Traveler,

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you have journeyed with intensity. You should regret nothing, neither hours waiting for buses without schedules nor long evenings vigilant for summer’s abundant rains to pass.

Traveler, these are the reminders that the roads zig and zag and, by design, demand you rest enough to be rested, ready to throw yourself into the next and the next glorious adventure.

Traveler, you have taken every opportunity to sense this place, looked into the eyes of the children, the animals, the weather.

You can predict what comes next in the afternoon’s plot, you have done your job, you know this story, their story, by heart.

 

Listen to this piece, and write to yourself about your own travels.

 

Fabric

Class
In Spanish class, my second teacher asks me about the intricate, creative lessons my first teacher plans for me. And then he says he has prepared nothing, but there are two words on the whiteboard, leftovers from the last lesson, and I am welcome to take one.
He recommends tela, fabric, and says, okay; write.
I think, yes, it is really that easy to just go, no fancy instructions are necessary (though they are appreciated).
I want to take a side route and get all of the cliches out of my system, the fabric of life bits that float to the surface of this broad prompt.
The hard thing about writing in Spanish is the limitation on my words and what I have the capacity to narrate.
In Oaxaca fabric stores line one of the streets off the zocalo. I am often drawn into these labyrinthine businesses as hummingbirds seek petunias, impatiens, day lilies, and lupines.
I do not know the names of these flowers in Spanish. Thus, they are banished from the poem. And, I’m off in search of another inspiration that will match the 20% claim I have on this language. I assess the value at 20% because people consistently ask me to quantify my language knowledge in these terms, something i go along with (therefore, reporting 20%), but I insist it is absurd.
Even if I really did know 20% of the language, my lack of knowledge of idioms and culture would cause me to register at a negative number (-40% or something equally preposterous).
The dictionary guesses I want Portuguese and reports that tela is screen. I think of telanovellas (soap operas), the television screen, and the broad cloth that makes a movie screen like my teacher’s white board that contains this broad prompt and that becomes its own large cloth, like a sail, to send me off into the ocean to sail.
  • “The fabric of existence weaves itself whole.” –Charles Ives

How does “way lead on to way,” as Frost warned/reminded in “The Road Not Taken,” how does the fabric seem to weave itself?

Brown

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http://www.cc.com/video-clips/qpq2hr/the-daily-show-with-trevor-noah-kevin-young—highlighting-the-joy-and-pain-of-the-black-experience-in–brown-

Trevor Noah, on The Daily Show, closed out National Poetry Month with an interview with Kevin Young. Young described the inspirations for his new book Brown.

From James Brown to John Brown to Linda Brown (and Brown v. Board of Education), Young explains how this collection draws on history and current events.

I can’t help but think of Michael Brown and all of the brutality that has historically accompanied the color brown. It also makes me think of the brutality of pink.

My friend has breast cancer and hates pink: the twisted satin tint, the toothache-sweet shade, even the rosé ribbons furling each sunrise. She loathes peonies, camellias, the blushing magnolia in her neighbor’s pristine yard.

My friend insists the cruel incongruity of cotton candy color saturation is mockery.

  • Don’t just describe the pink morning sunrise; show us the precise shade. Then, tell us about the charcoal chrome shadows of the trees and the lavish lavender clouds punctuating the sky.

Maybelline-Color-Tattoo-Concentrated-Crayon-swatch

My Poetry students have InstagramCRCPoets

Madonna and Child

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This afternoon I was chatting with my friend F– about Black Jesus and the Black Madonna of Częstochowa (also known as Our Lady of Częstochowa). I described the sparkling and revered four-foot-high image of the Virgin Mary and Child  I visited at the Jasna Góra Monastery in Poland.

I was asking F– if she might be interested in a wooden, bejeweled, mini version as souvenir. And, she was delighted by the promise of Black Jesus and less enthusiastic about the paler version I also had to offer: a new babe in a diaper who appears to be newly plucked from the manger, in a crib with straw.

***

I told F– briefly of how the monastery was packed with pilgrims who’d traveled distances to be in the presence of this scintillating icon, to pray, and to be enlightened. I explained how a wall in the sanctuary displays crutches, braces, and other relics of grave injury and seems to promise cures and strength. I detailed how I dutifully carried a bouquet of yellow flowers from a woman with Parkinson’s in Dobra, how a young man in a cobalt coat placed the fragrant bunch on the altar before Mary. I shared how some say Mary is named for where she was found and for her virtues. The virtue of being Black.

