little as unpredictable as being a tourist. Poe ends the poem with the relevant question: Is all that we see or seem/But a dream within a dream?

Rushing into the Music

belfast-castle

In Belfast, we took the Hop On and Hop Off sightseeing bus to get a cursory glimpse of the city still decorated for Christmas, on the verge of the New Year. From the Titanic museum, to the Belfast Peace Wall, to Belfast Castle (photo above), we were immersed in the setting of huge history lessons, including our own family’s history, including news of how one of the cousins was married in a ceremony at the sprawling Castle.

When I was a high school student, my history teacher once criticized me for reading history too fancifully, of thinking of castles as having dragons, of conflating fact and fiction. I don’t know how my teacher recognized it, but it was a keen assessment. He did not prescribe it at the time, but I have found travel to be an excellent antidote to irreverence and ignorance.

The tour guide was well-educated, thoughtful, and engaging. Even better, he brought a friend along for the ride. And the friend brought a guitar to entertain on stretches of motorway where there wasn’t much narration to be done.

One of the tunes, “Big Strong Man (My Brother Sylveste),” required audience participation.

Stanza two goes: That was my brother Sylvest’ (What’s he got?)
A row of forty medals on his chest (big chest!)
He killed fifty bad men in the west; he knows no rest.
Think of a man, hells’ fire, don’t push, just shove,
Plenty of room for you and me.
He’s got an arm like a leg (a ladies’ leg!)
And a punch that would sink a battleship (big ship!)
It takes all of the Army and the Navy to put the wind up Sylvest’.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7yiUxCmqrI

The words in parenthesis, we quickly learned, needed to be hooted out when cued by the first part of the line. Each run-through of the song picked up speed; thus, by the end, a busload of strangers were breathlessly laughing, smiling, singing together.

Traveling always reminds me of what I am missing in my day-to-day life. More music is essential.

Speaking of music, I am sincerely grateful to have a poem, “Rushing into the Music, published by Postcard Poems and Prose: https://postcardpoemsandprose.wordpress.com/2017/01/20/rushing-into-the-music-by-heather-hutcheson/

  • Listen to a type of music you don’t usually listen to, like “Big Strong Man,” and see where it takes you.

(Photo from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Belfast_Castle)

2016 Watershed Changes

Definition of watershed – https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/watershed

1a:  divide

b:  a region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining ultimately to a particular watercourse or body of water

2:  a crucial dividing point, line, or factor: Turning Point

No matter where I travel, from the classroom to the Home Depot language exchange to family in Northern Ireland for Christmas, people ask what a Trump presidency will mean for our nation and the rest of the world. I have no answers, no hypotheses. I just know, as the rest of us, this feels like a watershed moment.

The following exquisite lines from Simon Armitage’s frightening 1963 poem “Gooseberry Season” capture an alarming sense of landmark change.

Where does the hand become the wrist?
Where does the neck become the shoulder? The watershed
and then the weight, whatever turns up and tips us over that
razor’s edge
between something and nothing, between
one and the other.

(Read more of the poem at: https://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/gooseberry-season)

Speaking of watersheds, I have three poems appearing in the Fall 2016 issue of Watershed Review http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed: “Recipe for Peach Salsa,” Dancing a Little, and “Jesús Wants to learn to use the internet.” (http://www.csuchico.edu/watershed/2016-fall/poetry/hutcheson-heather.shtml)

Many thanks to the editors for including my work in this knockout publication.

  • Armitage’s poem is a mini horror story. Confide an equally sinister confession.