***

Spending Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Dobra, Poland, emphasized that I am a foreigner and a sightseer. I was mostly spectating the hour-long service in pure Polish and then I drove to Częstochowa to visit with the Virgin and Child. And,  I felt, as I have so often in Oaxaca, that I am a wayfarer, a church tourist.

And, this reminded me of Dean Young’s “My Process” and the other ways we might be congregants.

My Process

by Dean Young

Sometimes it’s like pushing a wheelchair
of bones through the high-tide sand.
Like giving birth to an ostrich,
an ostrich with antlers that glows.
The sense there’s something wrong and
not giving a hoot like going to church
to see what you can steal. Experimental

Read the rest of the poem at: http://poems.com/poem.php?date=17198

Here is another poem on process: http://www.blueridgejournal.com/poems/aw-isaid.htm

 

The world is composed of stories…

OLS Writers' Conference 2018 Flyer

The writers’ conference is coming soon!

Even sooner, we are seeking submissions through the end of February for the literary journal. Submissions can be posted online at: https://cosumnesriverjournal.submittable.com/submit

And, my online Creative Writing students are blogging at:

This Little Piggy

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I came across ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes) and was immediately struck by the unique adaptations of the rhymes. They are clearly not straight translations and made me wonder what makes a rhyme work in two languages and what is lost and what is found in the process of adapting–especially when rhyme is a central part of the experience.

In Spanish, “El sol es de oro” is, although concise in both languages, very different in English.

El sol es de oro

El sol es de oro

la luna es de plate

y las estrellitas

son de hoja de lata.

Directly translated:

The sun is of gold

the moon is of silver

and the little stars

are of tin.

 

The English adaptation, on the other hand,

The Sun’s a Gold Medallion

The sun’s a gold medallion.

The moon’s a silver ball.

The little stars are only tin;

I love them best of all.

Clearly different.

One that was closest in translation was unfamiliar except for the form. This one seemed to be counted on the hand as the more familiar (to me at least) “This Little Piggy” is counted on toes.

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo

Aquí puso la pajarita el huevo.

Éste lo agarró,

éste lo partió,

éste lo cocinó,

éste le echó la sal,

y este pícaro gordo

se lo comió.

 

Here the Bird Laid the Egg

Here the bird laid one round egg.

This one found it,

this one cracked it,

this one cooked it,

this one put salt on it,

and this fat rascal

gobbled it up!

from ¡Pío Peep! Rimas Tradicionales en Español (Traditional Spanish Nursery Rhymes)

  • What is lost and found in translation? How does this rob or enrich you or a character? What happens when we try to rely on literal translation?

“We could not sew a sun”

It is Sunday morning, and I have only a few pesos, my iPhone, and the keys to the posada in my pocket. After an hour of walking in Llano Park, I decide that I am not done strolling, and so I wander while considering a list of places I haven’t visited recently. The Textile Museum rises to the top. I have high expectations from my last few visits.

I arrive as they open; there is only one other visitor in the whole place. She is a different kind of tourist than I. She has studied and planned for what she will see; moving slowly, she carries a list and a notebook into which she scribbles furiously.

My experience is affected by her palpable judgment for my lack of preparation, for how swiftly I pass some of the (important) pieces, for how aimlessly I seem to linger over (stirring) others. I want to suggest that we, like divorced parents, try to share custody without animosity; instead, I decide to view the exhibit out of order to avoid a showdown.

Now alone in the main gallery, I want to whoop as I come across a particularly breathtaking quilt, each square of it stuns with simplicity. Though it is composed of coloring book clean images, it reminds me of a primer I had for learning penmanship that depicted flawless lines and graceful curves.

I cannot deny that I feel impotent in the presence of all of this beauty; I admit that the other visitor was right. I have neither the materials nor the skills to devour this show.

From The Art Room

–Shara McCallum

for my sisters

Because we did not have threads
of turquoise, silver, and gold,
we could not sew a sun nor sky.
And our hands became balls of fire.
And our arms spread open like wings.

Read the rest at: http://www.poetryoutloud.org/poems-and-performance/poems/detail/51771

  • Acting teacher F. Jo Murdoch points out: Bette Davis always had something in her hand: a cigarette, a cup of coffee, so her character’s feelings were depicted in her physical actions. Communicate emotion through physical actions, interaction with another person, or deficit as in McCallum’s piece.